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‘Hillbilly preacher’ Mike Jones has found Big Bone Baptist to be the perfect fit for 35 years

By Mark Maynard
Kentucky Today

Mike Jones’ first day as pastor of Big Bone Baptist Church was Valentine’s Day 1988.

It seems fitting. Few have a bigger heart for reaching the lost than the likable Jones, who recently celebrated 35 years as the pastor of this rural church in Northern Kentucky.

Jones is a humble servant who will preach in bib overalls, calling himself a “hillbilly preacher” who doesn’t have a lot of letters after his name. “It’s been all God because I don’t have any credentials at all,” he said. “I flunked out at EKU after one semester and joined the Marine Corp. I was in farming and God called me to preach.”

Jones is also quick with the one-liners and poking fun at himself. “I’m a Sunday morning anesthetist. I put them down quick in the pew.”

Mike Jones has been the pastor of Big Bone Baptist Church in northern Kentucky since 1988. Jones and wife Jeannine have enjoyed the experience of the rural church. (Photo from Kentucky Today)

All kidding aside, Jones has taken Big Bone Baptist to big places with his leadership. Two years into his ministry, he put together a $600,000 building program that included tearing down the old church that was built in the 1800s – and that meant dealing with the Historical Society who took a dim view of taking down anything with history.

“It wasn’t holding the crowds and the balcony was pulling loose,” he said. “There was nothing historical about it. We got into a building program in 1990 and had a new building in 1992. Big Bone is so far in the country. But we paid off $600,000 and 10 years later built a $1.2 million gym and classrooms. Even the KBC said you better think about that twice. We paid for it before the note was due. That’s the amazing things, some of what God has done. Big Bone is a different church, an anomaly of what a country church ought to be.”

Jones is a mission-minded pastor who believes in the Cooperative Program and going on the mission field himself. He has been to India 23 times and his wife has gone with him 18 times. The church paid the way and he’s gone with his shirt rolled up. “They sent me with one-way tickets but I found my way back. I’m like an old cat,” he quipped.

Jones said he appreciates the experience of going on missions and finds it mind-boggling. “I never dreamed a hillbilly who grew up on the farm would be preaching the gospel to people who never heard the name of Jesus.”

The secret to much of his success goes to his wife, Jeannine, Jones said. They celebrated 50 years of marriage in January. They married when he was in the Marines and have two sons and a daughter. He said she was mission-minded, like him, and has enjoyed the trips to India as well.

“I could not have done it without a wife who supports me,” he said. “A lot of preacher’s wives will say, ‘I’m done. You need to do something else.’ My wife has hung with me. It ain’t easy. It may be worse being a preacher’s kid.”

Big Bone is the fourth church for Jones who said he realized the call after listening to Jack Taylor, a famous evangelist. “I told my dad I wanted to go into full-time ministry. That was when my dad realized I was serious about it. I was able to sit down with him and won him to Jesus. If I hadn’t obeyed Him, I don’t know if I’d ever had the opportunity to witness to Dad.”

Jones was a bi-vocational pastor for four years. In the next church he was asked to “vacant the premises” after 9 ½ months even though 26 people had been saved. “That was my first eye-opening experience. You preach the Bible, people respect that. But you find out the hard way not everybody likes Bible preaching.”

He opened the church down the road that had been abandoned and built a new building there. But more heartache was coming. “The reason we came to Big Bone, four deacons (at the previous church) couldn’t do enough to get rid of me. You get tired of the fight.”

The move to Big Bone though has obviously stuck with 35 years in the books. “God deserves the credit,” Jones said.

He will preach anywhere, anytime to any number. He worked a truck stop ministry for nearly 30 years and has preached 150 revivals. “People are desperate, I guess,” Jones said.

Another piece of the success at Big Bone has been worship and associate pastor Joe Beil, who has been Jones’ sidekick for 35 years.

He describes Jones as “authentic and down to earth” and “connects with people where they are and develops trust with people so fast.”

Beil said the church loved Jones and his wife so much that they paid for a trip to send them to Israel on their second Christmas as pastor.

“He has made hard decisions that you’d think wouldn’t be popular, but he’s allowed people to take leadership too. He’s great at getting the gospel out, honoring the Lord and is doctrinally sound. He and his wife are beloved.”

And Beil said despite Jones poking fun at himself for putting people to sleep in the pews, it’s nothing like that. “He’s one of the most prepared, focused and articulate preachers you’ll ever hear.”

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