EAST SYRACUSE, N.Y. (BP)–After 50 years of ministry, including 38 years of denominational service, J.B. Graham has announced his retirement as executive director-treasurer of the Baptist Convention of New York.
Graham, who has been at the New York convention since 1997, said he is grateful for the experiences he has had while serving churches in New York state, southwestern Connecticut and northern New Jersey.
“I’ve enjoyed immensely the work here,” he told Baptist Press. “It has been a blessing that my wife and I will cherish for all of our lives. Sometimes the work has been difficult and long, but very rewarding. I hate to leave in the middle of the party when everybody is having so much fun.”
Some of the fun Graham mentioned is the work being done in the New Hope New York initiative spotlighting New York City as a Strategic Focus City for Southern Baptist outreach through the North American Mission Board.
“Seeing some of the breakthroughs already in our early implementation stage is rewarding,” Graham said of the work, which began last year in efforts to change New York through sharing Christ and starting churches.
Graham also commended the leadership he works with in New York.
“I have noted a real high quality of new leaders in the convention,” he said. “I think leaders are either imported or they are trained, and our staff members have been very, very good to take the raw material and train great leaders out of pastors that were already in place as well as new ones coming in.”
Randy Singer, a New York native and special assistant to the president at NAMB, said he has been particularly blessed to see God work in amazing ways through Graham’s ministry in New York.
“J.B brought a level of intensity and consistency that helped take Southern Baptist work there to the next level,” Singer said. “There’s no telling how many fellow New Yorkers I will meet in heaven who will point to J.B. Graham as one of the primary reasons they were able to hear the life-changing message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Richard Harris, vice president of church planting at NAMB, noted Graham’s effectiveness in developing new congregations in New York and throughout the nation.
“I have enjoyed working with J.B. for close to 20 years. He has been passionately involved in missions,” Harris said. “For years he gave national leadership to the planting of new congregations. As executive director of the Baptist Convention of New York, Dr. Graham has brought vision and leadership in penetrating the lostness of the state. His organizational and administrative skills have moved the convention to a new level of effectiveness.”
Graham’s skills were perhaps most needed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center. As chaos ensued throughout New York City, Graham and his staff led in vigorous efforts to minister to a region searching for answers.
“Of course we suffered greatly with 9/11, as the rest of the nation did,” Graham told BP. “This is something so close to us obviously, but out of that some witnessing opportunities and a general attitude toward spiritual things has emerged that we are still experiencing. While there are many avenues that people seek spiritually, we have the opportunity now to present the Gospel as the answer instead of allowing them to go off with just anything.”
Graham said 9/11 was a catalyst that brought many people, especially unbelievers, to a point of trading in their self-reliance and looking outward for spiritual help.
“A great deal of the victories that we have encountered have been post-9/11,” he said.
In response to the overwhelming support New York Baptists received from Southern Baptists throughout the nation after 9/11, Graham said he didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to express his appreciation. The prayers and substantial financial gifts from Baptists everywhere were incredibly instrumental in the success of the ministries in post-9/11 New York.
Before moving to New York, Graham was an associate vice president at the Home Mission Board (now NAMB) from 1989-97. He also served the board as assistant vice president in the missions section and in the church extension section, missionary personnel department and the associational missions division. Before joining the Home Mission Board staff in Atlanta in 1976, Graham was a missionary with the board’s department of rural-urban missions, serving as director of missions for the Susquehanna Baptist Association in Maryland.
Graham also served the Central Baptist Association in Maryland and was pastor of Westminster Baptist Church in the state. He was pastor of Potomac Baptist Church in Sterling, Va., before his appointment to the Home Mission Board in 1966.
Graham and his wife, Areta, have three sons and four grandchildren. He said he looks forward to moving back to Georgia to be closer to his grandchildren. He also has a few other ideas of what retirement might hold.
“I’ll take one day for fishing and one day for golf, and the rest of the time I’d be open to doing other things,” he joked.
Among those “other things,” Graham plans to devote much attention to a corporation he and his wife began called the Church Wellness Group, a diagnostic consultation and remediation service for churches that are plateaued or declining.
Graham’s retirement takes effect Nov. 5 at the close of the 35th annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of New York.
A search committee working to fill the position of executive director-treasurer is requesting resumes be sent to the chairman, Van McClain, 2810 Curry Road, Schenectady, NY 12306 or [email protected] A cover letter is required, and the person nominating the candidate must indicate that permission has been received from that person for his name to be considered.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: J.B. GRAHAM.