Pennsville Baptist Church associate pastor celebrates 30 years with church
Pastor Robert Bixel is sort of a phenomenon in the local church community. The associate pastor at Pennsville Baptist Church, he has served at the same church in the same position for the past 30 years.
In 1983, Bixel, originally from Bellefonte, had finished serving at Baptist University of America in Atlanta, when he heard of the associate pastor's opening at Pennsville Baptist.
He sent in his resumé, and it wasn't long before Pastor George Nichols, the senior pastor at Pennsville Baptist at the time, called and offered him the position.
Since then, Bixel has seen several pastors come and go, including Nichols, who was followed by Jerry Hughes as senior pastor and then Terry Murray, the current pastor.
Six months after Bixel came to serve at the church, David Hixson was hired as a youth pastor. In the next several years Bixel saw many other pastors come and go in that position, including James Overholser, Timothy Kitchen and the current youth pastor, Aaron Wylie.
In all that time, Bixel said he never really thought about leaving because with the turnover of all the other pastors, he was busy working on trying to get the position filled, filling in at the pulpit and whatever else was necessary.
“We would be moving along, and just about the time it would feel like things were settled down, we'd have a change in pastors again,” he said.
The church recently held a celebration for Bixel and his wife, Mary, for their service over the past 30 years.
Nichols came back to the area to honor Bixel and said that he has had a number of assistant and associate pastors in his 52 years of preaching, but “the best one I've ever had was Bob Bixel.”
“He has a desire to please Jesus Christ, and I praise the Lord for his ministry,” Nichols said.
Friend and church member Blaine McFadden said he was thankful for Bixel and his work with the church and counted it a privilege to work with him.
“I've always found him to be a loving man with a gentle spirit and very compassionate,” McFadden said. “All of these years I've called him Pastor Bixel, but tonight I want to call him my friend.”
Wylie, the youth pastor, said Bixel is a man dedicated to his family and his church.
“He is dedicated to God, and as someone who is able to work with him hand in hand, his encouragement to me as a young pastor has been wonderful,” Wylie said.
Murray, the senior pastor, said that when he first came to the church, he asked Bixel if he would like to preach or what role he enjoyed.
“But organization and administration are his strong points, and that's what he enjoys doing,” Murray said.
Bixel's focus is on administrative things, including working with the deacons, the trustees and the mission board on a day-to-day basis. He also takes part in visitation, funerals and weddings and preaches when Murray is on vacation.
“I've never really thought about going anywhere else,” Bixel said, adding that he considers this area home.
“The best thing about my job is the people,” he said. “I enjoy getting to meet new people, and there are people here who have become great friends.”
Bixel added that he is so thankful for his wife, who has served so faithfully by his side all this time.
“She's my right-hand helper,” he said. “She helps me with everything.”
He has no plans of leaving the church or retiring anytime soon.
“You never know when your last day or hour will be, but I'll probably work here until I can't think anymore,” he said.
Rachel Basinger is a contributing writer.