By David Dawson
BENTON — Pastor Benny Thomas said he recently began to sense that the Lord was leading him to make a decision that he wasn’t so sure he wanted to make.
After 54 years in the ministry, much of which was served as a bivocational pastor, Thomas decided — somewhat reluctantly — that it was time to retire.
“I finally hung it up,” said Thomas in his typical laid-back manner. “I believe the Lord was telling me that He wanted me to step aside.”
Serving primarily in the Polk County area, Thomas endeared himself to the community with his selfless attitude, said Ryan Potts, director of missions for Polk County Baptist Association.
“Pastor Benny is a man of integrity and loyalty,” said Potts. “He has served the Lord faithfully and has has been dedicated to every church where he has served.”
Thomas, 82, most recently served as pastor at Hiwassee Union Baptist Church, his final stop on his pastoral journey.
In addition to his time in Polk County, he also pastored in Monroe County and at Old Salem in McMinn-Meigs Association, among others.
Thomas was recently honored at the Polk County Baptist Association’s annual meeting, and was given a plaque to celebrate his five-plus decades of service.
“He never likes to call attention to himself,” said Potts, “but we certainly felt that 54 years of ministry was something that needed to be recognized and honored.”
Thomas told the Baptist and Reflector that he wasn’t especially excited about retiring, but said the Lord had provided signs that the timing was right.
“It was a hard decision to make,” he said. “I didn’t want to do it, but I felt like I had to. It got to where I was tired a lot and I wasn’t able to handle some of my duties with the same energy as before.”
Aside from fatigue, Thomas said he is still in good health: “No serious problems,” he said.
Thomas said one of his favorite parts about pastoring was the interaction with the members.
“I always enjoyed visiting people, especially in the nursing homes and hospitals,” he said. “And so many times, they would be ones who lifted me up. I went there to (minister) to them, but I ended up being blessed by them.”
Thomas said he also was encouraged whenever he saw someone strengthen their relationship and commitment to God.
“Seeing people grow in the Lord was something that I always really enjoyed,” he said. B&R