Dr. Clay Hallmark stepping down as First Marion pastor

FBC pastor accepts calling in Lexington, Tennessee

By John Rech news@theeveningtimes.com

When the Spirit says move you’ve got to move. So go the lyrics to an old spiritual. But Dr. Clay Hallmark, Senior Pastor at Marion First Baptist Church, put that in practice both coming and now going. Hallmark told his flock earlier in the month that the Lord had called him to another pasture. He will start at First Baptist Church of Lexington, Tennessee on Monday morning after preaching his last sermon this Sunday in Marion. “I came here simply because I knew it was God’s will for me to move to Marion, Arkansas and pastor this church,” said Hallmark. “It was very, very clear to that this was the place I should live, a place I should invest my life into and bring my family. The only way I was going to be happy was to follow the will of the Lord and come here.” Clay and Leslie Hallmark raised their family here. Both their daughters grew up attending public schools and graduated from Marion High School. Hallmark reflected on what Marion meant to his family and his tenure as the head pastor at Marion. As far as measurables go there has been growth. Ministries and mission work multiplied too. According to Hallmark church attendance was about 125 when he arrived and now well over 500 attend each Sunday. “I came here with a great vision from God to see this church grow and make a difference in the community and in the lives of the people here and literally around the world,” said Hallmark. “In the 15 years I’ve been here, we’ve baptized over 1,000 people.” Baptisms happened right up to the end of Hallmarks time at the church with the waters being stirred with a new believer just last week. New believers result from evangelism. One thing that moved the pastor search committee to call Hallmark was the first thing he said in his interview. Someone asked casually what’s going on and Hallmark replied that he had just shared his faith at a gas station on the way to the meeting. They knew right then they had someone committed to reaching out to others, not just through a program but as part of a personal lifestyle commitment. The church grew as a result. “We’ve trained over 400 people on how to share their faith,” said Hallmark. “We started three mission churches. We created lots of ministries that reach out to needs in our community like Celebrate Recovery, Grief Share and Divorce Care. We’ve seen ministries come out of our church like Hope House Ministries, FAITH jail ministry. Of course FAITH Evangelism has impacted all across the city with seeing peoples lives radically changed in the name of Jesus.” While at Marion Hallmark was elected unanimously to two consecutive terms as President of the Arkansas Baptists, the first to serve from the Delta and the youngest man ever nominated. Nationally certified as FAITH Evangelism trainer, Hallmark hosted many country wide training clinics at the church. Relationships with foreign missionaries in Brazil and Eastern Europe lead to repeated volunteer mission trips working evangelism, church planting and construction. A disaster relief group at the church blossomed, providing relief all across the country on numerous occasions. Some construction teams helped build churches as far away as Alaska and as close as in the Lakeshore subdivision. Hallmark pointed out some highlights during his time in Marion. “One of the biggest things for me was seeing this church go from being very inwardly focused to being outwardly focused church,” said Hallmark. “People come to this church thinking about how they can make a difference in the lives of people around us. We’ve literally gone into all the world. We saw that in some of the best things we’ve done like the starting of New Hope Baptist Mission in Lakeshore and seeing all the miracles God has done in and through that church. Building the new facility here in 2004 where we created Upward sports and multiple the ministries of our church by hosting mission teams and World Changers. It was exciting to see our church move onto the state level stage and become a leading church in Arkansas. Leaders from our church train others in missions and evangelism.” Hallmark looked forward to his new work in Lexington which is 30 miles east of Jackson near the Tennessee River. The congregation predates the Civil War and has met for 174 years. The church house facade resembles an old stone castle fortress with turrets on top. The ministry is a stable as the stone tower with just five other pastors in the last 90 years. “Pastors have been there for long periods of time with very successful ministries,” said Hallmark. “It still has amazing potential to reach the community and have a very big impact in it’s city like Marion First Baptist has in this city. God has given me a good vision to go to this church.” The move is a homecoming for the Hallmark family. “Lexington is my wife Leslie’s hometown,” said Hallmark. “So I am looking forward to living near lots of my family there. Three nephews attend First Baptist Church. Now I’ll invest my life and my family in the community which my family has been in all my life.” Hallmark said he is forever grateful to Marion. “The biggest highlight is that my two daughters trusted their lives to Jesus, grew up in a church that invested into their lives to make godly young women,” said Hallmark. “I was able to baptize my own daughters here in this church and now that they are grown I can see them live for the Lord everyday. I know its because of the investment of this church into their lives.”

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