THE VILLAGES, Fla.—J. O. Purcell retired from Tri County Baptist Church Dec. 31. This new phase of life marks a second retirement for him and follows five decades in ministry.
J. O. initially retired after 40 years of pastoral ministry at Bible Baptist Church, Romeoville, Ill., and Heritage Baptist Church, Lakeland, Fla. Then he and his wife, Juanita, along with nine other charter members started Tri County Baptist Church in The Villages in December 2002. He was asked to be the pastor. The church has seen much growth with the addition of many new members, leading to a new building and a larger space for Christian education.
The Villages is one of many retirement communities in the area. Sumter County, two miles west of the church, is the fastest growing county in the United States per U.S. census records. Tri County Baptist Church has benefited from the area’s growth, along with the diligent work of the Purcells.
When the church quickly grew, requiring multiple services, J. O. led the church to invest in five acres of land and initiated a building program for a new 8,000-square-foot facility at its present location. In addition, the church sent out 10 percent of its members help Pastor Dave and Susan Johnson plant Woodbridge Baptist Church in Wildwood, about 10 miles away. With a strong attention to paying off its debt, Tri County Baptist Church paid its loan in five years and added another 1,800-square-foot space for education and offices in 2014.
In addition to their responsibilities as pastor and wife, J. O. has served on the GARBC Council of Eighteen for 30 years, was representative of the Wisconsin Association of Regular Baptist Churches for five years, and has served on many organizations’ boards. Juanita is a popular speaker at ladies’ events and is the author of several women’s Bible studies, the devotionals Be Still, My Child and 15 Minutes with the Master, and Women’s Ministries Handbook, all published by Regular Baptist Press. Together the Purcells wrote How to Stay Sane When Life Doesn’t Make Sense.
With 300 family members and friends present on the morning of Jan. 4, the Purcells were thanked, remembered, and celebrated for their 12 years at Tri County Baptist Church. That evening, the congregation welcomed its new pastor and his wife, George and Michelle Prinzing. The Prinzings come from Princeton, Ind., where George was pastor of First Baptist Church for 15 years.
John Greening, GARBC national representative, shared messages at both services, with a morning message titled “A Story of Grace,” and the evening message consisting of a charge to the church and the new pastor. Greening was instrumental in helping the church find a new pastor. Last year, J. O. knew he would soon retire, and in the spring he asked the deacons to form a pastoral search committee.
“One of the benefits of ‘doing more together’ within the GARBC was the help of Dr. John Greening and others in suggesting several potential candidates,” says Administrative Pastor Steve Poludniak. As part of its consultation ministry for churches, the GARBC offers churches guidance in finding a pastor.
Poludniak says, “Retirement will be hard. No, actually it will be almost impossible! J. O. and Juanita are already teaching studies at Tri County Baptist Church, and Juanita with the ladies of the church.”