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SBC DIGEST: Mac Brunson & Heath Lambert to be FBC co-pastors; WMU Foundation aids Irma, Maria survivors; Pipeline conf. keys on leadership

In today’s SBC Digest: Mac Brunson and Heath Lambert to be FBC JAX co-pastors; WMU Foundation aids Irma, Maria hurricane survivors; LifeWay’s Pipeline conference to focus on developing leaders.

Mac Brunson, Heath Lambert to be FBC JAX co-pastors

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP) — Mac Brunson has been joined by Heath Lambert as senior pastors of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.

Brunson, 60, has been the 10,000-member church’s senior pastor since 2006. Lambert, 38, a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has been the church’s associate pastor since January 2016.

Lambert’s role as co-pastor with Brunson was approved by the four-campus church Sept. 24, according to the Florida Times-Union newspaper in Jacksonville.

Brunson led First Baptist Church in Dallas from 1999-2006 before accepting the Jacksonville pastorate, succeeding Jerry Vines who had served the church 23 years. Vines was a co-pastor at the church with the late Homer Lindsay Jr. for more than 15 years. Brunson was the 2003 president of the SBC Pastors’ Conference.

Lambert has been associate professor of biblical counseling at Southern Seminary, joining the faculty in 2006. He also serves as executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, with certified members in 18 countries, and is a founding board member of the Biblical Counseling Coalition.

Brunson first heard Lambert preach during FBC JAX’s annual Pastors’ Conference in 2015, recounting to the Times-Union he thought at the time that Lambert “doesn’t need to be in a classroom” but “needs to be in a pulpit.”

Lambert, who has held pastoral ministry positions in Kentucky and North Carolina churches, told the paper he had missed being in the pulpit and was honored by “well-known and well-respected” FBC Jacksonville offering the “opportunity to work for — and with — someone like Mac Brunson.”

Brunson told the Times-Union he isn’t ready to retire but intends to remain at First Baptist another five years. He did want, however, a smooth transition to the next pastor, telling the paper, “Transitions are hard, unbelievably hard. It just goes on and on.”

Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr., in a statement to Baptist Press, described FBC Jacksonville as “one of the most influential and respected churches in the Southern Baptist Convention for generations, and this announcement comes as great news for that congregation and for all who love the church.”

The Brunson-Lambert co-pastorate, Mohler said, is “a stellar example of a leading pastor, at the very prime of his ministry, sharing the leadership with a younger pastor, already proven, and modeling what it means to lead in transition.”

“Mac Brunson and Heath Lambert will serve together with distinction and their mutual respect is transparent,” Mohler said, commending “FBC JAX for showing the way toward the future, yet again.”

Lambert is the author of two books, “Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace” and “The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams” and editor with Stuart Scott of “Counseling the Hard Cases: True Stories Illustrating the Sufficiency of God’s Resources in Scripture.”

He holds Ph.D. and M.Div. degrees from Southern Seminary and an undergraduate degree from Gordon College. He and his wife Lauren have three children.

Brunson, author of four books, including “The God You’ve Been Searching For,” holds D.Min. and M.Div. degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He earlier pastored churches in South Carolina, Virginia and North Carolina, serving as a president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. He and his wife Debbie have three children and 10 grandchildren.

A YouTube video with Brunson and Lambert, which was sent to the congregation, can be accessed at


WMU Foundation grants help Irma, Maria hurricane survivors

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — In the wake of Hurricanes Maria and Irma, WMU Foundation has sent two new grants to help storm survivors in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Florida.

A $2,500 grant from the WMU Foundation’s HEART Fund will assist pastors and their congregations in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands with buying water and basic supplies. The storms, which destroyed buildings, roads and electricity, have caused the worst damage to the Caribbean territories in history.

Nellie Torrado, executive director of Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands WMU, said people are “beginning to despair” in the midst of the devastation.

“On our three islands — Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra — there is no drinking water, not even bottled nor electricity,” Torrado reported. “Communication is sporadic. Lines at the gas stations are very long.”

Another $5,000 grant will assist those in Florida struggling to recover from Hurricane Irma.

The two grants brought WMU Foundation funds released this hurricane season to a total of $15,000. In August, a $5,000 grant went to WMU of Texas to purchase gift cards for those affected by Hurricane Harvey and a $2,500 grant was allotted to First Cambodian Church in Texas to help repair damage to their church from Harvey.

David George, the foundation’s president, said WMU will “continue to look for ways to help with relief and rebuilding, especially in Puerto Rico where the needs are so great and there are not as many resources to help with rebuilding.”

Since the HEART Fund began in 2001 in response to the 9/11 terror attacks, the WMU Foundation has granted more than $498,000 to help with disaster relief all over the world. The WMU Foundation is accepting gifts to the HEART Fund for disaster relief online or by mail to WMU Foundation HEART Fund, 100 Missionary Ridge, Birmingham, AL 35242.


LifeWay’s Pipeline conf. to focus on developing leaders

NASHVILLE (BP) — Hundreds of pastors and ministry leaders will gather for Pipeline, Oct. 11-13 in Nashville, to hear from experienced leaders on growing future leaders.

This year’s theme, “Succession at Every Level,” will focus on the importance of developing people to succeed leaders in all roles and levels — from senior leadership and ministry directors to volunteers.

“Succession is about reproduction, not about replacement,” said Todd Adkins, director of Pipeline sponsor LifeWay Leadership. “The reality is that every role in the church is an interim position. So we want to provide a plan for succession in every ministry role.

“Pipeline exists to help leaders to equip the saints for the work of ministry, as mandated in Ephesians 4. We provide specific training that is practical and immediately applicable for all levels of leadership in the local church,” Adkins said.

During day two of the conference, Pipeline will feature plenary sessions and shorter presentations focused on different levels of leadership. After each session, a Q&A on stage will address questions from attendees.

Days one and three will consist of interactive coaching sessions with the LifeWay Leadership team.

Speakers include LifeWay President Thom S. Rainer; H.B. Charles Jr., pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., and president of the SBC Pastors’ Conference; Tami Heim, CEO of Christian Leadership Alliance; and LifeWay Vice President Eric Geiger.

For more information or to register, visit

    About the Author

  • BP, WMU & LifeWay Staff
    Compiled by Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston, with reporting by Grace Thornton of Birmingham, Ala., and Joy Allmond of LifeWay Christian Resources. Read All by BP, WMU & LifeWay Staff ›