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6/2/97 His zeal, experiences yield churches in booming region

PLANTATION, Fla. (BP)–“Bill, have you ever thought of staying in the military; letting the government pay your salary; and starting churches?”
That advice — offered in 1957 as he struggled to decide between military service and a seminary degree — still rings in Bill Hinds’ ear. Those words came from the late Corts Redford, former head of the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board.
Now, 40 years later, Hinds is a retired Army lieutenant colonel who has been involved in new church starts from Indianapolis to New York City and from Paris to Frankfurt.
Today, the preacher with an MBA finds himself in Broward County in south Florida — a land of housing developments, swimming pools and strip malls. It’s a place where 1.6 million people from 189 countries have congregated in one of the United States’ fastest-growing regions. In its 30 incorporated cities, Broward boasts 1.6 million households; yet 60 percent of the inhabitants live in multiple housing. With the Everglades conservation area blocking its western growth, Broward’s land mass will be built out by 2007, according to county officials.
This has been home to Hinds and his wife, Frances, the past 10 years. He has helped plant churches throughout Broward County, first as associate in the Gulf Stream Baptist Association and, the past five years, as the association’s director of missions.
“There wouldn’t be more than two or three associations in the entire Southern Baptist Convention who have started more churches in the last five years,” said Hugh Townsend, director of the office of mega city missions at the Home Mission Board.
Broward County is, not surprisingly, one of the nation’s fastest- growing areas for Southern Baptist work, meshing missionary zeal with niche marketing. For his church-planting efforts, Hinds was named “DOM of the Year” in June 1996 by the HMB office. In his five years at the helm of Southern Baptist work in Broward, more than 60 new congregations have been started.
“We’re not out looking for Southern Baptists,” Hinds said. “We take whoever we get and make Southern Baptists out of them. Niche marketing is an example of what we’ve been doing, but our goal is not to segment our churches into niches. We want to bring everybody together. Our (associational) letterhead reads, ‘Multi-cultural Fellowship of Southern Baptist Congregations.’
“I don’t believe in separate but equal; I believe only when everyone is together are you equal. It’s true we do target a church and customize it based on a certain socioeconomic, language and culture group. We ask ourselves, ‘What is going to work best there?’ and then we set out to do it.”
Asked about his accomplishments, Hinds deferred to others –the Lord first and then other church workers.
“I never really wanted to put down a laundry list to brag about because the Lord obviously had more to do with it than I did,” Hinds said. “Every time he worked everything out before I got there.”
Redford’s strategy became a reality in Hinds’ 24-year military career. He enlisted for the Korean War and later served in Vietnam. By the time he retired, Hinds had served every rank in the Army from private to lieutenant colonel, except warrant officer.
After serving in Korea, Hinds enrolled in Ouachita Baptist University, Arkadelphia, Ark., to study religion and journalism. He was licensed to preach, ordained, and started a church during those college years. When he graduated, Hinds still had a three-year commitment to the Army.
He planned to get out of the Army and enroll in Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. But after visiting the campus, “I just didn’t feel any leadership at all” to enter seminary, Hinds recalled.
That’s when he called Redford, whom he met serving as a summer missionary in 1955. “From that point on, every time I came to a point where I could make a decision to get out, another obligation came up that kept me in” the military.
By the time he was discharged, Hinds had been to numerous military training schools, including the Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kan. He earned an MBA from Indiana University.
In his military career, Hinds served commands in France and Germany, as well as at the Pentagon. His expertise was in management, particularly “operations research” and “systems analysis,” helping commanders to solve problems. He even taught labor relations at the University of Maryland.
When Hinds retired from the Army, he went to work for Pacific National Bank in Seattle, Wash., but as he says, “The Lord was leading us to Florida.” So, in 1978 the Hindses moved to Palatka where he became executive vice president and general manager of L&W Wood Products. He left that company after two years to start his own management consulting firm.
While active at Palatka’s First Baptist Church and in the St. Johns River Baptist Association, Hinds was elected to Florida Baptists’ state board of missions. It was through that service he was approached by Bill Coffman, then convention president, who asked if he might be interested in full-time denominational work. That inquiry eventually led to his call to Gulf Stream association.
Though Hinds is 65, he has no definite plans to retire from the association. He still has goals to restructure the association and to develop a bachelor’s program in education to help train leadership.
Of the reorganization, Hinds explained, “We’re three times larger than we were 10 years ago — both in numbers of congregations and numbers of church members — and we still have the same (associational) staff.”
In leading the association to meet the challenges of Broward County, Hinds remains ever humble about any recognition. “What I have done I give credit to the Lord,” he said, “because at no point did I ever shape my career.”

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  • Michael Chute