Olin Boles has been the executive director of Bi-Stone Baptist Association since 2009. From deep in the heart of one Texan, he shares his background and thoughts on associational ministry and the church. 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?
- International Mission Board missionary to Brazil from 1966 to 1980 (with exception of a leave of absence and brief period of resignation while pastoring First Baptist in Kerens, Texas)
- Executive director of Gulf Coast Baptist Association, 1995 to 2003
- Interim director of Missions, Central Texas Baptist Area, 2004 to 2005 (Associations in Area: Corsicana, Hill, Leon and Bi-Stone)
- Interim director of Missions, Dogwood Trails Baptist Area, 2008 to 2009 (Associations in Area: Henderson, Saline and Cherokee)
- Associational strategist, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, 2011 to 2013
- First Baptist Church of Portage in Kalamazoo, Mich. 1963 to 1966
- First Baptist in Kerens, Texas, 1972 to 1975
- Flint Baptist in Flint, 1980 to 1987
- First Baptist in Sugar Land, 1987 to 1995
- Calvary Baptist in Kaufman, 2006 to 2008
- LaRue Baptist in LaRue, 2014 to present
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the New York, Texas, community, which is located in Henderson County. This small rural community had a great influence on my life.
How did you come to faith in Christ?
It was during the summer revival at the New York Baptist Church at the age of 12 that I gave my heart and life to Christ.
Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?
- East Texas Baptist College, Marshall: bachelor of arts, 1959
- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth: bachelor of divinity—1963, master of divinity—1973
Why do you feel called to your particular vocation?
I remember very vividly the night that, as a 17-year-old, I knelt by my bedside asking God to show me very plainly whether it was his call upon my life to be a minister of the gospel, or if there was another reason for the restlessness in my spirit. His answer was plain as I prayerfully opened my Bible and found his assurance in Psalm 105:1: “O give thanks unto the Lord, call upon his name; make known his deeds among the people.”This was in the spring of 1954, and from that date, his peace has been with me as I have had the glorious privilege of making known his deeds around the world.
As the years have passed, it has been my privilege to work with pastors and churches in eight different associations in Texas. I believe that God’s will is dynamic rather than static, meaning that his call is to him and not to a particular location or type of ministry. The experiences that you gain along your life’s pathway allow you to minister to others from those experiences.
Becoming involved in associational ministry was a call to share with others the joys and challenges of leadership, many of which I have shared in my book published in 2011, titled Second-Mile Leadership Principles.
Please tell us about your association—where it’s located, the key focus of its work and ministry, etc.
Bi-Stone Baptist Association is located in Freestone and Limestone Counties in Central Texas. We are a small association in number of churches (24), yet with a vision of ministry that can be described as Acts 1:8 in scope. We have ministry focused in the areas of equipping churches and church leaders for ministry, encouraging or strengthening pastors for their ministry and in evangelism/missions for reaching their communities and beyond with the gospel.
What do you like best about leading your association? Why?
The relationships that are formed between myself, the pastors/church leaders and churches. I am more interested in their being than in their doing. While I envision that the director of missions is to be a vision caster for his association, it is more important that he has a heart and concern for those with whom he serves.
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What aspect(s) of associational ministry and/or its mission do you wish more people understood?
My definition of an association is simple: “An association is a family of churches that have banded together to carry out the Great Commission.” If this vision could be caught, associational ministry would take on new life.
How has your association and its mission changed since you began your career?
Since my experience with being a director of missions dates back to 1995, changes have been dramatic.
While serving as executive director of the Gulf Coast Baptist Association, we had a yellow-pad retreat to redraw the ministry of the association. We became what we called a Globa/Local Association with an Acts 1:8 ministry emphasis.
I believe that every few years, as changes come into our areas of ministry, we need to re-evaluate how we are doing ministry and make changes to meet the changing needs that surround us. At the same time, we need to maintain the principles that keep us together.
How do you expect your association and/or its mission to change in the next 10 to 20 years?
Bi-Stone Baptist Association will continue to have an effective ministry because of its purpose: The purpose of the association is to encourage a spirit of cooperation among member churches to fulfill the Great Commission.
Name the three most significant challenges and/or influences facing your association.
- Aging of church members
- Lack of participation of some of the churches
- Declining membership in more of the rural churches
What one aspect of your job gives you the greatest joy or fulfillment?
Fellowship with and giving encouragement to the pastors.
What are the key issues—opportunities and/or challenges—facing Baptist churches?
Keeping the “main thing, the main thing,” which is missions and evangelism both locally and worldwide.
What are the key issues facing Baptists as a people or denomination?
There is a need for revival that could change everything in our denomination and our society as a whole.
Who were/are your mentors, and how did/do they influence you?
Two pastors during my teenage years had a great influence on my life. C.O. Jackson Jr. was my pastor in New York, Texas, when I came to Christ. Bob Cheek, who was also pastor at New York, also had a great influence on me during those early years. Both of these men were my mentors during most of my ministry. They now enjoy their eternal rewards in heaven.
Other than the Bible, name some of your favorite books or authors, and explain why.
- The Saving Life of Christ by Ian Thomas
- Life on the Highest Plain by Ruth Paxon
These books came into my life at a junction when I was discouraged and looking for an answer for that discouragement. I came to realize that God didn’t need me to work for him. He needed me to allow him to do his work through me.
What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?
“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry” (1 Timothy 1:12).
It is my firm belief that there is “No Higher Calling” than that of being called into vocational ministry. The thought of “Why Me, Lord?” never leaves my mind. The feeling of inadequacy has remained for a lifetime. One does not choose to be called. God chooses the called.
Who is your favorite Bible character, other than Jesus? Why?
Paul, because of his complete abandonment of self to serve Christ.
Name something about you that would surprise people who know you well.
I play the tub, an instrument that is made of a broom handle, cord and a number three washtub.
If you could get one “do over” in your career, what would it be, and why?
I would ask for more patience in working with some of the challenges that have come my way in leadership. As I look back, even though at the time I felt that the decisions that were made were correct, I sometimes wonder, “If I had waited a little longer, would things have turned out different?”