Growing up in rural east Georgia, my life revolved around two things: playing sports and going to church. My mom’s daddy was a Southern Baptist pastor and my dad’s family was very involved in church, too. We were at church very often – pretty much whenever the doors were open! I was active in my youth group, sang in a gospel quartet, and even preached on “Youth Sunday.” But there was a problem. I was living “good ole’ boy” Christianity; you know, the kind that makes Saturday night sin all right as long as you sing Sunday morning hymns.
I drank my first beer as a freshman in high school. By the time I arrived at Georgia Southern University I was primed and ready for the freedom of college life, and that meant partying. It didn’t take long for my lifestyle to bring everything to a crashing halt. After a couple of run-ins with law enforcement, including a DUI, my GPA and my opportunity to play football were both wrecked. My parents’ frustration with me only made the situation worse.
During the fall of my second year, my granddaddy, who was a preacher, passed away. As his “party-hardy” grandson, the last thing he told me was, “When you preach, preach Jesus!” You see, when I was 15 years old, I told him that I wanted to be a preacher like him. He never forgot it. His final words to me were the very last thing I had on my mind and heart to do. But that changed several weeks later. Early on the morning of November 28, 1983, I awoke to an overwhelming fear of dying and going to hell. Right then and there, I asked God to save me, and I knew immediately that I was being called to preach.
Shortly after, I was asked to leave Georgia Southern because of my almost non-existent GPA. I enrolled at Brewton-Parker College where I earned an associate degree in psychology. I later returned to Georgia Southern and earned a degree in public recreation. During those years, an evangelist named Michael Guido served as my mentor. We spent hours together, discussing life in ministry and studying God’s Word. He taught me to think biblically and to apply Scripture practically. He never gave me quick answers, but challenged me to use the Bible and to know the Bible. He wanted me to know how to follow Jesus, not him or any other man.
It was at Georgia Southern that I met my wife, Stacey. After graduation we moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where I attended Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary and spent a year working at Bellevue Baptist Church and listening to the preaching of Adrian Rogers. Those were great foundational years for our marriage and ministry.
My life in ministry has now spanned over 30 years. In that time, I’ve served in youth ministry and as a senior pastor. I’ve also had the opportunity to do missions in Africa, India, Iraq, Argentina, Bolivia, Panama, and Mexico. I have served on committees on the associational, state, and national level of the Southern Baptist Convention and as president of the Georgia Baptist Convention (08-09). We have two grown children, Hannah, married to Mike Parker, and a son, Ivey.