Rector FGBC welcomes new pastor
The congregation of Rector's First General Baptist Church recently welcomed their new pastor, Rev. Ron Byrd, and his wife Kay to the church and the community.
The couple recently moved to Rector from Bigelow (Perry County), where Bryd was interim pastor at the Pine Mountain General Baptist Church in Damascus (Faulkner County) during the past year.
The Byrds have one daughter, Stephanie Toon, a widow who lives in Conway with her son, Jack, age six, and twin daughters, Lily and Averi, ages 4. Stephanie is a nutritionist with Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock.
The Byrds also have a son, Stephen, who is a pharmacist living in Jackson, Mo., with his wife, Bethany, and their nine-year-old son, Cameron, and 20-month-old son, Olen.
Rev. Byrd obtained his bachelor's degree in religious education from Oakland City University in Indiana and holds a master's degree in Christian education from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky. He plans to complete his PhD in church leadership this year from Oakland City University.
In addition, he completed a three-year program to become certified in ministry through Asbury Seminary in Kentucky.
Growing up General Baptist in the Bigelow community, Rev. Byrd says he was called to preach at age 18 with an "overwhelming spiritual feeling, a life dominating call, if you will, to spread the gospel."
He accepted a full-time pastor job in 1982 at Riverview General Baptist in Elkhart, Ind., and was there 13 months before returning to the Bigelow area due to "homesickness," according to Byrd.
Byrd then preached at the Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, located near Bigelow, while also opening up his own cabinet shop to help make ends meet. Byrd had learned cabinet making from his father and this continued to be a major hobby and profession for him, in addition to preaching, for some years.
After preaching at Pleasant Valley for nearly four years, Rev. Byrd decided to work toward his bachelor's degree and, while in Indiana going to school, was associate pastor at Garvinwood General Baptist in Evansville, Ind., a position reserved for students attending Oakland University.
After obtaining his bachelor's, Byrd ended up back at Garvinwood as a senior pastor, where he stayed for three more years. He then left to work on his master's degree in Christian education.
Rev. Byrd accepted the calling to become a "church planter," a position in which he worked closely with Home Missions board. "They encouraged and prompted me to help start new churches," noted Byrd.
He moved his family to Conway in 1994 and "planted" new churches in Conway and Greenbrier (Faulkner County), eventually merging the two churches into Abundant Faith General Baptist Church, located in the Springhill community between Conway and Greenbrier.
"This was the most exciting time of my life -- to see something come from nothing," he said. "We didn't have the usual support system of a church -- I was totally on my own and had to rely on the leadership of the holy spirit. I developed a deeper devotional life and a greater prayer life, so it ended up being a time of spiritual maturity for me."
Of Abundant Faith General Baptist, a church name chosen by the congregation, Byrd added, "We were a bunch of misfits who fit together -- people who didn't fit in anywhere but came together in this new church. We had an 'openness to brokenness' and developed a climate of acceptance I had never seen before. Prejudices were virtually non-existent and we accepted people of all orientations as we worked hard to generate a very open climate."
The congregation grew to 100 in two years and 150 in five years, which was Byrd's numerical goal. However, at the five year point, the national General Baptist denomination asked Byrd to become the national missions director in starting new churches. In 1999 he accepted that call and moved with his family to the General Baptist national headquarters in Poplar Bluff to begin a new chapter.
In this position, he established a new system of church planting, emphasizing bigger, better and faster church planting. The first executive in that position who had been a church planter out in the field, Byrd reflects, "We had churches reaching 200 in a year, 600 in five years and even had one church reaching a congregation of 1,500 in five years. I recruited and trained people in church planting and committed to five years in that position."
Rev. Byrd ended up staying in that calling for six years, but after that time period wanted to return to a local ministry. Heading for the Little Rock/Bryant area, he spent the next several years helping to close out a church in south Little Rock and build a new church in Bryant.
However, over time, due to the mobility of the area and other circumstances, the Bryant church didn't meet the benchmarks in his planning.
"What works in one place doesn't always work in another, and when the right time arrived, we chose to close the church as we could not keep it afloat financially and otherwise," reflected Byrd.
With the closing of the Bryant church, Rev. Byrd and his family returned to the Bigelow area, where he had inherited the family home. He became the interim pastor at Pine Mountain General Baptist Church in Damascus and also opened up a cabinet shop, "Dixie Woodworx," going back to a skill he had learned long ago.
Once the interim position at Pine Mountain ended, Byrd was once again in a position to be called to a full-time ministry -- and the Rector church came calling.
"When I worked for the national headquarters in Poplar Bluff, the Rector church asked me to preach as a substitute one Sunday and they remembered me," he said. "Through various circumstances they found out I was available and asked me and my family to move here and accept a calling as their pastor.
"My goal here is to build a culture of evangelism with the ultimate goal of bringing more people into our church, especially people who have no church home.
"I am very excited about being in Rector. The people here have been very accepting, and I am very optimistic about the future. People here are more friendly than anywhere my family and I have been before."
Wife Kay also is happy to be here in Rector.
"So far I've really enjoyed being here, and it has been a great move for us," she said. "I am very supportive of my husband's ministry and I am trying to find out where I fit in. I plan to help with media and will be helping with a Sunday school class at some point."
The couple adds,"We look forward to a long relationship with the church and the community."
Rev. Byrd welcomes anyone looking for a new church home to First General Baptist, located across from Harps on Highway 49. His normal office hours are from 8 a.m. to 12 noon on weekday mornings.
More information about the Rector First General Baptist Church can also be found on the church website at www.fgbcrector.com.