David Horton is firmly
seated in the president’s saddle at Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute and has
begun to apply the spurs.
On virtually the first
anniversary of his assuming the role June 1, 2009, Horton announced that
Fruitland would start three satellite campuses in North Carolina, with plans
for as many more as there are groups of at least 10 students to support them.
While he envisioned
satellite campuses even as he was being considered to succeed Kenneth Ridings
as Fruitland’s eighth president, Horton quickly learned his goal was shared by
Chief among them are
directors of missions aware of pastors who want theological education but who
cannot afford college tuition or who cannot leave their fields.
While getting things into
place to take that first big step, Horton eased into the president’s shoes by
establishing a good relationship with students. He is not currently in the
classroom, so he is an intentional presence in the cafeteria and around campus.
His door is open to students at all times.
Last winter he and his wife,
Lisa, sledded with students.
“It’s amazing how you can
bond out there, doing something like that,” he said during an interview on his
50th birthday May 26 at Caraway Conference Center.
Fighting Fruitland 40
Lisa Horton, who is very
involved on campus, organized a campus fitness center to counteract what David
Horton called the Fruitland Freshman Forty — those pounds too many students
gain in the presence of a good cafeteria and absence of proper exercise.
“Through the years I’ve
noticed in my own life and in the lives of other ministers, how easy it is to
overlook proper nutrition and physical fitness,” Horton said. “It’s so easy to
get busy doing good things for others, doing the Lord’s work, we forget our
bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and it’s the only temple we get.
“I’m not sure we can add
years to our lives more than God intended to give us, but in the years God
gives us we can have bodies that will serve us better if we take care of them.”
The Hortons work out there
together and separately, as David is “in the process of losing several pounds”
to be a better example, he said.
“Students comment on how
good it makes them feel to see us down there with them working out.”
There was some initial
surprise in the state when Horton was announced as the presidential candidate
because he is neither a graduate of Fruitland nor does he hold an earned
doctorate, both of which were thought beforehand to be qualifications the
search committee would demand.
His immediate rapport with
students, his love of Fruitland and the energy he exudes being back in
mountains similar to where he grew up in Virginia have erased any issues about
the new president not being a Fruitland grad.
And he — along with his two
top administrators — is enrolled in the doctor of education program at
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and vice presidents Scott
Thompson and J.D. Grant are on the same track at Southeastern to graduate in May
They pray together weekly
and he credits much of the progress at Fruitland to the covenantal relationship
Horton said Fruitland’s
staff and board “have been excellent,” during his first year, displaying an
attitude of “How do we help this happen?”
He and Lisa live with their
youngest son Matthew in the president’s house across the road from the chapel.
“I love living in Hendersonville,” he said.
“We loved Greensboro; we
raised our children there and pastored a wonderful church. But I grew up in the
mountains of Virginia, in Hillsville.
“I’ve always loved the
mountains. So for me, moving to a more rural setting into the mountains
has in many ways been like going back home.”
Fruitland first lady
Horton lauds Lisa, “a
wonderful pastor’s wife” who grew up in a pastor’s home.
She ministers to wives of
students with Bible studies, practical insights and training on how to be a
“She is doing a great job
and the ladies are responding to her,” he said. “They realize she is a great
resource for them, as she has been for me for 31 years.”
Horton’s son Michael is an
associate pastor at First Baptist Church, Dublin. His daughter Mandy lives with
her family in High Point.
In earlier days, Fruitland
would not admit students who were right out of high school.
The student body is becoming
increasingly younger as students see Fruitland as an inexpensive destination
for their earliest training.
“Today a lot of students
feel comfortable starting with us,” Horton said. “When they finish with us they
have learned so much they are ready to go to any school and do well.”
Horton was just 24 the first
time he preached on the Fruitland campus, a place he calls “a preacher’s dream”
because of the enthusiasm and appreciation students there have for preaching.
Coming from the pastorate,
Horton knew he would miss preaching if he had only limited opportunity, but he
said he is preaching more than once a week at area churches.
Horton is considering
offering online education courses from Fruitland, but that is not certain.
“During the next year we’ll
continue to try to grow the school and manage what we’re doing well,” he said.
“I enjoy doing new things, but I want to make sure the new things are done