By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News
The former pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Mt. Pleasant was elected as the next national representative of the General Association of Regular Baptist churches with a 93.5 percent vote in his favor on June 28.
The appointment is quite an honor for Mike Hess, who served as head pastor of Calvary Baptist for nine years. Preaching his last sermon in Mt. Pleasant on Sunday, July 8, Hess packed his bags and moved to Carpentersville, Ill., starting his new role on July 16.
?Ministry in Mt. Pleasant gave me a heart for the local church,? Hess said in a phone interview last week. ?While in Mt. Pleasant, God opened up a number of opportunities counseling other pastors and churches that helped prepare me for this position.?
Hess did not seek out the position but was approached by leadership in the General Association of Regular Baptist churches (GARBC) along with many other capable individuals. God directed them to Hess? name, he said.
Although Hess didn?t grow up in Mt. Pleasant, leaving wasn?t easy. Not only did his commute go from 2.2 miles every day to 28 miles in heavy traffic, Hess said he loved the people here.
?They were incredibly good to us,? Hess said. ?God gave us some years of very fruitful ministry.?
That fruitful ministry included paying off the church?s building at 803 E. Maple Leaf Drive in under a decade, increasing their monthly giving and overall seeing new members join the church.
Kyle Noll, associate pastor at Calvary Baptist, said more significant than the church having no debt was Hess? continual, faithful ministry every Sunday.
?He?s a great expositor of scripture, and that?s something I?ve learned just listening to him. Now with ? myself in the pulpit on Sundays, we?re putting some of those lessons in place,? Noll said. ?It?s a good legacy of faithful preaching ministry.?
Matt Reno, Calvary Baptist associate pastor of youth and family ministries, is also overseeing some preaching duties while the church looks for a new senior pastor.
Hess? last sermon in Mt. Pleasant was titled ?Jesus as our Great High Priest.? The sermon focused on Jesus? last prayer for his people, which is for them to be unified and love one another in a way that reflects they belong to him, Hess said.
?It was God leading us, and even though they recognize that, they were still sad and encouraging,? Hess said about the Calvary Baptist congregation on his last Sunday.
Hess? new role has quite the learning curve. The national representative oversees the publishing arm of the Baptist Church ? Regular Baptist Press; oversees the daily operations of their resource center in Arlington Heights, Ill.; travels and preaches at churches, camps and colleges; recruits new churches; coordinates national conferences; oversees international partnerships; and counsels other pastors and helps with pastoral placement.
?It?s pretty busy days,? Hess said lightheartedly.
The biggest foreseeable challenge for Hess is developing relationships with over 1,200 churches, which he plans to do by networking with them through social media, traveling and visiting with leadership teams at regional conferences.
Hess believes that the grace of God qualifies him for this position and ?possibly? his 15 years of pastoral ministry. Through all his responsibilities, Hess assured he is not a one man show. There are a number of capable people he works with on staff who will help him through the transition, he said.
?It is a very important position,? Noll said. ?It?s a role we at the church think (Hess) will do well at. We?re glad to see him go to be able to serve in a position like that.?
Hess? wife, Christina Hess, moved with him to Illinois. His daughter Hannah Hess will remain in Mt. Pleasant to finish her senior year of high school. She is involved in volleyball, band, soccer, National Honor Society and the church youth group. His son, Joseph Hess, is in college.
?We?ll miss him and his family,? Noll said. ?It makes it easier that it?s a good departure.?
Hess? predecessor, John Greening, officially retires Aug. 31.