The high point of our 100th anniversary year has been the appointment of Baptist Mid-Missions’ ninth president, Dr. Patrick Odle. God has given us a new president who both rejoices in the accomplishments of our past and holds tightly to a vision advancing us into the future.
The world that Dr. Odle enters looks very different from the world of 100 years ago, yet strangely similar. In the 1920s, the world was recovering from the first global war humanity had ever encountered and the worst pandemic in modern history, the Spanish flu. The situation in many churches grew dire as mainline denominations rapidly receded from biblical authority and the importance of worldwide missions. Fast-forwarding to our day, 2020 already carries the scars of a global pandemic, civil unrest, national division, and a shrinking number of churches and surrendered servants.
Our hope in such times lies in the same confidence held by our original leaders in 1920: We serve a God who promises to build His church, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against the work of God. Patrick Odle is a man who firmly believes in these promises. And he firmly believes that the answer to the world’s problems is the gospel, the very reason Baptist Mid-Missions exists.
Speaking about the crises of 2020, Dr. Odle said, “Right now, people are so scared. The vast majority of Americans and people across the world don’t have the confidence of a gospel foundation in their lives that causes them to say, ‘God is in control, and I know where I’m going to spend eternity.’ The answer is not medicine; the answer is not worldly attempts at reconciliation. The answer is the gospel, and churches living out the gospel, and individual Christians sharing Christ across the planet.”
Dr. Odle gets energized by what can be accomplished through missions in our next century. He’s thrilled by the solid work of generations of missionaries that continue to produce thriving churches, Bible institutes, media ministries, youth work, and much more. In an era of greater skepticism, Odle applauds our missionaries for understanding their changing cultural landscapes and adjusting their approaches to include more relational evangelism. It’s a method Odle taught when he was pastor of First Baptist Church of Elyria, Ohio: “We can no longer give the gospel one time and expect people to get saved. It’s essential that unsaved people see that the gospel has really changed us before they’re willing to listen to what we want to say to them.”
He also sees on the horizon new prospects in Creative Access ministries using nontraditional methods. “That’s been one of the positive things about COVID-19,” said Odle. “We found that we can still share the gospel, teach, and disciple. We have opportunities to use technology that didn’t exist 20 years ago.” Dr. Odle is excited by the potential for missionaries to develop new means for taking the gospel to Creative Access Nations: “We can come alongside and equip and help a new generation to serve in a different capacity when it’s the only way.”
He’s convinced that it’s critical to capture the hearts of a new generation with the world’s needs. Odle says, “Shrinking Bible schools and churches are a reflection of fewer surrendered servants.” A book he has read multiple times is Woodrow Kroll’s The Vanishing Ministry in the 21st Century. One of Dr. Odle’s prayers is that God would use him to ignite churches, pastors, and parents to hear the clarion call of the world’s needs. He wants to challenge parents with a greater vision for their children’s future—to make their greatest prayer not that their children make a comfortable living but that they yearn to impact eternity through missions and other ministries.
Dr. Odle’s heart for youth developed long ago with a burden for his public high school classmates (see “Patrick's Story”). He served as youth pastor of Ankeny Baptist Church in Ankeny, Iowa, under senior pastor Norm Hoag (also a BMM Council member). The experience not only gave Odle a heart for youth, but it also stoked his enthusiasm for missions. Rev. Hoag modeled such a love and support for missions that church members called his house the Hoag Hotel because of the many missionaries he and his wife hosted.
During his time in Ankeny, Dr. Odle led his first youth mission trip in 1997. While visiting BMM missionaries in Ecuador, Odle asked the Lord if He wanted him to be a missionary himself, since his role was to call his church’s teens to consider missions. The Lord said no, but the experience gave Dr. Odle a real heart for missions. He has since ministered on the fields of India, Brazil, Malta, Italy, Romania, Peru, and Guam, as well as in the US. Nearly all his trips have been with BMM missionaries, further knitting his heart to Baptist Mid-Missions.
As our previous president, Dr. Vernon Rosenau, was approaching retirement, a prayer-filled search process sought God’s choice for our next leader. Patrick Odle rose to the top of our search committee’s list because his qualifications displayed a breadth not normally seen in a single candidate. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in pastoral studies from Faith Baptist Bible College & Theological Seminary (FBBC&S). He also served as FBBC&S’s Vice President of Enrollment and Student Life, giving him valuable skills in administration, budget management, and donor relations. His 26 years of pastoral experience include Ankeny Baptist Church, Holmes Baptist Church (Clarion, Iowa), and First Baptist Church of Elyria, Ohio (the birthplace of BMM). While serving at First Baptist Church of Elyria, Odle served eight years as a BMM Council member, giving him greater insights about the needs and challenges of our organization.
As a former pastor, Odle understands the importance of serving and shepherding BMM: “Shepherding is a leadership term that’s filled with a heart of compassion and a ‘We’re in this together’ mindset. I don’t want to lead BMM as much as I want to shepherd it.” President Emeritus Gary Anderson spoke to Odle, “You know how to shepherd, and as president you will be shepherding God’s servants spread across the globe doing hard things for Christ and sharing the gospel in hard places.” The other half of Odle’s servant heart is for BMM to help churches: “We are an extension of the local church; we’re never independent from them. We want to do everything we possibly can to be that bridge from the local church to the foreign fields or the national fields in the States.”
Decades ago, when Odle was a teenager wrestling with God’s call to ministry, a turning point came when he realized God wants to use ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Throughout Baptist Mid-Missions’ history, God has drawn ordinary people to accomplish His remarkable purposes. Although missions faces significant headwinds, Odle sees a future as bright as the promises of God. What could God do with ordinary people committed to intercede for BMM in prayer? To support BMM with their resources? And to surrender to the high calling of missions? As the new president of Baptist Mid-Missions, Patrick Odle can’t wait to find out.
Our Missionary Class of 2020 shares the same passion and surrender possessed by our original Class of 1920.
On June 30, 2020, Vernon Rosenau retired from Baptist Mid-Missions’ presidency. We commend him for his 45-year ministry legacy.