George Wright has been unanimously called as Shades' next senior pastor, effective August 16. In a Get to Know You Event Sunday night, June 27, George shared his story with our congregation. That was followed by a church business meeting including testimonials from our Senior Pastor Search Committee and a unanimous recommendation from the committee, Leadership Council, and Deacons. The motion garnered a second, and the church family overwhelmingly voted in favor to call George, Megan, and their family as the newest senior pastor at Shades.
Pastor Danny and George Wright sat down for a time to share George's story, a bit behind the pastor search process, and how God has brought the Wrights to Shades. Take a look!
George Wright is a preacher’s son, but his story isn’t one of wanting to run the opposite direction. Born in Houston, Texas, George grew up in Marietta, Georgia where his father pastored Johnson Ferry Baptist Church. “I saw an authentic faith in my parents,” George says, “they were the same people at home they were on Sundays.” This consistency led him to a decision for Christ when he was a child. Beginning in eighth grade, though, God lit a fire in George’s heart to live on mission. As he entered high school and got involved in sports, George learned to live out his faith near people who didn’t know Jesus.
Then came college at the University of South Carolina. He was the 19th member of his family to attend school in Columbia. On the first day of sophomore year, he met his now-wife, Megan; she was a freshman. “We fell in love quickly,” George says.
“We got married young,” he continues, “I was 21, she was 20. But that experience really prepared us for a call to ministry. We were used to living for Jesus in a place where people didn’t know Him.”
George’s desire in ministry was really shaped by his years at South Carolina. His first ministry position in college was as a middle school ministry intern. “I just have such a heart for students. I love seeing when passion for the Gospel comes alive in them,” he says. But it was his proximity to those far from God that stirred him. “My heart is for those on the fringes, those who don’t feel accepted,” George explains, “I love, love being able to reach people with the Good News of the Gospel.”
Upon graduation he and Megan moved to Fort Worth, Texas, where he’d attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. While earning his Master of Divinity, he served as the eighth-grade pastor at Fellowship Church in Dallas. After finishing at Southwestern, he joined the Johnson Ferry staff as teaching pastor. “We were preparing to plant a church,” George says. “We thought we were headed to New England, a place that’s heavily unchurched, but we ended up planting in northwest Atlanta in 2006. It was one of the fastest growing communities in the U.S. at the time, and according to our research, it was approximately 85-87% unchurched.”
George planted and pastored Cedarcrest Church in Acworth, Ga. from 2006-17. The first six years, the church was portable. During that time, 50% of the people who joined Cedarcrest had never been part of a church. “We just have such a heart for those who are unchurched or on the edge of religion,” he says.
After 11 years at the church he and his family had planted, God called the Wrights back to Columbia.
“We went to Shandon in 2017, and it’s a special place to us. We went to church there during school and we were married there,” George says. “We saw an opportunity to be involved in church planting from the other side – the opportunity to send people out.”
George’s mission, along with his family, is reaching people and sending people. “Our desire is to equip and inspire the people of God to live the mission,” he says. “We’re about sending people back into the community but also sending them wherever the Lord calls.”
George clarifies his story hasn’t been an entirely upward and right trajectory. “I didn’t know it, but the first part of my story was all about performance,” George describes. “I’m from a great family, a ministry family, and had great experiences early on in my ministry journey … but I made it all about me. And if it’s up to me, then I’m in trouble.”
God took him and Megan through some tough moments early in their marriage and parenting, reminding them their impact isn’t up to them. Even they need God’s grace daily. What centered them each time, though, was God’s Word and mission.
“We’ve seen how powerful the Word of God can be in our own household; it inspires generosity, it inspires kindness, it inspires grace and mercy,” George states. “I have a passion to lay that truth out every time I open my mouth.
After George arrived at Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia in 2017, he laid out a new vision in January 2018. That vision?
“I knew it wasn’t original to me, but I had no idea there was another church out there doing it,” he says. That mission, our mission, is what began to draw his heart to Shades.
“I love that Shades is so focused on sending people, even if just on short-term missions,” George says. “It’s a tremendous opportunity, and as we’ve prayed about coming, we believe that with its foundation and history, Shades has only scratched the surface of its impact in Birmingham and beyond.”
Our Pastor Search Committee is excited to unanimously recommend George Wright to our church family as Shades' next senior pastor. Following the unanimous recommendation, motion and second, George has been selected to our next senior pastor.
We encourage you to be praying for George and his family as they begin to transition from their current place of service. Pray they'd quickly develop Gospel-centered community in Birmingham. Pray also for our church as we enter this new season of ministry.
The timeline laid out by Pastor Danny will not change. His last day is August 15, followed by a month-long transition period. Pastor George officially begins on August 16, however, his first Sunday morning sermon will be in mid-September.