A family is without its father and a church is without its leader today.

Friends of Pastor Mark Walker, of Hope First Baptist Church, are remembering him for his love of his family and his efforts to spread the church beyond just its walls.

Funeral services are this afternoon for Walker, who suddenly died Monday. He leaves behind his wife, Molli, who is a teacher at Hope Elementary, and their children, Micah, Caleb and Clara.

Sara Carter, a life-long member of the church, worked closely with Walker in her role in the church office. She recalls her weekly conversations with her pastor and friend.

"Every Monday morning he would come in and sit down, and we would have a chat," Carter said. "It was an open chat. We could talk about anything. And I will dearly miss those."

Carter said that Walker brought the church together under his leadership and increased the outreach to the community.

"If you talked to him for five minutes, you could guess he was a pastor," Carter said. "Just the concern and the welcoming manner that he had. He cared about people."

Dr. Dan Vermillion, a family friend, said that all who knew Walker are stunned and saddened for his family.

"He was a quintessential family man," Vermillion said.

Walker had been with the church for about 10 years.

"He preached the Word," Vermillion said. "He didn't try to make it easy on our ears. He was a great preacher.. He also sang beautifully. He had a great voice. He was just a really good man."

Larry Martin, a parishioner and friend, said he first came to know Walker when he started as pastor at the church, but their friendship soon grew. Walker had a vision for the church.

"Not just the church being First Baptist Church of Hope, but the church being Kingdom work in general," Martin said. "He was very passionate. His vision was built around personal relationships -- building the church and bringing people to Christ through personal relationships. That is a vision he worked to develop throughout the church. And with the hopes that any ministries, activities, things we were doing were based around that concept."

Friends cited Walker's efforts to expand the church into the community through his efforts with the Hope Ministerial Association, the starting of a flag football league, the community Thanksgiving dinner and the creation of a Halloween trunk-and-treat event in the church parking lot.

Martin remembers Walker's devotion to his family as a loving husband and a proud father.

"He was passionate about his work in the church and about his work for God, and just as well, passionate for his family," Martin said.