James C. Elder, Jr, Pastor
Jimmy Elder is the 33rd pastor in the history of the First Baptist Church. He arrived in 2003, assuming the pastorate of a church that is as old as the city that it serves.
It was a role for which he had been preparing since he was a child. “I was a preacher’s kid, and I understand how what I saw and heard as a child affects who I am,” he says.
Jimmy is a doorkeeper, who invites people to join him at the table, making newcomers and members feel welcome in so many ways:
- He is usually in the pulpit, scheduling vacations around his Sunday sermons. “I spend six days a week earning the right to preach 20 minutes on Sunday morning,” he says.
- He tends to his flock when they are ill or hospitalized — even if their hospital rooms are hundreds of miles away.
- He invites the children of the church to his house for monthly Bible studies and plays with them in his backyard like a big kid.
- He is a steward of history and prepares for the future by nurturing programs such as Victory Mission and SecondStory.
- He prepares a caring message when a member passes away that express how much that person was loved.
- You may find him in the pool at the YMCA, riding his bicycle, or at Rotary on Wednesday, for he is involved in his community — just as the pastors who came before him.
“If you are going to speak to a community and be a part of a community, it is important that you absolutely believe in and love the community.”
Rev. Myron Douglas, Minister of Education
Myron has served First Baptist Church since 1997, first as Minister to Children and then as Minister of Education since 2004. He likes to help people find their full potential at FBC, the community and in their lives. While his title says Minister of Education, many times he serves as a utility player, helping with whatever ministry needs an extra set of hands. Myron is comfortable whether leading a discussion in Bible study or directing the adult handbell choir. Since moving to Columbus in 1982 he has served on several community boards and sings with Columbus Cantus.
Through the years he has found cooking and working with his hands to be therapeutic diversions. New recipes are an enjoyable challenge as is building something. “You can never have too many tools in the kitchen or in the tool chest” he says.
Myron, a native of North Carolina, is a graduate of Wingate College and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Babbs have two grown children, Geoffrey and Laura, and an assortment of grand animals. If you ask, they will show you pictures.
Rev. Keenan Franklin, Minister of Music and Worship
Seeing him on Sunday mornings wearing a suit and conducting a majestic choir, it’s hard to picture Keenan Franklin decked out in camouflage in a high-flying deer stand or hunting elk and bear in distant places.
“I started in music through the band playing trumpet from 7th- 12th grade. Sang in a blue grass group for a short time and spent a longer time with a contemporary Christian band. It was during this time I began voice lessons.”
His father was from a sharecropping family and eldest of 10 children. Keenan went squirrel hunting when he was 6 or 7 and killed his first deer by the time he was 12.
“I see hunting as a stewardship of God’s creation. Being in the outdoors reminds me of God’s handiwork.”
His spare time is spent in the woods.
“I’ve gotten a fair amount of church business done sitting in deer stands,” he says. And yes, he enjoys eating venison.
Every week, Keenan and pastor Jimmy Elder meet to discuss the upcoming Sunday worship service. Jimmy describes the message he’s planning and together they prayerfully add the music like pieces in a spiritual puzzle.
“Sundays are a drama,” he says, “and God is the audience.”
Howie Hooper, Minister of Missions Engagement
Howie Hooper grew up on the edge of Cajun Country in a town of 808 people. “I know,” he says. “My high school class conducted the census.”
In his home state of Louisiana, his parents and five siblings were teachers but Howie always had wanderlust in his blood — though he too has a degree in education.
“I wanted to do more,” he says.
He signed up for the Journeyman Program, a Baptist Peace Corps that assigned him to Panama for a two-year stint. There he worked alongside a bubbly young woman named Marvina.
“After she came back to the states we realized there was more to our relationship than friendship. We’ve been married for 31 years,” Howie says with a smile.
Over the years, the Hoopers have served as missionaries all over Central America, but he soon decided that you don’t have to be in a foreign country to be a missionary.
“My philosophy is that you start where you are. Your largest mission field is your family, where you work, and the neighborhood where you live,” says Howie, who has served as a missionary since 1985.
He has a missionary heart as does First Baptist.
“What I see in Columbus impresses me,” Howie says. “If you can’t do missions here you shouldn’t be a missionary.”
Rev. Daniel Potter, Minister to Students
At 6-foot-6, some of the rowdy middle school kids that Daniel Potter works around confuse him with a Jungle Gym.
“Go jump on the Big Guy,” they say.
That’s okay with Daniel, a self-proclaimed ham who is often as loud and goofy as the children that he mentors at church.
One thing he’s serious about is University of North Carolina basketball. His world is decorated in Carolina Blue. “What shade of blue, are you?” he asks.
Please don’t say Duke.
He is also serious about his ministry with young people — a calling he first felt at a church camp one summer. He came home feeling he could influence and shape young lives.
Influencing and shaping has been his passion ever since. Daniel even thrives on working with middle school boys, a group that many avoid.
“I consider that to be a seven-year gig. You need to be with them until they finish high school. It's an up and down ride, and the youth need to know you are with them through it all. I'm still learning and hope I never stop. When I first worked with youth, I went to my old youth ministers and said "thank you" and "I'm sorry." Maybe one day that will come back around to me.
Daniel and his wife Rachel, an elementary school teacher, never intend to graduate from this age group. “I want to continue to influence the next generation of leaders.”
Brandon Strozier, Second Story
His legal name is Brandon Strozier, but around the corner of 11th Street and Broadway folks call him Bistro.
His trademark beard and experience in the emerging world of social media helped him give birth to SecondStory, an uncommon mission in Uptown Columbus that builds relationships and spreads community to college students and young professionals.
Jimmy Elder instinctively knew Bistro was the natural choice to lead the way when the pastor first shared his dream of expanding the church’s youth ministries to a block he calls “The Times Square of Columbus.”
SecondStory opened in 2016 in a former upstairs dance studio that directly overlooks the storefront on Broadway where 12 loyal Christians founded First Baptist Church in 1825.
“We’re standing on the shoulders of saints,” Bistro says, though past generations would never have considered such an unusual mission effort.
He’s in his mid-thirties but his spiritual energy, natural social skills and over-the-top personality makes him comfortable working with young people who in turn have welcomed him and his delightful young family into their lives.
SecondStory enjoyed overnight success. It became an integral part of the Uptown neighborhood and the Columbus State family. But Bistro understands that the evolution will never stop.
“Our plans are written in pencil for we will always need to be ready to change,” he says. “We can’t rest on the past.”
Paula Thompson, Children's Coordinator
When Miss Paula sees children race up the aisles of the sanctuary, she remembers when she sat in little bitty chairs in Miss Edwina Wood’s Sunday School class.
Paula Thompson is a direct link to those historic days at First Baptist. Even today, her mother, children and grandchildren worship in the sanctuary she did when she was a toddler.
“When the doors of this church opened, my Daddy usually opened them and my mother was in charge of the Nursery Department for 40 years,” Paula says. “We were always here. Church came first. Everything else came second.”
There was also music. Her parents loved Big Band music. She started piano lessons in kindergarten so she could join the family band.
She majored in music at Georgia Southern University and, like her parents, she met the late Bill Thompson in church. Two of their children followed in those footsteps.
Her dream of the Metropolitan Opera fizzled and she became a teacher, just as an old teacher of Paula’s had predicted.
Her first job was in Millen, Ga. “We went to football games on Friday nights and people kept saying we needed a band. Bill said his fiancée taught music. We were the War Eagles, so I got permission from Auburn to adapt their fight song. By the third year, we were marching.”
In 2013, she was about to retire from teaching. Pastor Jimmy Elder told her he had a plan and her name kept coming up.
Soon this beauty pageant contestant, marching band leader and opera singer, became the churches Children’s Coordinator.
It was a job that would make Miss Edwina proud.
TIM THOMPSON, Church Administrator
Daddy sang bass and so does Tim Thompson.
Quartet singing is one of his passions as the church first discovered in a Christmas program years ago when he hit a few low notes on “Go Tell on the Mountain.”
Tim seldom says no — whether it involves taking care of the sanctuary, balancing bank statements, making sure dinner is on time on Wednesday nights or repairing a broken-down church bus.
“Once you take a job, it’s yours,” he says.
A native of Virginia, his father was a Baptist minister who changed pulpits every three or four years. Tim attended Wingate College but the church was not in his plans. He couldn’t decide on a major. The deadline for making that decision arrived and in accounting class he finally decided.
After college, he was Chief Financial Officer for a large construction company and began volunteering at a church four times the size of First Baptist.
“I decided I could help a church by doing the things I do,” says Tim, who accepted the job as church administrator in Columbus in 2001.
“I interviewed around Mother’s Day and came to work on Father’s Day,” he recalls.
His job description is a work-in-progress.
“When someone asks me to do something they know I’ll do whatever it takes to get it done,” he says.