BY LEANN DILBECK
Salem Baptist Church in Nunley has welcomed a new pastor. Andy Arnold and his family have enjoyed their first month at the church as well as settling into the community and are “looking forward to being here a long-time,” said Andy as he and his wife of 8 years, Amber, sat down with the Pulse and shared what led them into ministry and to Salem.
Andy said it was in 2005 during service to his country that he first felt God calling him into ministry and as many do, Andy “questioned” the calling and didn’t feel worthy of the new role God was leading him into. Andy served his nation in the U.S. Army including two 12-month deployments to Iraq and one 6-month tour to Pakistan.
While his call may have caught Andy by surprise, it didn’t come as too much of a surprise to his wife, Amber, who said that Andy had always been a teacher within the church and a strong spiritual leader within their home. Andy credited his mother with being the most influential in his life in establishing his strong Christian roots as a child.
Andy admitted it was very different being deployed after he became a father and he gained a much deeper respect for men who make the sacrifice to leave their families to protect and defend. Still ignoring God’s calling on his life, he said he continued to live his life on his own timetable, instead of God’s, and set his sites on retiring from the military in 2014. At least until February 2010, five years after the initial calling, Andy said that God all but audibly told him in no uncertain terms that he had called him into ministry so he stepped away from the military in 2011.
With their second child on the way, Andy said he planned to do an online seminary study through Liberty University, but said it was through the insistence of several godly men in his life that encouraged him to attend seminary over just completing an online course study. After much prayer and finding peace with their decision, Andy and Amber took a leap of faith and moved their young family to Fort Worth to attend Southwestern, considered one of the top seminaries in the Southern Baptist Convention, where he graduated from earlier this year.
Salem’s search committee, chaired by David Smith, first observed Andy delivering a message to his home church in Texas before extending an invitation to him to deliver a message at Salem. Andy agreed but also asked to attend as a visitor, unannounced, to observe the church. As they have with all of their decisions since surrendering to ministry, the couple prayed, but Andy said as soon as he stood at the doorway of the sanctuary at Salem, he had an overwhelming peace come over him and he knew they were suppose to serve here. He said that during his “visitor” meeting, the family was overwhelmed at how loving and welcoming the congregation was to them. “And, it’s never stopped,” said Amber. “The entire community has been that way,” said Andy.
Amber is an RN by profession but said outside of serving God, supporting her husband and being a mother to Emma, age 7, and Aubrey, age 3, are her top priorities at this season of life.
When asked about specific goals for the church, the couple explained that the goal is simple: to aspire others to know Jesus Christ. At the core of this message, Andy said is Philippians 3:7-8 – 7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ. Andy went on to explain that it’s important to not just know Him as a Lord and Savior but KNOW him and to pursue that relationship just like we do with our spouses or other relationships. “If we know Jesus the way that we should… everything else will follow.”
As part of his teachings, Andy is currently doing an in-depth study of the Baptist faith and mission, “…to know what we believe and why we believe it.” Amber echoed the importance of being able to understand and even defend the Baptist faith, “If you don’t know what you believe and why you believe it, how can you tell others about it? How do you evangelize? How do you tell others about Jesus if they ask you ‘why do I need Jesus… why does Jesus have to be the savior’… if you don’t know why?”
The couple is researching implementing an Awanas program for the children of the area. Both appreciate the emphasis placed on learning scripture in this program. Andy said, “There is nothing better to teach a child than God’s word. As long as we remind them of that, and it’s not just about getting a jewel or a badge, then I believe that importance will be maintained. It will become compromised if it just becomes about the jewels or badges.”
Andy extends an open invitation to anyone who is looking for a church home to join them. Sunday School is at 10 a.m. followed by Worship at 11 a.m. Sunday evening worship is at 6 p.m. and Wednesday is at 6:30 p.m. The church is located about 5 miles east on Hwy 8 near the Nunley community.
Andy said he is confident that visitors will feel as welcomed as he and his family did. “I don’t believe I’ve ever loved a job as much as being here.”