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From physical to spiritual: Eric Oliver leaves the sidelines to be pastor at Cecilia Baptist Church

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By Becca Owsley

Eric Oliver is transitioning from helping with the physical needs of athletes to the spiritual needs of churchgoers as he moves from his job with the Hardin Memorial Health Sports Medicine Program to pastor of Cecilia Baptist Church.

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Oliver has been with HMH since 2006 and six years later, he felt God was calling him into ministry.

As coordinator of sports medicine, Oliver has served seven high schools, Elizabethtown Community and Technical College and the Elizabethtown Sports Park, said Dan Martin, director of Rehabilitation and Wound Care Services at HMH.

“We will miss Eric’s positive attitude and desire to put our patients first in all that he does but are excited for him as he transitions to his new role, knowing full well that with his spirit, he will continue to be successful in all of his efforts,” Martin said.

Oliver will continue to help out with sports medicine part time when he is needed.

His journey to ministry began 16 years ago when he became a Christian.

“I was the greatest pew sitter there was,” Oliver said, adding he looked the part but didn’t have Christ in his life.

A plane ride changed that. The engine went out and at that moment, he wasn’t sure what would happen if he died. He knew something had to change.

Later, he started an eight-year process of leading his father to Christ, later being able to baptize him. Seeing God work in that situation, Oliver began seeing things fall into place to step into full-time ministry.

Oliver answered his call to ministry in his mid-40s and looks to people such as Moses and other characters in the Bible who God used at much older ages.

Oliver has served churches as a deacon, but God kept placing the role of pastor on his heart.

“I think one of the hardest things to learn is to be a follower,” he said, referring to learning to follow God’s guidance.

In March of 2011, Oliver went to his pastor at Valley Creek Baptist Church, Scott Kerr, to tell him he felt called to the ministry.

Kerr’s reaction was a confirmation Oliver was headed in the right direction. Kerr told him others thought he was fit for that calling as well.

When he told his wife and children later that night, one of his kids said, “It’s about time.”

Oliver said everyone else knew he was supposed to be a pastor before he realized it.

Kerr recognized Oliver’s passion in serving God.

“He is one of the few people that I have met who is truly willing to abandon it all to do the Lord’s work,” Kerr said. “His leaving the sports medicine position is just a small example of his desire to follow the Lord wherever and whatever.”

Kerr described Oliver as a man whose heart is full of compassion for others, sincere in wanting to meet the needs of others and whose enthusiasm is contagious.

“The greatest testimony to the quality of him as a man is the love he has for his family,” Kerr said.

Oliver preached at a couple churches and was an interim pastor at a church for 10 months before going back to Valley Creek for more administrative experiences in an associate pastor internship, all while still working with the sports medicine program.

His wife found out about the pastor position in Cecilia and encouraged him to apply.

“My wife and God are on a different phone line (than I am),” Oliver said, adding she always sees the opportunities God has for their family.

When Oliver might have questioned what he was doing, his wife, Tracie, was “solid” in knowing what God wanted him to do.

“She is my greatest supporter,” he said.

While Oliver didn’t think he had enough experience to be a head pastor, she encouraged him to let God take the lead. He will take the reigns as pastor in May.

“It’s a 180-degree change,” he said. “I’m now going from treating the physical to doing the spiritual.”

Both still meet needs, he said, adding Paul used sports analogies in his New Testament writings.

“In sports medicine, the goal is to get the player back on the playing field,” he said. “As a pastor, you are here to help assist people to get closer to the Lord and Savior to be more of a servant to grow closer to him,” he said.

Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741 or bowsley@thenewsenterprise.com.

Getting to know Eric Oliver

  • Favorite Sport: Football
  • Family: Wife, Tracie, whose parents live on a sheep farm in Cecilia, children, Hayley, Evan and Carlie
  • Favorite sports team: Western Kentucky University (because Jesus was a Hilltopper, he joked)
  • Favorite TV show: “Duck Dynasty”
  • Pets: Three cats
  • Favorite Book of the Bible: Hebrews, because it is deep and rich, encompassing the Old and New Testament.
  • Favorite person in the Bible (other than Jesus): David, because even with his faults, God still used him.
  • Favorite Book: Francis Chan’s “Crazy Love”
  • Other tidbits: He helps on the family sheep farm, preaches at First Korean Baptist Church on Sunday nights, is a band parent and attends seminary.

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