For some time John Greening had been telling the Council of Eighteen, “I am planning to retire soon, and I would prefer a search process begin sooner rather than later. Don’t wait to seek God’s man.”
In light of this encouragement, in June 2016 the Council of Eighteen established a search for the next national representative. The council adopted the following procedures:
- A search committee of five men from the Council of Eighteen would be selected by secret ballot, and from that committee a chairman would also be selected by secret ballot.
- While the council desired the search committee’s unanimous recommendation of a candidate, if two members of the search committee opposed a potential candidate, those members would scuttle that potential recommendation.
- After the search committee submits its recommendation, the Council of Eighteen would forward to the messengers of the fellowship a candidate who has no more than three council members opposing that recommendation.
A timeline was approved with the goal of bringing to the voting messengers a candidate for national representative by June 2018.
At the June 2017 GARBC Conference, the Council of Eighteen announced John Greening’s tentative retirement plan and the formation of the national representative search committee. The members of the search committee are Mike Augsburger, pastor, Soteria Church, West Des Moines, Iowa; Tim Capon, state representative, Iowa Association of Regular Baptist Churches; Duke Crawford, pastor, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Toledo, Ohio; Will Hatfield, pastor, CrossRoad Baptist Church, Ames, Iowa; and David E. Strope (search committee chairman), pastor, Ankeny Baptist Church, Ankeny, Iowa.
The council announced both John’s retirement and the search for a national representative not only at the annual conference but also in the Baptist Bulletin, by mail, and at www.GARBC.org.
The search committee received recommendations from churches, pastors, and friends of the GARBC. Approximately 50 men were recommended by 100 sources.
Fall 2017 brought the search committee’s review of each individual recommended. Recommended candidates came from every geographical region where GARBC churches are located. Men currently serving within the GARBC were considered, as were men who had knowledge of and sympathy with the GARBC but were not currently serving within the fellowship.
The search committee collectively placed the recommendations into three categories: men who by temperament, giftedness, ministry experience, and theological compatibility with the GARBC would be first-rank possibilities; men about whom some questions existed but who warranted further consideration; and men who were good and fruitful but who the committee did not believe would be a fit for the role of national representative. All of the men from all tiers were capable, faithful men doing God’s work in Christ-honoring ways.
The first tier comprised eight men, who were contacted by letter and phone to ascertain their interest in ministry as national representative. From this first tier, two responded affirmatively, and discussion ensued with them. Mike Hess was one of these.
Discussion began with guarded hopes. The search committee conducted two streams of interviews simultaneously. God’s direction became clear as both Mike and the search committee examined the national representative ministry profile and considered the recent past and future ministry. In God’s providence, the second interviewee experienced a significant family crisis that required immediate withdrawal from any further conversations. Thus the search committee’s focus was brought singularly to Mike.
Each of the discussions with the first-tier men was lively, helpful, and greatly encouraging. Though six declined to pursue the potential ministry as national representative, they each shared a helpful perspective as they interacted with the committee regarding the ministry of the GARBC and, specifically, the national representative’s role.
Intensive prayer continued, with the search committee engaging in repeated discussion and evaluation. The search committee conducted formal interviews with Mike from November 2017 to January 2018 and submitted a series of written questions for Mike’s written response to gauge his writing skills and ability to think. The search committee thoroughly reviewed the GARBC Statement of Faith, examining and testing Mike’s unqualified belief in it. The committee also interviewed Christina (though in a much more genteel manner), hearing her testimony, gauging her participation in ministry as Mike’s wife, and hearing her assessment of Mike’s potential ministry as national representative.
During this time, the search committee gathered primary and secondary references and performed various background checks to confirm the committee’s belief that Mike is a man of preeminent godliness and integrity.
On Jan. 19, 2018, the search committee met with Mike for a final interview. Following this interview, the search committee made a unanimous recommendation to the Council of Eighteen of Mike for the office of national representative.
On Feb. 20, 2018, the Council of Eighteen met with Mike and Christina in the shadows of O’Hare International Airport for another interview. The interview was engaging, educational, friendly, and thorough.
In executive session the Council of Eighteen gave careful, prayerful consideration to the search committee’s recommendation. The congenial spirit of the most recent interview continued in this session.
Together we, the Council of Eighteen, discern—by God’s leading and our careful, thorough interviews and evaluation of the life and ministry of Mike Hess—that he is indeed the man of Biblical conviction and ministry balance our fellowship needs.
We voted in near unanimity to recommend Mike Hess as national representative of the GARBC. We see in Mike what we identified in our national representative ministry profile: we need a man with vision for our fellowship; we need a man of balance to lead in the coming years; we need a man committed to the sufficiency of God’s Word; we need a man with a burden to aid in the revitalization of existing churches and to facilitate church planting efforts; we need a man respected as he mentors other men shepherding God’s church; we need a man who walks with God and is being transformed by God’s Word and the Holy Spirit. This description, we believe, fits Mike!
Mike Hess is no stranger to the GARBC, nor is he a stranger to the council. He spoke very capably at last year’s conference and has served the past six years on the Council of Eighteen. He is familiar with our association’s multiple warts even as we are familiar with his one primary character flaw: that he is a Cubs fan. He is a “fellowship” man, having served in camp associations, the Illinois/Missouri Association of Regular Baptist Churches, and the GARBC. Mike is respected as a preacher who ministers the Word of God effectively, exegetically, and enthusiastically.
Mike and Christina, who met in college, have faithfully served by God’s leadership and direction. Mike earned a bachelor of science from Clarks Summit University and a master of ministry from Baptist Bible Seminary, where he recently began doctoral studies. Mike and Christina are conscientious, loving parents of two children, Joseph, 21, and Hannah, 17.
We as a search committee and the Council of Eighteen are yet depending on God to make clear His will, not merely through our work as a committee or council, but now as a fellowship of churches.
A two-thirds majority vote of the messengers assembled at this year’s conference is required to extend a call to this office. Prior to our business meeting at the conference, a session will be held in which messengers may ask questions of Mike and the search committee.
The succession of a man to follow the ministry of John Greening should be like that of a well-trained Olympic relay team. As one member completes the trek around the oval, the next begins moving, soon matching the pace of the predecessor. The baton is firmly passed from one hand to another. Without notice the new runner is now at full speed, for there is a race to be won!
There is so much ministry to do. Ailing churches need to be revitalized. Discouraged pastors need refreshment and courage. Communities with no gospel witness need churches to be planted. A voice for truth and the gospel needs to be heralded. Polarized churches (and our fellowship) need unity and joy in ministry together. There is a race to be run, a run to be won!
Therefore we, the National Representative Search Committee and the Council of Eighteen, heartily recommend Mike Hess as our next national representative.
The National Representative Search Committee members are Mike Augsburger, Tim Capon, Duke Crawford, Will Hatfield, and David Strope (chairman).