SBC Digest: New leaders in Georgia, Vermont, Oklahoma

Dowdy named lead strategist for

Georgia Baptist pastor wellness

By Scott Barkley

MCDONOUGH, Ga. (BP) -- Tim Dowdy, senior pastor of Eagle's Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga., announced to his congregation Sunday (Oct. 20) that he has accepted a call to serve as lead strategist in pastor wellness for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board (GBMB).

Tim Dowdy
 
In his new role Dowdy will oversee Georgia Baptist efforts to coordinate the provision of resources for pastors relating to all aspects of health, including physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs. The position was created earlier this year with the restructuring of the GBMB.

The need for a pastor wellness lead strategist was affirmed after a series of listening sessions with pastors led by Executive Director W. Thomas Hammond, Jr. When asked what the GBMB does that it needs to do better, the third most popular response was "help pastors deal with stress, difficulty, and potential for burnout."

"I'm a pastor, a local church guy, so it's exciting for me to help pastors with their relationships," Dowdy said. "I want to help them be encouraged and prepared to fulfill the call God has placed on their life. It's a great honor to be in this position to help them be most effective in presenting the Gospel in their communities and leading their churches."

Wellness

For years, Eagle's Landing First Baptist has been one of Georgia Baptists' largest churches in terms of membership and baptisms. In that time Dowdy has learned the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

"The aspects of wellness affect each other. If someone's not feeling his best, it's going to be difficult for him to lead his church or have a healthy relationship with his spouse," Dowdy explained. "'Being well' points to the whole person, from his personal devotion and spiritual life as a believer to his relationship with his children to leadership in the church."

Dowdy became the first full-time pastor at Eagle's Landing First Baptist in 1989, the same year it was constituted as a church from Koinonia Baptist Mission. Within two years the congregation mirrored the exponential growth taking place in McDonough and Henry County, having more than 2,800 members and Sunday School attendance exceeding 1,000. The church became a regular leader in baptisms in the Georgia Baptist Convention. In 1994 the church purchased the Greater Atlanta Christian School's Meadow Creek campus and renamed it Eagle's Landing Christian Academy. Today, the church reports more than 7,200 members.

"I've been in about every size church … in the same church," Dowdy said. "It's taught me so much over time."

Life change

In the late 1970s Dowdy was a 6'2" point guard at North Clayton High in College Park. His favorite book (besides the Bible, of course) was "Pistol Pete Maravich: The Making of a Basketball Superstar." Considered a pretty good high school player, Dowdy admits now that his "dreams of being a professional far outreached my athletic ability."

During his senior year Dowdy felt called by God to preach. "The whole focus of my life changed at that point," he said. "I wanted to impact the world through the Gospel through the local church."

While Dowdy pursued the ministry, he also maintained a relatively healthy lifestyle. He exercised and watched what he ate. But like so many other pastors, the demands of ministry could also test that resolve to attain better wellness.

"I had such a busy schedule that exercise felt like a sacrifice," he remembered. "My regular regiment slid onto the back burner for a while."

A rededication to healthier living coincided with Dowdy's decade-long tenure as a trustee for the North American Mission Board. (He completed the last two years of another trustee before serving his own two, four-year-terms). Dowdy led in the search process that eventually brought Kevin Ezell as the entity's president in 2010.

Speaking with Ezell, the two wanted to bring attention to bivocational pastors and the many hats required of those in that ministry setting. "We talked about how they are the 'ironmen' of the convention," Dowdy said.

Training for all areas

Already a regular runner, it inspired Dowdy to begin competing in Ironman triathlons, races that consist of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bicycle ride, and a marathon (26.22 miles) run, in that order. The opportunity became a father-son effort, as Dowdy and his wife Christie's only son, Micah, joined in with the endeavor. Micah and his wife, Kelly, have given Dowdy two grandsons, Wyatt, 4, and Jack, 2.

"I noticed that the bivocational pastor assumes the responsibility of pastoring a church, working at a full-time job, and also taking care of the needs of his family," Dowdy told The Christian Index, the GBMB newsjournal, in a 2012 article. "In meeting so many of those guys I was so impressed with their devotion and dedication to impacting lives with the Gospel of Jesus and how much time they invest in their ministry."

The multiple hats required today for ministers of all settings -- bivocational or not -- place them in that same "Ironman" setting. In a triathlon one must train for all areas of the race. When it comes to wellness, one can't focus on just a single area. It requires a much broader approach.

"This isn't going to be a cookie-cutter program," Dowdy expressed. "It's starting at the relational level. We want to be a help to pastors throughout Georgia. The bottom line is to serve the pastors of this state in every way, in the most effective way."

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Russ Rathier installed as BCNE's

Vermont Regional Coordinator

By Staff

BETHEL, Vt. (BP) -- The Baptist Convention of New England (BCNE) installed Russ Rathier as regional coordinator of BCNE Vermont Sept. 22 at Cornerstone Church in Bethel, Vt.

Russ Rathier
 
"A season of mentoring young pastors, churches partnering together and every town evangelized is the vision God has placed on my heart for Vermont," Rathier said. "It is truly a humbling experience to be a part of God building His Kingdom here and now."

Rathier is a native New Englander and has pastored Washington Baptist Church in Washington, Vt., since 2011. His background includes working as Vermont State coordinator for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and serving in senior enlisted leadership roles during his 20-year career in the U.S. Navy, an experience that gave him a knowledge of team-building strategy and a passion for bringing people together.

The creation of the BCNE Vermont coordinator position is part of a larger initiative, Uniting New England Baptists, in which several state associations have chosen to merge organizationally with the BCNE. The initiative has been a two-year cooperative effort of BCNE executive director Terry Dorsett, and local directors of missions, aimed at making Baptist ministry in New England more efficient by eliminating unnecessary duplication and redirecting mission dollars from administrative costs to ministry. Three of seven New England associations have successfully merged, and a fourth association is voting on the possibility of a merge at their annual meeting later this month.

Rathier was chosen to lead BCNE Vermont by Dorsett and a search committee made up of BCNE board members from Vermont. The committee met in person and via video conference over a period of months, examining resumes from persons in New England and other parts of the country. Through prayer, the committee came to a unified decision to appoint Rathier.

"Russ has a deep love for Vermont and an even deeper love for Christ," Dorsett said. "He demonstrates that love by being on mission himself and by encouraging others to be on mission, too. He is the right man for the hour to take Vermont Baptists to the next level in their Kingdom service."

BCNE Vermont consists of 43 churches, with a total membership of 3,516 and worship attendance of 3,520. Last year, Vermont churches reported 285 baptisms, for an average of one baptism for every 12 church members. Long considered one of the least-evangelized states in the U.S., the number of Southern Baptists in Vermont is growing at about five times the national Southern Baptist Convention average of one baptism for every 60 church members.

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Oklahoma Baptists hire Mark

Dance for Church Relations Group role

By Staff

TULSA, Okla. (BP) -- In October, leaders with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) announced the hiring of Mark Dance as director of pastor development/regional ministry partner for east-central Oklahoma.

Mark Dance
 
Dance most recently served at LifeWay Christian Resources as director of pastors and is a noted writer and conference speaker. He has pastored numerous churches in Arkansas, Texas and Tennessee, and he holds a Doctorate of Ministry from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

In his new role with Oklahoma Baptists, Dance will serve on the newly-established Church Relations Group, which is led by Associate Executive Director James Swain.

"Mark Dance is an experienced pastor with a heart for pastors and their families," Swain said. "He is a nationally-known leader through his ministry to pastors at LifeWay that brings a passion for the spiritual and personal wellness of pastors to the role. His insight will help us to effectively shape the work of our regional ministry partner strategy.

"I am thankful that the Lord has led a man of his gifting and experience to join us in encouraging Oklahoma Baptists to advance the Gospel."

In March, BGCO Executive Director-Treasurer Hance Dilbeck and leaders of the BGCO Board discussed plans for the regional ministry roles, along with affinity groups including Hispanic ministry, African American ministry and ministry wives. Dance becomes an Oklahoma Baptist regional ministry partner and will live in the Tulsa area.

"Each of these ministry partners will be based in the field and carry a 'ministry tool box,' offering practical support and help to pastors and churches," Dilbeck said. "Mark also will lead the intentional effort of pastor development to meet the current need and growing future need for pastors in our Oklahoma Baptist churches. He will work with ministry students in college and seminary to encourage them in their pursuit of God's call.

"The Bible commands us to encourage one another. Encouragement consists of support and challenge," Dilbeck said. "We feel blessed the Lord has brought someone of Mark's caliber to serve Oklahoma Baptists and encourage the pastors in our state."

Dance and his wife Janet have two grown children.

Compiled by Baptist Press staff with reporting from The Christian Index, the Baptist Convention of New England and the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger.
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