From the Pulpit: Living a life of faith

Sunday, November 15, 2009
The Rev. Dr. Shawn Wasson is senior pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

The Rev. Shawn Wasson first became pastor at Bethany Baptist Church in Cape Girardeau in October 2003. He is originally from St. Louis, and he enjoys playing golf. Wasson said he loves to see the beauty of a well-maintained golf course. He said he finds it helps him to relax and forget about the cares of the world. "I also enjoy reading, although I tend to read nonfiction works that pertain to the ministry," Shawn said. At age 43, he is active as a chaplain with the Cape Girardeau County Police Department with a goal to help officers as they deal with the challenges of their job.

How long have you been involved with a church?

As a child my family would attend church at the First Baptist Church of St. John in St. Louis. I became a follower of Jesus when I was 12 years old. From that time on, I have remained very active in church.

How long have you been a member of the Southern Baptist faith?

I have always been involved with Southern Baptist churches. I officially became a member after I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sin and to come into my life. I made a public commitment to follow him on Easter Sunday morning 1979. I was baptized and became a member of the First Baptist Church of St. John. During my life I have learned about other denominations, but I have remained a Southern Baptist. One of the great strengths of our faith is that we encourage individual accountability. We believe the Bible to be completely true, and we try to live by what it says.

What drew you to serve the church in a leadership role?

From early on in my life, I have found myself in leadership roles. I was very much involved with my teens group, and as I got older, I even ended up teaching at the church. When I was around 15 years old, I sensed that maybe God wanted me to be involved in the ministry. However, I did not accept the call until I was 22 years old. I had gone through a brief period of rebelling and questioning, but I soon came to the realization that I was not my own. I had given my life to God, and he wanted me to serve him. I again made a public commitment at the First Baptist Church of St. John, this time to serve in full-time Christian ministry.

What education studies did you go through to become a pastor?

When I made a commitment to become a pastor, I realized that there was so much I did not know. Although a pastor is not required to pursue academic degrees to serve as a pastor of a Southern Baptist Church, I felt that I needed to go to seminary. I was finishing a bachelor of arts in psychology with a minor in sociology when I answered the call into ministry. After graduating from the University of Missouri at St. Louis, I earned a master of divinity degree with biblical languages from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. I continued my education and earned a doctor of ministry degree from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

How many years have you served as a pastor?

When I was in Texas, I served a church in Dallas as an associate pastor. I began serving as a senior pastor at Karnak Baptist Church in Illinois, then at Zion's Cause Baptist Church in Benton, Ky. I left the senior pastorate, for a few years, to serve again as an associate pastor at the First Baptist Church of Paducah, Ky. While in Paducah I worked with single adults and senior adults. I returned to the senior pastorate when I moved back to my home state of Missouri and began serving Bethany Baptist Church.

What do you think makes this church special?

The people are what make Bethany Baptist Church so special. I have had visitors comment about how friendly the people are and how welcome they feel. We strive to be a safe environment for families to come and worship. We are faithful to God's word and we preach the truth in love. We care about people at Bethany Baptist Church. One of the things that makes Bethany special to me, is this the church where I met my wife, Sarah.

What is your favorite verse and why?

It is difficult to say what my favorite verse is because I love so many, but I would have to say that John chapter three is one of my favorites. Many people know John 3:16, or at least they see it at sporting events, held up on signs. When I quote John 3:16, I like to always include verses 17 and 18. It says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." John 3:3 challenged me when I prayed and asked the Lord to save me, it says, "Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." John chapter three tells us that God loves us and he wants us to know him. I often encourage people to read the entire book of John to learn more about Christianity.

What program have you done with Bethany Baptist church that you are proud of and why?

We recently held a Fall Festival on Oct. 31. Our contemporary worship service leader Jason Huskey and his wife Valerie organize the event every year. The event features trunk or treat, an indoor maze, balloon animals, photos taken and given to participants, plenty of candy, a free chili and hotdog meal. Hundreds of people from the neighborhood come by and participate in this event. It is just a way to show our town that we care about them, and want the children to have a safe alternative on that night.

Bethany Baptist Church also has an AWANA program that is active during the school year. It is a program that teaches children up to the sixth grade about the Bible and missions. Every Sunday morning at 10 a.m. we offer Sunday School/Bible study classes for people of all ages. We have two Sunday morning worship services. Our 9 a.m. service features contemporary music, and our 11 a.m. worship service features more traditional church music. We have other services and Bible Study groups that meet throughout the week.

What events or occasions does your church have coming up?

During the Christmas season, we have various music ministry events and specials. On Christmas Eve at 5 p.m., we hold a special candlelight worship service. There is a message about the significance of Christmas, an observation of the Lord's Supper, and then at the conclusion we dim the lights and pass the flame from one candle to another until the church is illumined. We believe that Christ is the light of the world, and that as we pass on the good news about him, the world becomes a much brighter place.

What is your favorite day of the week and why?

The Bible says, "This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it." While everyday is important, Sunday is especially important to me. I always enjoy seeing the church packed out with members and visitors. I love to proclaim the Scripture and worship the Lord in church. I am always a little sad when I drive around town and see so many people living as though Sunday is just another day of the week. I realize that some attend churches that meet at other times than Sunday morning. However, I tend to think that there are a lot of people who do not worship anywhere. I often wonder if anyone ever invited them to church.

What is your favorite part of being a pastor?

I love being a pastor, but I used to be terrified at the thought. There is so much responsibility placed on pastors. We speak for a living and we are always bound to say something that someone isn't going to like. I never felt worthy or good enough to answer God's call to be a pastor. Finally, I realized that my job is to lift up the name of Jesus and trust him to do the work. I like being the messenger. I love seeing, first hand, how God changes lives. But I know it is not about me, it is all about him.

Do you have a prayer, psalm or verse that you would like to give our readers for the day?

I would love to tell the readers about Romans 10:9-10, the Bible says, "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."

Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for sin. He is the only sacrifice for sin that God accepts. The strongest claims you will ever read about Jesus are his own words. In John 14:6 Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." He rose again, and then ascended into heaven. He will return one day to judge the world. I believe that the greatest need any person has is to be spiritually healthy. Faith in Jesus helps us to become the people God intended us to be. My prayer for the readers is that they would put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

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