Dr. Gary Hollingsworth elected new Executive Director-Treasurer
South Carolina Baptists elect Gary Hollingsworth as new executive director-treasurer
Gary Hollingsworth, 58, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church, Little Rock, Arkansas, has been elected executive director-treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Hollingsworth will begin service by attending February’s meeting of Southern Baptist state convention executives and will be on site in South Carolina by March 1.
Hollingsworth’s election came at a special called meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention on Thursday, Jan. 14 at Shandon Baptist Church, Columbia. The meeting began with 337 registered messengers. The meeting was called to order by convention president Tom Tucker.
Before Hollingsworth’s name was placed in a formal motion, members of the convention search team spoke to the messengers. The search team was organized in October 2014 through appointment by Dwight Easler, who served at the time as chairman of the Executive Board. All search team members were members of the Executive Board at the time of appointment. Interim Executive Director-Treasurer Richard Harris served as a non-voting invitee to search team meetings.
Search team chairman Marshall Blalock reported alongside Executive Board Chairman Duane Greene that the Executive Board had met earlier in the day with Hollingsworth and unanimously approved his recommendation to the messengers.
Search team member Joe Willard spoke to messengers about the process of prayer that guided the search team, saying, “We were from different size churches, different theological and philosophical perspectives, but we were committed to prayerfully finding God’s will and God’s man for the SCBC. As we prayed and humbled ourselves, God knitted our hearts together through our focus and priority on prayer. I want you to understand that we sought the face of God, and we believe He has shown His face to us. Dr. Hollingsworth is not the choice of a search team; we believe this is God’s man, and that there is a powerful wind of God blowing in our midst.”
Search team vice chairman Alex Sands and fellow member Will Browning discussed the process used to vet the many resumes and recommendations sent to the church team. A candidate profile identified, Browning said, “A man who is spirit-filled, a God-called disciple of Jesus; a visionary leader; and a strategic thinker with a proven record of Great Commission ministry.” Further considerations were for a man who had a history of growth, was committed to the GCR recommendations in South Carolina, and a lifetime of support from those who followed his leadership.
Leading candidates were questioned using Skype, which allowed long distance video and voice calls, and from there a few candidates were flown to South Carolina for face-to-face interviews. The process led to one man – Gary Hollingsworth.
In making the official motion, Search team Chairman Blalock said, “Gary Hollingsworth was our first choice and our only choice.”
Messengers viewed endorsement videos from Frank Page, president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention, and a former South Carolina Baptist pastor; and Sonny Tucker, executive director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.
Interim executive director-treasurer Harris, who will continue to serve and help introduce Hollingsworth around the state in early March, praised the search team.
Of Hollingsworth, Harris said, “I’ve never seen Gary be unkind or rude to someone. As he says, ‘I listen, I learn, and then I lead.’
“In every situation I’ve seen him work in, I can tell you that he is fun, fair, and firm,” Harris, who worked with Hollingsworth at the North American Mission Board (NAMB) said. “He is a team-builder and the staff will love him. This is a man of character and principles; he is conservative and committed to the Baptist Faith & Message 2000. The South Carolina Baptist Convention initiatives of church planting, church revitalization, missons mobilization, and evangelism are already items he supports personally, and leads his church to support as well. I affirm the recommendation.”
Voting messengers unanimously approved Hollingsworth’s election.
Hollingsworth, with his wife, Gwen by his side, said, “We are incredibly grateful to be in this place and have this opportunity. South Carolina Baptists have been incredibly faithful to serve the Lord through all of the events occurring in your state during 2015. I appreciate you because you love the Lord, you love South Carolina Baptists, and you love this state.
“We look forward to rolling up our sleeves for Jesus.”
At a short press conference following a reception, Hollingsworth said, “I will never ask our state staff to do anything that I’m not willing to do. In Disaster Relief, for example, I’ve served on chainsaw crews and worked in shower units. I love the goal of modeling service and setting the pace, and I believe I can encourage staff.
“My greatest strength is my passion for people – I love ministry,” he said. “Ministry is not what I do; it’s just who I am. I have a passion for seeing God at work in people’s lives. I’m an eternal optimist.”
“I have a sense that hearts are changed one life at a time – South Carolina Baptists need to saturate every community, every county in real and authentic ways. We need to tell the story and report the unreported acts of God to everyone. The devil is content with us sitting inside our buildings and being content; we have to get out and tell the story,” he said.
The Hollingsworths have two grown sons, one of whom is married and has a two-month old daughter.