HAMMOND | First Baptist Church of Hammond officials announced Monday they are considering a new minister to lead the congregation.

John Wilkerson, who has been the pastor of First Baptist Church of Long Beach, Calif., since June 4, 2000, will speak to the Hammond congregation Wednesday. The church is expected to vote on Wilkerson on Sunday, according to a church news release.

If approved, Wilkerson will replace Jack Schaap, the church's fired former head pastor.

Schaap pleaded guilty Sept. 26 to having sex with a 16-year-old girl. He is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 15.

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John and Linda Wilkerson have been married for 23 years and are the parents of nine children: Derrick, Preston, Lydia, Drew, Coleman, Judson, Mason and Lacey and the late Tyler, the release states.

Wilkerson grew up in Tennessee and Linda is a native of Massachusetts. The Wilkersons met at Hyles-Anderson College in Schererville and married in 1989 following Wilkerson's graduation. She graduated a year later.

After graduation, Wilkerson taught at City Baptist Schools for one year before moving to California to teach high school at First Baptist Church of Long Beach. In 1993, he became principal of Calvary Christian School in Baton Rouge, La.

Wilkerson returned to Long Beach in 2004 and became the 18th pastor of that church. Under his leadership, the church Sunday school grew from 849 to 1,700.

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Southlake County Reporter

Carmen is an award-winning journalist who has worked at The Times newspaper for 20 years. Before that she also had stints at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., The Post-Tribune and The News Dispatch in Michigan City.