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Virginia church continues revitalization a year after pastor’s death

Reggie Hester died unexpectedly from a heart attack on Dec. 19, 2020, at the age of 54.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (BP) – Members of Pinecrest Baptist Church continue to trust God during their church’s revitalization, despite enduring the tragic loss of their senior pastor Reggie Hester a little more than a year ago. 

Stephen Day

Hester was working as a regional catalyst for the SBC of Virginia when he began serving as the transitional pastor at Pinecrest in 2015. He became full-time pastor in 2016, while still working part-time with the SBCV, specifically in church revitalization.

Tragedy struck when Hester died unexpectedly from a heart attack Dec. 19, 2020, at age 54.

Stephen Day, associate/next generation pastor at Pinecrest, joined the staff shortly after Hester became the full-time pastor. Day grew up in the youth group of the church Hester was pastoring at the time, and said he now wants to help carry on the vision of his spiritual mentor at Pinecrest.

“You can’t revitalize a church unless God is the foundation,” Day said. “It’s hard work, but it’s simple work of getting people focused back on what the mission of the church is.”

Day said Hester was moving the church forward both practically and spiritually, and those practical and spiritual methods came together in the form of quarterly worship nights which Pinecrest began holding in early 2021.

Hester and Day had been working on practical changes to the church since early 2020 while the church was not meeting in person due to COVID-19.

The two renovated the church’s sanctuary by improving the facility’s lighting capabilities and adding other tools used during worship services.

The new facility was first used for the quarterly prayer and worship nights the church began to host to promote unity after Hester’s passing.

Praying and seeking a vision for the church is one of the main spiritual practices Hester emphasized that the church wants to carry on.

“Prayer has been huge for us, and we needed to make sure we stayed united in prayer,” Day said. “You can have the best strategy and plan but if you don’t have the power of God, then good luck.”

Day said Pinecrest’s growth over the past year has not been so much numerical as it has been in gaining a deeper understanding of the promises of God.

“Whenever your senior pastor dies, you have a lot of unknown questions and the future is still unknown for us, but I think the Lord calls you into a deeper abiding relationship with Him and His promises and character no matter the circumstance,” he said.

Rusty Small is a revitalization strategist for the SBC of Virginia. He believes Hester’s legacy extends far beyond Pinecrest.

“Reggie had become an encourager to pastors all over the state, but especially in the eastern part of the state in regards to revitalization,” Small said. “He was a great encouragement to discouraged pastors to help move them from discouragement to vitality so they could be the appropriate minister in their context.”

Small worked with Hester to create a state revitalization cohort project, where pastors of revitalizing churches met together for training and development.

The program began as a 12-church cohort meeting together for one year, and is now expanding to become a 20-church cohort meeting for two years.

A goal for Small is to be able to offer revitalization resources and training to any SBCV church that desires it. Small hopes Hester’s ministry legacy can be carried on through the cohort. 

“Due to the pandemic, I think the churches in Virginia are as in need of revitalization now as they’ve ever been,” Small said. “I certainly deeply miss that Reggie’s not a part of the present efforts, but I’m thankful I was able to spend a season of my life with him.”

Day confessed Hester’s death forced both him and Pinecrest to rely fully on God for ministry strength. Although Hester served as an incredible mentor to him, Day said it is ultimately God who takes care of His church. 

“Reggie was such a great leader that he was almost like my rock or idol in ministry leadership, and whenever he passed away the Lord convicted me that I can continue on because God is the Rock of the church and I just had an idol in my life,” Day said. 

“It helped us focus on who the main Shepherd of the church is and that’s Jesus. That’s what churches need to do to revitalize is to look to Jesus as the Rock and not look to the pastor to have all the answers. Every pastor is technically an interim pastor because we’re only here for a season.

“Reggie was always about the Gospel and never made it about himself. Reggie wouldn’t want us to be sulking and just remembering him for the sake of remembering him. Because of who Reggie was, the best way that the church can move forward is to make disciples.”