By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
KNOXVILLE — Larry Fields, pastor emeritus at the Central Baptist Church, Bearden, in Knoxville, has served as interim pastor at Smithwood Baptist Church in Knoxville since January.
When the pastor search committee at Smithwood recently recommended that Jeff Lane, associate pastor at Bethany Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., be called as their new pastor, both Fields and Lane realized they had had an earlier relationship.
In 1990, when Fields was pastor at Central Baptist, the parents of 8-year-old Jeffrey Lane brought him to meet with Fields about making a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. After reviewing the plan of salvation with Jeffrey, Fields baptized Lane as a new Christian. Not long after the baptism, the Lane family moved to Maryville and joined another church and Fields lost all contact with Lane until just recently.
On Sunday, Nov. 19, 27 years after Jeff was baptized, the pastor who baptized him was able to introduce Jeff and Angela Lane as new members of Smithwood Baptist Church and as the new pastor and his wife with their three young children.
Fields remained at Smithwood in November to help Lane as he transitioned into the role of pastor, beginning in December.
“It is a unique situation,” Fields acknowledged.
When the search committee at Smithwood told him that he had baptized their candidate, Fields was confused. “I knew all of my preacher boys (men who were called into ministry under his leadership) and where they were.”
After learning of Lane’s name, he looked up his records and discovered he had baptized him in 1990. The family moved soon afterwards and Fields never saw Lane again until November.
“It’s been a joy to see this transition of a boy I baptized 27 years ago to him now serving the Lord as a pastor,” Fields said.
“I’m happy for him and he’s enthusiastic and ready to go” in his first pastorate, Fields observed.
He noted that he and Lane have talked extensively and Fields said they have agreed to stay in touch. “I will be there for him if he ever needs to talk,” the 74-year-old Fields said.
Fields has already shared some words of wisdom from his experience with both Lane and the Smithwood congregation. In his sermon at Lane’s first Sunday at the church, Fields challenged the new pastor to keep four priorities at the forefront of his ministry: personal (his daily walk with Jesus), parental (his wife and family), physical (maintaining his health so he can minister), and pastoral (the church). He assured Smithwood members that if Lane takes care of the first three priorities then the church will be much stronger.
Lane, too, is excited about being reunited with his former pastor. “He was a faithful pastor who preached the gospel clearly and because of that I was saved,” Lane said.
The new pastor plans to take advantage of Fields’ experience. “In our denomination there is sometimes tension between the younger generation and older generation pastors,” Lane observed.
“I see someone like Dr. Fields as one who has a lot of wisdom and experience. I am glad I have reconnected with him.”