Members gathered around new associate pastor the Rev. Kem Lindsay during Sunday morning’s service at First Baptist Church in Tellico Village.
Although Lindsay has been a familiar face since May, Sunday marked an official change of duties.
“We’re installing him into his position here,” the Rev. Charlie Barnard, FBC pastor, said. “This is the first time that we’ve had a full-time associate pastor in the history of the church, so we want to make it a little bit special.”
Lindsay takes over for longtime staff minister Glenn Gregg, who officially retired Dec. 31 after 20 years with FBC. Barnard noted the church started taking resumes before Gregg retired, with Lindsay’s one of about 700 submitted. Gregg is now associate pastor emeritus.
“Glenn would be hard to replace,” Barnard said. “He’s well-loved, but Kem is starting to get that same love because he’s got a heart for people just like Glenn did. ... Kem is taking us to the next level. He comes from a larger church in Gastonia and understands what it takes to take a church to the next level and that’s what we needed and what we were looking for. So his experience and his expertise is certainly welcomed.”
Lindsay comes from Gastonia, N.C., having served as education and administration pastor and discipleship pastor and mission pastor at Parkwood Baptist Church from 1998-2018.
“I’ve been real fortunate — I’ve only been in three churches, this is my fourth church, my whole life,” Lindsay said. “I was in Macedonia five years while I was in college, the year after that seminary and then Hickory for 12, Hickory, N.C., and then was at Parkwood in Gastonia for 20. Now I’m here.”
At 19 years old, Lindsay felt a calling to serve the Lord while at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo.
“I went to college to be a school teacher, but while at college really sensed the call to become a pastor,” he said. “I knew I had a love of teaching people and even at that early of time it wasn’t that popular, but the college I went to was real big on missions, and so I got involved even at that stage in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s in mission trips. That’s been a passion of just teaching, discipling people. I was probably part of the third Disciple Now ... in Missouri and then just a love for teaching people and sharing Christ with those through mission work and locally, too.”
Lindsay initially wanted to be a choral teacher in either middle or high school.
“That’s part of what attracted to us to him is that he has that love for education, Christian education, discipleship,” Barnard said. “Kem’s never been a lead pastor, and I’m not sure that he wants to be a lead pastor, but his heart is in discipleship and education and so forth, though he is good in the pulpit. I let him preach a week or two ago, and people are still complimenting him.”
Although still in the process of moving to Tellico Village with his wife, Carol, Lindsay said residents have made him feel welcome.
“One of the neat things about this place, and really the whole Village, is just the friendliness and warmth of all of the people, and especially here in particular. Bad thing is I’ve gained weight,” Lindsay said jokingly. “I mean last week four out of five nights I’m invited to be with people just because they want to do different things, it wasn’t always a meal, but people just enjoy being together. I played cards with some folks in the church last week, and it was eight of us around the table, but it’s at Tanasi, so it’s little and obviously we’re Christian folks, we pray before the meal and then you could tell the way folks interact with each other. ... That was an enjoyable evening, but that has happened since I’ve been here.”
Hopes are for Lindsay to focus on discipleship and outreach, Barnard said.
“He’s what you would call a utility player,” he said. “Back when I came in 2005 we had less than 100 people on an average Sunday, now we have over 400 people on an average Sunday, and it just got too big for me to keep up with. Lots of things were falling through the crack, so he’s helping fill the gap in lots of places.”