Dr. Ken Hester, pastor of First Baptist Church, Pontotoc, was elected President of the Mississippi Baptist Convention last week (Tuesday, Oct. 29) at the convention's 184th annual session at First Baptist Church, Jackson.
Hester, 54, has pastored First Baptist Church for the past 19 years. For the past two years Hester has served as president of the Baptist Convention's 100-member board and has been a board member since 2015.
Hester said he sought God’s guidance when approached about being nominated for convention president.
“Prior to last week’s convention they asked my permission to nominate me and I told them let me pray about it and talk to my wife Temple. Temple said ‘if you’re elected we’ll serve the Lord with gladness’ and if you don’t get elected 'we’ll serve the Lord with gladness'. So I called them back and told them the same thing. “
Hester was nominated from the convention floor by Dr. David Hamilton, paster of West Heights Baptist Church in Pontotoc and a past Baptist Convention president in 2012 and 2013.
“No one is respected and admired more at the Mississippi Baptist Convention than David Hamilton and having him voice my nomination made it all the more special,” Hester said. “I have the utmost respect for David, no one is more gracious and he’s already given me lots of encouragement."
Hester’s was the lone nomination made and he was approved with a unanimous voice acclamation “of all for one and one for all."
“I was humbled, I’m proud to have this opportunity and it meant a lot to have the convention unified,” he said.. "That is important because we’re going into a time of transition. Dr. Jim Futral is retiring as executive director/treasurer of the Mississippi Baptist Convention. He’s staying around a few months but we’ll be bringing on a new guy to be executive director/treasurer. I will be a member of that search committee.”
Hester said he’s most proud to be the leader of the Baptist Convention because of the organization’s track record of serving God, spreading the gospel and helping folks in need.
“Our convention does so much good stuff that people don’t even know about,” Hester related. "This past year we’ve had the most disaster relief active season since 2005. We have had 2.3 million meals served, we’ve had 4,145 gospel presentations with 592 people to get saved. I could go on and on about stuff that doesn’t make the headlines that affects people’s lives in Mississippi and in our nation and across out globe."
“We sent out 151 Mississippi BSUs for summer missions all over the globe. We've got folks on six continents."
“All that, to say that Mississippi Baptists do so many good things for Mississippians,. Who better to reach the people of our state than Mississippi Baptists? I’m not discrediting any other denomination. We’re touching lives in the Delta, on the coast , the piney woods, red clay hills, black prairie and Appalachian foothills."
"When our churches, 2,100 plus Baptist Churches , when we give to what’s called the cooperative program, part of that money goes to Southern Baptist Convention, but part of that money stays in Mississippi and blesses churches and people’s lives here in Mississippi. It’s a brilliant network, no one bills us, they say if you want to give, give what you can, and we choose to bless people’s lives through the cooperative program.
"It’s a unique Baptist thing. For us, every time you put a dollar in the offering plate, part of that dollar goes to the cooperative program and changes people’s lives right here in Mississippi and in the South, the nation and the world. So what I’m looking forward to most is being a part of that.”
Hester said he’s hoping to embrace every opportunity and make every minute count.
“Listen I’m 54, the sands of the hour glass are slipping away and I don’t have time to waste. I want to be a part of something that matters and being a part of Mississippi Baptist matters. “
“If I didn’t believe in it I wouldn’t be an involved part of it. I just don’t have the time, time is too precious to waste.”
Hester said he will rely on the Lord to lead him in this new responsibility.
“In my quiet time with the Lord today, He said 'get to work Ken'. That’s the bottom line. Truthfully, this is nothing I sought after. It’s a door of opportunity that God opened to me. I want to make Jesus proud, and First Baptist Church proud.”
I have my work cut out for me. I want Mississippi Baptists to be proud. I feel that responsibility, and first and foremost I owe it to the Lord, He opened this door, I have to go to work."
“I’m going to be busy but it’s all worthwhile. I’m counting on the Lord and peoples’ prayers. The Lord has reminded me often that he hasn’t opened a door that He hasn’t already walked through. My job is to follow the Lord. Mississippi Baptist is a big ole family.”