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Carpenter pastor restores lives, building

 

Be it pounding nails for remodeling and restoring the church building or pounding points as a preacher, teacher and pastor rebuilding and restoring lives, Pastor A.S. Rhodes sees that God is using him as a carpenter.

 Pastor A. S. Rhodes
Pastor A. S. Rhodes

In his eighth year as pastor of the 35-year-old Mt. Olive Baptist Church, 2026 E. Fourth, he said he is not afraid to don a carpenter’s apron and is blessed by men in the church who are helping him “take the church to the next level.” 

God provides me what I need and provides me with people to help me meet needs,” he said.

Last summer, men replaced the church’s sign, planted grass and spread bark.  This year he said they will do outdoor repairs and replace the roof.  Recently, the church completed renovations of the lower level.

For building supplies, the church shops at the Habitat Store, and Rhodes directs members to shop there, too.

He also seeks to take individuals to the next level of growth.

“It makes me jubilate to see growth,” he said.

Rhodes declared his interest in ministry and preached his first sermon at the age of 16 in his grandmother’s living room in Mobile, Ala.—then the gathering place for his church.  As the oldest son, he grew up in the church and helped his single mother care for his seven other siblings.

At 17, he left home to serve two years in the Air Force, when he admits sowing some wild oats before marrying and settling in Los Angeles in 1955.  He worked in various jobs and studied electrical engineering in college a year, before working in printing, which he learned in the service.  He worked 16 years in the Los Angeles County print shop.

While raising two sons with his wife, Doris, he also began serving in ministry.  Both sons are now also ministers.  One is co-pastor of a church in Los Angeles, and the other is pastor at a church in Portland.  Rhodes and his wife decided to join their son in Portland, before he was called in 1983 to serve Morning Star Baptist Church in Pasco.

He came to Spokane and was involved at Mt. Olive Baptist with his friend and colleague, Pastor L.D. Williams, who founded the church.  Williams died in August 2003 and Rhodes became pastor in October 2003.

Rhodes has been involved with the State General Baptist Convention and the National Missionary Baptist Convention, and the church affiliates with both those conventions as well as  the Southern Baptist Convention.

“Although we are few in numbers—fewer than 100—we are thriving and alive,” he said.  “I keep reminding people we have come a long way.”

After being out of the church while in the military, Rhodes felt “a hunger and thirst for change,” and a challenge to go back into the church and do what he was called to do.

He believes his good and bad experiences make him “more steadfast” and help him “challenge people who are moving in the wrong direction.  I’m thankful God kept with me through my wayward years,” he said.

The carpenter-pastor seeks to rebuild and repair lives and to reinforce changes in lives, because  “I’ve seen God rebuild me.”

Rhodes considers himself  “a country preacher,” because he entered ministry through self-study while doing ministry, rather than going to a seminary.  He also feels influenced by his country roots, even though he has served in cities.  As a country preacher, he said, his message is that “Jesus saves people,” saves them to give them life so they can do things they never expected.

“Jesus can save anyone, but it’s up to everyone to see what they need to be saved from and for,” he said.  “Often people feel no hope, but Jesus is the God of second, third, fourth and fifth chances.”

He also sees himself as “standing on the shoulders” of his predecessor and building on love and harmony in the mixed-race congregation, making them aware they are a family.  “The people are committed to each other, not just meeting, greeting and eating, and worshiping God in the same building,” Rhodes said.

Several approaches build toward that goal.

1) He wants the building attractive so people feel comfortable.

2) He wants people to be aware they are in the presence of “God’s people” and to enjoy each other.

3) He nurtures a ministry for each person.

For example, he sensed one woman’s demeanor would make her an ideal greeter.  She sits at the visitors’ desk in the entry, welcoming people to the church. 

Once visitors enter the sanctuary, an usher seats them, but they may not stay seated long, because many are on their feet, joining the praise team in singing 15 minutes before the 11 a.m. worship.

The service proceeds from the call to worship through a litany, singing, offering, prayers, sermon and invitation to come to Christ.

“We do not force anyone to be part of our church, but invite them to come to Christ and help them find a church home if it’s not here,” he said.  “I’m called to pastor people God sends me and be involved with them as they allow me to be involved in their lives.

“I’m here to help strengthen people for what they face in life, teaching them how to be the best they can be for God,” he said.

Rhodes also stirs parishioners’ dreams for the church and neighborhood, especially now they know the building will remain when the freeway expands.

“I believe there is a reason for Mt. Olive Baptist having been established at this corner.  God calls the shots,” he said. 

For example, Rhodes said that the team of members who help repair the church building now have the skills to help members and neighbors in need improve their houses and yards.

For information, call 328-2861.