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Plant City Observer Friday, Mar. 31, 2017 1 year ago

A New Calling: Hopewell pastor transitions to Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office as chaplain

The Rev. Dr. Daniel Middlebrooks delivered his final sermon at Hopewell Baptist Church in March after four years. Now, he’s stepping into a new role with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
by: Emily Topper Managing Editor

When the Rev. Dr. Daniel Middlebrooks began serving as the pastor at Hopewell Baptist Church, he knew his time was temporary. He was filling in as a transitional pastor, serving for a season. 

Four years ago, he didn’t know how long that season would be. 

“When I was still the transitional pastor, I did an interview at a high school to be the senior instructor of the ROTC program,” Middlebrooks said. “But on the way there, I had to drive past Hopewell. I felt like I was driving almost outside of the fingertips of God’s will.” 

He turned the high school job down, and Hopewell became his church home. 

Then, in December, a position as the chaplain for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office opened up. 

While driving to that interview, Middlebrooks didn’t feel like he was driving outside of God’s will. 

“I felt like I was driving to the center,” he said. 

On Sunday, March 12, Middlebrooks delivered his final sermon at Hopewell and started with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Thursday, March 16. As the new command chaplain for HCSO, he anticipates that his job will grow from part-time to full time. 

“It took time to really pray about it,” he said. “Just because we love doing something doesn’t mean we’re called to do it. But our horizons are wide, and our God is big.” 

The Rev. Dr. Daniel Middlebrooks, who recently published his first book, had a farewell dinner at Hopewell Baptist Church after delivering his final sermon in March. Courtesy photo.

Middlebrooks replaces Pastor John Garbreana, who left the chaplain role at HCSO to take over as the full-time pastor at Manhattan Baptist Church in Tampa. Garbreana suggested Middlebrooks for the role because of his experience as a military chaplain. He continues to serve as a chaplain for both Plant City Fire Rescue and the Hillsborough County School Board’s security officers. 

“I’m stepping into the chaplaincy with both feet,” Middlebrooks said. “I’m ready to take it to the next level. God’s timing is always just neat. I began sensing last year that God was in a process of transition in my life. He began to prepare my heart just through volunteering. When the time came, it was a natural transition.” 

He anticipates that his first full year serving with HCSO will be similar to his early days at Hopewell. He’ll especially focus on strong marriages and strong families, traveling in his service car to minister to and pray with officers. 

“I think this first year will be them getting used to seeing me and knowing me,” he said. “They will build the trust to call on me. Wherever my officers are, that’s where I’ll try to be. I want to establish a relationship with them so that they know me by face, and I can get to know their hearts. Like new beginnings, it will start small but it will grow very quickly. I want the officers to get through with their hearts and families intact.” 

His Hopewell Family

As he steps into his new role, Middlebrooks takes comfort and pride in being able to continue to serve in the same community of the church that welcomed his family back home. 

“One of my greatest honors was to serve as the pastor of the church,” he said. “I’m more excited for Hopewell now than ever before, because I know what’s coming. When God begins to bless, watch out. It blows everybody’s minds.” 

Throughout his four years at the church, Middlebrooks grew the church from a congregation of about 150 to one that ranges in attendance from 270 to 350. He hopes that number will continue to grow. 

“You should join a church because of the presence of God, not because of a pastor,” he said. “If there’s one thing that the church has been able to grow in learning, it’s that God is big enough to take them where He wants to go and provide them all the resources they need. They learned we have a big, big, big God.” 

Under his leadership, the church has hosted a banquet for first responders and their families, delivered hope bags to local elementary schools and expanded efforts to reach into the community, including an Easter sunrise service. 

“Do it with excellence, or don’t do it at all,” Middlebrooks said. “God only deserves our best. But it really hasn’t been me. It’s been the people of the church realizing how God can use them. It’s a movement of God. I’ve learned that an insecure pastor holds a church back because they want to be in control. Confident pastors get out of the way and let God have control.” 

His hope for Hopewell’s new pastor is that the pastor will see the compatibility of the church’s leaders. The church is currently developing a pastor search committee. In the meantime, the church will bring in different speakers and guest pastors until a transitional pastor is found. 

“I hope the new pastor learns the cadence of its congregation, and runs with them toward the prize,” Middlebrooks said. “And that prize is to bring the hope of Christ to the community. It may take some time, but it will be worth the wait. Trusting God doesn’t mean I have to have a five-year plan. I just have to have faith today that He will get me to tomorrow, whatever that brings.” 

In his new role, Middlebrooks also plans to devote more time to writing. In February, he published Strategic Methods for a Successful Marriage, available on Amazon. His second book, co-authored with Mike Simmons is set to debut in May. Titled The Blue House, the book follows stories of trials and triumphs designed to strengthen a reader’s walk of faith.

His faith was strengthened too, at the country church he called home. 

“What I have been able to do is simply be a conductor of an incredible symphony of players,” he said. “They know the song, and the song is salvation. Even when the conductor steps down, the song keeps playing. That’s a strong church. That’s Hopewell.” 

Contact Emily Topper at [email protected]

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