After 12 years as the pastor of The First Baptist Church of Greensburg, Marvin George has left to take over duties as pastor at First Baptist in Fort Scott, Kansas.
“[When I first came to Greensburg] the church didn’t have a full time pastor for over a year,” said George. “A lot of people had dropped out, so the church was in dire need of someone at the helm, guiding and directing.”
Initially perceived as family oriented, tight and faith-based George said Greensburg was very receptive, very loving and took very good care of his family.
“That’s just kind of where my heart is,” said George. “I just love small towns and small communities. You can’t spit out your back door without somebody knowing it. I’m not a big city kind of guy, I’m not a mega-church kind of guy. I like churches that I can pastor by myself and know everybody and their spouse’s names and kid’s names and grandkid’s names. I think the shepherd of the church should be able to know his flock.”
He came from Benton, Ark., which he conceded was “bigger” than Greensburg and has an inherit love of small towns and what they stand for.
On first appearance George can be intimidating. He is a towering hulk of a man with a loud powerful voice, well suited for Sunday preaching and announcing high school football games.
But speaking with him inside his old office now empty of personal effects, it is easy to see why his church thinks so highly of him and why he’s earned the respect of an entire community.
“Half the folks that are part of our congregation will tell you the reason they fell in love with the church is because the church is so loving and accepting of people,” he said while sipping a Diet Dr. Pepper. “No matter what their background was.”
George said the community has changed a lot over the past twelve years, but there has always been a commonality in the spiritual needs of his congregation.
“You get a group of people at any point in time and they hit the gamut from one end to the other of highs and lows in spiritual life, and I don’t think that we ever get away from that,” said George. “Jesus said you’ll have the poor and the dying and the widows with you forever. Looking at the big picture we’re always going to have people in spiritual need. We’re always going to be sheep going in the wrong direction needing someone to guide us back.”
Page 2 of 4 - Just as George has led his congregation, he is allowing God to lead him into the future and has found a parable in Paul’s words in the book of Acts.
“He’s telling the elders at Ephesus that he has to depart and go to Jerusalem because he’s compelled by the spirit to do so.” said George. “I’m compelled by the spirit to go. The other thing that Paul tells the elders is he doesn’t know what’s in store for him there. That’s a little bit bind faith, from Paul’s perspective a lot of blind faith.”
Although George recognizes he is not making as a blind decision as Paul, because he has been able to go to Fort Scott and speak with church leaders and knows what the ministry’s needs are, there are a lot of unknowns.
“It’s not quite as blind for me as it was for Paul, but still, I don’t know exactly what all is going to happen out there,” he said. “When I moved to Greensburg I didn’t know what all things would take place in that 12 years, especially the seventh year that I was here. There’s no doubt God called me here not just to shepherd this church, but also to be here during the destruction, the recovery and the rebuilding, because that’s right up my alley, I can do that. Does He have something like that in store for me in Fort Scott? I don’t have a clue. But, there is no doubt He (God) is moving me out to Fort Scott. I am very sensitive to being obedient to what God’s calling me to do, and I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that’s what he’s calling me to do.”
He said the church is in need of a leader and that God wants him to be that leader.
“All of their needs and concerns are not outside the commonality of any small community, they need someone to lead them and guide them and challenge them to be the kind of church that God wants them to be, I know those challenges are there for me. It’s like turning a new chapter in life,” answered George. “You don’t know exactly what’s there, you just know it’s new. I like new challenges.”
He is, of course, sad to leave the place he has called home for more than a decade. The place he raised children and guided a broken and sorrowful congregation through the toughest of times.
Page 3 of 4 - “It’s hard to get excited when you’re sad about leaving,” said George. “My wife just asked the other day ‘are you excited about getting to Fort Scott?’ I don’t think I’ll actually be excited until we get there and get moved in, that’s when the excitement will hit me.”
One of the things he’ll really miss is the Kiowa County Minister Alliance, a group of county church leaders that meet once a month and work to strengthen their churches and community.
“The unity that we’ve shared, the relationships that we’ve built will be what impacts me the very, very most about our community. After the tornado some researchers came in and did some surveys and the number one leadership group people of this community thought was the most influential leadership group was the Ministerial Alliance. I just love all the pastors that I’ve gotten to know, some have gone, some new ones have come, and I know that I cannot expect this type of group anywhere else because it’s unique to Kiowa County.”
He is also going to miss his church, the Baptist chapel George was instrumental in rebuilding.
“It’s really tough to try to explain the relationships that you have with people you’ve been entrusted to guide and keep as a shepherd. So those relationships I’ve had at the First Baptist Church of Greensburg have been phenomenal. I will miss the fellowship time, the friendships that I’ve had. You go downtown and you see people I pastor and they love on you, on the street corner, on the sidewalks, in the stores. That’s something you can’t get anywhere else.”
When asked if there were any final words he had for the community, George talked about the incredible impact the May 2007 tornado has had, and will have in the foreseeable future.
“I believe that we were shaken up for a purpose,” he said. “I don’t believe that God sends a tornado to shake us up, but I think out of that destruction what God expected from us is what we had directly after that. All the denominational walls were dropped; all the socioeconomic walls were dropped. Everybody was in the same place, on the same sheet of music. We all had nothing and we relied on each other. We met in a tent collectively as a community church a number of times.”
He also believes after the recovery and rebuilding people got back into their every day routines and forgotten that sense of togetherness.
Page 4 of 4 - “It was a great time of oneness that I believe we need to have,” he added. “When you think about diversity and unity as the body is, that was really the epitome. I wish and pray that someway or another the community can get back to that. I would like to say to the community, let’s not wait for another disaster to get that close again.”