The story of a defiant Old Testament prophet proved a cautionary tale for Jessie Underwood.
Whereas Jonah tried to run from his calling to preach and ended up in the belly of a fish at the bottom of the sea, Underwood enthusiastically dove into the ministry waters — accepting his call about 25 years ago at age 50.
“I couldn’t hide and I couldn’t run,” said Underwood, the pastor of Faith Rock Christian Center in Baton Rouge. “There was a man by the name of Jonah. He got in a lot of trouble. …That means he was doomed.”
God graciously gave Jonah another chance and he eventually ended up making his way to preach to the people in the wicked city of Nineveh.
Underwood, 75, admits his calling wasn’t as dramatic but just as life changing.
“I’ll never forget it,” he said. “It was beautiful. God spoke to me and he told me to go preach. He gave me the go-ahead and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
The Monroe native had spent years serving in a church as a deacon and Sunday school teacher. He said had no doubts God had called to another level of service.
“I knew it was God,” he said. “He just spoke to me in a straight-out voice.”
Underwood said he didn’t want to face any chastisement similar to Jonah.
“I went about doing what he called me to do — or get whipped by him,” Underwood said.
About 20 years ago, Underwood said he started the nondenominational Faith Rock church in his home before eventually moving to its current location at 12330 Florida Blvd, in the Longbow Shopping Center.
“Things are going good,” he said. “It’s a spirit-led church of the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe in him. We believe that whatever he says that’s what we do.”
The name of the church, Underwood said, is based upon Matthew 16:18: “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
“God gave me that name,” he said. “It was the revelation knowledge of the rock. We’re based upon that knowledge.”
Underwood said he had knowledge of God growing up in a Christian home. He was saved and baptized at an early age, commencing his lifelong bond with Christ.
“He means a lot of me,” Underwood said. “No. 1, he’s my savior. He saved me and he called me. He anointed me and he appointed me.”
Underwood said he’s passionate about preaching and teaching the entirety of God’s word.
“I’m just led by the Holy Spirit, whatever word he gives me,” he said. “I love to teach all the word of God. I don’t have a preference on a special scripture.”
The bi-vocational pastor continues to balance his commitment to the work of God and his construction work.
“There’s a time for all things,” he said. “There’s a time to serve in the church and there’s a time to serve in the field. You just have to coordinate the work.”