The Rev. Dr. Jim Somerville

Denomination: Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF)
Organization: First Baptist Church

The Rev. Dr. James Green Somerville is pastor of the First Baptist Church of Richmond, VA.

He is the 16th Senior Pastor in the 228-year history of First Baptist Church. A gifted preacher and a seasoned pastor, he has preached on the Chicago-based "30 Good Minutes," the internationally broadcast Day1 radio program, and was one of the featured preachers at the Festival of Homiletics at the Washington National Cathedral in 2004. His articles and sermons have been published in Christian Century, Leadership, The Upper Room, Preaching, Lectionary Homiletics, and Preaching Great Texts. He was awarded the Clyde T. Francisco Preaching Award while a student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

Jim served as Pastor of the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington, DC for seven years before coming to Richmond. Prior to that, Jim served as Pastor of Wingate Baptist Church in Wingate, North Carolina, for nine years. While attending seminary, Jim was pastor of First Baptist Church in New Castle, Kentucky.

Jim was a Boy Scout, earning Eagle Scout at the age of 13. At age 15 he began his studies at the Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. In college he was an All-Conference distance runner and was editor of the Georgetown College campus newspaper. He was recognized as the Outstanding Senior in Art and graduated Summa Cum Laude from Georgetown.

In his time off, Jim enjoys traveling, backpacking, sailing, reading, watching movies, and spending time with his family.

Jim and his wife, Christy, have two daughters, Ellie and Catherine.

Born March 14, 1959, in Selma, Alabama, Jim moved with his family to Wise, Virginia, in 1961, and to Boone County, West Virginia, in 1967. He grew up as the third of six sons of a Presbyterian minister who had a special ministry to the poor in West Virginia.

He earned the Doctor of Philosophy degree from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, in 1991. His major was New Testament and his minor, Preaching. He earned the Master of Divinity from Southern Seminary in 1987 with a concentration as a Pastor/Teacher.

Jim was an Art major and minored in English when he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Georgetown College in Georgetown, KY, in 1981.

He was ordained (1986) by First Baptist Church, New Castle, KY and licensed (1984) by Faith Baptist Church, Georgetown, KY.

Day1 Weekly Programs by The Rev. Dr. Jim Somerville

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Jim Somerville: God's Crazy, Mixed-Up Family

Tuesday July 19, 2016
Dr. Jim Somerville returns with another fresh retelling of an Old Testament story--this time, the story of the prophet Hosea, who illustrates God's faithfulness despite Israel's scandalous unfaithfulness.

How to Get Exactly What You Want

Tuesday June 07, 2016
In his sermon on 1 Kings 21, Dr. Jim Somerville says Elijah really lets Ahab have it with the word of God, who has rules about the proper use of power, about protecting the rights of the weak, and about justice. So it’s not hard to get exactly what you want, what’s hard is giving God exactly what God wants.

A World Full of Weeds

Sunday July 17, 2005
The Rev. Dr. James Somerville is pastor of First Baptist Church of Washington, D.C., part of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

The Reckless Sower

Sunday July 10, 2005
The Rev. Dr. James Somerville is pastor of First Baptist Church of Washington, D.C, part of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Articles by The Rev. Dr. Jim Somerville

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Jim Somerville: Onward, Christian Soldier

Thursday November 09, 2017
I met Carol Adams at a 'Faith Leaders' Summit' at the Police Department. She was the one who had invited me, and when I got there, there she was: this petite, policewoman with a radiant smile, handing out water bottles and snacks and making me feel welcome in a place that didn't exactly reek of hospitality.

Jim Somerville: The Churchgoing Habit

Wednesday June 28, 2017
I’ve come up with a strategy that will make the churchgoing habit harder to break.

Jim Somerville: Are we supposed to be afraid of God?

Friday March 17, 2017
Sometimes, someone will ask about that biblical expression, 'the fear of the Lord.' 're we supposed to be afraid of God?' they ask. No. That’s not what the word fear means, not in that context. It means something more like 'awe,' or 'reverence,' or 'profound respect.' But you can see where the word came from, can’t you?

Jim Somerville: Eulogy for a Tiny, Bright-Eyed Bird

Saturday December 03, 2016
I got word that a 15-year-old girl in the church’s youth group had taken her own life. I jumped in my car and went to the hospital where I found her mother in the waiting room. I hugged her and hugged her, not knowing what to say and thinking it might be best not to say anything. But we held a memorial service for her daughter in a sanctuary full of grieving friends and family members, wondering how such a thing could happen. This is what I said...

Jim Somerville: Getting Right with Each Other

Wednesday July 20, 2016
A few blocks from here there is a church that is made up of mostly black members, because years ago they found they were not welcome in the 'white church.'

Jim Somerville: Learning to Float

Thursday November 05, 2015
After being run through the wringer of the Reformation and the Enlightenment, faith has come to mean believing the right things, and believing them no matter what, even if they are not scientifically verifiable. But it was not always so.

Jim Somerville: The Church and Mr. Coffee

Tuesday May 26, 2015
I heard someone refer to the church as a 'disciple-making factory' recently, and I sat up a little straighter because I’ve had that thought myself.

Jim Somerville: What We Can Do About ISIS

Thursday February 19, 2015
At one point on my recent trip to the Middle East an Army chaplain said to me with tears in his eyes, “We are at the beginning of something like the Protestant Reformation, and Father Nabil Haddad is like Martin Luther.”

Jim Somerville: A Sermon for Every Sunday

Saturday October 11, 2014
For several months now I have been working on a project called 'A Sermon for Every Sunday,' which was conceived as a way to help small, struggling churches that don’t have preachers, but has evolved to include churches in the interim, house churches, Bible studies, small groups, Wednesday night programs, and Sunday school classes.

Jim Somerville: How to Talk to a Complete Stranger about Church

Sunday September 21, 2014
Two Sundays ago, at the suggestion of preaching professor David Lose, I challenged my congregation to ask people if they go to church and if not, to ask them why. I try never to ask my congregation to do something I’m not willing to do myself, and so, on the way home that day, I asked someone. Here’s what happened...

Jim Somerville: Which Jesus Will We Give Them?

Wednesday January 01, 2014
When you make up your mind that you will do whatever it takes to get people to come to church, then you will get just the kind of church you deserve: a congregation of fickle religious consumers who will leave you as soon as the church next door opens an espresso bar.

Dr. Jim Somerville: For God So Loved the Church

Sunday May 27, 2012
Today is the Day of Pentecost. I was looking through some of my old files for inspiration and found these thoughts in a sermon preached in 2005 called, “For God so Loved the Church.”

Dr. Jim Somerville: A Prayer for Your Wedding Night

Saturday February 11, 2012
The other morning when I was finishing up my devotional reading I thumbed through the Apocrypha, and stumbled on an interesting wedding night prayer from the Book of Tobit.

Dr. Jim Somerville: Making Time for Heart, Mind, Soul, and Strength

Friday January 20, 2012
Once every three months or so I try to go on a 24-hour spiritual retreat. I just get away by myself somewhere. Here's what I try to do.

Dr. Jim Somerville: Will the world end on Dec. 12, 2012?

Saturday December 03, 2011
Not according to Walter T. Witschey. Dr. Witschey wrote to me after a recent sermon on 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 in which I mentioned that some people think the world is going to end on December 21, 2012, because that’s what the Mayan calendar “suggests.”

Dr. Jim Somerville: My Mom's "Maturity Checklist"

Saturday November 26, 2011
Here is a “maturity checklist” my mother designed to help me and my brothers know if we were ready to make it on our own.

Dr. Jim Somerville: A Christian Way of Being Human

Saturday September 17, 2011
On the first Sunday of every month I climb the stairs to Room 243 to teach our newcomers class. My assignment is to talk about “a Christian way of being human,” and I like to begin with an emphasis on the word way.

Dr. Jim Somerville: Surviving the Hurriquake

Tuesday August 30, 2011
Since my last post I have survived a 5.8 magnitude earthquake that was felt as far north as Boston, and felt the gusting fury of Hurricane Irene, which ripped up a half dozen ancient oaks on my street and left most of the city without power.

Dr. Jim Somerville: Did Jesus Really Walk on Water?

Friday August 26, 2011
What does it mean to say something like Jesus walked on water, and in this story what does it mean to say that Peter did, too? Let’s take a closer look…

Dr. Jim Somerville: Whatever Happened to Fire and Brimstone?

Saturday July 02, 2011
Here’s a piece I wrote several years ago, after a hot summer Sunday when the air conditioner wasn’t working at church. Enjoy!

Dr. Jim Somerville: "I Hate My Body!"

Monday June 27, 2011
You never know what you might find in a book called Women Who Run with the Wolves, or in a chapter called “Joyous Body: the Wild Flesh,” but I was delighted to find this important corrective to much of what our culture has taught us about our bodies.

Dr. Jim Somerville: Jesus the Atheist

Saturday June 18, 2011
Several years ago, my mother-in-law found a handyman to help her around her house in Texas. His name was Jesus (pronounced “hay-soos”), and even though we knew how his name was pronounced it was funny to get a letter from Lu telling us that Jesus had fixed her plumbing or painted the living room.

The Rev. Dr. Jim Somerville: The 50-Mile Walk

Tuesday June 14, 2011
My friend Randy said he wanted to walk 50 miles in one day, that it was something he had wanted to do since he was nine years old, when President John F. Kennedy challenged the nation to get fit.

Dr. Jim Somerville: Falling

Monday May 16, 2011
Picture a world where, at birth, you are hurled off a cliff””a really, really high cliff, so that it takes a lifetime to reach the bottom. You would “grow up” on the way down (if you can imagine such a thing) moving through the stages of infancy, childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood.

Dr. Jim Somerville: Must Death Have the Last Word?

Friday April 08, 2011
The earthquake and tsunami in Japan have not only shaken the world, they’ve shaken a lot of people’s faith. “How could a good and loving God allow such a thing to happen?” they ask.

Dr. Jim Somerville: The Jesus Prayer...Abbreviated?

Thursday March 24, 2011
Dr. Jim Somerville considers the benefits of praying "The Jesus Prayer" regularly.

Dr. Jim Somerville: Copernican Revolution

Wednesday March 16, 2011
These were my closing comments on Sunday, February 20, at the end of our DiscipleNow event for youth. The theme of the the weekend was “Center Stage,” and raised the question of how your life might be different if Christ–and not you–occupied center stage.

Dr. Jim Somerville: This Is How We Do It

Tuesday February 22, 2011
I want to share a story, because it seems like a perfect illustration of how to make peace with someone who has offended you. You don’t talk about that person: you talk to him.

Dr. Jim Somerville: An Unasked Question at Bible Study

Wednesday February 09, 2011
If exegesis is figuring out what a text meant ”˜then and there,’ and hermeneutics is applying that meaning ”˜here and now,’ then what was Paul trying to say to the Galatians in this letter and what does this letter say to us now?

Dr. Jim Somerville: I'm a Believer

Wednesday January 19, 2011
One of my readers sent in this question recently: Q: How do you know God exists?

Dr. Jim Somerville: How Do I Get In?

Friday January 14, 2011
One of the stories that came out of my recent trip to India is the one about the groomsman who wanted to get into the family.

Dr. Jim Somerville: Write-in Candidate

Monday November 22, 2010
Yesterday was Christ the King Sunday, and I closed out the sermon with this story about my father.

Dr. Jim Somerville: Revelations at a Preaching Conference

Wednesday November 17, 2010
I enjoy going to preaching conferences, but the kind of preaching conference I enjoy the most is the kind where someone tells me that the way I’m doing it already is the right way.

Dr. Jim Somerville: Death Is Only a Horizon

Friday October 29, 2010
After conducting a funeral for a dear parishioner, Dr. Jim Somerville reflects on death.

Dr. Jim Somerville: How to Get Over a Midlife Crisis

Tuesday October 19, 2010
At 51, I’m way past midlife (I doubt that I’m going to make it to 102), but I found some good advice from Peter Drucker that I’d like to pass along.

Dr. Jim Somerville: An Old Joke and the New Jerusalem

Wednesday October 13, 2010
Thinking about an old joke caused Jim Somerville to remember a passage from the Book of Revelation, where the new Jerusalem comes down out of heaven “adorned as a bride for her husband” (21:3).

Dr. Jim Somerville: Loving the World God Loves

Wednesday October 06, 2010
As he walked around a city neighborhood he's adopted, Dr. Jim Somerville suddenly realized the connection between John 3:16 and John 20:21...

Dr. Jim Somerville: "Hey, Wasn't That You at the Mosque?"

Saturday September 11, 2010
Dr. Jim Somerville recently joined other leaders at a local mosque as a show of solidarity. Find out why, and what happened.

Dr. Jim Somerville: Why is my church dying, and what can I do about it?

Thursday September 02, 2010
Dr. Jim Somerville, pastor of First Baptist Church, Richmond, VA, shares his new book online: When the Sand Castle Crumbles: Why is my church dying, and what can I do about it?

Radio by The Rev. Dr. Jim Somerville

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The Rev. Dr. James Somerville - Day1 Podcast Extra - 2006

Monday June 19, 2006
In this Day1 Podcast Extra, the Rev. Jim Somerville, pastor of First Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., shares his personal insights and experiences of preaching at the 2006 Festival of Homiletics.