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Baxter church headed in new direction under young pastor

Pastor Heath Beard, 33, of Princeton, Ill., has accepted the position as senior

Heath Beard knows he has a lot to learn about being a Minnesotan, but he said he’s eager to give it his best effort.

He’s just becoming familiar with the phrase “Minnesota nice” and he’s not sure he’s ever eaten a hot dish, but Beard knows one thing— the hunting is good in Minnesota.

“I really want to kill a bear,” joked the newly transplanted pastor from Princeton, Ill. “I’m a little nervous about the weather, though, so if anyone has warm clothes we’ll take them.”

Beard and his wife, Rachel, have accepted the position as senior pastors of Heritage Assembly of God in Baxter. The Beards have three children.

Heritage is one of several large area churches, including Lord of Life Lutheran Church and Lakewood Evangelical Free Church, that have had pastors resign over the last several months and among the first to install a new lead pastor.

The church’s former pastor of 13 years, Mark Boone, resigned in October.

At the age of 33, Beard already has a great deal of pastoral experience under his belt.

He said he felt called to work in ministry as an 8-year-old boy and preached his first sermon at the age of 13.

Beard’s previous pastoral role was as the lead pastor at People Church in Princeton, Ill. — a church he spent seven years serving and grew from 60 to 450 regular attenders.

Coming from a long line of minsters, it’s not surprising that Beard has found a calling in full-time ministry. His grandfather and great-grandfather were both pastors and his brother is a pastor in Sioux Falls, S.D.

“I’ve got a rich heritage,” Beard said.

Beard said he heard about the opening at Heritage AG from a friend and decided to submit his resume.

Beard said the move to the Brainerd area didn’t come as an easy decision but was one he and his family were sure was the right thing to do.

“We had three opportunities to go somewhere else and it just wasn’t the right thing,” he said. “This is where we are supposed to be.”

“But, I sure don’t want to do this again in seven years. We’re asking the Lord for at least a decade (in Brainerd).”

Beard said he is excited about the challenge of serving one of Minnesota’s oldest Assemblies of God churches. “I feel like the church has a lot of the right things — great community, great people, great facility,” he said, using the analogy of elements necessary to grow a garden. “There’s going to be a lot of good growth.”

Beard said he is looking forward to working with area pastors and has had the opportunity the meet a few while visiting the area. “They’ve been really warm already,” he said.

Recognizing the challenge of pastoring at a time when five generations of believers are part of the average American church, Beard said he hopes to balance vision for the future of the church with respect for the rich history of a congregation with nearly 100 years in the Brainerd area. He wants people from every generation to feel they’re being heard.

“When I’m old I don’t want to be pushed aside,” he said. “It’s because of (the older generation) we have the opportunity to have a future.”

In addition to Beard taking over as senior pastor at Heritage, the church will also add two more new staff members at the end of the month.

This week will mark Beard’s first official Sunday as pastor of the AG church and while he said he is anxious to start putting down roots in Minnesota he has no intentions of converting from a Bears to a Vikings fan. “That will never change — I can promise that.”

SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at or 855-5879.