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First Baptist Church’s new pastor had a difficult start in life

Pastor Jack Hanks will be formally installed as the new pastor of First Baptist Church in Detroit Lakes at a ceremony set for 3 p.m. this Sunday,. Aug. 14. DETROIT LAKES TRIBUNE/Vicki Gerdes1 / 2
Hanks and his wife, Anne were married on Sept. 27, 2014 in Park River, N.D., near where she grew up. The couple is in the process of moving to a new apartment in Detroit Lakes. DETROIT LAKES TRIBUNE/Vicki Gerdes2 / 2

Unlike many who answer the call to ministry, Jack Hanks did not grow up in a Christian home.

“I didn’t know if God existed, and if he did, I thought he was a jerk,” says Hanks, who came from a broken home and was raised as an agnostic.

In fact, he and his sister pretty much had to fend for themselves from the time he was 13 years old. But Hanks, who will be formally installed as the new pastor of First Baptist Church in Detroit Lakes this Sunday, Aug. 14, at a 3 p.m. ceremony, says he discovered the power of Jesus Christ while attending Marshall University in Huntington, W. Va.

“I started searching through different religions and beliefs,” he says. “I discovered that with Christianity, it’s not about what we did to get to God (i.e., heaven), it’s what he did for us.

“Jesus died for our sins, and all he asks of us is to accept him and admit that we’re not perfect, that we’re sinful.”

While at Marshall, the West Virginia native became involved with Campus Crusade for Christ, now known as Cru, a college-based evangelical Christian organization which he said appealed to his newly discovered passion for the gospel and its promise of salvation.

“I committed my life to God and was a student leader (with Cru) on campus,” he said.

One of his mentors suggested that he might want to pursue a career in the ministry, and said he might want to look into attending seminary.

“I thought and prayed about it, and God opened the doors to make it happen,” Hanks says. “The first church I was involved in was 20th Street Baptist in Huntington, back in 1999.”

He eventually did decide to follow that path, and enrolled in the Dallas (Texas) Theological Seminary to pursue a master’s degree in theology.

Ironically, around the same time as he was serving as a pastor at Ridge Crest Baptist Church in Dallas, Hanks’ future wife Anne was teaching at a school in Houston, Texas – but it wasn’t until he moved to Dodge City, Kansas, that they met.

“We never met while we were in Texas,” he said, “though we lived an hour and a half away from each other.”

While in Dodge City, they met, became friends, fell in love, and got married.

“After we got married I took some time off from the ministry and we moved to Fargo,” said Hanks, noting that they decided to move closer to his wife’s family in North Dakota.

“I was a financial advisor with New York Life,” he said, “but I never fully left the ministry. It was still my passion… As a Christian I believe the world needs to accept Jesus Christ as their savior.

“I get great pleasure out of helping people and seeing their lives change (through finding God),” he added.

While in Fargo, he became involved with Calvary Baptist Church and its pastor, Ben Killerlane, who helped him find his way back to pastoral ministry.

“He started asking me to preach,” Hanks said – and it was also Killerlane who first saw the opening for a Baptist minister in Detroit Lakes, suggesting that Hanks might want to consider applying.

“He thought it might be a good fit for me,” said Hanks, who contacted the church’s search committee and started asking them a few questions.

“I was impressed with the love in this church, the community, and their commitment to family,” said Hanks, noting that he and Anne would be welcoming their first child into the world next month.

“We’re officially moving here (to Detroit Lakes) on Saturday, and my wife is due to give birth on Sept. 6,” he said,” so I’m moving, starting a new job and starting a family all at once.

“I’m very excited,” he added, noting that he’s been surprisingly even keeled about the whole experience. “My wife is more stressed than I am, but she is almost nine months pregnant!”

Both of them are looking forward to making Detroit Lakes their home.

“We’re moving into an apartment,” Hanks said, noting that they want to take their time finding a more permanent residence.

“I’m looking forward to serving this congregation, and the community,” he said.

“I’m honored and humbled to be a part of it.”

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 17 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454