By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
HAUGHTON – Gevan Spinney knows the challenges that lie before him as the new president of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
But despite what the future holds, Spinney believes the best days are yet to come for the 1600 churches that make up the state convention.
“I see an opportunity and an open door to build upon that which has been battled for in our past,” said Spinney, pastor of First Baptist Church in Haughton. “There are aspects of this position in which I feel inadequate, but I do know who God calls, He will also equip. I am excited to see God’s plan unfold.”
Spinney is assuming the role that outgoing LBC President Steve Horn held for two terms. During his term, Horn called for several called days of prayer in different areas of the state and spearheaded a pastor-driven campaign to increase Cooperative Program giving through the Pledge.
In Horn’s term, messengers adopted the 2020 initiative that seeks to reach every generation and every people group in the state with the Gospel by the year 2020. The 2020 initiative was a collaborative effort of 20 teams made up of 20 members each that began under the leadership of Waylon Bailey, LBC president before Horn.
Spinney said he admires the vision of both Horn and Bailey and is hopeful he can carry on the torch for what God has in store for Louisiana Baptists.
“The thing God has shown me from the time I agreed for my name to be placed in nomination for LBC president to now is that our convention is strong,” Spinney said. “The strategies put in place by Dr. Bailey and Dr. Horn have set the course for our convention and given us a vehicle to move ahead. The vision God has placed in my heart is to keep the convention moving forward on that course.”
Since 2003, Spinney has served as pastor of First Baptist Haughton, a church where he was ordained and served as youth pastor. Attendance at the church has grown from 300 to 900 and the congregation recently moved into a new $7 million children’s facility and worship center seating 1,200.
In 2014 and 2015, the church has baptized 246. Additionally, the church’s budget has more than doubled through his stewardship and First Baptist Haughton gives 11 percent of their undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program.
Before coming to First Baptist Haughton, Spinney worked as a youth pastor at Red River Baptist Church in Benton and associate pastor and youth pastor at Rose Park Baptist Church in Shreveport.
Spinney is married to Andrea L. Spinney and they have three children Jeb (12), Jake (10) and Jude (4). He holds degrees from Haughton High School, East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, Texas, and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
The Baptist Message recently visited with Spinney to learn more about his vision entering his first term as LBC president.
Message: The Pledge is obviously something the last LBC president thought was important enough to use as a way to increase CP giving. What is your opinion on this issue?
Spinney: I believe the recent cuts made by the International Mission Board have served as a wake-up call for all of us. The LBC consists of over 1600 congregations with one mission, the Great Commission. The CP is the fuel that funds that mission. The question some pastors are asking is, “Can we do it alone?” Sure! First Baptist Haughton and all the 1600 congregations in LA can do it alone. However, the wiser question is, “Can we do it better together?” Absolutely! Historically we’ve proven we can do things better together. Moving into 2016, we’re going to continue with the Pledge. We must remember, the Pledge is not a gimmick to increase giving, it’s a campaign to bring us back to what makes us great as a denomination, and that is cooperative investing in the Great Commission.
Message: Your church obviously sees the importance of baptizing new believers. Please explain why you believe every church in the LBC should emphasize baptisms.
Spinney: The short answer is, we are commissioned to. We are to fulfill the Great Commission and make disciples. That’s our marching orders. It’s hard to separate evangelism and discipleship. The two go hand in hand. Ultimately, it has to be disciples making disciples. We must do a better job of equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry. Each of us as Louisiana Baptists has a responsibility to share the Gospel with our neighbors, co-workers, classmates and acquaintances.
Baptism numbers are down in our convention. I was invited into a meeting a few weeks ago with (LBC Evangelism and Church Growth Director) Wayne Jenkins and some other pastors and leaders from across the state to discuss this issue. The collective burden of the group was to see a great harvest of souls in every town in Louisiana; to see every church in our convention, regardless of size, involved in some way in a harvest event. That’s something we are really praying through for 2016 and 2017.
Message: You mentioned that your church realizes the importance of reaching people groups with the Gospel. With the 2020 initiative focusing on reaching the Next Generation and Every People Group, you seem to grasp that concept at your church. Share with the LBC’s churches why reaching those two groups is important.
Spinney: Something we have done as a church is connected with the IMB and adopted an unreached people group in East Asia. The process is simple and can be done by any sized congregation. First, we must realize that millions of people around the world have yet to hear the gospel. Second, we must lead our people to pray for those people groups by name. It can seem as an impossible task to connect a congregation in Louisiana with a people group half a world away. What we have found is our people have really embraced it. Finally, we must be willing go through any door the Lord opens. That may include partnering with the IMB to develop a strategy for reaching them, funding a scripture project in their language or sending a team to physically connect with them. Every church, regardless of size, can walk through this process. As far as the Millennials, we will have to start doing things differently in order to reach the next generation. I remind our people often that we will do anything short of sin to reach people who do not know Christ. Our focus as a church in 2016 is to intentionally get away from our address. We as a staff are asking ‘What are we going to do to get off the campus? How will we meet people where they are?’ Millennials for the most part are not walking into our churches. We have to take the Gospel to them, instead of just expecting them to come to us.
We are partnering with a NAMB-sponsored church plant in New Orleans that is targeting Millenials. Justin Haynes and his family have planted The Refuge Church Nola. This church is meeting in a Voodoo temple in the middle of the Bywater neighborhood. We must ask the question, are we willing to give what it takes, to go where they are, to give them the Gospel? Those are things every congregation can do to reach the next generation.
Message: One of the churches where you have worked is at Red River Baptist Church as a youth minister. While there, the church averaged around 80 people, which is classified as an average-sized church in the LBC. Does working on staff allow you to relate to those pastors ministering in a church that size?
Spinney: The three years we were at Red River were some of my sweetest times in ministry. While the congregation was smaller than where I am now, the faithfulness of the people was big. Church was the center of their lives. You felt the strong family atmosphere there; how they truly cared for one another and those in their community. Congregations of 50-100 are the backbone of our convention and the bi-vocational pastors are the heroes. For the pastor who is pastoring that congregation of 50-100, he sometimes can get discouraged, so I’d love to be an encouragement to him. I have been there and I can relate to what they are going through. Everything Louisiana Baptists are, we are because of those congregations. If we are going to move forward, we will need to move forward together.