One of the interesting aspects of living out my ministry calling on the West coast has been dealing with the negative impressions some have of pastors who work in this context. For example, when I first moved west, one person told me, “The only pastors who move to the West are those who can’t get a good church in the South.” Another person asked me, “Why would you take your family into such a secular place?” And my favorite, “Why do you need to go ‘up north’ and make Christians out of them Yankees when we need good preachers down here?”

These comments used to make me angry. Now, they are either amusing or exasperating—depending on my spiritual temperature that day! And, thankfully, as Southern Baptists have developed a more national identity, the frequency of these comments has declined. May that trend continue.

Working with pastors in the West for more than 30 years has given me a more positive perspective on their identity. First, pastors are in the West because they really believe God called them here. They are not interested in getting a “good church in the South” or anywhere else. They are in the West because they want to be. Second, they accept secularism and lack of a Christian subculture as facts, not as threats. They are not afraid to raise their families here, knowing their responsibility to nurture a healthy family is not determined by the difficulty of external circumstances. Finally, they are passionate about reaching people in what most Southern Baptists consider a missional context. They are not afraid to take on the missionary aspect of pastoral ministry in the West.

There is also some insider knowledge, often shared quietly among Western pastors, about why we enjoy living and ministering in the West. We enjoy the frankness and openness of the people. Most are not Christians, and there is no cultural Christianity clouding the waters of defining true commitment. As my oldest son told me once, “In Oregon, you’re either a Christian or you’re not. No reason to fake it.” In some ways, evangelism is easier in the West.

We also enjoy the greater freedom to develop creative ministry approaches and try new methods to reach people. While “we have always done it this way” is sometimes heard in the West, it is not voiced as stridently as in other places. We also enjoy the greater unity we have with other pastors. Pastors in the West know they need each other—both within and across denominational lines. We are less eager to argue and divide over secondary and tertiary issues. Because we know we need each other, we find a way to get along.

Pastoral ministry in the West has its challenges—fewer well-trained leaders, less financial resources, more limited church facilities, less cultural support for churches, and greater distances to travel for meetings. But the positives make taking on these challenges worth the effort.            

As Southern Baptists come to Anaheim this summer, many will meet Western pastors (who will be attending their first and perhaps only annual meeting). As you meet these remarkable men, my hope is your image of western pastors will be changed in positive ways. You will discover good men, sacrificing much and working hard, but content they are in God’s will and serving in the best place on earth. May God call more men to pastoral ministry in the West!

Read More

Anger or Acceptance

Dr. Iorg offers three ways leaders can better respond to change.

Jeff Iorg
Dr. Jeff Iorg is the president of Gateway Seminary. Prior to his service at the Seminary, Dr. Iorg was the Executive Director of the Northwest Baptist Convention for almost ten years. He was also the founding pastor of Greater Gresham Baptist Church in Gresham, Oregon, and has served as a pastor in Missouri and a staff pastor in Texas.

Being Young: A Biblical Theology of Youth – An Excerpt

Dr. Paul Kelly provides a biblically informed theology of youth that gives youth ministers and pastors a deeper understanding of the common experience and divine purpose of teenage years. You can find an excerpt of his new publication here.

Paul G. Kelly
Chair, Educational Leadership | Professor of Educational Leadership
Dr. Paul Kelly began his service at Gateway Seminary in Fall 2009 as the chair and professor of Educational Leadership. Prior to Gateway, Kelly served as vice president of ministry resources at Student Life Publishing, editor-in-chief of discipleship resources in Student Ministry Publishing at LifeWay Christian Resources, as well as a youth specialist in Discipleship at LifeWay.


Study Isaiah
September 26, 2022

Woes on Israel – Isaiah 5 & 10-12

This week on Study Isaiah, Dr. Paul Wegner and host Tyler Sanders jump from the beginning to the end of a major palistrophe to talk about the Song of the Vineyard, the Song of Thanksgiving and the woe oracles.
Lead On Podcast
September 25, 2022

Effective Listening for Ministry Leaders

Dr. Iorg explains how leaders can be more effective by learning how to be better listeners. Listening is a skill and like all skills it can be improved.


Spirituality of Jonathan Edwards | JEC at Gateway Seminary

Dr. Chris Chun hosted a digital symposium with Dr. Michael Haykin and Dr. Robert Caldwell to discuss Edwards’ spirituality, devotional life and theological impact in American Christianity.

Chris Chun
Professor of Church History | Director, Jonathan Edwards Center
Dr. Chris Chun is the professor of Church History and the director of Jonathan Edwards Center at Gateway Seminary. Chris’ doctoral research at St. Andrews University was focused on the eighteenth-century Edwardsean Baptists in Britain. He also has served as president of The Evangelical Theological Society (Far West Region).

Faculty Dialogues: Dispensationalism or Not

In this episode of Faculty Dialogues, Dr. David Rathel and Dr. Paul Wegner held a live discussion on their views on dispensationalism.

David Rathel
Associate Professor of Christian Theology
Dr. Rathel is the associate professor of Chrisitian Theology at Gateway Seminary. Prior to Gateway, Dr. Rathel supplied pastoral care to churches in the United States and Scotland, served as an Adjunct Professor of Theology and Philosophy for the Baptist College of Florida, and provided teaching assistance for the University of St Andrews.

Get updates on new content!