Dr. Jay Wolf
Dr. Jay Wolf heads a mighty church. Its membership is 5100 and counting. Massive stone structures of the First Baptist complex cover some five acres in downtown Montgomery.
By Patsy Robertson
And yet he does not see himself as mighty. Modestly, and with a gentle smile, he describes himself using three analogies — as a chief gardener, a football coach and a factory manager.
Sitting comfortably in his office surrounded by personal photos and memorabilia, Jay exudes a youthful joy, an excitement, in discussing the many missions of First Baptist Church.
He explains that this very Church has “survived and flourished” in the middle of downtown Montgomery since 1829. “It’s because the Church has opened its arms to all people,” Dr. Wolf says. “We’ve never lost sight of our purpose.” He explains, “It is to serve mankind and spread the love of Jesus . . . not to be a social club.”
The 63-year-old senior minister has initiated a wide variety of programs since arriving 26 years ago. In fact, there are more than 50 diverse ministry programs striving to meet the needs of every age, race and type person.
Evangelistic programs locally include the spectacular Living Christmas Tree, Crossroads Television Broadcast, and a prison ministry.
The International Ministry uses teaching English to share Christ’s love with over 600 people from 61 countries.
Jay was a primary force in organizing churches of all denominations and ethnic backgrounds to join the One Montgomery initiative. His tireless efforts to heal racial wounds continue as he organizes and supports activities in needy areas of our city.
Dr. Wolf helped start the Community Ministries on South Perry Street which annually collects and provides food, clothing and basic life necessities to those in need.
He helped facilitate the Church’s vision for a facility to serve the Chisholm community by raising funds to purchase and refurbish an old gym, now called the Nehemiah Center. (Nehemiah Ch 2.) It provides after school educational programs, recreational activities and even a community garden for the area children and residents.
“One of the greatest blessings this year,” he noted, was the Lanier Football Team Outreach event. “We fed 80 young men and their coaches before each home game.” Jay credits Merrill Ingram and others in “making God’s love edible!”
A sampling of other thriving ministries includes the Caring Center which provides food, clothes, household items, life skill training, financial assistance and Barnabas Ministry (encouragement, motivation and assistance to the unemployed. Acts 4:36-37.)
Who is this magnificent gardener (helping grow abundant metaphorical fruit), coach, plant manager (overseeing God’s production), you may ask?
Jay is a man who grew up in a secular, prosperous home in Georgetown, Texas. He was expected to enter the business world and pursue the goal of making “lots of money.” But he, as Apostle Paul, came to a eureka moment. For Jay it came following a funeral and questioning what happens to life after death. A favorite school teacher kindly stepped forward to explain, and encouraged him to read the Bible. When the Spirit moved Jay Wolf, it wasn’t necessary that he be struck blind on the road to Damascus. He felt God’s gentle touch and responded resolutely and with great effect.
Jay is married to Mary Ruth Simmons of Jackson, Mississippi. They are parents of four children and “feel blessed” to enjoy six wonderful grandchildren.
At Baylor University, Jay graduated Magna Cum Laude, and was Student Body President. He earned a Master of Divinity at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, then a Doctorate of Ministry from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Attorney Douglas McElvy said his family was “drawn to the Church by Jay’s quiet strength . . . by the warm and welcoming spirit extended to all who came regardless of age, race or financial status.”
Dr. Wolf has been recognized and honored repeatedly, not only in the River Region area, but nationally and around the world. . . Recently, he was chosen to hold the Bible as Alabama’s new governor was sworn into office.
There is an abundant harvest in the gardens; the football teams are winning; and production in the factory is at record highs. McElvy concludes, “There is no citizen of Montgomery more recognized, better known and more respected than Dr. Jay Wolf.