Ken Whitten, recently retired pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, Florida, will become national director of pastoral leadership at the North American Mission Board, beginning in March.
NAMB president Kevin Ezell recently shared the news at NAMB’s Board of Trustees meeting in Miami
“Ken is humble, intentional and he loves pastors,” Ezell said in comments before the Feb. 7 announcement. “Every pastor could use a friend like Ken, and that’s how he will lead in this effort — as a friend and a fellow servant.”
In an interview, Whitten described his vision for the role as being a “minister of encouragement” to pastors across the Southern Baptist Convention.
Finger on the pulse of pastors
“How do you know a pastor needs encouragement?” Whitten asked. “Here’s what I say: check his pulse. Does he have a pulse? Yes? Then, I’m telling you he needs encouragement.”
Whitten aspires to be a connector, a counselor and a comforter for ministry leaders no matter what stage or season of ministry they find themselves in, with the goal of boosting both them and their churches toward a place of health and vitality.
One way he aims to connect pastors will be through prayer, to connect them to other pastors and introduce them to resources and ideas. One aspect of what Whitten hopes to do is break down barriers of comparison between pastors that often culminate in distinctions between different sized churches.
Every pastor leads ‘a small church’
“When we compare the lostness of North America, every one of us pastor a small church. Every one of us, and we need each other,” Whitten said. “We need to depend on each other. So, I see myself as a connector.”
Whitten served as senior pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church for 33 years, which Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer for the Florida Baptist Convention, said has prepared for the new role with NAMB.
“Ken Whitten has an incredible heart for pastors and churches,” Green said. “He has faithfully invested in other pastors throughout his ministry.
“I am thankful for the encouragement and blessing that he is in my life,” he said. “Ken has the heart of a shepherd who cares for others. Southern Baptist pastors will be strengthened through the ministry of Ken Whitten.”
Needing unity, clarity, identity
Many pastors routinely stare down a spirit of isolation in their ministries, and Whitten plans to bring Southern Baptist pastors together in a way that reminds those who feel alone that there are thousands of leaders who can be a blessing and a resource.
“I think what pastors need right now is — they need clarity, and they need identity for the mission of their church, the measurements for that church, for the values in that church and the strategy,” Whitten said.
“Once they get some clarity for their church’s identity,” he noted, “then the pastor begins to understand his congregation. Pastors need unity, clarity and identity of what God has called them to do and that they’re not alone in doing it.”
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