pollock_forrest_01“I don’t know of a church, to my knowledge, that has been through what we’ve been through,” states Bell Shoals Baptist Church Senior Associate Pastor George Thomasson, regarding last year’s loss of Senior Pastor, Dr. Forrest Pollock, his 13-year-old son Preston and Pastor of Music and Worship Simeon Nix.
Having lost Pollock and his son to a plane crash in Asheville, N.C. in May, only to be followed by the devastating news that Nix would be lost to a heart attack a few months later in August, the church has suffered tremendously, having to deal not only with the heart-wrenching reality that it’s without its two main leaders but also the thought of moving forward without them.
But, that’s where God and faith triumphs, with Thomasson commenting on the four percent increase in worship attendance, the 10 percent surge in Bible study attendance and an almost 100 percent jump in decisions for Christ from June to March.
“That has to tell you God has been at work amidst our sorrow,” says Thomasson. “Throughout the whole process, it has been amazing to us how the Lord has sustained. The church has been so resilient. It’s been amazing how the Lord has come through.”
He attributes three aspects to the congregation’s progress in the past year: Bible fellowship groups that help “to minister to one another’s needs;” experience found within a ministerial staff that worked in conjunction with Pollock, having heeded his words and branched out on their own, taking the reins and stepping in when the need was sought; and refocusing on the purpose of the church, something Thomasson had delved into almost eight months prior to Pollock’s passing away.
“Our purpose answers the question as to why we exist as a church. Our purpose, simply stated, is encouraging all to be passionate followers of Jesus Christ,” he says.
According to Thomasson, this is done in four steps: to know Christ, to grow in Christ, to show Christ and to go for Christ anywhere one may feel God leading him or her to go.
“We know why we are here and what we need to continue doing,” he adds.
With that, the church has moved forth, scouring to find a pastor suited to lead the massive 8,000-member congregation. Led by the Senior Pastor Search Committee, made up of nine members, Bell Shoals Baptist Church members will soon be introduced to the committee’s candidate, Dr. Stephen Rummage, on Sunday, May 3, whereat he will preach. Members will, in turn, have the chance to decide whether or not this will be their next spiritual leader, sealing the past year’s sorrows with a unified vote and traversing forth into a new chapter. To date, the Pulpit Supply Committee, which has three members on hand, has been initializing the speakers behind the podium on Sunday mornings, with Bell Shoals Baptist offering 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. services at the Bell Shoals Campus, located at 2102 Bell Shoals Rd. in Brandon, and a 11 a.m. service at its East Bay Campus, located at 12011 East Bay Rd. in Gibsonton.
Until a senior pastor is chosen, the church’s music and worship will be led by Associate Pastor of Music and Worship Rich Nelson, who is doing “a phenomenal job,” mentions Thomasson.
In remembrance of their husbands, both Pollock’s wife Dawn, who now resides in Oklahoma with her children, and Nix’s wife Beth, living in Valrico with her children, decided that all donations made in their husbands’ names should go towards the Greater Glory Building Fund, allocating monies to finish the payment of debt on the new building that now is able to encapsulate many more attendees for services. It also enabled some 4,200 residents, and some 20,000 online, to pay their respects to Pollock in person, something which could not have been accomplished in the church’s former building.
Both having helped to create the conceptualized structure, Pollock and Nix were said to have played major roles in the building’s coming to fruition.
“Both wives believed that the building would be a fitting reminder of their husbands’ memories,” says Thomasson, who concludes that the building was not named after the pastors because, “We want all the praise to go to the Lord and knew that’s what they would have wanted, too.” 
For more information on Bell Shoals Baptist Church, please call 689-4229, go to www.bellshoals.com or visit the church this Sunday.

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Carisa Biesecker
Carisa is a Senior News Reporter and Assistant Editor at the Osprey Observer. When she's not at work, she continues to write, working on future projects; hangs out with friends and family, her best friend (aka her husband) and her four dogs.