Golden was elected by a unanimous vote of the DBC's executive board March 3, after serving since last summer as interim executive director/treasurer. With his election, the headquarters office of the two-state Baptist convention moves from Sioux Falls to Rapid City, S.D.
"This is the first executive director who has pastored here, served as director of missions and in a statewide position," said Buck Hill, former South Dakota pastor who today is the DBC church planting team leader.
Golden is the convention's second executive director, but Hill was referring to the number of executive directors since the Northern Plains Baptist Convention was formed in 1968, which included the states of North and South Dakota plus Wyoming and Montana. The work in the Dakotas grew to a point that it became the Dakota Baptist Fellowship in 1988 and the Dakota Baptist Convention in 2004.
Jim Hamilton, the DBC's previous executive director, resigned a year ago to return to church planting and a network he was forming of church planters. Hamilton was from Indiana.
Golden has participated in the growth of Southern Baptist work in the Dakotas since he arrived in North Dakota to be pastor of First Baptist Church in Dickinson in April 1985 from his first pastorate in Powderly, Texas, at Bounds Baptist Church.
In 1988, Golden became pastor of First Baptist Church in Forsyth, Mont., where he served until 1992, when he was called as pastor of First Baptist Church in Williston, N.D. He was called as director of missions eight years later for the Black Hills Area Baptist Association in South Dakota, where he served until 2005 when he was elected as the state convention's first director of evangelism. A second responsibility -- DBC associate executive director -- was added in 2008.
"Here is what I want the churches to know," Golden said. "We value every church, every pastor and every leader in the Dakotas. We want them all to know that as a state convention and staff we care about them.
"I want the churches and leaders to realize that we need them; we want to help them; we want to earn their trust," Golden said. "If we are going to be effective in church strengthening, sharing Christ and starting new works, we will have to do it together."
Though Dakota Baptist churches have nearly doubled their Cooperative Program gifts since 2004, Golden said the convention is facing a challenging financial time as it adjusts to a shift in North American Mission Board funding and in DBC staffing.
At the executive board meeting when Golden was elected March 3, members voted to increase from a ratio of 95 percent NAMB funding and 5 percent from Dakotas' churches to an 85/15 percent ratio by 2018. This and other changes in funding mean the two-state convention will be taking more financial responsibility for its work and will be doing its work with fewer staff, Golden said.
"The first order of business will be leading the DBC to study its future," Golden said. "We will need to narrow our mission focus and look at where we need to put our attention, put our priorities, as we make these adjustments.
"Any time you face change, your first reaction is frustration and fear, but God has called us to live by faith," the executive director continued. "I believe as we face these changes, as we walk with the Lord by faith, He's going to show us how to adjust. It's going to help us reorder our priorities, make the most of the resources He provides, and I think in the long run be more effective to reach the Dakotas for Christ.
"I told everyone during my interim time that even with some of the changes that have been made, and some of the directions that NAMB is going, they remain a very valuable partner in helping us reach the Dakotas," Golden said. "We want to see the cities of the United States reached for Christ as well as the rural and isolated areas of the West, and we want to be cooperative partners with NAMB in accomplishing this."
The Dakota convention is focusing on strengthening churches and planting evangelistic churches, Golden said. This includes helping churches discover their values, vision and purpose and assisting them in developing strong Sunday Schools and small groups, discipleship training, and leadership development as integral elements of a focus on church health.
"What it's going to come down to is that we're all going to be wearing a lot of hats," Golden said, referring also to Hill, state missions director in charge of church planting; Fred MacDonald, handling the "Reaching Across the Dakotas" (GPS, God's Plan for Sharing) evangelistic thrust; and Morgan Medford, church planting catalyst for the two states' most densely populated area, the I-29 corridor that stretches from north of Fargo, N.D. to south of Sioux Falls, S.D.
"We need first your prayers," Golden said to members of churches across the Southern Baptist Convention. "Your mission teams can help us develop expertise we don't yet possess.
"We don't need you to do it for us, but to come fill in some gaps until we can do it ourselves," he said. "You can be the extra boots on the ground we need right now."
Golden described the Dakota convention as "highly relational …. We are like a family of churches. We rely on God and each other. Our 90 churches have the attitude that if we can survive 40-below temperatures in the winter, we can thrive in any circumstance or environment.
"We will find a way to thrive in this," Golden continued. "I think in the long run it's going to help our churches, our convention, to be stronger. We're going to get to the point we depend more on God and what He provides, and less on other people, and that has to make us stronger."
Golden, 58, graduated from East Texas State University in 1974 and earned as M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1980. He and his wife Cindy have four adult children and six grandchildren.
Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message and the Dakota Baptist Connections, newspapers for the respective state conventions. Garvon Golden can be contacted at Garvon@dakotabaptist.com or 605-877-1163.
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