Kelley brings enthusiasm to work at Pine Ridge

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 24, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; A modest and soft-spoken man, the new pastor of Pine Ridge Baptist Church has surprises as fresh as a spring breeze.

Still new to the Natchez area, the Rev. Greg Kelley brings an enthusiasm for his work and volumes of ideas to disperse among Christians in his congregation and anyone elsewhere within his reach.

His emphasis on teaching &045; and particularly teaching discipleship &045; became evident as he sat in the cozy, attractive study at the church on Martin Luther King Jr. Road earlier this week.

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Kelley spoke of his boyhood spent pursuing outdoor activities in rural South Carolina and his love of sports, especially wrestling and football, enhanced by the loving guidance of a few good coaches who acted as his mentors as he grew up.

He spoke of his early college experiences and the expectation that he would follow in the footsteps of the coaches who had influenced his life and his appreciation for ethical behavior on and off the playing field.

And then he spoke of the evening when he realized that the kind of coaching career he sought was not the kind God had in mind for him.

&uot;The Lord began to deal with me, to lead me not to be a coach but to preach the gospel,&uot; Kelley said. &uot;There was no delaying. I had to make a decision. It was obvious to me that it was a definite calling, and the next day I went to change my major.&uot;

Since the early 1980s, with his seminary training behind him, Kelley has been doing as he believed God instructed him that night &045; first as a youth pastor.

Because of his talents with young people, he thought perhaps that is where his ministry would lie; but when the opportunity came to teach adults, he found the challenge stimulating and the fit to be perfect.

&uot;I saw an excitement in their eyes,&uot; he said, describing some of the first adult classes he taught while an assistant pastor in a small church in South Carolina. &uot;They were hungry to hear what I had to say, and I realized the time had come to change my emphasis to adults.&uot;

People who hear him preach describe his sermons as instructive, Kelley said. &uot;Of course, it’s necessary to preach, but also to teach, to intellectually stimulate them to study the word of God and make it a personal, daily routine.&uot;

Kelley began to develop a program, using the first chapter of Second Peter and its detailed exhortation for a Christian’s adding to his faith. The result is a 52-week program, &uot;The Multiplied Harvest,&uot; which teaches participants to grow in their faith but to share it by teaching others.

&uot;It’s one thing to win people for Christ, but the Bible also teaches us that we’ve got to disciple others. Sometimes we drop the ball when we don’t help people to grow,&uot; he said.

In the few months since he accepted the call of Pine Ridge Baptist, Kelley has been excited by the reaction to his program. &uot;We challenge each person to ask the Lord for direction to search out one person to share the material with. This develops leadership within the congregation, as people learn the essentials of Christian growth.&uot;

Kelley takes one day at a time, but he has vision for the future in Natchez. He sees opportunity for new concepts, including perhaps college-level classes in Christian education using satellite and other new teaching technology.

His wife, Teresa, works alongside her husband each day &045; &uot;first as a wife and mother and then anything I can do to help him,&uot; she said. They have one son, who is almost 13.

With her degree in music education, she brings a bundle of talent and energy to the church. She loves to teach music to children, she said. And she has a talent for organization.

The family enjoys exploring when they have a little extra time, Teresa Kelley said. &uot;We really like Natchez. We like the people, and we love to go into the small shops and meet the people who own them.&uot;

Both have highest praise for the congregation at Pine Ridge Baptist. &uot;They have been very kind, very generous, very loving,&uot; she said.