At 77 years old, Jim Booth may be retired from the full-time pastorate, but he’s not retired from ministry. And he’s certainly not retired from the pulpit.
In March, Booth returned to the United States following a six-month voluntary assignment in the United Kingdom, where he served as interim pastor of Stow-on-the-Wold Baptist Church, a small congregation in a historic village about 90 miles west-northwest of London. He is among 36 Americans who have served in the U.K. as part of a partnership between American Interim Pastors Ministries, Inc., and the Baptist Union of Great Britain that assists British Baptist churches that need help and often cannot afford a full-time pastor.
“I am in excellent health, and I wanted to do something for the Lord,” Booth told the TEXAN. “I don’t want to sit around and do nothing for the Lord because the Lord has done so much for me.”
Booth served as minister of a church in Galveston for more than 30 years, and upon retirement in 2014 he moved his membership to Sagemont Church in Houston. When he was asked if he would be interested in assisting a church in the United Kingdom for six months, Booth didn’t hesitate, for several reasons. The idea of living and preaching in such an historic setting was attractive.
“I’m a student of history, and if you look at history, they have produced some of the greatest theological minds in the last 300 years,” Booth said. “One of my ancestors came over here in 1695 from England. He indentured himself for five years. I trace my roots back that far.”
Booth also “wanted to see what the people were like and how they lived over there” and to preach the gospel in an area of the world that direly needs it. His church, Stow-on-the-Wold, had about 25 people in a building that seats 200.
“I went over there with the idea of getting the church built up, and of course, that’s what we want to do. But what I realized when I got there is that the people themselves at the church I was at—and this is the case at many of the churches—need to be fed and re-educated with the Scripture,” Booth said. “They were there because they love the Lord and they want to follow him, but they didn’t necessarily know how to follow him. So I just began to teach and preach the Word of God. I think it was very fruitful, and I saw some changes in their lives.”
Under the partnership, Booth and other ministers and lay people who serve in the U.K. receive, for free, an airplane ticket, housing and car. They do not receive a salary and are responsible for their food.
He labeled the experience “life-changing.” The church itself was built in the 1660s—less than a decade after Oliver Cromwell died and more than 40 years before George Whitefield and John and Charles Wesley even were born. The village of Stow-on-the-Wold was the site of several battles during the English Civil War.
The British people, he said, are “very kind.”
“I was over there for six months, and never once did anyone speak unkindly to me,” he said.
But despite the country’s rich Christian heritage, most people know very little about the gospel, Booth said.
“The thing that struck me was the indifference of the people of England toward the Bible and God and the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. “It seems to me that the majority of the people in England are agnostic. As the saying goes, ‘There may be a God, but I don’t care if there is or not.’ In that sense, they need good preaching and the gospel.”
The good news, Booth said, is that the Christians in the U.K. “live in such a way that people would know they’re a child of God.”
Chuck McComb, who leads American Interim Pastors Ministries, said there are four specific qualities about American pastors and their wives that British churches enjoy: 1) Bible preaching, 2) boldness to invite people to church and other functions, 3) willingness to visit people in the home, and 4) hospitality.
Booth called the U.K. a “semi-mission field.”
“When it comes to missions and unreached people groups, I would put England near the top,” Booth said. “Many of them have never heard of Christ. So, yes, I would put England up there among the countries that need to be evangelized for the Lord Jesus. I have a great admiration for the people. They’re good people. If God wills it, I will go back again someday. They need the Word of God in a mighty, mighty way.”
For more information, visit AmericanInterimPastors.com.