Pictured above: Phillip (right) and Cristina (left) Herrington are shown here with their daughter Emma and son Jack.
Just two months into his new role the north region catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention, Phillip Herrington is enjoying getting to personally know the pastors in his area, and he’s reminded of just how mission-minded Florida Baptists really are.
As a pastor in Live Oak the past 18 years, Herrington is all too familiar with the missional work of the local church. But as a catalyst, he is seeing the bigger picture of cooperative work and how it benefits churches throughout the state.
I am experiencing the beauty of the cooperative work of Florida Baptists.
“I am experiencing the beauty of the cooperative work of Florida Baptists,” he said. “I get to talk to pastors and hear their stories, and that’s part of the process. And I see firsthand the benefit of the Cooperative Program as we partner with churches.”
Whether it’s helping First Baptist Church of Perry with a back-to-school bash to benefit hundreds of families or helping a church in Quincy with camps for children, all efforts are appreciated by the local churches and pastors, he said.
“It might seem like a small drop, but that little bit of help to that church in that particular moment could be like a groundswell to them,” he said.
In his new role as catalyst, Herrington is working his way across the large region – which includes 12 local Baptist associations – to visit pastors, learn their names and their stories. Often, they will meet for coffee or lunch and talk about life and ministry.
I get to celebrate the beauty of God’s call on those who serve the local church. Every pastor’s story is unique, and it’s such a good thing to hear how God brought that pastor to that particular location.
“What I’ve found in this short time is that pastors love to talk about their families and what’s going on. Sometimes they have some tough stuff to talk about. Those are good moments, just to sit and listen. I get to learn how I can pray for them and what I can pray for besides what’s happening at church. In addition to helping them with resources, I hope to encourage them as they pastor,” Herrington said.
As he gets to know these pastors, he enjoys learning about their call to ministry and to the specific church where they are serving.
“I get to celebrate the beauty of God’s call on those who serve the local church,” he said. “Every pastor’s story is unique, and it’s such a good thing to hear how God brought that pastor to that particular location. What a tapestry or a mosaic of God’s handiwork when you see each church and the unique situation and setting.”
Called to ministry
Herrington’s own call to the ministry came when he was a junior in high school and a member of First Baptist Church of Live Oak. After high school, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business from Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, and then received his master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
His first job out of seminary was back at his home church in Live Oak serving as pastor to students and children.
“To come back and serve where I surrendered to the ministry and to serve under my mentor, Jim Robinett – that was a unique honor and privilege,” he said. “I am grateful for his leadership and investment in my life as a young minister.”
He served in that role about five years before answering God’s call to become senior pastor at the church.
‘People actually going’
One of the highlights of his time at Live Oak was watching God begin to stir the hearts of a large number of church members to be actively engaged in missions.
“We began to see hearts and minds and conversations turn to how we could be engaging in our local community, our state, our nation and around the world. The support we were already doing financially began to translate into people actually going,” he said.
This included trips to Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, the Philippines and the Amazon jungle. For one to two years, the church sent more than 100 people on mission trips during the calendar year.
The church also saw the blossoming of existing ministries – like a food ministry – that led to the birth of a clothing ministry. Members were volunteering in the seafarers’ ministry at Port Canaveral, and many became disaster relief volunteers.
All the engagement in mission work was not only a blessing to those they ministered to but to the church itself. “When they returned, this translated into how they serve in the local church and how they serve in the community. Some of the growth and engagement in ministry and missions happened because individuals chose to go on a mission trip,” Herrington said.
Herrington and his wife Cristina have been married for 26 years. Cristina works as an academic coach at a local middle school. Their daughter, Emma, 20, is pursuing a master’s degree in speech language pathology. Their son, Jack, 15, whom they adopted from Haiti in 2012, is a sophomore at Suwannee High School in Live Oak where he plays football and basketball and runs track.
Herrington began work in June as he trained with Gary Townsend, who retired as the north region catalyst later that month. “Gary was a wonderful servant in this role. I am humbled to learn from his example and wisdom,” Herrington said. Since July 1 Herrington has been on his own. While no two days or two weeks are the same, he is enjoying the challenges of this new work.
“I’m honored and humbled that the Lord would allow me to serve the Florida Baptist Convention churches in this manner,” he said. “I am also thankful to Dr. Green and our State Board of Missions for the invitation to serve in this role.
“We have an amazing convention of churches, and I look forward to celebrating what God is doing across Florida.”