By Catherine Hosman
Last October, the Union Hall Baptist Church in Liberty Hill welcomed Robert Butts as its new pastor.
Pastor Butts comes from a family of spiritual leaders including his father, Richard, the founding pastor of Westside Baptist Church in Katy, and his maternal grandfather, Carl Hodges, who has served for more than 60 years and continues to serve at Westside.
He said his goal is to bring his Liberty Hill into the 21st century through technology and maintain the integrity of the church’s true message.
“As I look around, I’ve only been here four months, I see the need to have a true, independent, fundamental, traditional Baptist church in every way,” he said. “I want to keep it traditional and sing the same hymns that were sung in 1888 when the church was founded.”
Pastor Butts began his vocation at his father’s church where he served 10 years as an assistant pastor for youth, music and young married couples before being called to Union Hall. However, his decision to go into the ministry wasn’t immediate.
In 1999, he was about to leave for Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina, to study criminal justice because he said, “I thought it would be a cool thing to do.
“Everyone was telling me that I would become a pastor, because my dad is a pastor, but I didn’t think I would,” he said. “I was running, seeking something fun to do. I was running from what He wanted me to do.”
Despite his inner voice calling him to his true vocation, he was set to pursue his chosen career. Then that same year he met Betheny, the young woman who would become his wife.
“My wife is a very spiritually serious person,” he said. “She challenged me to think what the Lord wanted me to do with my life rather than doing something ‘fun.’”
Pastor Butts said when he finally stopped running and prayed about it, “the Lord showed me the spiritual need for the youth and up until now I spent my time working with youth.”
He said it became clear what he was supposed to do; he changed his major and enrolled in Biblical Studies at Southeastern Fundamental Baptist Church in Madison, Alabama, and earned his degree in Biblical studies from Pioneer Baptist Bible College in Katy, Texas.
In July 2000, exactly one year from the day they met, Robert and Betheny were married.
Ministering to youth
During the 10 years prior to his calling to Union Hall Baptist Church, Pastor Butts lead the youth at Westside Baptist Church in Katy, and at the same time raised his own family. He and Betheny have a daughter Elizabeth, 11, and a son, Jackson, 10.
Naming just one special moment in his career as a youth minister is difficult, but he said it was the annual Neighborhood Bible Time camp every summer at Westside that still resonates with him.
“For one week straight we had 100 teenagers, five days a week,” he said. “We preached, prayed and shared meals. It was the highlight of each year and it was amazing.”
It was at last year’s summer camp at Westside that youth minister Butts decided it was time to lead a congregation. He confided in his friend, Dr. Tom Farrell, a renowned evangelist, that he was ready to become a head pastor.
“Within 30 minutes, I met a member from Union Hall who said they were looking for a pastor,” he said.
Now he spends his days working on his messages for the week’s Wednesday and Sunday services, updating the church website and Facebook page, reading his personal daily devotions and welcoming congregants who “just want to talk.” In the afternoons it is not unusual for Pastor Butts to be seen visiting someone at their business or their home.
Keeping the Message relevant
Sharing the word of God can be challenging in the 21st Century. However, Pastor Butts said the message of the Bible never changes. To keep it relevant, he said he takes hot topics and current events from today and sees how the biblical principles apply.
“Names and faces of temptation may change, organizations may come and go, but the principles are always going to be there,” he said. “They are principles we build our lives on.”
An acronym he likes to use for the Bible and said he has heard it since he was a child is the “Bible is Basic Instruction Before Leaving the Earth.”
“The Bible never loses its relevancy,” he said. “It is always going to meet the needs of individuals who allow the Holy Spirit into their lives.”
Another way he likes to keep it real is to remind people the potential dangers lurking on the Internet and the affects it could have on youth.
“Having worked with youth the last 10 years, what I have done numerous times is to get real life examples and show parents the things kids are into today,” he said, citing the Barna Research Group, a research organization that focuses the intersection of faith and culture. “I show them how it (technology) affects children psychologically, emotionally and spiritually.
On the positive side, he said being online is how everyone can find out about you.
“With a Web presence (for the church) I have people come to me who have lived here five and 10 years who didn’t know this church existed,” he said.
It’s these newcomers that Pastor Butts said he hopes to reach.
“People, it’s all about people,” he said. “That’s what this ministry is all about. If I can in some way impact people, and see that impact still going on, that is why I’m here. It’s about meeting the community’s needs. Everything else is a means to an end. It’s all about the people.”