The end of 2021 marked 45 years of Dr. Bob Harper’s ministry, seven of which included leading the Missions Team of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC). While the year also concluded with the announcement of his retirement, Harper plans to continue serving Arkansas Baptists.
“That’s a big part of my retirement thought is that I want to continue to serve Arkansas Baptists in supply and just supporting in every way that I can and helping out,” Harper said.
A lot has changed since Harper began his work at the convention in 2014, especially during the last two years. The pandemic taught Harper how important it was to “be flexible, be faithful and be consistent.” Through these lessons, Harper was able to lead the Missions Team as they transitioned One Day into One Day: Serve Local, allowing churches across the state to meet the needs of their respective communities. The impact that this kind of selfless service can make for the Kingdom is why Harper values missions work so much.
“We’re going to have to reach them outside the church building, because they’re never going to come inside until we reach them outside and minister to them,” Harper said.
While this may seem harder than ever, Harper believes “our task is not over.”
“We still need that high-tech pastoral care. People are still hurting and desperately need a friend, desperately need someone to come along and walk alongside of them,” Harper said. “I would just encourage our churches to continue to reach out and think outside of the box.”
It’s this same kind of creative, out-of-the-box thinking that made Harper an excellent leader.
“Serving alongside Bob Harper has been such an encouragement to me. He led the Missions Team and served Arkansas Baptists with grace, compassion and humility. His leadership during the past two years of COVID was absolutely stellar. He challenged our team to think outside the box while remaining focused on our purpose of assisting churches in reaching the unengaged, unreached and underserved in Arkansas,” said Sam Roberts, who has been named the new ABSC Missions Team Leader.
For Harper and the ABSC Missions Team, work doesn’t stop with just reaching these unengaged Arkansans, though.
“To me it’s not just seeing people won to Christ, but seeing people won to Christ and then getting involved in a local church. That’s the key,” Harper said.
This kind of vision is why ABSC Executive Director Dr. J.D. “Sonny” Tucker will miss having Harper on the team.
“Not only is Bob Harper one of the greatest men with whom I’ve worked, he is one of the greatest men that I know. The leadership and vision that he has provided for the Missions Team has been stellar, and all of Arkansas has benefited from him. Though I will deeply miss the close working partnership with him, I can do nothing but rejoice with him knowing he will be able to spend more time with his wonderful wife and family,” Tucker said.
And it’s this same “wonderful wife and family” that Harper knows he couldn’t have done ministry without.
“My wife has been very supportive even though ministry is challenging for a minister’s wife,” Harper said. “She was always supportive there and did the best. [She] took care of the family when I would be called out. She was still there to take care of family needs and keep the home fires burning.”
Harper is excited that retirement will open the door for him to spend more time with his wife, children and grandchildren, as well as take care of loved ones. However, he can’t wait to use his extra free time to continue serving the Natural State through ABSC Smart Start Interim and Disaster Relief ministries.
“I’m just so grateful for the opportunity to serve with Arkansas Baptists. Arkansas Baptists have trained me and supported me through the Cooperative Program all of my college and seminary and ministry days. And I just want to keep giving back to Arkansas Baptists, seeing our state reach as many people for Jesus as we possibly can,” Harper said.