CORNELIUS – Senior Pastor Thomas Boone celebrates a year being at Bethel Church this month. He reflects on what the time has meant for him and what he hopes to do next.
Herald Citizen: Tell us about yourself and your family.
Thomas Boone: My wife, Joy, and I have three children: Caitlin, who’s married to Adam; Carrie, who lives and works in the Chicago area; and Austin, who is married to Kristen. Caitlin and Adam are expecting our first grandchild any day now! Two of our children and both sets of our parents live in Alabama. Everyone enjoys visiting us in Cornelius! Joy and I love the people here, and we enjoy riding bikes, being on the lake and spending time with friends.
HC: How did you get involved in ministry?
TB: I’ve been involved in church ministry since college. At the core of my sense of call to this life has been a desire to help people understand how deep an impact a meaningful relationship with Jesus can have on the way we interact, approach social policy, conduct business, work among colleagues and work for justice.
HC: What drew you to come to the area and the church?
TB: This area sells itself! As for Bethel, we, like many others I’ve met, were drawn by its genuine warmth and welcoming spirit. We sensed that in coming to Bethel God was giving us an opportunity to be part of something big for the Lake Norman area, not just the church. As I’ve shared with my colleagues, we are a local church with a kingdom heart. That aligns with my vision and way I have approached ministry.
HC: How has the first year been? What has stood out to you the most?
TB: It has been positive, with more developments than any of us anticipated. I knew coming in that I was a bit off the beaten path in terms of the typical pastor. I’ve been a professor and a missionary, so although I’ve been in ministry over 25 years, the local church hasn’t been my only focus. It stands out to me that people are responding favorably to a consistent message that we are the “sent” people of God, looking more outward than inward, and that the church’s diversity is a source of strength. Bethel has received meaningful visits from Christian leaders in Haiti, Lithuania and Syria, and soon from Zambia. Each helps us understand how Bethel is part of God’s larger work. Locally, we have discovered new mission partners and are partnering with other churches in engaging forms of worship and mission. It has been a great start.
HC: What are your goals for the next year/next five years?
TB: On the lighter side, I’d like to come up with a solution for our new parking challenge now that we are seeing more guests each Sunday! More seriously, Bethel has a 190-year history in this area, and anything we will do needs to be done with discernment and patience. So, we are partnering with an outside group to help us discover God’s vision for us and map out a ministry plan for the next many years. Leadership senses Bethel stands at a crossroads that will lead to a season of growth, and our main goal is to emerge from this year fully committed to why God has us here in this place and time. Of course, we want people who come to Bethel to experience a clear Biblical vision for how to live and participate in engaging worship that’s focused on Jesus rather than the band, choir or the person delivering the teaching. Another goal is that Bethel will continue to be an intergenerational and stable church for the whole family. We want to be a church that disciples, which means bringing people into a much deeper walk with the Lord and experience His transformation in their worldview, families and work.
HC: What are some things currently happening at your church?
TB: Our next mission event is Sept. 27, the annual barbecue, silent auction and bake sale, with ALL the proceeds going to support two local charities that receive no federal or state funding. This year the groups we’re supporting are One7Ministries, which serves Charlotte’s inner city refugee community, and the Charlotte Rescue Mission, which provides drug and alcohol recovery services. Bethel receives none of the profits, so this is a great opportunity for the entire community to come out and participate in God’s reconciling work. What a blessing we can be together! Bethel folks look forward to this day all year, not only to give back to our community, but simply to see so many of our neighbors come out and share a meal together, shop the silent auction, the quilts and the baked goods. It’s really a fun day for us. For people who come out to the barbecue and are curious to learn more about the church, there will be information available. And we’re really excited to have something new this year – a prayer wall. Anyone with a prayer need is more than welcome to leave that concern on the wall, and we will faithfully lift it up in prayer. It’s a great honor to be able to do this for people in our community.
We are also excited to be working together with other area churches on some really special musical events. On Oct. 20 and 21, we are hosting a renown composer, Pepper Choplin, and will have Sunday worship and a concert with him in leadership. Mallard Creek Presbyterian and Huntersville Baptist choirs will be joining our choir for this event, and the community is also invited to come and enjoy the variety of music styles from contemporary to folk/bluegrass and traditional.
During Holy Week, we are engaged in a partnership with LIFE Fellowship and Good Shepherd to present an original composition. This is going to be an incredible worship experience for all who come.
HC. Anything else you would like people to know?
TB: We’d love to have you join us Sunday mornings! Our Worship Café is a come-as-you-are worship, and our Traditional service happens simultaneously in the sanctuary. If you visit us, please introduce yourself to me after the service. I love meeting new folks in this great community we now call home.