Four Mile Baptist, a congregation of 28, had five baptisms in 2018
By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
PIGEON FORGE — At an age when most pastors are stepping away from the ministry or moving into interim or supply work, David Oliver did just the opposite.
At the age of 68, Oliver became pastor of Four Mile Baptist Church in Maryville.
And, what’s more, God blessed in a mighty way. His small congregation of 28 people saw five people baptized last year, along with four other additions. The church also started a special-needs class and began a nursing home ministry.
Oliver’s journey to the ministry did not happen overnight.
In an interview with the Baptist and Reflector during the Bivocational Ministers and Wives Retreat held Jan. 24-26 in Pigeon Forge, Oliver said he was actually called to preach 37 years ago.
He did supply preaching for churches and became involved in various ministries in churches he attended and did several short-term missions trips, but whenever he was approached about becoming pastor of a church, it “was not in God’s timing,” Oliver recalled.
Two years ago, Four Mile approached Oliver and asked him to “fill the pulpit” for a few Sundays and then asked him to become the interim pastor. Oliver, who had done supply preaching for Four Mile Baptist in the past, agreed.
Then, in January of 2018, the church asked him to become their pastor and he accepted the call.
Now, 69 years old, Oliver said he never expected to be a pastor at that age. When asked, he recalled thinking, “I’m awfully old,” he said with a grin.
Oliver, who had been a member of Vonore Baptist Church in Vonore, was ordained into the ministry in November of 2017 by his longtime friend Doug Sager, who died shortly after Oliver’s ordination. “He was my mentor,” the Four Mile pastor said.
Oliver hit the ground running. When he started at Four Mile, a small rural congregation in southwestern Blount County, the church had about 15 people in attendance. It has now climbed to about 22 and includes a young family with a toddler and a baby on the way.
“There are some good people here,” he affirmed.
The church held Vacation Bible School in the community last summer and attracted about 33 children, not including adult and teenage workers.
The church had help from a neighboring congregation along with Jim Snyder, director of missions for Chilhowee Baptist Association.
Nine decisions were made for Christ during VBS, including six professions of faith. VBS is an important ministry at Four Mile and the church is beginning to make plans for this summer, Oliver said
In addition, thanks to the encouragement of Oliver’s daughter, Christi, who has Down’s Syndrome, the church held a special needs class for her and others. Because it met a need, church member Pennie Gregg is now teaching a special needs class every Wednesday night.
Oliver is helped in his ministry by his wife, Carol, who said she “never dreamed she would be a pastor’s wife,” but both are finding satisfaction at being in God’s will for their lives. She teaches children on Wednesday night at the church.
The couple is getting the church involved in community and association events and are hopeful that there will be a missions trip in the future at some point. The church has a revival planned in November with evangelist Don Whitt. It will be the church’s first revival in at least 20 years, Oliver said.
“It’s been an interesting journey,” Oliver acknowledged. “It’s been a challenge for us, but I’m glad I accepted the call,” he said.
He is grateful for the bivocational retreat for ministers and their wives. “We came last year and enjoyed the fellowship and encouragement with others,” he said.
Oliver has learned in his short tenure as a pastor that “God has a plan for all churches, regardless of size. “I went trusting that the church would grow and that God would use me — and He has.
“I’m doing what He has called me to do.”