As Reverend Dr. Michael Evans, Sr. was growing up in Houston, Texas, he sensed a deep passion and concern for the welfare of marginalized people. He thought his path would lead him to work as a civil rights attorney, but when God called him to the ministry at the age of 15, Evans committed his life to the work of the Lord and service to the church.
Now in his 30th year at Bethlehem Baptist Church — his 28th as pastor — Evans sees the fruit of his labor in the community of Mansfield, Texas, where he has lived out his call as pastor and where God has used those passions of his youth to shape the work of the church. His journey has led him not only to the pastorate but also to serve as the president of Texas Baptists, partnering in leadership among the more than 5,300 Texas Baptist churches.
Evans moved to the Fort Worth area after college, seeking to continue his education by attending divinity school. It was in the beginning of his studies that he found a place of ministry at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Mansfield. He knew that service in the church was God’s calling in his life and that there was no time to spare in engaging the work of the church. Through his commitment to Bethlehem Baptist during his graduate years, the Lord opened the door to the pastorate and Evans began what has become his life’s work.
Very early in his service as pastor, Evans began to study demographic projections for the area and discovered the significant growth expected for Mansfield over the next 10 to 15 years. From his research, Evans knew that, very quickly, the mission field would be coming to his church’s backyard. So, he planted his roots in Mansfield and helped position Bethlehem Baptist to grow from a church of an aging 75 people to a congregation of over 2,100. The theme of his ministry became the deep investment into the place in which he had been called.
“When you dig deep, you find treasure,” he said.
The significant growth of Bethlehem Baptist Church over the last two decades is a remarkable achievement. The expansion of church buildings on the former site of pigpens and the apartment complex built by the church to provide housing to local seniors are also noteworthy successes. But to Evans, the true fruit of the church’s labor can be seen in the faith and growth of its people. He has baptized people who have gone on to discover God’s call lived out in tremendous ways, sharing light in whatever corner of the world they are called, utilizing their gifts to change the world.
Evans eventually decided to continue his education through the pursuit of the Doctor of Ministry degree at Truett Seminary, which he completed in 2009. During his time in the program, he claims to have found the greatest blessing in not just the information he gained, but also in the formation of his soul.
“I became more in touch with my fragility,” Evans said, which is often disregarded in the busyness of ministry work. The spiritual formation he experienced throughout the program awakened him again to the need of the Spirit to enliven and empower the work both in his own life and also in every reach of the ministry of the church. Evans learned to be more secure in his calling, and through understanding his own deficiencies, to empower others to come around him to serve in areas where he might need the assistance. In doing so he developed a greater appreciation for the giftedness of others and how they might enhance what God was attempting to do with the congregation of Bethlehem.
“Longevity does that,” Evans said. “I’ve learned to grow where you are planted and how to be faithful in your work.” As president of Texas Baptists, Evans notes that, to him, the greatest aspect of denominational life is the recognition of the “work that is going on.” He believes that this “is the best time to be bold in your faith,” and that Texas Baptists are doing the work in and around the state to be the bold witnesses for the church of Jesus Christ.
In this way the work of the pastorate and presidency are alike, as both roles allow Evans to encourage the next generation of faithful pastors to “be who they are…know who is calling you…and to love the one [church] you’re with.” Longevity has allowed the ripples of ministry to go far and wide for Evans, and he urges those who follow in ministry to plant deep roots in their contexts, serve faithfully, and observe the power of God to transform people, communities, this state, and the world.
God has allowed the passions Evans recognized at a very early age to be demonstrated in his service, and for his life and ministry to be a testament to the blessing of perseverance and magnitude of the Spirit of God working in this world to the glory of the Kingdom.