Since November 2006, Kent Pate has been the executive director for the Rehoboth Baptist Association in Sulphur Springs, Texas, which serves churches in six counties. 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?
- Fulltime evangelist for five years based out of Nacogdoches, Texas.
- Senior pastor, Northwood Baptist Church in Nacogdoches: 10 years
- Senior pastor, Northway Baptist Church in Angleton: 13 years
Where did you grow up?
San Augustine, Texas
How did you come to faith in Christ?
Through seeing a dramatic change in my dad’s life, I began to feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit. My dad and my pastor led me to Christ in the pastor’s office of FBC San Augustine. I was eleven years old.
Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?
- San Augustine high school: graduated in 1971 with a diploma
- Panola Junior College in Carthage, Texas. Attended one year
- East Texas Baptist College in Marshall, Texas. Graduated in 1975 with a Bachelor of Arts.
- Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. Graduated in 1979 with a Masters of Divinity
- Louisiana Baptist University in Shreveport, Louisiana. Graduated in 2012 with a Doctorate.
Why do you feel called to your particular vocation?
I love to pastor, and, as a director of missions, I get the opportunity to pastor with pastors in the church-at-large in our region. I also love pastors and staff ministers and enjoy very much trying to serve and assist them in their ministries.
Please tell us about your association—where it’s located, the key focus of its work and ministry, etc.
We are located in Northeast Texas and have 53 churches in six counties. It’s primarily a rural area, and over half of our churches are bi-vocational. Our focus is on church health, church revitalization, starting new churches outside of our association, and developing the Hispanic churches and ministries in our region.
What do you like best about leading your association? Why?
I like building relationships between our churches and our pastors. We can do more together, and we definitely need each other! I report in a weekly email on what is happening in our churches and with our church leaders. We try to connect our churches for encouragement, fellowship, partnerships, prayer support and learning opportunities.
What aspect(s) of associational ministry and/or its mission do you wish more people understood?
How vital associational ministry is to our churches and leaders. A lot of what we do as an associational staff does not show up in records or statistics. It’s behind the scenes.
The best testimonies about the value of associational ministry come from the churches and leaders themselves when they are direct benefactors of training, conflict mediation, counseling, interim work, ministry resourcing and connections or problem-solving.
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How has your association and its mission changed since you began your career?
Yes. We have reorganized our structure twice in the last twelve years. We try to do fewer meetings and more effective communication and coordination. We have also taken the step to become involved in church planting outside our association in the larger and faster-growing population centers of Texas. Church revitalization inside our association has also become a priority.
How do you expect your association and/or its mission to change in the next 10 to 20 years?
Great question! We pray and have discussion groups on that subject periodically. Population growth and demographics will have a big influence on RBA’s mission in the future. The Hispanic population will take a bigger role in our association’s ministry and leadership. There may come a time for a switch to a bi-vocational DOM, with more ministry vested in our teams.
Name the three most significant challenges and/or influences facing your association.
- Reaching and involving younger adults in association ministry.
- Commitment to Baptist doctrine in the face of Calvinism and charismatic influence.
What one aspect of your job gives you the greatest joy or fulfillment?
It’s hard to list just one, but first on the list would probably be seeing partnerships and relationships develop between pastors.
What are the key issues—opportunities and/or challenges—facing Baptist churches?
I would list the same three I mentioned under those faced in our association. I would also add a fourth: racial reconciliation. We still believe the problem is over and talking about it only makes it worse.
What would you change about the Baptist denomination—state, nation or local?
Definitely be strongly supportive of associational ministry, which has not always been the case in recent years. The association really is “the boots on the ground.” I say this as a former pastor for 23 years, not just as a DOM.
Continue to include the younger voices and leaders. Continue to reach out to the bi-vocational pastors and help them to develop a global vision. Size does not limit biblical obedience to the Great Commission.
Who were/are your mentors, and how did/do they influence you?
- Nelson Pate – my dad. He was a Baptist deacon and Sunday school teacher for many years. He was the “real deal” and gave me my first example of being a “man” who followed God.
- Paul Burleson – conference leader and seminary pastor. I was an intern under Paul’s ministry for two years. Great teacher and leader who taught me more than my seminary education, or at least as much.
- Roy Edgemon – Former discipleship leader at LifeWay. Roy “wrote the book” on the transitional pastor model, along with some other great men in Baptist life. What better friend could a DOM have?!
Other than the Bible, name some of your favorite books or authors, and explain why.
Henry Blackaby, David Platt, Chuck Swindoll, Billy Graham, Jim Cymbala, John MacArthur, David Jeremiah and Jim Denison.
What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?
It’s always been Isaiah 40:31. It speaks of strength and rising above the challenges and crises of life. I am a nobody without God’s strength!
Who is your favorite Bible character, other than Jesus? Why?
Joshua. I love his leadership qualities and courage. He was willing to take risks, he accepted responsibility and he made the tough but necessary decisions for God’s glory and God’s people.
Name something about you that would surprise people who know you well.
I played one semester of college baseball, and one of my teammates was Rudy Jaramillo, who later became the hitting coach for the Texas Rangers baseball team.
If you could get one “do over” in your career, what would it be, and why?
I would do a better job as a pastor of the two churches I pastored. I made so many mistakes!
Write and answer a question you wish we had asked.
How did you meet your wife?
I met her in a student-led revival in her home church when I was a senior at ETBC. She was the best “love offering” I ever received.