Mickey Starling: Greene Publishing, Inc.
St. John's Missionary Baptist Church (SJMBC) welcomed Bryant Thigpen as their new pastor on Sunday, March 11. Thigpen has spoken at SJMBC several times since May of 2017 but didn't have pastoring on his mind. However, it became clear to Thigpen that the Lord did have that on His mind. The day after Christmas, Bryant found it odd that he couldn't get the church off of his mind. “So, I called Jessica Ratliff, who had been a member of LifeSong for years and coincidentally was on the pastor search committee, and asked her to be praying for guidance and wisdom about what God wanted for the church,” said Thigpen. Thigpen had no idea the search committee was already considering him as a candidate prior to the phone call. "I didn't know that my name had even been mentioned as a candidate until the night after they voted me in as pastor. It was just even more confirmation God had His hand in this."
Further adding to the evidence that Thigpen was about to embark on a new direction in his ministry was the fact that sermons, not songs, were increasingly stirring in Thigpen's heart. Thigpen has ben involved in gospel music since he was 11, performing with The McCormick Family and the Reflectsons, prior to establishing LifeSong, which is celebrating its 11th year of ministry. Thigpen also played piano for the legendary Naomi and the Segos.
"It would have been typical and expected if all of the ministry invitations I was receiving was for singing, but God was opening new doors for me to go and minister through preaching," said Thigpen. "I was staying really busy preaching at various churches, and that was another clue God had more in store for me beyond the singing ministry."
Looking back, Bryant sees the hand of God moving in numerous ways to prepare him for this new adventure. Bryant recently lost his wife, Stephanie, to glioblastoma multiforme brain cancer. While the devastation of this tragedy broke Thigpen in many ways, it opened his eyes to the outpouring of love and support he received throughout the community. “I really want to give back to others what I received because it made such a huge difference in my life,” said Thigpen.
In 2011, Thigpen graduated from Covenant Bible College & Seminary, in Madison, and began taking online classes with Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Va. the following year. “Back then, I had no earthly idea I would ever be a pastor or preacher, but I felt that I needed to do it,” said Thigpen. “Now, I see why I did it.”
Thigpen admits he wouldn't be where he is today without the influence of great people in this area. "First of all, my dad is my hero. He carried me to church every Sunday, and I wouldn't have the Christian foundation I have today if it wasn't for him. Jackie Watts, the pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church, is someone I also consider a spiritual hero because he has invested in me and helped me in so many ways throughout the years. I consider him a mentor and a role model. Lastly, my church family and pastor at Calvary Baptist Church, in Lake Park, Ga. Pastor Robbie Harrington was there for my family during Stephanie's sickness and the church loved on my family and me during one of the most trying times of my life. Because of them, I'm recharged, ready and able to serve again."
Thigpen is more than excited about pastoring SJMBC. “I love the great group of people I get to serve with,” said Thigpen, who is not short on vision for the future of the church. Central to everything he envisions is the mission statement, “A loving and caring family dedicated to seeking God and serving people.” The first step in fulfilling this mission is encouraging his congregation to find ways to use their God-given talents that would be a blessing to the church and this community. "Whether it's greeting people, baking, making crafts or simply praying, there is no gift too small when used to glorify God. When we all work together and utilize the gift(s) we have, I think what we can accomplish is great,” said Thigpen. "I want to help people grow spiritually by seeking God, be a blessing to this community by serving people, and be an encouragement to each other by being the loving and caring family that we are."
"I believe the church should be a place for people to grow spiritually and build relationships," said Thigpen. "I want to help people grow in their faith through Christian education while we love and encourage each other."
Thigpen anticipates holding a soul-winning class in April and the launching of a free Bible college in September (tentative). The classes will be open to the public. The church invites you to follow them on Facebook where they post all of their church events and more. SJMBC is located on Hwy. 150, in Greenville.