My name is Timmy Brister. Those who know me call me Tim. Those who know me only from the Internet call me Timmy. I am 33 years old, the husband of Dusti (for nine years) and the father of Nolan, Aiden, and one on the way. I am a pastor and elder of Grace Baptist Church, founder/director of the PLNTD Network, director of The Haiti Collective, organizer for Band of Bloggers, and creator of P2R (Partnering to Remember) and the Memory Moleskine.
My family background stems from strong Christian roots on my father’s side and Old Testament bad guys on my mother’s side. The Brister’s, as I understand it, came over from England during the Nonconformist movement of the 17th century. My grandfather represents a long lineage of faithful ministry, having preached the gospel for over 70 years, in two wars, and across the country. The Bet-sayad’s (my mother’s side) are Assyrian (ethnicity) and Iranian (nationality). As a first generation American on my mother’s side, I grew with a multicultural, multilingual background (my mother spoke five languages). Due persecution and war, the Bet-sayad family was separated for nearly 15 years, only being able to reunite after congressional approval in 1987.
Growing up in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida and later Athens, AL, I was reared in a home where the Bible was foundational and church was essential. At the early age of eight, I came to point where I was overcome with the weight of sin and certain punishment of hell which I knew my sins deserved and cast all my hope in Jesus Christ as my Savior. After a few years of little growth, I was taught as a young teenager how to read and study the Bible and cultivate a deeper devotional life. Through the Spirit’s guidance, I began to have an insatiable hunger for the Bible and to know God. Though I had a love for sports (especially baseball), I knew in my heart that there was nothing I could or would do with my than to devote it to knowing and proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.
From 1997-2001, I attended the University of Mobile where I graduated with a degree in religious studies. More importantly, it was my first exposure to international missions, which captured my heart. During that time, I was given the opportunity to serve in various places, including Brasil, Uruguay, and Grand Cayman. Also during this period, I had my first ministry experience serving in local churches, leading youth and college ministries, as well as starting an outreach on campus to international students and athletes.
From 2001-2004, I accepted the invitation to serve with a local church near my hometown in Athens, Alabama, developing a youth and college ministry (which I called Outpost Ministries). It was here that I developed a passion for discipleship and equipping people for missions and evangelism. Also during this time, I met my wife, Dusti, and were married on July 19, 2003. Through providential circumstances, God made it clear that he was leading me to another direction which I did not anticipate, that being seminary education.
From 2004-2008, I attended the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. I studied in the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth and worked part-time at UPS (third shift). While in seminary, I became more historically conscious of evangelical life, learning what it means to be confessional, and having a robust theological framework to declare the whole counsel of the Word of God. Also during this time, I took up the practice of blogging, starting in 2005 and continuing to this day. Many of the people I have come to know in evangelical circles I first met through this medium (including the start of Band of Bloggers in 2006), for which I am truly grateful. One of those men was Tom Ascol, who quickly became to me like a spiritual father and counselor through trying times.
In 2008, I accepted the offer of Pastor Tom and Grace Baptist Church (Cape Coral, FL) to come serve on the pastoral team, giving leadership to discipleship, missions, evangelism, leadership development, and other various administrative duties. Since that time, Grace has transitioned to become a church planting church, planting our first daughter church in 2010 with many more hopefully in the future. We also experienced other significant changes and growth, including a fast-growing mission initiative in Haiti which I started called The Haiti Collective in 2010 and replanting our church in late 2011 an early 2012.
While in seminary, I began to consider how God might best use my gifts and passions to serve the body of Christ. I have a great passion for the local church, missions and evangelism/disciple-making. As I began to consider what God was doing in my generation, I discovered a great need to connect the providential movements of God to ground-level kingdom advance through local churches. Those providential movements were fourfold: (1) a passion for the centrality and sufficiency of the gospel, (2) a desire to live on mission in word and deed, (3) a confessional commitment to the Word of God, and (4) a renewal of ecclesiological distinctives. My goal is to develop a delivery system to create an environment for those who are gospel-centered, missionally-driven, confessionally Reformed, and distinctively Baptist in ways that will help them flourish in the Great Commission. The formation of this process led to the birth of the PLNTD Network.
In June 2010, I officially announced the beginnings of PLNTD with online resource and relational community with two additional components (regional networks and residency centers in local churches) in the works. As the network continued the formation process, I transitioned in September 2011 to full-time work with PLNTD while serving as an elder at Grace. Since then, PLNTD has continued to clarify its vision, forward its mission, and develop its leadership team. By early 2013, our hope is to have the network fully “launched” with all components integrated in an ecosystem which we believe will encourage, resource, train, send, and coach ministry leaders whether church planters, church planting churches, ministry leaders doing church revitalization, or others leading gospel communities on mission.