Virginia pastor to join MBC staff
New associate executive director coming from FBC, Roanoke
By Allen Palmeri
October 4, 2005
JEFFERSON CITY– Jim Austin, 52, is coming to the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) as an associate executive director after serving as a pastor for the last 21 years in rural, suburban and downtown settings.
In the mid-1980s, he was at Morganton (Ga.) Baptist Church. He then spent 15 years in suburban Gainesville, Ga., at Blackshear Place Baptist Church. He comes to Missouri from First Baptist Church, Roanoke, Va., a congregation of about 1,600 that he has shepherded since 2001.
His first day on staff with the MBC will be Oct. 24 at the annual meeting in Springfield.
“There are some areas of ministry in our convention that we, in particular, need to improve in,” said MBC Executive Director David Clippard, emphasizing Austin’s work “in the hills of Georgia” at his first church as evidence of his ability to connect with rural Missouri Baptist pastors. “Jim has the expertise and background that uniquely fits those very needs.”
Austin said Clippard contacted him twice over a span of a few months about the staff opening. The first time he simply said no. The second time he concluded that he and his wife, Debbie, needed to pray about it.
“I thought the Lord gave me these three experiences with churches for a reason,” he said.
Extended a call by the MBC Executive Board Sept. 9, Austin flew back to Virginia and decided to accept the call and join Clippard, whom he knew from their student days together at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas. He told the staff at First Roanoke Sept. 27 and the church a day later. His last official day as their pastor is Oct. 23.
“I am thrilled with the opportunity to come to Missouri,” he said. “I am really looking forward to working with the team that exists, and I thank the Lord for the people God has brought. I’m impressed with the pastors that I have met and look forward to getting to know them better and working with them, being available to them, building relationships with them and serving them.
“Overall, the people (at First Roanoke) have been very gracious, patient and supportive. It’s been a good experience for me and my family here. It’s going to be difficult to leave.”
MBC Executive Board members have discussed a downsizing of the MBC staff from three associate executive directors to two, with an expansion of the ministry team. If those discussions result in an actual restructuring, Austin and Roy Spannagel would be the two MBC associate executive directors serving under Clippard. Austin said he is coming to Missouri with a heart to assist in the multiplication of churches and laborers.
“We’re ready to hit the ground running and embrace the vision of the executive director, in which I share, and work together with him as part of the team to accomplish the vision,” Austin said.
His ministry philosophy can be summarized through the five “E’s” of exaltation, evangelism, equip, education and encourage. At Blackshear Place Baptist Church, which grew from 200 to 1,400 in Sunday School during his tenure, the equipping of the saints was on display.
“We were able to accomplish a good deal without a large staff, and could then channel that money that would have gone into staff into ministries of the church and into offerings such as Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong,” he said.
Austin has known suffering, too. The life of his profoundly mentally retarded daughter, Shelly, lasted from 1983 to 2003 and kept him and Debbie off the mission field as they cared for her in their home. The introductory verses from the book of James about rejoicing under duress comfort him.
“Whenever you have a trial, regardless of the nature, if you see it as being given through God’s benevolent grace for His ultimate purpose, then good will come from it, and you’ll be better for having gone through it,” he said.
His heart for missions was expressed in the 1990s through his two terms of service as an International Mission Board (IMB) trustee. He also has served as a speaker for the IMB in meetings in Thailand, Germany and Malaysia, with another one scheduled for 2006 in Poland. He has served as an IMB Journeyman in the Philippines and also has served as either a mission team leader or conference/chapel speaker in India, China, Singapore and Brazil, among other lands.
He comes to Jefferson City from “a traditional, downtown First Baptist Church” in a stagnant urban location. As a result, First Roanoke has opted to be creative in its evangelism methods. Part of that process has been to go contemporary in the second worship service.
“Most of our prospects now come to our contemporary service, although we still have a good, strong traditional service that God’s blessing as well,” Austin said.
Part of the realignment that MBC board members are discussing involves combining the ministries of the current Church & Family Equipping team with those of the Communications & Development team. In the current MBC structure, two associate executive directors are required to supervise those specialists and their assistants.
“I’m excited about the staff in place and look forward to getting to know them better and working with them as a member of the team,” Austin said.