Staff

About Us

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Dr. John M. Finley
Senior Minister

 

A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Dr. John Finley became our Senior Minister in July, 1994.  He is a graduate of Vanderbilt University (B.A., 1976), The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1979; Ph.D., 1984), and has done post-doctoral study at the University of Durham in England, the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Prague, Czech Republic; the Evangelische Akademie in Berlin, Germany; and The Ecumenical Institute near Geneva, Switzerland.  Previously, he served churches in Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, and Missouri.

 

In Savannah, Dr. Finley has been involved in a variety of community-based institutions, including service on the Clinical Pastoral Education Advisory Committee of Bethesda Home for Boys, the Community Advisory Panels of the Savannah Morning News and Kemira Pigments, Inc., and the official boards of the Savannah Baptist Center, United Ministries of Savannah, and the Coastal Counseling Practice.

 

In Baptist life, Dr. Finley has served as Secretary-Treasurer of the Georgia Baptist Pastors' Conference, Chair of the Georgia Baptist Historical Commission, President of the Georgia Baptist Historical Society, and board member for the Penfield Christian Home.  He most recently has served on the Coordinating Council of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia and on the board of directors of Morningstar Children and Family Services.  Since 1995, he has led eleven mission teams to Cuba in partnership with the Fraternity of Baptist Churches of Cuba.  He was named as a founding member of the Task Force on Ecumenism and Justice of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in 2003, and since that time has served as a CBF representative on the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches as well as Christian Churches Together in the USA.  In 2010, he was appointed as a member of the Commission on Baptist Heritage and Identity of the Baptist World Alliance.

 

Dr. Finley has been a contributing author in Defining Baptist Convictions: Guidelines for the Twenty-first Century (Providence House Publishers, 1996) and Families in 3D (Baptist Center for Ethics, 1997).  He is the author of numerous sermons, articles, book reviews, and lessons appearing in such publications as Review and Expositor, The Christian Index, Baptist History and Heritage, Christian Ethics Today, Baptist Heritage, and Viewpoints.  He is a featured columnist for EthicsDaily.com, the web site of the Baptist Center for Ethics, and with Dr. George Shriver, has completed an updated history of First Baptist Church, Columbus, Georgia.

 

Dr. Finley and his wife, Norma, are the parents of three adult children.  In his spare time, he enjoys reading, traveling, photography, and refinishing antique furniture.



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Rev. Lauren E. Colwell
Associate Minister for Spiritual Formation and Families


Rev. Lauren E. Colwell joined our staff in June of 2009 as Associate Minister for Spiritual Formation and Families.  She hails from Northwest Georgia where she grew up among the three rivers and seven hills of Rome.  She attended Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama and graduated in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with Honors.  She received the John C. Pittman Leadership Award and graduated summa cum laude.

 

In 2009, Lauren graduated from Mercer University's McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia with a Master of Divinity degree.  She was a Josiah Penfield Scholar and CBF Leadership Scholar while attending McAfee and her peers voted her as alumni class president. Upon graduation, Lauren received the Scholarly Achievement Award for the class of 2009.  In August of 2009, Lauren was ordained by the First Baptist Church of Rome, Georgia.

 

Rev. Colwell has served in multiple capacities at the First Baptist Church of Rome, Georgia, Vestavia Hills Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and First Baptist Church of Decatur, Georgia.  She also worked with Passport, Inc. for four summers as a Bible Study Leader, Mission Project Coordinator, and twice as Camp Director in Wingate, North Carolina, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Wenham, Massachusetts.

 

When she is not out with the youth or children of First Baptist, Lauren enjoys playing her guitar, watching movies, cheering for the Braves, running, translating Hebrew, and challenging any willing opponent to a round of Jeopardy.


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Mr. Kyle J. Ballantine
Organist and Choir Director


Kyle Ballantine began his ministry with First Baptist Church of Savannah as Organist and Choir Director in July of 2013.  Kyle is a native of New Concord, Ohio.  As an undergraduate he attended Muskingum University and majored in music education with an emphasis in organ.  He studied organ with Todd Wilson at the Cleveland Institute of Music, earning a Masters Degree in Organ Performance.

Kyle taught middle school choir and general music in the Zanesville City School District in Zanesville, OH for two years.  There, he directed the 7th and 8th grade choirs and taught 6th grade general music.  During his time in Zanesville, Kyle expanded the choral program and took singers to District Honors Choir and Solo Ensemble Adjudicated Events, established a Veterans' Day assembly and a "Pop's Concert," and also directed and produced the school-wide musicals.

Kyle's experience in church music includes serving as music intern at Plymouth Church of Shaker Heights (UCC), Shaker Heights, OH; associate organist at The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, OH: interim organist at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Zanesville, OH; and college intern of music ministry at College Drive Presbyterian Church, New Concord, OH.

Outside of sacred music, Kyle likes to watch musical theater (especially when there are kick-lines), spend time walking outside, and watching HGTV.

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