A visit Dr. Jim Futral’s Jackson office is like a trip to an eagles’ nest. Eagles are everywhere, in stone, wood, pottery and glass, in flight or at rest. Most have been given to him by friends and well-wishers, composing a collection that is likely to be unrivalled anywhere in Mississippi. From his window in the Baptist Building, Dr. Futral (many just call him “Doc”) can look out on the Mississippi State Capitol. On this idyllic spring day, high schoolers are making their way around the Capitol Grounds, azaleas dotting the landscape.
Jim is seated with his hands steepled as he reminisces about the first time he heard he was being considered for Pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church back in 1985. After making three quiet visits to hear Jim preach in Fort Worth, Texas, Broadmoor’s Pastoral Search Committee called him to express their interest. “They said, ‘We feel led to talk to you.’” he remembers. “I said, ‘I’m not looking to leave; have you narrowed this down or do you feel like I’m the one you’re supposed to talk to?’ and they said, ‘We’ve got two others we want to visit.’ I said, ‘I’ll tell you what. You just go visit the other two and if you feel led to them, you don’t owe me a call or anything, you just go ahead and do what God tells you to do. But after you follow through with them, if you still feel like I’m the one you’re supposed to talk to, contact me and I’ll see what I’ll do.” It was to be the beginning of a journey. “The rest,” he notes with a broad smile, “is history.”
Born in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Jim is the son of the late Guy Futral, a respected pastor, and Mary Sue Futral. At the age of nine, Jim gave his life to Christ at Pheba Baptist Church in Clay County. That decision set his life on a course that would take him far beyond anything he could have then imagined. Surrendering to the ministry at 18, the young Jim was licensed to preach in 1962 in Starkville (where he had finished high school, much to the amusement of those who today know his deep love for Ole Miss). Jim found his first pastorate at Whittentown Baptist Church in Ripley in 1964, after being ordained at Hickory Flat Baptist Church in Benton County. Around the same time, he made what many regard as his second-wisest decision, asking a young lady by the name of Shirley Moore to be his wife. Jim and Shirley will celebrate their 50th anniversary next year, three children and eight grandchildren richer. Their three children, Melodi, Rob and Mysti and their families all attend Broadmoor, where Rob is Pastor.
Jim really didn’t plan on leaving North Fort Worth Baptist Church and hauling his growing family back to Mississippi. Having just led that church through a move process, he wasn’t ready for a new challenge – or so he thought. But God had other plans. “As this began to unfold, I began to realize that this is what God had made me for, that this is the kind of church, this is the kind of people and the kind of place that I would love to serve,” he recalls.
Having pastored in Mississippi for many years before moving to Texas, Jim was familiar with Broadmoor’s reputation and was a great admirer of its long-time pastor, Dr. David Grant. Dr. Grant had retired two years before and the church had been in a long search process ever since.
When he first got to Broadmoor, Jim was certain the church would be staying put on its property in north Jackson. “I was pretty much convinced that if I came there, I would never have to lead this church in relocation because of the beautiful setting, beautiful facility and all the pieces,” he remembers. “But it wasn’t too long before I realized, ‘what are we going to do for space?’”
When Broadmoor had first located to the corner of Northside and Manhattan three decades before, the neighborhood was just developing and there was plenty of room. Now, the neighborhood had encircled the church property, limiting space for possible expansion.
Over the next few years, Broadmoor went through several possible scenarios: expand current facilities or replace them. Votes were held and plans were laid. But Jim began to get more and more uncomfortable with the idea of staying. “It was not going to work. The further we went, the more I realized, ‘this is wrong; this is not the right direction for this church.’ Eventually, I preached a sermon that a lot of the older people called THE Sermon. I said, ‘We are going in the wrong direction; we cannot stay here and build this facility. If we do, it will stand here on Northside Drive as a monument to our shortsightedness and our spiritual stupidity.’”
Although the prospect of a move had “overwhelming” support from Broadmoor’s membership, nothing happened for a year. Jim reports that he had no peace about a particular direction; only a sense that the church needed to wait. “It was an interesting year of uncertainty,” he remembers. “For six months, I made it the priority of my life to pray for God to tell me what he wanted me to do as the Pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church.”
At the end of that season of prayer, Jim called together some former deacon chairs and some of the staff. He hadn’t discussed his plans with any of them, but needed to sound out his direction. “I told them, ‘I believe in you, so much so that if you think I am doing the wrong thing, you’ll tell me,’ he remembers. ‘If you don’t think this is right, you tell me, because I believe in you.’ Around that table, I laid this out, that we are not going to build here and we are going to move in a different direction and build and Broadmoor Baptist Church is going to be greater than it has ever been. When I got through telling them, I asked for their reaction. Every one of them said, ‘We have been waiting for you to tell us this.’”
By that point, his direction was clear. “I had an affirmation in my heart that I knew. One of the deacons came to me when we were voting on the property and asked, ‘what if when we vote today, everybody here votes against this except you? What will you think?’ I said, ‘I will think they’re all wrong, because I know this is right.’ I wasn’t being arrogant; I just knew.”
A new piece of property was located and purchased, ideally situated in the fast-growing Madison area and over the next several years, the population of Madison would explode.
Rob believes that God has had His hand on Broadmoor and its leaders all throughout its history, as part of a larger story. “God wanted Broadmoor to have another opportunity. We’ve had another chance to impact multiple generations in a new location, just as at the former location. Broadmoor has always been a progressive church, innovative, I think effective,” he notes, “really desiring to make a difference in people’s lives, to help carry out the mission of the church that Jesus gave us.”
The new facility was taking shape when Dr. Futral got a call from another search committee; this time, they were looking for someone to lead the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board. He had previously served as president of the Convention and on the executive committee.
“I had no intention of coming here,” he says of the Convention Board. “This is not who I am – I’m not an executive of something – I’m a pastor of a Baptist Church. When the committee interviewed me, I said, ’If you want me to come here and try to be the pastor of Mississippi Baptists, I’ll do that, but I’m not going to come here and sit and just be a CEO of a denomination.’ They said, ‘That’s what we want you to do.’ Sixteen years I’ve been here, but I’m still just a pastor at heart, it’s what God made me to be. That’s what I want, that’s what I do and that’s what I’ll die doing. Just embrace the state and love the people of the state and love people coming to know the Lord.”
In his work as Executive Secretary/Treasurer of the Convention Board, Jim has preached in all 82 counties and 92 county seats (he points out that some counties actually have two county seats.) His work has taken him around the nation and world and he’s grateful to serve because he realizes he’s part of something important. “You realize what a heritage you are handed, a heritage of my dad and my mom, what they gave me and enabled me to experience,” he says. “For me to have the privileges and blessings and responsibilities that God has given me, I am just absolutely amazed.”
His education includes degrees from Clarke College, Blue Mountain College and Bachelor’s and Doctoral degrees from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He’s also received two honorary doctorates, from his alma mater Blue Mountain College and from William Carey University. At the time of this writing, he’s slated to get a third, from Mississippi College.
Looking back over the years, Jim is amazed at the plan that was at work, but confesses that he was never concerned about the long-term outcome of the work. “I never worried about my place in the equation and I don’t to this day,” he explains. “I don’t know how many times somebody has asked me, ‘I know you must be so proud to see how God has validated what you did.’ I never think about that, I never really cared about that; it’s about Him.”
Jim’s fatherly pride is evident when you mention Rob. Jim and Shirley’s membership is at Broadmoor, but Jim is often away, taking the pulpit in churches around the state. Interestingly, father and son have switched roles, as Rob is now Jim and Shirley’s pastor. Jim makes it clear that he has always tried to stay out of the way as Rob has come into his own as a pastor and gives pastor-to-pastor advice only when asked to do so. “He’s my son, but he’s God’s man. I pray that God will use him,” he explains.
Rob is equivocal in his admiration of his dad. “It’s such a unique thing for a son to pastor a church where his dad was pastor,” he explains. “We’re getting to do ministry today and we’re moving toward the future ministry of Broadmoor and building on the foundation of faithfulness. When one of those past leaders is your own dad, it’s special.”
As for the future, Jim smiles and notes that we are all just “walking through the fog,” requiring that we “trust God with that next step. I will keep doing that until God calls me home and I’ll trust him with that step, too.”