Missionary Spotlight: Dr. Fermín A. Whittaker
FRESNO – “When I die they are going to put on my tombstone, ‘Reach every man, woman, boy and girl for Christ.’ That has been my heartbeat since I came to the Convention in 1995,” Fermín Whittaker says.
Passionate for Christ, Dr. Fermín A. Whittaker, executive director of California Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC), leads Fresno-based and field missionaries to assist CSBC churches in reaching the diverse communities throughout California for Christ. Fermín’s leadership of the Convention reflects a profound vision for planting churches, which he has always had.
“The Lord has given me a special gift of relating to people across cultural, social and economic platforms to share the Gospel of Christ,” Fermín said. “I enjoy doing that. I’m always trying to find ways to reach the lost and make disciples for Christ. That has been with me from when I was a young pastor at Primera Iglesia Bautista del Sur in Pico Rivera back in 1968. Most of my ministry has been building relationships with people and leading them to Christ.”
Fermín is a product of the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. He was born in Colón, Republic of Panamá, to Colombian parents. At that time, Southern Baptist work in Panamá was the responsibility of the Home Mission Board (HMB), now the North American Mission Board.
Fermín’s mother and father provided a Christian home for their family, and took their five children to a Southern Baptist church led by a Southern Baptist missionary. Señora Whittaker played the piano, and Fermín, her eldest son, actively participated in the church’s youth choir and Royal Ambassadors.
“I became a Christian at the age of 12 in Panamá through the ministry of a Sunday school teacher who insisted that I needed Jesus Christ as my Savior,” Fermín recalled.
His vast ministry experience in the United States began as a summer missionary for the HMB. He served as a pastor in the Los Angeles area and as a Southern Baptist home missionary in California until taking a leadership position with HMB in 1977. During his 18 years at HMB, Fermín served as assistant director of the Language Missions Division, director of the Ethnic Church Growth Department, and as a regional coordinator in the Planning and Finance Section. His philosophy of ministry was formed during those 25 years of mission service.
“My whole approach as executive director is to help keep our CSBC churches focused on reaching the lost and making disciples. We have been saying ‘reach the world for Christ.’ That has been our goal. We need to change that statement to ‘impacting our culture for Christ.’ If we change the culture – one man, woman, boy or girl at a time – we will reach the world. However, if we reach the world, we may not change the culture.”
Fermín has preached evangelistic crusades in the United States and other countries, has been a guest lecturer at several Southern Baptist seminaries, and has been involved in local denominational and civic affairs.
He received a bachelor of theology degree from Toronto Baptist Seminary (BTS) in 1964, and also earned a master of divinity degree from BTS in 1987. Fermín attended California Baptist College (now University), earning a bachelor of arts degree in 1969. He earned a doctor of ministry degree from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley in 1992. California Baptist University bestowed an honorary doctor of divinity degree on Fermín in 1997.
Fermín and his wife, Carmen, have two sons, Carlos and Eduardo, and four grandchildren.
Dr. Whittaker’s message to California Southern Baptists:
“Stay focused on the call of Christ to reach the lost and make disciples. (Don’t chase rabbits!) God’s calling on the lives of each of His followers is to continue the race, to press on and to finish well. Remember, He has already won the battle for His children!”
Dr. Whittaker’s prayer requests:
Pray that God will give CSBC congregations a vision for starting churches all around California in communities that are exploding with people from all over the world.
Pray that God will enable CSBC churches to locate and minister to unchurched ethnic/language culture groups living in California.
Pray that Southern Baptists will have a strong unity of purpose in resourcing mission work all over the world through the Cooperative Program.
Pray that God will provide His person wherever there is a vacancy in the Convention.
Pray to the Lord of the Harvest for the harvest hands needed to fulfill the Great Commission here in California.
Pray for generous giving to the California Mission Offering and the Cooperative Program.
Dr Whittaker’s contact information
Dr. Fermin A. Whittaker
CSBC Executive Director
678 E. Shaw Avenue
Fresno CA 93710-7704
E-mail Dr. Whittaker
Beth Downey, Executive Assistant