By John R. Schirmer
For members of Immanuel Baptist Church of Nashville, their new pastor isn’t really “new” at all. In fact, he’s been there for a while.
The congregation called Brent Thompson for the position Jan. 22 after he had served as youth pastor since Oct. 21, 2013. His first Sunday in the new post was Feb. 19.
Thompson moved to Nashville from Dixonville Baptist Church, a mission of First Baptist in Benton. “I transitioned from a pastoral role to student pastor because I knew that was what God wanted me to do,” he said.
In May of 2016, “I kind of got scared. I lost my vision for student ministry and couldn’t see past the summer. That’s what happened when I left Dixonville,” Thompson said.
In early September, Larry Sherman retired as pastor of Ridgeway Baptist in Nashville. “There was never any indication for [wife] Ashley or me” about that position, and he planned his work with the students through Christmas.
Shortly after, Paul Bulloch resigned as pastor of Immanuel. “I didn’t see it coming. None of us did,” Thompson said. “I began praying that week [about the opening] if that’s what the Lord wanted me to do. I didn’t give them a resume. If the Lord is calling, he will let us know.”
Two or three weeks later, the Pastor Search Committee at Immanuel said that the members “wanted to deal with staff first” in selecting a new minister. “I submitted a resume, and they called me for an interview,” Thompson said.
“This was an affirmation for us. We asked the Lord, ‘If this isn’t what you want for us or Immanuel, close the door.’”
From there, the church voted to call Thompson.
His first day as pastor was Feb. 19, the week after Reality Weekend for area youth. “I couldn’t step away from it,” he said.
“It’s going well so far,” Thompson said of his new position at a familiar location. “It’s challenging. Time management is a struggle, especially without a student pastor” as the congregation looks for Thompson’s successor in the job.
One major difference between Dixonville and Immanuel is the size and history of the congregation. “Dixonville started with six people and had about 40 when we left. Immanuel is an established church and will be 92 years old in June. There’s a big difference in structure and order,” Thompson said. “I work alongside the committees and deacons.”
During the past month, “I have come to know that there are a lot of great people in this church. There are a lot of great people who want to serve the Lord,” Thompson said.
A yellow legal pad on Thompson’s desk is filled with ideas and plans for the church. Summing up the pad’s contents, “I want to focus on spiritual growth, grounding in the Word, establishing a foundation,” he said. “I’d like to see more outreach and evangelism and see us more intentional about missions.”
That’s the overall focus. The pad has “lots of details” about ways to carry out those plans.
Thompson would like to have the first church-wide trip to New Mexico in the summer of 2018. Missionaries from a church there were in Nashville earlier this year. “I’d like to establish a mission team” for the possible trip in 2018.
Thompson said he would “like to see us focus more on family ministry” as well. “We have a women’s focus. We’ve had a men’s focus. I’d like to see us focus on families. That’s something I have a big heart for. Satan has done a fantastic job of destroying the family. We should enable families to live a biblical life honoring the Lord.”
Thompson is a native of Paragould and received a biology degree from Ouachita Baptist University. He holds a master’s degree in teaching from Henderson State and is working on a master of divinity through Southwestern Seminary.
“I have 54 hours of a 91-hour degree. When I finish, I’m praying about a doctoral program,” Thompson said.
Thompson’s local connections go back much farther than his time at Immanuel. He met Nashville native Ashley Starr while both were students at OBU. “We met April 1, 2005,” he said. Six weeks later, “It seemed like we were headed somewhere.”
On Feb. 10, 2006, Thompson proposed to Starr at the First Baptist Church of Nashville Valentine Banquet. They were married July 27 of the same year.
They have a daughter, Luci-Kate, age 3 1/2, who is “growing up way too fast. She was born Nov. 2, 2013, two weeks after I started at Immanuel” as youth pastor.
As he settles into his new position with the congregation, Thompson will continue to “give direction to the youth” while working to “create cohesiveness throughout all members of the church. Share Christ, Make disciples. Serve the Kingdom. Everything we do should be in line with that mission statement.”