For those who have visited College Baptist Church recently and scrawled their names in the visitor’s log, Pastor Ben Cuthbert has probably committed it to memory.
According to junior Alexander Green, who regularly attends College Baptist and occasionally helps lead worship, Cuthbert memorizes names in the visitor’s log.
“He’s working very hard at getting to know students and the community, and it shows,” Green said.
Cuthbert said he desires to invest in College Baptist and the Hillsdale community, after taking over as the church’s pastor this summer.
Since growing up in Dowagiac, Michigan, on his family’s farm, Cuthbert has experienced vastly different situations, from working as a financial adviser for the independently wealthy to doing relief work with Samaritan’s Purse in Afghanistan.
Although he studied business and theology at Wheaton College and maintained a desire for ministry, Cuthbert didn’t attend seminary until six years after his graduation in 2000.
“I didn’t want to go to seminary just to get another degree,” he said. “I wanted to be certain about what God was calling me to.”
Some fear a time off from school or a specific career path, but Cuthbert said his time working and experiencing different career options actually made his graduate studies more rewarding.
He even went back to work at his family farm for two years, and his impression of the rural community helped bring him to Hillsdale.
For Pastor Ben Cuthbert, and his wife Rachel Cuthbert, College Baptist represents a unique opportunity to impact students, as well as “return to their roots.”
“Small town communities are often forgotten places. We’ve kind of associated them with vibrant Christian churches, but that’s not always the case anymore,” he said. “So I want to see, can I contribute to ministering in a town where maybe the Gospel is taken for granted?”
When he and his family arrived in Hillsdale in June, the Cuthberts dived into both town and church life. He and his wife Rachel signed their eldest children up for coach-pitch baseball, and helped run VBS at College Baptist.
Cuthbert’s reception at College Baptist has been very positive. As Assistant Professor of Religion Don Westblade wrote in an email, “Pastor Ben Cuthbert comes to College Baptist with a contagious heart for God, with giftedness in expository preaching, with an experienced wisdom in leading and counseling that I have already come confidently to trust.”
Cuthbert said his ministry “begins with preaching the Gospel clearly and regularly and explaining to people that the real response to the Gospel is repenting and believing.”
He said he holds individuals responsible for their faith, and pursues a relational ministry.
“You’re not a Christian by virtue of being raised in a Christian home, and you’re not a Christian by virtue of attending a particular church,” he said. “Each and every one of us needs to repent and believe.”
The need for the gospel isn’t confined to pew-dwellers. Both the congregation and the pastor need to hear the gospel, Cuthbert said he believes. This applies to his current sermon series, for which he’s chosen 2 Timothy. This series, he said, “I’ll have to preach to myself and the congregation.”
Though 2 Timothy is Paul’s farewell letter to the young disciple Timothy, Cuthbert thought the book would be a timely opportunity for a new pastor to define Christian ministry for himself and his congregation from the perspective of Paul’s extensive and grueling experiences.
Cuthbert said that in his mind, ministry “takes time, personal conversations,” and “one-on-one evangelism.”
It extends beyond College Baptist, as Cuthbert wants the church to “be more engaged in the community.” He said he also hopes that students will bridge the gap between the community and the congregation of College Baptist.
Additionally, Cuthbert said he wants students to “come away with a passion for the local church, so when they move, they’ll find a church and just get involved in its life and ministry.”
Cuthbert is already appealing to the community. Westblade, who is also an elder at College Baptist, wrote that “attendance is breaking new records this fall,” and some students say they are already responding well to Cuthbert’s ministry.
“He really cares about discipleship; he’s being very proactive about relationships and teaching the Word,” Green said. “He was all for grabbing coffee with me without really knowing why.”
Westblade wrote that Pastor Cuthbert will be pressing the College Baptist congregation to “develop friendships in the community within which the Gospel can be heard with warmth and clarity.”
Green also affirmed Cuthbert’s priority on the Bible over a personal agenda.
“He teaches truth with tact, but also very honestly,” Green said. “He explores the text that we’re studying and pulls from it rather than putting his own topic on it.”
Pastor Cuthbert will be officially installed at a service at College Baptist at 5 p.m. this Sunday, Oct. 8th.
“The community is heartily invited,” Westblade said.