Gary Hollingsworth, a long-serving pastor and denominational leader with a record of church planting and international missions support, has been elected executive director-treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
He received the unanimous support of SCBC messengers who convened Jan. 14 for a special called meeting of the state convention at Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia. The final messenger count was 376.
“God has pulled my heart toward South Carolina,” Hollingsworth told messengers before they voted. “I know I can’t do this job, but the Holy Spirit within me will enable me. If elected, I will do everything I can do, under the power of the Holy Spirit, to lead South Carolina Baptists.”
The 58-year-old Alabama native has served as senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., since 2007. He previously served as senior director of cultural evangelism at the North American Mission Board from 2005-2007.
“I think this convention has selected a man of God to lead them into the next chapter of evangelism, ministry and missions for the coming years,” said Richard Harris, a retired vice president with NAMB who led the state convention on an interim basis for 14 months after director-treasurer Jim Austin retired in October 2014.
Harris said South Carolina Baptists have selected “God’s appointed leader for this hour.”
“He is a statesman, a visionary leader, a people-person with tremendous relational skills, godly, an outstanding team player and a wonderful family man.”
Marshall Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church of Charleston and chairman of the SCBC Executive Board search committee that settled on Hollingsworth after a year-long process that included “many outstanding candidates,” said Hollingsworth “emerged as the clear and first choice of the committee.”
“Gary is winsome, has a heart for the Gospel and will be a great encouragement to churches and to our ministry partners,” said Blalock. “His experience as a pastor and a denominational leader have prepared him well to serve in this strategic role in South Carolina.”
Hollingsworth, who was elected president of the Arkansas Baptist Convention in 2015, has led Immanuel Baptist Church in sustained growth since 2007, increasing average attendance from 1,150 to 1,400 and baptizing 350 new believers. The church forwards 5.5 percent of receipts to the Cooperative Program and is consistently in the top 100 Southern Baptist Convention churches in giving to Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings. The church is a supporter of church plants (with projects in five U.S. cities) and international missions (with partnerships in 13 countries).
In the three churches Hollingsworth served prior to Immanuel Baptist, Cooperative Program support ranged from 11-12 percent, and all three churches had active church-planting and international missions programs.
Hollingsworth graduated from the University of Alabama in 1979 with a bachelor of science degree in recreation administration. He earned a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1984 and a doctor of ministry degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1996.
His pastorates have included Shively Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., 1989-1991; First Baptist Church of Alexandria, Va., 1991-1995; First Baptist Church of Trussville, Ala., 1995-2005; and Immanuel Baptist Church of Little Rock, Ark., since 2007.
Hollingsworth served as a trustee for the Alabama State Board of Missions from 1999-2005 and as board chairman from 2002-2004. He was president of the Alabama Pastors’ Conference in 2004. He served as a NAMB trustee from 2002-2005 and on the Southern Baptist Convention’s Committee on Committees in both 2004 and 2014. In Arkansas, he has served as a convention trustee since 2009 and was board president from 2012-2014. He is a trustee for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Hollingsworth and his wife, Gwen, have two adult sons, a daughter-in-law and a newborn granddaughter.
The South Carolina Baptist Convention, organized in 1821, is the oldest state convention in the Southern Baptist Convention, which was organized in 1845.
(Updated Feb. 2, 2016 to reflect final messenger count and additional comments from Gary Hollingsworth.)
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