KINGSBURG – As Kingsburg First Baptist’s new pastor Mark Thompson awaited a ceremonial baton-passing service June 30, he greeted congregation members and visitors in the foyer of their sanctuary.
It had been nearly a year that the congregation searched for a permanent pastor with Interim Pastor John Strubhar leading the church in the meantime.
Thompson said that he hopes to honor the church’s past while focusing on future ministry efforts.
“I’m very excited about taking the baton and building on their 118 years of ministry at this church. We’re here for this generation that’s alive today. I’m praying we embrace everything God has for us. We want to look to the past with a fondness and respect, but really our ministry is in the future. God’s calling us to make a difference in Kingsburg and around the world.”
Associate Pastor Brian Griffin said the entire congregation is excited about Thompson’s arrival, especially how the new pastor came to their church.
“Even though I love Mark, it is the ‘how’ that excites me more than the ‘who.’ I can clearly see God’s hand in bringing him here so I am confident that he is the man God has appointed to lead His church at First Baptist. I believe that the best days are ahead for First Baptist as we become a faith family that is even more genuine in our faith and love. We have made great efforts this past year to serve the community and we hope that our service and support to Kingsburg continues to grow as we share the good news of our savior Jesus Christ.”
Reflecting on his own spiritual journey, Thompson said he was in his late teens when he finally grasped and accepted the grace of God. It’s an awakening and spiritual milestone he’d like to guide others through as he takes on this new leadership role.
“I was 18 and a freshman at Fresno State when I finally realize that I absolutely needed a savior. I had a good friend in my track coach Bob Fraley. He was telling me about Jesus and I finally realized when I looked at my life that I needed help. I couldn’t do this Christianity thing by myself. I really needed a savior and that’s when the grace of God came over me. I finally understood that salvation wasn’t something that I worked for or earned, but was a free gift from God.”
During the service, Thompson and his wife, Karen, sang worship songs with the congregation, were prayed over and welcomed. Thompson will give his first official sermon on July 7.
In his parting sermon, Interim Pastor John Strubhar encouraged the congregation to embrace the changing leadership as the Israelites did in the Old Testament when Joshua took the place of Moses as they entered the Promised Land.
“Change can get a little bit disarming, but I’ve discovered it’s fun to change. As we change, God does things in our life with purposeful change. We can become more effective and more efficient.”
He also asked the congregation to keep in mind that it is still God at the helm, no matter who is at the pulpit.
“The church is not based on a person so we don’t focus on the servants. We focus on the Master and great things are ahead.”
We asked Pastor Thompson some questions about his training, previous experience and hopes for the congregation and Kingsburg. Here are his replies:
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Q: What is your ministerial training?
A: I have a Master of Arts in pastoral ministry. I’ve attended both Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary and graduated from Hope International University.
Q: Before serving here, what was your most recent pastoral position?
A: I just finished 11 years with a world-mission agency called “Multiply.” I was a mobilizer who called out, trained and sent people onto international missions. My role included working with churches in North America in areas of discipleship, evangelism, and development of effective mission committees. Prior to that, I served 22 years in local churches in a variety of roles including youth ministry, associate ministry, church planter, and as a lead pastor.
Q: What are your hopes or goals are you take the helm at Kingsburg First Baptist?
A: I see my role primarily as helping people to connect with Jesus. This is true if someone is just hearing about God, or if they've walked with Him for 40 years. I’m called to help people connect more deeply to Jesus and to learn to trust Him even more. My hope is to develop the leadership culture at First Baptist so that the entire body is involved in this type of discipleship from one generation to the next. Interestingly, sometimes the young adults are setting a better example of hearing and obeying God than the previous generation - so it really isn’t an age thing.
As a local body, we need to listen to each other, seek the counsel of the Holy Spirit and the Living Word of God - and then obey with gratefulness and joy. The world is longing to see the life of Jesus on display like this in a local church. My hope and prayer is for the Spirit of God to teach us how to become an incredible church who loves our neighbors as Jesus did (and does).
Q: Is there a particular scripture that motivates you as a pastor?
A: I love the second part of John 10:10 as a guiding verse from the words of Jesus: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” - John 10:10b
I truly believe that the life of Jesus is ours to have. Yet, many Christians in the USA are not drinking freely from His living water. We are just taking ‘sips’ of Jesus when we need Him, or when He fits into our schedule. My hope is that our church will grow in the life and reality of the resurrection of Jesus in our own lives first. Then we can help others to connect with Jesus in our church, our community of Kingsburg and our world. This impact should be an all-consuming, satisfying, and joy-filled life with Jesus and His Church.
When we face God one day, I believe the only thing that will matter to us is how we were transformed personally by God, and how many others did we help deepen their relationship with God. The other things won’t be very important.
I long for the resurrected life of Jesus to grow more and more within me as well - I have a long way to go. But seeking Jesus together is the best way for a community to become more like Jesus. We are not wired to do this alone. God designed us to need each other in order to become all that He envisions for us. That’s why I love the local church, because it was God’s idea before the foundation of the world.
The scriptures call the church “the bride of Christ.” That makes her special, His beloved, and vitally important. I being at First Baptist am humbled by my high calling to be a servant of the very bride of Jesus - and covet your prayers for me!