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Texas Church Planter, Ministry Leader John Powell Killed In Accident

Bob Smietana

John Powell, a church planter and pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in New Caney, Texas, was killed in a highway accident Sat., July 18, reportedly as he was helping a driver who had stopped in the traffic lanes.

According to television station KXII, a truck driving north on U.S. Highway 75 was struck by a car on Saturday.  The car caught fire and Powell and another man pulled over to assist.  Initial reports said Powell, 38, was struck by a semi and killed.  Later reports say Powell was struck when he saw the semi coming toward him and the other man who had stopped to assist, and Powell pushed the other man out of the way.

Jason Allen is the president of Midwest Baptist Theological Seminary and was a friend of Powell.  He called Powell “one of the best men I’ve ever known” and said he was not surprised Powell “laid down his life for a stranger in distress.”

The driver of the car that was on fire survived.

News of Powell’s death was shared on social media by Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Moore was a friend and former professor of Powell’s.

“I am shocked and shaken and grieving this morning, beyond what I can say,” Moore wrote on Twitter. “My former student John Powell was killed last night, hit by an eighteen wheeler while helping stranded motorists off of a highway.”

Powell left behind his wife and four young children. He and his family had moved to New Caney, north of Houston, from Hamlin, Texas, in 2016. He had previously been director of admissions at Southern Seminary and discipleship pastor at Carlisle Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, according to his ERLC bio.

On Sunday, news of his death was met with grieving and tributes on social media.

“It is impossible to imagine the heartbreak of this young family in the death of their husband & father & of this church in losing their pastor,” wrote Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “But John Powell loved Christ, preached Christ, trusted Christ. Our hearts break for them. This is why we sing that all we have is Christ.”

Author and pastor Dean Inserra described Powell as a humble pastor who did not seek the spotlight.

“He never cared about being known,” wrote Inserra. “Faithfully plowed daily as a family man and local church pastor. He did not sweat what many sweat.”

A GoFundMe site to raise funds for Powell’s family was set up by Andrew Walker, a professor at Southern seminary.  As of Tuesday morning, more than 1700 people had contributed more than $200,000 to the fund.

“We are asking for friends and family to help care for the Powell family as they deal with unspeakable tragedy and grief,” the appeal reads. “As they have shown all of their family and friends love in times past, let us now, as the body of Christ, show them love and care.”

On Monday, Emmanuel released a statement, saying the work of the church goes on.

“This past weekend, our church experienced one of the greatest tragedies we can imagine,” the church said.  “Pastor John Powell, in an act in the image of His sacrificial Savior, was killed in a traffic accident.  While we deeply grieve this loss, we remember what he would want us to remember: that Christ is the head of this church, and the vision and passion that John instilled in us is still alive.”

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Bob Smietana
Bob Smietana

Bob has served as a senior writer for Facts & Trends, senior editor of Christianity Today, religion writer at The Tennessean, correspondent for RNS and contributor to OnFaith, USA Today and The Washington Post.

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