Denton cites health issues as the reason he’s walking away, but he said he still plans to continue preaching.
“I’ll keep preaching as long as God gives me the breath to do it,” said Denton. “I’ve been the pastor for 28 years, but I’ve been sick for the last five, and I just feel like the church deserves better.”
Denton started his career as a pastor in Alabama, where he worked at a church just outside Huntsville while also traveling the country doing revival work.
When he came to Hillcrest Baptist Church in 1989, he set five goals for himself to accomplish before he retired.
“First off, I wanted to run 1,000 people a week,” said Denton. “When I got here, nobody could imagine our little church running 1,000, but we did it. I wanted to run 600 people in Sunday school; we did that, too. I’ve probably baptized over 2,000 people during my time here. Long story short, I accomplished every goal that I set for myself, but now that I’m sick, I just can’t maintain it anymore.”
Five years ago, Denton was diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, an immune system disorder characterized by dry eyes and a dry mouth. The disease caused Denton to develop fibromyalgia and lupus.
“The load here is pretty heavy, and with this sickness, I just can’t do it anymore,” said Denton. “I can’t give the people at this church what I could when I first got here.”
A pulpit committee was appointed to choose a new pastor for the church, but Denton suspects it could be a while before the right person is chosen. Until then, the church will likely make do with an interim pastor, and the church staff will take care of the day-to-day operations.
Denton said he will be more than happy to keep preaching in the meantime, after taking a week or two off to rest, of course.
“It’s been a really good ride,” said Denton. “I believe that we were known as the church that took a stand, and I’m proud of that. I would go so far as to say that for 15-20 years, we were the best church in Middle Tennessee. I don’t think that’s a stretch at all.”