The Narrows: A church and the pastor who hadn’t planned on starting one

The Narrows in Zion National Park, Photo by Dr. JS via Flickr
The entrance to the Narrows at Zion National Park. While a play on words citing Matthew 7: 13-14 in the New Testament, The Narrows Church also references the geological formation, Zion National Park, September, 2011 | Photo courtesy of Dr. JS via Flickr

ST. GEORGE – When Pastor James Hazelton moved to Utah in 1995, his original intent was to minister to the members of the Mormon faith, not to start a church. After over two decades of ministering and teaching in various capacities, Hazelton became an ordained Baptist pastor and started The Narrows Church in 2011.

The name of the church is a play on words, Hazelton said. It references Matthew 7: 13-14 from the New Testament, and also the well known geological formation found in Zion National Park. He said his wife came up with the name.

“She’s the creative one,” he said. “I would have called it ‘that church over there.’”

The Narrows Church

“We’re a contemporary Southern Baptist church,” Hazelton said. He described the church-goers as being “big on the Bible,” yet not stiff, or “holier-than-thou.”

“We’re not big on ties,” he said, explaining casual attire was welcome at the church. “We’re not about outward appearances. We want people to come as they are.”

He said the church’s basic mission is “just being simple.” Larger churches tend to get overcomplicated with an excess of specialized ministries, he said. In contrast, The Narrows focuses on three – Sunday services, children’s ministry, and discipleship (adult Sunday school).

“We’re simply for teaching the Bible,” he said.

For individuals interested in learning “the nitty-gritty of theology,” Hazelton added, the discipleship program offers 10 lessons that dive into the subject and don’t “dumb-down” the message for those who study it. “We teach people the big words,” he said.

Pastor James Hazelton and family, Washington, Utah, 2011 | Photo courtesy of James Hazelron

The Narrows Church has no specific audience it caters to beyond those who are serious about learning from the Bible, Hazelton said. “People with a genuine desire to understand the Bible – they come and stay,” he said.

People go to church for different needs. Some are looking for solace and support, others for fulfillment. The bottom-line reason to be at church is forgiveness of sins, he said. As long as people looked to God for forgiveness and aid, things will work out.

“If your focus is right, your problems aren’t so disastrous,” Hazelton said.

The Narrows Church meets for Sunday services at 7:15 p.m., at the First Baptist Church of St. George, 326 S 300 East, St. George.  For additional information, visit The Narrows Church website, or call 435-592-2605.

God and the Newtown shooting

With last week’s massacre in Newtown, Conn., still fresh on the minds of the nation, there are people who question or blame God for allowing such an atrocity to happen.

“The basic reality is bad things happen,” Hazelton said. “We praise ourselves when good things happen,” Hazelton said. “When bad things happen, we blame God.”

He said people are very protective of their free will – their right to choose their own course of action. “Everyone wants their free will,” he said.

Yet, when something horrible occurs at the hands of someone else using that free will, people wonder: “Why didn’t God stop him?” For people who make poor choices and know it, Hazelton said they tend to ask the question in a slightly different manner: “Why didn’t God stop me?”

In the end, Hazelton said the reason bad things happen is because of man’s fallen nature.

Hazelton: Called to Utah

Originally from Long Beach, Calif., Hazelton was introduced to Mormon missionaries while in high school. Through his own studies and consulting with others, he came to the conclusion he did not agree with their teachings. He said he prayed one night for Jesus to save him, and He did. That was in 1989. After this, he said he felt bound for Utah.

“I knew I would be a missionary to the Mormons,” Hazelton said.

He attended Calvary Chapel Bible College before relocating to Utah, and when a friend heard where he planned to go, he called Hazelton brave. This same friend, Hazelton said, was planning to minister in an Islamic country.

After reaching St. George in 1995, Hazelton became a youth pastor. Though it wasn’t originally in his plans, he said God was using the youth ministry as a way to push him in the right direction.  It wasn’t until 1999 that he began to seriously think about planting a church.  In the years following he travelled across the state, speaking to the congregations of various churches.

Hazelton became an officially ordained minister of the Color Country Baptist Association, a regional chapter of the Southern Baptist Convention, in 2011.

While leading the church, Hazelton continues to minister to Mormon members of the community through writing tracts, knocking on doors and occasionally meeting with Mormon missionaries to discuss various points of doctrine.

Christmas Eve-Eve service

The Narrows Church will be holding a Christmas Eve-Eve service on Sunday, Dec. 23 – hence the Eve-Eve – at 7:15 p.m. at the First Baptist Church. For additional information, visit The Narrows Church website, or call 435-592-2605.

Recap of Sunday service times

Sunday service: 7:15 p.m. at the First Baptist Church of St. George

The Narrows Church also participates in college ministry called Ignite, which meets on second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at the First Baptist Church at 7 p.m.

The First Baptist Church of St. George is located at 326 S 300 East in St. George.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.

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  • Sean December 19, 2012 at 8:42 am

    Dear Pastor Hazleton, I appreciate your zeal to bring the good news of repentance and forgiveness to a world that sorely needs it, even in Utah. I hope that as you meet with members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you can share your faith in Christ and how He is blessing you. I also hope that you can be strengthened by their faith and testimonials of forgiveness. And, I hope you can discuss such sensitive topics with the care and sensitivity of a true Christian. I trust your ministry isn’t one of those “let me tell you the truths about Mormonism!” type gigs, which always cause the LDS to wink at each other as you’re filling them in on some carefully picked obscure Brigham Young quotes – “yep” they think to themselves, “studied Brigham Young in Priesthood and Relief Society a few years back.” I also hope that you carefully consider their basis for believing the Book of Mormon as the word of God, even as they believe the Bible as the word of God. “Bible-only” believers would also do well to ponder how or why they believe their position is stronger than one who believes that biblical revelatory processes continue in our day. Anyhow, may the Lord bless you and your family, sincerely.

  • Fred Barrett December 19, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    Isn’t it amazing how one can find a totally different message from the bible than another. That is the reason why in the plan of man (male & Female) of our great God includes so many different organizations that profess to be diciples of Jesus Christ. It would by the system that God has set up is for the benefit of each of his children to help them to progress to that state of perfection he has commanded each of us to obtain.

    For myself the bible is very clear on the principle of being saved. in the words of the Lord through Matthew and Mark if one endures to the end the same shall be saved. See Matt 24:13 & Mark 13:13. It is obvious that we must keep the commandments of the Lord in order to endure to the end so we maybe saved. see John 15:10.

    Having come from a long line of southern baptist and after studying the bible for going on 40 years I have concluded that I must keep the higher law which the Savior gave to his diciples by keeping his commandments and endure to the end of this mortal existence which is the strait and narrow we must tread so we an be saved. It’s not over until it is over or in other words salvation does not come until our job in partnership with Jesus Christ is completed so He can apply his grace in our effort to lift us from this bottomless pit.

    Of course this is the conclusion I have come to after a long study of the scriptures.

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