By KATIE EUBANKS
Some of Rob Futral’s earliest memories involve a tricycle and a dry cleaners.
“I would ride my tricycle underneath the hanging clothes, you know. And I can remember how they would move.”
Rob’s grandfather, Guy Futral, had ownership in the cleaners while serving as a pastor.
Guy and his wife, Mary Sue, had five sons, all of whom grew to be involved in ministry. The middle son, Jim, is Rob’s father and, until October 31, executive director-treasurer of the Mississippi Baptist Convention.
Jim Futral, known to grandkids as “Doc,” has preached all over the state and beyond for more than five decades, and will likely continue after retirement. He pastored Broadmoor Baptist Church for 13 years before taking the helm at the convention, and Rob later pastored Broadmoor for 15 years.
Now Rob and his wife, Kimandria, are moving to Redlands, California, where Rob will pastor Pathway Church. Sons Trea and Ridge will continue their education at Mississippi College and daughter Rivers will finish high school at Madison-Ridgeland Academy.
Whether in Mississippi, California or across the globe, the Futral family will continue sharing the light of Christ — as they have for seven decades.
Men, women and preachers
They were not a preaching family. That is, until God called Guy C. Futral in 1947.
“(He was) a young businessman in Greenwood,” Doc says of his father. “He had no point of reference (for working in ministry).”
Still, Guy sold Leflore Cleaners and went south to Mississippi College, where he got a bachelor of arts degree. After that, he preached and lived with his family all over the state — including Greenwood, where he went back to that same dry cleaners as a bi-vocational pastor.
When young Doc reached college age, he wanted to study law at the University of Mississippi. He had fond memories of selling Cokes at the home games as a kid so he could see the Rebels play. “I just thought that was the greatest thing in the world.”
Doc enrolled in 1962, the same year James Meredith became the university’s first known black student (others had passed as white); riots raged on campus and French journalist Paul Guihard was killed. Doc decided to delay entering Ole Miss because of all the unrest.
Instead, he joined the U.S. Army.
When he got back from his Army duties at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, he “had a confrontation with the Lord” and either won or
lost, depending on your perspective: He decided he would be a preacher, even though he was “shy and retiring, an introvert,” he says.
(Most people don’t believe that last part unless they know Doc well. He was the biggest cut-up at our cover shoot, but he was soft-spoken and reflective during this interview.)
Doc attended Blue Mountain College, a small Baptist institution in northeast Mississippi. At the time, Blue Mountain was an all-girls school.
“They let me go (there) because I was a pastor of a little church up there. You know, there are three kinds of people: men, women and pastors.”
He met his future wife, Shirley, the very first day. “He was funny,” Shirley says. “We just had a good time … He just kept cracking jokes and teasing me about being from Alabama.” (laughs)
Doc and Shirley married in 1964 and graduated Blue Mountain together. And for the next few decades, Shirley was the “rudder” that helped steer the family while Doc completed graduate degrees and pastored churches in Texas and Mississippi.
“Our three children have all received the blessings and benefits of a godly mother,” he says. “I tried to be at all their ball games and stuff, but without that rudder … “
“As a mother … I would quote from 3rd John 1:4: ‘I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth,’” Shirley says. “And to see my eight grandchildren walk in that truth is my greatest blessing.
“There’s a lot of joy in the journey. A lot of good times and bad times, but there is much joy, and it’s been my privilege to be a part of that and see whatGod does through His churches and through Mississippi Baptists.”
Doc has preached from Moscow, Russia to Pisgah, Mississippi and everywhere in between, he says. He once preached to a circle of trail riders in covered wagons, and he once performed a wedding at 35,000 feet on a flight to Chicago.
Twenty-one years ago, he “retired” from being a full-time pastor, in the traditional sense. But he preaches more now — averaging 365 days a year, he says — than he ever did before.
How does that happen when he’s got a full-time job at the convention? Well, it’s sort of part of the job. Doc is known as “Mississippi’s Pastor,” Rob says.
And, the weekend before this interview, Doc preached twice on Saturday and twice on Sunday — each time at a different gathering or event.
An attorney friend once asked him if, in such a scenario, he would write just one sermon and preach it four times. Doc’s response: “When you have four court cases, do you say the same thing at the four different trials?”
Doc is retiring from the convention at the end of October, but he’s not planning on slowing down too much.
“People say, ‘Congratulations on retiring!’ And I think, ‘For what?’ And I realize they’re congratulating me for not working. And that is the furthest thing from my desire.
“I just love what I do,” he says.
A gospel-centered family
When Rob Futral was a sophomore in high school, his dad was pastoring Broadmoor. The family had moved from Texas back to Mississippi the previous year.
Rob just wanted to go back to Texas, to Baylor University, and study law. Sound familiar?
That spring, despite Rob’s initial desires, “I really sensed God was calling me to ministry,” he says. And he decided to follow that calling.
Two years later, Rob enrolled at Mississippi College, like his granddad Guy had done.
In the middle of Rob’s freshman year, a church called Horseshoe Baptist was in need of a preacher to fill in on a Sunday. Horseshoe Baptist was in “the suburbs of Tchula,” a small town in Holmes County, he says.
He agreed to preach that week — and the week after that — and by late spring, he was the new pastor. He preached his first funeral at 19 years old, for a believer who’d struggled with lung cancer but knew Jesus was going to take care of him.
“I often say I got a diploma from Mississippi College but I got an education at Horseshoe.”
Rob and his wife, Kimandria, figured they’d wind up planting churches somewhere outside the Bible Belt. Instead, after stints in Kentwood, Louisiana, and New Orleans, they were called right back to Mississippi, to Country Woods Baptist Church in Byram.
There the Futrals encountered other young couples and people who imparted wisdom to them. They started learning how to disciple their kids. Over the years, Trea (22), Ridge (19) and Rivers (17) have all been on international mission trips. Rob also took each of them to Washington D.C. when they turned 10.
“We’ve really tried to be a gospel-centered family, and not just you need to get saved, but because you know Jesus, what difference has that made in your life, and how can you be a part of making a difference in other people’s lives?”
Kimandria, a speech therapist, says the mission trips “made an impact on (the kids) because of the relationships they made there with our translators and our team leaders, and how those ladies and men invested in our kids and just showed them what the Christian walk looked like.”
She and Rob have tried to instill in their children that God doesn’t bless you for yourself alone, she says. “It’s to be a blessing to others and have a giving heart and to see those around you, to see them as Christ would see them — not in a judgmental way but in a compassionate and loving way.”
In 2003, Rob took the pastor position at Broadmoor. At first, he wasn’t too keen on the idea: His father had pastored the church for more than a decade, and comparisons would be inevitable.
“But (after I had taken the job) he said to me one day, ‘You’re leading completely differently than I did. And I never would’ve known how to lead that way. Because you’re uniquely you.’
“And I see that with my boys (now myself).”
From Dubai to Hickory Ridge
A prime example of Rob’s sons leading in fresh ways: Trea’s evangelism work in the labor camps of Dubai in 2015. Rob visited him there once and had no idea where to start.
“It was the first time in my life as a dad where I had been planning the adventures and taking them on the adventures, and now he was leading me in the adventure. And that’s really what you want,” Rob says.
Dubai was just one place Trea lived during a gap year he took between high school and college. He traveled all over for mission work, and the experience changed him.
“I became a Christian when I was 16. And it probably wasn’t until I was 18 that I had grown in my relationship with Christ to where I understood His mission for the world, and for the people around me,” Trea says.
“So that year (abroad) really molded my life.”
During that year, he met pastor Terry Fant of Hickory Ridge Baptist Church in Florence, where Trea now helps with teaching and worship for the youth group.
He admits that transitioning back to Mississippi after overseas ministry was difficult.
“It almost seemed like two different faiths (in Dubai versus Mississippi), you know. So I’ve wrestled with that since I got back home. What’s kind of funny is, God called me to the most Southern Baptist conservative country church … (But) Jesus cares for all people.”
In the meantime, Trea is pursuing a nursing degree at MC — he’s just over halfway done —and coaching at Cairo CrossFit in Clinton.
How did he get into CrossFit? Well, he saw the benefits firsthand — in his parents.
“When I was in high school and playing basketball, (my parents) started doing CrossFit … I came in for a workout … and my parents, Rob and Kimandria, both whipped me.”
Now that Trea’s a CrossFit coach, he cheekily claims he has a “great advantage” over his folks, especially since they are 1) no longer doing CrossFit and 2) “aging really quickly.” However, “(once) they move to California, then Rob might grow his hair back out and he might get the beach bod again, I don’t know.”
In terms of ministry, Trea doesn’t necessarily feel called to be a pastor. Right now he’s interested in the idea of taking his nursing skills to a place with great need. For instance, “because of their diet, Type 2 diabetes is rampant (in the Middle East). So I thought about maybe specializing in that.”
Whatever he winds up doing, “I feel like God is challenging me (to minister) — whether I’m a nurse at St. Dominic’s or coaching CrossFit or whether I end up going to seminary and pastoring a church one day.”
No pressure — seriously
Like older brother Trea, Ridge wants to reach people for Christ regardless of his career.
Right now he’s preparing to enter MC in the fall, where he’ll play football. He’s an outside linebacker. He intends to major in biochemistry and would like to pursue either physical therapy or athletic training. He’d love to be an athletic trainer for a college football team one day.
“(Sports medicine) is a very personal job,” he says. “I feel like a job of that sort can be used to carry out the Great Commission. And for me, a day of work — I’m not one that’s going to want to sit in an office.”
Has he felt pressure to enter vocational ministry? Not from his family, he says.
Rob backs that up: “I’ve never said you need to be this or this or this — because I don’t feel like I’m in charge of that. In fact, I know I’m not. The Lord knows how He wants them to live their (faith),” he says.
However, Ridge says he is grateful to be able to go to his dad and granddad for advice— and now he goes to Trea, too, who’s experienced the teenage years more recently.
Ridge and Trea will have to step up in 2019–20 to make Rivers’ senior year at MRA special while Rob and Kimandria are in California.
Rivers takes it all in stride — she’d have to be more independent the following year for college anyway, she says.
“I think this will be a good year to grow from, and of course I’m excited for my parents,” she says. “And I’ll get to go to California all the time, so that’s nice.”
She’s not sure yet where she wants to go to school or what she wants to major in. But her parents have done their best to prepare her for anything.
“With basketball, they taught me just to work hard. And one thing my dad has been telling me is just not to limit myself, which is kind of funny now that he’s going to California. And both our parents teach us to get out of our comfort zones,” she says.
“That’s kind of a challenge for me. I’m kind of a homebody. But that’s something that they’ve taught me.”
Ridge says Rob has been intentional about teaching him the definition of Godly manhood— “or honestly, the definition of a person of God. What it says is that a man rejects passivity, accepts responsibility, leads courageously and invests eternally.”
Doing ‘crazy things’ for Jesus
Rob and Kimandria are moving to California this month. They’ll miss being “right down the road” from family and will have to be more deliberate about the moments they do have together, Kimandria says.
“We (also) have lifelong friends here. So we’re hoping they’ll come out and visit us.”
Ridge will miss seeing his folks after every football game, though they will make some.
“Honestly, I always expected it to be more of me going off for college, but it’s kind of like them going off for college,” Ridge says. “(But) I haven’t really struggled (with it) as much as I’ve been excited for them — seeing my dad excited, and the new things that the Lord is bringing in his life.”
When Rob and Kimandria were still exploring next steps over the past several months, they met a couple in Colorado. “Their son was in college,” Rob says, “and he called or texted them one night, and he said, ‘I hope you won’t settle for what’s comfortable in your life. I hope you’ll do crazy things for Jesus.’”
Rob’s emotions start to come through his voice. He pauses to collect himself.
“And it was really cool to hear that. You can’t just say (to your kids), ‘We’re going to send you guys out for the kingdom, but we’re just going to play it safe.’ You’ve got to ask yourself, ‘OK, are we going to do what we’ve taught them to do, and trust God?’”
Here’s to lots of future adventures.