Highfill Baptist welcomes new pastor
By Stephanie Taylor Ferriell, Senior Staff Writer, [email protected]
When Pastor John Ervin was invited to preach a sermon at Highfill Chapel General Baptist Church as the church sought a new minister, he felt comfortable from the start.
“It was a really good fit,” he said. “We felt at home from the start.”
Highfill selected Ervin as its next pastor and the family, which includes his wife Hannah and daughter Pressley, 4, moved to Taswell in mid-June.
It was the congregation that helped convince Ervin that Highfill was where he was meant to be.
“When we got here, we didn’t meet anybody who was not willing to talk,” he recalled. “You can tell if someone is forcing it or if they genuinely want to engage. I really felt like they wanted to engage and get to know us.”
Ervin, who has a self-described dry humor style, said, “They even laughed at all my jokes.”
The ministry is a long way from the profession Ervin initially planned to pursue. By age 16, he had decided to become a cartoonist. God, he said, had other plans.
Ervin began to feel a nudge, but he tried to push it away.
“God, you’re calling the wrong person,” he remembers saying.”
Some time later, his dad brought home a movie he’d found in a dumpster. Ervin watched the biopic about Billy Graham’s early years several times, finding it inspiring.
“I heard a voice in my head that wasn’t mine that said, ‘You’re going to do what he did’,” Ervin said.
After running from his calling for a year, Ervin was at his mother’s church one morning when he said God started pushing on his heart again.
“Fine,” he said inside his head. “I’ll preach one sermon.”
That same morning, a woman in front of him turned around and asked Ervin, “We’re having a youth sermon, will you preach?”
Ervin made it through, despite believing public speaking wasn’t his strength. However, others had a different view. Ervin quickly received four invitations to preach at area churches.
“That entire month I didn’t even get to go to my church because I was too busy preaching messages at others,” he said.
Ervin had other preaching opportunities while he was still in high school. He said God was telling him to attend college, but he didn’t see how it would be possible as he lacked both funding and high grades.
Despite meeting none of the school’s criteria, Ervin was accepted at St. Louis Christian College on scholarship. He completed two years but was unable to finish because he didn’t have the money.
“My professors said I could come and audit their classes,” said Ervin. “They signed letters saying I had received the training needed for ordination.”
After leaving college, Ervin was invited to preach at a small church in Kentucky. His 1991 Buick Regal died and he had no way to get there. He found a car for sale but couldn’t afford the $1,000 price tag.
“The man asked, ‘Are you a minister?’ ” recalled Ervin.
When he answered yes, the price of the vehicle was dropped to $400.
Ervin served as senior pastor at Shiloh Christian Church for 1-1/2 years. It was where he met and married his wife and where their daughter was born.
After the family moved back to Lenzburg, Ill., where Ervin is from, he was part-time minister at Chester First Christian Church.
Ervin said Highfill Chapel has a rich history and was founded in October 1911.
“Our mission is inspiring and growing the faith of all believers new and old for the glory of Christ,” he said. “We’re focused on the Bible and knowing the Word as God intended it delivered.”
Attendance is about 30 each Sunday.
“We’re hoping to see that grow,” said Ervin, adding he wants to focus on growing youth involvement. “The church has the passion of youth but lacks youth. You can’t have a future for the church unless you make sure you have people for that future.”
Technology will play a big role in expanding Highfill’s reach. Ervin is recording his sermons for the church’s Facebook page and YouTube and is developing a social media platform. He also plans to put those cartooning skills to good use and is working on a cast of characters for a cartoon ministry.
A nursing home ministry is also on the horizon. Ervin’s belief is that population is in an excellent position to positively influence others.
“It’s a message of inspiring,” he said. “(Residents) have an opportunity to witness the gospel to those caring for you.”
The Ervins have settled into the parsonage and are enjoying the country setting.
“It’s very beautiful and very peaceful here,” he said. “We’ve met so many people asking if we need anything. We just hope to be able to bless the community the same way.”
Highfill Chapel has Sunday services at 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Wednesday service is at 6:30 p.m. Follow Highfill Chapel on Facebook, visit the website, www.highfillchapel.church, or call 812-338-2030 for more information.