JACKSONVILLE (FBW)–Michael Lewis, pastor of First Baptist Church in Plant City, resigned Jan. 13 to serve with the North American Mission Board as executive director of Church Revitalization and Pastoral Relations. His last Sunday in Plant City is February 3.
In his Jan. 13 blog, Lewis wrote, “Through prayer and fasting, our family is strongly sensing a clear call to be sent by the Holy Spirit to be on mission to carry the Gospel to the world’s third-largest mission field, our very own nation of the U.S. and Canada.”
He said he will join NAMB President Kevin Ezell an effort to encourage pastors and to revitalize declining churches.
In a phone interview Jan. 14 while the Lewis family was house hunting in Atlanta, Lewis told Florida Baptist Witness he is grateful to be part of a new “heart for missions” at First Baptist.
“We have really been in a state of revival [for] two years, and people are praying and reading their Bibles. They have a new commitment to evangelism and we’ve baptized 600,” he said.
Also during his tenure more than 100 church members have served in short term missions, and some staff members have been called to full-time missions. Since the church hosted an Acts 1:8 conference, Lewis said the congregation senses “a moving and calling out” of church members to missions.
“I told my people last night that one of things about being a church like the one in Antioch is that God may call your pastor to serve in missions,” he said.
With more than 72 percent of SBC churches plateauing and declining, and almost 900 churches closing their doors each year, Lewis said he has a sense of urgency in helping pastors and churches “decrease the death rate,” he said.
NAMB president Kevin Ezell said in a NAMB release, if Southern Baptists are mobilized to the North American mission field, it is because pastors like Lewis will be in the forefront.
“That is why it is so important for us to have an ongoing, focused effort to serve pastors and to help them put their churches on the front lines of this mission,” Ezell said. “Michael has a heart for seeing people led to Christ and a heart for pastors. I’m excited about his leadership in this area.”
Lewis said in the release he will be helping churches mobilize for church planting and church revitalization. . In addition, he will look for ways to strengthen pastors, their marriages and their ministries throughout the SBC.
“I share the same heart and vision that Dr. Ezell has—that healthy pastors lead to healthy churches,” Lewis said. “We want to reach out and encourage pastors in their relationship with the Lord, then their relationships with their marriage and their family. This will lead to healthy relationships with church leadership and healthy relationships throughout the church—and reaching lost people for Christ.”
To that end, Lewis told the Witness his new job requires him to “be a pastor to pastors.” He will follow-up NAMB-sponsored Church Revitalization Conferences, often led by Woodstock, Ga. Pastor Johnny Hunt, with on-line coaching groups and retreats for pastors. Hunt will to lead a statewide conference Jan. 29 at First Baptist Church in Brandon.
Lewis moved to Plant City in 2009 from Austin, Texas, where he was pastor of Great Hills Baptist Church for six years. Previous to his tenure there, he served churches in South Carolina, Georgia and Texas. During his tenure in Austin, he served on the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee.
Lewis said he now looks forward to “deepening relationships with our denominational leaders” with whom he has “found grace and favor.”
Some Florida Baptists anticipate a new president for the 2014 Florida Baptist Pastors’ Conference may be elected at the 2013 conference in Jacksonville in November, although the conference has no known published rules or bylaws.
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