Fall is a busy time for Dennis Trull and his family,
with three children playing basketball, plus church
activities that involve the entire family.
"Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday we have
basketball, and Wednesday and Sunday we go to church,"
he says, with just a touch of hysteria beneath the
satisfaction he gets from two jobs well done.
With two children in high school and one in middle
school, at times the Trulls find it necessary to split
up in order to be sure each child has a parent at his or
her ballgame. He admits the pace is frenzied, "but we
enjoy it," he says. "We want the kids to know we love
them and support them. I don't think they ever had a
game when one of us wasn't there."
That church also occupies a great deal of the family's
time is due partly to the fact that Trull is the pastor
of the First Baptist Church in McKenzie, a position he
has held since 1997.
Conversation with Trull reveals that family and church
are inseparably dear to him, part and parcel of his
truth that, for Christians, "Jesus is not part of your
life, he is your life."
He speaks of his family with confidence and warmth. His
wife, Suzanne, plays the piano at church and teaches
music at Milan Elementary School. She also plays the
piano for special church gatherings, conferences and
"She loves the piano; I get the privilege of listening
to that at my house," he says sincerely.
Additionally, Trull says fondly, "She's a great mom, and
she has a great sense of fairness; she always wants
things to be fair, especially when it comes to the
children. And she is very creative," he adds thankfully,
remembering school projects the children bring home that
he gratefully passes on to her, while helping out with
more pragmatic subjects.
Their son, Brandon, is a senior at McKenzie High School
and is student council president as well as being a
starter on the Rebel basketball team. Trull looks
forward to a father-son trip with Brandon over the next
few weeks to East Tennessee State University in Johnson
"Ever since he could talk he's wanted to be a doctor,"
Trull said, explaining Brandon's interest in the
school's pre-med program and medical school.
Jordan, fifteen years old and a freshman at McKenzie
High School, plays baseball and basketball, but "his
love is baseball," says his father.
Anna is a seventh grader in McKenzie Middle School where
she is a member of the basketball team and is in the
"All the kids are in the Beta Club; they must get that
from their mama," Trull says with a grin.
Not only musically talented, the kids' intelligent
mother has a master's degree in voice performance from
Dennis himself made education a priority in his life
after graduating from Humboldt High School. He grew up
in a government housing complex where he lived with his
older sister, Sandra, and his hard-working parents, J.W.
(James William), who worked for the railroad and, Oweida,
who worked for the telephone company, jobs they held
until their retirement.
What may have been lacking financially in his childhood
was more than made up for in a loving home.
"I had a family that loved me, a family that cared for
us and provided for us. I'm sure they had struggles us
kids never knew about," he says.
Trull graduated from Memphis State University in 1977
with a degree in business administration, with an
emphasis in communications and advertising. He wasn't a
Christian during his college years, despite the fact
that he was raised in the church.
"I went to church all the time, but when I got to
college I quit going. The guys I roomed with didn't go,
so nobody went," he says.
Right before graduation, Trull felt the Lord was dealing
with him, conveying, "You've got all that knowledge in
your head, you need to have it in your heart."
After graduation, he worked for M.M. Cohn in Memphis for
a year, then worked for the Fort Howard Paper Company,
with Jackson, Mississippi as his territory.
It was during that time that he began attending church
at Briarwood Drive Baptist Church where he took an
interest in the young organist, Suzanne McCardle. It was
also the year, in 1978, that he was saved.
"That's where the Lord called me," Trull says, recalling
that the pastor asked the congregation to turn to
Matthew 17:7. Finding the passage, Trull read ahead of
the pastor the details of the transfiguration, which
begins with the first verse of Matthew 17:
"And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John
his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain
apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face
did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the
light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and
Elias talking with him. Then answered Peter, and said
unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou
wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee,
and one for Moses, and one for Elias. While he yet spake,
behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a
voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved
Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. And when
the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and
were sore afraid."
The next verse spoke directly to Trull's heart when it
said, "And Jesus came and touched them, and said,
"Arise, and be not afraid."
"I felt like that's what He was telling me to do," says
Trull confidently. That day, he made his commitment
He and Suzanne were married on September 6, 1981.
"That's when he made our first compromise," Trull
laughs. "She wanted to get married at 3:00 and I wanted
to get married at 2:00, so we got married at 2:30 on a
Six months later the young couple left Mississippi for
the New Orleans Baptist Seminary where he began taking
classes in the summer of 1982.
He enjoys telling a story of how God's mysterious ways
"work... for good to them that love God, to them who are
the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:29.)
In New Orleans, Dennis found a job working with the Bank
of New Orleans as a teller, while Suzanne found
employment as a music and Bible teacher at Carrollton
Preparatory School. A distance of 13 miles separated the
two job locations, and the Trulls had one car between
them. While they wondered how they would cope with the
problem, Suzanne proceeded to sign the contract to
complete her employment. A gentleman walked up to her
and asked, "Is your husband in the seminary? Would he be
interested in driving a school bus?"
Suzanne's misgivings at the offer were defeated when he
continued, "It pays $13.75 per trip."
So it was that Dennis joined four other seminary
student-bus drivers who, after picking the children up
and delivering them to school in the morning, drove to
their own classes in one bus, then went back at 2:00 to
take the children home, "and we only needed one car,"
Trull finished, "God took care of it."
He and Suzanne went on a church-planting trip to Oakland
City, Indiana where, after completing some survey work,
they hoped to start a Bible study that would eventually
produce a church.
"And it did," says Trull, though the church began after
their work in the area was finished. They had been able
to see the fruits of their efforts as doors were opened:
"There were times when we didn't even have a place to
meet and someone would call and offer their home," he
The Trulls' first son, Brandon, was born June 22, 1984.
A year later, in May, Dennis graduated from the seminary
with a master of divinity degree.
Trull has been
pastor of four churches since he completed his studies.
His first church was the First Baptist Church in Sledge,
Mississippi, "home of Charlie Pride in the Mississippi
Delta," he declares.
"That was a wonderful first church - man!" he exclaims.
"I went back last year to preach at revival. They were
so loving, so caring... They did try to hurt me by
feeding me last year," he laughs. "It was a great first
experience; they treated us like we were their own
On October 1, 1986, while the family was at
Sledge, their second child, Jordan, was born.
In 1987, Trull became the pastor of the First Baptist
Church in Tunica, Mississippi. "That was 'B.C.' - before
casino," he says adamantly, and with some dismay. "We
tried to fight it but too many people in the county
wanted it - they gave in - they thought it was going to
be a boon to the town and it wasn't."
On January 11, 1989, the couple's third child, Anna, was
The couple accepted their third calling to the First
Baptist Church in Savannah in 1992, when Trull also
began pursuing his doctorate of ministry, which he
completed in May, 1995.
They began talking with the search committee for the
First Baptist Church in McKenzie in the fall of 1997,
and was called here to pastor on November 16, 1997.
Having pastored four First Baptist Churches, Trull says
he has found that "any First Baptist Church anywhere has
an image problem." People unacquainted with the churches
typically expect the church body to be "cold, callous,
uncaring, and rich," says Trull.
While no church is perfect, Trull emphasizes, he says
the church in McKenzie is "a very loving church (that
is) very supportive of their pastor and staff. The
deacon body sees themselves as servants of the Lord...
there are all age groups; It is a very loving family and
I feel very fortunate to be the pastor."
Trull outlined some of the programs the church is
involved in, not the least of which is an aggressive
outreach program, called FAITH, that is connected with
"Sunday School is very important part of reaching people
in the community," he says. "It is the natural place to
assimilate people into the church, enjoying fellowship,
worshiping and working together with them in the kingdom
And there are a lot of people to be reached. Trull
mentally listed area churches and the number of
worshippers attending each one. Considering a population
of around 5,500 people, he estimated that between 65% to
75% of the population of McKenzie is unchurched any
"A lot of people need to be reached and that is
everybody's responsibility who knows God," says Trull.
"Acts 1:8 teaches if you have received the Holy Spirit
then you will be the witness of Christ; we all have the
responsibility to share our faith."
After bringing new Christians into the fold of the
church, Trull says, "I believe that a great need in our
church today is discipleship." Too often, he feels new
believers are left to struggle on their own as they grow
- or don't grow - in their Christian faith. The remedy
for the problem for Pastor Trull is discipleship.
"The word Christian is mentioned three times in the New
Testament, believer a dozen times, but disciple is
mentioned over 250 times," he says, explaining that he
feels Christian is a word too often misused, with
disciple more effectively describing a true follower of
"If you ask most people, they were never really
discipled," he continues, "and Jesus spent almost three
years with those guys. Our church is trying to make a
concerted effort to disciple people."
Clayton Owen, minister of education at the church,
provides resource material for the new Christian, or
disciple, to work through while also assigning a mature
believer to check on his or her progress from time to
time, to answer questions, and to pray for their
efforts. Another person is assigned over the pair as an
encourager to both the disciple and discipler.
With services at the church split into two morning
services, separated by a common Sunday School, weekly
newsletters announce new members and all activities that
are taking place within the church in order to ensure
communication among the congregation as a whole.
Worship services are a "blended program of choruses and
traditional hymns," says Trull, who doesn't foresee a
praise band in the future of the church.
"There are adults who just want hymns, and youth who
want only praise choruses and not hymns," he says. He
sees virtue in both types of music, explaining, "Praise
hymns sing directly to God, but there is some deep Godly
theology in some of those hymns; you can go overboard
He illustrates the importance of a variety of worship
methods with Colossians 3:16, "Let the word of Christ
dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and
admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and
spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to
"I do think the most important part is a personal
relationship with Christ; if that relationship is right,
people will share their faith," he says.
Faith in Jesus precludes the popular concept of some in
America that both Christians and Muslims worship the
Not so, says pastor Trull.
"Jesus is God," he says, "It's easy for most to say
something about God, but when they say Jesus is God, it
separates people real quick. And since Jesus is God, how
you live every day says whether you believe that or not.
Your lifestyle shows your theology - how we live every
day. If your life is vertically right, it will be
While the church places an emphasis on the family,
sponsoring women's and men's conferences and marriage
retreats and especially programs for children and youth,
the congregation is also quick to recognize the
importance of community, with this November 4 being
Community Service Recognition Sunday. "The Police
Department, Fire Department and paramedics do a lot of
valuable work; we just want to say thank you," says
On January 2 and 3, the church plans to provide lunch
and prayer for schoolteachers on their day of inservice
as a way of saying "thank you for influence they're
having on our kids," says Trull.
Also related to the schools is "Knees at Noon", a
program which seeks to have as many members of the
community as will to take time during the noon hour "to
be faithful to pray for the kids and teachers in our
"McKenzie is a place I like to raise my family. There
are people in this community that help in the spiritual
development of our children, at church and in the school
system," he says.
He acknowledges with deep appreciation members of the
church staff, Clayton Owen, minister of Education and
head of the Child Development Center, who "has been a
great help to me"; Lisa Newman, who "holds the office
together"; Ben Pottorft, Minister of Youth and
Recreation, who is taking seminary extension classes at
Union University and is a new daddy; Dr. Alan Cross
(head of the music department at Bethel College) who is
interim Minister of Music; and Mr. Bill Edwards, interim
Trull lost his father in 1988, but his mother "remains
very active in her church, house, and yard," says her
Suzanne's mother, Rose McCurdle ("More fondly called
Granny") recently moved to McKenzie and is a nurse at
the Methodist Hospital. "I have a great mother-in-law,"
His sister, Sandra Pickard, works in the business office
at Memphis' Lebonheur Hospital.
Trull is the assistant moderator and evangelism director
of the Carroll-Benton Baptist Association and has been
on the executive board of Southern Baptist Convention
for the past six years.