Former SBTC President Jimmy Pritchard dies of COVID-19
March 1st, 2021 / By: Tammi Reed Ledbetter | TEXAN Correspondent / comments
FORNEY—Jimmy Pritchard, 65, former president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, pastor of First Baptist Church of Forney, and a leader in the conservative resurgence in the SBC and Texas, lost a brief but hard-fought battle with COVID-19 and pneumonia Feb. 24, after being hospitalized a few days earlier.
The church announced his passing at the Wednesday night prayer vigil where members had gathered to pray for healing, having received the crushing news from the family just an hour earlier. Four days later, the Sunday morning crowd at Forney wept at their loss, but offered praise that Pritchard was healed through his passage to heaven.
Many in the congregation had sat under his ministry since he was called to First Baptist in 1994 and led the church through significant growth, welcoming over 6,000 new members, and baptizing over 2,600 new believers, with 38 people having answered a call to full-time Christian vocations. International, North American, and Texas missions has been a hallmark of his tenure, including work in Scotland, Hungary, Lebanon, Uruguay, Thailand, Czech Republic, India, Cuba and Ethiopia, various projects in the U.S., and birthing a new church in nearby Talty, Texas.
His messages to Southern Baptists often called for spiritual awakening born out of prayer and motivated toward missions. While president of SBTC he led times of prayer in every region of Texas throughout 2015, accompanied by SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards.
“We are spoiled,” Pritchard said in his 2014 sermon to messengers in Fort Worth. “The Great Commission has shifted to be the Great Convenience. Our problem is not in structure. It’s in our heart.”
A year later in Houston, he drew from his study of this history of U.S. missions to cite the Haystack Prayer Meeting of 1806 as an example of acting upon a desire to see the lost saved and discipled.
“It’s almost like we’ll pray and cross our arms and say, ‘Okay, God, now do something really wild because we’ve prayed,” Pritchard said. “He might. But it is more than likely we need to add to our praying a bit of resolve like those five young college students who said, ‘We can do this, if we will.”
“Those regional Pastor Prayer Gatherings typified Jimmy Pritchard’s desperate cry for revival, renewal and awakening,” Richards said of the denominational leader. “Brother Jimmy knew that every spiritual awakening has been preceded by prayer and obedience. He could see the goal line of making disciples of all nations. And now, in glory, I think he has an even clearer vision of the countless number of souls redeemed because of his obedience to that cause that he championed.”
Richards recalled Pritchard welcoming representatives from the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas while SBTC president in 2015, recognizing their mutual commitment to biblical inerrancy. “And in the public arena, he said Pritchard “led the charge for a clear, definitive and unchanging definition of marriage” alongside past SBTC presidents.
SBTC Executive Director-Elect Nathan Lorick described Pritchard as a friend to so many. “The way he loved the Lord, his family, his church and his friends set such a great example for all of us. Personally, my life has been enriched because of our friendship,” he added. “He was dearly loved and will be deeply missed.”
Prior to coming to Forney, Pritchard pastored Congress Avenue Baptist in Austin where he helped birth Hays Hills Baptist Church, nurtured the Austin Baptist Deaf Church, and was recognized for the fastest growing Sunday School by the local Baptist association. Similar milestones were recorded at churches he served in Camden, Ark., and Gould, Okla.
In addition to serving as president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention from 2014-2015, he was elected second vice president for 2008-2009, and served on the SBTC Executive Board. Most recently, he was tasked with chairing SBTC’s relocation committee. He was active in local Baptist associations wherever he pastored, moderating the Kauf/Van Baptist Association and directing evangelism for Austin Baptist Association.
A trustee for the International Mission Board and Criswell College, he served on presidential search committees that selected Tom Elliff at IMB and Jerry Johnston at Criswell. He also offered leadership to the denomination as a trustee of Baptist World Alliance, IMB trustee chairman, Home Mission Board workshop leader, and Southwestern Seminary alumni association president.
Son James Pritchard spoke of his father’s ability to resonate with Texas pastors I churches of any size and emphasized his personal integrity as a quality needed in an SBTC president when nominating his father. “The key to [my father’s] success was not what happened in front of people, but what happened in front of God,” he stated.
Born in Fairfield, Texas, Pritchard earned his D.Min. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with a project on applying principles of spiritual growth. In addition to his M.Div. earned at SWBTS, he graduated from Sam Houston State University with a B.A., majoring in history. Survivors include Pritchard’s wife, Jeanette who is also battling COVID-19, his children, James, John and Julie, seven grandchildren.
A public visitation for the community will be held March 5 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the First Baptist Forney Chapel. On Saturday, March 6, family visitation is scheduled from 1 to 2 p.m. in the worship center where the funeral will follow at 2 p.m. The service will also be live streamed at www.fbcforney.org/livestream.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Higher Ground 2.0, P.O. Box 97, Forney, TX, 75126 to fulfill the vision Pritchard had for the church and community he served.