New pastor at First Baptist
Pastor Loren Morrill’s knows first hand that empathy is more powerful than sympathy. His vigor for helping those who are hurting stems from personal tragedy –
Seventeen years ago, his 17-year-old son committed suicide.
“I don’t think there is any greater pain than losing a child,” said Morrill, the new pastor of the First Baptist Church of Truckee.
His grief inspired him to seek the help from a Vietnam veteran he saw on television who began ministering to high schools after he was disfigured by a grenade explosion during the war. Together they held a crusade in Bakersfield to reach out to youth.
“It was that one episode in my life that really turned my ministry around,” said Morrill. “It made be realize that everyone has their own private pain.”
The crusade and a video called “Suicide, A Household Word” he and his partner produced were ways to turn the tragedy into triumph, he said. Since then, he has made it a goal to help other people who are hurting.
“I can relate to people who hurt,” Morrill said. “When you’ve been through pain, you relish helping someone else going through their trials.”
Now he has brought his ministry to Truckee and given the First Baptist Church a new motto- “a hospital for the hurting.” He arrived in March with fresh ideas on how to increase attendance and reach out to the community.
“People often have a stigma of church-that (churches are) just after their money,” he said. “We’re not here to receive; we’re here to give.”
He’s helped incorporate a Sunday school before the regular service, start a Sunday evening service, plan an upcoming revival in September and organize a small group study to following the revival called “40 Days of Purpose.” Because they have no charter members – or original founding members of the church – they have also opened its charter for six months, inviting people to become the first members of the “new Truckee Baptist.”
Since his arrival, attendance has increased from about 11 to 30-40 people. Morrill is devoted to an active outreach to people rather than a passive approach. With a strong bible-based preaching philosophy, he wants to “further advance the kingdom of God.”
“I’d like to think we have a no-nonsense type of ministry,” he said. ” We have fun and we horse around, but we take seriously the mission of the church.”
He is now preaching from Romans, a book of the Bible that is his favorite to teach. The first verse says, “Therefore there is now no condemnation.” This message is an important one for today, said Morrill.
“We live in a society of condemnation-of judging people,” he said. Christians should welcome people from all walks of life, accepting others as God accepts them and forgives them for their sins.
Baptists believe that because God loves us, he gave his son, who died to take upon the sins of man, he said. The traditional saying goes, “Jesus paid a price he did not owe, because we owed a price we could not pay.” When a person accepts God into their life, or is “born again,” they receive eternal life in heaven, Morrill said.
These beliefs are the basis for his ministry to those who have not been exposed to Christianity. Morrill believes heaven is not limited to denomination, but not automatically given to the religious.
“We don’t have God in a box here,” he said. “There are people in all different faiths that have accepted God as their savior…You can’t be baptized into heaven. You have to be born again.”
Originally from Bakersfield, Morrill began as a pastor 30 years ago at the California Missionary Baptist Institute and Seminary in southern California. He and his wife, Jane, moved to Truckee from Sonora, Calif., after he accepted the position as pastor. He feels, after formerly struggling in his life with not being everything that God wanted him to be, he is on the right track today, he said,
Christians, like every other human being, will never achieve perfection, “but we’re on the road,” he said.