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Dr. James H. Semple, 80, former pastor of First Baptist Church, Paris and Director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, State Missions Commission peacefully went to be with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on July 22, 2012, in his home in Dallas, Texas in the company of his wife, Betty Jane, and family. Born August 23, 1931, in Tifton, Georgia, to Mary Francis Poole and Henry Semple, the family moved to Miami, Florida that same year.
Services will be held at First Baptist Church, Paris, Tx, on Thursday July, 26 at 2:00 p.m. with Dr. William Pinson and Bailey Stone officiating. The body will be available for viewing one hour prior to the service. The family will receive friends from 6:00-8:00 PM at the church Wednesday evening. The family will also be at the home of Rev. Ken and Jenene Cannon.
Surviving are children Jim Semple, Jr. and wife Becky of Paris, John Semple of Plano, Jan Semple McKinney of Paris, Jill Mazzola and husband, Jody, of Parker, Jenene Cannon and husband Ken of Paris, and JoNel Eads of Paris. Grandchildren are Jeffrey Semple, Jay Semple, Jennifer Elrod, Julie Blount, Jessica Semple, John Mark Semple, Brennan Semple, Leah Semple, Janae McKinney Gibson, Jami McKinney, Jill McKinney, Jordan Semple McKinney, Joseph Mazzola, Jared Mazzola, Katie Cannon, Joel Cannon, Jerica Olson, Jeremy Eads, and Joshua Eads. He also leaves 20 great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, an infant son Robert Stephen , a grandson, Jonathon Thomas Eads, and son-in-law, Dr. Tommy Eads.
Dr. Semple was saved and called into the ministry in the Allapattah Baptist Church in Miami, Florida, and went on to earn a B.A., at Stetson University, Deland, Florida. He then received a B.D., from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas followed by a Th.D. in Church History.
His student pastorates include the Olivet Baptist Church in Ocala, Florida, the Balsora Baptist Church in Wise County, Texas, the Northside Baptist Church in Mineral Wells, Texas, and the Oakview Baptist Church, in Fort Worth, Texas. Post Graduate pastorates were the First Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, and the First Baptist Church in Paris, Texas where he served for over 25 years. While there, he conducted the first “Together We Build” Campaign in Texas. Even during major building campaigns and direct missions work, FBC Paris continued giving 20% through the Cooperative Program for the 25 years he served. The Sunday School increased 130% to 3,500 enrollment while the population in Paris grew approximately 10%. Active in evangelism, the church conducted 18 semesters of Continuing Witness Training and maintained a strong outreach program through multiple mission ministries and Sunday School visitation each week. FBC Paris also helped support many missions and churches in the River Ministry and Pioneer Mission areas.
Following his 25 years as pastor of First Baptist Church of Paris, Dr. Semple accepted the position as Director of the State Missions Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. The areas of his service included Church Stewardship, Church Administration, Bi-Vocational/Smaller Church Department, Church Staff Foundation, Church Staff Information Service, Evangelism, Ethnic Missions, Church Ministries, Church Extension Church Building Planning, Black Church Development, River Ministry, Creative Church Development, Sunday School/Discipleship, and Disaster Relief. The Commission also provided communication in cooperative effort with Women’s Missionary Union of Texas, Texas Baptist Men, Partnership Missions and Mission Service Corps.
Books authored or co-authored by Dr. Semple include “Bible Study Lessons: Beliefs Important to Baptists”, Teachers’ Edition, “On Wings Of Eagles”, The History Of FBC White Settlement, “Isaiah and Jeremiah”, Adult Bible Teaching Guide, “Exodus :Freed To Follow God”. “Beliefs Important To Baptists” Study Guide, and “Bible Truths About God”.
Dr. Semple published articles in Home Life, Christianity Today, The Adult Teacher, Home Missions Magazine, Baptist Standard, Florida Baptist Witness, Christian Life, The Baptist Program, Sunday School Leadership, and others. He also was the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board adult lesson writer for the Baptist Standard in Texas and was a contributor to the Holman Discipleship Bible.
Denominational Service included Executive Committee, Southern Baptist Convention, 1967-75, Executive Board, Baptist General Convention of Texas, 1965-71 and 1977-83, Chairman of the Board, Baptist Church Loan Association, 1968-70, Chairman, Texas Baptist History Committee, 1970, Institutional Study Committee and Church State Study, Baptist General Convention of Texas Administrative Committee, BGCT 1978-84; Chairman, 1984, Board of Trustees, Baptist Standard, 1983-88, Chairman, Constitutional Review Committee, BGCT of Texas, Chairman, Share Jesus Now statewide Personal Evangelism Campaign, 1987-88, General Chairman, ten area-wide crusades, Parliamentarian, Southern Baptist Convention, 1983-84, Parliamentarian, BGCT, 1980, Chairman, Resolutions Committee and Credentials Committee, BGCT, Chairman of the Southern Baptist Nationwide Church Growth Conference, 1992.
Dr. Semple was a well known denomination speaker and preacher. Some of his engagements included Speaker for Evangelism Conferences of Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Minnesota-Wisconsin, and California. He was also the featured speaker for the Bi-Vocational Pastors Evangelism Conferences, Oregon-Washington Pastors/Wives Retreats, Arizona Sunday School Conference, numerous Texas Regional Sunday School Conventions, Louisiana Church Growth Conferences, New Orleans Metro Clinic, Evangelistic Crusades in Indonesia, Japan, Hong Kong, and Los Angeles, California, numerous Continuing Witness Training Seminars, Associational Evangelism Conferences, preacher for Sunday School Week at Glorieta, 1988, and Ridgecrest, 1990, and Bible Preaching Week at Glorieta, 1991.
Dr. Semple has been listed in “Who’s Who in South and Southwest” and listed in the first edition of “Who’s Who In Religion”. He was awarded Home Mission Board Outstanding Evangelistic Pastor of a Multi- Staff Church in 1987 and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Texas Alumni of the Year in 1988. In 2000 Semple was selected by the citizens of Paris/Lamar County as one of the 50 most influential citizens of the 20th century.
Dr. Semple’s interim ministries since 1989 include, Westbury Baptist Church of Houston, Texas, First Baptist Church of Brandon, Florida, First Baptist Church of Humble, Texas, First Baptist Church of Kaufman, Texas, Glen Meadows Baptist Church, San Angelo, Texas, First Baptist Church Granbury, Texas, Central Baptist Church Hillsboro, Texas, Evangelism Director Baptist Convention of New Mexico from 2004-2006, Interim Executive Director Baptist Convention of New Mexico in 2005, Shiloh terrace Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas, and Pastor, First Baptist Church, Stephenville, Texas. Dr. Semple was an avid fisherman, but an even far more passionate fisher of men.
Memorial gifts may be sent to James and Betty Scholarship at Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth, Tx., to the James and Betty Semple Scholarship at Dallas Baptist University, 3000 Creek Parkway, Dallas, Tx., 75211, or to the Dr. James and Betty Semple Scholarship at Stephenville, First Baptist Church, 76401.