The search is over: First Baptist Church elects new pastor

Published 7:04 am Wednesday, April 13, 2005

By by Lee Weyhrich
After two years of searching First Baptist Church of Atmore has elected Arnold Hendrix, 52, of Corinth Baptist Church as its new pastor.
"The last pastor left on the last week of May two years ago," Bo Bergeloff, chairman of the search committee said. "He was here almost 10 years and left on good terms. He felt he was called away from here and he went to another church. The search committee did not meet until the first week of July 2003 so it's been close to two years."
Despite the lengthy process of hiring a pastor the church never doubted they would find the right one.
"The timing had to be right to get the right person," Bergeloff said. "I don't think he was ready two years ago and I don't think we were ready for him two years ago. We just really feel like the whole process has been involved and God has been helping. There have been other people we liked that didn't work out and there have been people that liked us that didn't work out. One (Hendrix) has a lot of real world experience and we feel like he will be a great fit for our church and what our needs are."
The church has looked at hundreds of resumes over the last two years.
"We have looked at probably 350 resumes and we have interviewed about 10 as far as actually sitting down and interviewing," Bergeloff said. "He was one of those large numbers of resumes and his name went by us one time and the next time he got in contact with us. It went by a second time and then the third time it got our attention. Once we contacted him we realized that his experience and our needs were a good fit, more so than anyone else we looked at."
Hendrix had worlds of experience and grew up in this general area.
"He grew up in the panhandle of Florida and grew up around Mobile," Bergeloff said. "He was in banking for 22 years and he resigned as a senior vice president of a bank to become a pastor. We felt that someone who walked away from a successful career like that was truly called and was in it for the right reasons."
Not only did he have to leave a bank, but he also had to start a new career pretty much from scratch.
"I received a call into the ministry late in life and I resigned from the bank Dec. 31, 1999," Hendrix said. "I had not finished college, I lacked a quarter finishing my degree and you need a bachelors to go into seminary, I went seminary in Graceville, Fla. a little south of Dothan. About two weeks into my seminary the staff at my church resigned. This was my home church and I was asked to take over as pastor. I stayed there until 2002 and then I was called into Corinth Baptist in Cordova (near Jasper). Corinth is a little country church, blue-collar type, salt of the earth people."
The seminary school at Graceville was part of the New Orleans Seminary College.
"I was able to continue my seminary because there is an extension in Birmingham, which is only an hour away from Cordova," Hendrix said. "Since then they have opened an extension in Pensacola, so I can finish there. I want to continue on doing that, and the church will help me continue in that process."
For Hendrix Atmore is like homecoming.
"I'm looking forward to coming, he said. "I've been to Atmore many times as a boy. I grew up in south Okaloosa County. I was pastor of First Baptist of Valparaiso in Florida. My grandmother lived in Perdido and we had to travel through Atmore to get there. In a way it's kind of like coming back home. The community there is similar to my hometown community."
Hendrix has made it his mission to become a close part of the Atmore community.
"I want to be involved in the community and I want the church to be involved in the community," Hendrix said. "The church in Atmore has been without a pastor two years and they have a lot of talent, energy and abilities there. With the damage from Ivan it's really a chance for a church to be born again."
He also has another mission.
"Our mission as a church is to make disciples," Hendrix said. "If a church is not making disciples it is just a social organization."
Hendrix's official day on the job is Mother's Day, May 8.

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