Volunteers sort and pack donated supplies and load the semi-truck.
Photos courtesy of Tracy Riggs

New West Cullman DOM envisions focus on collaboration, resources

Justin Olvey has only been director of missions for West Cullman Baptist Association for a few months, but they’ve been eventful ones.

He accepted the position in August and moved Thanksgiving weekend. A month later, West Cullman Association churches worked together with East Cullman Baptist Association churches to respond to immediate needs following destructive tornadoes in Kentucky.

That’s just the beginning — a “fresh start,” Olvey said — and he looks forward to future possibilities in what he sees as a “new era of collaboration” between the two associations.

“I’m excited about it,” he said. “I think the churches are excited about the future. The resources are here. There are good churches. We’re poised to see some great local association work here in Cullman.”

Called to ministry

Called to ministry as an 18-year-old college student, Olvey first served as a youth minister at East McFarland Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa. After graduating college with a business degree, his pastor, Doug Reeves, took Olvey aside and said the church wanted to pay for him to start seminary.

Beginning at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Birmingham extension, Olvey eventually moved to New Orleans to finish his degree. His last pastorate was in Silas, where he served for nearly 12 years. Though he was happy there, two years ago Olvey felt the freedom to think it might be time to leave.

“Although I didn’t have any sense of a direction where I should go, I had a sense of release and a peace about seeing where the Lord was leading,” Olvey said. “I never had a sense of calling away from Spring Bank [Baptist Church] or to anywhere else to go pastor. I love them, and [thought] why not stay where I am? I never saw being a small- or medium-sized church as being less than a pastor of a big church.”

However, another director of missions, Terry Long of Choctaw Baptist Association in Butler, suggested Olvey move to Cullman. Long had been asked to make a recommendation for West Cullman’s director of missions and thought he might be a good candidate. After prayer, Olvey sent his resume, and the search committee felt he was the right candidate for the role.

Setting goals

Olvey has several goals for West Cullman Association, including continuing the partnership with East Cullman.

“A lot of the pastors here have pastored in both associations,” he said. “There’s a pretty good fellowship and camaraderie across the associations.”

Randy Makemson, East Cullman’s director of missions, agrees and said he also looks forward to what the two associations can accomplish together.

It was Makemson’s friendship with a pastor in Williamsburg, Kentucky, that led to the tornado relief effort. Bringing Olvey and West Cullman churches in to help only made sense, Makemson said.

“We’re delighted to work with Justin,” Makemson said. “Both of have the philosophy that we should be good stewards of Kingdom resources.”

So far, that Kingdom work also has included partnering to repair a woman’s home. Plans to conduct joint Vacation Bible School training are in the works. The two associations also will continue to fund a campus pastor at Wallace State Community College, an effort that began roughly 30 years ago.

But while collaboration will be part of his plans, Olvey also is developing a vision for West Cullman.

Providing resources

One goal is to provide more of a social media presence for the association. Olvey said he’s not quite sure at this point exactly what it will look like, but he wants to “try to put out things that are useful resources, informative, challenging … to try to get people in that loop.”

Olvey sees the association providing articles about leadership and encouragement for leaders, enriching relationships between churches and providing ways members can participate in missions opportunities — all through social media.

But he has even bigger goals.

“I want us to focus as an association on prayer and specifically knitting our hearts together across our churches,” Olvey explained. “I have a vision of a series of prayer meetings in each of our churches — to be at each church at some point in time with other churches joining us in prayer to pray for that church, for their ministries, their staff, their leaders and their congregation as a whole.

“The goal is making sure that even the smallest of our churches has an opportunity to be engaged in the Great Commission whatever way they are led to. A lot of small churches can’t offer to their members, ‘Hey, let’s go on an international mission trip.’ But if the association offers this to all of our churches, then they can.

“The same is true even locally,” Olvey said. “A lot of our small churches don’t have the resources for their people to set up an evangelistic outreach in Cullman County, but we as an association can work together to make that available to all of our churches.

“We’re better together. We can pool resources and help each other, and that’s the whole goal,” Olvey said.

(Carrie Brown McWhorter contributed)

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