Editor's note: This story is part of an ongoing series about new clergy leaders in the metro area.
The Rev. Ray Douglas said he has a healthy respect for the preachers who came before him.
Douglas, the new senior pastor of Greater Mount Olive Baptist Church, said the church's previous leader was one of his greatest mentors, and another well-known clergyman also gave him much guidance.
Douglas, 47, became the fourth senior pastor of Mount Olive, 1020 NE 42, in March after serving as an associate pastor from 2004-2011 and assistant pastor beginning in July 2011. The late Rev. A. Glenn Woodberry, the church's longtime pastor, died in September 2011 after serving in the position since 1984.
“I came to Mount Olive, and Pastor Woodberry sent me to a lot of places on his behalf,” Douglas said.
“He really embraced and cared about younger preachers. Oftentimes, preachers don't have time to mentor younger pastors.”
Before Woodberry, there was the Rev. J.A. Reed, senior pastor of Fairview Baptist Church, 1700 NE 7.
Douglas said he grew up at Fairview, and Reed baptized, mentored and ordained him into the ministry. He said he also served as Reed's assistant for several years.
As Douglas prepares for the church's 102nd anniversary celebration on Sunday — the first with him as pastor — he said he is grateful for the years he spent with the two older men and his time at Mount Olive before becoming its senior pastor.
“I think Mount Olive is the best church this side of heaven,” he said, smiling. “I think everybody should be at Mount Olive.”
Douglas and his wife of 22 years, Angela, have four adult children.
He said he grew up in church and can identify with many third- and fourth-generation Mount Olive members because of that.
He said the church, affiliated with the National Baptist Convention USA, is doing an excellent job drawing people for such things as midweek services. He said Mount Olive has a popular Wednesday night Bible study that draws several hundred people each week.
Douglas said one of his goals is to find new ways to connect with the unchurched.
“If we have 1,000, we need to look at how do we get to 1,500. That is my passion — to grow,” he said.
He said he thinks it's OK to use technology to get church news to the congregation and the community. He said as long as the Gospel message stays the same, congregations should look at the ways they share it with others.
Douglas said he recently visited a metro-area church that he had heard a lot about from people who had never gone there. The remarks about the other ministry were somewhat unflattering because their style was nontraditional.
Douglas said he decided to see for himself.
“We can't despise what someone else is doing with their methods as long as their message is essential, and that message is there is one God, and He loves us so much that He sent His son to die for us,” he said.
Douglas said Mount Olive's leaders, particularly Woodberry, were always forward thinking and looking for ways to aid the community. He said the church is considering developing property for a doctor's office complex because few doctors are on the city's northeast side.
He said his congregation is willing to make changes that result in progress.
“It's been a great church with great leadership, and I realize that it's not just a pastor, but it's the people. If I could, I would wear a button that says, ‘I heart Greater Mount Olive.' It's just that awesome.”