CHINA GROVE — Vacation Bible School was underway Wednesday evening at Main Street Baptist Church.
At 6 p.m., kids and leaders marched in to praise music. Once they were seated, the Rev. Dean Beaver took the stage.
Pastor Dean, as the congregation calls him, is the co-pastor for youth and worship support.
As he talked to the youth and their adult leaders, his brother, the Rev. Billy Beaver, sat in the sound booth at the back.
Pastor Billy, the co-pastor for music and education, is 47. Dean is 35.
Some might consider theirs an unusual pastorate. For one thing, they’ve been members of the Southern Baptist congregation since its founding, in March 1993.
For another, their father, the Rev. Larry Beaver, was the founding pastor.
The Rev. Larry Beaver, who holds the title of pastor emeritus of Main Street Baptist, is now semi-retired.
At one point in time, he said, “I thought I’d be at (Main Street Baptist) till I died.”
“But, I just felt like there was a point when it was time for me to go,” Pastor Larry continued.
When, after 20 years in the pulpit, the church he planted had grown to some 300 members in a debt-free facility on North Main Street, there came a feeling that “the church should have some younger blood,” Pastor Larry said.
His sons, who had already felt the call to ministry, were now called by the congregation they had known for two decades.
Sitting in the study, Billy tells the family story of how their father answered his own call to ministry.
Billy was there, but doesn’t remember it himself. He was a small child in 1967, when his father answered the call to ministry.
“He almost dropped me on the floor, is what I’ve always been told!” Billy said.
It was by no means guaranteed that Billy and Dean would follow in their father’s footsteps.
They are, respectively, the eldest and youngest of Pastor Larry and Joyce Elaine Beaver’s four children.
The boys and their two sisters, Lisa and Crystal, lived the life every minister’s family lives – a balance between family and flock.
Sometimes, Larry said, the duties of a pastor took precedence over family plans.
“There are times when we might be fixing to go on vacation, and someone would die or something bad would happen, and we would have to postpone for a while,” Larry said.
“But we would always try to make that up.”
Later, as the kids earned their education, it was difficult to manage schedules and still have family time together, Larry said.
But both sons said they never felt pushed away from their father, or their family, because of his role as a minister.
Nor did they ever want to rebel against their family, or their Christian faith, they said.
They credit their parents’ honesty and trust for that, as well as the family’s strong faith.
“They walked the talk, I guess you could say,” Billy said of his mother and father. “They were no different here (at church) than they would be at home.”
“It was the way they personally lived,” Dean said, agreeing.
There were times, Dean said, when he was younger and had a curfew that he could have stayed out too late.
But, Dean said, not only did his parents set rules, they trusted him to follow them. “They didn’t check up on me,” he said. “They trusted in us to do what was right.”
“And they’ve always let us make our own mistakes,” Billy said.
Larry said his memories of the children’s childhood years were the friendships his sons and daughters made.
The parsonage, Larry said, became a gathering place for the children of members and non-members alike.
“The neighborhood kids would always feel like they were at home. They’d call my wife and myself Mom and Dad, a lot of times. They knew they were free to go into the fridge,” Larry said.
“And, of course, we just allowed that to happen,” Larry went on. “We felt the kids were making their friends, but it was also a good relationship in the church.”
He said Dean and Billy “were just like other kids, they weren’t perfect. Still, there was a lot of trust.”
That trust, plus openness and good communication, are what Larry said helped keep the family strong.
“I guess I’ve always been right there with my dad, all my life, as far as the ministry goes,” Billy said. “Both Dean and I’ve been on some mission trips with him, plus other ministry opportunities.”
All in all, their father has pastored six churches over the years, not counting interim pastorships, Billy said.
“But he never pushed us. He didn’t push us into the ministry,” Billy said.
Instead, both men came to answer the call in due time, they said.
With 11 years between them, Dean said his relationship with his brother wasn’t the same as many children’s rapport with their siblings.
They shared a room until Billy left for school, he said, but they managed to remain close after that.
“Ever after he got married and moved on, he’d come pick me up on weekends,” Dean said.
In addition to their own mutual support, both sons said they’d watched their father at work.
“I guess all my life I’ve looked at him as more of a superhero, in a sense,” Dean said. “It’s because of the heart that he has for ministry. He never quits.”
Indeed, despite having retired in March, Pastor Larry is still ministering.
Two months ago, he accepted an interim post as transitional pastor at Baptist Temple Church in Reidsville.
“As I’ve watched him over the years, the Lord clearly spoke to me,” Billy said.
“I think that watching Dad, as Billy said, and watching Mom as she’s been by his side for my entire life, helped guide me,” said Dean.
One of their father’s philosophies that has guided Dean and Billy, they said, is their father’s belief in mission work – “reaching out to the lost in the world.”
Larry said his decision to plant a new church in China Grove came from realizing that were many “unchurched” persons there – Christians, and others, who didn’t have a church home.
Today, Larry said, that is still the case for most of Main Street Baptist’s new members.
As for his sons’ vocation, Larry said, “His mother and I tried to be very careful that we didn’t call them into ministry.”
“I said to them, ‘If you can do anything else and feel comfortable about it, do it,’” Larry said. “I told them, there are burdens in the ministry. It does confine you quite a bit, but there is freedom in it, too.”
Both of his sons talked about becoming ministers in their youth, Larry said.
Both also went on to do their initial studies at Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute, which their father and their maternal grandfather also attended.
As charter members of Main Street Baptist, Billy said, there is a familiarity with the congregation’s families and history. “We’re new to them, but they also feel comfortable with us,” he said.
There have been setbacks along the way, Billy said.
Their mother’s struggle with breast cancer is one example of a difficult time, Billy said. “The church really pulled together here, and ministry still went on.”
Larry said he didn’t take for granted that his sons would go on to take his place at Main Street Baptist. The church could have called a pastor from outside the congregation.
All the same, Larry said, “(members) had told me, before I ever retired, that they just felt like they knew who their pastors would be. And that’s exactly the way that it turned out.”
Larry said that Main Street Baptist gave them some pastoral duties during their education, and helped encourage, support and mentor them while they worked on a volunteer basis for the church.
“The church gave them an opportunity, giving these guys an opportunity to preach, and listened to them.”
At the same time, Larry said, his sons were helping him – giving him the benefit of their new education, and a new perspective.
In turn, he said he hopes his sons won’t have to make the same mistakes he made along the way.
After all, they had grown up with a minister for a father – visiting the sick, dealing with tragedies.
“It may have made them say, on some occasions, ‘I don’t want to do this,’” Larry said, “but they saw how people could be ministered to, and how people could respond to the ministry.”
“I did not have that when I came up as a minister. I didn’t have the mentoring that they had,” Larry said.
Both sons said their father’s focus on helping others encouraged them to do likewise.
“He just lived the life of a minister. He loves people,” Billy said.
The biggest advice Larry said he’s given his sons: “To love God, to love their families and to give time to the spiritual life, but never to let the family go lacking.”
For Father’s Day, Larry said the family plans to gather in Reidsville after he and his sons finish morning services at their respective churches.
“It is very, very humbling,” Larry Beaver said. “The idea of them carrying on the ministry there is beyond my own imagination. It’s just a God thing, that’s all that I can say.”
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.
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