By Chance Chamberlain
Ernie Cecil leaves behind a career to be remembered due to his retirement Aug. 2 from the senior pastor position at Antioch Southern Baptist Church. He held the position for nearly 28 years and said the people are what he will miss the most about his time at the church because they are what made it so special.
“The people in the church are what made my 27 years special. This is my home area and they helped me feel right at home every day. I just enjoyed the people the most out of everything,” he said. “I loved visiting with them and seeing them through the hard times the most. I think that was the most rewarding feeling, helping somebody through a hard time. I also loved seeing people mature in their faith.”
Cecil preached for more than 27 years and coached little league football in Harrisonville for more than a decade. He said he is humbled by the number of people who tell him he impacted their lives.
“It’s honestly humbling to think that you have impacted somebody’s life in such a positive way. Whenever somebody tells me that I impacted their life, it always comes to me as a surprise,” he said. “I don’t really know why it feels like a surprise every time. I guess it’s because my No. 1 goal was to preach the word of Christ and his salvation. I truly think that’s my biggest legacy.”
Cecil helped implement many changes to improve the quality of service at the church, an accomplishment he said he is proud of.
“One of the biggest changes that I saw at the church is that everything switched to electronic at some point. We went from no screens, to screens in the front, middle and back, so that everybody can follow along and read the scripture or sing the songs even if they don’t know the words,” he said. “We also switched from only singing hymns to a mixture of hymns and modern songs and we have a full band now. The band has ear monitors too, so they can hear what they are playing.”
Cecil added, “We also have a web page and all of the social medias now. That’s something that I never would have thought about before we did it. We even expanded to two services and do a 10:30 a.m. livestream service. Those were major changes for the church.”
Cecil was instrumental in the establishment of the drive-in worship services due to COVID-19, even though it pushed back his retirement date.
Cecil said, “I wanted to retire in the spring, but COVID slowed everything down for me and extended my timetable into the summer. That’s probably a good thing though because if I would have left in February, then the church would have been without leadership through this tough time.
“The COVID services that we created worked really well. We developed a drive-in service series where people would drive to the church and the service would be displayed on devices in the car with them. They never had to get out of their vehicle,” he said. “We also, had our live worship band play songs like a normal service. It just worked out perfectly for us at the church.”
Cecil added, “The idea came from the ‘60s and ‘70s when a pastor in California operated his service much like a drive-in movie theater. It was a pretty neat thing to
Cecil said that he has enjoyed retirement so far and he looks forward to more days of relaxation.
“I’ve enjoyed it so far. I’ve fished and have eaten out and I’ve just really enjoyed it so far. I hope that I can relax for a while, but I like to be involved, so we will see.”
Cecil reminisced about his legacy at the church and in the community and said he is humbled by the thought of it and that he hopes he can be remembered for more.
“I am just truly humbled at the thought of having touched so many people’s lives and I really hope that everybody says that I’m handsome. That would be the icing on the cake,” he joked.
The senior pastor position will be filled by Adam Claxton at a date to be determined and a part-time youth minister position will be filled by Joshua Barnett in September.