The building where Vic Carpenter works is discreet. Few people know where it is. And even fewer know what goes on behind its doors.
This is not the building he thought he would end up in. He thought his main office would be in a church, not an isolated government facility.
Carpenter thought he would take the conventional route of vocation ministry.
“I felt called to ministry in college. I was raised in a Christian home and thought I would take the easier route,” said Carpenter, the lead teaching pastor and co-planter of Redeemer Bible Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
For a time, Carpenter’s plan was simple. After graduating from college, he served in campus ministry at Appalachian State University, attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and served as a youth minister. He was on a typical trajectory to become a pastor.
“After that, I went to Southeastern Seminary to get my doctorate. While doing this, I served as an associate pastor and got my real estate license. So, for three years, I juggled with my doctorate. program and be a realtor,” he said. “I finally felt called to return to pulpit church ministry, so I started digging around and saw an opportunity with a church across town.”
In the 1950s this church was the largest in Durham city centre. For a young seminarian, the grand structure of the church was alluring. But the soul of the church was drying up.
Carpenter became the new senior pastor, excited to help revitalize the church.
“It was an older, dying church that had declined to a handful of people, barely filling a few pews. The remaining members of the church had no desire to reach anyone with the gospel,” he said “Those were the worst years of my life.”
Random job application
As Carpenter neared the end of his doctorate, his tenure as pastor of the dying church also ended.
“I started applying all over the United States to find a different church from the pastor. I applied to different places for almost a year and heard no callbacks. Everything seemed to die under me,” he said.
He and his family slowly entered a season of financial desperation. They needed something – anything – that would help them meet their needs.
“I just started applying for jobs that would help me support my family. One Friday night – on a whim – I looked up the FBI and applied. I didn’t tell anyone at first, not even my wife. I thought it was just a waste of time.
To his surprise, Carpenter responded and he went through the lengthy interview process. And six months later, he was hired and headed to the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.
“It was a drastic change of events. It provided for my family and it was exciting in a way. But it was also the death of a vision. It felt like I had messed up the last 10 years of my life,” Carpenter explained.
The FBI agent-pastor
Carpenter then worked for the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team, an elite group of specialized and skilled operators.
The HRT – the only full-time federal law enforcement counterterrorism unit – handles the most serious situations. And when civilian law enforcement finds itself in over their heads, this national-level tactical team springs into action.
When Carpenter started working for the HRT, a significant number of his new class of 12-man operators were Christians.
He and his fellow agents have had the opportunity to influence and share their faith within what is – by necessity – a close-knit and private community.
“I realized that I could testify to people that few others had access to,” he said. “In God’s providence, three other guys in my class and I started a workplace Bible study. It was my first time doing a Bible study in this type of environment.
As the weeks and months passed, other men began to be saved. And they took the gospel home, and their families also began to trust Jesus.
“Finally we thought, ‘Why don’t we start a church?’ said Carpenter, as they saw what the Lord was doing.
Carpenter and his colleagues were sent by Spotswood Baptist Church to plant Redeemer Bible Church in August 2019 – seven months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit US soil.
For five months, they met in a college auditorium across town. When the pandemic hit, they lost access to school.
“For a while we gathered in the yard of the church members, then in a giant field. And the Lord kept doubling down on the church and supporting our needs – even at the height of the pandemic,” he said. “And here we are, two and a half years later, and we are renting a building in our target area (at an affordable price), we are running two services, averaging 400 people a week, and we have just started another church Bible of the Redeemer in a town about 45 minutes north of us.
Anyone who has planted a church knows that it can be very expensive – depending on how you do it. But as Redeemer Bible Church proves, that doesn’t always have to be the case.
“We don’t have full-time paid staff in our church. I get no salary from the church, and neither does the senior pastor of the new church north of us – who is also an FBI agent. I’m not the only one doing this. Our youth minister is a full-time FBI agent who turned down the opportunity to move to the town he and his wife always wanted to live in to stay and do youth ministry. The Lord just blasted the youth group for the sacrifice they made,” Carpenter said.
Money that would have gone to salaries in the early years of their church’s launch was used in part to care for widows and orphans.
“Five different couples in our church have felt drawn to adopt children – some in foster care, abuse victims and internationally disabled children – and the church has paid the initial and legal fees for each adoption, which amount to more than $50,000.”
Carpenter told the story of a colleague who approached him at work.
“My colleague said, ‘I heard something really weird today,'” Carpenter explained, telling the story.
“What did you hear?” I answered him.
“My colleague went on to say, ‘I heard you preach in a church on the weekend. This cannot be true. Is it?
For Vic, conversations like this are common. And that’s usually how it starts. He says more about his church. They ask where his church meets and end up visiting. And they keep coming back.
Some come to faith in Jesus Christ for the first time. Others who left Christ and the Church years ago gained renewed interest and revitalization in the faith.
“So many of our colleagues and their families have come to Christ. I lost count at this point. Other members of the community also came to faith in Christ.
Shatter Evil and Build Justice
Carpenter likens his job to farming. “You pull out weeds and fend off outside forces to help protect a plant. And at the same time, you prune and tend to the plant to help it thrive. In my job at the FBI, I repel evil. And in the church, I can build up what is good and just.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This article was written by Shar Walker and was originally published by Send Network.