Since June 2014, Keith Simpson has been the ministry director for the Lake Ivie Baptist Association in Ballinger, 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?
I taught school for 38 years and started pastoring in 1998 at a small rural church in northeastern McCulloch County in 1998. I was employed as an agri-science teacher for 35 years and a principal for three years.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in and around Richland Springs, Texas, graduating from there in 1966, and got my Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Education at Tarleton State University.
How did you come to faith in Christ?
It was not in a church, believe it or not.
I have always been the one in the family who was called upon in times of crises, and, after one of these crises, while driving home, I had a sudden realization that I could not do this myself. I then pulled over on the side of the highway, cried like a baby and accepted the Lord on the spot with my wife (who had been a Christian for 20 years) by my side.
I came forward the following Sunday and made a profession of faith and was baptized soon afterward.
Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?
As previously stated, I have a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in Education from Tarleton State University. I also attended Logsdon Seminary from September of 2016 through May of 2017, where I accumulated 12 hours of credit.
Why do you feel called to your particular vocation?
I had worked with the local association in just about every capacity for the last 20-plus years, serving as moderator of the former Brady Association and then on the strategy and development committee to reform the former Brady, Coleman Runnels Area into what is now the Lake Ivie Baptist Association.
While we were without a director of missions, I served as moderator of the association and ran the search committee to find a new DOM. After receiving over 200 applications, and after interviewing several candidates, the other members of the committee approached me and asked me to take the position since I was so involved in the association anyway.
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After much prayer and votes from the search committee, our administrative team and the executive board (all unanimous), it was a clear sign from God that this is where he wanted us.
Please tell us about your association—where it’s located, the key focus of its work and ministry, etc.
We are located in West, Central Texas, 40 miles northeast of San Angelo and 60 miles south of Abilene, and we encompass about a 100-mile-by-100 mile radius with 48 churches, 36 of which have bivocational pastors.
In August of 2017, we had a strategy development meeting to see what the perceived needs of our churches were, and we came up with nearly 50 ideas, but seven of the top 10 dealt with evangelism and discipleship, so this has been our focus this year and will continue to be our focus.
We are looking at deacon trainings, discipleship trainings, and already have in place for the fall two different “Heaven’s Gate, Hell’s Flames” presentations in two different parts of our association.
We have also had some church security/safety trainings and other trainings.
What do you like best about leading your association? Why?
Without a doubt, the best part of leading this association are the people.
My wife and I have the opportunity to be in a different church every Sunday, and we enjoy the fellowship with the people, whether it is in a traditional church, some of our small rural country churches or our cowboy churches. We both love the fellowship and meeting people and enjoy the time we spend visiting with all the people.
What aspect(s) of associational ministry and/or its mission do you wish more people understood?
For the first time in four years, I have been asked to come speak to approximately six of our churches and just inform them what the Association is and what it does. It seems that the younger Christians have never been involved with nor told about the local association.
How has your association and its mission changed since you began your career?
I feel as if we are more targeted now since we have a strategic plan put together by member churches to help us focus our emphases on where they think it should be.
How do you expect your association and/or its mission to change in the next 10 to 20 years?
As times change and as culture changes, we must become more relevant to people. The needs in today’s society are entirely different than what they were 30 or 40 years ago and we must adapt or die.
Name the three most significant challenges and/or influences facing your association.
Since we are such a large geographical area and since we have such a large number of bivocational pastors, it is hard to get the involvement we would like. There never seems to be a time to get a large group of representatives from our churches to come together for solutions to common problems.
The second challenge I see is the fact that church membership/attendance is declining in so many of our churches.
The third challenge I think we formerly faced was a lack of vision, but now, with our strategic plan, we can and will become more focused on our vision and objectives.
What one aspect of your job gives you the greatest joy or fulfillment?
Without a doubt, the greatest joy I have is seeing and visiting with the people all across our association, from businessmen to farmers and ranchers to laborers. They all love the Lord.
What are the key issues—opportunities and/or challenges—facing Baptist churches?
I feel as if most Baptist churches (and others, as well) have no sense of purpose as to why they exist. The challenge is that most churches do not have a strategic plan or a direction or a vision.
What are the key issues facing Baptists as a people or denomination?
Baptists are still relevant in today’s society, but we must stay relevant or people will lose hope and quit attending church because they don’t see the relevance of it.
What would you change about the Baptist denomination—state, nation or local?
Baptists are still, by far, the most focused of any denomination that I am aware of. They continue to reinvent the wheel, as it were. We, as a denomination, continue to be on the cutting edge of reaching people and building the kingdom.
Who were/are your mentors, and how did/do they influence you?
Without a doubt, my wife has been my greatest influence, and, were it not for her prayers for many years, I may have never come to know the Lord. Since joining the church, I have had several pastors who have helped shape my life and ministry.
Other than the Bible, name some of your favorite books or authors, and explain why.
I like reading David Jeremiah, Thom Rainer and many others because they are so relatable to today’s culture and society.
What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?
First Corinthians 15:19: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (KJV). As I was reading one day, God showed me this Scripture and it impacted my life dramatically.
Who is your favorite Bible character, other than Jesus? Why?
I would say that Job is my favorite, simply because, even in the midst of losing everything, he continued to praise God. I feel that this is a life lesson for all of us. Being a Christian is not easy, but we should continue to praise God in the midst of the storm.
Name something about you that would surprise people who know you well.
Even though I have trained myself to be more outgoing, I am basically an introvert, especially around people with whom I am not comfortable.
If you could get one “do over” in your career, what would it be, and why?
I waited until I was 31 years old to accept Christ, and I certainly wish that I had done it sooner.
Write and answer a question you wish we had asked.
Why did God call you into the ministry?
To me, this is an all-important question since I do not hold a theological degree. My training has come from on-the-job experiences, I guess one might say.
I started out teaching Sunday School for some 20 years, was a deacon for over 15 years, filled the pulpit upon occasion, pastored for 17 years, have now been ministry director for nearly four years, and I still cannot answer that question because I don’t understand how God can continue to use me.
But, God has continued to bless my wife and me with opportunity and opportunity to bless people with whom we have contact. And I truly believe that one-on-one sharing is the best evangelism tool God has.