By MADOLINE MARKHAM
Mountain Brook Baptist Church’s Dr. Jim Moebes leads by example—traveling miles to be with a member of his congregation for a surgery or death of a loved one, sleeping on the floor at the church overnight when it served as a shelter, traveling around the country and world to build churches and serve those in need in times of crisis.
He loves to fish but rarely does so even on his off days. He always finds someone else to serve instead.
For 38 years he has selflessly given all of himself in his role as minister at Mountain Brook Baptist Church (MBBC). He will retire from his position as Senior Minister this month.
“He made this church a beacon of the community, but he never takes credit for any of it,” MBBC deacon T.L. Cloar said. “He always gives credit to someone else.”
Known for his storytelling, Moebes loves to tell of the little girl he met and wanted so badly to adopt in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami, of sharing in communion with a newly built church in Russia, of seeing the fruit of the ministry of a Chinese woman preacher.
“He shaped Baptists around Alabama and around the world,” said MBBC Minister of Education Dr. Alvin Pelton, recalling Moebes’ years of service with the Baptist World Alliance.
Church members recall serving on mission trips with their minister, cleaning and building. If there was ever a chain saw around, Moebes would find it and put it to use.
Some of Moebes’ stories are serious, but many are laced with his sense of humor in a way that makes anyone who has heard them laugh as they recall the story.
Anyone who knows Moebes will tell you that he is a man who both preaches scripture and lives it out.
“I have never seen a greater minister and preacher,” Cloar said, noting how many other Baptist churches he attended that had prominent leadership in the denomination. “And you don’t usually get both in one man. He devoted his entire being to the church and its membership and the city and the country and the world.”
If ever anyone in his congregation was in the hospital, Moebes was there from the beginning until the end of the crisis.
“It didn’t matter the time of day or night, he was always available for the congregation,” said MBBC Director of Children and Family Ministries Sharon Howard.
Moebes’ preaching is rooted in scripture. “His preaching causes you to think and to look at God in terms of the whole Bible,” MBBC deacon Altey Kitchings said. Cloar said that he wondered just how long Moebes could sit and quote scripture that spoke to a particular situation.
Many people stop Moebes around Birmingham and remind him that he is going to preach their funeral.
“He is the best preacher I have ever heard preach a funeral,” Kitchings said.
“He really captures the essence of a person,” Cloar said, “and he really comforts the family.”
The list of what Moebes is known for goes on and on.
He set records as a basketball player at Samford University, and later earned his Master of Divinity from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctorate in counseling from the University of Alabama.
He served in civic leadership positions with the Central Alabama Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the United Way, FEMA, Baptist Health Foundation Board of Directors and many other organizations.
In addition to being a strong minister and preacher, he is also a strong administrative leader.
“He would have been an excellent executive had he worked in corporate life,” Cloar said.
“He even cooks a mean breakfast,” Howard said, recalling when he led the MBBC youth group she attended as a teenagers in the late 1970s.
Moebes and his wife, Gail, who taught elementary school in Mountain Brook, plan to stay active in the church after his retirement. Their son, David, lives in Phoenix with his wife and daughter, and their daughter, Stacey Wilder, lives in Savannah with her husband and three children.
Some have heard Moebes say he’ll sleep for a year after he retires. He’ll probably do some fishing, but no one doubts that he will continue to serve the people around him and around the world.
A reception will be held for Dr. Moebes on September 11 at 11 a.m. following the traditional service in Hudson Hall at Mountain Brook Baptist Church.