Austin Hendrix has been called to serve.
He may only be 21, but the 2018 Crest/Allen Community College grad has become the newest senior pastor at Community Church of the Nazarene in Iola.
Initially inspired by “an image in [his] head,” Hendrix had previously been preaching in Colony, then moved on to oversee a church youth group.
During COVID-19, he further earned his chops by taking his message online.
“I slowly started taking on more responsibility in the church, from leading worship to other things,” he said. He’d soon become associate pastor as well.
“We’re all trying to navigate this life together,” he said, of stepping into a leadership role at a young age. “We’re all trying to find the same kind of things.”
“We all want meaning and purpose,” he continued. “We all want to experience love and being known in love.”
DESPITE a clarity of mission, Hendrix’s road to becoming a pastor was fraught with significant obstacles and personal tragedy.
“It was right after high school, my dad had committed suicide that May, and that was the day I decided I would follow God with all my heart,” he explained.
“I was depressed and struggling with all kinds of things. I’d pretty much come to the end of myself.”
After surrendering his life to a higher power, “my dad was still gone,” Hendrix said. “But in that moment I felt a lot of peace.”
He then added, “in our lives, everybody is going to experience something that is really hard to digest, when you come to a brick wall.”
“You can’t ride the fence in those cases,” Hendrix continued. “You want answers.”
“I realized my purpose wasn’t about me. It was about finding the whole point.”
HENDRIX’S grandfather, John Comstock, also played a vital role throughout his journey, especially after losing his father.
“At the time we really didn’t understand what was going on, but looking back, I see what he was doing, helping us through a really hard season in our lives,” he said.
Hendrix was likewise inspired to become senior pastor by Comstock, who had served in the role before him.
“He was always an example for me. I really looked up to him,” Hendrix said.
“But me taking this spot isn’t really about legacy. That really doesn’t capture my attention much.”
“I just want to lead my life and love people,” he said.
IN TERMS of community intervention and service, Hendrix has both long term conceptual and practical goals.
“I want to help create a community of people who love each other, and are vulnerable and united,” he said.
“In that, is also serving other people. In love, you serve.”
But as far as using one’s hands, “maybe it’s helping out with Humanity House. Maybe it’s creating some kind of program to help those struggling with drugs.”
Indeed, “the group of people [in Iola] that have been on my heart are those who are struggling with drugs. What’s something we can do to really help that?”
Hendrix also mentioned creating an additional food supply source or having church members volunteer with local food pantries.
“I JUST want to see revival take place in this town,” Hendrix reflected.
“I just want to see there be more hope here. I want to see lives transform.”