Florida native finds harmony in small-town church

Published 12:00 pm Sunday, March 8, 2009

When the Rev. Tom Bush opted to leave his native sunny Florida to become pastor of the tiny Abundant Life Tabernacle in Albert Lea, it wasn’t a decision he took lightly.

“It wasn’t just a decision,” Bush said. “It was a decision of the heart. I felt the leading of the Lord.”

Bush had actually been in Albert Lea in April of 2008 for revival services. “In some respects, things began to happen then,” he said.

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“I began to pray about it,” the pastor said. “I never envisioned myself in a small town again, but it’s been a very good decision.”

After interviewing with members of the congregation and finding a good fit for all, he started his new position in Albert Lea on Aug. 1.

Bush actually attended Bible school in the Twin Cities and served as an assistant pastor for 15 years at a church in Florida. “I pastored a couple churches in trouble,” he said.

He also worked as an evangelist and traveled with his family. “We’d do a regular circuit in August, September and October,” he said.

“I knew that I wanted to help people,” Bush said of the decision to become a pastor. “My family was involved in ministry. My father was a preacher. I got involved in the church when I was young.”

One of the key factors in his decision to come to Albert Lea is the fact that the community offers stability for his family. He and his wife, Kaye, have three daughters: Morgan, 9, Myla, 3, and Maleesa, 2.

When the Rev. Tom Bush opted to leave his native sunny Florida to become pastor of the tiny Abundant Life Tabernacle in Albert Lea, it wasn’t a decision he took lightly.

In addition to services on Sunday and Wednesday, there is a Tuesday night prayer meeting. Youth activities are on Friday.

Bible studies are done outside the church setting, in the form of home friendship groups twice a month. The church has no youth leader at this time; there is a rotation among the teachers for coordinating youth activities.

Bush said he places a lot of importance on having a vision. There are short-, mid- and long-term goals. The church calendar and goals are mapped out for four months and evaluated. “I think once a year is too little,” he said.

The mission statement is always in front of the people. “That way there is no confusion,” he said.

“Everyone’s looking for a connection, ownership,” Bush said. “Everyone wants a place, a niche. That’s why we involve them and lay out a clear vision and work the plan.”

With a membership of about 35, one of Bush’s goals for Abundant Life Tabernacle is growth.

“We place a lot of emphasis on the fellowship aspect,” he said. “We want people to know they’re welcome. At the same time, this is a church service. We’re a spiritual entity, not just a social setting.”

Abundant Life Tabernacle is a United Pentecostal church. The organization has been around since 1945. The church follows Biblical guidelines in its worship and members follow Scripture for what it says, Bush said.

Worship has always been contemporary in nature; it’s demonstrative, he said, with raising and clapping of hands.

The pastor said he tries to keep the message applicable and strives to create events that bring people out.

He uses three fundamental keys: find out how the message relates to people’s lives, what their needs are and minister to those needs. “Part of that is just being available,” he said.

He also knows the importance of meeting the needs of kids in the church. “They need connections as well,” Bush said.

“We have to be open to kids and give them a place. We have to give them a spiritual application for their lives.”

In addition to his regular church duties, Bush has done some chaplaincy work at Fountain Centers, something the Rev. George Marin of Grace Christian Church got him involved in.

When he’s not working, he enjoys being with his family, fishing and hunting.