Jerry Ramirez is the minister of global initiatives at First Baptist Church in Lubbock and the president of Serve Lubbock. From deep in the heart of one Texan, he shares his background and thoughts on the church and ministry. To suggest a BGCT-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?
I served as associate pastor for students and activities at Oakwood Baptist Church in Lubbock. Prior to that, I was the minister of activities at Coggin Avenue Baptist Church in Brownwood.
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Seminole, Texas.
How did you come to faith in Christ?
At age 13, I was invited to a revival meeting at the First Baptist Church in Seminole. I never had stepped foot in that church, and I went for the free pizza.
Evangelist Freddy Gage was preaching during the revival meeting, and I remember hearing all of the bad things he had done in his life. In my 13-year-old mind I remember thinking, I have not ever done anything that bad.
Something was happening in my heart I could not explain to you at the time. Today, I have a better understanding of the working of the Holy Spirit and him drawing me to the point of making a choice.
I said “yes” to going forward during the 13th verse of “Just as I Am.” Not knowing all the implications at the time, I remember asking the Lord to come into my heart to be my Savior. I also knew I didn’t want to become a Baptist. That last part did not work out too good.
Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?
I received a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Education and a Master of Arts in Youth Ministry from Howard Payne University.
About ministry life
Why do you feel called into ministry?
I remember wanting to go to college for an accounting degree. At age 18, during an evening service at First Baptist Church in Seminole, the Holy Spirit was working in my life. I previously had lots of questions about ministry and knew I didn’t want to be a minister. Well, that worked like not wanting to be a Baptist.
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The Lord’s tugging about ministry was just as real to me as the day I chose to follow the Lord at age 13. I did take accounting classes at HPU, and I am grateful the Lord had a different path for me, even though I still enjoy numbers.
What is your favorite aspect of ministry? Why?
I love serving others. What I currently am doing at First Baptist Church in Lubbock is far from what I thought I would be doing. I am not sure what I thought I would be doing, but missions was not it. I sure am grateful the Lord has allowed me the opportunity to do what I do here.
What one aspect of ministry gives you the greatest joy?
Helping and loving people. I love my church and my community. I count it a privilege to be able to offer a hand up to people who are struggling, for whatever reason. Not one day of my ministry looks the same.
I may have a to-do list planned out, and at the end of some days I look at my list—which I enjoy making each day—and think: “Perfect. I accomplished nothing.” Then the Lord reminds me “his ways are not my ways.”
How has your ministry or your perspective on ministry changed?
Only the Lord can lead people to change, and I have to love people where they are.
Name the three most significant challenges and/or influences facing your ministry.
The church seems to be losing its influence among the people in the community. I am not sure I have a specific reason, other than culture seems to be giving individuals more choices that seem to be more appealing.
Growing up, as my love for the Lord grew, my love for the local church grew. Church attendance was a priority; it was not an option. I wanted to be at church with my church family and be a part of what was taking place.
Also, sharing the gospel with people. I fear we have lost the realization of what a future without Christ looks like for those who never have chosen to follow Christ as their personal Savior.
Why are you Baptist?
Goes back to my testimony. The people of God at First Baptist Church in Seminole showed up at my home with a King James Bible wrapped in clear plastic. Karl Don and Sandra Hughes cared enough to take the time to come to my home; they followed up with me. A week later, on a Wednesday night, I was baptized at First Baptist Seminole. I have not looked back since.
What are the key issues facing Baptists—denominationally and/or congregationally?
This is a hard realization for me, but I recognize the change of denominational life as I knew it when I was growing up. Denominational loyalty for many seems to be no more. People are giving more thought to Christianity than to denominational work.
For congregations, has our culture watered down Christianity to a point it is affecting our churches? The word “Christian” seems to have been dumbed down to a buzzword. Where are the true followers of Christ?
Who were/are your mentors, and how did/do they influence you?
I remember a particular youth pastor who served my home church as a summer youth minister. He was a cool college student who loved me. More importantly, he loved the Lord. I had the privilege of serving with this youth pastor on staff at a church here in Texas for eight years. The influence he had on me as a high school student continued as a college student and then as a colleague. He was and is a great example of Jesus.
Robert L. and Ethelyn Smith taught me generosity. They allowed me to live with them for two years while I was attending Howard Payne University. They loved me as their own, and never did I feel like a guest in their home. The Jesus they displayed in their public life was the same Jesus at their home.
For the past 14 years, I have had the opportunity to sit under the teaching and preaching of my current pastor, Bobby Dagnel. Through his preaching and teaching, I have had my greatest growth in understanding the Scriptures. Although I have a ways to go, his commitment to the exposition of the Scriptures has taught me much.
What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?
Although there are many verses I love, James 4:6 is one of my favorites. “But he gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble’” (NASB).
This is a great reminder that my life is based upon grace. What has been done in my life has not been done on my own merit, and I have no reason to be arrogant or proud.
My life verse is John 15:5—“I am the vine, you are the branches; the one who remains in me, and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (NASB).
I ask myself at least once or twice a week, “Was fruit born from life today?” If I am not bearing fruit in my life, then there is a disconnect in my one-on-one relationship with the Lord.
Who is your favorite person in the Bible, other than Jesus? Why?
David. Although no one is exempt from making the same mistakes David made, those mistakes did not define him. Although he had failures, he still was a man after God’s heart. One of my prayers often is that the Lord create in me a clean heart.