Interim pastor spreads love through ministries, books

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Dr. Lawrence Phipps is the interim pastor at Bethany Baptist. |  Andrew Garner/Star-News

Dr. Lawrence Phipps is the interim pastor at Bethany Baptist. |
Andrew Garner/Star-News

Dr. Lawrence Phipps has a heart for people.

Phipps, who retired from the pastorate a year and a half ago, has been the interim pastor at Bethany Baptist Church since May 31.

“I love the area and I love the people; I love the church people,” Phipps said. “I like to get out in the community and walk into stores and restaurants, and meet people.”

Phipps’ love and wanting to help people has always been an integral part of his ministry. He went to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and also received his master’s degree.

While in Kentucky, Phipps received his doctorate and pastored two churches there before going to lead First Baptist in Oneonta.

“From there, I went to First Baptist Enterprise,” he said. “I was pastor there, and when I left at that time, it was one of the fastest growing churches in the state.”

Phipps left Enterprise for Montgomery, where he started Vaughn Forest Church. In less than 20 years, the Vaughn Forest congregation grew to more than 2,500.

“God does a good job,” he said. “He’s been at this a long time. I tell people that my biggest job is standing out of God’s way. He knows what he’s doing.”

Vaughn Forest is a Baptist church, but was intentionally not labeled as one, Phipps said.

“We did not want to preclude anybody from coming to the church because of the name,” he said.

The Montgomery church’s goal is to reach people, Phipps said.

“We reached people from every background you can think of,” he said. “We had one of, if not, the largest African American contingency in the state of any church and any denomination. We also had a Korean Church and Korean pastor, a hispanic church and hispanic pastor, all in one church.”

When Phipps retired from the pastorate, he wrote five how-to books and formed his own ministry. His ministry is called It’s Life Ministry.

Through his ministry, Phipps started traveling to churches that were struggling to attract people to attend or were struggling in small group, among others.

About a year ago, Phipps was leading a revival at Bethany Baptist. The revival was based on his process of reaching out to people, called It’s LIFE.

“The L is God loves you, the I is people are imperfect, the F is God forgives you and the E is we can have eternal life,” he said. “We use that with a lot of churches, and that’s how I got to Bethany.”

Phipps’ reach to help people has also spread across the world.

For the last four years, Phipps has gone into Ukraine and led medical mission teams in each of the last four years.

Phipps said his translator asked if they could translate one of his books, “More Abundant Life,” into Russian.

“My translator’s husband is pastor in Kharkiv, which is 25 miles from the Russian border, and the hottest part of the Ukraine,” he said. “She and some other women in Kharkiv translated the book and they asked permission to translate it and publish it. On my own, I began to talk to some people here in the states, and they funded the book. We even paid for the translation of it. Any resources they can make off of the book they use that for their church.”

In fact, through the funds from the book and some big donations, a church is set to be built in Kharkiv by a mission team from Mississippi.

By mid July, resources will be available for construction, Phipps said.

Phipps was recommended by a friend of his from Decatur to take over as the interim at Bethany.

“This is my slowest time of the year right now,” he said. “They graciously extended the invitation and I accepted it. I’m glad to be able to be here. Again, I got to know a lot of these people when I was here last year.

“It’s kind of like being back in the pastoral role,” he said. “I like it. I did it for 38 years.”

Phipps is married to Karen, and the couple has two daughters, Heather, 27, and Lauren, 25, who are both married.