Hayneville Baptist Church welcomes associate, youth pastor Mark Owens

Published 3:19 pm Friday, July 21, 2023

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Hayneville Baptist Church welcomed a new associate pastor and youth pastor, Mark Owens, on July 9. The Letohatchee native comes into the role with a story of redemption and a passion for reaching young people.

“When God called me to ministry, I was in rehab for drug addiction,” Owens said. “Actually, this Sunday will be three years since I attempted suicide and failed after a fentanyl overdose.”

Owens recalls how his addiction led to an accident which landed him in jail. That was where he met a counselor who, after his release, invited Owens to join his jail ministry and 100 days later, Owens walked back into jail as a minister of the gospel.

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Now Owens draws inspiration from the Bible as affirmation of God’s plan for his life. In 2 Corinthians 1: 3-5, Owens said he found confirmation of the way God can use affliction and the circumstances of life to shape individuals for ministry. And, in 2 Corinthians 5:17, Owens received hope, knowing that men and women can be changed through Christ.

“I lost my father at 14,” Owens said. “I lost my grandparents and my older brother. I went through a lot of tragedy, and I was a drug addict. I was a lost soul and God allowed me to go through a worldly hell so that now when young people say, ‘Mr. Mark, you just don’t understand.’ I can say, ‘Yes, I do, because I have been there.’ That’s why I have a heart for young people.

Before joining the staff at Hayneville Baptist, Owens served as pastor at Hayneville Christian Church and also worked with youth in the community. According to District Judge Adrian Johnson, chairman of the Hayneville Baptist search committee, church members had noticed Owens’s heart for service and suggested they find someone like him to fill the role.

“We had a meeting of youth parents and discussed what we wanted in a youth pastor,” Johnson said. “All of them kept bringing up Mark and said, ‘We need somebody like Mark Owens.’”

Around that time, Owens expressed interest in the position and while others applied, Johnson said it soon became clear Owens was the man they wanted.

“It was clear to us that the Lord put that passion on his heart to work with youth in the community,” Johnson said. “He was already building relationships with folks at the schools, working to invigorate a youth program in our county. And so, that’s what we wanted, for youth in the community to be engaged in a good youth program.”

Outside the church walls, Owens volunteers with the Lowndes Academy football team, an effort he said enables him to pour into the lives of student athletes.

“Barry (Mohun) and Coach Shane (Moye) and Coach Matt (Marshall) have just been a blessing,” Owens said. “They opened the doors and allowed me to teach FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes). I’m at summer workouts too. People joke and say, ‘The sideline is no place for a pastor.’ But I’m not a coach. I’m just trying to be the light to these kids.”

In his capacity as associate pastor, Owens will serve church members of all ages. 

“My strong points are [working with] young couples and the elderly,” Owens said. “Visiting seniors allows me to serve in the church but also out in the community. I am at the schools, but I am also ministering to the elderly. It allows me to go and do so much more. Early in ministry I understood it’s not just about serving in the church, but serving out in the community too.”

Owens and his wife Ansley married in March and recently moved back to Lowndes County from Brewton to fulfill his calling to serve God through youth ministry.

“My life is good,” Owens said. “There’s a lot of people who have an image of Mark Owens in the past and that’s not the same image they see today. I’m not the same person I once was. I knew God was going to call me back to Lowndes County, which hasn’t been my home in a while. It’s our home now and we love it.”