Former ‘car guy’ returns to church roots
BAYARD — Local native Brad Kihlthau had spent several years working as the service manager for two local car dealerships, but he kept hearing a call to return to his roots in the church.
“I grew up in a farm north of Scottsbluff and my parents helped start Calvary Memorial Church in Gering,” Kihlthau said.
After graduating from Scottsbluff in 1980 and two years at then Nebraska Western College, he went to work in the automotive industry.
“I’ve always been a car guy, but I was also led to serve more and more in the church,” he said. “I thought I might lose my job by asking the boss for some days off to work in the church, but he said OK.”
Kihlthau began serving more at Calvary Memorial and started his schooling through Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute and Trinity Bible College in Indiana.
“I was working full-time and studying full-time, and raising a couple of kids along the way,” he said. “After that I came on as an associate pastor at Calvary Memorial for about six years.”
Kihlthau said he knew the Lord was going to move the family, as it’s pretty hard to stay in the church where he grew up.
“We thought we were going to Utah, so I went out to interview for a position,” he said. “While I was waiting for an answer, Community Bible Church in Bayard asked me to help fill the pulpit. I’ve been here for 11 years as pastor.”
He called it an act of faith, because with about 20 regular attendees, the church couldn’t offer a lot of support. Plus, there were two kids in the youth program.
But today, average attendance is about 80 people and the children’s ministry has started up again with about 50 young people attending on a regular basis.
The building has been remodeled and they’ve acquired some property to the north for outdoor services. It also serves as a place for children to play and for picnics.
“The Lord has really blessed us,” Kihlthau said. “We have a lot of young families coming now from Scottsbluff and Gering, Bridgeport and even some people from Gurley.”
Church members also conduct a Sunday morning worship service for seniors at Chimney Rock Villa.
“I don’t have the impression we only need to attract younger people,” Kihlthau said. “We need older people to help keep our feet on the ground and going in the right direction. That’s why I call it a church family. It’s for every age group.”
As a nondenominational church, their focus is in their name – teaching the Bible.
“I think people are hungry for the truth,” he said. “They don’t want to hear some worldly pep talk. They want the facts.”
Kihlthau said it was a blessing that he worked in the secular world before the ministry because he can relate to people and what they go through in their lives.
Away from the pulpit, he gets involved in the community in several ways, from serving as a high school basketball referee to mentoring kids in the 4-H program.
“I enjoy seeing people grow spiritually,” said. “That’s what motivates me in this line of work.”