Pictured Above: Pastor David Barker, Gaskin First Baptist Church; Pastor John Lovelady, Paxton First Baptist Church; Pastor Todd Camp, New Harmony Baptist Church
WALTON COUNTY–Aware of the difficult, lonely and emotionally challenging times pastors face as they juggle ministry to their congregations and their own wellbeing, a team of pastors in Walton County are taking steps to encourage and strengthen their brothers in ministry.
These pastors are helping one another through the efforts of the Walton County Baptist Association’s Minister Encouragement Team. The ministry was created with three local pastors committing to pray for other pastors and uplift them through close relationships.
“Most people don’t understand that being a pastor can be a lonely road to walk,” said team member Randy Nelson, pastor of Westside Baptist Church in DeFuniak Springs. “This gives us close relationships to share our concerns and burdens. I find myself encouraged as I strive to encourage another. It is an iron-sharpening-iron relationship.”
Todd Camp, pastor of New Harmony Baptist Church in DeFuniak Springs and another team member, said during “a rough year in 2020,” team member, Anthony Johnson, would call him from time to time.
“We would have small talk and then he would pray for me. I always felt better after his calls and would feel a little lighter in my spirit. He has recently gone to be with the Lord, but his ministry left a permanent change in me for the better. When a spot opened on the team, I was eager to do for others what Pastor Anthony did for me.”
The West Florida pastors call, send text messages and invite pastors out to eat with the goal of being a blessing to their fellow pastor.
“The last breakfast I had with a pastor was time well spent,” said Camp. “We had good conversation about relevant church issues, and both left that meeting encouraged, knowing each other better and knowing better how to pray for each other.”
Brian Nall, executive director of the Pensacola Bay Baptist Association, who also serves as the Transitional Associational Mission Strategist for the Walton County association, has helped the minister encouragement team develop their goals. In addition to pastors reaching out to pastors, other goals include making sure each pastor has a friend who holds him accountable and that church members are participating as encouragers and helping meet needs within the church.
Pastor Nelson has invited his church members to support other pastors in the association by sending cards to let them know someone is praying for them.
“This ministry has been especially helpful to me,” said team member Rodney Infinger, pastor of Knox Hill Baptist Church in Ponce De Leon. “Last year my wife had a heart attack, and no visitors were allowed at the hospital. Through Brother Randy, his wife and their church members, I received an anniversary card and a Christmas card. These simple acts really brought me a sense of belonging.”
Another pastor who received a card between Thanksgiving and Christmas said, “I didn’t know I was down until I received that card. That card was a blessing and lifted my spirit.”
Nelson offers instructions for church members who want to encourage their pastors. “Call your pastor and let him know you are praying for him and that you love him as a brother in Christ. Stop by and visit with him and his wife. Pray for him, his wife and family each and every day. Thank God for sending him to lead your church.”