From player to preacher
“Ken Smith was preaching, I don’t even know what he was preaching about. But in the middle of the message, like a ton of bricks, the Lord said, ‘That is you one day.’ It was that clear. My response was, ‘Lord, you’ve obviously not seen me hit a hanging curve ball.’” the Rev. Dr. Jeff Meyers, the new senior pastor of Greenwell Springs Baptist Church
GREENWELL SPRINGS — All the Rev. Dr. Jeff Meyers ever wanted to do was to play baseball. And he was pretty good at it, too, until God took it away.
“I lived, breathed and died baseball, but, systematically, the Lord had to remove baseball out of my life to get my attention,” Meyers said. “My senior year in high school I gave up, gave in and said, ‘OK Lord, I’ll do whatever you ask me to do.’”
Meyers, 40, is the new senior pastor of Greenwell Springs Baptist Church, the second largest Southern Baptist church in the Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge. It has an average attendance of 1,200 each Sunday. Istrouma Baptist averages around 1,700, according to church records.
Meyers and his wife, Traci, and their three sons arrived in August from First Baptist Church of Conyers, Ga., where he served for five years.
Meyers grew up an only child in a Christian home near Dallas, Texas. His father is a pharmacist and church deacon, and his mother was a teacher and children’s choir director. His mother now teaches at Dallas Baptist University.
“I was in church for nine months before I was even born,” he said with a laugh.
He accepted Jesus as his personal savior at the age of 7 and was baptized a week later.
His life revolved around church and baseball, he said, and he often attended evening youth activities wearing his baseball uniform still dusty from afternoon practice.
The summer of his sophomore year, the youth group went to a camp at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., where Meyers said he felt an unmistakable calling into the ministry.
“Ken Smith was preaching, I don’t even know what he was preaching about. But in the middle of the message, like a ton of bricks, the Lord said, ‘That is you one day.’ It was that clear,” Meyers said, snapping his fingers for emphasis. “My response was, ‘Lord, you’ve obviously not seen me hit a hanging curve ball.’”
He might not have made it to Major League Baseball, but he was “good enough to play some pretty serious baseball,” he said, and had hopes of one day coaching or managing.
But everything changed the fall of his senior year at DeSoto High School.
“The coach hands me my letter jacket for my junior year — I was starting second baseman — and says, ‘I’ve got something really awkward to share with you. You’re not going to be my second baseman this year.’ I asked him ‘Why?’” Meyers said. “He said, ‘I don’t even know why I’m telling you this, but I don’t think there is even a place on the team for you this year.’”
“I got into my 1965 Mustang and cried and cried,” Meyers recalled. “I said, ‘OK, God, I’m not going to fight you anymore,’ and I walked away from baseball. From that day there was no question what I was going to do with my life.”
After graduating in 1991, he attended Baylor University and focused on his religion studies. Two summers later, while waiting tables at a Waco café, he met his future wife on her first day as a hostess.
“I’m coming out of the kitchen and there is this little brunette girl wearing an Elite Café T-shirt, khaki shorts and tennis shoes. Her name was Traci Green,” Meyers said. “When she walked through the door immediately the Lord said, ‘That’s her.’”
He later discovered she felt the same thing, and they married two years later.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in religious studies, a master of divinity with biblical languages and then a doctorate of philosophy from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. In 1997, he formed Jeff Meyers Crossroads Ministries and served at several churches.
While some pastors systematically read through the Bible, Meyers said he reads it in “big chunks,” like the minor prophets or the Gospels, in a few days or weeks. He’s read the book of Revelation “hundreds of times” and plans to host prophecy conferences.
His life verse? Revelation 1:5, he said, and quotes, “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the first begotten of the dead, the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him who loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood.”
“To me that just sums it up,” Meyers said. “He came as prophesied, the faithful witness, he is the only begotten, he rose from the dead, and one day he’s going to be the king. He’s coming back and he loved us and he washed us.”
He prefers the King James Bible because, “it is easier to memorize and because it sticks. The words are not everyday words — ‘I beseech you therefore brethren,’ you never call someone up and say, ‘I beseech you therefore brethren.’”
As the husband of Traci and father of Marshall, 11, George, 8, and Jonathan, 7, better known as J.J., Meyers said his priorities are God, then family, then the church.
“A lot of people have said some very gracious, complimentary things (to me) but that is nothing compared to what they are going to think about my wife,” Meyers said. “She is one of the finest Bible teachers and has a real burden for women.”
Meyers plans to stick to Scripture and not get into politics like his predecessor, the Rev. Dennis Terry, did.
“I’m just a Bible preacher and teacher and whatever filters out of that filters out of that,” Meyers said. “I shoot straight by what the Bible says. I never back down from the issues. I never back down from the truth, but I do it through the Scriptures.”
The Rev. Dr. Tommy Middleton, executive director of the Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge, a group of around 100 area Baptist churches and missions, often filled the church’s pulpit between Terry’s departure last year and Meyers’ arrival.
“His gifts, his ability, his experience, I think are going to be an amazing fit for that church,” Middleton said. “He has a vision for reaching the community and has a great family.”
Mark Longuepee, a member for seven years, said he appreciates Meyers’ enthusiasm.
“You can tells he has completely given himself to be used by God, to deliver the Gospel of Jesus,” Longuepee said. “His care of the Bible as the authoritative word from God shows through his teaching from the King James version when easier versions that may not be as theologically accurate are available.”
Ronnie Langlois, a chaplain in the Christian Motorcyclists Association, has been attending the church for about four years.
“I’m impressed with what I’ve seen of him, heard of him and experienced with him,” Langlois said. “He believes he is exactly where God wants him to be, and my observation of the congregation is that we feel the same way. We’ve got the pastor that God wants in this position. We’re excited.”
Greenwell Springs Baptist Church is located at 19421 Greenwell Springs Road, Greenwell Springs. For more information, call (225) 261-2246 or visit gsbcla.com.