TALLADEGA COUNTY -- Hepzibah Baptist Church on Renfroe Road in Talladega County has a long history in the area, and two new faces are working to continue that into the future.
Senior Pastor Justin Milliken came to Hepzibah in mid-May, followed shortly afterward by Youth Minister Tyler Neloms. Minister of Music Education Scott Corbin and secretary Crystal Pomeroy make up the balance of the church’s staff.
Milliken is a native of Nashville, but grew up primarily in Lakeland, Florida, before joining the Army. After six years in the service, he was injured during special forces training with the 75th Rangers. He was recovering in Raleigh, N.C., and attending Calvary Baptist Church when he realized that he was being called to the ministry. “God really started working on me while I was there,” he said.
He earned his first master’s degree in biblical studies in 2011 and is about six credits short of his second master’s; then he’ll start working on his doctorate.
Milliken pastored two churches in Georgia before he felt “God was leading me to look for a different ministry. When they called me up, I felt like it was a good fit, a church that was looking to grow, to reach out to the community.” That community outreach has been a priority, whether through working with Samaritan House, with local schools or with restarting the upward basketball program. The fall festival was also a big success this year, and the youth summer day camp is also expected to be a draw.
Milliken has been married for 20 of his 41 years. His wife holds a degree in Christian counselling, and they have three children: Josh, 16; Rachel, 11; and Elijah, 10.
Neloms is a Knoxville native, with a degree in church leadership, Bible and theology from Johnson Bible College and he is studying at Southern Seminary online. “I knew that I was called to teaching and making disciples when I was in eighth grade,” he said. “I knew I wanted to accept the Great Commission and minister to children, youth and families.”
He had never heard of Hepzibah Baptist Church when he was contacted about a student minister position. He met with the members of the church, “who are the friendliest, most fantastic people. They voted me in, and I’ve been here ever since.”
“We as a church want to meet families where they are,” he said. “Jesus Christ stands to redeem us, to point us to a better life than we have … I could talk all day about the camp, about Wednesday nights and children’s programs, but the real reason I’m here is more significant, more weighty and rooted in God and the Scriptures, that they may have life more abundantly through him.”