SPRING HILL — Kent Gee spent his first 40 years as a layperson in various Baptist and Bible churches. Now, as the new pastor of Spring Hill Bible Church, he believes that background will help him be a better minister.
"I think it's a blessing that God has put me here," said Gee, who left his retirement planning services business in Hastings, Mich., to take over the pastorate of the 120-member church last month when the Rev. Roy Herbster retired. "My heart is to be a shepherd for the layperson."
Gee brings a family with him that includes his wife, Cassie, and five children, ages 4 to 15.
"My personal uniqueness is that I have walked in the shoes of the average person," Gee said. "I know what it's like to have (a family), to run a family business for 20 years, to struggle with cultural influences, and to, at the end of the day, wonder if what you are doing is the best."
Church member Kris Ryan thinks the community will be able to relate to Gee and his young family.
"He's a young, dynamic leader, and I think it will be great for the community and for our church," Ryan said. "He brings new enthusiasm."
Ryan said Gee's foremost quality is his knowledge of the Bible. He met Gee last December in an adult Sunday school class when Gee was visiting the church with his father, a church member. Gee and his family have visited the church every year since 2004.
"He brings the word of God, which is important," Ryan said. "When I first met him, I said to myself, 'He'd make a good pastor one day,' and lo and behold, now he's our pastor."
Gee's love for studying and teaching Scripture began when he was in his mid 20s. The owner and operator of four full-service carwashes, he began counseling and having Bible studies with dozens of employees and friends.
"After my graduation from college in '92, I really started reading the Bible for myself and read through the entire Bible several times in a three- to four-year period," Gee said. "When the word gets in you, it can't just stay there and do nothing, so it started coming out. I started sharing my faith with my employees."
Gee spent time practicing what he preaches.
"My wife and I have always sought to live out our faith and not have it be a separate sphere of life," he said. "There have been times we helped inner-city homeless by providing food, shelter and transportation. Other times, I had the opportunity to counsel people through difficult situations."
Gee shared his faith and knowledge of the Bible at his church as well. He started with youth and junior and senior high ministries.
"By the time I was 31, I was teaching adults," Gee said. "Then I began thinking about (full-time) ministry. It had never entered my mind to be a pastor. But the more I taught and the more I realized how much the truth of Scripture would change people's lives, the more God drew my heart that way. So I went to seminary."
Gee attended Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 2007, concentrating on learning Hebrew and Greek.
While the seminary teaches reformed theology, Gee found that the differences between that teaching and what he'd learned up to that time gave him an opportunity to delve even deeper into the Bible.
"I'd go back and forth with the professors, and it was a great growth process," he said. "It makes you appreciate that faith in Christ isn't always dependent on whether we agree on specific doctrinal issues, although there are some fundamentals that can't change. I think it's more important that we encourage one another as opposed to beat each other up."
When Herbster, a friend and mentor, told Gee in December that he would be retiring, he suggested that Gee apply for the position.
"I turned in my resume to the board, and after six months of searching and interviewing, the board called me as their senior pastor," Gee said. "I'm still getting my feet wet."
His wife plans to be involved in women's ministries as well as senior and junior high youth ministries, Gee said.
The board members at Spring Hill Bible Church have varied denominational backgrounds, including Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, Presbyterian and Bible. Gee believes that is a plus for the church.
"Though we have a doctrinal stance which is fairly conservative, it's not a place where we're not going to have anything to do with you if your beliefs vary a little bit," he said. "As a matter of fact, it will be just the opposite. We can discuss it and have a conversation about it. We have found that creates more growth."
Gee's long-term desire is that the community will see that Spring Hill Bible Church walks and talks like Jesus Christ, he said.
"We do not want to run a social club, but would rather have love and grace pouring out of our lives consistently," he said.
For the members, he has hopes as well.
"I have no desire to have the laypeople laying down themselves to take care of the pastor. I've seen that happen. It's a horrible representation of the church," Gee said. "If the pastor is the greatest servant of all for the flock, that's when I think the church is going to flourish. So that's my desire."