By Stephanie Butzer
May 19 will be a special anniversary for Beacon Baptist Church, marking its 40th year under the leadership of the founding pastor, Greg Barkman.
In 1973, Barkman was invited by a group of people in the Burlington area to begin a new church. The people were members of a nearby church and, for various reasons, did not like that pastor.
“At first I was not very inclined,” Barkman said. “I didn’t really like the idea of starting a church. I liked the idea of stepping into a church better. That was what I had in mind.”
But as Barkman got to know the people better and prayed about it, he found their goals were very compatible with his.
“We had the same desire and that was to establish a church that was committed to the Bible, that would be as Biblical as we could possibly make it,” Barkman said.
When the decision was made, the church only had 19 adults and they met in the E.M. Holt Elementary School cafeteria. Forty years later, the church had a large congregation and a three-building facility.
“I can’t believe I have been here for 40 years,” Barkman said. “I can’t believe I’m 65 years old. I don’t feel that old, but it has been so richly rewarding that it seems like maybe I’ve been here for 20 years, but it’s 40. That’s what the calendar says.”
Many pastors move around to different churches a few times during their career, but Barkman said he has never had a strong urge to leave the church, even though he has had offers.
Robert LaTour, the minister of families at Beacon, became a member in 1978 and joined the pastoral staff in 2006. He and his wife first chose to join the church because they were attracted to the “serious-mindedness of the preaching of the Word” at Beacon.
Since he became a leader at the church, LaTour said he has seen how dedicated Barkman is to his study. Barkman spends hours each morning studying the books in the Bible and dedicates 12 to 15 hours preparing for each sermon.
“Even though there is a time expense, if you love doing something, you bring that love to it,” LaTour said. “His respect for the position is a humbling thing, it’s not a prideful thing.”
In the afternoons, Barkman mainly prepares for future sermons and records his sermon on a radio show so people far away can listen. You can hear the sermons at the church’s web site,www.beaconbaptist.com.
One man who lived in High Point listened to Barkman’s broadcast regularly. He drove to the church one Sunday and told Barkman he had become a Christian through his radio broadcast.
“How rewarding is that?” Barkman said. “To have someone show up and say, ‘I’ve listened to your radio broadcast and I’ve become a follower of Jesus Christ as a result of listening to it.’”
His congregation appreciates all the years Barkman has led them and, as a thank you gift, they put together enough money to send him and his wife to Israel.
“I had never been to Israel before and that was wonderful to see Jerusalem and the Temple Mount and to see the Sea of Galilee and so many things. I read about them all my life and studied them in textbooks but to actually be there – that was a wonderful thing. I was very grateful for that.”
In all of sermons, both in the church auditorium and through the radio, Barkman aims to take a text of scripture, explain what it means and apply it to daily life.
“That’s what I do,” Barkman said. “That’s what I have been doing for 40 years.”