The senior pastor of Columbia County’s largest church announced his resignation on Sunday.
Brent Summerhill has been pastor at First Baptist Church of Magnolia since June 2014. He succeeded David Watkins, who retired in 2012 after having served as First Baptist’s pastor for 23 years.
Summerhill posted a statement about his resignation on his personal website.
“The church is doing very well. We are financially positioned for a new youth facility and to expand missions. Worship attendance has been on the increase. But more importantly, the church is growing deeper together in Christ. People are engaged in worship and I’ve been encouraged by small group participation involving every age group of the church. And I’ve seen people talking to one another who didn’t five years go. The church appears ready to follow Christ wherever he leads.
“So, this spring, I began to prayerfully consider our future. But strangely, I could not wrap my mind around it. I could not see beyond the moment. Everything is so very good, yet I was struggling.
“Two and a half or so years ago, in the midst of some difficulties we were facing, I visited with a semi-retired pastor who works part time for the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. He has been involved in helping churches with intentional interim ministry.
“When I told him all that I was doing at First Baptist after following a long-term pastor and a period of difficulty after his departure, he said I was doing the work of an intentional interim -- reviewing every area of church life, putting policies and practices into place for the future, dealing with past issues, making changes for the good of the church’s future, and trying to unify people around Christ and his future for the church. But intentional interims don’t stay for the long haul. I was determined to be the exception to that rule.
“But by the time I left for the Philippines in May of this year, I knew my assignment here was done.
“The question became when and how to leave. One option was to stay and quietly seek out a church to serve. But plans are under way to build a new youth center, Pastor Dustin (Wisely) is scheduled to move to Missouri in January, and a search is ready to begin for a new youth pastor. So, if I quietly sought out a church, my departure would likely be in the midst of all these changes. And Cindy and I could not do that to the church.
“The other option was to leave this summer so you can know now what’s going on. So, earlier this month, I began seeking counsel from Deacon Chairman Greg Matthews, Deacon Bruce Maloch, and our pastoral team. Originally, the plan was that I would stay through July. But when we considered the imminent church decisions regarding facilities, staffing, and missions that need addressing in July and the summer schedule, it became apparent that now is the time.
“Therefore, I am resigning as senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Magnolia, Arkansas effective next Sunday, June 30. We will finalize our move from Magnolia at the end of July,” the statement said.
Summerhill said that he did not know where he will serve next.
“Our immediate plan is for some rest while trusting and waiting on God for our next assignment,” he said.
He will preach his final sermon at the church next Sunday.
Summerhill is originally from Fort Smith. He has been married to the former Cindy Hart of Sherwood since December 1986. They have two adult children. He was called to Magnolia from Faith Baptist Church in Cabot, where he had been since April 1991.