doc marten fashion Adrian Wideman tackles new calling
Adrian Wideman didn’t just resist his call to be a pastor he ran from it.
The idea of being put up on a pedestal and under scrutiny by an entire church made him uncomfortable and Wideman had different plans for his future.
In fact, the pastor of Mt. Olive Baptist Church said when he graduated from college he would have had harsh words for anyone who told him he’d be a pastor.
“I probably would have cussed them out,” he said, laughing.
For most of his life, Wideman’s ambition was to play in the NFL. After graduating from Greenwood High School in 1996, he went to Hampton University in Virginia on a full scholarship.
When he graduated, his agent told him his chances of getting recruited by a professional team were good.
“My agent was calling me saying, ‘Kansas City, they’re interested in you,'” he said. “I was sitting there in my apartment alone, waiting for my name to be called. The last day of the draft, it came down to the last pick, and it wasn’t me. I was devastated. I knew I was going to the NFL. I knew it.”
But that didn’t put an end to his dream of playing professional football. He went to a free agent camp in Texas. After that, the Baltimore Ravens invited him to their training camp.
Wideman again found himself waiting to be called up to the pros. And again, he faced disappointment.
“To get that call again to say, ‘You know what, they pulled out, they don’t want you to come,’ devastating,” he said. “If someone would have told me, ‘You know what, you’re not going to play football, you’re going to pastor a small church in Saluda, South Carolina,’ I would have told them they were crazy. I did everything. I called every NFL team myself and kept calling. But it didn’t happen. And now I know why.”
Wideman majored in broadcast journalism in college and after the Ravens turned him away, Wideman returned to Hampton to work as an associate sports information director, where he commentated on the school’s sports. A year later, he started playing arena football and spent four years playing for teams in Virginia and South Carolina.
When Wideman finally retired from football, he found himself at a crossroads and made a decision he’d turned away from his entire life up to that point. He chose to become a pastor.
“I can remember the day,” he said. “I was sitting at the foot of my bed and I said, ‘OK Lord, I will accept this calling.’ And immediately and I’m not exaggerating things changed in my life.”
He’d made his decision, but part of him was still uneasy with the idea of becoming a pastor. He called the people he trusted most to share the news, but part of him hoped someone would talk him out of it.
“I remember when I accepted the call I called my dad, I had lunch with my mom, I went over to my dad’s house, I talked to my grandfather,
” he said. “I wanted someone to tell me, ‘No, this ain’t you.’ I wanted someone to tell me, ‘Nah, go back and pray about it. This ain’t really what you’re supposed to be doing.'”
But that’s not the reaction he got. His father, James Wideman, said he wasn’t surprised to hear his son’s decision.
“He called me and said, ‘Daddy, I need to come by and talk to you,’ and that’s when I knew,” said James, who now serves as Mt. Olive’s minister of music. “He came by the house and we sat down and talked and he said he’d been running for a long time and he just couldn’t run no more.”
But just because Wideman had chosen to become a pastor didn’t mean he was done resisting. When Wideman received his pastor’s license after three years of training under Pastor Philip Baldwin at Bethlehem Baptist Church, he said he was ready to take the helm at a large church with thousands of members.
Instead, he was offered a position at Mt. Olive, a church that at the time had about 25 active members in a rural part of Saluda County.
“I didn’t know how to get to the church and one of the deacons’ daughters lived around the corner from me so I followed her to the church,” he said. “We just kept going and kept going. We were on the road to the church and she slammed on her breaks and I was right behind her and so I slammed on my breaks. And there was a chicken that was crossing the road. And I said, ‘Oh no, this is not where I’m supposed to be.'”
Since starting at Mt. Olive, Wideman said he’s come to regret his first impressions of the church.
“Mt. Olive is a gem, and not because of me,” he said. “It was a gem before I got there. The people are giving and loving and they’ve taught me how to be a better pastor.”
When Wideman took over at Mt. Olive, he brought with him an energy and passion that didn’t go unnoticed by the congregation and surrounding community. In the seven years he’s been the pastor, the number of Mt. Olives active members has more than quadrupled, and about 120 people fill its pews every Sunday.
State Sen. Floyd Nicholson, D Greenwood, is the chairman of the deacons at the church and was on the search committee that hired Wideman. He said Wideman’s enthusiasm helped revitalize the small church and grow its membership.
“He’s made a great change,” said Nicholson, whose been a member of Mt. Olive since he was a child. “He’s a younger pastor, which is more appeal to the young people. So he can appeal to the young people and the older people.”
Before Wideman was Nicholson’s pastor, he was his student. Nicholson served as principal of Northside Middle School while Wideman was a student there, and he said he wasn’t surprised the young man he knew came to be a leader in his church.
“I really saw it years ago,” he said. “He’s always been involved in the church, he sang, he played the piano and I always figured he had the potential to eventually do that.”
Wideman said looking back on his winding path to ministry, it couldn’t have happened any other way.
“I think the reason God was allowing me to run was so that he could shape and mold me into the person I needed to be to be a good pastor,” he said. “I’m still learning. I’m still learning how to preach, I’m still learning how to pastor,
but the things I went through before I answered the call have helped me now that I’m in the calling.”