John Sullivan: Southern Baptist ‘Statesman’ honored for serving Florida Baptists 25 years
Feb 21, 2014
By BARBARA DENMAN
Florida Baptist Convention

PREACHING Known for preaching the Word, John Sullivan preaching at the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference in St. Louis in 2002. FLBaptist file photo
MT. DORA (FLBaptist)—While often saying he wanted to be known foremost as a Baptist preacher, John Sullivan was lauded as a man of vision and integrity, effective leader, lover of people, pastor to pastors and a Southern Baptist statesman during tributes in honor of his 25th anniversary as executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention.

Sullivan is “a man sent from God,” said Tim Maynard, president of the Florida Baptist State Convention. “He came to bear witness to the Light and he has done so faithfully for 25 years.”

Maynard, pastor of Fruit Cove Baptist Church in Jacksonville, spoke at a Feb. 6 anniversary dinner in Mount Dora, held in conjunction with the State Board of Missions meeting. 

He noted Sullivan’s mother called him “John,” even though his given name is Travis Gene.

“I wonder if his mother from the coal fields from West Virginia might have known that her son was going to take his place in the ranks of great men of God who have preached the word faithfully through the centuries,” Maynard said, referencing John the Baptist, the Apostle John, John Calvin, John Wesley: “Have many great men of God been named John?” he asked.

HONORED Longtime Florida Baptist Convention executive director-treasurer John Sullivan and his wife, Nancy, are given a standing ovation at a Feb. 6 anniversary dinner. FLBaptist photo by Ken Touchton
As was John the Baptist, Sullivan is a man of character, courage, conviction and calling, Maynard said. 

“I have watched him under pressure. I have seen him under attack. He is the same man” in every situation, Maynard said.  “He is a man of character.

“He is a man of courage, a man of conviction,” Maynard continued. “He has courage to say what he thinks. He says this from a place of integrity within himself that grows out of his conviction” from his stand on the Bible.

“What greater gift have we received as Florida Baptists than to have this man and his wife, Nancy, walking with us for the past 25 years? The greatest gift, Dr. Sullivan, is the life you and Nancy have poured into us and pointing us and others to the Light.

“You are God’s gift to us.”

Sullivan was elected as the ninth executive director-treasurer of the Florida Convention Jan. 20, 1989, as a unanimous choice of the search committee.  

CUBA Sullivan (right) is with members of Florida’s partnership missions team and a local Cuban pastor in 2012. FLBaptist file photo
His 25 years of service is the longest of all Florida Baptist executive directors and places him among the longest- tenured state execs in the Southern Baptist Convention. 

In presenting a plaque to Sullivan from The Baptist College of Florida, Tom Kinchen, president, called Sullivan “a leader and statesman,” adding, “not many of those are around anymore. I have known leaders who are not statesmen, but never a statesman that wasn’t a leader.” 

The 200 in attendance watched videos featuring the Sullivans and Florida Baptists across the state. 

“His vision in evangelism, his vision in church growth, his vision in planting church­es make all the difference in Florida,” said Silair Almeida, pastor of the First Brazilian Baptist Church of South Florida. “We are in Florida what we are because of his vision.”

CUBA John Sullivan (left), executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, meets with Kevin Ezell, NAMB president, in Cuba in 2012. FLBaptist file photo
Willy Rice, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater and a former president of the Florida Baptist State Convention, said, “There was this singular message that was repeated over and over again—it’s about evangelism, it’s about church planting, it’s about reaching a people far from God with the Gospel of Christ and that just flows out of the leadership and the heart of John Sullivan.” 

“We would jokingly say, ‘my way or the highway,’” recalled Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, and another former FBSC president. “But the word is firm. He’s a leader; he sets direction, and he says we are going there and come with me. He’s a wonderful team builder.”

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