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New Heritage Hills Baptist preacher holds a passion to help people embrace God

Pastor Doug Ferguson of Heritage Hills Baptist Church in Conyers.

Pastor Doug Ferguson of Heritage Hills Baptist Church in Conyers.

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Pastor Doug Ferguson began leading Heritage Hills Baptist Church in November.

It might take a few years, but certain church members at Heritage Hills Baptist are hoping to convert their new pastor. Dr. Doug Ferguson is an all-out Clemson fan ministering among a host of Bulldogs.

The Easley, S.C., native said it could happen. He has a set of UGA Bulldog stadium seats someone gave him as a gift and while he has not dared take them to Clemson University's Death Valley football stadium, he said cheering for UGA is not out of the question considering his grandchildren might one day attend there.

"I do have a few here who are planning on getting that accomplished," Ferguson said with a laugh about church members working to turn him into a UGA fan. "... My oldest daughter went to Clemson and when my money went there, my heart did too."

The 53-year-old Ferguson recently became the pastor at Heritage Hills Baptist Church in Conyers, coming to the 1,300-member church from Welcome Baptist Church in Greenville, S.C., where he had served as pastor since 2003. Growing up in Easley, Ferguson said he did not attend church much until his mid-teenage years when church friends "expressed interest in me and prayed for me and encouraged my attendance."

"One of the biggest factors was my barber was also my Sunday School teacher and every time I'd go get my hair cut, he stay on me (about church)," Ferguson said. "I don't much need a barber now. He got hold of me when I had hair."

Ferguson began attending Brushy Creek Baptist Church in Easley, where he made a profession of faith at the age of 18 and became an associate pastor when he was 21. A year later, he was called as a full-time pastor.

"I don't know what that church did -- Calvary Baptist Church in Salem, S.C. -- that God punished them by giving them a 22-year-old pastor," Ferguson joked.

But that pastorate kicked off a ministry that is now in its 33rd year.

Ferguson, who was working at the time as an engineering draftsman for a company in Easley, said immediately after he came to know the Lord as his savior, "there was just that compelling drive in me that would not be satisfied in me until I acknowledged God had called me into the ministry."

He answered that call and enrolled at Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute in North Carolina.

"I started preaching and God started using me," he said. "I started doing revivals. This was just right on the heels of my experience of faith as accepting Christ as my savior that I knew that's what Christ wanted me to do. I couldn't be satisfied until I did that."

Ferguson went on to receive his bachelor's degree in ministry, master's degree in Bible studies and doctorate in ministry from the Southern Baptist School for Biblical Studies. He has also taken additional courses through the Southern Baptist Seminary Extension, Luther Rice Seminary and Toccoa Falls College.

Brushy Creek Baptist ordained the young minister in 1981, and since that time he has served churches ranging in an average worship attendance of around 100 to more than 500.

Prior to becoming pastor at Welcome Baptist, Ferguson served Pleasant Hill Baptist Church of Lavonia and Pole Creek Baptist Church in Candler, N.C. He has held positions in Baptist associations, including moderator, vice-moderator, director of evangelism, finance committee chairman and as a member of the personnel committee.

Ferguson's first Sunday as pastor of Heritage Hills Baptist Church was in early November and he reflects on the process that actually began in March of last year when a fellow minister encouraged him to allow Heritage Hills to consider him as possibly becoming its pastor.

"Shortly thereafter, I looked at the church on the website and analyzed the church as well as I could and believed we would be a good match," he said.

"I continued to pray that the Lord's will would be done. The more we did so, the more they felt drawn toward me and I felt drawn toward them. It's just absolutely undeniable it's what God put in all of our hearts."

Ferguson said he has received a welcome reception from the congregation at Heritage Hills.

"It's very warm and very exciting and very receptive," he said. "They're rallying around me in every supportive way. There's a strong optimism in the church about the future and they're looking to me to lead them in the direction God would have them to go."

Heritage Hills Baptist Church off Highway 212 in Conyers, is currently hosting its Upward Basketball program and the pastor said plans are under way for upcoming mission trips in 2012. He said the church has long participated in international mission work by sending church members on many mission trips.

This week, the church will actually commission two Heritage Hills members who have been called into full-time foreign mission work. Following Sunday's commissioning program, the couple will begin serving as career missionaries with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board and be stationed in Southeast Asia.

Ferguson and his wife, Joan, have been married for 32 years and are the parents of two married daughters and have four grandchildren. Their daughters married brothers and each brother has served as chairman of deacons at the church Ferguson pastored in Lavonia and where both daughters and their families still attend. They are Bridget and Charlie Stratton and Bethany and James Stratton.

The Fergusons spent Christmas with their children and grandchildren and as the new year begins, they are getting to know members of their new congregation and the Rockdale community. Heritage Hills Baptist has two Sunday morning services, including a traditional blend service at 8:30 and a contemporary blend service at 11.

The community is invited to come visit the church and meet the new pastor, whom search committee members cited as being "studious, a good communicator and a people person."

"I do Bible exposition," Ferguson said of his preaching style. "I love to preach through books of the Bible. I'm a teacher, but with a passion for the purpose of bringing out a decision for a life change."

Beth Sexton is a freelance writer based in Snellville, Ga. If you have a story idea, contact Karen Rohr, features editor, at karen.rohr@rockdalecitizen.com.