Since 2013, John L. Brackin has served as the director of missions for the Hill Country Baptist Association. His overall career as a director of missions spans more than 20 years. 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 missions, West Palm Beach, Fla., 8 ½ years
- Director of evangelism and missions, Tucson, Ariz., 7 ½ years
- Pastor, First Baptist Church, Maitland, Fla. (suburb of Orlando), 4 years
- Editorial and curriculum consultant, International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, Manila, Philippines, 5 years. I nationalized the position and attended the Spanish Language School in San Jose, Costa Rica, for one year.
- Professor of theological and academic dean, The Guatemala Baptist Theological Seminary, Guatemala, Guatemala, 6 years. The Seminary was nationalized, and my family returned to the United States.
- Pastor, First Baptist Church, Waverly Hall, Ga., 3 ½ years
Where did you grow up?
I was born on Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas.
As an Air Force “brat,” I lived in Panama City, Florida; Wichita Falls, Texas; Bedford, Virginia; and Orlando, Florida.
How did you come to faith in Christ?
I grew up in a Christian home. I was a cradle roll baby. I knew at five years of age that I was called to preach. I wanted to be baptized, but my mother thought I was too young. When I was nine years old, I decided that I had waited long enough.
When Pastor A. M. gave the invitation, I ran to the front of the First Baptist Church Pine Castle, Florida, before my mom could stop me and told him Jesus is my Lord and I want to be baptized. Mom talked to the pastor afterward, and he convinced her that I understood the gospel as well as many adults and should be baptized. I have never doubted that experience or questioned my baptism.
Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?
I was in the first graduating class of what is now Valencia College Orlando, Florida, with an associate of arts degree; I have a Bachelor of Arts in communication/journalism from the University of Central Florida, Orlando. I earned the Master of Divinity and Master of Religious Education degrees from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary,
I also have a Doctor of Ministry degree from Trinity Theological Seminary in Newburg, Indiana.
Why do you feel called to your particular vocation?
While on home leave from the International Mission Board, I preached in dozens of associations and churches. Directors of mission consistently told me that if the Lord ever directed my leaving the IMB that I should consider becoming a director of missions.
When we returned, I returned to the pastorate. However, my DOM and others continued to encourage me to investigate the ministry of directors of missions. A friend sent my resume to Tucson, and they called me as director of evangelism and missions.
I have now served for 20 years as a DOM. Tucson was a large metro association, West Palm Beach was a mega association and Hill Country is a town and country association. I have been told by NAMB personnel that they don’t know anyone who has been a DOM in all three types of associations.
Please tell us about your association—where it’s located, the key focus of its work and ministry, etc.
Hill Country Baptist Association encompasses 5,000 square miles, which includes Kerr, Bandera, Gillespie, Kendall and Kendall Counties. I live in Kerrville, which is a central location. My emphasis as a DOM has been church-starting. HCBA has started four new churches in the last year. The year 2016 emphasized church revitalization.
What do you like best about leading your association? Why?
Helping churches and pastors reach their unique ministry vision is a passion. I also have the privilege of preaching on a regular basis in English and Spanish. We have offered our nine Hispanic congregations and pastors a variety of seminars and training sessions.
What aspect(s) of associational ministry and/or its mission do you wish more people understood?
Many people believe the association is an arm of one of the two state Baptist conventions. The association is autonomous. I tell people that I do not have BGCT or SBTC churches. I have HCBA churches. This means that I work with both conventions to provide the best possible resources to help the local church.
It is also my mission to stimulate church members to active evangelism. If the local church member does not talk about how Jesus has influenced his or her life, then this part of Texas will not be reached for Christ.
How has your association and its mission changed since you began your career?
Twenty years ago, the local Baptist association was program-driven. Many DOMs were local promoters for what is now LifeWay. Today, directors of missions are more strategically oriented.
We adapt to the local church needs rather than give them a box of programs that might or might not work. We also walk with a church through the individual process until the local church is comfortable with the renewal and growth.
How do you expect your association and/or its mission to change in the next 10 to 20 years?
As Texas demographics change, the DOM will need to be more culturally aware. Thankfully, our churches are no longer a denomination of southern white folks. We are reaching a multitude of language and racial groups. Theology will be consistent, but worship styles will continue to vary.
Name the three most significant challenges and/or influences facing your association.
In the past, church pastors automatically participated in the association and its ministry. Today, group meetings are seen as less important. New pastors have a much more independent understanding of “how to do church.” The DOM must spend time convincing many pastors of the value of the association and state convention.
Individuals with no Southern Baptist background are now much more likely to be put into leadership positions in the local church. As this happens, the church becomes more inwardly focused. The association is seen as less important. Funding is diminished or cut altogether.
As the Hispanic population continues to grow, more and more directors of missions will need to speak Spanish. Having been a missionary with the International Mission Board, I speak Spanish. If I did not, I would have a difficult time relating to 21 percent of the churches in this association.
What one aspect of your job gives you the greatest joy or fulfillment?
Church revitalization and church planting. When I can encourage the pastor of a struggling church and then watch that pastor regain hope that results in the revitalization of his church, I rejoice.
What are the key issues—opportunities and/or challenges—facing Baptist churches?
American culture is becoming more hostile to Christians. It has always been difficult for many church members to share the gospel. However, in the past, we were listened to in a civil manner. Today, we are ridiculed and condemned as being ignorant and closed-minded. We must teach our church members and pastors how to practice Christian apologetics.
What are the key issues facing Baptists as a people or denomination?
When more than half the Baptist churches in Texas do not baptize anyone during a calendar year, we are not doing something right.
What would you change about the Baptist denomination—state, nation or local?
A truthful answer to that question will only result in me getting in trouble. Maybe that’s what needs to change.
Who were/are your mentors, and how did/do they influence you?
As directors of missions, we encourage each other. I have received solid advice from DOMs from all over the convention. Growing up, my pastors were a mixture of exegetical and topical preachers. I have tried to follow their example with a balance between the two.
Other than the Bible, name some of your favorite books or authors, and explain why.
I enjoy a variety of fiction authors: Lee Child, Daniel Silva and Matt Braun. Tom Cheyney has written some excellent books on church revitalization. “Praying the Bible” by Donald S. Whitney has expanded the way I pray.
What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV).
There are times in ministry when we want to walk away. In fact, several thousand a year do give up and walk away. However, when we are called by God to vocational ministry, we must be ready to face adversity. This verse gives me the strength to trust that God is working in and through me even in the dark times.
Who is your favorite Bible character, other than Jesus? Why?
Acts 22:13 calls David a man after God’s own heart. David had committed terrible sins. However, when he repented, God blessed him and used David to draw a nation to the Creator.
Name something about you that would surprise people who know you well.
I have a third-degree black belt in tae kwon do. I have used it as an evangelistic outreach at First Baptist, Plano, Texas, while a missionary in Guatemala and as DOM in West Palm Beach, Florida. When people ask me why I earned a black belt, I reply, “Deacons.” I’m only half joking.
If you could get one “do over” in your career, what would it be, and why?
There is plenty of opportunity for “do overs” in my life. However, I have learned as much from my mistakes as I have when I get it right the first time.
As a result, I will pass on the “do over.”
Bonus: Write and answer a question you wish we had asked.
Tell us about your family.
My wife, Anne, and I have been married for 45 years. She has a doctorate in communication and is the author of the book “Always Together, Always Alone: the truth about being a minister’s wife.”
Our son, Adam, is married to Lisa Foster. Her dad was chaplain at Big Springs Mental Hospital.
Our son has a doctorate from UT Dallas and has been a university professor. Lisa is an educational diagnostician. They are the parents of our only grandchild, Ian Patrick Brackin.