“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.” - Luke 10:1

Jesus sent out his disciples two by two.

Now University Baptist Church has called its newest pastors that way.

The Revs. Mike Massar, 62, and Griff Martin, 31, this month became the co-pastors of the 500-member church surrounded by sprawling live oaks along Highland Road.

“People have two responses,” Martin said. “They say either this is the most brilliant (ministry) model we’ve ever heard of, or this is crazy.”

“It may just be crazy brilliant,” Massar suggested. “We do think it is the model for the future.”

They see the co-pastor model providing them with an accountability partner that many traditional, solitary pastors don’t have as well as someone with whom to share the burdens of pastoral ministry.

“So often the pastor is a lonely position,” Massar said. “Having someone to share that with is good for me.”

Making the ministry relationship work will require something similar to the effort put into a Christ-like marriage, Martin said. “One of the components of a good marriage is that both the husband and wife want the other to succeed more than they want to succeed, and that has to be part of this.”

Massar noted how the scriptural basis for their co-ministry includes not only Jesus sending the disciples out in pairs, but also such missionary duos of the early church as Paul teaming with Barnabas and Simon Peter partnering with John Mark.

And while the use of co-pastors is still rare in Southern Baptist life, it’s not unheard of, said the Rev. John L. Yeats, director of communications and public policy for the Louisiana Baptist Convention and recording secretary for the Southern Baptist Convention.

As an example, he noted the Rev. Roger Spradlin, SBC executive committee chairman, who is co-pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif., with the Rev. Phil Neighbors.

“One of the wonderful things about Southern Baptist churches is that they are independent in their methodologies,” Yates said.

For several of the 18 months since the Rev. Jay Hogewood left University Baptist, the pastoral search committee wrestled with the co-pastorate concept as well as the economic challenge of writing two more staff paychecks, explained Dudley Fricke, committee chairman.

“To my surprise and delight, the church bought into it immediately,” Fricke said.

Both the pastors and Fricke said they are depending on God for the finances in these lean economic times.

Massar and Martin came to Baton Rouge from Sugarland, Texas, where they served the last two years together at Sugarland Baptist Church, Massar as pastor and Martin as associate pastor.

There they formed a relationship that sometimes includes finishing each other’s sentences, they said.

“We both share the same work habits,” Massar added. “We’re both energetic and take-charge kind of guys.”

The men plan to spend a lot of time listening to the concerns of the congregation and also have daily prayer and Bible study together.

“It’s very important we both are on the same page,” Massar said.

“We want the church to know there are two pastors but one pastoral voice,” Martin said. “When Mike speaks in a committee meeting, he speaks for me, and I can speak for Mike as well.”

Both men will visit the sick, teach Bible classes, share the pulpit on alternating weeks and even occasionally co-preach the same sermon.

Bob Bozeman, a member since 1991, is impressed with the teamwork so far. “They both have a lot of energy and ideas and dedication.”

Edith Kirkpatrick, 92, one of the church’s oldest members, has been attending for 20 years, and is a former Sunday school teacher for the college students. “I hope we can get more college students,” Kirkpatrick said.

“The sermon (when both preached July 10) was amazing,” college student and lifelong member Jacob Allen Nichols, 19, said.

Breanne Strawn, 22, is an LSU student who has been attending here for a year. “I think it will be great to have both of them ? They feed off each other a lot.”

Massar grows up in faith

Massar grew up in a church-attending, Midland, Texas, Baptist family, the oldest son of an accountant, with two younger sisters and a brother.

“I was nurtured into the faith rather than having some kind of miraculous experience with Christ,” he said. “There was never a day I didn’t know the love of Christ.”

At the age of 7 or 8, Massar said, he met with his pastor at the prompting of his mother to give his life to Christ. “Pastor John Rasco ? talked about the love of Christ and talked about salvation in terms that have really been helpful ever since.”

But Massar’s faith was challenged when his best friend in high school was fatally struck in the head by a discus at a track and field event.

“A lot of people said this is God’s will,” Massar said. “I really struggled with that.”

At Baylor University, Massar discussed his friend’s death with a religion professor, telling him, “I just can’t handle a God like that.”

The professor couldn’t handle a god like that either, Massar said. “He welcomed my questions and showed me Christianity had a wonderful side that welcomed my questions.”

Massar changed majors from pre-dental and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in religion. From 1974 to 1982 he served on the youth staff of Seventh and James Baptist Church on the Baylor Campus and felt a call to the ministry when the church paid his way to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

He and his wife, Lisa, have three adult children.

In 1988, he earned his doctorate of ministry at the Graduate Theological Foundation at Notre Dame University.

“I believe your relationship with Christ is intensely personal, but I also want to be a respecter of other persons’ walks and even other persons’ faiths,” Massar said. “I’m not going to judge them. I love the inclusiveness that God so loved the world and not just part of us. He loves us all. My job is not to send people to Hell; my job is to point people to Heaven.”

Martin also a church kid

Martin, who grew up attending church in Austin, Texas, remembers declaring to his mother at the age of 5 how he wanted to be a preacher, so he would only have to work one day a week. The son of a businessman, he has a younger sister and adopted brother.

“Faith to me is a large ocean and my entire life I’ve been learning to swim deeper and deeper into it,” Martin said. “There have been times and places where there has been a divine encounter, truly spiritual in every sense of that word.”

He met his eventual wife, Abby, in high school and they both attended Baylor University, where he majored in journalism and she in education. He earned his masters degree in educational psychology and divinity from Baylor’s Truett Seminary and is currently competing his doctorate at Truett.

During his ministry at Sugarland, he occasionally preached and led mission trips to Kenya.

“Missions has played a large role in my calling, in Suriname, Nicaragua and Kenya, and I have heard and seen God very active,” Martin said. “But I always see and hear God in the people around me and in creation. God’s voice comes very clearly to me through others and through his greatest works in scripture and creation.”

He described his basic doctrine as having three components.

“Number one, God is love. Number two, Jesus is the perfect example of God and humanity, and he truly means it when he says we are supposed to live lives like Jesus,” Martin said. “And number three, I think everything is quite spiritual if we learn to see it correctly. Life is really a gift, and if we don’t learn to appreciate that, we miss that God is really present to us every day.”