New Pastor Wants To Bring Back Those Who Left Church

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First Southern Baptist Church has a new pastor, Rick Hatch, at the pulpit.

Hatch believes the Lord has given him two purposes to fulfill.

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As the new pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Rick Hatch plans to reach out to former members, then the nearby community and, like a pebble tossed in a pond, bring the Gospel to an ever-widening circle.

"Love the people is the first," he said. "The second (purpose) is to have a good time."

Indeed, with his expansive smile, the former Nevada highway patrolman seems happy and comfortable with the call he answered in January to become pastor of the church that celebrated its 40th anniversary May 15.

He plans to accomplish both his purposes by reaching out to former members, then the nearby community and, like a pebble tossed in a pond, bring the gospel to an ever widening circle.

"There were no children when I first got here," Hatch said. "The first time I heard a baby cry in church, the mother was about to take the baby out. I told her, ‘Stay, that child crying is music to our ears.'"

Implementing what he calls a "search and recovery mission" is the first step he took upon moving to Payson and accepting his new position.

The church at one time had over 500 members. When Hatch arrived he said there were under 100.

Extending an invitation to former members to stop back in has led to an expanding membership.

Next, he plans to reach out with 200 Bibles to people who live in the proximity of the church.

Half of those Bibles are in Spanish.

"This is a church for everyone," he said.

When Hatch was a teenager his football coach told him he was overweight and needed to go pick tomatoes in the fields.

Hatch said it taught him respect for the Mexican culture.

"I love to be around people," he said. "I learn by being with them."

And he has certainly interacted with many kinds of people throughout his two careers.

While Hatch was an officer with the highway patrol in the gambling capital of the United States he took what would be his first steps toward a career change he never expected to make.

The year was 1970.

"I had to go to Las Vegas to get saved," he said with a laugh, then added in a serious tone, "It's a lonely town when you don't know the Lord."

Slowing down and finding direction in his life is one of the blessings he said God gave him then.

"When you pray it helps you get your thoughts together and it helps you really concentrate, so the Lord helps with that," he said.

At 35, Hatch was the youngest man at that time ever to be promoted to captain of the highway patrol in Carson City.

In his career, he has been a bodyguard for Frank List, governor of Nevada, and attended Secret Service training at the Federal Bureau of Investigation's academy.

It was during that training, while he was away from his wife, Caron, and their three children, that he felt God was telling him to become a minister.

He fought the calling.

He thought, "I don't want to go to school."

But back he eventually went -- graduating in 1983 from Grand Canyon University where he majored in religion and minored in law enforcement, then to Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in San Francisco, Calif. He graduated with his master's of divinity in 1986.

Those were lean years, he recalls. He took odd jobs in construction, janitorial and campus security to help make ends meet for his family.

"Caron worked too," he said. "If it wasn't for our wives working, most ministers wouldn't be able to pastor, and ‘pastor' is the greatest title I could have."

He pastored in Wyoming, was an intern of evangelism at the Arizona State Baptist Convention before becoming the pastor for two congregations in Phoenix -- eight years each at West Town Baptist and Riverside Baptist churches.

With all this travel and change behind him, Hatch hopes to stay in Payson indefinitely.

"I love Payson. It always had a great reputation with the Baptist convention," he said. "We are here to stay."

First Southern Baptist Church is located on the northeast corner of Bonita and Colcord Road in Payson. Call 474-3374. Sunday worship is at 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday School is at 9:15 a.m. Vacation Bible School starts July 17.

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