Former SBTS prof leads church with ties to major college & NBA basketball

Communications Staff — March 31, 2009

Ken Fentress used to spend his days talking about the Gospel with students in Old Testament classes at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

He still spends his days talking about the Gospel, but his audience has shifted to major college basketball coaches like Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, the University of Louisville’s Rick Pitino and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim.

Fentress, who served as assistant professor of Old Testament interpretation at Southern from 2003-2007, became pastor of Montrose Baptist Church in Rockville, Md., in June 2007. Connected with the church is a Christian school with a reputation for producing great basketball players. Because college coaches come to recruit players from Montrose Christian School, Fentress has been able to speak with some of them about Jesus.

“I’ve had an opportunity to have some conversations with a couple of them about spiritual things along the way because they know that I’m the senior pastor of the church,” Fentress said. “Along the way a couple of them have been open to have just brief conversations about my ministry there, what we’re doing and my perspective on how we want to shape the lives of these young men.”

In addition to Krzyzewski, Pitino and Boeheim, Fentress has talked with Rick Barnes of the University of Texas and Jay Wright of Villanova. In fact, Wright was the featured speaker at the annual Montrose Athletic Banquet last spring.

Such coaches are drawn to Montrose because consistently it has been ranked in the ESPN top 50 high school basketball programs in the country. Currently the program is in the top 25, Fentress said.

Among the most famous Montrose graduates are Kevin Durant, who currently plays for the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, and Linas Kleiza of the Denver Nuggets. The school has multiple graduates currently playing for the NCAA’s Maryland Terrapins.

Thanks to Montrose coach Stu Vetter, the boys’ basketball program turns out players with character as well as athletic talent, Fentress said.

“Stu Vetter has been really the man behind the success of the team,” he said. “He has been at Montrose Christian School now for over a decade. He’s a member of Montrose Baptist Church, a very good Christian man and an excellent basketball coach.

“He has also built into the lives of these young men. He not only coaches and teaches them basketball, but he teaches them principles about how to be good young men.”
Fentress believes the spiritual aspect of the basketball program is its most important component.

“Because the basketball program is a part of Montrose Christian School and the school is a ministry of the church, I believe the Lord has used it as an opportunity for us to have contact with the lives of many young men and to be able to bring a Christian worldview into the lives of many young men that we otherwise would never have had an opportunity to have contact with,” he said.

Through its basketball program and other ministries,
Montrose Baptist Church has grown into a multinational congregation encompassing 40 nationalities among its 350 members.

The basketball program “has given the school and the name Montrose quite a bit of notoriety nationwide,” Fentress said. “And that too has opened up opportunities and interests from people who hear about the basketball program and become interested in the school. That then gives us as a church an opportunity to minister to students and to their families and to share the Gospel with non-Christians.”

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