Anderson University presents 2014 Pastor of the Year awards

Anderson University presented its 2014 South Carolina Baptist Pastor of the Year awards Nov. 10 at the South Carolina Baptist Pastors’ Conference in Columbia.

The annual awards are designed to recognize some of the most outstanding pastors in the South Carolina Baptist Convention and are based on the following criteria: having served in South Carolina for at least three years, having been a strong supporter of the Cooperative Program, and having been a model of pastoral faithfulness and integrity.

“Anderson University recognizes the unique high calling of the pastorate,” said the school’s president, Evans Whitaker. “We are truly honored to recognize the meritorious servant leadership of exemplary pastors in our state.”

The John E. White Award for a pastor of a church with up to 300 members was presented to Eric Hill, pastor of Lakeview Baptist Church in Greenwood. Hill has helped grow the church from less than 20 in attendance to more than 250, and the church has led its association in baptisms for several years.

“If the people who can make a difference don’t make a difference, then what difference will that make?” Hill said. Hill and his wife, Renae, have one son, Seth. Hill has served Lakeview Church as a bivocational pastor for more than five years.

The John Edward Rouse Award for a pastor of a church with 301 to 1,000 members was presented to Dwight Easler, pastor of Corinth Baptist Church in Gaffney. Easler is married to Tabitha, and they are the parents of four children: Seth, Matthew, Benji and Hannah. Benji died in a tragic accident in 2011, and God used the experience to galvanize Easler’s leadership and magnify his influence for Christ. Easler is a former president of the Pastors’ Conference and currently serves as chairman of the South Carolina Baptist Convention Executive Board.

“The Lord placed some core values in my life that made me who I am as a pastor,” said Easler. “Also, the Lord gave me a father and a pastor who were strong leaders, teaching me the importance or convictional leadership.”

The W.B. Johnson Award for a pastor of a church with more than 1,000 members was presented to Jeff Lethco, pastor of North Side Baptist Church in Greenwood, where he has served for more than 16 years. The church gives 10 percent of undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program and averages three short-term mission trips each year. A team of college students spent the entire summer living with an unreached people group in Africa.

Lethco and Sandy, his wife of 34 years, have four children and 7 grandchildren. “People’s understanding of Scripture is essential to their relationship with God,” Lethco said. “That is why the focus of my preaching ministry is making God known through His word.”

The B. Carlisle Driggers Award for the pastor of the year in the director of missions category was presented to Jim Goodroe, director of missions for the Spartanburg County Baptist Network for the last 14 years. The association has recorded more than 1,000 baptisms annually for the past two years, and it is the only association named in the textbook for the Cooperative Program course in the seminaries of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“It was not until 1998 that the Great Commission really grabbed me,” said Goodroe. “Sumter First Baptist Church allowed me to do everything in missions that a pastor could do, but there are so many more things that a pastor must do. So when God opened the door in 2000 to a job where missions is the main thing, it was an offer I could not refuse. I now have the best of both worlds — doing more in missions while being a pastor to pastors.” Goodroe and his wife, Nancy, have three sons, including Ryan, who is a pastor in the Upstate, and several grandchildren.

Anderson University presented each recipient with a plaque and complimentary registration to the National Conference on Preaching to be held in Jacksonville, Fla., in May 2015. LifeWay Christian Resources provided each recipient with leather-bound, engraved minister’s study Bible and a $50 gift certificate.