Occupation: Senior Pastor, Monte Vista Baptist Church.
Family: Wife, Kim, married 31 years; daughters Emily Mantooth, 27, Ellen Hill, 24.
Jerry Mantooth didn’t always want to be a minister.
The Monte Vista Baptist Church senior pastor was well on his way to becoming a dentist after graduating Oak Ridge High School in 1974 when he sensed his life was going in another direction.
“I was already registered at UT and was headed in that direction to go to college, and I sensed God calling me to the ministry. About a month before school started, I redirected everything and made the decision to go to Cumberland College,” he says.
Mantooth says he wasn’t sure what area of ministry he was being called to serve, but through college and seminary he determined he was meant to serve in a local church.
Jerry Mantooth met the love of his life while in college. Kim Mantooth was a alumnus of Clinton High School, which was Oak Ridge High School’s rival. A friend kept telling Jerry he knew a girl who wanted to go out with him.
“My initial thought was, she was so beautiful, I couldn’t believe she would go out with me. I was really bowled over,” Jerry says. “I asked her out, we had two dates, and then we decided to just be friends for a while. After about a year and a half, the relationship grew beyond a friendship into a romance.”
After graduating college and then seminary at Southern Baptist Theology Seminary in Louisville, Ky, Jerry served 15 years at three different congregations in Louisville, New Market and Oak Ridge before they moved to Maryville. This fall he will celebrate his 15th year at the Monte Vista.
Mantooth says he and his wife have always been impressed with the congregation’s attitude and how they operate with a sense of grace.
“The attitude and culture of the church was different than anything I had ever experienced. The part about grace -- that was the thing that really stood out. It was a church that treated people with grace and dignity.”
Mantooth says that on one level, every week at work is different, but some things like meetings and sermon preparation are always consistent. “The part that makes it different is there will be new challenges throughout the week,” he says. “The thing I’ve always found amazing is that, even in weeks when there are things completely unexpected that come up, God has always found a way of helping everything fall into place where I’m ready for Sunday, which is always an amazing thing for me.”
Here is Jerry Mantooth:
What is your favorite quote from television or a movie?
“I couldn’t be more surprised, Eddie, if I woke up tomorrow morning with my head sewn to the carpet.” (“Christmas Vacation.”)
What are you guilty of?
“Eating too much salt. I can easily eat a large bag of chips in one sitting.”
What is your favorite material possession?
“A reproduction of a Sixth Century B.C. Corinthian vase that I bought in Greece.”
What are you reading currently?
“I am finishing David Baldacci’s ‘Deliver Us From Evil’ and Shane Claiborne’s ‘The Irresistible Revolution.’”
What was your most embarrassing moment?
“It’s between a wedding where I called the groom by the bride’s first husband’s name or when I entered the church sanctuary one Sunday morning and took my seat on one of the chairs located on the stage. The chair had been moved the night before, and the seat was not securely in the frame. When I sat down, the seat flipped, and I fell through the chair. My knees were in the air, my arms were hanging on the chair arms, and my sermon was scattered across the stage.”
What are the top three things on your bucket list?
“To parachute out of a plane, do a one-year volunteer mission assignment in a foreign country, and see the Pyramids.”
What is one word others often use to describe you and why?
“Steady. I don’t express a wide range of emotions so it’s hard to tell when I am angry or excited.”
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
“My weight has been a struggle most of my life.”
What is your passion?
“I love to travel.”
With whom, living or dead, would you most like to have a long lunch?
“Since I am a pastor, I’d better say Jesus, but it is true. Even more than the list of questions I have to ask him, I would want to experience being in his physical presence.”
If a movie were made about your life, who would play you and why?
“Harrison Ford. He seems to be grounded, not caught up in himself or the limelight of Hollywood, does charitable work, has a dry sense of humor and appears to be a regular guy. We also wear the same size shoe - I checked it out at Groman’s Chinese Theater.”
If you could go back in time for a week, what time period or year would you visit?
“Colonial America. I love that period of our nation’s history. They were just starting from a blank piece of paper and had the opportunity to form a new country and were able to do that in such a way that we now have a country that is so different, and we have these great freedoms with it.”
What is the best present you ever received in a box?
“Tickets to an Elton John and Billy Joel concert in Atlanta. It was a Christmas gift from my daughters and son-in-law for the entire family to attend.”
Other than your parents, who has had the biggest influence on your life and why?
“I had a religion professor in college, Dr. Ron Zorn, who took a personal interest in me. He befriended me. He opened my mind to new understandings of the Bible. Most of all, he helped reshape my image of Christianity from a legalistic list comprised of things one did not do, to an expression of faith that was lived out in positive ways.”
Are you a cat person or a dog person?
“My family would say neither. We have had a cat for 25 years, and we tried having a dog but it only lasted a few months. I do like the image of an Irish Setter curled up on the floor by the fire, so I’d pick dog.”
What’s the worst job you have ever had?
“I have liked every job.”
What is your theme song that best describes you?
“You’ve Got a Friend.”
What was your favorite Saturday morning cartoon and why?
‘”Bugs Bunny/Road Runner.’ The story lines were fun, and the animation is classic. They allow you to escape into a world where impossible things happen, and the good guys always win.”
What irritates you?
“Being late. I hate to be late.”
What’s one place in Blount County everyone should visit?
“Becky’s Grocery and Grill for a Ross Burger.”
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself at 18?
“Live by a budget.”