2-year search brings pastor with eye for outreach

CARA MORNINGSTAR/Sun-Gazette Rev. Bryan McClelland sits at his office inside the First Southern Baptist Church, 89 Kimble Hill Road, Loyalsock Township, recently.

After a two-year search for a new pastor, First Southern Baptist Church, 89 Kimble Hill Road, Loyalsock Township, found the Rev. Bryan McClelland, who began serving the congregation in December.

“I am originally from near Pittsburgh,” he said. “I grew up in a Lutheran church, and when I was in middle school, we moved to South Carolina.”

In high school, he said he became a Christian.

“All the stuff I learned growing up seemed important, but it was just never something I thought hard about. In high school, I encountered God (and) the Bible,” he said. “I believed in Jesus, and I’ve never been the same.”

After becoming a believer, McClelland said his life changed.

“Almost immediately, I felt compelled to tell people what I was learning about who God was in the Bible. So, I knew pretty quickly that I wanted to be in pastoral ministry,” he said.

He attended college in upstate South Carolina, where he met his wife, Elise McClelland.

“We’ve been married for almost 11 years now, and we have four kids who are wonderful,” he said. “They are 9, 7, 3 and 1. So, we are pretty busy.”

Before he was called to the area, McClelland was serving as an associate pastor at Winfield Baptist Church. He hopes to move from the Selinsgrove area soon.

“I knew Kenton (Hunt), who was the previous pastor, very well,” he said. “When he stepped down to take a position with our Baptist Disaster Relief, I had been praying for First Southern for quite a while.”

He said he had been content with his position, but as the search continued, he felt called.

“It felt like God was pushing me in the direction,” he said. “And, it went pretty well.”

As far as what made him come to Pennsylvania in general, he said he felt the Lord wanted him to come north rather than stay in South Carolina.

“As a Southern Baptist, most of our churches are in the Southeast. And in the United States particularly, the greatest concentration of people who are not engaged in church and wouldn’t identify as Christian are all outside of the Southeast,” he said. “As my wife and I were thinking about serving in pastoral ministry, it would have been easier and maybe safer to serve in the south, but we wanted to serve where we felt like there was a greater need.”

He said he especially likes that he has all four seasons again.

“In South Carolina, it was warm and then less warm,” he said. “Any opportunity to talk to people who come from different backgrounds or have different belief and world views is exciting to me. There’s a lot more opportunity here.”

Getting to know the Williamsport area will be something he’s looking forward to.

“I was always struck by how big Williamsport was,” he said. “Even before I was here I was praying for this church, the new pastor of this church and the city of Williamsport, that God would do some work here. I’m excited to get to be a part of that.”

His favorite Biblical verse is Psalm 16:11, which states, “You will show me the path of life: in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”

“As a young millennial, it’s real easy to just get bored with things and move onto something new. We’re always looking for something to help us feel fulfilled or satisfied,” he said. “That verse speaks to me because no matter where I am in life, it’s a reminder that God is my greatest joy, and he satisfies completely.”

Sandra Trick, pastor search committee member, said that finding McClelland was all in God’s timing.

“I’m very excited about him stepping into the pastoral role in our church,” she said. “When we met him, we met this genuinely humble servant of God who wants to do the best for God and for the church. It’s a wonderful combination.”

She said it would be great for anyone to come out to attend his sermons for themselves.

“They’re going to find someone who can nurture their spiritual life with sermons that are intellectually challenging and also stirs your soul. That’s what I love about it,” she said. “His sermons are actually challenging me. I’m doing research afterward on what he’s preaching. It’s also forcing me to examine myself and to be a better Christian.”

She said he is the perfect fit for their church.

“I keep hearing that people love his sermons, and it’s wonderful to hear,” she said. “He’s a fantastic preacher … He’s a very humble man, a very relatable person.”

For more information about McClelland or the church, visit www.fsbcweb.org or call 570-323-9564.