Clarence Sexton D. Min
Pastor, Temple Baptist Church
Founder and President, The Crown College
What can God do with one man’s life?
Clarence Sexton has been faithfully serving the Lord since 1967. The world has yet to see the fruit of all his labor. He and his wife Evelyn Rogers Sexton have two grown sons: Shannon Sexton, married to Kristi; and Matt Sexton, married to Rhonda. Clarence and Evelyn have also been blessed with six beautiful grandchildren. In the many opportunities God has given him, Clarence has endeavored to commit what God has taught him to faithful men and women “who shall be able to teach others also” (II Timothy 2:2).
Born on Sunday morning, October 10, 1948, at the Baptist Hospital in Selma, Alabama, Clarence was the oldest of four children, including Tommy, Katherine, and baby sister Sheila. His family, after moving nineteen times before Clarence reached the third grade, finally settled in Maryville, Tennessee, when he was eight years old.
Life in the Sexton household was turbulent, and Clarence’s parents divorced when he was twelve. Two years later, on Easter Sunday morning, his father, Preston Thomas Sexton, died. Clarence’s mother, Ruby Lee Sexton, had a profound influence on his life. As a single parent, she reared the four children, often working multiple jobs. Clarence was forced to be the man of the house, looking after his brother and sisters.
Meanwhile, Mary Evelyn Rogers was born into the home of Alvie and Lucille Rogers in Maryville, Tennessee, on December 19, 1949. When she was only five years old, Evelyn’s father, a Baptist preacher, was killed in an automobile accident. He had been visiting a church family who had recently lost a loved one. After the death of their father, she and her older brother Charles were reared by their godly mother, Lucille Rogers Caughron.
When Clarence was fourteen, he began attending the First Baptist Church in Maryville, Tennessee. On a Wednesday evening, after a youth choir practice, the director, Don Brakebill, asked Clarence if he was a Christian. Realizing that Clarence was lost, Mr. Brakebill took him to meet the pastor. A short time later, Dr. J. William Harbin led Clarence Sexton to trust Christ as his own personal Saviour.
Beginning his freshman year, Clarence decided to transfer from Maryville High School to Everett High School. In God’s sovereignty, this decision brought Robert Davis, the principal of Everett High School, into Clarence’s life. Upon learning that Clarence’s mother had the sole responsibility of rearing her children, Mr. Davis, a godly Christian man, promised to help her. Mr. Davis kept his promise. His influence had a tremendous effect upon Clarence’s life. Decades later, Mr. Davis revealed to Clarence that he had prayed for Clarence and continues to pray for him every day.
While attending Everett High School, Clarence was the starting halfback on the football team for four years, eventually becoming team captain. It was also at Everett that he met and fell in love with Mary Evelyn Rogers. They were married on February 15, 1967. The newlyweds began attending Forest Hills Baptist Church, and God began a powerful work in Clarence’s heart.
During a tent revival, while listening to the preaching of Dr. C.E. Autrey, God called Clarence Sexton into Christian service on July 27, 1967. After surrendering to God’s call, he telephoned his pastor, Dillard Hagan, late that night to tell him the news. Pastor Hagan’s reply was, “I’m not surprised!” Days later, Pastor Hagan gave Clarence the opportunity to preach on his radio broadcast. Later, he preached his first message to a congregation at the Oak Street Baptist Church in Maryville, Tennessee, where Ernest Condee was the pastor. During this time, the Sexton’s oldest son, Michael Shannon, was born on July 27, 1968.
It was not long before people around the area began to hear of Clarence’s preaching ministry. Unknown to Clarence, a pulpit committee from the Greenback Memorial BaptistChurch attended a service in which he was preaching. In 1969, they called him to be their pastor. God blessed abundantly in the three years the Sextons were in Greenback, Tennessee. During this time, their second son, Matthew Stephen, was born on April 13, 1971.
While pastoring in Greenback, Clarence enrolled at the University of Tennessee, eventually graduating with a bachelor’s degree in education. He had previously finished an Associates of Arts degree from Hiawassee College and would go on to complete his Masters of Religious Education and a Doctorate of Ministry. He has also received his Doctorate of Divinity and a Doctorate of Humanities.
After leaving Greenback, Clarence became the pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church in Lenoir City, Tennessee, on September 10, 1972. While there, he began a bus ministry and saw God bless as the church grew. It was in Lenoir City that God began to lead Clarence Sexton down a new path, in a direction that would require a great deal of faith and courage. In light of his convictions, he realized he could not remain in the Southern Baptist Convention. Clarence told the church that he would be leaving the Convention to become an independent Baptist. Not knowing how independent Baptist churches functioned, he soon learned of the Highland Park Baptist Church, an independent Baptist church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Being led of God, Clarence preached his last message at Calvary Baptist Church on August 10, 1975, and moved his young family to Chattanooga to attend Temple Baptist Seminary.
While attending the seminary, God brought Clarence into favor with Dr. Lee Roberson, pastor of Highland Park Baptist Church and founder of Tennessee Temple Schools. Dr. Roberson soon asked Clarence to join the staff as an assistant pastor. Under Clarence’s leadership, Highland Park’s bus ministry experienced tremendous growth. Over two thousand people rode the buses to church each Sunday. Clarence himself brought new converts down the aisle almost every week. He instituted “The Afternoon Sunday School,” during which thousands of people placed their faith in Christ. While serving with Dr. Roberson, Clarence watched and learned constantly, absorbing many principles and traits that have influenced his ministry over the years. When Clarence once asked Dr. Roberson what he could do to be more of a help to him, Dr. Roberson simply replied, “More of the same, more of the same.”
Dr. Roberson described the time Clarence served with him as “the greatest years in the history of the Highland Park Baptist Church.” It was in Chattanooga that the Lord began to burden Clarence to start a Christian college to train people for the Lord’s service. It was a dream he would carry unfulfilled in his heart for thirteen more years.
While serving with Dr. Roberson, God gave Clarence a great desire to pastor again. In 1980, he accepted the call of the Madison Avenue Baptist Church, located eleven miles from New York City in Paterson, New Jersey. When Clarence arrived in Paterson, the church had fewer than ninety members. Because the church had been without a pastor for over five years, it was only weeks away from closing its doors.
Paterson had been known as a graveyard for independent Baptist churches; however, God intervened on Clarence’s behalf. Early on, he began to teach in the New York School of the Bible in Manhattan which would serve as a pattern for future Schools of the Bible. In the eight years he and Evelyn served in the greater New York City area, the church grew to average over eight hundred people every Sunday. More significantly, the overwhelming majority of those members were won to Christ and baptized under the Sexton’s ministry. In 1981, the Madison Avenue Baptist Academy was founded.
God brought the world to the church’s doorstep. Over twenty languages and thirty-five nationalities were represented within the church family. At that time, Paterson was one of the most densely populated urban areas in the nation. The harvest was truly plenteous, and Clarence and Evelyn loved the people dearly. The Sextons did not know, however, that their time in New Jersey was preparing them for another great work that God called Clarence to do in the summer of 1988.
TEMPLE BAPTIST CHURCH
Why would a man leave a place of such vast need and opportunity like Paterson, New Jersey, and return to the “Bible Belt,” to a county with hundreds of Baptist churches, to a sleepy town like Powell, Tennessee? The only answer is God.
In the summer of 1988, the pulpit committee of the Temple Baptist Church contacted Clarence to ask him to consider being their pastor. At that time, Clarence had no peace about responding to their request, and he had no desire to leave the thriving church in Paterson. He told the committee he could not come. Confident that Clarence was the man God wanted as their pastor, the committee began earnestly praying. They contacted him again. In the meantime, God had been dealing with Clarence.
After much prayer and consideration, Clarence and Evelyn became increasingly convinced that God was leading them back to East Tennessee. Clarence told the committee that the church must understand that their vote to call him as pastor was also a vote to establish a Bible college. The Lord had prepared the church family to follow their new pastor enthusiastically from the very beginning. On August 17, 1988, Dr. Clarence Sexton became the pastor of the Temple Baptist Church.
When the Sextons arrived in Powell, Tennessee, the Temple Baptist Church was averaging less than four hundred people in attendance. The people were ready to trust God and to follow their pastor. Every service of the church was marked by a spirit of expectancy. The soul-winning, the visitation, and the bus ministry began to thrive. Pastor Sexton led the church to survey entire communities for miles around. Thousands of people were invited to attend and hundreds were won to Christ. The Sunday School was reorganized, and numbers of new classes were begun to reach the lost and teach the saved. People began to attend and join the church from places as far away as Oak Ridge, Lake City, and Strawberry Plains. Temple Baptist Church was now a church on the move for God.
In 1988, the church facilities were located on approximately 25 acres of land bordered by Beaver Creek Drive and Adams Road. Upon Pastor Sexton’s arrival, the church purchased an additional seventeen acres just behind the original tract of land. Since that time, we have witnessed constant growth. At present, the Lord has blessed the church with over 130 acres at the main campus, 47 acres at the college campus, and over 110 acres at Mount Moriah Christian Camp, just four miles north. There has been no ministry of the church that has not felt the effects of Pastor Sexton’s devotion to Christ. From the newborns to the senior saints, the mark of a pastor’s heart is undeniable.
In the early years of his ministry in Powell, the Lord led Pastor Sexton to launch a Bible club ministry in local public schools. Beginning with a single club at Powell High School, Teens for Christ now has weekly Bible clubs in all the area middle schools and high schools. Thousands of students have trusted Christ as Saviour through the efforts of our members and other students.
In the fall of 2001, Pastor led the church to purchase fifteen new buses by faith. These buses are used weekly to bring the boys and girls of greater Knoxville to hear the gospel of Christ. Over two hundred missionaries participate in the effort of this local assembly to take the Good News to every creature.
The church continues to reach out to children and teens in urban areas through the Brave Boys & Girls and Teens for Christ ministries. Each week the members of Temple Baptist Church visit thousands of families across the Greater Knoxville area, sharing the gospel of Christ and speaking the truth in love. On Sunday, hundreds of young people are transported to the church and taught from the Bible how to live a principled life with Christian character.
Temple Baptist Church has over six thousand members, but this does not detract from the blessed spirit of oneness—something for which only God could be responsible. It has become a place to worship God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24) and to be equipped to reach a desperately lost and dying world.
THE CROWN COLLEGE
Thirteen years after the Lord first put the dream within Pastor Sexton’s heart to train men and women to serve Jesus Christ in local churches, The Crown College was founded. God has given this work great favor from the beginning. In August of 1991, the doors of the college opened to sixty-nine students from fourteen states. By the 2006-2007 academic year, over nine hundred students enrolled, representing more than forty states and several foreign countries. Thousands of men and women have received their diplomas and are now serving Christ throughout the world.
The spirit and growth of The Crown College have led many people to remark that they have never been to such a “God-caused” place. From having only one college building in 1991, the Lord provided the Curtis Hutson Center for Local Church Ministries. In 2004, God made available a new college campus less than a quarter mile from the church.
On that campus is the Lee Roberson Christian Heritage Center, which contains numerous displays bearing witness to our rich spiritual heritage. Each day, students walk to class among the giants of our faith. Pastor’s dream to multiply the ministry of The Crown College has become a reality.
Clarence Sexton has not limited his work to Temple Baptist Church and The Crown College. His pioneering spirit has led to the initiation of hundreds of worldwide ministries including short-term and long-term mission works. Students trained at Crown College have, with the aid of the founder, carried the work of the college overseas to the United Kingdom and Nepal. Pastors and teachers across America and around the world have benefited from the Knoxville School of the Bible. These men and women have opened over ninety similar schools that offer two-year certificates in Bible study, which are awarded in the Crown College Commencement.
In Ecclesiastes 12:1 the Bible says, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth.” In an effort to reach the next generation with this truth, Clarence Sexton has founded four summer youth camps located in Powell, TN, Pottsboro, TX, Heron, MT, and Droitwich, England. These camps have offered Christian influence and encouragement to many young people including urban youth, Native Americans, and Hispanics.
In addition, Clarence has established Crown Christian Publications and Faith for the Family to provide and promote resources that will benefit the Christian life. Among these resources are over forty books that he has written to aid pastors and Christians in their church and personal Bible study. From the publication of his first book until now, Crown Christians Publications has sold over a million copies of his material.
The work and ministry of Clarence Sexton is God’s work. He has desired to reach every age of people in every area of the world because he understands that this is God’s desire. His life verse hails back to the first New Testament church, which influence he has attempted to continue in every place God has allowed him to lead: “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42).