Mark Weible is passionate about helping and encouraging pastors. That’s why he loves his new role as the associational mission strategist for the Marion Baptist Association in Ocala.
As the executive director of the association, Weible is helping develop missional strategies for churches, helping them work together in reaching the entire area with the gospel, and helping pastors to be more effective at what they do.
A former pastor himself, Mark also brings 25 years of association experience with him, having served 19 years as the church planting director of the Greater Orlando Baptist Association and 6 years as the associate director for the Galveston Baptist Association in Texas.
There are approximately 80 churches in the Marion Baptist Association, most in Marion County, but a handful in Levy and Sumter counties. The majority are English speaking churches, but there are also Spanish, French Creole and Korean congregations.
Having started June 15, Weible’s first order of business is getting to know all the pastors in this association. One of the ways he’s doing this is spending a few hours with each pastor at their place of ministry.
“I’m asking them to take me in their car, drive me around their community and show me what their mission field looks like,” he said. “So, I am learning Marion County through the eyes of the pastors that serve the churches here.”
Working with his administrative assistant, Weible schedules two to three pastor visits a day and visits local churches on Wednesdays and Sundays. He also fills in when needed by local churches to deliver the sermon on Sundays.
Marion County is divided into four quadrants, with each quadrant having a lead pastor who coordinates a prayer gathering each month. Weible also hosts one at the association for any pastor who couldn’t make it to any of the other meetings.
“It’s a time to get together, pray for one another, get to know one another, talk confidentially to each other and become friends,” he said. “As a pastor you’re always serving other people and taking care of other people. But what we really want to do is to provide an atmosphere where they get taken care of themselves.”
Weible recently coordinated a cook-out for pastors and their wives, and he is working with volunteers to coordinate more activities and networking opportunities for pastors’ wives. He also converted one of the offices at the association into a library for pastors, complete with a comfy couch, table and chairs, lamps, an Alexa smart speaker for playing music, and his large collection of books.
“A pastor can come in there and chill out if he wants or if he needs a place away from his church to study and read and prepare a sermon,” he said.
He’s already scheduled two events for local pastors that he believes will have a big impact on the community. Both are set for July 24, kicking off with a pastor’s breakfast featuring Phil Cohen, founder of the Saturate USA movement. Following the breakfast, Cohen will lead a two-hour workshop on how to reach immigrants with the Jesus film. The workshop is open to the public, but registration is required.
Saturate USA has a goal to reach 120 million U.S. homes with the gospel by 2027 through distribution of the Jesus film. Local pastors will learn about this effort to provide a DVD copy of the Jesus Film, along with info on streaming services and an app, to every home in Marion County. The DVDs and plastic door hanger bags are provided for free, allowing local churches to add additional information about their own ministries, and enlist volunteers to distribute these in their communities.
Weible said the Greater Orlando association did this in 2018 and within six months had reached 740,000 of the 750,000 homes in Orlando. He believes it can be successful in Marion County, too.
He still recalls the days as a young pastor when he received much needed assistance from his association in Texas. That’s what led him to do association work for the past 25 years.
“Something I discovered is there are people that want to help you but very few pastors actually ask for that help,” he said. “They can’t help you unless you ask for it. I fell in love with associational work then and when I would have the opportunity to work with association staff, I jumped at it.”