For the past few months, Beals Chapel Baptist Church’s new pastor, Hoss Hunt, has taken to the pulpit Sunday mornings and evenings and Wednesday nights.
Though a fairly new face to the small church, his interaction with the congregation is strong. At Sunday evening’s service, he shook hands with churchgoers as he ambled down the rustic church’s red-carpeted middle aisle during his sermon.
Hunt’s personal and spiritual connection with the congregation landed him the position.
Originally a member of East Hills Baptist Church in Loudon, Hunt had never set foot in Beals Chapel until the church reached out.
“I grew up in church, going to church, and my father’s also a preacher,” Hunt said. “He wasn’t really a pastor as I was a young man, but I had been to pretty much every church in Loudon County, East Tennessee, half of North Carolina kind of deal, but I had never been here before.”
Church members set up a pulpit committee to find the right person to lead.
“If we were in the (Baptist) association, all we would have to do is call and tell them that we would like to have preachers come in and preach,” Steve Kelley, church elder, said. “In place of that, our church gathered three men and formed a pulpit committee. It’s three men to be trusted, and the church as a whole, we bring names to those three men. They check them out as far as their reputation, what they believe, where they stand with God and what their past — their past doesn’t really matter as long as it doesn’t interfere with their future, if you know what I mean. We prayed.”
Hunt’s experience in churches led him to know what setting appealed most. Beals Chapel embodied the small church atmosphere he believes cultivates an authentic faith.
“What drew me here is I’ve been to many churches, and we are a little low in number tonight, but still roughly 30 to 40 people on a regular basis, and I felt at peace when I was here and these people wanted to worship God,” he said. “I’ve been in much larger congregations and churches that I just did not have that feeling, that they were gathered there for some type of social gathering or just to make themselves feel better and say they went to church, but I felt like this church truly wanted to worship God.”
Beals Chapel has had a rocky history, Kelley said, but with an engaged congregation its future seems promising.
The church first opened in 1951 but later shut its doors. With the encouragement of church elder Gordon Queener, Kelley reopened the church 11 years ago. At first, the services were held without power and without water because members lacked funds.
Though Kelley was previously a preacher, he did not feel a calling to Beals Chapel.
“... Since we’ve been here for roughly 11 years, I’m going to guess this is probably the fourth pastor we’ve had,” Kelley said. “We prayed and prayed and had men come through here — fine preachers that preached the gospel, the same thing he preached. God used them in basically the same way, but it wasn’t until the hookup was made with the Holy Spirit that we started feeling it come together with him.”
Hunt has only officially been pastor about two weeks, but he believes God will bless the church in the future, just as the congregation believed God would bless them with a pastor.
“You might see some things in the church look a little bit dated and we’ve got a budget fund to try to build up some things and they’ve replaced the windows in the church with some new energy-efficient windows,” Hunt said. “I’d like to see soul saving. I believe the church will grow in number, but that’s not the important fact that we’ve got a board back there that says how many people were here. That’s not why I want to see it grow in number. I want to see it grow in new people to come into the Christian walk of life, be born again, be saved by the blood of Jesus Christ. ... I’m not trying to steal anybody’s church members from anywhere else. I want to see people come in, new Christians, and grow and bless in the Lord.”
Hunt also hopes the church will gain ordained deacons and a piano player.
Kelley is confident Hunt will steer the church in a forward direction.
“Instead of seeking a pastor through man, we seeked him through the spirit and prayed that God would send us somebody and our eyes would be open to the fact that he is the one that’s supposed to (preach),” Kelley said. “The Lord sent him here, and it was no doubt. We went from 20 percent that said it was him of the church that when it came down to a vote it was 100 percent that he was supposed to be our pastor. Even though he was only ordained the second of November, he was our pastor for roughly two months before that. He held that position, and we just turned it over to him.
“The direction that I see him taking the church in is in the glory of the Lord,” he added.