Steve Doyle has been the director of missions for the Creath-Brazos Baptist Association in College Station since 2018. 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?
In 2006, I planted Harbins Community Baptist Church in Dacula, Georgia, and pastored it until I came here. Prior to pastoring Harbins, I served as a children’s pastor at First Baptist Church in Snellville, Georgia, and prior to that, I was the children’s pastor at First Baptist Church in Bentonville, Arkansas. All in all, I have been in vocational ministry for 19 years.
Where did you grow up?
My formative years were lived in Quito, Ecuador as a missionary kid. We moved there when I was 7 after a year in language school in Costa Rica.
How did you come to faith in Christ?
It was during a chapel service at Alliance Academy in Quito—when I was 9 years old—that I remember fully understanding that the gospel was for me and that I needed to respond to the gospel call. I raised my hand as the preacher presented the gospel and asked who would like to respond. But then, when he called us forward, I chickened out and stayed in my seat. That night I told my dad that I think I got “half-saved” in chapel. He smiled and graciously explained that it wasn’t the hand raised or the walking the aisle that was important, but rather it was whether or not I believed the claims of Christ and surrendered to him in my heart. I was baptized soon after at Iglesia Bautista Vida Nueva in Quito.
Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?
After graduating high-school from Alliance Academy in Quito, I went to Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, where I graduated with a bachelor of science degree in communication in 1994. In 2004, I graduated with my master of divinity degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
Why do you feel called to your particular vocation?
I have a passion for the local church and for pastors and feel called to help pastors lead healthy churches to extend the gospel of Jesus Christ both locally and globally.
Please tell us about your association—where it’s located, the key focus of its work and ministry, etc.
Our association is located in Bryan/College Station, but encompasses Brazos, Grimes, Waller, Madison and even part of Leon counties.
Our key focus in 2019 is church health. Our mission statement is that we exist to glorify God through partnering, mobilizing and strengthening churches to extend the gospel of Jesus Christ. In my first year, we want to focus on that last verb: strengthening. We cannot be mobilized or partnered effectively if we are not first healthy.
What do you like best about leading your association? Why?
I love just sitting with pastors and hearing the stories of how God has been working in and through them and their churches.
What aspect(s) of associational ministry and/or its mission do you wish more people understood?
I wish people understood the challenge of getting autonomous churches to strategically work together for gospel goals.
How has your association and its mission changed since you began your career?
Well, I am new to associational life, but I can tell you that associations have to change if they want to be relevant.
I know that as a pastor, my interaction with the association I was part of was hampered by that association’s inability to modernize and leverage technology to help churches face the unique challenges of our day.
The mission of the association can no longer be that of a denominational clearing house or gatekeeper. Instead, we must become network strategists who draw from a variety of resources to help churches strategically work together. That involves vision casting, coaching, consulting and more.
Associational leaders can just sit and assume they are relevant or even that they will exist in five years. Instead, we must be proactively engaged in implementing strategies that will strengthen local churches to do their task of changing the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
How do you expect your association and/or its mission to change in the next 10 to 20 years?
Well, I touched on some of that above. But associations, I believe, will have to become more streamlined so as to do more with less and more focused so as to acutely provide value to their member churches.
What value-contribution associations can offer to their churches will vary largely on the community context, but regardless, each association must find its niche and lean into it so as to make themselves an invaluable and irreplaceable part of their churches’ lives.
Name the three most significant challenges and/or influences facing your association.
1. Our association must become relevant again to our churches.
2. Church health. We have some very healthy churches, but we also have some unhealthy ones and many who don’t realize they are unhealthy. Like many associations, there are several churches on life-support and several who will be there within five years. So, revitalization and replanting are needed now and will be needed even more in the coming years.
3. Bryan/College Station is a very conservative and comfortable place for many people. But the world is changing and diversifying, and so many of our churches must get out of their comfort zone in order to impact a rapidly changing culture.
What one aspect of your job gives you the greatest joy or fulfillment?
I get great joy in seeing pastors encouraged and equipped to shepherd their flocks well.
What are the key issues—opportunities and/or challenges—facing Baptist churches?
I think the key issues facing Baptists are on three fronts.
1. The denomination must remember its core Baptist distinctives, including separation of church and state. As everything from the cereal you eat to the TV you watch becomes overtly political, the church—especially the Baptist church—must not!
2. The declining and plateaued church situation is both a challenge and opportunity. With 75 percent of our churches in a dead or dying state, we have a great opportunity for renewal and revitalization that could spark revival. But we’ve got to look reality in the face, and churches have got to be willing to sacrifice their sacred cows and repent of said idolatry in order to experience a fresh wind of God’s Spirit.
3. Finally, we must learn how to fight for biblical truth while holding biblical tensions. Only then can we charitably agree to charitably disagree on secondary and tertiary issues.
What are the key issues facing Baptists as a people or denomination?
No issue is pressing in on the evangelical church—including Baptists—more than that of the new sexual revolutions. The LGBTQ issues and social waves are nothing short of a revolution that redefines humanity itself. The church must know how to courageously and compassionately swim against the cultural stream so as to hold the grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ high for all to see.
As has been the case for many years now, Baptists are facing unity issues. Some top-tier issues of gospel and biblical fidelity are worth fighting for, but there are too many secondary and tertiary issues that we fight about, which in turn affect our ability to cooperate. Wisdom is needed to navigate underneath the wide umbrella of Southern Baptist with charity, yet also with clarity and faithfulness to the Scriptures.
What would you change about the Baptist denomination—state, nation or local?
I wish I had a magic wand that would eliminate the bureaucracy and also eliminate the redundancy within the denomination. Some of the redundancy is due to theological splits, other is simply due to bloated structures. If we are to survive and effectively impact the world for the gospel in the next half-century, we will have to streamline a lot of things. Praise God that we are starting to see some of this happen.
Who were/are your mentors, and how did/do they influence you?
My first and greatest mentor was and is my father, Larry Doyle. My dad was a pastor, missionary and later a director of missions. But beyond those roles, he was a godly role-model and friend.
The most influential man in my life outside of my father was my high-school soccer coach, Dan Egler. Mr. Egler taught me about integrity and perseverance.
Larry Doyle and Dan Egler are two of the godliest men I’ve ever met.
Other than the Bible, name some of your favorite books or authors, and explain why.
• Desiring God, by John Piper. It provides the theological grounding for doing ministry with great joy and for the glory of God. Another book by Piper which is invaluable to me is Let the Nations be Glad.
• Dangerous Calling, by Paul Tripp, is one of the best books to help pastors face the challenges of such a high calling.
• Instruments in the Redeemers Hands, another book by Tripp, is a guidebook for biblical counseling.
• Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis, remains to this day one of the best apologetic resources I can think of.
• The Conviction to Lead, by Al Mohler, is by far the best leadership book I’ve ever read, and it impacts me on a weekly basis.
• On the biography side of things, David McCollough’s John Adams is awesome and very informative. I also enjoyed Lincoln by Ronald C. White.
• The Kingdom of God, by Jeffery Johnson, is a phenomenal biblical theology book that I greatly appreciate. It helps one to more readily see the connective tissues of the whole narrative of the Bible.
• Finally, I loved To End All Wars, by Earnest Gordan, as it described the horrors of World War II, yet the reconciliation and rebirth that God can bring out of such devastation.
What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?
My favorite Bible verse has always been John 16:33. Jesus, as he is culminating his ministry and giving final words to his disciples, tells them: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Those words have carried me many times and drive me to preach a gospel of surrender and service to God that may or may not involve many difficulties and tribulations.
Who is your favorite Bible character, other than Jesus? Why?
Probably the Apostle Paul. Paul’s passion for planting new churches and support healthy ones is something I seek to emulate.
Name something about you that would surprise people who know you well.
I enjoy watching Hallmark movies with my wife. I can’t believe I just admitted that!
If you could get one “do over” in your career, what would it be, and why?
I don’t spend much time thinking about “do overs” because I do not find it helpful or in line with what Paul teaches us in Philippians 3, but … I guess I wish I had focused more on my home in the first years of ministry. I allowed the ministry to consume me, and as a result, my family got hurt. By God’s grace, we have and will overcome, but I wish I had been wiser.