David Horton, pastor of Jamestown’s Gate City Baptist Church the past 16 years, will be recommended to the Baptist State Convention Board of Directors as the 8th president of Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute when the board next meets May 19.
Horton, 48, was unanimously selected April 3 from among four finalists interviewed by the Fruitland search committee, chaired by Fruitland board chair George Cagle.
During the interviews, Horton “came to the top,” Cagle said.
“He just did the best job answering the questions, and he’s a great guy,” said Cagle, who described Horton as “outgoing, energetic and personable.”
“You need all that to put Fruitland out to the public,” he said.
Lisa Horton, David’s wife of 29 years, will be an asset to pastors’ and students’ wives and five women who enrolled at Fruitland in the fall, Cagle said.
Horton graduated from UNC-Greensboro with a degree in psychology in 1987. He had attended Gardner-Webb, but moved closer to home when his father died in 1980 to help his mother and two siblings. It was “five years and three children later” before he was able to return to school.
He earned his master of divinity degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1992.
Horton is a native of Hillsville, Va., 21 miles north of Mt. Airy. Born in the mountains, he’s returning to the mountains, he said.
Horton also has been pastor of Three Forks Baptist in Taylorsville; Welcome Baptist in Mt. Airy; and Reed Island Springs Baptist in Meadows of Dan, Va.
Pending approval by the BSC board, Horton anticipates starting at Fruitland June 1.
Fruitland has been a ministry of the Baptist State Convention (BSC) since 1946. It is an agency of the BSC and its board is accountable to the BSC Board of Directors.
Horton said Fruitland has effectively trained ministers of the gospel since its founding. “The Fruitland slogan says, ‘Where preaching is our passion,’” Horton said. “Those at Fruitland realize it’s not just preaching, it’s expositional preaching they are talking about.”
He loves the practical approach to ministry for which Fruitland is noted. “The things you learn in class that morning you can put into practice that afternoon at the church,” he said.
Horton appreciates Fruitland's history but suggested several "train cars" he would add to the engines effectively driving its ministry:
– Effectively utilizing technology in the campus classrooms and developing online curriculum;
– Expanding curriculum to better prepare pastors of smaller churches in children’s ministry, counseling, and lay leadership development;
– Expanding curriculum to prepare individuals who are called to church planting;
– Considering additional extension opportunities across North Carolina.
Perry Brindley, pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Canton, is president of the Fruitland alumni association.
While he said he can speak only for himself, he said, “Knowing and trusting that God has answered our prayers in giving guidance and leadership to the search team, we’re fully supportive of their decision to bring David Horton’s name to the board.”
If elected, Horton would succeed Kenneth Ridings, who retired Jan. 1, after a 40-year association with the school, including the last 12 as president.
“I trust the Fruitland presidential search committee in their selection of David as the next president of Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute,” Ridings said. “In every way he will have my cooperation, support, and prayers.”
Greg Mathis, pastor of Mud Creek Baptist Church in Hendersonville, former Baptist State Convention president and professor of evangelism at Fruitland for 24 years has been Fruitland’s interim president since January.
Ironically, Mathis was Horton’s pastor when Horton was ordained to the ministry as a young man at Pine Grove Baptist Church in Hillsville, Va., and he served there as Mathis’ associate pastor.
“Through the years, I have watched David mature and develop into a gifted preacher, a great pastor and a very eloquent statesman and leader in our North Carolina Baptist State Convention,” Mathis said. “He is a man with an impeccable character, a deep devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ, and has a great vision for the upbuilding of God’s kingdom. I believe David and his wife, Lisa, will be a great addition to the Fruitland family. I believe that God is leading David into this new position as our next president and he has my full support.”
Fruitland traces its heritage to 1899, when area Baptists started a Christian high school to serve local and boarding students. A partnership with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) was later formed and Fruitland Institute continued to offer a Christian secondary education until it closed in 1936.
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina later bought the property and used it as a conference center during the summer months for several years. In 1946, BSC leaders invited J.C. Canipe, pastor of First Baptist Church in Boone who had been teaching local pastors with little formal training, to move his classes to the Fruitland campus.
Canipe served as the first president of Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute until his retirement in 1960.
Other presidents of the school include Fritz Hemphill, Gary Harthcock, Alex Booth, Mack Roberts and Randy Kilby.