Oxford Baptist Church's new pastor Andy Brown is shown here with wife Katie and daughter Adalee.
People who knew him as a little boy remember Andy Brown climbing up on a chair in the church nursery and preaching to the other toddlers. His boldness for the gospel grew as he did. At 6, Brown made a profession of faith and at 9, he asked the children's director at his church if he could give a devotional for the other children.
"I did little Bible stories that I knew, like Samson and Delilah, and I used the King James version because the other versions had not become popular at that time," Brown said.
His little devotional turned into a weekly presentation and that, in turn, grew into a lifetime commitment to preach the gospel.
Today, the Rev. Andy Brown is the new pastor at Oxford Baptist Church in Newton County, where he leads a congregation founded in 1960, right in the middle of a community known for its strong ties to the Methodist church.
"We're just hopeful and know that God has put us aside for his purpose here," Brown said. "The church has got a really good group of people who love the Lord and love the community and are concerned about the lost."
At 27, Brown is a young minister, but not new to ministry. Preaching since the age of 15, the native of Newnan knew early on that God had a special plan for his life, even including a few slight detours along the way.
"I got away from the Lord, Brown said. "I didn't want to be a minister. I thought Brigadier General Andy Brown sounded better than Pastor Andy Brown. I began to run from the call until God broke me."
The son of David and Linda Brown of Newnan, Brown was a star in his high school's ROTC unit and won all the top awards. An outstanding cadet, Brown had achieved the highest rank and one of the highest national awards presented in ROTC.
"I said, 'This is obviously what God wants me to do,'" Brown said.
He had plans to go to Georgia Tech and continue his ROTC duties.
"One night I felt the burden of the Lord letting me know I was being disobedient," he said. "My dad had been to Bible college, but was not a pastor. I said, 'I think, Dad, I'm being called into the ministry.' He was getting ready to go to bed and was shaving and said, 'Son, go into your room, open your Bible and the Lord will tell you where you need to go.'"
Brown tells how he began reading Colossians I, where the Apostle Paul expresses a desire for the Gospel to be proclaimed.
"I didn't realize it until I got to seminary that it is one of the premier passages for preaching," Brown said. "I surrendered to the call. I was at Clayton State and God led me to Truett McConnell. I surrendered to the ministry at 18."
His desire to proclaim the gospel was further strengthened when he attended a Christian concert in Fayetteville. He said there were groups performing like rock stars and the audience was behaving like audiences at a rock concert -- even having a mosh pit and getting mad at one another.
"This was the year Mercy Me came out with 'I Can Only Imagine,'" Brown said. "(The other groups performed) and then Mercy Me came out and they invited the Lord there. The whole atmosphere changed ... I had been away from the Lord and God spoke to me, not audibly, but I knew that if I dedicated my life to Him, I would see people dedicating their lives to Him. Nothing I desired compared to Him."
Brown forsook a military career and headed off to Truett-McConnell College where he got his associate degree and met his wife, Katie. They have been married five years and are the parents of Adalee, who is almost 2. Brown said her name means "God is my refuge" in Hebrew.
"We had two miscarriages before her, then God graced us with her," he said.
After Truett McConnell, Brown went to Kennesaw State University and got his bachelor's degree in psychology. At Kennesaw, he led a campus Bible study and got involved at the First Baptist Church of Atlanta's college ministry.
FBC Atlanta asked Brown to join its staff as an intern one summer and after the summer was over, the church invited him to stay on its staff and work with the youth ministry and pastoral care ministry. He also worked in senior pastor Charles Stanley's office.
"It excited me as a young man," Brown said. "They asked me to continue on staff after I graduated, but they were very gracious and put me through seminary. I went to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina."
While in seminary at 23, he pastored his first church and in 2009, he came back to FBC Atlanta where he was ordained into the ministry.
"I had the privilege of coming back to First Baptist Atlanta and being ordained, with Dr. Stanley actually being the one who led the ordination charge," he said. "It's one of those days you never forget. It's very honoring and very humbling."
After graduating from seminary, Brown accepted the call to pastor Oxford Baptist Church.
"I really didn't understand the world situation as being so desperate until I went to Southeastern," Brown said. "It opened my eyes to just how lost America and the rest of the world is. We live in times we've never faced before as people in the Bible Belt and people involved in a Christian culture. People are being raised today without any consciousness of God."
Brown said his prayer is that his church will engage the community and "serve as a force in the community for good and to reach the lost."
This fall the church will launch an effort it calls "Vision, Values and Process" as a way to build upon its legacy and build toward the future for greater discipleship and outreach.
Sunday School begins at 9:45 a.m. each week, followed by worship at 11 a.m. Worship times will change Sept. 8, with Sunday School at 9 a.m. and worship at 10:45 a.m.
Beth Sexton is a freelance writer based in Gwinnett County. If you have a story idea, email Karen Rohr, features editor, at email@example.com.