“It’s been the greatest honor to work for churches,” Dr. J.D. “Sonny” Tucker said.
Tucker has served Arkansas Baptists through his work with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) for 25 years. He has spent the last decade doing this as ABSC executive director.
In an email on Aug. 31 to the Executive Board and ABSC employees, Tucker announced his plans to retire Dec. 31, 2022. While just weeks away from retirement, Tucker is already looking forward to continuing to serve God by doing what he loves: passionately leading in “evangelism, church growth, church health, missions connection and investing in the next generation of leaders.”
When first asked to serve Arkansas Baptists at the convention, Tucker knew he had to pray through it because of how much he had been poured into by this group of people.
“Arkansas Baptists have invested very much in me through churches, associational work, youth camps, [and] Ouachita Baptist University (OBU),” Tucker said. “If you get a chance to return the favor, you have to pray through it.”
God told Tucker the answer to serve was a “yes,” and since then, Tucker’s ministry has been highlighted by his close partnership with Arkansas Baptist Foundation, Arkansas Baptist Children & Family Ministries, OBU and Williams Baptist University and Camp Siloam.
His work with ABSC events like One Day Acts 1:8 Mission Trip, Evangelism Conference, Statewide Prayer Gathering and more have not only inspired pastors and lay leaders in the state, but Tucker himself. Tucker also fondly recalls his work in the Delta and with important partnerships like MinistrySafe.
In the end, Tucker’s greatest days were made by who he considers to be the greatest people in the world: Arkansas Baptists.
“Every pastor, every staff person, every lay leader, every service – because of their love for Jesus and their love for lost people and their love for teaching the word of God – left an imprint on me. Every one of them. I’ve never been to a place that somebody in that congregation didn’t touch me on their commitment,” Tucker said.
He is proud of Arkansas Baptists’ “intentional commitment…to focus on the main things, not the side issues.”
Over the years, Tucker has learned many valuable lessons. He has seen how “God’s timing is unbelievably, creatively perfect even when you can’t see it.”
Through considerable observance, Tucker has watched church after church, ministry after ministry and person after person go through challenging times. Through it all, though, he has seen these churches, ministries and people persevere to the other side and make it out even better than before. This showed him the pertinence of patience.
Since long before 1997, the year Tucker began his work with the ABSC, he has been down countless Arkansas roads. While every road is different, they all have one thing in common: lostness.
Moving forward, Tucker believes Arkansas Baptists must meet people where they are while “staying in the word [and] extraordinary prayer,” focusing on impacting lostness and maintaining a balanced, healthy church environment.
Some of the most challenging times during Tucker’s leadership at the ABSC coincided with the world’s most recent difficulty: the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic had a big impact on churches, so it had a big impact on us because we serve churches. Churches are not fully recovered from it, so we’re in process of redesigning our ministry here to meet the needs of churches,” Tucker said. “So, whatever stage of ministry they’re in, whatever stage of recovery they’re in, that’s our stage because we walk with the churches. And we still don’t know what the new normal looks like. We want to be the people who walk with churches wherever they are.”
By his side in those days and by Arkansas Baptists’ side today and in the days to come is a gifted staff, who has been given “a special anointing” to serve in unique ways. Tucker believes he has worked with “the greatest folks in the world.”
“They’ve always encouraged me by their commitment,” Tucker said.
He looks forward to seeing how a historic stewardship of leadership development continues in the building after he is gone.
Tucker couldn’t have served without the love and support of his “wonderful family” either.
“My family has been incredible. I have the greatest wife, greatest two children and two children-in-law, and [the] world’s greatest grandchildren,” Tucker said.
Just as he calls his family members the “greatest,” Tucker acknowledges this state as the “greatest.” And at the end of a quarter of a century worth of service, he is honored to have loved God by loving Arkansas.
“He gave me the most incredible privilege to serve Him by serving Arkansas Baptists,” Tucker said.