A longtime area pastor who grew up in Neosho has connections to a rural church near there that keep bringing him back.

A longtime area pastor who grew up in Neosho has connections to a rural church near there that keep bringing him back.
Phillip McClendon recently celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary at Hilldale Baptist Church, where he and his wife, Jackie, were married on Sunday, Dec. 18, 1966. They marked their half century of marriage on the same day of the week, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016.
Hilldale was also the church where Phillip attended as a child and made a decision to go into the ministry at age 17.
The connections to Hilldale don’t stop there for this veteran pastor, who retired in 2010 after serving 26 years as senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Joplin and three other churches before that.
The next situation that drew Phillip back to Hilldale and out of retirement came in 2013. That is when he got a call to help out the Neosho church as the interim pastor while the search continued for a full-time minister to fill the pulpit.
The search ended, however, when Hilldale asked Phillip to take over full-time. Phillip accepted the offer four years ago and is back preaching at the church where he not only grew up but, also, got married.
When his high school graduation day was approaching, Phillip had to decide where to attend college to prepare for the ministry.
His first choice was Southwest Baptist at Bolivar but he found it too expensive for his family to afford. That is when he had an unexpected door open.
A visiting evangelist from Kentucky, who was leading revival services at Hilldale, asked Phillip what he was going to do with his life. After telling him that he wanted to go to college and study for the ministry but didn’t have the money, Phillip said the evangelist invited him to Kentucky where he would see that he would get a scholarship.
That same Kentucky preacher presided over the ceremonies at the McClendons’ wedding.
In their half century together, the McClendons have traveled many roads during Phillip’s ministry, but their current path has been to return them to their roots.
Jackie, who grew up near Granby, met Phillip through her brother at a Neosho skating rink, so both share ties to the Neosho area.
Phillip went to Hilldale School through the eighth grade while growing up in the Hilldale church.
“Now that we are back at my home church, we see some of our same old buddies still around at Hilldale,” he said. “We still laugh and joke just like we did 50 years ago. It is just a good old country church.”
Services and activities at the church are still done much in the same fashion as in the 1960s, said Phillip, who recently fulfilled a longtime dream by visiting Greece and Turkey to trace the steps of the Apostle Paul.
“We still do things the old-fashioned way and I don’t worry about trying to do something modern and mess it up,” he said. “You don’t want to mess up the atmosphere.”
Although Phillip has spent much of his life as a pastor in the Joplin area, he has not been content to keep his ministry inside church walls.
In that regard, his ministry has been not unlike that of the Apostle Paul, whose heart was in helping others turn their lives around through Christian principles.
Many people in the area know of Phillip through his latest outreach as the chaplain of the Joplin Blasters baseball team. But his ministry has been much farther reaching than that over the years.
He has served as senior chaplain with the International Fellowship of Chaplains, as well as been the chaplain of the Joplin police and fire departments.
His involvement with mental health services, along with serving a stint on the Ozark Center Board of Directors, goes back to 1985. He was appointed by the governor to the Missouri Department of Mental Health Commission in 2006.
Phillip’s ministry has even extended overseas in delivering medical supplies to the Holy Land. During his trips to Israel and surrounding areas, he was asked to train hospital workers and police officers in how to deal with mental health issues. He also talked to Bethlehem Bible College students to help them with their ministries in dealing with people over mental health problems.
Another remarkable moment in Phillip’s ministry was when he served a short period as the chaplain of the U.S. Senate.
Phillip has faced many difficult situations as a chaplain but has taken the example of Paul in that ministry.
“I learned a new insight into Paul’s thinking,” he said “When we try to get people to the gospel, we often start with our story rather than where those people are. Paul spoke to lonely, struggling people facing many problems and helped them on their level.
“He told people that they need to seek an inward peace more than an outward peace. If we could take his teachings and put them into our society, what an impact that would make.”