“The Mission is Worth Giving My Life To”: How a SEBTS Alum Became the Pastor of a Great Commission Church
Chad Burchett | January 27, 2023
As you grow in your personal obedience to Jesus’s Great Commission, how do you then lead a church to embrace its Great Commission task? In an interview about his ministry journey, Doug Mize, two-time Southeastern graduate and pastor of First Baptist Greer in Greer, South Carolina, shared how God used his training at Southeastern along with biblical preaching, financial sacrifice, and an every-member approach to missions to revitalize his church’s heart for the Great Commission.
Mize was blessed to grow up in a faithful Baptist church in Winston Salem, North Carolina, where he learned the Bible and developed a heart for local church ministry. After graduating from college, Mize knew he wanted to be involved in ministry, so he began to look for conservative Baptist seminaries. Although he lived near Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, Mize knew the school had undergone a liberal shift in the 1970s and 1980s.
However, in the years following the conservative resurgence, the culture at Southeastern started to change, and Mize heard how Southeastern had begun to reclaim theologically conservative doctrines and teach the authority, inerrancy, infallibility, and sufficiency of Scripture. That is when Mize decided to attend Southeastern for seminary.
“Because I had been shaped by a healthy church that taught the Bible, I wanted to go to a seminary with a conservative lean where they believed the Bible,” recounted Mize. “When I learned about some of the early changes at Southeastern, a good friend and I decided that we were going to be a part of this new day at Southeastern. So, I started my Master of Divinity at Southeastern in 1992.”
While at Southeastern, Mize quickly learned that Southeastern was reclaiming not only conservative theological commitments but also a vibrant Great Commission focus.
“I could sense the rootedness and genuineness of my professors like Dr. Akin, Dr. Cowen, and Dr. Eitel,” recalled Mize. “My professors at Southeastern taught and modeled for me that the mission is worth giving my life to. Southeastern had a rich missionary heart and focus, which has only continued to grow under Dr. Akin’s leadership. You could tell then that Southeastern was going to grow because its focus was in the right place.”
My professors at Southeastern taught and modeled for me that the mission is worth giving my life to.
Mize graduated in the spring of 1995 and started his first full-time ministry position a few days later on May 5 — only a few months before getting married to his wife Janet. Serving as a youth pastor at a church in Yadkinville, North Carolina, Mize continued to learn and developed his heart for preaching and pastoral ministry.
“I knew I wanted to win people to the Lord and teach and preach in the local church,” shared Mize. “My heart and my call were so clearly given to pastoral ministry, and I transitioned into a preaching pastoral role in 2000 at a church near Columbia, South Carolina.”
Recognizing his need for further ministry training, Mize reflected on the extent of his earlier spiritual formation at Southeastern and decided to return in 2000 for a Doctor of Ministry in Expository Preaching under Stephen Rummage. Mize graduated in 2003 with an even deeper passion for local church ministry, having been further equipped to preach and lead in the church. In 2006, Mize became the education and connections pastor of a church in Taylors, South Carolina, applying what he had learned in the classroom to everyday life in the congregation.
In 2016, Mize was called to pastor and lead a church revitalization effort at First Baptist Church Greer. Mize, his wife Janet, and their three daughters moved to Greer, trusting God to work in their midst. Mize came to FBC Greer during a season of decline and worked to reinvigorate the church’s heart for missions, calling the congregation toward increasing faithfulness to the Great Commission. For Mize, effecting this Great Commission shift started with biblical preaching and reliance on the work of the Holy Spirit.
“You preach Christ, you preach the Scriptures, and you stay committed to the truth that God can do this,” shared Mize. “In God’s sovereignty, we began to grow — not simply in numbers — but in biblical health. I watched God work as First Baptist Greer became a Christ-centered church that is on mission.”
You preach Christ, you preach the Scriptures, and you stay committed to the truth that God can do this.
As the biblical teachings on mission began to take root in the church, Mize looked for other ways to move the congregation toward further investment in the mission. Mize had learned at Southeastern that the path of healthy transition and growth is not always glamorous. Sometimes steps toward Great Commission growth are more subtle and include details like time management or budgets. That is why Mize developed a plan to help the church prioritize the Great Commission in its finances.
“We started trying to put our money where our mouth was,” recalled Mize. “For instance, we worked our Cooperative Program giving up from 1% to 7% — one percentage point a year — because we wanted to invest more of our resources in missional entities like our seminaries, the North American Mission Board (NAMB), and the International Mission Board (IMB). What was important for us was to not just talk about missions but to sacrifice in some way ourselves.”
What was important for us was to not just talk about missions but to sacrifice in some way ourselves.
“Once our church’s heart had begun to incline toward the nations, we started asking, ‘Can we adopt some hard-to-reach areas?’” recounted Mize. “We worked with NAMB and identified SEND Puerto Rico and became a ministry partner there a little over four years ago. We also reached out to the IMB and adopted Myanmar and some missionaries there.”
Having experienced the joy of living on mission, investing in the mission, and going on mission, FBC Greer wanted to find more ways to be involved in what God was doing around the world. They reached out again to NAMB and adopted Vermont as part of the SEND New England initiative. Now FBC Greer serves as a lead partner with NAMB in its church-planting efforts in Vermont.
“We now send people from our congregation to each of these places —Puerto Rico, Myanmar, Vermont — we pray, our Sunday School classes pack bags, and even the kids are given opportunities to help because we want the whole congregation to take part in the mission.”
“We also believe that theological education is really important,” added Mize. “We have a lot of college students and others in our church who desire to pursue a call to ministry or to the mission field, and we want them to receive further education. That’s why we host conferences, connect them with Southeastern, and work to train them in our congregation to be on mission and serve Christ well.”
“It is a joy to have a place like Southeastern where we can send people to be trained,” commented Mize. “Southeastern is a Christ-centered, on-mission seminary, which is exactly the kind of focus we want our church to have.”
Southeastern is a Christ-centered, on-mission seminary, which is exactly the kind of focus we want our church to have.
By God’s grace, FBC Greer has experienced significant growth during Mize’s tenure and even completed a recent multi-million dollar building renovation to maximize their space for discipleship and Great Commission training.
“The renovation is an extension of our Great Commission emphasis,” shared Mize. “It has given us a place to disciple, to give toward the Great Commission, and to train our people to live on mission for Christ.”
For Mize, developing a Great Commission church looks like everyday faithfulness to preach God’s word, to make sacrifices for missions, to involve the whole congregation in sending and praying, and to equip members with theological education for ministry. Mize and FBC Greer are committed to continuing these efforts as they purpose to find further ways to champion the Great Commission not only in Greer and the surrounding area but also around the world.
“We invite our Southeastern family to pray that God would continue to use us to be a beacon in the city of Greer and the surrounding areas,” shared Mize. “We ask that people would pray for us to maintain a resolute focus on Christ, his cross, and his resurrection because we want to be a church that stays committed to Christ and to his mission of making disciples of all peoples.”
To learn more about how Southeastern can equip you to lead a church toward greater faithfulness to Christ and his mission, visit Southeastern’s degrees page or sign up for an upcoming preview day to experience Southeastern for yourself.