Baptist21 recently interviewed the two proposed candidates for SBC Pastor’s Conference President
Will you give us a brief introduction to who you are?
Troy Gramling: I am the Lead Pastor of Flamingo Road Church. I am married to Stephanie and we have three kids, Tyler 18 years old, Carson 15 years old, Baylee 10 years old. In my twenty years of being a pastor, I’ve pastored a small country SBC church that was over a 150 years old, I planted an SBC church in Arkansas in conjunction with the local association, and for the last ten years I’ve been at Flamingo Road Church – a 32 year old SBC church.
Vance Pitman: his bio is posted below –
Senior Pastor, Hope Baptist Church
Co-Founder/Advisor, Surgance, Inc.
Hope Baptist Church, Las Vegas, NV – Vance was called to Las Vegas, Nevada in 2000, as a church plant from First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Georgia.
As a creative thinker, he had a vision to launch a church that invests in God’s kingdom around the world, thus Hope Baptist Church was born in the fall of 2001. Hope’s core group of eighteen people has grown to almost 2000 people over the past eight years. The church currently meets, weekly, in a public high school. His plans to launch a network of church plants that would work together to impact the community and partner globally were well underway. Hope Baptist Church has given over one million dollars, annually, to missions over the last couple of years and has planted nine churches over the course of the last seven years and is currently building a team of partners to launch a tenth church here in the Las Vegas valley.
Vance speaks all over the nation to stimulate awareness that the Gospel is very needed in our own country as well as all over the world. His expositional teachings and command of the diverse biblical vernacular captivate his audience to where the question is raised of how can I be more involved in the Kingdom?
Raised in a Christian home and mentored by his father, a Southern Baptist Minister, Vance surrendered control of his life to Jesus Christ at age seventeen. At age eighteen, in response to God’s call, he relinquished his life to preach the Gospel and has vowed to serve the Lord the rest of his life. He was licensed to the Gospel ministry on December 12, 1990 and ordained to the Gospel ministry on June 22, 1994 at First Baptist Church, Muscle Shoals, Alabama. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree with a major in History and a minor in Business Management from the University of North Alabama and a Master’s Degree in Divinity from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
Vance resides in Henderson, Nevada with his wife Kristie of 18 years and his four children, Hannah-16, Caleb-15, Elijah-12 and Faith-6.
Serving as the President of the Pastor’s Conference is a substantial time commitment. Why are you willing to commit to such a task?
Troy Gramling: After being approached by several people about the possibility of running, and much prayer, I sensed God’s spirit nudging me to step up. While Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference president is not something I have aspired to be in the past, I have no doubt that God has stirred something new in my spirit and in the simplest of terms, I’m running because God has nudged my heart.
Win or lose, my nomination has helped to begin a conversation that I believe has needed to happen. I believe that Change is an important ingredient to the life of any organization and especially those of us called to share an unchangeable message: the gospel of Christ.
I would love to take my ministry experiences and leverage them to create a conference that would encourage, challenge, and inspire all of our SBC pastors.
The opportunity to work together with other pastors and leaders from multiple generations and ethnic backgrounds to create a conference that matters (Really Matters!) pumps me up and keeps me up at night! I still believe that God can do in a moment what takes us a lifetime, and when a group of God’s servants get together in unity, anything can happen!
Vance Pitman: There are two very simple reasons I am willing to serve. First of all, I was asked by some other pastors to prayerfully consider allowing my name to be placed into nomination. They believed that it would be a strong testimony for a church planter from the western states to lead the conference since it was being held in Phoenix, AZ in 2011. To be honest, until that request I had not even given it a thought. But after being approached I prayed through the possibility and believed that the Lord wanted me to at least accept the invitation to be nominated. The second reason that I am willing to serve is that after praying through it, I began to be very excited about the possibility of focusing the Pastor’s Conference around the theme of God’s Kingdom activity in our country and around the world. We are living in the greatest days in the history of Christianity to be alive. There are more people coming to Christ today on a daily basis globally than at any other time in human history. What a great day for our denomination to seek first the Kingdom of God and be passionate about taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth. I believe that our denomination has unbelievable untapped potential to see the greatest impact on the lostness of the world we have ever seen through working together. It would be my desire to focus the conference around this task and seek God together as pastors for a fresh outpouring on our lives for this mission.
How do you think you’re gifts and vision will help serve pastors at the Pastor’s Conference?
Troy Gramling: I would love to take my ministry experiences and leverage it to encourage, inspire and challenge ALL SBC pastors. If the vision is big enough, we can all unify together around it. To see the prayer of Jesus in John 17 lived out in our Pastors’ Conference would be a thing of beauty. To have different generations, different ethnic backgrounds and different methodologies come together in unity to be encouraged, inspired and challenged so that we may be more effective in our calling.
Vance Pitman: I think that although we have not arrived, our fellowship gets the “Kingdom” principle. We understand that when God birthed our church He had the nations on His heart. We are only 8 ½ years old and have planted nine churches out of our fellowship in the Western U.S. and we are strategically partnered on four continents working with nationals to expand the Kingdom of God. I think that the story of a new church in a pioneer area living out the principle of the kingdom can be an inspiration for others to do the same.
If you’re elected, who can we expect to hear from at the Pastor’s Conference?
Troy Gramling: I have to pray about specific names but I am certain that I will choose individuals from multiple ethnic backgrounds, multiple generations, and leaders with multiple methodologies. Our God is a big God and He is doing creative things in churches with different ethnic backgrounds, different generations, and He’s using different methodologies. I am very excited about bringing those who have spoken in past years back to the Pastor’s Conference as well as some fresh voices.
Vance Pitman: I haven’t really thought too specifically yet about who, but I have thought and prayed much about “type”. My vision would be to present a list of preachers that would be from different regions of the U.S., different nationalities, different generations, different style, size and shape churches, and even different denominations. The Kingdom of God is BIG! I would love for the platform of speakers to indicate the vastness of our God and His activity among the cities and nations of the world!
What is one of the greatest strengths of the SBC? Why?
Troy Gramling: One of the greatest strengths of the SBC is partnership, that is, the ability to work together for the Kingdom. For example, we partner with different churches through missions around the world. We partner together for church planting in our own backyard and around the world. We’ve also partnered to help other countries who’ve suffered from unexpected, natural disasters. Our greatest strength is the ability to partner together to feed, comfort and care for people.
Vance Pitman: I will give you two. First, our fundamental belief that we can do more together than we can do separate is a great strength. It is time that we remember that it is not about growing our churches, it is about expanding His Kingdom. When the Kingdom expands we all win! This is really what unites us as Southern Baptists and I believe with the GCR emphasis we are being brought back to the basics of why our denomination exists. Second, I love that our denomination is philosophically a big tent. Although we unite strongly around a core set of theogical beliefs, we allow those beliefs to be expressed in a variety of methodologies. Although some are resistant to this, I think it is what makes us strong.
What is one of the greatest weaknesses of the SBC? Why?
Troy Gramling: Ironically, our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness. The biggest challenge with partnering is the ability to accept our differences and accept our diversity. While we have one doctrine, we have multiple expressions.
Vance Pitman: I think that our current system of sending CP dollars to the fields is antiquated and in need of real revision. We have a system that was created before the days of much of the technology that is available to us today. Our system was designed when relationships were driven more by geography and location than affinity and effectiveness. I believe that the GCR recommendations are taking steps in the right direction towards amending our current situation.
What is one of the most encouraging trends right now in SBC life?
Troy Gramling: For me, there are two encouraging trends right now in SBC life. The first is the raising of the value of evangelism…of reaching people who don’t know God, instead of recycling people who already know God…only good can come when we are more intentional and effective about evangelism. The second is that there is an intentionality about including younger leaders. At Flamingo Road Church, we are passionate about elevating younger leaders. It is encouraging to see that throughout the SBC the leaders of the past are making space for younger leaders.
Vance Pitman: I am incredibly encouraged by the collaboration between leaders from different generations concerning the accomplishing of the Great Commission. Let me be clear, we need leaders from each generation to effectively finish the task. We need the wisdom of previous generations that has been gleaned from years of experience and intimacy with God. We need the passion and creativity of the next generation to keep us relevant to today’s audience. We are only at our best when we are working together, learning from each other. I am seeing this happen today in ways that I have not witnessed before. I think much of that is to be credited to some of the current leadership in our denomination that have been in ministry for years reaching back and bringing others along with them to the table.
What is one of the most discouraging trends right now in the SBC?
Troy Gramling: I think the most discouraging trend is that our baptism growth, as a country, is not keeping up with population growth. We are often content with swapping sheep, as opposed to reaching the unbelievers.
Vance Pitman: We have hundreds of missionaries in the pipeline with the IMB who cannot be sent because the funds are not available. One day we will stand before the Lord Jesus and give an account of how we have stewarded His resources. When we are utilizing 95% of the Christian resources in the world to reach 5% of the world’s population something is wrong! When our denomination is spending 2/3 of all CP dollars to reach 1/3 of the states in the U.S. we are out of balance! We must repent of this and seek God’s direction to steward His resources so that the nations of the earth hear the message of Jesus!
What kind of ministry should women have in the life of a local church? How is this applied in your church?
Troy Gramling: At Flamingo Road Church, women lead and serve in all types of ministry but always under the authority of the Lead Pastor who holds the Office of Senior Pastor.
Vance Pitman: With all the discussion today about the Great Commission, I think that the focus should be on reaching nations with the Gospel and not delving into the issues that are secondary. That being said I will simply say that I believe the only functional limitation placed on the role of women in the local church is the office of overseer as described in 1 Timothy 3 to be held by the “husband of one wife”. Let me say again that I believe strongly when I get to heaven this question is going to be way, way, way after the question, “How shall they hear unless someone tell them?”—Romans 10:14. That should establish the priority of the discussions we are having.
What are some of the strengths of the GCR?
Troy Gramling: The strengths of the GCR are the conversations that have taken place to raise the value of evangelism. When we raise the value of evangelism, it means more people are going to come to Christ, more families are going to be restored and more people are going to Heaven. Over time, structurally and strategically, there are many things that will be improved but for the immediate future there is a rise in the value of evangelism.
Vance Pitman: I think the single greatest strength of the GCR has been the call to prayer among the SBC about our carrying out of the Great Commission. I believe that the single greatest untapped resource we have is prayer. I have been so encouraged by the thousands of people that have been praying through this process. Another strength is the simple reality that we are once again talking about the main thing, which is the mission of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. We spend too much time talking about things that don’t matter for eternity’s sake and not enough time focused on the mission. The enemy doesn’t care what we focus on, good or bad, as long as it is not the mission. This emphasis has focused our attention on the mission that unites us together like I have never seen in my lifetime. Another strength of the GCR are the multi-generational and multi-geographical influences that have been allowed to be a part of the process. I have learned through years of reading the book of Proverbs that wisdom always seeks counsel because my perspective is always limited and my input is never enough. I commend the task force for the volumes of hours they have spent seeking input from so many different sources.
What are some of the weaknesses of the GCR?
Troy Gramling: I wouldn’t say there are weaknesses. When it comes to structure and strategy, it’s often subjective so unless you’ve sat in on every meeting, attended all the prayer times, sat through all the learning opportunities, it’s difficult to critique on what they are presenting to us. While I may not agree with every aspect, I wholeheartedly agree with updating our structure and strategy for reaching people and raising the value of evangelism.
Vance Pitman: The greatest weakness of the GCR is that the SBC is a big ship to turn. Last year when Las Vegas was hit so hard by this economy we had to make severe changes rapidly or we wouldn’t survive. The SBC is a large entity that will take much time to change. The changes are worth the investment of the time, but the time it takes means millions more will step into eternity without ever hearing the gospel.
Baptist21 would like to thank both men for graciously taking the time to answer these questions. Also, we would like to remind our readers that are still a limited number of spots available for the B21 Panel SBC 2010