Good evening. My name is Jim Collins. I serve as the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Kingsburg California.
In many respects, I am sort a poster child for what the Baptist General Conference produces. I am a home-grown pastor – having begun my ministry first as a volunteer, then intern, then PT and finally full-time associate Pastor. The Lord led me to move my family from San Jose, California here to Bethel in St. Paul, where I completed my seminary training. In fact, the last time I was on this stage, I was being conferred upon with the degree of Master of Divinity.
I’ll tell you, I’m not sure which is more exciting – that day, or being here this evening to brag on God about the ways he is bringing renewal to my church.
Okay, I’m just trying to butter you up. It was really graduation. And in reality my purpose is more so to express my enthusiasm and gratitude for the partnership that Kingsburg First Baptist Church enjoys with this fellowship of churches.
About a year and a half ago when I was called to my church, which by all accounts was in need of turn-around and renewal, God led me to focus on three simple themes: the first was a renewal of spiritual dependence – my church had become very content in its self-sufficiency; the second was a renewal of relational unity – many of the challenges the church had experienced in its recent history had left many relationships frayed and several broken; the third was leadership – leadership trust and credibility was anything but a hallmark of this congregation.
I need to tell you how grateful I am to the Lord that as He had led me to focus on these themes he was simultaneously providing specific ways for me to give attention to these three themes.
Even before I arrive the Lord opened a door through my friend and mentor Dr. Greg Bougond to participate in a pilot group for a leadership development process the conference was testing. I invited about 30 individuals to join me on a year journey of personal development. 20 joined me. I am very pleased to say that not one of them has dropped out or given up. They are growing as leaders and as followers.
I learned about FIRE & REIGN, and our church participated. During the weeks of studying the Jerusalem church I wondered at the graciousness of God as I witnessed the heart my church soften. It was during the weeks of FIRE & REIGN that I watch the momentum of the church shift. In fact, it happened on a specific Sunday. Just like the momentum of a football game can shift because of one great play, on the Sunday that we focused on Pentecost, we experienced at special outpouring and freedom from the Spirit of God. You would have been amazed to see men and women from this 105 year old Swedish Baptist church on their knees crying out to the Lord. It was nothing less than a God thing.
In the past several months, I have invested significant time preparing my church for yet another conference inspired initiative. Perhaps you have heard about the Retool Kit. This fall we will begin a process of assessment and re-envisioning our church. We want to be a church that owns its convictions, lives out its values, and fully engages in the God’s Kingdom purposes.
As a younger Pastor, I am exceedingly hopeful about the direction of my church as well as the direction of our conference. I’m sure I sound like a commercial for the Baptist General Conference. Maybe I am – but I am happy to be so.
I thank the Lord that I get to serve at such a time as this. I am grateful to the godly men and women who are giving excellent leadership to our movement. They are people of deep and godly character, they exhibit a compelling love for Jesus, and they are passionately committed to seeing God’s reign expand and God’s Kingdom built.
Let me finish by saying this – the vision, direction and goals we’ve heard about today – you can count Kingsburg First Baptist Church all in. I hope you and your church will do the same.