In 2002, Jerry Sheveland arrived at the Arlington Heights office to head up Global Church Enrichment, and just two years later he was asked by the conference to take on the role of president of the Baptist General Conference to replace Robert Ricker.
Gerald Sheveland was born in Minneapolis, Minn., on July 27, 1950. His father was an evangelist, and the family lived in a variety of communities as Jerry was growing up. Jerry made a profession of faith early in his life and was baptized at First Baptist Church, Austin, Minn.
Sheveland attended Grand Rapids Baptist College in Grand Rapids, Mich., for his undergraduate degree, where he met Dawn Jameson; they were married in December of 1970 while both were still in college. After graduating in 1972, the Shevelands moved to Fort Worth, Texas, so that Jerry could pursue seminary training at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dawn also attended Southwestern, graduating in 1974 with a master’s degree in Christian Education.
The Shevelands became involved with the Baptist General Conference when Jerry was youth pastor at Dalton Baptist Church in Muskegon, Mich., during his college years. He was ordained in 1975 by the Mission Hills Church, Littleton, Colo; and then was called to First Baptist Church of Estes Park, Colo., where he served from 1976 to 1980. He studied for a doctor of ministry degree at Denver Seminary during these years and earned that degree in 1980.
With a call from Berean Baptist Church in Burnsville, Minn., in 1980, the Shevelands moved to Minnesota and began an even deeper involvement with the Baptist General Conference. While at Berean, Sheveland served two terms on the board of Bethel College & Seminary, and also served the Minnesota Baptist Conference on the church extension committee. Berean Baptist Church went through years of profound change during Sheveland’s ministry, including three different building programs.
In 1989, the Shevelands were called to the pastorate of College Avenue Baptist Church in San Diego, Calif., then the largest church in the BGC. Their nine years there saw the church grow a significant college ministry that reached more than 1000 college students from the nearby campus of San Diego State University.
Bethel Seminary San Diego, housed in the facilities of College Avenue Church, was able to build its own campus buildings on a site near the church in part because of the support of Sheveland. Dawn Sheveland, who had begun work on her Ph.D. in education at the University of Minnesota, completed her degree in 2001 at the University of Redlands.
The church that originally ordained Jerry asked him back as senior pastor in 1998, and he served in leadership at Mission Hills Church in Littleton, Colo., until 2000, when he was called to head Global Church Enrichment at the headquarters of the BGC in Arlington Heights, Ill. Two years later, Bob Ricker announced his retirement as president of the conference and the search committee soon chose Sheveland as his replacement.
Leading a denomination in a post-denominational age is a challenge. Dealing with reduced general revenue had been a theme in the Ricker years and continued to be an issue for the conference as Sheveland took office. He chose not to hire anyone to fill his leadership role in Global Church Enrichment, but instead integrated those responsibilities into the office of the president. He immediately launched a conference-wide program to assess where pastors and lay leaders felt the conference was headed. The former Changing Our World program, which built teams of pastors for support and mutual encouragement, was changed into the current LEAD team, and its focus became not only church enrichment and pastoral fellowship, but strategic planning to extend the Kingdom in each area through church planting and evangelism.
The Fire and Reign program, written by Sheveland, provided Biblical resources to churches across the conference, focusing on celebrating the power and provision of the Lord and a renewal of devotion. Never in the history of the conference has there been such a unifying curriculum for church growth and recommitment. That program is now being followed by Salt and Light, also written by Sheveland. Again, churches across the conference will be asked to address similar themes of Christian devotion and service to Christ globally in the years ahead.
At the 2007 Annual Meeting, two major actions were taken by delegates. First, the conference voted to move to a biennial conference meeting rather than annual meetings. In addition, Sheveland was re-elected to another five-year term. In response to that election, he announced that the major theme of his leadership over the next five years would be leading a unified effort to catalyze movements for reproducing churches around the world.