Jim Henry's busy schedule includes release of autobiography

Jim Henry, mid-1990s president of the Southern Baptist Convention, hasn't been sitting around with his feet propped up since his 2006 retirement as pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla.—unless it was sitting in airports or vehicles getting to his next assignment.

"I'm busier now than I've ever been," said Henry, before adding with a laugh, "or maybe it just takes me longer to get everything done. [It's] one of the two."

Joking aside, Henry has indeed maintained a hectic pace throughout the past decade. He has served as a transitional pastor before taking on his current role as senior pastor of a rapidly-growing congregation at Downtown Baptist Church Orlando three years ago. (Before moving Orlando's First Baptist Church to its present site, Henry had pastored in the Downtown Baptist location.) The church is now experiencing new growth, with many millennials preparing to live closer to their downtown jobs.

Henry also completed an autobiography—titled "Son of a Gunn"—published in February.

"I didn't retire, I was redeployed," Henry said. He recently crunched some of the numbers and realized just how loaded his schedule has been: "I looked back over the last two years, and I figured out that I'd preached or ministered in 90 out of 93 weeks."

When Henry, a Nashville native, does have "free" time, he often spends it doing something he is passionate about—but it isn't fishing or playing golf. Rather, he is passionate about encouraging and supporting deacons by leading conferences across the nation. He has led three conferences for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board since January and has one more at Sevier Heights Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., on March 25.

"I just love it," Henry said of the deacons conferences. "I feel a special anointing on it. I don't know what it is except the Holy Spirit."

Deacons have impacted and shaped his career in countless ways and he is delighted when he can provide encouragement for them, Henry said, noting, "[When the] deacons and the pastor get along, the church can really go forward."

As for his autobiography, Henry said writing the book enabled him to count his blessings all over again.

"Junior Hill and Jerry Vines—who wrote their autobiographies—told me you'll get more out of [writing the book] than the people who read it will, because you'll look over your shoulder and see the goodness and faithfulness of God. And that's exactly the way it's happened.

"... [M]y biggest problem was what to leave out," Henry said. "I just kept saying, I need to put this in and take that out. So that the biggest challenge I had, I think, was what to take out and what to put in. I felt like I left out so many things, so many wonderful experiences of the Lord's grace. I hope there's enough in there that it will be a blessing."

Even while writing the book, Henry maintained his typically hectic schedule, which he doesn't plan to scale back anytime soon.

"It's been a wonderful run and God had given me a word [about it]," Henry said. "One day in the Scriptures, it seems like His Word just jumped out to me in Psalms: He says 'you'll teach this generation, you'll blossom like a fig tree, you'll grow like the cedars of Lebanon in the house of the Lord, you'll bear fruit in old age, you'll be fresh and green, proclaiming the Lord is my rock, the Lord is righteous and there's no unrighteousness in Him' (Psalm 92).

"And when I read that, I said, 'Lord, I know that's for everybody, but I'm especially claiming it for me. If You'll give me extended life, I'd like to encourage churches and pastors.'" Henry added, "And that's exactly what He's done."

David Dawson is a contributing writer for the Baptist and Reflector (www.baptistandreflector.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. 

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