Published July 17, 2008
MABLETON — It’s a significant accomplishment when a pastor spends nearly 60 years in the ministry. It’s rare when he spends almost half a century with one congregation.
Mt. Harmony Baptist Church celebrated both landmarks on July 13 as they honored longtime pastor Bob Baxter for 56 years in the ministry – 49 of those at the Mableton church. Not only is his achievement notable for the congregation, but it recognizes the fact that Baxter is the longest-known tenured pastor in the Georgia Baptist Convention.
Those speaking at the 2 p.m. retirement reception included retired Georgia Baptist pastor and denominational leader Nelson Price, former Gov. Roy Barnes, and GBC Executive Director J. Robert White, among others. John Pennington, pastor of First Baptist Church of Douglasville and longtime friend of Baxter, brought the morning sermon prior to the afternoon program.
In an interview with The Index, Pennington noted that in Baxter’s 49 years with the congregation the church had never encountered a split – a rarity in Baptist life, he added with a chuckle.
“Bob Baxter is a real statesman among Georgia and Southern Baptists and we have far too few of them today. He’s just a good, conservative pastor who never became distracted with the political turmoil in the denomination – he is a classic traditional Southern Baptist. I’ve always looked up to him as a role model of a good pastor.”
Terry Braswell, associational missionary for West Metro Baptist Association in Austell, said Baxter’s legacy will always be the role he played as pastor above that of preacher.
“He was always prepared in the pulpit but his heart was in pastoring his congregation. He’s been the spiritual advisor to four generations; you don’t find that with many individuals today.
“One thing that always impresses me about Bob is that he has remained an avid reader throughout the years. He’s always looking for the insight that will make him a better pastor and a better preacher.”
Danny Watters, who also spoke at the reception, told The Index Baxter “has been faithful to the call that God gave him to serve a church for 49 years. Young pastors would do good to look at Bob and grasp that this is the kind of man who can succeed in the ministry.”
Watters, who coordinates the work of Church-Minister Relations for the state convention, said Baxter was “a champion of Cooperative Program work among Georgia and Southern Baptists for all of these years. He understand the importance of churches pooling their resources to help bring the world to Christ.”
At the afternoon ceremony New Harmony noted that Baxter began his ministry with the church on April 5, 1959 “and has served continuously, tirelessly, and faithfully alongside his wife, Gloria, ever since.”
The Index profiled Baxter’s ministry in its August 18, 2005 issue. It can be viewed online at www.christianindex.org/1523.article.
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