Seth Norris begins pastorate at Perkinsville Baptist Church
by Sherrie Norris
"It was all in God's timing," said deacon chairman Ronnie Marsh, describing the church's decision to call Watauga County's own Seth Norris as pastor.
"Our search committee looked near and far and ended up finding someone who lived within five miles of the church," Marsh said. "We feel extremely blessed by how it's all come together, for us and for Seth to have this opportunity to begin his ministry so close to home."
Jim Hunt, who served as chairman of the pastor search committee, said, "We describe it as one of those God things - regarding how the timing, the people and the circumstances came together."
Following a 24-month search, during which many well-qualified people from different parts of the country applied, Hunt said, he knew "within 30 minutes of talking to Seth," that he would be a perfect match for Perkinsville.
"We took very seriously the fact that our church needed and wanted someone who would fit in with who we are and with our vision for what we want to become at Perkinsville. Someone who would help us become all that we need to become," Hunt said. "We believe that Seth Norris is that man."
Norris recognizes that he was called to the ministry and he is very sincere in his calling. It was his desire to take a church and build on what was there, instead of remaking a church, Hunt said.
Norris is no stranger to leadership in Watauga County, having served in numerous capacities in public service, as well as through his employment at Appalachian State University and at Rutherwood Baptist, where he was ordained into and licensed for ministry in 2010.
Born in Boone in 1983 and "born again" in December 1994, Norris is married to the former Staci Hodges and is the father of 2-year-old Lyla Marie.
Acknowledging Proverbs 16:9 (ESV) as his life verse: "The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps," Norris said, "Our lives are often marked by moments and experiences we least expected at the time. My life plan after high school took a different turn than I anticipated, keeping me in Boone to begin my career when I always thought I was going to be one of the first people to move away for college and career."
After high school, Norris continued to work in local government while receiving several degrees in emergency and public management. In 2008, Norris accepted a position with ASU, where he worked until Perkinsville called him as senior pastor.
Despite the "wonderful opportunity at Appalachian, God is calling me to use my talents and abilities in the local church," Norris said. "I hope to apply these same skills, and abilities to make a kingdom difference through the local church."
Norris received his master of divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary earlier this year, with preparatory course work completed earlier through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.
In 2009, Norris said he was sitting at his home computer "when God spoke to my heart and called me into the ministry."
Describing the last several years of his life as "spiritually challenging," Norris said he struggled with whether he was living a life pleasing to the Lord and "what it meant to live a life of sacrifice."
In seeking guidance, he said, he was led to Romans 12: 1-2, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
That passage has been his "life song," he said, since the day God spoke to him and pointed him in "the most unexpected direction in my entire life."
It was a normal day with a very abnormal outcome, Norris said.
"My wife, Staci, was silent when I told her. Of course, she was supportive, but uncertain of the outcome and what God intended for our family," he said. "I felt the same way."
They grew as a couple and as individuals, Norris said, and began to understand "a little more each day" what it meant to discern the will of God - and what it meant to live lives pleasing to the Lord. A "whirlwind of almost four years later," he said, is where they are today.
In the meantime, he received a commission in the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps (Army Reserve) and is presently a chaplain candidate.
"This is where I held my first ministry position as an ordained minister," he said. "Today's soldiers experience more stress than any other generation, at least it appears that way. Although I preach and teach during the battalion's chapel service, the Army Reserve has refined my pastoral care and counseling skills."
He was also serving as an ordained minister for missions and evangelism at Rutherwood Baptist Church, while completing his master's degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. "Somewhere in the middle, we received one of our biggest blessings, Lyla Marie," he said.
He also serves as committee chairman of missions development through Three Forks Baptist Association.
"My story isn't filled with remarkable moments, really, but moments marked by the hand of God," Norris said. "To look back and see the pieces of a puzzle, that seemed daunting at the time, fall into place, is a remarkable moment."
"For the past two years, Perkinsville Baptist was seeking a senior pastor," he said. "For the past two years, I have been praying and studying for the opportunity to serve and for God to lead me to a congregation with an honest desire to serve Christ and his kingdom."
Norris said that God had led him to Perkinsville in ways that he can't explain. "I am beyond excited and grateful that He has given me this opportunity."
Upon his acceptance, Norris asked the church to pray for God's wisdom and guidance during the process as he committed to doing the same.
"If we, as believers, join together in fervent prayer, we will know that we arrived at the right decision, regardless of what happens," he said. "I believe that Perkinsville is a visionary church that recognizes the changing of our culture and desires to see all people come to Jesus Christ, but also desires to retain tradition and respect for the past that brought you to where you are today."
Norris said his desire is also that the church serves as a beacon in the community, as it helps draw people to the Lord.
Raised in the Lutheran tradition, Norris said his "walk with the Lord" began in 1994 during rehearsals for a Christmas play at his childhood church.
"Throughout the first 12 years of my life, I attempted to grasp the concept of salvation because I did not know what I was to be saved from," Norris said. "My heart finally recognized what Jesus Christ saves us from. I recognized my sin, my position, and my punishment. I believed in Christ as Lord and he saved me."
Both his conversion experience and years of spiritual infancy, he said, shaped his pastoral philosophy - pastors are called to love, shepherd, disciple, and care for the congregation.
"I want to see every Christian grow in boldness and compassion, truth and love," he said.
Norris's public and community service work has also included that of fire prevention specialist for Boone Fire Department, emergency management technician for Watauga County and operations technician for Southern Appalachian Historical Association in Boone.
Additionally, he serves as a volunteer firefighter with Meat Camp Volunteer Fire Department, associate chaplain for Watauga County Firefighters' Association, chaplain of Military Officers Association of America High Country Chapter, and was the founding commander and member of the Watauga County Firefighters' Association Honor Guard.
He holds certifications and professional military training related to chaplaincy, emergency care, firefighting, rescue, emergency management, project management and budgeting.
His hobbies include reading, snow skiing, running, cycling and watching an episode of "Bubble Guppies" with his little girl.
Norris preached his first sermon as church pastor at Perkinsville on July 29, 2012.
For more information, call (828) 264-8605 or visit http://www.perkinsvillebaptistchurch.com. Worship services are at 10:45 a.m. every Sunday.