SCOTT DEPOT, W.Va. (BP) -- William D. "Bill" Henard, executive director-treasurer of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists since 2015, has accepted a call to pastor First Baptist Church in Athens, Tenn., the convention reported in a July 17 news release.
In a letter to the administrative committee of the convention's Executive Board, Henard stated, "I have made the decision that it is time for me to return to the pastorate. It has not been an easy decision but one to which I believe God has led me."
Henard wrote he had missed "transformational preaching and pastoral ministry. I missed the fellowship of the local church. While I enjoyed and saw fruit from my work at the WVCSB, the Holy Spirit was tugging me in a different direction." He had been "the theorist; now I become the practitioner," Henard wrote. "I have been the general at headquarters stirring the troops to battle; now I return to the frontlines."
The news release stated that Henard's announcement "was met with expressions of heaviness of heart from leaders across West Virginia, along with words of celebration for his accomplishments and admiration for following God's call back to the pulpit."
Allan Thompson, director of missions for the Mountain State Baptist Association, said Henard has done "an outstanding job of turning around a large operation toward fiscal strength and a forward trajectory in his four years at the helm, and has assembled a solid staff in Cleve [Persinger], Tim [Turner] and Danny [Rumple]" who serve the convention respectively in partnerships and communications; evangelism and discipleship; and church planting and missions.
Ryan Navy, president-elect of the WVCSB Pastors' Conference and lead pastor of New Huntington Church, said, "Every pastor needs a pastor. Dr. Henard has been that for me. As a young pastor with lots of questions, he was always a text message away. Dr. Henard was a fantastic executive director. We are sad to see him go, but thrilled to see him continuing to follow God's call through this transition. Congratulations to FBC Athens!"
During Henard's nearly four years as WVCSB executive director, key accomplishments include:
-- 14 churches have joined the convention.
-- 12 churches have planted with 100 percent success rate.
-- Cooperative Program giving has exceeded budget for the past two years. Currently, CP giving is above budget by 8 percent and is exceeding last year by 13 percent.
-- Increasing the convention's giving to national and international CP ministries from 40 percent of receipts from the churches to 41.5 percent.
-- The Ola Cox State Missions Offering has met its $100,000 goal for three consecutive years, with the news release noting that WVSBC churches "are increasing in generosity."
-- With a rise in church reports for the Annual Church Profile, baptisms showed a 38 percent increase last year.
-- A new mission statement for the convention focuses on strengthening and sending churches through training opportunities and building relationships.
-- WVCSB annual meeting attendance has continued to grow over the last four years, marking a 33 percent increase.
Before serving as WVCSB executive director, Henard was senior pastor of Porter Memorial Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky., and a professor of evangelism and church growth at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
He has served as a first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention; a trustee with Lifeway Christian Resources, including two years as chairman; and president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. He is the author of several books, including his most recent, "ReClaimed Church: How Churches Grow, Decline, and Experience Revitalization" with B&H Publishing Group.
Henard holds a Ph.D. degree from Southern Seminary; D.Min and M.Div. degrees Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas; and an undergraduate degree from the University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky.
Henard has been married to his wife Judy for 43 years. They have a daughter, two sons and seven grandchildren.
In his letter to the WVCSB administrative committee, Henard wrote, "Thank you for letting me serve you. I am thankful that I am leaving the WVCSB in better shape than how I found it, and I am confident that the next Executive Director can build upon the work accomplished and take this convention to greater heights. Remember 1 Samuel 16 and how God chose David. Let God lead as he reveals his choice. Great success will come as a result."
The administrative committee of the Executive Board will appoint an interim executive as well as a 15-person search committee with every association represented. The convention will provide more information about the position and nationwide search in the coming weeks.