JEFFERSON CITY (MBC) – The executive board of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) has named Wes Fowler, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Mayfield, Ky., the next MBC executive director-treasurer.
Fowler succeeds John Yeats, who steps aside after 12 years of leading the network of 1,750 self-governing churches through challenging times and to higher levels of cooperative ministry.
An executive director search committee, selected by the executive board and chaired by Wesley Vance, executive pastor of Crossway Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo., unanimously recommended Fowler to the full executive board, meeting in executive session Monday evening, Aug. 28.
The executive board voted unanimously to receive Fowler, who will work alongside Yeats through the rest of the year. The board plans to introduce Fowler to messengers gathered for the MBC Annual Meeting in Springfield Oct. 23-24.
Fowler has served as senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Mayfield since 2011. He grew up in that church, and was saved and baptized there at the age of 8. He accepted the church’s call to return as senior pastor after serving as student pastor at First Baptist Church, Valdosta, Ga., and senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Homerville, Ga.
Fowler currently serves as chairman of the board of directors for Sunrise Children’s Services, the state’s largest foster/residential childcare provider. He also has served as president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC) (2020-21); member of the mission board of the KBC (2017-19); and chairman for the search committee that brought Todd Gray to the KBC as executive director-treasurer in 2019. He also served on the Southern Baptist Convention’s Committee on Committees in 2022.
Fowler earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science at Valdosta State University (2003); a Master of Divinity at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (2007); and a Doctor of Ministry with an emphasis in expository preaching at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (2015). In 2022, Southern Seminary honored Fowler as Alumnus of the Year.
Fowler and his wife, Tara, married in 2004. They have three children: Brax, Bryley and Pierre.
Mission in Mayfield and beyond
During his tenure as senior pastor in Mayfield, Fowler has led the church to implement multiple local, domestic and international mission opportunities. First Baptist also has increased its giving to the Cooperative Program from 4 percent in 2011 to 8.75 percent in 2023.
On Dec. 10, 2021, a massive tornado ripped through Mayfield, rendering useless the entire campus of First Baptist. Despite this challenge, the Lord has blessed the church and its ministry under Fowler’s leadership. Church members gather for corporate worship in a borrowed theater; rent facilities for children’s and youth activities; meet in homes for small-group discipleship; regularly celebrate professions of faith, baptisms and new members; and continue to give generously. Average church attendance continues in the 300-350 range.
Fowler’s leadership at the local, state, and national levels has helped shape his philosophy of ministry. “I believe the primary role of convention leadership is that of a servant – serving the local church to fulfill its God-ordained mission,” he said. “The highest calling in SBC life is pastoring a local church. Therefore, the most pressing need for any state convention is to serve the local church by equipping, consulting, supporting, encouraging, motivating and praying for those who answer the highest calling on earth.”
From conviction and experience, Fowler understands that state convention leadership significantly impacts the local church. “After 22 years of being a beneficiary of state convention ministry in Kentucky and Georgia, I’m honored to provide that same encouragement to others,” he said.
“Although every local church is autonomous, convention leaders should speak clearly on all matters that are biblically non-negotiable. Likewise, on all secondary and tertiary issues, convention leaders should promote grace, unity and cooperation. I’ve experienced this approach firsthand in Kentucky and believe it would serve all state conventions well.”
What others are saying
Todd Gray, executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, knows Fowler well and commends him to Missouri Baptists. “Missouri Baptists could not have found a better man to serve as their next executive director-treasurer than Dr. Wes Fowler,” Gray said.
“Wes is a strong, solid, theologically conservative, Great Commission-driven leader who leads with clarity of mind, compassion of heart, and kindness of speech. Missouri Baptists will find that Dr. Fowler is an excellent listener, a great communicator, and a unifying leader.”
Paul Chitwood, president of the SBC’s International Mission Board, and former executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, says he benefited from Fowler’s “wise and godly leadership” during his tenure at the KBC. “Wes and (his wife) Tara have modeled a love for and commitment to Christ, the local church, and the cooperative mission work of Southern Baptists,” Chitwood said.
“They have been tested by the fires of natural disaster, the foster care system, doctoral degree programs, denominational leadership responsibilities, and local church ministry. And they have proven to be skillful, humble, dedicated, pleasant, mature and honorable. I’m incredibly grateful to know one of our leading state conventions will remain a strong work and a strong partner with the IMB in addressing lostness as the world’s greatest problem.”
Brian Jump, senior pastor of Forest Park Baptist Church, Joplin, Mo., and a member of the search team that brought Fowler to Missouri, said: “Missouri Baptists should know that Dr. Fowler carries the heart of a pastor, the temperament of a statesman and the strategic vision of an executive.
“His theological commitment aligns with The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, his missiological dedication is directed towards the Cooperative Program, and his philosophical alignment resonates with the values cherished by the MBC. Moreover, he is a devoted husband and committed father who comprehends the imperative for men of God to lead lives defined by both integrity and holiness.”