Since high school, Allan Blume has displayed a penchant for detail and organization that still serves him well as the first three-term president of the Baptist State Convention (BSC) Board of Directors.
Blume, pastor for 15 years of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Boone, was elected to his third one-year term in January, by the 101-member board which meets three times a year and acts as the Convention between annual sessions. That position also makes him chairman of the Board’s Executive Committee, which meets almost monthly.
His abilities were recognized by age 17 when he won a summer scholarship from Eastern Airlines which was looking for students to train for its reservations computer system.
By age 18 he was an assistant supervisor in Wachovia Bank’s computer department, while attending Wingate College. While a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary he worked for a mortgage bank in Fort Worth.
Showing such proficiency garnered Blume high salary offers at every step, but he said, “I always knew it wasn’t God’s call.”
He was certain God’s call on his life was to preach because he asked God for three confirmations — and got them. First, a school teacher asked if he had ever considered the ministry; then a woman rose from her chair at a nursing home where Blume was singing with a group and said, “Young man, God is calling you to preach and you’d better listen.”
When he discussed those incidents and feelings about call, his pastor told him, “I’ve known that for a long time. I was just waiting for you to catch up.”
Blume graduated with a religion major from Carson-Newman University in Tennessee and in 1975 with a master of divinity from Southwestern Seminary.
Blume remains committed to being a part of the calling out process in which, “God uses the whole body of Christ in the process of training, cultivating and encouraging people to ministry.”
After seminary Blume was a minister of evangelism in Tulsa, Okla., before being called to Statesville Avenue Baptist in Charlotte, where he served 12 and a half years.
Then he went as executive pastor to help Carson-Newman buddy Joe Brown who was seeing exponential growth at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte. Brown needed an administrator who could preach too.
Churches were just beginning to utilize computers and Hickory Grove had a half dozen. Six years later the church had more than 60 computers connected through a fiber optic backbone across the campus, the efficiency of which saved $30,000 one year in utilities alone by programming the heating and air conditioning efficiently.
Blume was there while the church crossed both the 3,000 and 8,000 member mark and was fast approaching 9,000.
“It was crazy,” he said. “It was like trying to jump on a train moving at 90 miles an hour and trying to say I’m in charge. Nobody’s in charge, you just jump on the train and keep moving.”
Today Hickory Grove is considered North Carolina Baptists’ largest church, with 16,000 members. Joe Brown is still senior pastor.
The stress of accommodating that growth, renting shopping centers for classroom space, buying shuttle buses, construction, security, computers and other myriad tasks made Blume, then age 45, at least open to talking to Mount Vernon when it asked him to consider becoming its pastor.
Mount Vernon is a strong rural church, 143 years old, with an uncommon member mix from farmers to professionals; multi-million dollar homes to trailer parks. About half the membership is native to Boone. Typical Sunday morning attendance in two services is 700-750.
The church has a Hispanic ministry, coordinated by a woman who had worked at the Baptist Seminary in Mexico City. Half the annual baptisms at Mount Vernon are Hispanics and Blume conducts them in Spanish.
Four years as officer
While Blume is the first known three-term BSC board chair, he also was vice chair in his first year on the board. So, he is likely the first person to be an officer all four years of his board service.
He is willing to invest the time required in such service because, “I believe strongly in the big picture of kingdom work.”
“Cooperation is very important to me,” Blume said. “We need each other.”
Consequently, Blume is involved in his local association, too, as well as BSC and national meetings to cast his vote for investing Cooperative Program money in kingdom work “because we are doing together what we cannot do individually.”
“We really need cooperation,” he said. “If we don’t have that we’re not going to make an impact on the world for the kingdom.”
Blume believes each staff person and missionary of the Baptist State Convention, local association or any Southern Baptist agency is a staff member of every church. Each church helps pay their salaries, so pray for them and use them, he says.
He believes the denominational structure is a tool. “The International Mission Board does not exist to do missions,” Blume said. “It exists to give us the channel through which we can do missions.”
As BSC board chair, Blume said, “I want to have an influence in helping guide these ministries in the passions I feel are important.”
During his terms, the BSC has gone through significant transition. He said the colleges’ transition to a new relationship in which they elect their own trustees and give up Cooperative Program funds “was not that difficult.”
After an initial false start with a failed vote at the 2006 annual meeting, “everyone was willing to talk a little more” and the resulting change is “a win-win for everyone.”
The ongoing disagreement with the Baptist Retirement Homes (BRH) “has been a real puzzle,” he said, “because of their unwillingness to talk openly.”
BRH initiated a process in August 2005 by which it would elect its own trustees in exchange for giving up Cooperative Program funds. It is a status similar to what the colleges were discussing, but after initial approval from the Executive Committee, pending review by lawyers, it was determined BRH needed to step back and initiate a “severing of relationship” process before establishing the new relationship it desired. Its trustees declined to do so and a relationship study is ongoing, with a recommendation likely at the November annual meeting.
“It’s still a puzzle as to why they did what they did,” Blume said.
Even more difficult was the agonizing months of meetings trying to resolve the relationship dispute between BSC and its auxiliary Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU), said Blume. He said he still hears from people “on every side of the aisle” who say the August 2007 WMU vote to move out of the Baptist staff building in Cary and the resultant loss of funding was “the most unnecessary thing they’ve ever seen.”
Blume, whose mother is active in WMU at a Charlotte church, said he was “never anti-WMU.” He sees the rift as threatening WMU’s ability to sustain funding into the future and believes “there is definitely a move away from involvement with the WMU” among North Carolina Baptist churches “because of the tension they’ve created.”
“Most women today are looking for a positive spiritual experience,” he said. “They don’t want to get into some battle.”
Joys of leadership
Blume said he’s always appreciated North Carolina Baptists’ ministry together, but during his board service he’s been “regularly encouraged, amazed and blessed” by hearing first hand reports of helping ministries.
Blume has served nationally on the Southern Baptist Convention Tellers Committee and Credentials Committee. He also served three years on the Committee on Order of Business, which plans the annual meeting, including an unprecedented two years as chair. He chaired the committee during Bobby Welch’s second term and Frank Page’s first term as SBC president.
He and his wife, Pam, married in 1972. She is from Newport News, Va., and has served on the International Mission Board. They have one son, Jeremy, who lives in Atlanta.