My Willingness to Serve

Dear Emmanuel Family,

As I shared with you last week, I have allowed my name to be announced as a candidate for the presidency of the Georgia Baptist Convention.  Your kind comments have been such an encouragement to me.  They serve as a reminder that I am blessed to pastor the greatest people in the world!

Be assured this position is in addition to my duties as your pastor.  I am not leaving Emmanuel to take a new job.  If elected, I will continue to serve here and most of you will notice no change at all.  The Lord has expanded our ministry in a number of ways but I am first and foremost a local church pastor.

It is also important to me that you understand the process that brought me to this place of service.  Andrea and I came to total peace in this matter due to several factors.  Let me share a few things about this position and the process that brings me to this point in my prayers and ministry.

First, my upcoming nomination was encouraged by a diverse group of leaders in our denomination.  In recent years, there have been several contested elections in our state.  For those of you who have watched it, you know it has ultimately hindered our efforts to unite with the gospel across this state.

Second, for the last 15 months I have been blessed to be the chairman of our state’s executive committee.  Think “deacon chairman” and you may have some idea of this role.  It has been a joy to serve in that capacity and to work alongside the Executive Director and professional staff at the Georgia Baptist Mission Board and to use appointment privileges to involve new pastors in leadership, to embrace the diversity of our state, and to even bridge some gaps that have divided leaders in our convention.

Third, as you know we give 10% of our undesignated receipts through the ministries of the state convention, namely the Cooperative Program.  You see this regularly in the bulletin and hear about it frequently at the time of offering.  This year we will give around $200,000 toward the Georgia Baptist budget of about $42 million.  Other than personnel, Georgia Baptist and Southern Baptist missions support is the largest area of our budget.  The ability to be one of the leaders in that process is frankly a wise investment for our church.  

Fourth, several months ago, Dr. Steve Parr shared that the convention’s focus in 2018 and 2019 (the years I could potentially serve) would be on reaching students 18 years old and younger in a campaign called "ReachingNextGen."  As you know, that generation is my passion.  In recent years we have made significant changes in connecting with our students and we have seen a great deal of success in youth evangelism, discipleship, and membership retention as high school students transition into their college years.

Our retention rate of graduating seniors is now just over 70%.  That's still not where I'd like it to be and there's much work to do.  But it is incredible progress.

Whether I’m on school campus with our students, serving with FCA, or leading weekly worship with our youth band, I am totally committed to doing “whatever it takes” to bring young people to Jesus.  I would love to take what God is doing in our student ministry here at Emmanuel and champion that cause across this state!
  
With those four reasons in mind, let me explain how I came to this important decision.

In January, I was asked to meet with a group of trusted men from both sides of our state convention's division.  These were men who had “seen things differently” in the past and whose friendships ran across the spectrum of Georgia Baptist life.  But they were each Bible-believing, soul-winning pastors who wanted to bring Georgia Baptists together for the sake of the gospel.

We prayed that God might lead us to a nominee that could help unite Georgia Baptists.  All agreed that we would use our influence to try to unite Georgia around a single candidate rather than have another needlessly contested election.  The short version is, that conversation turned in my direction and I agreed to pray with these men about my possible nomination.

Our church staff was a major part of that prayer time.  Not only are these God-called men who serve our church, they are personal friends whose counsel to me is invaluable.  They were not the least bit hesitant about a possible nomination.  I was blessed to have their full support.

On Valentine’s Day I received a text message that confirmed the entire group of pastors was in agreement that I was that “unifying nominee.”  That night, Andrea and I held hands and prayed at Reedy Creek Restaurant and over a great delmonico she confirmed her belief that this was the Lord’s will for our lives.

Partially out of respect for the transition in our music ministry, I wanted to wait until after the reception for Mrs. Paige Coker to announce this.  I did not want to do anything that would take the focus off honoring her for a job well done as our interim music director.

There are other details about my vision for a potential presidency that would be of greater interest to my pastor friends.  But I wanted you to be aware of some of the reasoning behind this decision.

I’ve often told you, the great joys of my life are to be (in chronological order) my parent’s son, a child of God, my wife’s husband, my kids’ Daddy, and the pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church.  I love you with all my heart!