Hepzibah’s new pastor excited for opportunity

Published 8:51 pm Friday, June 17, 2011

The congregation at Hephzibah Baptist Church is welcoming a new shepherd to their faith community.

The Rev. Rick Hayes has 18 years of ministerial experience having served at Zebulon Baptist Church, Hebron Baptist Church and Westview Baptist Church prior to his appointment as senior pastor at Mt. Hephzibah Baptist Church.

Hayes said Mt. Hephzibah is a “forward-looking” church and is excited to see where God takes them.

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“This church is a very forward-looking church and understands very clearly that they have to be strong in their spiritual faith and their spiritual walk,” Hayes said. “There is an entire community around us, a larger ministry field, that we have to have an impact on.”

Hayes said the message for Mt. Hephzibah, as well for all the other churches, is that the congregation must be well-founded and continue to “lean forward,” reaching out to others.

“We have to move outside the walls of the church to reach people,” Hayes said. “That’s what we’re actively deciding to do. This church is very in tune with that. People have been very gracious, kind and very welcoming to my family.”

Hayes said he and his wife Missy, along with their two daughter’s Kasey Vinson and Hallie Hayes, have made a smooth transition into their new faith community thanks to a very pleasant and Christ-centered congregation.

Hayes retired from the U.S. Army Reserve as a lieutenant colonel and is a veteran of Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Hayes said his military experience has played a large role in his development as a pastor.

“The best ministry preparation has been my military experience, because it puts you in very uncomfortable situations, some of them not anything to do with wartime, but it puts you in contact with people you just wouldn’t come in contact with,” Hayes said. “It broadens the group of folks that you’re around, plus it challenges you and that’s what churches are really missing—somebody to challenge them.”

Hayes said the 29-and-a-half years he spent in the military helped prepare him to challenge others and he has drawn on those past experiences to help him keep focused in his ministry.

“I think in terms of the military, especially, you become mission-minded,” Hayes said. “We need to be mission-minded and the military has really been beneficial in helping me to keep on task, realizing ‘this’ is the mission at hand.”

A memorable moment for Hayes during his service in Operation Iraqi Freedom was the opportunity he had to baptize a young Marine in Saddam Hussein’s pool located at the dictator’s compound days before U.S. coalition forces destroyed it.

Hayes said the pull toward ministry is a calling he takes seriously and hopes to inspire and encourage others to become “productive members” in the kingdom of God.

“First of all, it’s God’s call on your life,” Hayes said, referring to his calling to serve the Lord. “God calls you to specific things. All of us are called to share the gospel, but, specifically, some are called to preach and to pastor, to equip others to be productive in the kingdom.”