D.J. Horton, pastor of Anderson Mill Road Baptist Church near Spartanburg, has been elected president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
Horton, 36, received 244 of 407 votes cast by messengers to the SCBC’s 193rd annual meeting, held Nov. 12-13 at Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia.
Dusty Bradshaw, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in North Charleston, received 163 votes. There were no other nominees.
At a press conference following his election, Horton said he plans to represent South Carolina Baptists “outside the circle of South Carolina Baptists.”
“I want to tell the story of South Carolina Baptists to folks who may have forgotten about us,” he said.
Addressing how he might seek to encourage smaller, struggling churches across the state to engage in the state convention’s newly adopted emphasis, “Great Commission Living,” Horton said churches can become healthy by “focusing on a few initiatives and doing them well.”
“We have to center our efforts on a handful of biblical issues, like missions,” he said. Churches should contextualize their environments and not be afraid to change the methods by which they reach their mission fields, he said. “I don’t run the same programs I ran 36 months ago,” he said.
Horton said the ministry and missions “templates” that nearly all Southern Baptist Convention churches and state conventions used in the 1950s and 1960s are no longer adequate to meet the challenges of a denomination operating in a modern, online world. He said the Southern Baptist Convention may not die, but it runs the risk of becoming irrelevant if churches aren’t willing to be adaptable when it comes to the methods by which they do ministry.
“How we do cooperation always has to be evolving,” he said, “but how cooperation looks over the next 25 years can’t be the way we’ve always done things.”
Horton said he sees his role as president as working to make the state convention “be seen as valuable” to pastors, “who will attend things that are valuable to them.” Horton said he plans to spend the next year “preaching, casting visions and building relationships.”
“Twelve months is not long enough to make a fundamental shift, but we can start the right conversation,” he said. As part of his duties as state convention president, Horton said he will “pick folks with progressive thinking” to serve on the SCBC’s Committee on Committees.
Horton, originally from Montevallo, Ala., was 25 when he became senior pastor at Anderson Mill Road Church in 2004, and he says his Southern Baptist roots run deep. “I was dedicated, baptized and married in a Southern Baptist church,” he said. “I was raised going to RA camp, participated in Bible drills and remember praying with my family about our Lottie Moon offering. I was called, licensed and ordained to preach in a Southern Baptist church. I received a fine education from two different Southern Baptist seminaries. At every major intersection in my life, Southern Baptists were there to guide and encourage me.”
During Horton’s tenure at Anderson Mill Road, the church has tripled in size to about 2,000 members and grown its financial support of missions. In 2012, Anderson Mill Road set aside 12 percent of its budget for missions and plans to increase that amount to 20 percent by 2020. More than $300,000 is targeted for missions this year. The church has partnerships with missionaries in China, North Africa, Madagascar and Nicaragua.
According to figures published in the South Carolina Baptist Convention Annual, Anderson Mill Road Church forwarded 3 percent of undesignated receipts of $2,253,474 through the Cooperative Program in 2012. The church also gave $77,094 toward prayer week missions offerings. Horton told the Courier he is “very proud” of his congregation’s commitment to Great Commission giving. He said his church is on track this year to give more than $100,000 to the International Mission Board, $75,000 to the state convention (through the Cooperative Program) and $92,000 to “strategic and local missions.” Also, his church awarded more than $100,000 in scholarships to offset the expenses of more than 400 members who participated in mission trips.
Offering his views on Great Commission giving versus Cooperative Program giving, Horton said that “voluntary cooperation is just that — voluntary. The mandate or hope that all Southern Baptist churches should or will give 10 percent of their budget to the CP is a thing of the past and will not be resurrected. If a church wants to cooperate by giving 15 percent, then praise the Lord. If a church chooses to give even 1 percent — or, better yet, take the 1 percent challenge to increase their giving — then we should be thankful for it and move forward.
“The autonomous local church, freely cooperating, is the heartbeat of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Horton said. “In my experience, churches and pastors are not motivated to give to programs. They give to vision, direction and mission. The greatest way to encourage the next generation of pastors to financially support Southern Baptist causes is to make sure our focus is singular, our mission is biblical and our stewardship is responsible.”
Horton has served on the SCBC Executive Board and is a past chairman of the board’s administrative committee. He also has served as chairman of the SCBC Committee on Committees. He was previously nominated for SCBC president in 2010. He currently serves as a trustee of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in special education from Auburn University, a master of divinity degree in expository preaching from New Orleans Seminary, and a doctorate of ministry in expository preaching from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Horton and his wife, Laurel, have four children: Ty (10), Micah (8), Lily (5) and Grey (3). They are in the process of adopting a child from Ethiopia.