Ellenton First Baptist seeks growth

Sunday school influenced Tom Jamieson to pursue the ministry, and now, at age 35, he will become the fourth pastor of Ellenton First Baptist Church, 1707 36th Ave. E.

It’s a small congregation and Jamieson is excited about the possibilities.

“It’s tremendous,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier about it.”

Jamieson comes from Manatee First Baptist Church where he has been leading music for more than three years. He called the parting “bittersweet.”

“The church at Manatee has been such a wonderful experience, I hate to leave,” he said. “At the same time I’m excited.”

Jamieson was born in Fort Myers in 1974, but spent most of his childhood in Sarasota. Growing up, he was an active member of Southside Baptist Church, serving in Southside’s Sunday school as a seventh-grade teacher.

Jamieson was licensed and ordained by Southside Baptist. Dr. R. Wayne Briant, pastor of the Sarasota church, called Jamieson a “dedicated young man, conservative in his theology.”

“He’s a very intelligent, capable young man,” said Briant. “I think he’ll be a good asset to their church and ministry.”

Eventually Jamieson became the leader of the Southside youth Sunday school programs, and continued in that leadership role for the next two years. By the age of 18, Jamieson felt compelled to go into ministry.

“I always felt like God was calling me into some Christian-related ministry,” he said.

Drawn to teaching children about Jesus Christ, Jamieson pursued the ministry with a focus in Christian education. He graduated from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2000.

Since graduating, Jamieson was associate pastor at Edwardsville United Methodist Church for almost three years. Then at Indiantown, he was a vacation Bible school director, a Sunday school director and a leadership director.

He also became a member of the Martin County Ministry Council and a member of the Treasure Coast Baptist Association member.

Emily Rankin, who was on the Ellenton First Baptist Church pastoral search committee, said the congregation liked the way he presented himself and the way he preached.

Plus he had a wonderful personality, said Rankin.

“We just really loved him,” she said. “We thought he would be good for our church.”

Ellenton First Baptist Church has been around since 1956 when it started as a mission church in an old school building in Ellenton, according to Lena Rogers, longtime member and secretary.

Three primary pastors have served the church since it became constituted in 1960, with interims filling in between.

The Rev. Jesse P. Joiner was the first pastor and Buddy Pope the most recent, serving since 2000. Pope retired the end of April 2009.

Because Ellenton First Baptist Church is a small congregation of about 50 people, pastors are bi-vocational, working other jobs in addition to serving the church. To help with expenses, the church has shared its facilities and expenses with the Manatee Baptist Association for the past five years. A church mission reaching out to the Hispanic community shares Sunday school classes each week.

But with new developments sprouting up in the area in recent years, the congregation had been looking for ways to reach out to new families, and build church programs, said Rogers, who has been a member since 1965.

“We’d love to have some new people,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of friendly people and we always have pastors that preach the word.”

Jamieson hopes he can help get things started.

“Everything leading up to now happened for a reason,” he said. “This is the direction God was leading.”

His biggest vision is to make people aware the church is there. Using community outreach and utilizing the church’s large property, Jamieson hopes to grow the church “numerically” as well as “spiritually.”

Growth builds excitement within the church and community, he said. He has seen it happen while teaching Sunday school and at other churches.

“Any kind of growth is going to ignite a spark,” said Jamieson. “It can be contagious.”

A more purpose-driven pastor rather than program-driven, Jamieson plans to strengthen existing Sunday school programs and Bible study classes.

He sees joining the Ellenton First Baptist Church as an opportunity to build relationships as well as meet the needs of the community.

“I don’t want to do something just for the sake of doing it,” said Jamieson.

“I want to affect people in a positive manner. We want people to know we’re there and know we’re a vibrant church.”