Cross-cultural pastor nominee for BGCT second vice president

Nebiye Kelile, pictured with wife Hiwot, is pastor of Pathway Church and Orchard Hills Baptist Church in Garland.

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Nebiye Kelile, pastor of both Pathway Church and Orchard Hills Baptist Church in Garland, will be nominated for second vice president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Ethiopian Evangelical Baptist Church is the sponsor of Pathway—a BGCT-supported start-up church geared toward reaching Millennials and Generation Z—and also is the host site for Orchard Hills.

Ryan Jespersen, executive director of Dallas Baptist Association, announced his intention to nominate Kelile.

“We have said so very often that we need men who will step up and pastor traditional churches as well as start new works. Pastor Neb is doing both at the same time by being the pastor of Pathway Church and Orchard Hills Baptist Church. I believe this unique role gives Neb the ability to lead well in Baptist life,” Jespersen said.

“I am grateful for his ability as a speaker, as a leader, and as a person who is working hard to bring people together. He is working to both give an existing church the ability to leave a great legacy, and to start a new work, which is so needed in Baptist life.”

Nebiye Kelile

Kelile, who was born in Ethiopia, grew up in California after his family moved there when he was 2 years old. He has served 16 years as a preacher and pastor. He helped an immigrant church in Sacramento, Calif., develop an English-language ministry to reach and disciple the rising generation.

When leaders of Ethiopian Evangelical Baptist Church learned about Kelile and his work through a network of churches devoted to reaching Ethiopian immigrants in the United States, they invited him to move to the Dallas area to launch Pathway Church.

Pathway not only reaches English-speaking individuals with family ties to Ethiopia and Eritrea, but also has drawn young couples from other backgrounds—many of them previously unchurched.

As pastor of Orchard Hills Baptist Church, Kelile ministers primarily to senior adults who are longtime members of the church whose building Ethiopian Evangelical Baptist Church now occupies.

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“If we are going to bridge the generations and reach more people for Christ, I believe Pastor Neb Kelile will be a strong voice in the room to help work toward this task,” Jespersen said.

If elected, Kelile said, he would be “honored to serve and contribute to the mission of Texas Baptists beyond what I’m already able to do as a pastor and church leader.”

“We need to be known for what we are for instead of only what we are against. We are for the gospel,” he said.

Kelile noted this time in the life of Texas Baptists parallels in many respects his own “personal journey” in ministry.

“I believe in giving priority to strengthening established churches and starting healthy new churches,” he said.

Because of his background, Kelile said he feels equally comfortable among various ethnic groups, as well as in majority-culture settings.

As a next-generation leader working with Millennials and Generation Z, Kelile wants to help Texas Baptists wrestle with the challenge of “learning how to disciple the next generation of Christians, for whom there is no social capital to be gained by identifying as a Christian or joining a church.”

Kelile and his wife Hiwot have four children—Lydia, Daniel, Haset and Zaema.

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