Sunday morning, Aug. 20, the Rev. John Avant announced he will be leaving his position as senior pastor of First Baptist Concord.
He will assume the role of president of Life Action Ministries, a nationwide organization based in Michigan.
“Sept. 10 will be my last Sunday,” he said in a phone conversation Wednesday, Aug. 23.
“We absolutely love Knoxville and we’re just so thankful that God brought us here,” he added. “We love our church and are so thankful for the privilege of serving this wonderful church. And we believe with our heart that great things are ahead for First Baptist Concord.
“I’ve been offered and accepted the presidency of Life Action, which is a ministry in Buchanan, Michigan. We will not be moving. We’ll have a residence there [in Michigan] when we’re there, but we’ll really remain here. We want to remain in Knoxville. This is our home. Two of my three children are here. I’ll be traveling a lot. I’ll be preaching and leading across the country.”
Detailing his new calling, “Life Action is a 47-year-old ministry that includes a family camp, a lodge for retreats for pastors and others and then a ministry that goes into churches to help them encounter God and experience renewal and revival and that’s what I’ll be giving leadership to,” Avant said. “When we come into a church, we’ll come in for as little as four days or as much as eight days, or even 15 days, and basically take everything off of the pastor and staff.
“They can rest; they can spend time with the Lord; they can be a part of what God does,” he added. “We take the children, the students, the adults — everything — and provide an opportunity for everyone to really seek God and have, prayerfully, a revival experience with Him.
“We’ve been supportive of this ministry for a quarter century and it’s a very important part of our life story — and they called out of the blue several months ago,” he added. “It’s not something I sought — and we’ve been agonizing and praying since and the Lord gave us a clear word to do this.”
Avant has served as senior pastor at FBC for the last four-and-a-half years. He has spent 35 years of his career as a pastor of various churches and worked for three years at the North American Mission Board in Atlanta.
He and his wife, Donna, are the parents of three grown children and grandparents of four.
Buddy Bradley headed up the search committee that originally called Avant to Concord.
“In the four-and-a-half years that John served at FBC,” Bradley said, “he proved that he was exactly what our Pastor Search Committee sought — a great leader, teacher and preacher.”
Tom Massey currently serves as FBC chairman of deacons.
“We’re excited for Pastor John answering a new call in his life,” Massey said. “We know that evangelism is at the core of who he is and this is a great opportunity for him and Donna and their family. He’s heard a call from the Lord. Life Action Ministries is a wonderful ministry and is as profound as Campus Crusade has been. As the layity leader of First Concord, along with our whole church family, we’ll continue to pray for Pastor John and Donna and how God will profoundly impact his kingdom through them.”
Massey said the church will follow a process laid out in the bylaws to form an interim pulpit team that will be responsible for securing a new senior pastor.
“We want the whole church family to be informed and confident the Lord is already at work in this next chapter of His church at First Baptist Concord,” Massey said.
“Life Action is a national ministry,” Avant said, “but a part of what we discussed is that we want to become international. That’s a huge part of my heart and passion, so we’ll be praying about how the Lord moves us from an incredible national ministry to an international ministry. It really is a very fruitful ministry. They have teams on the road from fall to winter, spring — everything but summer, and they’re always full. The next opening for a church is September 2018. It’s a very healthy ministry and I’m looking forward to joining our lives as a part of it. My wife, Donna, will be very active as a speaker and writer and servant-leader as well.
“Everything is taken care of by Life Action so the church can really be before the Lord,” he added. “… There will be services most nights, things that relate to marriage and family and men and women. There will be opportunities for people to connect with God in different ways and for the church to experience revival.
“I’ll be leading a very gifted team that bases in Michigan, but most of them are on the road a lot and I’ll be speaking in different churches. Most Sundays I’ll be speaking somewhere and giving leadership to the mission and vision of Life Action.”