The path of ministry traveled by Raymond F. Culpepper has been filled with joy and happiness, as well as challenges and struggles. As the son of a former assistant general overseer, the new general overseer has a keen sense of appreciation and knowledge, as well as a rich heritage in the Church of God.
Raymond Culpepper, who turns 59 in two weeks, is a true product of the Church of God, not only through his heritage, but through his experiences growing up in a Church of God minister's home. His parents, J. Frank and Kohatha Culpepper, modeled leadership at many levels from pastoral to executive. J. Frank Culpepper had just completed several years on the Executive Committee when he passed away in 1984 while serving as state overseer of North Georgia.
Raymond is a graduate of the Church of God's premier institution, Lee University, and received his first Church of God appointment, as state youth and Christian education director for northern California at the age of 23. This appointment set him on a path of state youth ministry that would take him to the state of Indiana (1974-76) and Alabama (1976-80).
After years of anointed state leadership and evangelism which included preaching at camp meetings and youth camps across the nation, Raymond Culpepper felt the call to church planting. Some questioned the young preacher's decision to leave an up and coming youth leadership profile at its rising, but soon realized the anointing upon the decision. Rev. Culpepper's burden drew him to the city of Birmingham, Alabama where he and his family began the Riverchase Church of God. The seedling church, which was eventually renamed Birmingham Metropolitan, grew to over 3,000 members in the 24 years Rev. Culpepper was its shepherd. The facilities relocated to a prominent site along I-459 and the congregation undertook three building programs resulting in the 2,000-seat sanctuary of today.
During the Metro years Raymond Culpepper's ministry continued to flourish. Leaders in and out of the denomination recognized the anointing on the emerging church leader and called upon him hundreds of times to deliver camp meeting sermons, General Assembly addresses, university convocations and television broadcasts. The exposure of his God-given evangelism to thousands around the world brought him deserved recognition among his Church of God peers, as they elected him three separate times to the Council of Eighteen. In 2004 he accepted the mandate from the General Assembly to serve as first assistant general overseer. He has now been elected as the next General Overseer of the Church of God.
Education has been a priority in Raymond Culpepper's life and ministry since the days when he was class president and student government leader at Lee College, now university. He has kept his Alma Mater close to his heart ever since, being intently involved in its development and having the privilege to serve 12 years as chairman of the board. He has furthered his education with studies at Samford University and Butler University and a masters degree from California Graduate School of Theology. Lee University honored him for his service with the bestowing of a D.D. degree.
Raymond Culpepper knew early on who he wanted to be his partner in ministry when he married Peggy Price in 1970, just before his 21st birthday. They are approaching 40 years together and have raised three children: Raymond II, Elizabeth and Jessica. Just two weeks ago the Culpeppers welcomed their third grandchild. Like her husband, Peggy has deep roots in Church of God heritage as the granddaughter of Rev. D.B. Price, a highly respected and successful pastor in Florida for many years. Peggy grew up with four brothers and her mother, Ruth, lives in Nashville, Georgia, with her stepfather who is Judge Elvin Akers.
General Overseer Culpepper has already outlined three primary objectives, the first being a continued call to prayer.
"Prayer is the Holy intersection between the head of the church and the church where the Kingdom agenda is enforced on earth as it is in Heaven," Culpepper said. "We have made great strides over the years, but great strides are not made without being on our knees. Those who advance the Kingdom do so through prayer."
Secondly, the general overseer-designate outlined his call to continue the Great Commission. "Jesus gives us five locations where he shows us different perspectives of the Great Commission," Culpepper stated. "I believe the imperative of the Church is now, and has always been, the Great Commission. If we use yesterday's methods to reach today's world we will not be in business tomorrow."
Rev. Culpepper's final objective involves what he is calling, "A Quest for Trust" where he is planning to conduct a listening tour of states and regions of the world and do nothing more than listen. "This will not be for promotion or lectures," he stated. It will be purely focused on listening to the people we lead because we are called to be servants. How can we serve if we don't know the hearts of those we are serving?" Rev. Culpepper pledged to utilize the latest means of communications throughout his service including Internet Q&A sessions as part of the third objective.
"We truly want to open the windows and doors and welcome in the air of trust."
[General Assembly TODAY, Friday, August 8, 2008]