A few eyebrows raised among congregants at First Church of the Nazarene, 1235 N. Walnut, Sunday morning when Pastor Daren Baldwin doffed his suit coat. They saw his tie cut and frazzled and sleeves of his white shirt soiled by splotches of oil.
“I had holes in my socks, too,” Baldwin said Sunday afternoon during an appraisal of his three weeks as the church’s minister.
It all was part of his sermon, done in his belief that when “people see something, they’re more likely to remember it better,” even if it is a metaphor.
The point was the coat-covered cuts in his tie were like people trying to hide sin from God; the oily stains an effort to hide sin from themselves; the holes in his socks symbolized sins people weren’t willing to acknowledge.
Baldwin then explained the church family was put there by God to help people deal with sin.
“The church is a hospital, not a mortuary,” he said.
While appearing Sunday to be nattily dressed , Baldwin allowed he most likely won’t be at other times.
“You need to come to church appropriately dressed, but not to hide sins in our lives,” he said, adding that God is concerned foremost with what is in each person’s heart, not what’s on the outside of the body.
BALDWIN, 29, grew up in Pleasanton, where he attended a Nazarene church where at age 14 he felt God’s call to the ministry.
“I didn’t tell anyone right away,” he said. “Actually, it scared the snot out of me.”
Eventually, he told his pastor, who served as a mentor and got him a local license to preach under his supervision in the Pleasanton church. After a year, he earned a district license, which gave him opportunities for a greater role in services.
At MidAmerica Nazarene University, Olathe, he earned a bachelor’s degree in ministry. Previous experience was four years as youth minister in Gardner and 2 1/2 years as minister of a Nazarene church in McCune.
He and his wife, Sarah, have no children.
“She has a heart for women’s programs and those involving teenage girls,” Baldwin said.
About 40 attend First Nazarene, a number Baldwin hopes will increase, though he doesn’t think keeping score or even what denomination a person prefers is important as long as a church is Bible-based and those attending listen to the word of God.
“I think denominations will fall off when we get to heaven and burn off for those who go the other way,” he said.
First Nazarene has Sunday school classes starting Sunday morning at 9:30 for youngsters and adults.
“We have one adult class now and hope to add a second,” he said.
Sunday morning services begin at 10:30 with a meet and greet and formally at 10:45.
This past Sunday night a service celebrated “being in the family of God,” a monthly event Baldwin thinks will give people who are uncomfortable with traditional services a chance for fellowship. Other Sunday night events are scheduled, including a Bible study for men and women July 17. A last-Thursday-of-the-month Bible study is also planned, with the first July 28.
A worship team of five, a pianist, organist and three singers are a part of Sunday morning services and becomes a sextet when Baldwin joins in with his guitar.
“We have both traditional hymns and contemporary music as part of our services,” he said.
BALDWIN intends to approach his new position methodically but with enthusiasm.
“We’re just getting unpacked, but a part of being a pastor is being available for people,” he said. “I don’t have a lot of answers but I can pray with people and encourage them.
“Iola has a lot of great churches, but there also are a lot of people who need to know that God loves them,” Baldwin said. “We have a great facility, but we need to step outside its walls and let people know that God loves them.”
The church will have a booth at the Allen County Fair, where members will hand out treats and refrigerator magnets with contact information.
“We’re not trying to take anyone away from another church, but if they don’t have a church or haven’t been attending for quite a while, we’re here for them if they need God’s help,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin can be contacted at home, 365-5393, or his church office, 365-3983. The church’s e-mail address is [email protected] com. Baldwin has established a Facebook page, which may be found through Facebook/Iola Nazarene.
On the Facebook page he intends to post weekly lead-ins to Sunday sermons as well as helpful and encouraging Bible verses.