“…that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.” I Samuel 17:46
If you know Clarence Sexton, you know that these words, first spoken by David in the valley of Elah and recorded by the Holy Spirit in I Samuel 17:46, are the summation of the ministry God has entrusted to him and his wife for the past forty years. Beginning in rural Blount County in East Tennessee, God has raised up and sustained a ministry that is taking the gospel message around the world. It has been over forty years of faith. From newlyweds in Maryville, Tennessee, until this day, all that has been accomplished through the ministry given to Clarence and Evelyn Sexton has been accomplished by simple faith in God. It has been over forty years of simplicity. There is no secret why God has so singularly blessed our pastor’s ministry. When God has led, he has been obedient to follow. It has been over forty years of vision. What more can be done for Christ? Who has not yet been reached with the gospel? Our pastor has often said, “I want to die with a thousand unfulfilled dreams in my heart.” It has been over forty years of multiplication. Thousands of men and women are serving Jesus Christ across the nation and around the world who were influenced, encouraged, or trained under our pastor’s ministry. It is our purpose and expectation that this commemorative book will, above all else, honor Jesus Christ. We pray that it will also encourage our pastor and his family, as well as cause us to reflect on the abundant blessings of the Lord upon our church family, encouraging us to trust Him fully for what still lies ahead. Lastly, we trust this book will cause other pastors and their churches to take heart and to be “stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
Pastor and Mrs. Sexton, congratulations on over forty years of faithful service. Thank you for giving Christ your lives. May God allow our continued labor together from this day forward to bear such fruit “that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.”
“This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” I Timothy 3:1-7
Life in the Sexton household was turbulent, and Clarence’s parents divorced when he was twelve. Two years later, on Easter Sunday morning, his father, Preston Thomas Sexton, died. Clarence’s mother, Ruby Lee Sexton, had a profound influence on his life. As a single parent, she reared the four children, often working multiple jobs. Clarence was forced to be the man of the house, looking after his brother and sisters.
Meanwhile, Mary Evelyn Rogers was born into the home of Alvie and Lucille Rogers in Maryville, Tennessee, on December 19, 1949. When she was only five years old, Evelyn’s father, a Baptist preacher, was killed in an automobile accident. He had been visiting a church family who had recently lost a loved one. After the death of their father, she and her older brother Charles were reared by their godly mother, Lucille Rogers Caughron.
When Clarence was fourteen, he began attending the First Baptist Church in Maryville, Tennessee. On a Wednesday evening, after a youth choir practice, the director, Don Brakebill, asked Clarence if he was a Christian. Realizing that Clarence was lost, Mr. Brakebill took him to meet the pastor. A short time later, Dr. J. William Harbin led Clarence Sexton to trust Christ as his own personal Saviour.
Beginning his freshman year, Clarence decided to transfer from Maryville High School to Everett High School. In God’s sovereignty, this decision brought Robert Davis, the principal of Everett High School, into Clarence’s life.
Upon learning that Clarence’s mother had the sole responsibility of rearing her children, Mr. Davis, a godly Christian man, promised to help her. Mr. Davis kept his promise. His influence had a tremendous effect upon Clarence’s life. Decades later, Mr. Davis revealed to Clarence that he had prayed for Clarence and continues to pray for him everyday.
While attending Everett High School, Clarence was the starting halfback on the football team for four years, eventually becoming team captain. It was also at Everett that he met and fell in love with Mary Evelyn Rogers. They were married on February 15, 1967. The newlyweds began attending Forest Hills Baptist Church and God began a powerful work in Clarence’s heart.
It was not long before people around the area began to hear of Clarence’s preaching ministry. Unknown to Clarence, a pulpit committee from the Greenback Memorial Baptist Church attended a service in which he was preaching. In 1969, they called him to be their pastor. God blessed abundantly in the three years the Sextons were in Greenback, Tennessee. During this time, their second son, Matthew Stephen, was born on April 13, 1971. While pastoring in Greenback, Clarence enrolled at the University of Tennessee, eventually graduating with a bachelor’s degree in education.
After leaving Greenback, Clarence became the pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church in Lenoir City, Tennessee, on September 10, 1972. While there, he began a bus ministry and saw God bless as the church grew. It was in Lenoir City that God began to lead Clarence Sexton down a new path, in a direction that would require a great deal of faith and courage. In light of his convictions, he realized he could not remain in the Southern Baptist Convention. Clarence told the church that he would be leaving the Convention to become an independent Baptist. Not knowing how independent Baptist churches functioned, he soon learned of the Highland Park Baptist Church, an independent Baptist church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Being led of God, Clarence preached his last message at Calvary Baptist Church on August 10, 1975, and moved his young family to Chattanooga to attend Temple Baptist Seminary.
While attending the seminary, God brought Clarence into favor with Dr. Lee Roberson, pastor of Highland Park Baptist Church and founder of Tennessee Temple Schools. Dr. Roberson soon asked Clarence to join the staff as an assistant pastor. Under Clarence’s leadership, Highland Park’s bus ministry experienced tremendous growth. Over two thousand people rode the buses to church each Sunday. Clarence himself brought new converts down the aisle almost every week. He instituted “The Afternoon Sunday School,” during which thousands of people placed their faith in Christ. While serving with Dr. Roberson, Clarence watched and learned constantly, absorbing many principles and traits that have influenced his ministry over the years. When Clarence once asked Dr. Roberson what he could do to be more of a help to him, Dr. Roberson simply replied, “More of the same, more of the same.”
Dr. Roberson described the time Clarence served with him as “the greatest years in the history of the Highland Park Baptist Church.” It was in Chattanooga that the Lord began to burden Clarence to start a Bible college. It was a dream he would carry unfulfilled in his heart for thirteen more years.
While serving with Dr. Roberson, God gave Clarence a great desire to pastor again. In 1980, he accepted the call of the Madison Avenue Baptist Church, located eleven miles from New York City in Paterson, New Jersey. When Clarence arrived in Paterson, the church had fewer than ninety members. Because the church had been without a pastor for over five years, it was only weeks away from closing its doors.
Paterson had been known as a graveyard for independent Baptist churches; however, God intervened on Clarence’s behalf. In the eight years he and Evelyn served in Paterson, the church grew to average over eight hundred people every Sunday. More significantly, the overwhelming majority of those members were won to Christ and baptized under the Sexton’s ministry. In 1981, the Madison Avenue Baptist Academy was founded.
God brought the world to the church’s doorstep. Over twenty languages and thirty-five nationalities were represented within the church family. At that time, Paterson was one of the most densely populated urban areas in the nation. The harvest was truly plenteous, and Clarence and Evelyn loved the people dearly. The Sextons did not know, however, that their time in New Jersey was preparing them for another great work that God called Clarence to do in the summer of 1988.
Temple Baptist Church
Why would a man leave a place of such vast need and opportunity like Paterson, New Jersey, and return to the “Bible Belt,” to a county with hundreds of Baptist churches, to a sleepy town like Powell, Tennessee? The only answer is God.
After much prayer and consideration, Clarence and Evelyn became increasingly convinced that God was leading them back to East Tennessee. Clarence told the committee that the church must understand that their vote to call him as pastor was also a vote to establish a Bible college. The Lord had prepared the church family to follow their new pastor enthusiastically from the very beginning. On August 17, 1988, Dr. Clarence Sexton became the pastor of the Temple Baptist Church.
When the Sextons arrived in Powell, Tennessee, the Temple Baptist Church was averaging less than five hundred people in attendance, the bus ministry was languishing, and the Christian day school was ready to close; however, things soon changed for the better. The people were ready to trust God and to follow their pastor. Every service of the church was marked by a spirit of expectancy. The soul-winning, the visitation, and the bus ministry began to thrive. Pastor Sexton led the church to survey entire communities for miles around. Thousands of people were invited to attend and hundreds were won to Christ. The Sunday school was reorganized, and numbers of new classes were begun to reach the lost and teach the saved. People began to attend and join the church from places as far away as Oak Ridge, Lake City, and Strawberry Plains. Temple Baptist Church was now a church on the move for God.
The church auditorium was completely remodeled through the efforts of the staff and the members, but it soon became apparent that it could not serve the needs of the rapidly growing church much longer. Earnest prayer and planning began. Through the years, the church outgrew its home and kept growing. In April of 2000, Pastor Sexton led the church family into a new 2,500-seat auditorium.
In 1988, the church facilities were located on approximately thirty-five acres of land bordered by Beaver Creek Drive and Adams Road. Upon Pastor Sexton’s arrival, the church purchased an additional seventeen acres just behind the original tract of land. Since that time, we have witnessed constant growth. At present, the Lord has blessed the church with over 130 acres at the main campus, 38 acres at the college campus, and over 100 acres at Mount Moriah Christian Camp, just four miles north. There has been no ministry of the church that has not felt the effects of Pastor Sexton’s devotion to Christ. From the newborns to the senior saints, the mark of a pastor’s heart is undeniable.
In the early years of his ministry in Powell, the Lord led Pastor Sexton to launch a Bible club ministry in local public schools. Beginning with a single club in Powell High School, Teens for Christ now has weekly Bible clubs in thirty-five area middle schools and high schools. Thousands of students have trusted Christ as Saviour through the efforts of our members and other students.
In the fall of 2001, Pastor led the church to purchase fifteen new buses by faith. These buses are used weekly to bring the boys and girls of greater Knoxville to hear the gospel of Christ. Over two hundred missionaries participate in the effort of this local assembly to take the Good News to every creature.
There is a blessed spirit of oneness in this place—something for which only God could be responsible. Temple Baptist Church has become a place to which thousands have come home, a place to worship God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24), a place to be equipped to reach a desperately lost and dying world.
The Crown College
While it is true that the members of the Temple Baptist Church have given millions of dollars and labored thousands of hours for the college, it has been a labor of love every step of the way; not one minute has been spent in vain.
God has given The Crown College great favor over the past seventeen years. In August of 1991, the doors of the college opened to sixty-nine students from fourteen states. During the 2006-2007 academic year, over nine hundred students enrolled, representing more than forty states and several foreign countries. More than 1,400 men and women have received their diplomas and are now serving Christ throughout the world.
The Lord has been our refuge during dark days, as nine young men and women have lost their lives while serving Christ as students at The Crown College. Despite their tremendous grief, God’s grace has enabled Pastor and Mrs. Sexton to continue.
The spirit and growth of The Crown College has led many people to remark that they have never been to such a “God-caused” place. From having only one college building in 1991, the Lord provided the Curtis Hutson Center for Local Church Ministries. In 2004, God made available a new college campus less than a quarter mile from the church. On that campus is the Lee Roberson Christian Heritage Center, which contains numerous displays bearing witness to our rich spiritual heritage. Each day, students walk to class among the giants of our faith. Pastor’s dream to multiply the ministry of The Crown College has become a reality.