Mike Blevins is the new pastor at Highland Park Baptist Church on Irwin Bridge Road in Conyers.
Mike Blevins was flying high back in the 1980s. Too high.
He and his wife had opened a corporate travel agency in Atlanta and times were good. They were up-and-coming professionals with an office downtown and running with a fast living crowd -- the wrong crowd.
In 1986, Blevins was arrested and convicted of a federal drug charge and sentenced to 12 years in federal prison.
The future looked bleak for this grandson of a former prostitute, who raised Blevins and his four younger siblings in the Lakewood community of Atlanta.
His grandmother had turned her life over to the Lord, had become a "good Christian lady," Blevins said. She encouraged her grandchildren to go to church and all of them did except for Blevins.
"I never went to church," he said. "I was interested in sports and other things and not concerned about church at all."
Looking back, it's hard to imagine that is the same Mike Blevins who has now been called as the new pastor of Highland Park Baptist Church in Conyers. Much has changed through the years for the man who said he's not the "traditional preacher."
"I didn't come from a ministerial background," Blevins said. "I wasn't raised in church. I'm the kind of person that everybody can identify with. I'm just a sinner."
The years between then and now sound like a movie script with a happy ending. The road was not always bumpy, however.
After high school graduation, Blevins left Lakewood and served in the Air Force for four years. He came back to Georgia and went to work for the Federal Aviation Administration as an air traffic controller based out of Hampton.
"The job was great. It was the most fun that I've had," said Blevins.
In 1976, Blevins took a medical disability retirement from the FAA and said he "just kind of floundered" for about five years. He worked in the conversion van business a couple of years.
"I was a singer in a rock 'n' roll band. We did a lot of fraternity and sorority parties. We were a wild and crazy bunch. I was not a Christian," he said.
Blevins had moved to Pensacola, Fla., and was sailing a sailboat every day, when he met his future wife. He and Jolene were married in 1981, and moved back to Atlanta where the couple bought into the Mercedes Travel Agency. Life got faster and more out of control until Blevins was arrested on drug charges.
He was sent to federal prison in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., where he would spend four years before being sent to jail in Jackson, Miss.
"That's where the Lord got ahold of me," he said. "There was a preacher who came in and did services on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He had been delivered from Mississippi's death row.
"His ministry was to the county jails... He invited me to come. He gave the invitation and I found myself on my knees. I gave my life to the Lord there."
Soon after, he was again sent back to Fort Walton Beach, where he was serving time at the prison camp at Elgin Air Force Base.
"I was taken under the wing by the prison chaplain, George Costillo," he said. "While I was at Elgin, I finished two years of Bible college at Luther Rice Bible College Extension Center."
After he completed his sentence at Elgin, Blevins and his wife moved back to Conyers where his mother lived and where he finished his bachelor's degree at Luther Rice in Lithonia, graduating in 1992.
"I was working at Mike's Printing and felt the need, felt the Lord calling me to go to a Southern Baptist seminary," Blevins said, adding that he began his work at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary extension in Snellville in 1994, before moving to where the seminary is based in Wake Forest, N.C., to finish his master of divinity degree with languages in 1998.
He became the pastor of Corinth Baptist Church in Louisburg, N.C., for three years before returning home to Conyers where his mother was sick with thyroid cancer.
In 2001, he went to work for Reagan Home Care Pharmacy and has worked there ever since. He and Jolene have a daughter Taryn and a grandson, Jacob.For many years, the family was involved at the First Baptist Church of Conyers working in Sunday School and discipleship.
Blevins taught a young couples Sunday School class that met at 8:15 on Sunday mornings and grew to include 46 couples. He said many of those class members are now in leadership roles at FBC Conyers.
"I've always been able to identify with kids and young people," Blevins said. "I guess it's because of my testimony. I'm not lily white. I've done things..."
Blevins said during his years attending FBC Conyers, he never felt the Lord calling him back into ministry as a pastor until about two years ago. He was called last January to serve as interim pastor at Mount Zion for nine months and then this year, Highland Park called him to serve as its pastor.
Founded in 1968, as a mission of FBC Conyers, Highland Park Baptist Church shares its facility at 1381 Irwin Bridge Road with two other congregations.
The pastor said it is one of the few churches that still offer Sunday night worship and he invites everyone to come Sunday evenings at 6. The church offers Sunday School for all ages at 9:45 a.m., morning worship at 11, evening worship at 6 and Wednesday night services at 7.
Homecoming is Oct. 14, with worship at 11 and dinner at 5 p.m.
Blevins said the church has a full music program with the choir presenting cantatas and the congregation singing traditional hymns and praise and worship choruses, led by minister of music Don Upp.
Blevins said he is an expository preacher.
"I believe in going verse by verse," he said. "I don't sugarcoat anything. I just preach it. It's supposed to convict us. If it's not convicting us, I'm not doing my job."
The pastor said he is excited to be at Highland Park and the people have been "absolutely wonderful" to him.
"I've been involved in alcohol and drugs and the world's ways," Blevins said. "I've been able to relate to people because they don't see me as a goody-goody. They feel comfortable sharing their life stories with me.
"It's been amazing that the Lord has used that worldly experience to reach others for Christ... The Lord took me from the gates of hell to the kingdom of heaven."
Beth Sexton is a freelance writer based in Snellville, Ga. If you have a story idea, contact Karen Rohr, features editor, at email@example.com.