Aaron Summers has been pastor of First Baptist Church in Crowley since September 2018. From deep in the heart of one Texan, he shares his background and thoughts on church and ministry. To suggest a Baptist General Convention of Texas-affiliated minister to be featured in this column, or to apply to be featured yourself, click here.
Where else have you served in ministry, and what were your positions there?
- Coulter Road Baptist in Amarillo as lead pastor
- First Baptist in Perry, Oklahoma as senior pastor
Where did you grow up?
We moved quite a bit, but I call West Tennessee home. I went to junior high, high school and college in that area.
How did you come to faith in Christ?
During a revival in 1978, I heard what the preacher said and told my dad I wanted to do what he was saying should be done. We talked with the associate pastor after the service. He walked me through the Romans Road and asked me to share my thoughts about each verse. I prayed that night to receive forgiveness by faith in Jesus.
Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?
- Union University, bachelor of arts in religion
- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, master of divinity in biblical languages
Why do you feel called into ministry?
It certainly wasn’t my idea or my choice. I actually tried to negotiate my way out of it with God. I was a pre-med student at the time. I suggested that I would go on medical missions. I suggested I would do free clinics and share Jesus. I suggested a lot of things. I finally told God that he was going to have to take my passion for chemistry away. So, he used organic chemistry to drain it all out. Meanwhile, I found that the required New Testament class was so very fascinating. After that, I submitted to God’s divine plan.
What is your favorite aspect of ministry? Why?
I most enjoy preaching and teaching. I love studying a passage and then sharing with others. I want to encourage people with scripture. I want to help them see God’s love and excitement for them through scriptures.
What one aspect of ministry gives you the greatest joy?
When someone has that “Aha moment!” When it all clicks and the joy of the Lord becomes so evident to them and through them.
What one aspect of ministry would you like to change?
I would love to see a time when people discover that we all have the same access to God. Pastors are not super Christians. Our prayers are not better than anyone else’s. Our presence is not better than others.
How has your ministry or your perspective on ministry changed?
I have realized that I don’t have to be the one to do it all. I must equip, encourage and empower others to do what God gifted them to do. In turn, I could be free to do what God has gifted me to do. If I do too much, then I am robbing someone else of the blessing.
How do you expect ministry to change in the next 10 to 20 years?
I think that ministry moves out of the building and includes more bi-vocational people. The rising costs of insurance and life are already causing considerable hindrances to the church. One way to relieve the financial pressure is to increase volunteerism and reduce full-time staffers to more part-time staff. This will be a dynamic shift because we still have generations with certain expectations. However, that will have to change.
If you could launch any new ministry—individually, through your congregation or through another organization—what would it be? Why?
Spread the Net: This would be a process of moving ministry from a vertically driven machine to a horizontally driven movement. I would love to see my church and others begin to see the power of God which resides in every believer. We must be leveraging it all for the kingdom of God.
How powerful could our churches be if all were free to serve as equipped by God? I want to empower the church to do all she is designed to do.
Name the three most significant challenges and/or influences facing your ministry.
- To be financially stable in an ever-changing economy.
- To attract and keep young families.
- The deep distinctions between the six living generations.
What do you wish more laypeople knew about ministry or, specifically, your ministry?
I wish people would be able to understand that pastors are not superhuman. They are regular humans with real emotions and family needs. Pastors do not have special prayers; they just have prayers. There are those who believe that no prayer from deacons, friends or classmates are equal to the “pastor’s prayer” over them. This is wrong and dangerous.
What are the key issues facing Baptists—denominationally and/or congregationally?
- The Southern Baptist Convention is in transition. The key issue for the denomination will be how we handle the departure—by death or retirement—of those who led the conservative resurgence. The generations that follow them don’t share the same extremism or separationalism that they did. We have been raised in a much more inclusive culture. We are going to have to return to our history where many ideas could sit at the table rather than a few.
- Our churches, like many others, have an identity crisis. I have served eight churches. All but one was facing an identity crisis. The local church is going to have to figure out who she is in the context placed by God. We cannot strive to be someone or something else. Raising up leaders who can help in this discovery and implementation is going to be critical for survival.
- Our seminaries are going to have to become more practical. It is prudent to be theologically sound and biblically informed. However, we must be producing humble, hungry and emotionally smart ministers.
What would you change about the Baptist denomination—state, national or local?
The smaller churches have no real voice. Our national convention requires presence to vote. Our state convention requires presence to vote. Our local associations require presence to vote. With the rising costs of travel and housing, it will continue to reduce the voice to only the rich. When 80 percent of our churches cannot afford to send, what are we saying? We are going to have to figure out a way—through the blessing of technology—to incorporate more into the process.
Who were/are your mentors, and how did/do they influence you?
Tim Wheat served as our Baptist Student Union director at Union University while I was there from 1988 to1992. He was a major influence in my life. He was a guide and friend when I needed it in the beginning.
Over the years, my father-in-law has been a great mentor. He served as my preaching lab professor while in seminary. He reminds me still to this day that a pastor needs to preach, teach and love the people.
What did you learn on the job you wish you learned in seminary?
Personality management. It feels that pastoring today involves a lot of management of personalities.
What is the impact of ministry on your family?
Ministry is always hard on families. My wife and I have two children, both in high school. They have seen the best and worst in people. They have suffered when work gets in the way of home. They have served the local church in ways others might not have. They have also benefited from the opportunities to travel to major cities because of convention locations. I would say that they have an intimate view of church that can help them and any future church as they serve God.
Other than the Bible, name some of your favorite books or authors, and explain why.
- Patrick Lencioni
- Les McKeown
- Will Mancini
God has gifted me with a desire to lead, though I can mess it up like everyone else. These authors have assisted me in the dynamics of leadership and organizational management.
What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?
Ephesians 4:11-13, because it reminds me of what our roles are supposed to be. This verse reminds me to include others, equip others and empower others to aspire to all God has for them.
Who is your favorite Bible character, other than Jesus? Why?
I love Joshua. Here is a guy who had to take over after a long, beloved and strong leader. He was scared. God used him to transition a group of people into a new situation. God has used me in similar ways in each church.
Name something about you that would surprise people who know you.
I absolutely love playing NCAA Football 14 on our XBox.
If you could get one “do over” in ministry, what would it be, and why?
If I could do something again, I would have stood my ground more and not doubled up in staff positions. On two different occasions, I doubled up as senior pastor and another position for a period of time. I would not do that again.