HONOLULU (BP) -- The Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention has chosen Christopher Martin, pastor of Lahaina Baptist Church in Maui, as its next executive director.
A graduate of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and pastor in Hawaii for eight years, Martin has served in several convention roles and was elected president of the Hawaii convention just weeks before being named executive director. Having resigned as president, he will begin as executive director Jan. 1.
Martin succeeds Veryl Henderson, who will retire in December after more than 40 years in ministry.
A native of Louisiana, Martin worked for 10 years in the secular world as a maintenance mechanic and employee trainer before going to seminary and entering fulltime ministry.
His first pastorate was at Angie Baptist Church in Louisiana, followed by two years at First Baptist Church in Cedar Key, Fla., a small island in the Gulf of Mexico. From there, God used a trip to Hawaii to lead Martin and his wife Wendy and two children to minister in the state beginning in 2005.
While at Lahaina Baptist Church, Martin served as a volunteer police chaplain and a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer. He also was chairman of a task force for vision and direction for the Hawaii convention and served as second vice president and then first vice president.
Martin has represented Hawaii on the Southern Baptist Convention's Committee on Committees and the Committee on Nominations.
"I've had a wonderful opportunity to work with so many of our churches and have a great relationship with our staff at the convention office," Martin told Baptist Press. "... I look forward to what God's going to do through our convention and through Hawaii's involvement with the [SBC] as a whole. I'm excited, and I appreciate the opportunity."
One of the unique ministry challenges for the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention is the vast geographical region it encompasses, making air travel essential, time-consuming and expensive.
Travel time between Hawaii's islands is 30-40 minutes by air, Martin said, and several hours between the convention offices in Honolulu and the islands of American Samoa, Guam and Okinawa, Japan, where some of the convention's churches are located.
Though the Hawaii convention is implementing new kinds of technology to help pastors and churches connect from their various locations, Martin said face-to-face ministry is a vital part of their culture.
Henderson, who was the first pastor of Lahaina Baptist Church and has been a mentor to Martin, became proficient at balancing the challenging travel duties while leading the convention, Martin said.
"Even though geographically we're separated and the differences even on some of our islands church to church are challenging, we have a deep concern to be connected and to work together to share Christ in our communities and see lives transformed," Martin said of Hawaii Baptists.
"There is a strong sense of ohana -- the Hawaiian term for family -- here. We really love each other, care about each other and want to invest in each other's ministries," Martin said. "You can't help but get excited to know that the churches you have an opportunity to work with day in and day out are actually excited about each other and the Kingdom work that's in front of them.
"We realize there are a lot of challenges, but they don't seem to be discouraging. They seem to be building a creativity to move forward and to work better together, and those are very exciting opportunities," Martin told BP.
In November, Hawaii became the 15th state to legalize gay marriage when the governor signed into law a bill passed by the state legislature. While the government pushed gay marriage, Martin said he saw tremendous support for biblical marriage among Christians in Hawaii.
"It actually has brought a stronger bond among our churches -- not just Southern Baptist churches but the body of Christ as a whole on the islands," Martin said of the fight against same-sex marriage.
"I think this will be a solid foundation to move forward in the days ahead, for a lot of our churches to understand the dynamics that even though we may be in a world that will constantly challenge the ways of God, we can still be God's people and still show incredible love and encouragement," Martin said.
"We saw a lot of love extended. We heard leaders sharing openly that we should be blessing instead of blasting. I think that thought has really encouraged a lot," Martin said. "Our churches in Hawaii realize that there will be challenges ahead, but at the same time we're engaged in moving through whatever the challenges are in God's way and we will do our best to maintain that knowing that our witness to the world is very clear through our actions that represent Him."
Martin was heartened by the number of churches that took a stand for biblical marriage in Hawaii.
"Some may look at it as discouraging or we were defeated, but we never look at it that way," he said. "We just knew we were going to stand not against anybody but for God, and we'll maintain that position always with love and compassion.
"Even though the laws are going to bring some challenges to our churches in the days ahead, I think we're ready to stand and handle things in a way that is honorable and pleasing to God and will speak great testimony to the world around us," Martin said.
Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress
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