Rick Countryman ..... Pastor at Big Valley Grace

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Leading the Way: Big Valley pastor's strictly a one-church man



When Rick Countryman isn't nourishing his flock as senior pastor at Big Valley Grace Community Church in Modesto, you'll often find him caring for his garden.

"I absolutely love to garden," said Countryman, 45. "I like to plant flowers and put them in pots. My wife and I like to drive and look at the gardens in the wine country or wherever we might be."

He's also unusual in that he's been at Big Valley Grace since he became a Christian in 1980.

"I not only was saved at Big Valley Grace, but it's the only place I've ever worked," Countryman said. "I started doing junior high ministry. Then high school ministry. Then youth pastor for 17 years. I'm the founding Saturday night pastor. I've done men's ministry. Now I'm senior pastor. It's fairly rare that one guy spends his entire life (up to this point) at one church."

Here's more information:

Family: Born and raised in Modesto; graduated from Davis High School in 1979. First wife, Michelle, died in a car accident in 1997. Wife, Erin. Children: Megan, 14, Gracie, 6, Cade, 3.

Education: Classes through Center for Biblical Studies from Fresno Pacific College. Discipled by former senior pastor David Seifert. "He poured his life into me. He's the one who discipled me and trained me for ministry. Without him, I wouldn't be where I'm at today."

Future: "Right now, I feel I'm right in the middle of God's will. The people at Big Valley Grace are the most generous, kind people on the planet. It's a privilege to be their pastor. I couldn't imagine being at any place else. But God holds the future; I'll just be faithful where he's got me now."

Greatest challenge: "I want to live a life of integrity, a life that my wife and kids can look at and say, 'I want to be like that.' That's a huge challenge. As it relates to the church, the biggest challenge is that I live out my faith in a way that honors the Lord so people can look at me and say, he's a godly man; he's a man of character. I'm not perfect; none of us are, but there's a biblical mandate for leadership -- that leaders are to be different.

"But I also want people to know I'm still human, and I struggle with the same things that everybody struggles with. For years, I've struggled with depression, and yet the Lord sustains me every day. I understand pain and sorrow, and yet I know that there's hope in Christ. I want people in all churches to understand that pastors are not immune to the things of life. I hope they can say, 'I know my pastor struggles, but he continues to be faithful to the things of the Lord.'"

Greatest passion: "I absolutely love to teach the word of God and make it understandable to people. To put it into terms and words and phrases in language everybody can understand."

Personality: "I think I'm a genuine person. I don't try to fake anybody out. I'm easy to get along with. I care about people. I think what most people don't realize about me is I'm terribly introverted, but I'm a situational extrovert. Most people think I'm an extrovert. I'm not."

Spare time: "I love to just be with my wife. I love to go places with her. I love being with my family. They are all so different, and all such a blessing to me. I also like to read."

"Leading the Way" runs twice a month and profiles faith leaders -- ordained and lay -- in our community. To suggest someone, send the name and contact information to Sue Nowicki, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352-5256 or e-mail snowicki@modbee.com.

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