Northbrook Baptist Church Pastor Keith Warden (W.C. Mann for The Tribune)
CULLMAN – After more than a year of searching, Cullman’s Northbrook Baptist Church called Dr. Keith Warden as pastor; he officially came on board on Sunday, June 17.
Warden grew up in the Huntsville area and is a graduate of Samford University Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the Beeson School of Divinity. He came to Cullman after 14 years of service as pastor of First Baptist Church in Picayune, Mississippi. Next week, Warden and his wife Kristi will celebrate their 30th anniversary in their new hometown. The couple has three adult children: Bryce, a graduate student at Vanderbilt University; Brady, a junior at Mississippi State University; and Brooke, a freshman at Samford University.
On Thursday, The Tribune sat down with Warden at his Northbrook office to get acquainted.
We know you’re still figuring out your new church, but what do you hope to see Northbrook doing under your leadership in the next few years?
“I know that we have a great history of being a church that loves Cullman and loves this community and has been here a long time–both as a church that relocated to this location (and) before that. But you nailed it: I’m still figuring things out.
“But I do know that I want us to be a missional church. I want us to engage our community. I want us to model the Gospel and live out the Gospel. I tell our folks all that time that we can’t expect folks to be changed by a Gospel that’s not changing us. And so I want us to really believe that the message that God has given us is a message that changes us and gives us a purpose in life. And when we’re confident of that and when we’re growing in that, then we naturally begin to share that with our community. It becomes a part of our life. It’s not something that’s forced or contrived, you know, it’s something that’s real.
“I want us to be an authentic community of faith. And I think that’s what they want to be here, so I’m looking forward to doing that together.”
What was your first impression of the Cullman community and Northbrook Church?
“Well, I was really drawn to just the opportunity. Cullman’s a growing area. I’m from Alabama, but I didn’t remember it being this populated and being this thriving. It’s a little bit different place than it was years ago, when I was living in this part of the state. And so I was a little bit awakened to that, and didn’t realize that, and because of that, I think that we’re poised in a great place to be able to make an impact here and to reach a lot of people.
“And then I was just really drawn to the spirit and to the love and the compassion of the people here. I really do think they want to be a church that loves and reaches their community, and I would love to help them do that. And so, those are the things that stood out to me.
“Like you said, I’m still learning, but I’ve been doing this for a while now, so I know that the best choice a pastor can make is to go somewhere and try to be obedient for a long time. And you don’t try to get it all done overnight; it takes time. But you learn how to love people and serve people for a long time and be obedient in a long time, and God can do a lot of things. God can do a lot in a long time, if we’re obedient, that we would be amazed by. So that’s where my heart is, what my desire is.
Are there programs you’ve enjoyed success with in other places that you’d like to bring to Northbrook and Cullman?
“I’m just a really big believer that every church really needs to personalize the Great Commission. And we need to partner with ministry and missions in our community. We need to partner to plant other churches.
“For the last eight years, I’ve had the opportunity to serve as a trustee with the North American Mission Board for the Southern Baptist Convention, and travel around the country. Most of the time, we get a bad rap for all the negative things that people think are happening within our denomination. What doesn’t get publicized a lot is that there are some great things happening among Southern Baptists, and we’re doing more than any other evangelical denomination in North America to reach North America with the Gospel.
“And so I want us to be part of planting more churches. I want us to be a part of sending out people. We’re not just about being a church that exists for itself, for people to come and stay here. You know, I really believe that our mission is to build people up and send them out to advance the Kingdom. There’s more to the Kingdom than just Highway 157 in Cullman, you know; there’s a lot of places that need the good news of Christ.
“And so, I don’t know if it’s so much a program as it is a mentality and a philosophy that we don’t just exist for ourselves, and we’re not here just to sustain a facility at an address, but we’re here to advance the Kingdom and build God’s Kingdom, wherever that’s at. So that’s one of the things I hope I’m able to bring to the table, as far as what God’s been doing in my life for a while now, in ministry.”
The final word
“I guess I’ve already said it in one or two different ways, but we’re here to serve others. We’re not here for ourselves. And so, I want folks to know that we’re here to help them to see and understand the love of Christ for them, and to try to model that in the best way that we can.
“And so, that’s not just going to happen here in our church. I hope it’s happening at every healthy church in this community. I look forward to doing that with other pastors and doing that with other churches. I know that there’s not any one church or one spiritual leader in this community that’s going to be able to serve this community and lead them to Christ, and I just want to be a part of that. So, if they want to help us do that, we definitely need all the help we can get.
“But we’re definitely here to serve, and I definitely want to be seen as a servant leader who has a heart for the Gospel and wants to serve people here. That’s the only reason I’m doing what I’m doing.”
For more about Northbrook Baptist Church, visit www.northbrookbc.com or www.facebook.com/northbrookbc/ or call 256-734-6401.
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