by Dana Williamson
To listen to Jimmy Kinnaird talk, you would think he was born with a gospel tract in his hand. But the witnessing that seems to come so naturally to Kinnaird wasn’t developed until much later in his life.
Kinnaird, the new pastor at Oklahoma City, Village, said he is the epitome of who Baptists are, as the opportunities that have come about in his life are a result of the tithes and offerings of Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program.
He was born in a Baptist Hospital, adopted through a Baptist agency, witnessed to by a Baptist Student Union, baptized in a small Southern Baptist church, educated at a Baptist seminary, worked at a Baptist Mission Center, served as pastor of Baptist churches and worked at state and national levels for Southern Baptists.
Yet, growing up in a Methodist family and attending church all his life, it wasn’t until he was a student at Tarlton State College in Stephenville, Texas, that his life was transformed.
It all started for Kinnaird when a student who lived across the hall in his dorm invited him to a free lunch at the BSU.
“I met Keith because the dorms were not air-conditioned, and we opened all the doors to get a crosswind,” remembered Kinnaird.
One afternoon, Keith asked Kinnaird if he could talk to him about something.
“He asked me the Evangelism Explosion question: ‘If you died tonight, do you know for sure you would go to Heaven?’” Kinnaird recalled. “I told him I didn’t think anyone could know, and I wouldn’t let him explain. But when he left, God stayed. It bothered me that I didn’t know what to say. I started questioning.”
At the end of his sophomore year, Kinnaird moved out of the dorm and got a job at a department store. His next-door neighbor, Robin, also worked at the store.
“She was a party girl, and often came to work with a hangover,” Kinnaird said. “She was usually mean and in a bad mood.”
But one Monday morning, Robin came in smiling.
“She was different,” Kinnaird explained. “She said she went to church and got saved. She told us every detail, how the preacher was talking straight to her, how much she loved Jesus. She would not shut up.”
The next event that led to Kinnaird’s change was going with friends to a dance club in Fort Worth.
“While we were waiting in line outside to get in, a college group came by and handed us Christian tracts—Steps to Peace with God,” said Kinnaird. “I stuck it in my pocket instead of throwing it on the ground. I knew it contained Scripture, and I had been taught to respect Scripture.”
When he got back to his apartment, he emptied his pockets and the next morning looked briefly at the tract before going to work.
“Robin was still talking about Jesus,” he said.
Kinnaird said because of the life change he saw in Robin, the question Keith asked him and the tract, he made a profession of faith in Jesus while driving on Hwy. 108 in Stephenville, Texas Aug. 17, 1982.
“The radio was up high, but God’s voice came through loud and clear: ‘What are you doing with your life?’ I said I wondered the same thing.”
Kinnaird said God asked him to turn his life over to Him, and He would give it meaning and purpose.
“There was no hesitancy in me at all,” Kinnaird said. “Nothing I could do was as important as the offer I was given. I was filled, not even knowing I was empty. I was dirty, but in an instant, I felt so clean.”
Kinnaird revealed he had the typical college apartment with a refrigerator containing a case of beer, a quarter- jar of grape jelly and piece of rotten baloney.
“God said, ‘there is something in that refrigerator that needs to go,’” recalled Kinnaird. “So I threw out the beer, not the rotten baloney.”
Kinnaird said he tried to tell Keith what had happened to him, but he didn’t know the terminology. He bought a Petra tape, took Keith to a drive-in and played the tape.
“When he asked when I started listening to that kind of music, he told me I had been saved,” Kinnaird said.
Kinnaird was discipled at the BSU, beginning with “Survival Kit for New Christians,” learned his first Bible verse—Psalm 119:11, and was baptized at a small Baptist church.
“Seventeen of my lost friends came to see me baptized,” Kinnaird said. “They didn’t believe it.”
Kinnaird said at the time, he didn’t know what Southern Baptists were.
“I knew about Baptists, but I didn’t know there were brands,” he responded. “But they loved me and taught me the Word of God.”
He said when Keith took him out to witness, and asked him to share his testimony, he thought everybody did it.
“I had an immediate desire to serve the Lord,”he said.
Soon, Kinnaird, who played the trumpet, was in New Orleans on a summer missions project, leading a jazz band, which played and witnessed on the streets of New Orleans.
“It was the best education in human life I’ve gotten,” Kinnaird revealed. “I met all types of people, including three Jesuses, two John the Baptists and a Peter—also prostitutes and trans genders.”
After that summer, Kinnaird went to New Orleans Seminary, and eventually planted a church 12 miles from the New Orleans airport. That church started six other congregations, including one for cab drivers at the airport.
In 1997, Kinnaird came to the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma as evangelism specialist and left seven years later as leader of the Church Outreach Team, to become pastor of Stillwater, Eagle Heights.
While at the BGCO, he planned seven evangelism conferences, led Crossover events in Oklahoma and Idaho Falls, Idaho, oversaw a State Fair evangelism ministry, helped establish the “Most Important Thing” website and wrote “Cross Training” Materials.
After serving at Eagle Heights for three years, Kinnaird was called to the North American Mission Board, where he was evangelism resource coordinator for four years. He has been at Village since April.
Kinnaird said when he came to Village, God told him two things—one, it is going to take a long time to become pastor, and two, go slow making changes.
“I want them to know they have a pastor who really loves them and understands their struggles and their dreams,”said Kinnaird. “I just want to be their pastor and love my congregation and help us all to reach people around us.”
He said the church has adopted a mission statement: “To be consumed with the love of Christ.”
“If I’m consumed with His love, it will spread, but if I don’t have it, it will not spread,” he said.
Kinnaird reiterated that he would not be where he is today without Southern Baptists’ support through the Cooperative Program.
“I support the Cooperative Program, because when we give together, we can accomplish more than we can do alone,” he emphasized. “We need to support our local ministries, but not at the expense of the Cooperative Program. I couldn’t have done what I’ve done without it.”