Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Brunson's Associate Pastor Approved to Be His Successor at First Baptist Church

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Brunson's Associate Pastor Approved to Be His Successor at First Baptist Church

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Reese Cravey

When they first met in 2015, Mac Brunson knew Heath Lambert was not where he belonged.

Brunson was senior pastor of the 10,000-member First Baptist Church of Jacksonville. Lambert, 38, was professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., as well as executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.

Brunson invited him to preach at First Baptist's annual Pastor's Conference and was impressed. Maybe he had found his successor.

"He doesn't need to be in a classroom," Brunson remembers telling his son, Trey Brunson, then the church's executive pastor of community life. "He needs to be in a pulpit."

Lambert said he, his wife and most everyone else who knows him agreed.

"The only thing I've ever wanted to do was be a pastor," he said.

In January 2016, Lambert joined First Baptist as associate pastor. On Sept. 24, almost two years later, church trustees, deacons and the congregation approved his appointment as Brunson's co-pastor and successor.

Both men are pleased with the arrangement.

"I've been getting slower," Brunson said. "I've been here 11 1/2 years. I've needed help for 11 1/2 years. I felt like this was the right time. There is only so much one person can give themselves to."

He has no immediate plans to retire or make a career change - he's 60 and said he hopes to stay put for at least five more years - but wanted a painless, unified transition when he does depart. He has been through "mega-church" leadership transitions at First Baptist churches in Jacksonville and in Dallas.

"I wanted it to be smooth," he said. "Transitions are hard, unbelievably hard. It just goes on and on."

Meanwhile, Lambert had been seminary professor and biblical counselor for 10 years, but was missing the pulpit. He jumped when the "well-known and well-respected" Jacksonville church beckoned with the "opportunity to work for - and with - someone like Mac Brunson," he said. …

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