INDIANAPOLIS (BP)–The State Convention of Baptists in Indiana’s executive board has voted unanimously to call Stephen P. Davis, a Texas pastor and Indiana native, as the convention’s next executive director/treasurer.
Davis, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Garland, Texas, since 1994, was recommended by a six-member search committee and elected May 8 during the board’s May 8-9 meeting at Highland Lakes Baptist Camp.
Effective May 27, he will succeed Charles Sullivan, who is retiring after 12 years in the position.
“The primary objective for us as a search committee was not so much building a profile,” said Jim Hamilton, convention president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Sellersburg, “but it was answering the question, ‘Who is God calling?’ If we had not been about answering that question, we would have been derelict in our responsibilities.”
“Our people need to know that [Davis] has pastored small churches, medium-sized churches and large churches and can relate to pastors at any level,” Hamilton said.
Davis was a part-time pastor while completing seminary. He took a church in Fort Worth, Texas, that had dwindled to 90 members and grew it to 300. He planted a church in San Antonio that grew to more than 1,000 members in six years. And at First Baptist in Garland, Davis leads a congregation of 5,000 and a staff of nine fulltime ministers. His churches have been marked by an involvement in the Cooperative Program, evangelistic training and activity, and missions support.
“As a pastor, there are people I’ll never have opportunity to share Christ with,” Davis said to the board. “But our laypeople are rubbing shoulders with them every day. That’s why it’s always been a priority with me to equip our people to share their faith.”
That mindset gives Davis a sense of excitement about returning to his native state. “I think the future for us is very bright,” he said. “I read that 60 to 70 percent of people in Indiana don’t attend anybody’s church anywhere, so you can see what kind of opportunity is out there for us.”
Since Indiana is still seen as a “pioneer state” within the Southern Baptist Convention, First Baptist Church in Garland is holding a commissioning service on May 25 to send Davis and his wife, Diana, to the mission field. But Damon Jones, a member of the search committee and pastor of Old Town Hill Baptist Church in Muncie, said Davis has a wonderful perspective on the missions status of Indiana.
“[Davis] said something that really stuck with me,” Jones recounted. “He said, ‘It’s alright if those outside our state think of us as a pioneer state. But we inside the state have to change the way we think about our state.'”
“There have been a number of areas where God has been at work in this convention,” Davis said of Indiana. “Some of those have been innovative. One of those areas is in starting new churches. Also, I think student ministry has some great opportunities. I think there is a need to help strengthen some of the existing churches, but I see the convention growing up in many ways.”
The search committee considered 40 candidates, which were narrowed down to five; the committee agreed 100 percent only on Davis.
“He was the only candidate that all of us felt like God was working in and brought unity to the committee,” Hamilton said.
Davis said he was quite happy in his position in Garland but was stirred when he read a Baptist Press report about Sullivan’s retirement as SCBI executive director.
“I’d never ever had this thought, never ever had this desire,” Davis said. “But for some reason, when I read that Dr. Sullivan had resigned, I guess God put it in my mind.”
Then, during a missions conference at his Garland church, the guest speaker, Henry Blackaby, read from 1 Samuel 2:35 and told the congregation, “God is looking for someone over whose heart he can lay his heart, over whose will he can lay his will, and over whose mind he can lay his mind. Will you be that person for the Dallas Baptist Association?”
Davis said, “But I heard, ‘…will you be that person for the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana?'”
“This is an historic moment for us,” search committee member Glen Flowers, pastor of First Baptist Church in Evansville, said. “We’ve had 12 years of great leadership and now the mantle passes on.”
Sullivan noted, “My heart has been blessed by the unanimous decision of the search committee and the executive committee and the unanimous vote of the executive board to call Dr. Stephen Davis as my successor. Dr. Davis will give to Indiana Baptists a positive, a conservative and a dynamic voice for future growth with his emphasis on missions, evangelism and church planting. He will continue to encourage Indiana Baptists to reach our state for Jesus Christ.
“Dr. Davis and Mrs. Davis both have a deep desire to sense God in Indiana and to be used of Him for His honor and glory.”
“My prayer,” Davis said, “is that the cross will be laid strategically across the crossroads of America.”
Davis, who grew up in Richmond, Ind., earned his undergraduate degree in 1971 from Dallas Baptist University; a master of divinity degree in 1974 from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth; and a doctor of ministry degree from San Francisco Theological Seminary in 1981, writing a dissertation on “A Strategy for Starting Southern Baptist Churches.”
He and his wife have three children, Autumn, 19, Justin, 23, and Tylor, 24, and one grandson, born to Tylor Davis and his wife, Stephanie.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: STEPHEN AND DIANA DAVIS.