Calvary Baptist Church will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Dr. Joe Sorah’s ministry to the church at the morning worship service on Sunday at 10;45 a.m. Rev. Sorah, who began his ministry at Calvary in December 1991 said it has been a “good fit” for him and the church. “It has been the biggest blessing of my life. My wife, Teresa, and I have enjoyed seeing our children grow into young adulthood during our ministry at Calvary, Like all churches, we have had challenges, but we also have had growth and many, many good things have happened. Hopefully we have been a blessing to the church,” he said this week as he reflected on his local ministry.
Before coming to Calvary, Sorah served as pastor at Mountain Terrace Baptist Church in Memphis. “We left the big city to come to the mountains of East Tennessee,” he said. The son of a Baptist pastor, Sorah said his long-time ministry at Calvary says more about the church than it does him. “They have taken good care of me and my family. The membership has been most supportive of my ministry and the new things we have tried. We’ve done a lot during these past 20 years, including some major remodeling and expansion,” he said.
Sorah described the Calvary congregation as “loving with a heart for missions.” He has seen many changes during his ministry at the church. “When I came to Calvary it was predominately a congregation of senior adults. We have had a lot of new families come in, and like most churches, we are no longer a community church. We have families and members that come from as far away as Johnson City,” he shared. The church averages 170 to 180 in Sunday School and about 200 in Sunday morning worship.
“I would hope that along the way that we have helped some people to come to know the Lord and others to be more committed in their walk with the Lord,” Sorah said, noting that one of the most frustrating challenges of his ministry is seeing families join the congregation and then leave. “It used to be that when you became a member of a congregation you stayed a lifetime unless you moved away. It’s not that way anymore. Families have a tendency to move after a couple or years or so. They usually follow their kids, and I can’t fault them for that,” he said.
Sorah said one of the most challenging aspects of his ministry was balancing his desire to please God and at the same time try to please the people he serves. “When all is said and done, I want God to be pleased with my life. We have to live and serve among the people, so we try to please them. I have learned I can’t be all things to all people. In the end I have to stay true to my calling,” he said.
Sorah said that when he looked at the kind of pastor his father was and at other men in the ministry, who he admires, it challenges him to be a better pastor. “I don’t measure up to many of these men, I call my heroes in faith, but I do hope that the people of Calvary know that I will always be there for them when they have a need.”
Sharing that he and Calvary Baptist have a great love for missions, Sorah said the church-wide mission trips re-charge his spiritual batteries. “We do a lot of mission trips. We are in partnership with a small village in Malta, and we’ve been there several times as well as other places around the globe. It’s neat to share the gospel with people, who have never heard it. At the same time, our relationship with others in the congregation grows. The kingdom of God needs to be more than just what happens at 225 Holly Lane. It’s taking the gospel into the community and into the whole world,” the pastor said.
Sorah’s father, Rev. Ron Sorah, pastored the Calhoun First Baptist Church for 30 years. “More than anyone else he helped me understand the high calling of being a pastor. I am blessed to have had such a wonderful mentor,” he said.
Sorah attended Cleveland State Community College and received his B.A. degree from Carson-Newman College, his MRE and M.Div. degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and his Doctorate of Ministry degree from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
When not studying for Sunday sermons and doing church work, Sorah enjoys spending time with his wife and son, Josh, and daughter, Natalie. Josh is about to graduate from ETSU and Natalie is a junior at Elizabethton High School. He also enjoys collecting baseball cards, deep sea fishing, golfing, reading and spectator sports.
Sorah sees more challenges ahead for Calvary, among them space and parking issues, reaching new people, and that of not becoming complacent and selfish, but always striving to grow. “We want to think our work has only just begun. It’s never about us, but God and his church,” he said.