A man of worth celebrates 50 years at Ivy Hill
Teresa Buckner, Special to the Recorder
September 20, 2010

A man of worth celebrates 50 years at Ivy Hill

A man of worth celebrates 50 years at Ivy Hill
Teresa Buckner, Special to the Recorder
September 20, 2010

Worth Emory believes Jesus

never really stopped being a carpenter.

“The Bible doesn’t say, but

I just have an idea that if Jesus went to Mary and Martha’s house and they

needed something fixed, He fixed it,” Emory said.

“I just believe that was the

kind of thing Jesus did.”

A carpenter himself, Emory

has thought a lot about the ways Jesus may have used his carpentry skills, as

he “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38).

Recently, Emory celebrated

his 50th anniversary as pastor of Ivy Hill Baptist Church in northern Buncombe


It is rare for a pastor to

be in active ministry for 50 years, and exceedingly rare that his entire

ministry would take place at one church.

Also remarkable is the fact

that Emory has led this small country church in northern Buncombe County, with

Sunday attendance of about 80, to reach out in ministry across the

world. Ivy Hill has sent teams of builders to erect dozens of churches and

homes in several states, Venezuela and Honduras.

And usually at the helm of

the team is Emory, hammer in hand, working alongside Christians from around the

world wanting a building in which to live or worship.

“Jesus wasn’t just concerned

about the spiritual, He was concerned about the whole of mankind,” Emory


“He cares about everything

about us. And when He told His followers to go to Jerusalem and Judea and

Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth, He wasn’t just talking to

them, He was talking to me too.”

That belief feeds an

insatiable desire to help people, and for Emory, helping people is not just a

matter for words, but of actions.

“I’m a firm believer that

sometimes before you can really tell people about Jesus you’ve got to do

something for them to let them know you care about them. If somebody’s

hungry and you go and say, ‘Now, Jesus loves you,’ and don’t feed them, what

good is that?” he said

Emory gives his wife, Marie,

much of the credit for allowing him to pursue his love of missions.

“She’s been as big a part of

this as I have,” he said. “I tell people quite often she has carried more

of the load than I have. She took care of the family more, since I was

gone so much on mission trips and preaching revivals.”

Buncombe County native

Emory’s deep, slow drawl

marks him as a Buncombe county native. His church is about a mile from the

house in which he was born — the ninth of 10 children.

Emory married Marie Whitt in

1956, and announced his calling to preach in the same year. He preached his

first sermon at North Black Mountain Baptist Church in Barnardsville in

November 1956.

After an Army stint, the

Emory family returned to the Ivy Hill community in 1959.

Worth did carpentry work as

a youth, and in fact, he helped build the current Ivy Hill Church. He

began doing carpentry to support his family, and he preached at several area

churches. Then in 1960, the pastor of Ivy Hill Church resigned and the church

called Emory for a one-year trial.

Mars Hill photo

Worth Emory has been pastor at Ivy Hill Baptist Church in northern Buncombe County for 50 years.

He passed.

He knew he wanted to

encourage the church to be more involved in missions and he felt impressed to

buy small world banks for every family in the church. The next Sunday, he

preached on giving to missions, and he passed out the banks, asking each family

to put money in the bank every time they thought of missions. When they

brought the banks back together, they had raised quite a bit of money.

“That sold that church on

missions,” he said, “and we’ve been a giving ever since.”

Unable to go to seminary, he

read voraciously to educate himself, often taking recommendations about reading

material from religion professors at nearby Mars Hill College.

He also took seminary

extension courses through the French Broad Baptist Association, earning a

diploma in pastoral ministry and numerous certificates of completion.

Then in 1971, Emory

volunteered to go with a group of Baptist men to build a church in Twin Falls,

Idaho. Little did he know it was to be the start of a chain of events that

would make his carpentry skills an integral part of his ministry as he participated

in or led teams every couple of years.

In 1980 Emory went to build

a church in a small village in Honduras called Santa Cruz. There, Emory

experienced the culture shock that Americans often encounter in Central

American countries.

Culture shock

“When I went into Santa Cruz

on that first trip, the water was so polluted we couldn’t even wash in it,” he

said. “There wasn’t a building in

the village that had anything but a dirt floor, and some of the children had

swelled bellies where they didn’t get enough to eat.”

Emory and his team built a

church during the visit and later returned to install a tile floor.

“Somehow that building just

gave those people hope,” he said. “That first time we went back,

everything looked a little better.”

Ivy Hill started sponsoring

church members to participate in building teams to Honduras yearly. Each

time the team stayed in the city of Choleteca and ventured into the nearby

villages for building projects. For the first 20 years, the teams built

churches in the surrounding villages. Nine years ago, Ivy Hill began

organizing and leading trips to build houses for especially needy families.

Soon after the Ivy Hill

groups started coming, Southern Baptist missionaries came to the area and dug

wells, further raising the standard of living for the people around Choleteca.

With each trip, the Ivy Hill

team members started jamming their luggage full of extra clothing that they

could leave with the people in the village where they worked. In addition to

raising money for the buildings, the church began sending additional funds

which were used to buy corn, beans and rice in bulk to be distributed to people

in need. People from the church also began coming to hold a Bible School

for the children during the building project.

“I’ve watched a village be

transformed,” he said. “They have a nice school house now, a good deep

well with good water, a lot of the houses have floors now, and you very seldom

see the children looking undernourished.”

At 76, Emory is remarkably

fit, but a recent quadruple bypass made his doctor wary of the heat and hard

work involved in a Honduran trip.

About 200 people came to Ivy

Hill Church for Emory’s Aug. 1 anniversary celebration. As the

congregation filed outside after church to head to the fellowship hall, Emory

noticed that someone had parked a car on the grass. At first he believed

that the presence of numerous visitors had necessitated parking on the grass —

until he saw the big gold bow on top.

As a bi-vocational

pastor, Emory had made a habit of buying used cars. In celebration of his

50th anniversary, the church had purchased a brand new Nissan Altima for its

pastor who had taught them so much about giving to others.


— Buckner is media relations coordinator at Mars Hill College.)