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Texas roots grow spiritual fruit in Jeff Iorg

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ABILENE, Texas (BP) —The message of a Four Spiritual Laws tract shared at the West Texas Fair & Rodeo transformed a 12-year-old boy whose life was filled with chaos.

The son of a violent alcoholic father, the boy’s mother had fled for her life across four states to hide out in Abilene. Her second husband also struggled with addiction and two more children were born into the family.

Neither parent had any interest in the gospel or church, though both had come from Christian families. The boy had gone by an assumed name, but that caught up with him when his Little League team advanced to state competition. Confrontation over his name not matching his birth certificate required to prove his age added to his identity crisis as he realized other people did not live like his family.

His mother decided her son needed religious instruction, dropping him off for Sunday school at Elmcrest Baptist Church in Abilene. On the day he went to the fair, the church name was on an exhibit booth and he wondered why they were taking a survey. Burtis Williams recognized him and asked if he’d like to answer a few questions.

That’s all it took for the boy to participate. Williams’ final questions were easy to answer: “Do you know for certain you have eternal life?” and “Do you know you’ll go to heaven when you die?”

“When he shared the gospel with me and told me God had a plan for my life that would give me purpose and meaning, and not only that, but I’d get to go to heaven, I prayed to receive Christ the month before I turned 13.

“And that changed everything,” said Jeff Iorg, who, if approved on March 21 by the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, will become its president and CEO.

Iorg’s decision to follow Jesus began a journey from convert to disciple to intern to associate pastor at Elmcrest Baptist Church, where longtime pastor, T.C. Melton—an ardent supporter and longtime consultant for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention—shepherded the young man for over a decade and remained “a mentor, supporter, and friend all the rest of my life,” Iorg added in an interview with podcaster Chad Harms.

Iorg went on to serve as a children’s pastor, church planter, state convention executive director, and president of Gateway Seminary.

Looking back over his life, Iorg told Harms that Elmcrest Baptist Church taught him what it means to be a man, a leader, and how to get ready for marriage. Doctrine, church polity, soul-winning, and money management were a part of “10 fantastic years.”

“I’ve said many times—Jesus saved my soul,” Iorg said, “but Elmcrest Baptist Church saved my life.”

This article originally appeared in the Southern Baptist Texan.

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  • Tammi Ledbetter