Southern Baptist church planter dies after being hit by semi-truck

By Bob Smietana

SHERMAN, Texas (RNS) — John Powell, a church planter and pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in New Caney, Texas, was killed in a highway accident Saturday (July 18), reportedly as he was helping a driver who had stopped in the traffic lanes

John Powell, a church planter and pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in New Caney, Texas, was killed in a highway accident Saturday (July 18). RNS/Courtesy of the Powell Family

According to television station KXII, a truck driving north on U.S. Highway 75 was struck by a car. The car caught fire and two men pulled over to assist. One of the men was struck by a semi and was killed, according to a report from the Sherman, Texas, police department.

Friends have identified Powell as the man who was killed. He was 38. The driver of the car involved in the initial accident survived.

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, through whom Powell planted Emmanuel Baptist, issued a statement saying: “Our church planting family and the entire SBTC family grieve the loss of an amazing man of God. As a church planter in New Caney, John worked tirelessly to reach the lost with the Gospel. He was the real deal. Our hope is that we can surround Katherine and the kids with the love and support they need now and in the upcoming days. We pray for God’s grace and mercy to overwhelm this family as they deal with their tragic loss.”

News of Powell’s death was shared on social media by Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Moore was a friend and former professor of Powell’s.

“I am shocked and shaken and grieving this morning, beyond what I can say,” Moore wrote on Twitter. “My former student John Powell was killed last night, hit by an eighteen-wheeler while helping stranded motorists off of a highway.”

Nathan Lino, one of Powell’s closest friends in the ministry and the pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church, which sponsors Powell’s church plant, told Baptist Press that “planting a church is extraordinarily difficult, and so I got to see John under enormous stress and at all times he wanted to know and do the will of Christ. He loved the local church. As much as John loved to preach, and he did, he had an equal passion for the personal wellbeing of his people. He cared about their physical wellbeing and their discipleship.

“He didn’t just love Katherine, he was in love with Katherine — big time. He loved his kids and being their dad. He was so intentional about being in their lives, having fun with them, praying with them, and teaching them the Scriptures.”

Saying he had a “heavy heart,” Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, called Powell “a beloved husband, father, friend and minister to the people of God.” Richards said the SBTC would offer “its full support to Katherine and the children in their time of loss. Our Lord Jesus welcomed John as he entered the presence of the One he served so well.”

Powell’s death prompted grieving and tributes shared on social media.

“It is impossible to imagine the heartbreak of this young family in the death of their husband & father & of this church in losing their pastor,” wrote Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “But John Powell loved Christ, preached Christ, trusted Christ. Our hearts break for them. This is why we sing that all we have is Christ.”

Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, called Powell “one of the best men I’ve ever known.”

Author and pastor Dean Inserra described Powell as a humble pastor who did not seek the spotlight.

“He never cared about being known,” Inserra wrote. “Faithfully plowed daily as a family man and local church pastor. He did not sweat what many sweat.”

A GoFundMe site to raise funds for Powell’s family was set up by Andrew Walker, a professor at Southern Seminary.

“We are asking for friends and family to help care for the Powell family as they deal with unspeakable tragedy and grief,” the appeal reads. “As they have shown all of their family and friends love in times past, let us now, as the body of Christ, show them love and care.”

At time of publication, the GoFundMe effort had raised more than $135,000.

Powell and his family had moved to New Caney, north of Houston, from Hamlin, Texas, in 2016. He had previously been director of admissions at Southern Seminary and discipleship pastor at Carlisle Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He is survived by his wife, Katherine, and four young children, Gunner, Bennett, Ada Kate and Reese.

This story was originally reported by Religion News Service with additional reporting by Baptist Press. Used with permission.

Published July 22, 2020