Stacy Conner has been pastor of First Baptist Church in Muleshoe a quarter-century. He shares his background and thoughts on ministry with the Baptist Standard’s “Deep in the Hearts of Texans.”
• Where else have you served in ministry, and what were your positions there?
Pastor—First Baptist Church in Matador
Activities minister—First Baptist Church in Plainview while studying at Wayland Baptist University
• Where did you grow up?
• How did you come to faith in Christ?
My parents were devout church members and volunteers, and we participated in every area of the life of the church. I was watching the old Southern Baptist Radio & Television Commission show “Children’s Tree House.” They asked the question about trusting Christ. I had not made a personal confession. So, I listened to the puppet characters and accepted Christ at 9 years of age.
• Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?
Bachelor of arts—Wayland Baptist University
Master of divinity—Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Doctor of ministry—Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University
• Why do you feel called into ministry?
I felt a sense of calling when I was 12 years old while studying a Sunday school lesson on the young boy David. I have pursued this ministry calling in education and practice. While there have been difficult times and disappointing times, there has never been another opportunity that presented itself more fulfilling than ministry.
• What is your favorite aspect of ministry? Why?
To see the transformation in people’s lives that can come only through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
• How has your ministry or your perspective on ministry changed?
When I began in ministry, the convention provided yearly programs and missional and denominational emphases. We are living in a time when every church must capture and create its own vision and ministries. We are required to think more creatively and to take a longer view toward ministry.
• Name the three most significant challenges and/or influences facing your congregation.
Our three most significant challenges are the demographic shifts in the state of Texas, the challenge of meeting every individual’s expectations of worship style and maintaining ministry staff in rural Texas.
• What are the key issues facing Baptists—denominationally and/or congregationally?
The threat that is eroding Baptist life is the temptation that every church should go its own way and carve out its own niche in mission and ministry. Most of the time, churches fund their new ideas with tithes that formerly were given to the Cooperative Program. We are failing to communicate and understand we can do more together than we can apart.
The fruits of this choice toward independence is being seen in our lack of commitment to training the next generation of Baptist ministers. Previously, the Cooperative Program enabled affordable theological education. A lack of cooperative giving is increasing the personal cost of ministry education. Ministers with significant student debt are hindered in a variety of ways. We are seeing and will continue to see the effects of choosing independence take its toll on young ministers in training and ultimately the churches.
• Who were/are your mentors, and how did/do they influence you?
I have been blessed with a number of mentors.
Floyd Bradley was the director of missions for the Caprock Plains Area. He walked me through the steps needed to pastor West Texas people and pulled me down to earth when needed.
A deacon at First Baptist Church in Matador, E.A. Day, offered me practical advice and glimpses of grace needed to lead a congregation.
My most significant preaching influence is/was Garrison Keillor. People remember stories more than they remember points. He also is the master of timing.
• What did you learn on the job you wish you learned in seminary?
Funerals were mentioned briefly in a pastoral care course during seminary training. Yet they are among the most important ministry opportunities a pastor has. You only have one chance to bury someone’s parent, spouse or friend. I spend hours listening to family stories and trying to weave the life of a saint into the message of the gospel. Funerals are among the most important work a pastor does in a church and a community, yet seminary education in the past treated them as footnotes.
• Name some of your favorite books (other than the Bible) or authors, and explain why.
William Manchester’s Last Lion series on Winston Churchill. I read everything new that is written about Churchill every year. To have the courage to hold an unpopular, yet true, opinion and express it year after year, and then rally the country, is truly inspiring.
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