First Baptist Orlando search committee names co-pastor candidate
Louisiana pastor David Uth to eventually become senior pastor
May 2, 2005
JAMES A. SMITH SR.
Executive Editor

ORLANDO (FBW) – A search committee of First Baptist Church of Orlando announced May 1 that Louisiana pastor David Uth received its recommendation to become co-pastor at the historic Florida Baptist congregation. Uth, who will preach May 15 in view of a call, will share pastoral duties with long-time pastor Jim Henry for an indefinite period of time after which Henry will retire and Uth will become senior pastor.

Courtesy photo

“We believe that God has led us to call David to this position,” search chairman John Bozard told the Orlando congregation in the 10:45 a.m. worship service. “In addition to being a gifted preacher, he is a very warm, caring and compassionate pastor. I think that all of you will be just as enthused as we have been when you have an opportunity to meet David Uth.”

An announcement also was made in the early worship service. The church did not announce when Uth would begin his service in Orlando.

In an emotional sermon to First Baptist West Monroe, Uth explained the difficulty in coming to the decision to accept the call to Orlando.

“I’ve cried a lot. In fact, I have cried a lot of times when nobody else was around, but God has given me an unusual sense of peace as I’ve talked to you,” he said.

“What I pray you will always remember is this: We had a pastor that not only talked about faith, he not only talked about obedience; he did it. That is the greatest sermon I will ever preach. Because you see, I want God’s best for you and if I stay knowing that God has told me and spoken to me in the way He has, you’re going to miss God’s best and so am I.”

Uth concluded, “I want to be able to say one day, ‘No regrets. God, I followed; I did what you told me; no regrets.’”

Bozard told the Orlando congregation that Uth was “our first choice” and is the unanimous recommendation of the 12-member committee, which considered more than 70 potential candidates.

Uth received in 1991 a doctor of philosophy degree in New Testament from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Forth Worth, Texas, where he also taught for three years, according to the search committee.

A native of Arkansas, Uth and his wife, Rachel, have three children. He has also pastored churches in Arkansas and Texas, and was named among the “Top 20 People of Significance” in Northeast Louisiana, according to a bio provided by the church.

During Uth’s leadership, the Louisiana church “grew significantly in membership, in baptisms and in giving,” Bozard said. The church Web site reports, since Uth became pastor, “First Baptist has become one of the fastest growing churches in the Southern Baptist Convention.”

According to the Annual Church Profile, First Baptist West Monroe has 7,251 members, 4,664 resident members and baptized 234 in 2004. The church gives more than 11 percent of its undesignated receipts to the SBC Cooperative Program.

“The Lord is my shepherd. I am His sheep. He’s all I need,” Uth says on the Louisiana church Web site.

The search for a co-pastor began in the spring of 2004 after Henry “felt led by the Lord to set into motion the process of beginning to search for the man who would ultimately become the next senior pastor of our great church,” according to an announcement on the Orlando church Web site.

First Baptist Orlando has 12,535 members, 9,030 resident members, and baptized 317 in 2004, according to the Annual Church Profile. The church consistently leads all SBC congregations in Cooperative Program giving, contributing more than $940,000 last year, according to ACP data.

Uth, 47, is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of West Monroe, La., where he has served since 1996.

“He is a man of integrity. He is a man that has a passion to reach the lost and he loves serving his Lord,” Bozard added.

Uth was not immediately available for comment.

Henry, 67, pastor of the Central Florida congregation since 1977, told the church that Uth will serve alongside him and “after a while, take the ball and run with it” as senior pastor.

Henry, twice-elected Southern Baptist Convention president (1994, 1995), described Uth as a “gentle, godly shepherd” and a “wonderful man of God.”

He said he spent a significant amount of time with Uth in the last week. Uth was scheduled to complete May 1 a previously planned sermon series on discovering God’s will at the conclusion of which he would inform his congregation of his decision to come to Orlando, Henry said.

“He’s going to share with them that it’s God’s will that he come be with us,” Henry said, leading the congregation in a time of prayer for the Uth family and the Louisiana church.

[Witness intern Eva Wolever contributed to this story.]

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