Back when Ed Yount wanted to be a basketball coach he wrote to Dean Smith, head coach for the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill men’s basketball team, and asked him for advice. He not only got a letter back, he got some advice that he has never forgotten: teach your young men how to do more than play basketball.
Yount did not grow up to be a coach on the court, but “God still lets me coach. It’s just in a different way,” he said.
While attending Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Yount began his ministry as a pastor and has pastored ever since. Yount, outgoing president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), has pastored Woodlawn Baptist Church in Conover since 1993.
As a pastor, Yount invests his life into serving other people and to helping them fulfill the purposes God has for their lives. He helps people understand how to apply God’s Word to their lives and how to live out the gospel.
Although God has blessed Yount with a fruitful ministry, Yount said his calling into full-time, vocational ministry was a gradual one. Pastoring was far from his mind while working on his physical education degree at Lenoir-Rhyne University.
Yount began understanding God’s call on his life during his senior year. He completed his physical education degree and added a minor in religion. He went on to earn his master of divinity from Southeastern and doctor of ministry from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
When Yount came to Woodlawn 18 years ago – when the church included about 165 people – he came with a conviction to stay until God called him elsewhere. “I made a commitment to stay there if that was what God wanted me to do. I felt like God had called me to that particular place for a long-term ministry,” he said.
Longevity has allowed Yount to walk with his congregation through transitions and challenges, and in doing so, to see God work through them all. “When you are with a church for this long you are able to grow with your people as you go through the challenges,” he said. “Make sure you love your people through the changes. People will follow you if they know you love them and really care.”
Longevity has also helped Yount learn how to involve other people in ministry. “As a pastor, you can’t do it all. Empower people to use their gifts, and then let them use their gifts,” he said.
More than 800 people now attend Woodlawn, the church has transitioned from one Sunday morning service to three, and more staff members have been added. Yount attributes the steady growth throughout the years to faithful devotion to scripture. “The church has been built on God’s Word. They study the Word of God,” he said.
Childhood friends have come to faith in Jesus Christ, and Yount is now their pastor. Yount said seeing lives transformed is “a testimony to the Word of God and what it can do in the heart of a believer.”
Yount has heard many stories and seen firsthand over the past two years how God is working in the hearts of North Carolina Baptists. “Hands down, what I have enjoyed the most about serving as president of the Convention is the people I’ve gotten to meet and the friends I’ve made. We have North Carolina Baptists all over the state who truly love the Lord. I have sensed God’s spirit among them.”
Before becoming president Yount served two years as BSC vice president. He has also served on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee, chaired the Giving Plans Study Committee, served as a member of the Board of Directors for Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute and as trustee for the International Mission Board.
Yount has also enjoyed preaching and visiting in smaller North Carolina churches, building relationships with next generation leaders, and having an opportunity to help communicate to North Carolina Baptists the vision Convention leaders have for impacting the state and the world with the gospel.
As president and as a pastor, challenges come from all different directions. The thing to remember is to keep seeking God’s heart and God’s Kingdom, Yount said.
“God has taught me not to look at anything else I see or hear, but to keep my focus right on the Lord. I have to fasten my heart and eyes on the Lord.”