Former accountant leads Jackson church

Sunday, June 10, 2012
The Rev. Tommy Weems is pastor of First Baptist Church in Jackson. (Fred Lynch)

The Rev. Tommy Weems of First Baptist Church Jackson has served in churches on the West Coast and Texas. However, Weems said he felt a calling on his life at one point to either continue serving in ministry as a deacon and working as an accountant or choose to embark on a full-time ministry as a pastor. Weems commented on this journey and other topics in this week's Ministry Focus.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

A: I am married to Judy who was a part of the youth group of the church I grew up in. We married at ages 20 and 17 and are the parents of a son, Gavin, and two daughters, Andra and Katy. In addition we have four granddaughters, Destiny, Alexis, Sierra and Shelby. I was an accountant working in Houston, Texas before becoming a pastor. My seminary education was at Southwestern Baptist Seminary at Fort Worth, Texas, master of divinity, and at New Orleans Baptist Seminary, New Orleans, La., doctor of ministry seminars. Judy and I have served in churches on the West Coast, Tacoma, Wash., and Santa Maria, Calif., but most of our pastoral ministry has been in Texas. In December, 2009 we came to First Baptist Church Jackson from Rock Hill Baptist Church near Tyler, Texas.

Q: How long have you been a member of your faith?

A: I have attended a Baptist church since I was a child, but it was at age 19, while I was a college student, that I was converted. As young adults, Judy and I began a search for a new church and a new denomination. The mission program of Southern Baptists and their fidelity to the word of God was instrumental in our decision to become a part of the SBC.

Q: Who or what inspired you to become a minister?

A: Having been an avid Bible reader since I was a youth and deeply interested in spiritual things, older believers often said I would be a pastor. I was close to all my pastors, especially my father-in-law who also was a pastor. During my early 20s I taught youth in Sunday school and seemed to have a gift to inspire them. Again and again the possibility of serving as a pastor came to my mind. At age 24 I became a deacon and the sense of God calling me to be a pastor grew. Actually it was a promotion to chief accountant at Cesco Division of Browning Ferris Industries that made me realize that I had reached a crossroads. The Lord seemed to be saying to make a choice to either continue serving as a deacon and being a witness in the business world, or choose to serve as a pastor. He assured me that life as a pastor would be an adventure and that's what he wanted me to do. Yet I was assured that he would bless the other choice as well.

Q: What's the greatest blessing you've experienced in the ministry?

A: I have many, but one of the most recent blessings began as a heartbreak. At age 16, Nolan Weber, a youth at First Baptist, was diagnosed with cancer of the brain. A brain surgery followed, and the week afterward Nolan confessed his faith on Easter 2011, and I baptized him that same Sunday. Following radiation and chemo the cancer reappeared, devastating his family and our church. Nolan reaffirmed his faith and summarized a Bible study with "We Believe." Many friends picked up on it with "We Believe" T-shirts and businesses have also displayed the slogan. Neighboring churches joined with FBC in a community prayer gathering. Recent reports show that the growth of the tumor has been arrested. In May 2012, Nolan's mother, father and brother were baptized at FBC.

Q: What's the greatest challenge you've experienced in the ministry?

A: The death of my son, age 24, in a traffic accident rocked my world. Yet it has enabled Judy and I to minister to hurting people far more effectively. A book, "Wounded Healer" by a Catholic priest, Henri Nouwen, that I'd read nearly 10 years earlier brought deeper insights to me and was a tool of God to enable me to continue in ministry.

Q: What upcoming events or sermon series do you have scheduled at First Baptist of Jackson?

A: At 10:40 a.m. July 1 the Sanctuary Choir will present a patriotic musical: "America! A Pilgrim's Prayer ? A Patriot's Dream." Vacation Bible school is July 16 to 20, and we're having the Lesters in Concert on Sept. 2, at 10:40 a.m. The church is planning an Easter pageant in 2013. In our a.m. worship service I've completed a study on 1 Thessalonians and am currently teaching 2 Thessalonians. The emphasis is on correcting misunderstandings about the Second Coming of Christ and tips on building a great church. On Sundays at 6 p.m. we're studying the book of Esther from the standpoint of growing a healthy family. On Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. we're doing a study on "Boundaries" in our lives -- building Biblical boundaries and maintaining them.

Q: What's your favorite Bible verse and why?

A: I tend to be a people pleaser, so for balance in my life the Lord has impressed upon me 2 Corinthians 5:9, "Therefore also we have as our ambition whether at home or absent to be pleasing to Him." It brings proper priority and balance to my life. A verse bequeathed to me by my grandfather is John 3:8: "The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit." The verse speaks of the mystery of God's presence in our life and his direction. It always intrigues me, and I meditate on it frequently.

Q: What makes your church unique?

A: Like most churches, FBC has been through a ton of hurt. Great healing and grace has come to us from the Lord. I love our blended worship services and feel a wonderful sense of God's presence. I serve with very gifted ministers and a caring congregation eager for an opportunity to laugh.

Q: What ongoing ministries does your church have that people might be interested in?

A: We have a new youth pastor, John Ayres, who leads our youth ministry and is observing his first anniversary with us. There are two youth mission trips this year -- one to Alaska and the other to North Carolina. Pastor John has led a True Love Waits seminar followed by a banquet presenting more than 20 youths who have made a commitment of abstinence until marriage. Our senior adult ministry is led by Jean Schweain who grew up at FBC and led the choir at JHS. She established an outstanding ministry to senior adults that includes trips, fellowships and a great choir that ministers in churches and nursing homes. Bill Poyner leads our music ministry presenting great music for Easter, Fourth of July and Christmas. He's also enlisted some wonderful workers for children's choir. We're also blessed with a great missions organization.

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