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Leo Endel assumes exec post with Minn.-Wis. convention

ROCHESTER, Minn. (BP)–The Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention welcomed its new executive director, Leo Endel, May 6.

Endel, an Iowa pastor, was unanimously elected to the position by the convention’s executive board April 6 in Rochester, Minn.

Endel leaves a 10-year pastorate at Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa, which has grown in attendance from 35 to more than 400 and sponsored three new churches under his leadership. He also has served as president of the Baptist Convention of Iowa the past two years.

He is the convention’s third executive director. Otha Winningham, who had led the M-W Fellowship since 1975, became the first executive director when the convention was founded in 1983. Winningham retired in 1993 and was succeeded by Bill Tinsley who resigned June 30, 2001, to become associate executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Endel led Bible studies at each session of the 2001 MWBC annual meeting at Appleton, Wis.

In Iowa, Endel was part of the search committee that recommended the current executive director in Iowa and worked with him in making the transition into the role.

Endel’s father was in the Air Force and his family moved 12 times before his high school graduation. Most of those years they attended small Southern Baptist churches near air bases in the upper Midwest, Alaska and the Philippines. When he was 13, his father served on a search committee that recommended a black pastor to their Anglo congregation in Michigan. The church called the pastor and Endel’s family remained there for two years until their next move.

“Being a military kid, I grew up in a multicultural background,” Endel said. “I’m excited about how ethnically diverse the MWBC convention is.” In 1982 he graduated from Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg with a double major in finance and business management. He received a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1988.

Becoming a state convention executive director was “the farthest thing from my mind,” Endel said, “But when I stopped and looked backward at the experiences God had led me through that I hadn’t paid much attention to, they all seemed to be pieces of the puzzle that was coming together. When I stood on the hill and looked backwards, I could see how those experiences could culminate in something like this. I have reached a point where I can see that this is where God was leading me all along.”

Among the qualities Endel brings to the position are a love for pastors and a passion for church planting, especially in communities that don’t have an evangelical witness.

Endel and his wife, Sara, have two daughters, Rachel, 12, and Lydia, 10. Sara has home-schooled the girls, taught math in high school and college, and directed the Upward Basketball program that their church has sponsored as an evangelistic outreach in Sioux City.

“We are very thankful for God’s call of Leo and his family,” said Charles Dunning, MWBC president and a member of Valley Baptist Church, Appleton, Wis. “Let’s pray that we can all sense the new things God is doing in our midst, and that we can join him in what he is doing.” In a letter sent to executive board members announcing the called meeting to consider Endel’s election, search committee chairman George Ray, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Rochester, outlined a process described as intentional, prayerful and thorough that had led to the unanimous decision to recommend Endel. Elected in July, the committee devoted its first meeting on Aug. 11 to praying, determining a method of operation, working on a position description and developing a candidate profile.

“We determined to wait three months for our next meeting, giving that time to prayer, receiving of resumes and conducting listening sessions,” Ray wrote. They publicized the vacancy and began contacting potential candidates who were suggested to them. Committee members conducted listening sessions in each association at their annual meetings. They also sought input from MWBC staff and directors of missions. Resumes received were forwarded to committee members.

At their next meeting on Nov. 17, after a time of prayer, they agreed to focus their attention on three individuals. They requested written and video responses from them and performed extensive reference and background checks.

At their Jan. 12 meeting, committee members reviewed the information gathered from the candidates and references. They decided to invite two of the candidates to come for personal interviews, after the candidates and their wives completed “a thorough set of psychological test instruments.”

The interviews were conducted March 7-9 in Rochester, each interview lasting seven hours over an evening and the following morning. After each interview, the committee met for prayer and discussion.

“From the beginning, the responsibility of the committee was approached with prayer, recognition of the critical decision to be made, and a dependence upon the leadership of God,” Ray said. “Interestingly, the conclusion we reached was not the one that appeared the most logical at the beginning. There was a strong sense of divine leadership as it was overwhelmingly and unanimously decided to recommend to the executive board Leo Endel.”

Larry Creamer, a committee member who had chaired the previous executive board search committee, was quoted in Ray’s letter: “I can say without hesitation that I am as sure about the decision to call Leo Endel as I was about our call of Bill Tinsley.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: NEW EXEC.

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  • David Williams