HARTSBURG – God can use anyone, any setting and any time to call someone to the gospel ministry. For Johnie Hendrix, that call came through a co-worker during a meeting at an electric co-op: “Johnie, have you ever thought about pastoring a church?”
But like many calls to follow the Lord in obedience, the path for Hendrix wasn’t as straight or as direct as he might have hoped.
Climbing poles, digging holes
In 2015, Hendrix was an electrical lineman in southwest Missouri. He and his family were members of First Baptist Church, Cassville, and during a global impact mission celebration he listened intently to the missionaries’ reports and testimonies.
“They talked about how missions had changed,” Hendrix said. “They talked about how they use their vocation.”
That night as he sat and listened to how missionaries used their day jobs as a way to build relationships and build the Kingdom, God began to speak to Hendrix.
“God just laid this burden on my heart,” he said. “God was calling me to use my job. I was a lineman: I climbed poles, worked on them, dug holes, then put dirt back in them. How was He going to use that?”
Following God’s lead
A year later, Hendrix took a job with the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives as a trainer and speaker, and moved his wife and two daughters from the only place they’d ever called home to Hartsburg, about 15 miles northwest of Jefferson City. They left behind all their extended family – not to mention their church family at First Baptist – but they sensed that this was where God was leading them.
“Little did I know when I put in for this job what God actually had in store for our family,” he said.
The Hendrix family rented a house a mile down the road from Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. As they were unpacking, the worship leader at the church, Sharon Jennings, stopped by to invite them to church and asked if she could pray for the new family in the neighborhood.
The answer was a loud and resounding yes.
“I was an emotional train wreck,” Hendrix said. The stresses of moving, the delays in selling their home in southwest Missouri and God’s constant tug on his heart fried his nerves.
They visited several churches around mid-Missouri, but they kept coming back to Mt. Pleasant. They finally joined, feeling the peace of being obedient to God
Mt. Pleasant had an interim pastor by then, and as the Hendrix family got more involved in the church, Johnie joined the search committee looking for a permanent pastor. Others might have been able to see how the Lord was working, but Hendrix said he was still “clueless.”
He felt hints and a constant tugging at his heart, however, that God might be calling him to preach. He had the desire and call to use his vocation for Kingdom work, and his vocation had brought him from digging holes and climbing poles to getting in front of a crowd and speaking.
“I knew there was a lot more to pastoring a church, so I told myself, ‘Johnie, you’re crazy,’” he said. “I didn’t tell anybody. I decided I would pray about it.”
He may have told himself he’d pray about it, but he said what he really meant was he hoped that tug would eventually go away.
‘God had a plan’
After Hendrix prayed to open a meeting at work, a colleague approached him with some terrifying words: “Johnie, have you ever thought about pastoring a church?”
He finally told his wife about “this crazy idea,” and he inched closer to what was starting to feel like a terrifying inevitability. When the interim’s time was up and a temporary pulpit supply couldn’t be found, a woman in the church asked Hendrix if he’d mind filling in.
“I’m not a pastor,” he said. “I work on high-voltage power lines. I was 38 years old and I’ve never preached before. But yeah, sure.”
He preached on worry, something the Bible has plenty to say about and something Hendrix had become well-versed in as he danced around God’s call the past several years.
Hendrix removed himself from the search committee and served as a fill-in one more Sunday before the committee approached him and asked for his resume. After more prayer and more affirmation, he eventually agreed to submit his name for consideration.
“I knew God was doing something,” he said. “I just didn’t know what He was doing. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I just started trying to follow when it seemed like God was opening doors.”
After even more prayer within the search committee and the Hendrix household, he was presented as a candidate to lead the church. The vote was an overwhelming “yes” to extend the invitation to lead Mt. Pleasant as a bi-vocational pastor.
Two years later, he’s still a bit of a worrier, but things are a little easier when he gets up to preach and he sees God at work. The content of what Hendrix teaches has a more eternal significance than his presentations for the electric co-ops, but God has been using his vocational skills all the same.
“If you could see my resume, it wouldn’t say anything about church leadership, I can tell you that,” Hendrix said. “I’m uneducated and untrained. The only reason I’m standing up here is because God called me to this spot.”