By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
ALEXANDRIA (LBM) – Wayne Jenkins’ call to fulfill the Great Commission has taken him from the bayous of south Louisiana to the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, during his 27 years as director of evangelism for Louisiana Baptists.
Jenkins retired Jan. 31, but his commitment to share the Gospel alongside Louisiana Baptists will continue with annual trips to Brazil.
He hopes to continue spending time with his children and grandchildren, but he is determined to assist with the Harvest and other evangelism efforts that equip Louisiana Baptists with the tools needed to share their faith.
“I never thought I would work for the Convention,” Jenkins said. “I always had high regards for the men and women who worked for the Convention and would never have felt qualified. When (Louisiana Baptist Convention Executive Director) Mark Short approached me about considering the position of evangelism director, it was the one position I would consider.
“Never would I have dreamed I would have been privileged to work here for 27 years and under three executive directors,” he added. “To be able to work with pastors, directors of missions, staff and laymen for all these years has been such a rich blessing.”
TRAINING FOR MINISTRY
A native of Baton Rouge, Jenkins surrendered his life to Christ at the age of 16. Soon after, at Victoria Baptist Church, he sensed a call to ministry.
Upon the recommendation of his music minister, Jenkins enrolled at Louisiana College to prepare for a career in ministry. But he also set in motion a legacy that he passed down to his children and grandchildren. Three of his four daughters, three of his sons-in-law and six of his grandchildren have all graduate from LC, following in the footsteps of Jenkins, and his wife Martha, also an LC graduate.
Jenkins was an active member of the Baptist Student Union, served on the freshmen council and participated in summer missions to Jamaica.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better place for me to help shape and prepare me for the calling on my life,” Jenkins said. “I was an introvert when I went to LC and they brought me out of it. More importantly, I received much spiritual guidance from the BSU and my professors who taught me lessons that I have taken into my various roles of ministry.
“Also, I received a great deal of experience conducting youth-led revivals all over the state,” he continued. “I owe LC and the BSU a huge debt.”
Upon graduation Jenkins served 22 years on church staffs in Texas and Louisiana, including Lake Lilly Baptist Church, Jonesville, First Baptist Church, Broussard, First Baptist Church, Lafayette, First Baptist Church, Morgan City, and Cook Baptist Church, Ruston.
“Seeing God move in local churches helped shaped me for this job,” Jenkins said. “God has you where are to use you and prepare you for something else unknown down the road. These mentors I worked alongside helped pour into me lessons about reaching others and working in the local church, both small and large.”
Jenkins was serving as pastor of Cook Baptist when Short asked him in October 1990 to serve as director of evangelism for Louisiana Baptists.
“My heart was with pastoring the local church,” Jenkins said. “But Dr. Short asked me to consider it. I prayed about it and came to the conclusion that God was in it and wanted me to take on this calling.”
GREAT COMMISSION HEART
Jenkins has initiated a number of projects as evangelism director, but two are especially dear to his heart – annual mission trips to Brazil and Harvest, the largest joint evangelistic effort in the state ever among Louisiana Baptists.
Since taking the first group to Brazil for mission trips, Jenkins and other team members have seen more than 100,000 people come to Christ and 65 church buildings erected.
“I have been fortunate to see God move and use our pastors and lay people,” said Jenkins, who has taken all his children and all but four of his grandchildren to Brazil (he is waiting for the others to reach 10 years old). “Brazil has been where I have poured in a lot of time and effort. I have even watched God raise up mission trip participants to go on the mission field full time.”
Jenkins said returning to the same country every year allows relationships to develop as well as a better understanding and knowledge of the people “we are trying to reach for Christ.” But, he said sharing the Gospel “must begin at home.”
In that regard, Jenkins is excited about how God may use the Harvest to reach his home state, especially now that almost 900 of 1,650 Louisiana Baptist churches have signed on.
However, he cautioned, “It’s one thing to sign up. It’s another thing to implement.”
If churches will implement what they have committed to do, “We will see a great harvest that impacts the state,” he said.
“God is the one who determines when revival takes place,” he continued. “But we have to be ready for it, and be faithful.”
HEARTS FOR JENKINS
“I am so thankful for Wayne Jenkins’ friendship and ministry across the years,” said Louisiana Baptist Convention Executive Director David Hankins. “He has been the premier director of evangelism for a long time. His own commitment personally to soul-winning and his ability to teach and inspire churches to be evangelistic has advanced the Lord’s work remarkably. I pray that Wayne and Martha will be blessed greatly as they enter a new era of service.”
Keith Manuel, who is following Jenkins as the next evangelism director, echoed Hankins’ thought.
“Wayne’s ministry has taken the message of Jesus from the bayous to the piney woods of Louisiana, as well as to the remotest parts of the Amazon and the largest cities of Brazil,” Manuel said. “His heart beats for men and women to hear the Gospel, no matter the personal sacrifice he has to make to see the task to completion. Thousands have been equipped to share the Gospel and inspired to be on mission at home and abroad because of his faithful service to the Lord.”
Beau Colle, who served on staff with Jenkins at the Baptist missions building, said he appreciated how Jenkins promoted Sunday school and evangelism, hand-in-hand.
“Wayne is totally committed to sharing Christ, anywhere and everywhere,” Colle said. “He understood when Sunday school is growing, the church is growing. His role as evangelism director he continued that same philosophy there, supportive of the Sunday school or any organization that needs to be involved in sharing the Good News.”
RETIREMENT PLANS & PRAYER REQUESTS
“I have reached the point where I’m 70 and feel it is time to step aside,” Jenkins offered. “We have a great evangelism director following me in Keith Manuel and a wonderful team working with him.
“Now is the time for someone else to carry on with helping our churches carry out the Great Commission,” he said.
Jenkins said he is seeking “God’s plan” for his next steps and asked Louisiana Baptists to pray for him in a variety of ways.
“Pray God would open doors,” Jenkins said. “Pray my health would be such that I could walk through doors with complete healing. Pray that I would have an effective ministry during these days and years to come.”