The Long Haul

by Ryan Jespersen on January 7, 2015 in Feature

I want to tell you a story about my friend Larry Venable. Larry has been pastor of Freeman Heights Baptist Church for 31 years. 31 years in the same church, coming to same office, ministering in the same community. This community, Central and West Garland has changed significantly through the years; it has become much more ethnically and socially diverse.

In fact, when Larry first arrived in 1983 this was already beginning to happen. Most guys in situations like his might just bide their time until they are able to find a new place of ministry – an easier spot to do the work, but not Larry. Larry has stuck it out through the years and even in the midst of all of the changes his church has seen new people.

When churches in similar situations were dying, his was thriving. I happen to think Larry is a good speaker; I think he has great pastoral abilities. But Larry will tell you that his ability had very little to do with the fact he was able to transition his church in an area that some would have considered tough.

Freeman Heights Baptist Church is a missional church, reaching all different types of people; furthermore, they are intentional about being a church for the community. One example of this was in the fact that instead of building a new building on their campus they bought a health club and turned it in to a place to have a variety of ministries for the community. This is just one illustration among many.

Larry – after 30 years of leading his church to be on mission – has written a book I recommend for pastors who are in transitional situations. It explores why one should stay for the long haul, and some gives some specific steps on how to move the church forward. Freeman Heights is not a mega-church; it runs between 200 and 400 and has for many years; his suggestions and insight are not unrealistic for most of us.

The first 5 people to respond to this blog, by emailing me at will receive a free copy of the book compliments of the Mary Hill Davis offering for Texas Missions. Also for those who attend the Dallas Baptist Association Pastors conference on February 2nd will receive a complimentary copy from Dallas Baptist Association and Texas Baptists. If you are like me and prefer to read on kindle or would like the free copies to go to someone else, then you may buy a copy by clicking here.

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