Fruitful Service

Alabama Baptist State Convention President Tim Cox had just wrapped up his president’s address at the annual gathering at Eastern Shore Baptist Church in Daphne, not far from the University of Mobile. This year’s theme was “fruitful,” based on John 15:5, where Jesus speaks of the vine and branches, and how “if you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

University of Mobile President Lonnie Burnett stepped to the podium.

“For a university, our fruit is our graduates,” Burnett said. That’s when he presented the 1988 graduate with the university’s highest honor, the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

As UM’s first graduate to serve as president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention, Cox exemplifies what it means for a university to produce graduates whose lives bear fruit.

“He serves our local church, he serves our state Baptists, and most of all he serves our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” Burnett said in conferring the degree.

Cox has served as senior pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Chelsea, Alabama, since 1998. The church has more than doubled in size and remains a flagship church in Shelby County, with the mission of making an impact for Christ by making disciples who make disciples.

His UM experience prepared him academically and equipped him with meaningful relationships as a pastor, he said.

“While at Mobile, my spiritual roots grew deeper and my theological foundation grew stronger.

Professors connected with me personally and continued encouraging me in ministry far beyond graduation. Even though I commuted to classes each day, many of the connections I made with fellow students turned into life-long friendships. I enjoy the bond I share with UM alumni all across our state and even across the Southern Baptist Convention,” Cox said later, adding that he was humbled and honored to receive the prestigious recognition.

He was ordained to the ministry in 1986, two years before he would graduate from UM with a Bachelor of Arts in religion. His father, Dr. Henry Cox, then of First Baptist Church of Bay Minette, was ordaining pastor. In addition to following his father’s path into the ministry, Cox’s journey to becoming convention president mirrored his father’s. They are the first father/son duo to have held all three officer slots – second vice president, first vice president and president – consecutively for two years each on their way to the top leadership role.

Cox said UM helped build a strong biblical foundation in his life and ministry as a pastor. He continued his education at The New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary where he earned the Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry. He and his wife, Dawn, have been married 13 years. Together they have four children.

From his perspective in his second year as president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention and an ex-officio member of the UM Board of Trustees, Cox sees strong connections that further the kingdom of God.

“First, Alabama Baptist pastors and churches can have confidence in an intentional Christ-centered academic environment. We know that Christian higher education at UM enables students to develop spiritually as they are equipped academically. UM embraces the same mission mandate given to the Church – to make disciples who make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).

“Second, we have the privilege as a state convention to affirm and elect supportive and cooperative trustees each year. Our trustees believe in the mission of UM and value the cooperation with Alabama Baptists.

“Third, Alabama Baptists support UM with significant Cooperative Program dollars each year, over $2.6 million in 2020.

“The connection between UM and Alabama Baptists is a vital partnership and fruitful ministry for Christian higher education in our state,” Cox concluded.

About the Author

Kathy Dean

Kathy Dean uses her passion for storytelling and "playing with words" to share the stories of people, place and purpose that make the University of Mobile unique. As associate vice president for university communications, she manages media relations, edits the TorchLight alumni magazine, and oversees university communications. A former award-winning journalist, she is a two-time recipient of the Baptist Communicators Association grand prize for feature writing. Kathy and her husband, Chuck, live with three extremely loud miniature schnauzers.