For 17 years, Danny Pickens has served as the director of missions for the Smith Baptist Association in Tyler, Texas. 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 leader to be featured in this column, or to apply to be featured yourself, click here.
Where else have you worked, and what were your positions?
- Director of Church Services, Smith Baptist Association
- Associate Pastor, FBC Canton, Texas
- Associate Pastor, FBC Hallsville, Texas
- Minister of Youth, FBC Kilgore, Texas
- Minister of Youth, Southern Oaks Baptist, Tyler, Texas
- Minister of Youth, FBC Hallsville, Texas
- Minister of Youth, FBC Winona, Texas
Where did you grow up?
I was raised in El Paso but moved to Tyler in 1969. I have lived in and around Tyler since 1969.
How did you come to faith in Christ?
I attended a youth rally at First Christian Church in Tyler where I heard a Christian comedian. Although I was a church member, I realized that night that I had not asked for forgiveness and had not repented. I knelt that night and, with the help of a counselor, asked Christ to come into my life and heart.
Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?
- 1984 East Texas Baptist College: Bachelor of Arts
- 1995 Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary: Master of Arts in Religious Education
- 2003 Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary: Doctor of Educational Ministries
Why do you feel called to your particular vocation?
I love people and I love missions. The Director of Missions position allows me to do both! My ministry to and with pastors and staff in effect multiplies my gifts and talents by the number of ministers I assist. The opportunity to expose people to missions around the world is a true joy. Traveling and sharing the gospel with those less fortunate than us is a priority in my ministry.
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Please tell us about your association—where it’s located, the key focus of its work and ministry, etc.
Smith Baptist Association is located in Tyler, Texas. We dropped the word “County” from our name years ago because we extend to neighboring counties as well. Currently, we have churches in Smith, Cherokee, Wood and Van Zandt counties. We serve 90 churches and missions. One of the key focuses of our ministry is that of the Baptist Student Ministry. We have two campuses in Tyler and feel called to provide for both. We also have a strong Hispanic and African American ministry within our Association. We help churches participate in local missions, home missions and foreign missions when possible.
What do you like best about leading your association? Why?
SBA is one of the best Associations in the state (in my opinion). Our pastors work together in harmony to carry out missions and ministry.
What aspect(s) of associational ministry and/or its mission do you wish more people understood?
I wish people understood the role of the Association as one of equipping for the churches. We exist to “equip and serve our member churches.” That does not mean we lord over them or tell them what to do but rather help them in all things. We stand ready to do whatever we can to help them “fulfill the Great Commission” and be the best church possible.
How has your association and its mission changed since you began your career?
In the beginning, the Association was primarily focused on programs. Today, we are more focused on missions and ministry. We seldom come up with or promote a program of our own but rather help churches to carry out their own ministry through their own programing. We have “church first” philosophy, meaning that we want what is best for the church and we will do all we can to help them.
How do you expect your association and/or its mission to change in the next 10 to 20 years?
I wish I knew! I do know that the Association will have to continue to morph and adapt. It must remain relevant to the ministry of the churches and staff. It must be a resource and help. It must not think that just because it exists that it will be supported financially by churches.
Name the three most significant challenges and/or influences facing your association.
- Involvement of younger people.
- Peace among the churches in spite of Baptist politics.
- Continued ministry that is relevant and useful to our churches.
What one aspect of your job gives you the greatest joy or fulfillment?
That one is easy. Exposing staff and laypeople to foreign missions. There is something about participating in a mission trip for the first time that changes people. They come back with a renewed sense of purpose, with a love for missions, with a desire to educate others about the need for missions and with a desire to fund missions.
What are the key issues—opportunities and/or challenges—facing Baptist churches?
Revitalization of dying churches is and will be a challenge for years to come.
Who were/are your mentors, and how did/do they influence you?
I was influenced early on by my pastor, Dr. R. S. Crawford (Southern Oaks, Tyler), by my youth minister, Pete Parnell (Southern Oaks, Tyler), by Kirby McGuire (former DOM, Smith Baptist Association), and by a pastor I served with on two occasions, Bro. John Taylor (FBC Hallsville). Each of these men provided a godly example for me and mentored me in various ways. Each has left an indelible mark on my life. I will forever be grateful to them for how they influenced my ministry.
What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?
Galatians 2:20 is one of my favorites! I am not the person I used to be, I have been “crucified with Christ!” Micah 6:8 is another favorite.
Who is your favorite Bible character, other than Jesus? Why?
The Apostle Paul: such a missionary, such a mentor, such an example of a Christ-like life!
Name something about you that would surprise people who know you well.
I am mildly OCD. That leads to an obsession with whatever hobby I am currently pursuing. Whether it is falconry, photography, stamp collecting, coin collecting, hiking, woodworking, etc. I do it to the fullest extent possible. This often turns a hobby into an obsession.
If you could get one “do over” in your career, what would it be, and why?
I would be a missionary much earlier in life. I feel I missed a great opportunity as a young man to enter the mission field. I did not surrender to the ministry until I was 27, I was married and with two small children. By the time I finished my education, I felt it was too late to go to the mission field in a foreign land. However, God saw to it that I was able to do missions by bringing me to my current position, for which I am eternally grateful.
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What is your favorite hobby?
I love falconry and photography. I have done both for over 30 years.