J.D. “Sonny” Tucker, a 1983 graduate of Ouachita Baptist University, was elected executive director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention at the Dec. 4 meeting of the convention’s Executive Board. He officially begins his new role Jan. 1.
Tucker, 53, succeeds Emil Turner, who announced Aug. 2 his intention to retire in 2013. Tucker has served as team leader of the ABSC evangelism and church growth team since 1997. Turner has served as executive director since 1996.
Don Blackmore, discipleship pastor of Central Baptist Church in Jonesboro, who serves as chairman of the ABSC Operating Committee, said Tucker possesses qualities the committee was looking for in a new executive director.
“We were looking for someone who would continue to serve the churches of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention,” Blackmore said. “A second quality we looked for was somebody that would continue with an evangelistic zeal, keeping Dr. Turner’s theme, ‘More people in heaven and less people in hell.’ So we wanted to continue that focus as well. Another quality that we were looking for was someone who understood the churches of Arkansas.
Blackmore said the committee “felt very confident that after that interview process with him that he was God’s person.”
Following his election, Tucker received a standing ovation from members of the ABSC Executive Board. Members of the Operating Committee surrounded Tucker and his wife, Nicki, as Blackmore prayed.
“I think the Operating Committee and the board made a wonderful choice. Sonny is quintessential Arkansas,” Turner said following Tucker’s election. “He is an Arkansas pastor’s pastor. He loves Arkansas churches. He’ll lead well, and he’ll set a great tone for the state convention.”
“These are challenging times for conventions,” said Ouachita President Rex Horne. “It is a challenging time for our country, and he’ll come in and give us good leadership, strong leadership, collaborative and creative leadership; that, I think, is going to really set us up well for years to come.”
Gary Hollingsworth, president of the ABSC Executive Committee and pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church, Little Rock, said Tucker knows Arkansas well.
“In addition to his experience and his knowledge of the churches and the leaders around our state, it struck me very clearly that – while he has done a wonderful job leading evangelism – he has a real vision for where we need to go in the future,” said Hollingsworth.
“He also has great relationships built around our larger Southern Baptist Convention family, which is important because he’ll be a part of that network of the other state conventions,” he added. “He was a wise choice because of the fact that he knows Arkansas, but he’s already well respected around our convention.”
Tucker said following his election that he wants to continue “the great foundation that Dr. Turner has laid” working with Arkansas Baptist churches.
He said he wants to see Arkansas Baptists make “big strides” in evangelism, missions and church planting.
“Arkansans know Arkansas Baptist convention churches are kind, gracious and caring. I want (them) to know that we stand for Jesus and the Word of God and that we really, really love folks,” Tucker said. “We want to stay focused on Arkansas, with a strong sense of family and a strong sense of partnership with the churches.”
Tucker said he believes Arkansas Baptists must develop personal evangelism skills, as well as reach out through event evangelism, to effectively reach people in the 21st century with the gospel of Jesus Christ. In addition, he said, while it is necessary to affirm the cultural diversity of today’s society, some methods will reach across those boundaries.
“The most effective vehicle (for reaching people today) is through ministry, service, friendship and acts of love and kindness,” he said.
All of Tucker’s pastoral experience has been in Arkansas churches. Prior to joining the ABSC staff, he was pastor of Second Baptist Church, Monticello, from 1994 to 1997. His previously was pastor of West Helena Baptist Church, 1991-94; Fair Oaks Baptist Church, 1988-91; and Shady Grove Baptist Church, Sparkman, 1981-88. He was youth director at Antioch Baptist Church in Hot Springs from 1980 to 1981.
Tucker completed a Doctor of Philosophy degree at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in 1998. His major field of study was missiology with a focus on evangelism and church growth. Tucker also earned a Master of Divinity degree from Mid-America in 1992. He graduated from Ouachita Baptist University in 1983, majoring in pastoral ministries and speech and communications.
Tucker and his wife are members of First Baptist Church of Benton. His wife, Nicki (McAnnally) Tucker, also from Arkadelphia, is a 1984 graduate of Ouachita. They have two adult children, Megan (Tucker) Seyler, a 2010 Ouachita graduate, and Curt, a sophomore at Ouachita.
By Tim Yarbrough, Arkansas Baptist News