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Pastor finds footing with church & horses

WINCHESTER, Ill. (BP)–When Ted Rhoades helped start Cornerstone Baptist Church in 1996, he thought he’d serve as its bivocational pastor for a while before transitioning to a full-time pastorate. Through the years, as he helped Cornerstone grow into a congregation focused on missions and developing leaders, Rhoades’ ideas about his role as a bivocational pastor have changed.

“Now, I think I’ll spend the rest of my life being bivocational. I think God’s called me to this.”

Rhoades spends many of his evenings at the church, and during the day, he’s a professional farrier, or horseshoer.

As one of more than 200 bivocational pastors serving in the Illinois Baptist State Association, he balances his pastoral duties with the business he’s operated for 30-plus years. But balance isn’t really the right word, Rhoades said.

“I don’t even attempt to find balance, because I don’t think you can. Life can’t be a cookie cutter kind of thing,” Rhoades said. Instead, he relies on an understanding of the busy seasons in his church and in his business, discerning where to give his time and attention, much like in a marriage.

“You just know when you’re spending enough time with each other and when you’re not. When you’re not, you have to make adjustments to sharpen and fine tune the relationship,” Rhoades said. “That’s the way church is; you know when you need to visit more, when you need to call people. If that’s what I need to do right now, that’s what I’ll do.”

Rhoades was called to preach in the mid-1980s and helped plant a church in Effingham, Ill., before moving to Winchester, a small town 60 miles west of Springfield. He and his family established deep roots in the community, involving themselves in school and civic activities as well as connecting with people through Cornerstone. His business has allowed them to stay rooted in Winchester and in a church that, as Rhoades sees it, is deepening in spiritual maturity.

“I have a great church; they’re great people, they support us and they want to be part of what God is doing.” Five years ago, Cornerstone wasn’t doing much in the way of international missions. Now, the church sends a group to Uganda each year to help with literacy ministry, and Rhoades and worship leader Stuart Smith are planning a pastors’ conference in the African country this summer. Along with international missions opportunities, Cornerstone also supports a pregnancy resource center in nearby Jacksonville.

The church’s missions strategy is based on moving people toward a life-changing experience at home or abroad, and relying on God’s leading for how and where He would have them be involved.

“We’re learning how to let prayer be the aroma of who we are, rather than something that we do,” Rhoades said. “We’re not sure exactly how to do that, so we’re letting the Holy Spirit guide us.”

Rhoades depends on that guidance as he ministers to a customer base built over 30 years in an industry that generally promotes long-term relationships.

“People don’t usually shop around for horseshoers,” he said, adding that the trust he builds with his customers often allows him to be a pastor to people who don’t have anyone else to turn to. As opportunities arise to do a wedding or funeral for a family he’s met through his business, Rhoades focuses on being a natural witness of what Jesus Christ has done in his life and in the life of his church. He said he fully intends to spend the rest of his ministry years at Cornerstone, reaching out in Winchester and beyond as the Lord leads.

“I want to build on what God’s doing through us.”
Meredith Day is a communications specialist with the Illinois Baptist State Association.

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  • Meredith Day