Church Pastor Robbed At Knifepoint

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Maryville, Blount County (WVLT) - Pastor Dan Bartl is used to people asking for help.

He's the pastor of the Unity Baptist Church in Maryville.

But, when a man walked into the church Wednesday, instead of meeting someone who was needy, he met someone who was greedy.

WVLT Volunteer TV's Stephen McLamb joins from the newsroom with the latest.

Bartl says his church has been burglarized four times in six months, but he never thought he'd be staring down at a man in his church with a knife.

"People used to never think about doing anything to the church," Bartl says.

Pastor Dan Bartl never thought he'd be a victim of violent crime but just hours before services Wednesday he was at his own church, Unity Baptist.

A knock brought the pastor to the door where he found a man in need of gas money and him in a position to be a Good Samaritan.

"You don't know what's going on in the persons life and you try to help if at all possible," but instead he became a victim as the suspect showed him a knife and took off with more than three hundred dollars in cash leaving him in shock, reflecting at what had just happened.

"I was glad it wasn't my wife here, that I was glad that it was me," says Bartl.

The suspect fled on foot behind the church and now authorities are searching for a white man between 19 and 25 years old, about five foot nine, 160 pounds with brown hair.

"I was shocked as anybody would be. I mean, who would expect it?" says church member Angie Thomas.

Church members are surprised that something like this could ever happen.

"You have to keep your guard up, you know, and not let that down even when you're at church and that's a shame," Thomas sasy. Despite the danger, the pastor and Thomas say the suspect has been forgiven.

"It's just I know in my heart in order to get on with life to be what I'm supposed to be as a pastor and as a Christian is to offer forgiveness," says Bartl.

"You just have to pray for this man that he turns himself in and finds Jesus through it," Thomas says.

The Blount County Sheriff's Office asks you to call 273-5001 if you have any information about the robbery.

Officers hope with your help they'll be able to catch the robber.