The Christian Index is aware there are many dynamic young Georgia Baptist pastors in the Peach State. These pastors are faithfully preaching the Word of God and tending to the flock entrusted to their care. While we often highlight the ministry of pastors of large churches, there are pastors of small and medium size churches doing a great work and honoring the Lord through their faithfulness and surrender to Christ.
The revivalist Vance Havner said, “We won’t know who the big preachers are until we get to heaven.” Allen Rea, pastor of Higgston Baptist Church, is one of those dedicated young pastors. Index editor Gerald Harris recently reviewed Pastor Rea, because Georgia Baptists need to know the heart and mind of some our dedicated young servants of God.
Pastor Rea has only been pastor of the Higgston Church for approximately one year, but the church has experienced significant growth during those 12 months. In fact, the church is already expanding its facilities and God is blessing the ministry of this young pastor
The Christian Index: Allen, we want Georgia Baptists to know about some of our younger pastors. Tell me a bit about your family background.
Allen Rea: I was born and raised in Hazlehurst. My parents are Michael and Patty Rea. I was the youngest of three children. I have two older sisters. I grew up around my grandparents and adored them. They were both good and godly examples to me. My home church is Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Hazlehurst. I was licensed to preach in that church when I was 17 years old.
Index: Allen, how did you come too know the Lord? What was your conversion experience like?
Rea: I grew up in a family that faithfully attended church. I remember the Sunday of my conversion experience very well. Robert Russell, who has since gone on to his heavenly reward, was pastoring Mt Zion. I remember vividly coming down the aisle during the altar call. He took up a lot of time with me after the service.
He did not rush me. He did not simply want me to fill out a card. He shared the Gospel in detail, and answered all my questions. He became a model for how I needed to share the Gospel, especially with children that meet with me. I believed on the Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life. I was baptized by immersion shortly thereafter.
Index: What was your call to the Gospel ministry like? How did you know God was calling you into the ministry?
Rea: When I was 15 I began to study the Bible for myself. I had become very serious about my faith in Jesus. My grandmother had always said that I would make a preacher. For over a year, I simply loved Jesus and shared His love with others. I began strong daily devotional habits that become very foundational for me in the years ahead. I had an overwhelming burden to do more for Christ. I had a thirst to preach and teach the Bible.
I become enamored with listening to Adrian Rogers, Charles Stanley, and David Jeremiah. I wanted to do what they did. One Friday evening, I set out on a hike with a Bible and a journal. As I sat down to rest I was reading in 1 John. I came to John 2:15-17. I did not want to love the world; I wanted to do the will of God. I remember simply praying something like this: “Jesus, if You will let me preach, I promise to do the very best that I can. Please let me use this burden to share Your Word with others.”
From then on, my one desire was to pastor, preach, and teach the Word of God. The next Sunday I met with my pastor, Dewitt Corbin, who became a strong mentor to me. I simply walked into his office during Sunday school and said: “I think I’m supposed to preach the Gospel.” Much of this burden had matured through a previous pastor, Bill Stone. These men were used by the Lord to lay the foundations for me.
Index: Tell me about your educational experience at Brewton-Parker College and Luther Rice Seminary. Have you completed your doctor of ministry degree?
Rea: During my senior year in high school, I only applied to one school: Brewton-Parker College. My pastor was an alumnus and encouraged me to attend. I visited the campus and met Dr. Jerry Ray. I knew then that BPC was the place for me.
Over the next four years, I made friendships that will last a lifetime, met the girl who would be my partner for life, and learned lessons I am still harvesting today. College can be a confusing time, but I matured a lot spiritually during those years. There are some gloriously hallowed halls in Mt. Vernon! And I am so thankful for the work that Dr. Steve Echols is doing there now.
I began my seminary studies as I was pastoring my first church. I began the online program at [Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary]. I completed many courses with my first daughter crawling around my feet. Through much prayer and discernment, Kara and I starting thinking about transitioning to Atlanta so I could continue my education at Luther Rice. One of my favorite preachers, Dr. Jerry Vines, is a Luther Rice alumnus. I simply applied, and we moved to Atlanta to attend on campus.
We pulled away from the parsonage with almost no money, but a strong sense that God was leading. God was so faithful! I do not have the time or capability to say all the wonderful things I’d like to say about Luther Rice and its President, Dr. James Flanagan.
I received the best seminary education possible. I worked hard through long nights as I worked graveyard shifts at a local Kroger. I sat under great men of God who had a lot of pastoral experience. Online or on campus, Luther Rice was the best seminary education possible for me.
I am currently working on my doctor of ministry degree through Luther Rice as well. I am nearly at the “Doctoral Research Project” stage; and I envision a dissertation centered on expository preaching. Should the Lord tarry His coming, I will finish the program in a year or so.
Index: How did you meet Kara? Tell me about your children.
Rea: I met Kara the first day of the first class of my freshman year at Brewton Parker. Later that year we went along with a group on a mission trip. We sat right next to each other on the plane ride across the Atlantic. We were simply friends for a long time. We eventually dated, and I realized I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. She is my best friend, greatest encourager, and most trusted confidant. We were married in 2006.
We have four children. Kara is very busy, because we homeschool our children. Katie is our oldest child at nine. She is an avid reader. Hosanna, age 7, is our second daughter and a wonderful bundle of energy and enthusiasm. Bella, age 2 1/2, is our third daughter. She is determined to do anything her older sisters can do. Isaiah is our little surprise boy at one and-a-half. He and I are buddies for life!
Index: Who were the men (preachers) who influenced your life?
Rea: I have had the blessing of sitting under some very faithful preachers who were never were asked to speak at a conference or pastor a megachurch. I have always been a faithful listener to Dr. Adrian Rogers. I never met him personally, though he has certainly discipled me through the years. I have loved the books and sermons of Dr. Vines. He has been a tremendous encouragement to me. I especially enjoyed his autobiography he wrote a few years ago. Dr. Charles Stanley’s preaching ministry has also been a blessing to me through the years.
More recently, I have gained much from the friendship of Dr. Len Turner. I love preachers! Music is not my forte. I would much rather hear preaching than singing! Dr. Randy White, who pastors in Taos, NM, has been a great friend since we met at the SBC a few years ago. Grace Evangelical Society, headed up by Dr. Bob Wilkin, has been a tremendous blessing to me.
Index: I understand you embraced a Reformed theological position for a short period of time. What circumstances or influences caused to you to embrace that doctrinal position?
Rea: Calvinism was and continues to be very popular among my generation of pastors. I embraced Calvinism in college, due to its popularity and the textbooks I was reading. I had suffered much through a car accident that nearly took my life. It was essentially the physical, spiritual, and emotional chaos after the crash that lead me to embrace Calvinism.
Many have said that my critiques of Calvinism are simply not correct, and that I misunderstood the theology. I assure people that I rejected Calvinism because I finally did understand it. I embraced it because I did not understand it.
Index: What brought you back to the position you now embrace?
Rea: One summer in college I went back to the place where I should have started in the beginning of my search for truth. I studied the Scriptures. I spent a lot of time studying the doctrine of limited atonement. One evening I wept over 1 John 2:2 as I translated it from the Greek. Limited atonement crumbled under the power of the Word of God, and the rest of the four points quickly followed. The Word of God brought me back. Later, during seminary, I was thrilled when the Traditional Statement was made. I came in contact with Connect316, and I am the GA state director for that ministry.
Index: What are your ministry goals now as pastor of Higgston Baptist Church?
Rea: Our vision at HBC is: “loving Jesus while sharing His love with others.” I just completed my first year here, and it has been an incredible time. We are nearing completion of our new sanctuary. My goal weekly is to pastor by means of grace, to preach and teach only the Word of God, and to be an example to the flock. I serve an amazing congregation. The church and I are blessed to have an amazingly wise body of deacons to aid in leadership.
My vision of ministry can be summarized by two Bible verses. One is spoken by John the Baptist, and one is in reference to John the Baptist. In John 3:30 John says: “He must increase, and I must decrease.” Ministry is about Jesus constantly increasing, and me constantly decreasing. It is His parade, and I am just happy to be in it! (II Corinthians 2:14)
The other verse is John 10:41: “Then many came to Him and said, “John performed no sign, but all the things that John spoke about this Man were true.” I would love for this to be my epitaph. Ministry is not about performance, but only about speaking the truth about Jesus Christ. My vision for preaching comes from Mark 12:37b: “And the common people heard Him gladly.”