Monthly Archives: November 2007

Baptist General Convention of Texas: Embrace Our Future Together (Part 5 Communication Loop)

15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Eph 4:15-16 (NIV)

One key factor that will shape the future of the BGCT will be our effectiveness in communication. To be all we hope to be we need to create what I will call a “clear communication loop.” This “communication loop” values both the sending of messages but also equally feedback. Great organizations recognize that the communication superhighway runs both ways.

Communication functions like the “central nervous system” of large complex organizations. When we communicate in effective clear ways with each other we have a much better chance of accomplishing what we are trying to do together.

It seems odd for me to write this article on communication since I struggle in this area quite often. In fact the joke around our office is “FBC Canyon” stands for “frequently bad communication.” In the rat race of running full speed between Sunday our leadership team frequently fails to communicate clearly with each other.

Paul stresses the role of communication in the body of Christ in the fourth chapter of Ephesians. He points out that “we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is Christ”—when we “speak the truth in love”.

Speaking the “truth in love” reveals the heart of good and effective communication. Time and again it takes courage to speak the truth. Like the little boy in the Hans Christian Anderson’s book The Emperor’s New Clothes who bluntly declares what everyone can see—the emperor is walking around in his “birthday” suit. Few of us want to be the one to speak up and speak out. Granted there are those who enjoy this role too much, but most good people fall silent when truth needs to be spoken. Note the last heated church business meeting you attended. The vast majority of the people sat silently.

We would be wise to note that Paul did not simply say “speak the truth” but rather “speak the truth in love”. Here is the telling mark of Christian communication. Our words must be filtered through a heart of love and compassion for others to hit the mark. When people know how much you care and love them they will not only hear you, but they will take your words to heart.

On the flip side, we err if we only “speak…in love” and leave out the “truth.” As a leader who struggles with “people pleasing” I know this danger all too well. It is the temptation to tell people what they want to hear. It is remaining silent about the “white elephant” in the living room. It is testing which way the wind is blowing before you speak up. We have all been there. It has been suggested to me that I am too “nice” to be the kind of leader we need for the future. There may be more truth to that observation than I want to admit. However, I have discover the hard way that “being nice” at the expense of truth or right is being “too nice.” Jesus showed us by His example in the temple courts that there are times when tables need to be flipped over, and wrong needs to be confronted.

Over the past twenty-five years as Baptist life has become increasing more political and segmented we have struggled in applying this Biblical principle. Our rhetoric has been harsh. We have chosen to “beat” each other with “truth” from our perspective like hitting someone over the head with a ten pound Schofield Study Bible. We have been so “right” we have been “wrong” in how we have communicated with each other. It has gotten to the point state conventions have felt the need to pass resolutions about blogging of all things!

Paul added later in this chapter on Christian unity:

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin” : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. Eph 4:25-27 (NIV)

You would think in the body of Christ we would not have to remind each other to tell the truth. When you feel the need to tell a “little white lie” for the sake of your cause, or to stretch the truth just a bit to make a point you may be more under the influence of the “father of lies” than the Holy Spirit. There may be times we don’t even know we are lying because we never took the time to check out the facts or to talk to the people who were involved. Shame on us. we destroy and undermine trust and credibility when we take short cuts with the truth. It’s time for us to give the “father of lies” his walking papers by communicating with each other by “speaking the truth in love”.

The motivation for good healthy communication rests in the reality (whether we like it or not) “we are all members of one body.”

I need to “speak the truth in love” because we are all in this together. Kenneth Gangel put it this way:

“Small wonder we use so many ship words in church—worship, fellowship, stewardship, leadership. Perhaps we like to remind ourselves that when we serve the Lord Jesus, we are all in the same boat.”

As the BGCT faces the future together we would be wise to remember we are “in the same boat” and hopefully we will work hard at paddling in the same direction so we won’t go around in circles like a rubber raft full of Texans floating down a “whitewater” river in Colorado. (If you wonder what that looks like I have home movies from a recent vacation adventure! It’s not a pretty sight”)


Filed under BGCT

Baptist General Convention of Texas: Embrace Our Future Together (Part 4a Team Work)

One of the dangers we face in the BGCT today is putting too much hope and confidence in the next CEO of our convention. It is so easy to fall into the trap of believing that the right leader will make all the difference. If one steps back and looks at the size and scope of the BGCT one must be confronted with the reality that this in not a “one man” job. The BGCT done right is a “God-sized” task. So let’s choose to not live in fantasy world and let’s realize that our future rests not with a “hero” who will ride in and save the day, but rather it rests with a “team” of leaders who will help us unleash the tremendous potential and influence of our convention on the state of Texas and to the ends of the earth.

Jim Collins in Good to Great notes that great corporations start with the “who” question not the “what” question. He points out that “Level 5” leaders get the “right people on the bus” and work to get them in the “right seats”. Jesus started His master plan to advance His Kingdom by prayerfully calling to His side twelve men, who appeared to be common and ordinary, but who proved to be the “core” of the greatest spiritual movement the world has even known.

The BGCT staff puts a face to the vision and mission of our convention. We need men and women who passionately love the Lord, love His people, and have the character, leadership skills, gifts, and talents to embrace our future. Those who have the honor of knowing personally our staff have found them to be some of the finest leaders in the Kingdom. If we are going to claim our future we cannot compromise in the quality of those called to lead us.

Leith Anderson in Leadership That Works noted of large churches that ministry no longer depends on one leader but “depends on a team”. This team approach will be critical to our success. If that is true of a large church its truth is multiplied for the BGCT many times over.

Let me suggest some marks of “team leadership”:

1. Influence: Team leaders have the ability to influence the lives and ministries of those who follow them. John Maxwell says “Leadership is influence–nothing more, nothing less”. One of his favorite leadership proverbs states “He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk” (John Maxwell, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership).

2. Trust: Team leaders lay the foundation of their leadership upon trust. John Maxwell states that leaders earn the trust of their followers by exemplifying the qualities of “competence, connection, and character”. You would think in the area of leadership and ministry this would be a “no brainer.” Trust is the currency of relationships and getting things done. People follow people they trust. We earn trust by knowing what we do, building healthy relationships, and keeping our word and promises.

3. Relationships: Team leaders are masters at building healthy relationships with others and especially with their followers. John Maxwell points out that team leaders never underestimate the “power of building relationships with people before asking them to follow”. Maxwell calls this the “law of connection”–“you first have to touch people’s hearts before you ask them for a hand” (John Maxwell, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership). The life blood of the BGCT and practically any large complex organization is relationships. Jesus was a master at building relationships especially with that tight band of followers He commissioned to change the world.

4. Decisiveness: Team leaders make decisions. Leith Anderson notes that leaders are “active, not passive people. They initiate. They do. They risk” (Anderson, Leadership That Works).

On D-Day one of the critical reasons the Allied forces won the field was the leadership of the officers on the front lines. The Germans could not move without orders from Hitler. At any point they could have pushed us back into the English Channel, but Hitler was sleeping and no one wanted to wake him up with bad news. Meanwhile our officers under heavy enemy fire, and often cut of from communication from headquarters knew their mission and made command decisions to get the job done.

The BGCT is too big for one man or a small group of leaders to make all the day to day decisions. We need a professional team of leaders who know and fully understand our vision and mission who can make good decisions on the front lines. Mistakes are going to be made, but our leaders cannot sit around waiting on a word from on high when lives are at sake. I would rather have a team of leaders who we need to forgive from time to time for being too aggressive or making a bonehead decision than a team of leaders who hide in their offices waiting for someone to tell them what to do.

In terms of making decisions Hall of Fame Green Bay Packer coach Vince Lombardi described his philosophy of leadership this way: “I hold it more important to have the players’ confidence than their affection”. We need leaders willing to make hard command decisions and to help us move forward. Leith Anderson gives a simple plan for making decisions: “(a) define the issue, (b) get the facts, (c) consider the alternatives, (d) make the decision, and (e) do it”. The only thing I would add would be to do it all in an attitude of prayer, and out of a sense of God’s direction, but for spiritual leaders these qualities should be assumed.

5. Spirituality: Team leaders are led by the Spirit. They do not try to over power people, but lead by example as servant leaders. Henri Nouwen pointed out that spiritual leaders see leadership as constantly abandoning power “in favor of love”. As Jesus said, “not lording over them like the Gentiles.”

The kind of leaders we need are not power brokers. Good leaders do not lead by intimidation, but rather out of relationships and character. We need leaders who clearly walk with God which is revealed by how they relate to others. Even though the Baptist Building must function like a corporation at times the spirit in the building needs to remind someone of the “presence of the Lord” rather than the “presence of power”.

Spiritual leaders also have an unusual sense of timing. Like Henry Blackaby noted in Experiencing God that leaders need to learn to let the Holy Spirit be the “convincer”. If our work is truly Kingdom work then we should be able see God’s finger prints all over our actions. It is important that we are not trying to get God to advance “our kingdom” and programs, but rather that we join Him in His work. That was how Jesus filled His day He did what He saw His Father doing. I recently saw a cartoon by Joe McKeever that pictured a man in a committee meeting standing up and exclaiming “Say, Guys, I just had a revolutionary idea that could change the way we do business–why don’t we ask God what He wants and do that?!!”

6. Performance: Team leaders produce. Leaders understand there is a mission to accomplish and it takes hard work. When I begin my ministry years ago my father gave me this sage advice, he said, “David, pray hard, love the people, work hard and trust the results to God.” My dad reminded me that effectiveness in the Kingdom is not all that complicated.

I realize in Kingdom work we cannot produce the results…but we clear the ground, sow the seeds, water and weed, and trust the Lord of the harvest for the miracle. Like farming the harvest is not immediate, but there will be no harvest without the hard work of the farmer. In this day of cutbacks and increasing demand our leadership team at the BGCT must be men and women who work hard and effectively. They must be able to tell the difference between the “good” and the “best” in terms of their daily work.

I trust no one will take these comments as being negative toward our current staff at the BGCT. We have a good team. I am simply pointing out that we will not be able to get the job done without teamwork. This is not a “one man” show. The mission of the BGCT demands cooperation and teamwork at the highest levels. I believe the effectiveness of our staff can rival any corporation in America, because we have the greatest mission on earth–the Great Commission.


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“Advancing or Embracing the Kingdom”

Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, “The time has come”, he said. “The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”

It was a typical Tuesday. The staff gathered around the table to go over the business of the church. At one point in the meeting the statistics from Sunday were passed out. As I read the monthly report my heart sunk. Our attendance was down slightly again this month. I could feel my face flush with frustration, and my dark side wanting to point fingers at others rather than take a hard look in the mirror. Like looking in the mirror and not liking what you see this simple report darkened my day.

For two years I had been pushing to take our church to the next level. We reorganized, started a new worship service, advertised, and knock on a few doors, but little changed. Too often my self-esteem gets chained to the wrong reports. Instead of hearing the voice from heaven, I hear that inner voice crying loudly “do more…work harder…earn it…prove how good you are.” This sarcastic voice too often drowns out the inner voice of God seeking to bless me for who I am not what I do.

That evening as I was muddling over the events of the day in the back of my mind. I picked up a little book entitled This Beautiful Mess by Rick McKinley. Rick was unknown to me until West Texas A&M invited him to speak on campus. The dean asked me to be part of this event. To learn more about Rick and his message I pick up a copy of his book and began to read as an act of discovery. To my surprise I discovered myself on the pages of his book.

Rick’s theme for the book is the Kingdom of God. A theme that echoed in the words of Jesus but is often lost in the rhetoric of the Western Church. Rick shared his early encounters with the Kingdom and I saw my heart laid bare on the printed page.  He wrote:

Eventually my spiritual bubble burst. I realized that Jesus did not want to help me be a better king. Neither did He want to be king of my kingdom at all. Really, I was a lot like those patriotic crowds in Palestine who wanted Him to be king of their country. I was simply trying to get God to endorse my agenda. But He would have none of it.

At the time it felt like a crisis. God seemed to be stepping away from me, almost abandoning me. I was unsure what the problem was. Had God quit liking me? Didn’t He appreciate the plans I was making for the two of us?” (Rick McKinley, The Beautiful Mess p.36)

As I read these words I could see myself trying to force my crown on Jesus’ head like a sacred “crown of thorns” as it were. I wanted Jesus to do my will. I wanted him to build my kingdom. Granted, I gave lip service to making Jesus king, but it was on my terms, in my timing, and in my kingdom. It is sad how blind the teacher can be at times!

By grace the Lord is opening again my eyes to a lesson He has tried to teach me time and time again. I guess you could say I am slow when it comes to realizing that it is not about me, but it is about Him. Jesus is my King, and He invites me to be a servant of His Kingdom.

Being part of His Kingdom is more a matter of “being” than “doing”. It is embracing the reality that I am a child of God and learning to live with childlike joy and innocence–and dependence.

Rick McKinley adds: “We’re so inclined to try to make things happen for God. Every week we’re tempted to get out a measuring stick. Did we get higher? Are we sliding down? And we figure God is measuring us too–but God is not measuring anything. He only wants us to live in a dimension that is already there. Week after week, He is simply inviting us to be part of what He is already doing”. (McKinley, The Beautiful Mess, pg. 61-62)

I knew that, but I keep forgetting it in my relentless striving to move up the ladder of leadership success and excellence. Henry Blackaby taught me that less in his classic Experiencing God when  he pointed out that effectiveness is “joining God in His work”.

Simply put the Lord spoke to me through my brother Rick to remind me that Kingdom living is not “advancing the Kingdom”, but rather “embracing the Kingdom” and seeing the King at work all around you–especially in the day to day simple circumstances of your heart and life. You simply needs eyes to see and ears to hear!


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Baptist General Convention of Texas: Embrace Our Future Together (Part 3c CEO)

A Healthy Leader


Over the course of twenty-five years as a leader, and a lifetime observing leaders, it is interesting to me how organizations/churches take on the personalities of their leaders. Healthy leaders often lead healthy organizations. Unhealthy leaders often leave in the tracks broken dysfunctional organizations in the end.

As the Baptist General Convention of Texas looks for a new leader I believe it is critical that our search committee select a “healthy” leader to guide us into the future. When I say a healthy leader I am not speaking primarily of his physical health although that does play a part. I am speaking of a leader who is spiritually and emotionally healthy. A leader’s spiritual and emotional health colors how he or she leads and relates to people. Leadership boiled down to its basic element revolves around relationships. Healthy leaders develop and maintain healthy relationships. Dysfunctional leaders may look good in the spot light, but behind the scenes they leave in their wake broken relationships.

Leading a complex system as large as the BGCT is not a task for the faint of heart, nor is it the task for the man who thinks he is “superman”. The BGCT does not need a hero. The BGCT needs a humble, servant leader. We need to remember Jesus taught great lessons on leadership. He pointed out “the greatest of all is the servant of all”.

Jim Collins in Good to Great reported his findings from studying a number of the greatest corporations in the world. His team of researchers were instructed to avoid the temptation to attribute corporate success to a great leader. However, their research revealed y that great companies were led by healthy leaders. They coined the phrase “Level 5” leaders. These leaders were a study in duality: “modest and willful, humble and fearless”. These leaders were very humble, yet have a tremendous ambition for the organization’s success. Simply put, when you lead like Jesus taught good things happen. We need a leader who is more concerned about the effectiveness of the BGCT than about who gets the credit. Collins noted that when things go wrong Level 5 leaders “look in the mirror and take responsibility” and when things go well they “look out the window and give credit to others”.

Another aspect of being a healthy leader is being at peace with yourself. Peter Steinke in How Your Church Family Works notes that good leaders are those who are “differentiated”. They are able to separate themselves from what they do and the organization they lead. All leaders have struggled from time to time with the temptation to “over-function” or to take on too much responsibility for the group. Healthy leaders realize their value in life has to do to with their “being” rather than their “doing”. Steinke described a healthy leader as one who responds to the challenges in an organization with maturity revealed by a willingness to accept proximate solutions to insolvable problems, the ability to wait, seek support of others, use systemic thinking, acknowledge impasse, look for due process, set clear goals, loosen grip, relax and make clear decisions with specific actions (Steinke, How Your Church Family Works). Steinke looks at churches and organizations from the perspective of systems theory which in essence suggests all organizations function more like organisms than machines.

Edwin Friedman led in the application of systems theory to churches/organizations. He argued that a pastor (CEO) served like the father of a family and that everyone in the church/organization has a connection or relationship to him. When an organization faces conflict or a storm it is critical for the leader to be a “non anxious presence”. In other words, how the leader responds to a crisis will create the weather for the organization. If the leader gets up tight and begins to panic or to be reactive the system will be inflamed, but if the leader remains calm the storm will diminish and pass in time. In light of the critical crossroads we face in the BGCT it seems obvious we need a leader who calms storms rather than creates unnecessary storms.

Looking for this kind of leader demands probing deep into the heart and motivation of the leader. When the LORD went looking for a king he found him not in the palace nor in the halls of state, but rather a young shepherd boy who had a heart after the heart of God.



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Baptist General Convention of Texas: Embrace Our Future Together (Part 3b CEO)

A Listening Leader


One of the lost arts of leadership today may be the simple yet profound power of listening. James had it in the right order when he quipped “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” James 1:19-20 (NIV).


In a large complex conglomerate like the BGCT the ability to communicate and to cast a vision stand as a key component of great leadership, but in order to have something to say and a vision to cast a wise leader is a good listener, especially in times of transition and change. Recently political commentator Chris Matthews released a new book entitled Life’s A Campaign: What Politics Has Taught Me About Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation, and Success. In his chapter entitled: “The Best Gift You Can Give a Stranger Is an Audience”, he points out how great political leaders used their “ears” as much as their “mouths” to advance the cause of change and growth.


Matthews noted speaking of presidential politicians “Keep in mind that poll number showing that citizens prefer the politician who listens to the one who talks”. He even noted the dark leader Machiavelli said, “The prince who fails to recognize troubles in his state as they arise is not truly wise”.


A couple of years ago I did some research on this topic of a listening leader and was inspired by the following insights from a wide variety of writers on leadership.


Good leaders seek constant sources of feedback, so they can stay on top of the needs and opportunities of the organization by listening to their people. Good leaders are good listeners. These leaders do “continual systematic ‘naïve’ listening from as many angles as possible.” Don Biles recommends what he calls “Ministry by Wandering Around” because the pulpit is a “lousy listening post.” In order for these interactions to be effective, a leader must create a “climate where the truth can be heard.” Jim Collins recommends four basic practices to create this climate:

1. Lead with questions, not answers.

2. Engage in dialogue and debate, not coercion.

3. Conduct autopsies, without blame.


                    4. Build “red flag” mechanism. (Jim Collins, Good to Great)
In order to get the information vital for the organization, Jim Collins recommends a leader must have the “guts to ask dumb questions” because it is the elementary “dumb” questions followed up by a dozen more elementary questions that yields the “pay dirt.” Peter Senge goes a step further by recommending that leaders also be willing to ask the hard questions that do not have “easy answers.” For these dialogues to have meaning leaders must be willing to learn how to be good listeners. Peters describes the characteristics of good listening as:

1. To begin with, good listeners get out from behind the desk.

2. Further, good listeners construct settings so as to maximize “naïve” listening, the undistorted sort.

3. Finally, good listeners provide quick feedback and act on what they hear. (Tom Peters, Thriving on Chaos)


As our search committee diligently goes about their task, pray the Lord will raise up among us a leader with a bold vision, and a leader willing to listen.


In closing a personal application from Chris Matthews: “It’s not a bad idea to do this whenever you meet anybody. Try to grasp what the other person has in his or her mind. Make him or her the subject of the conversation. It’s good manners. Besides, you might learn something”.


Remember: “Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to become angry”—James



Filed under BGCT, Leadership

Baptist General Convention of Texas: Embrace Our Future Together (Part 3a CEO)

A Healthy CEO

In many ways the direction and the effectiveness of the Baptist General Convention of Texas will be determined by the critical selection of who our next chief executive officer will be. Dr. Wade led our convention during a trying time of transition and change. He was saddled with the responsibility of leading us during a “war time” chapter marked by our churches making decisions about the role of fundamentalism in our future.


It seems apparent to all the BGCT has said “NO” to fundamentalism with a capital “F”, but is made up of a vast majority of churches that would be what Dr. Russell Dilday might call “constructive conservatives”. These churches and people still have ties with the Southern Baptist Convention to differing levels while continuing their support of the mission and institutions of the BGCT.


What kind of leader will be able to keep the BGCT free from the crippling effects of political maneuverings on either extreme and mobilize the vast “middle” of our convention toward a common compelling vision?


From my perspective our new CEO needs to be a “constructive conservative”. He needs to be able to embrace the realities of the new BGCT with a deep appreciation of our history, our distinctiveness, and our diversity, while keeping us focused on our future together.


As a CEO our new leader needs to bring to this mammoth task key leadership qualities that will help us move forward together. I believe he must be a visionary, healthy, servant leader. He must be willing to lead us to embrace the change necessary for us to claim our place in the future as a key player in the advance of the Kingdom.


Peter Senge and Peter Drucker have studied leadership and change from the perspective of large organizations and corporations. I have found a few of their thoughts quite insightful. Drucker notes of change leaders that they know a leader “cannot manage change. One can only be ahead of it” (Drucker, Management for the 21st Century). Change is a constant part of our reality, so as our next CEO understands it and embraces it, he will be able to help us chart a future in the midst of change. A visionary leader “looks for change, knows how to find the right changes, and knows how to make them effective both outside the organization and inside” (Drucker, Management for the 21st Century.


Peter Senge in The Dance of Change notes that change leaders understand why “sustaining significant change can be so elusive”. He suggests these leaders think more like “biologists” than managers. These wise leaders realize that it is crazy to implore a plant to grow by saying “Grow! Try Harder! You can do it!”[1] So they focus their time and energy on understanding and addressing the “limiting processes that can slow and arrest change.”

What kind of CEO do we need? We need a leader who is comfortable and skilled at embracing change and leading a complex organization that functions more like an organism.

[1] Peter Senge, The Dance of Change, Doubleday: New York, 1999, 8.


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Baptist General Convention of Texas: Embrace Our Future Together (Part 2 Vision)

For the BGCT to embrace its future, a compelling vision of the future will be essential. In a large diverse organization like the BGCT it is critical that a bold picture of the future be painted in front of the people with words and images that capture their imaginations and calls for commitment. Have you ever wondered why Jesus kept talking time and time again about the Kingdom. Simply put, the Kingdom was His vision of the present and the future. As Rick McKinley notes “The Kingdom IS” was the focus of the life and teaching of Jesus.

We would be wise to learn from the Master. In one generation the early followers of Jesus turn the world upside down, and we can do the same when we rally around a bold, broad vision of our future inspired by God.

The stated vision of the BGCT is as follows:

Our Mission
The Baptist General Convention of Texas encourages, facilitates and connects churches in their work to fulfill God’s mission of reconciling the world to himself.

This vision statement seeks to capture the heart of who we are and what we are trying to do together. It fits George Barna’s principle which states a vision statement needs to be “a simplified statement of vision set forth in a short phrase” (Barna, The Power of Vision). He adds the old adage the KISS principle (keep it short and simple) so people can remember it.

The three actions stated in our vision statement are “encourages, facilitates, and connects”. Here is the rub for me. One of the challenges we face in our vision of tomorrow is who is the BGCT. As I read and seek to understand this statement it appears that the BGCT exists separately from the churches to “encourage, facilitate, and connect” the churches “in their work”. The image that comes to my mind is that the BGCT is like a consultant that helps others do the work.

I realize this is a safe approach to draw a clear line of distinction between the convention and the churches. The convention is not like the hierarchy of the Catholic Church dictating to its parishes it mission and direction. This is true without doubt, but by separating the convention from the churches we lose the power of the vision.

I am going to go out on a limb. I believe the BGCT is the churches. It is the churches working together to change the world, and to advance the Kingdom. I believe a subtle change in our vision statement would make a big difference in our sense of empowerment and accountability to each other.

Our Mission
The Baptist General Convention of Texas encourages, facilitates and connects OUR churches, institutions, and people in THE work OF FULFILLING God’s mission of reconciling the world to himself.

I may be in over my head, but here is the thrust of what I am trying to say. For our vision to be worth sacrificing for it cannot be passive or a consulting role. It must be a mission seeking to change the world and advance the Kingdom. The vision must be what WE DO, not what someone does to us or for us. The work of fulfilling the Great Commission is the work of the churches, but remember the BGCT is the churches.

To implement this vision it boils down to making the heart beat of our convention–encouraging each other in our work, facilitating with each other about how to do our work more effectively together, and connecting our churches with each other to accomplish our mission. When one church succeeds we all succeed. When a BGCT event or institution meets a need or accomplishes a goal we all succeed. We need to get away from the idea that we send our money to Dallas so someone else can go do our mission. Our CP gifts are investments in what WE are doing not what someone else is doing for us.

To be even bolder, I would suggest another change:

Our Mission
The Baptist General Convention of Texas advances the Kingdom (changes the world) by encouraging, facilitating and connecting OUR churches, institutions, and people in THE work OF FULFILLING God’s mission of reconciling the world to himself.

The more active and bold our vision is the more it will call for commitment rather than compliance. We need the hearts and hands of our people if we are going to change the world for the sake of the Kingdom.

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The Baptist General Convention of Texas: Embracing Our Future Together (Part One)

I have had a deep love and appreciation for the Baptist General Convention of Texas practically from the day of my birth. My father was a Texas Baptist pastor when I was born in Harris Hospital in Fort Worth during his days at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. My earliest memories revolve around going to church and hearing the names “Lottie Moon”, “Annie Armstrong” and “Mary Hill Davis”. As a boy I was a Royal Ambassador (RA) and learned the importance of the Great Commission and that I was suppose to play a part in its fulfillment.

My love and commitment for the BGCT increased through the years. The BGCT help equip me for ministry during my days at Baylor. It provided financial support for a new church I planted in the North Dallas area. It has helped two of my daughters with their education at Howard Payne. Dallas Baptist University awarded my father his first honorary doctorate. East Texas Baptist University equipped my brother for ministry. My father has served on the board of trustees for Wayland University. I have had students from my church attend Hardin Simmons, Mary-Hardin Baylor, and Houston Baptist University. Families in my church have been impacted by Buckner Baptist Benevolences, and the High Plains Christian Foundation. Simply put, the BGCT has helped to make my life and ministry better and complete.

It is out of this debt of gratitude that I have in recent days sought to help and make a difference. My nomination for president for the BGCT had little to do with political positioning, but had to do with a deep burning desire to help to us do more together. I had sensed that our fellowship was fragmenting, and that our mission was being lost in the fog of our positioning within the greater Baptist family. Early in the process I was accurately quoted as saying that “I wanted to move the BGCT back toward the SBC”. This thought struck fear in many because of their great concerns about the advance of fundamentalism in our ranks. I misspoke when I said that, I should have said “I wanted to move the BGCT back toward our SBC churches who are loyal members of our convention”.

So how can we come together to do more? Over the next few posts, I would like to explore this idea from my background as a pastor and leader. I have had the unique opportunity to lead a number of churches over the past twenty-five years toward health and vitality. Most of the churches I have served were fractured and divided when I stepped on the scene. These congregations were divided over a number of issues like the “worship wars” and “generational conflicts”. I have learned how to bring people together by practical hands on experience. In addition I did my doctoral studies on the issue of “maintaining and nurturing corporate unity in multi-congregational churches”. I have had a life long passion to help people to work together. Like Psalm 133 states “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity”.

When I begin my thesis project at Bethel University, I wanted to tackle the “worship wars” as the basis of my work. I felt this was a major issue facing many churches and I felt like this would be a relevant and timely study. However my adviser would not allow me such a narrow focus. He suggested that I needed to look deeper into the issues of corporate unity. I am so thankful he did. His encouragement and guidance helped me to uncover principles and ideas that revolutionize my thinking on corporate unity. I soon discovered that the “worship wars” were often symptoms of deeper issues in the life of churches.

In light of my experiences, reflection, and study I would like to propose a series of suggestions on how we (BGCT) can do more together!

My suggestions revolve around six basic principles I will elaborate on over the course of a series of posts. These principles I have found to be quite helpful in the local church, and I trust the principles would apply to the greater body of Christ.

Let me share with you my technical definition of corporate unity from my thesis:

Corporate unity is the organic interdependence of groups and individuals pursuing a compelling vision inspired by God entrusted to the stewardship of godly leaders who equip and call the church (BGCT) to be a community working together in a dynamic synergy.

Out of this working definition I suggest six principles to help us do more together.

1. A compelling vision inspired by God that is big and bold enough to capture our hearts and imaginations.

2. A healthy, visionary CEO who is a steward of this vision, and keeps it before our churches and staff by his words and actions.

3. A team of professional leaders who work together with each other and with our churches to fulfill this vision in practical concrete ways.

4. A clear communication loop that consistently communicates the vision while staying in touch with the people on the front lines for vital feedback and information.

5. Creative conflict strategies that enable us to embrace our conflicts and differences and use this energy to move us forward together into the future with “win/win” solutions to our challenges.

6. A”systems-sensitive” structure and decision making process that challenges us to look closely at the big picture as we make the day to day decisions about how we are going to implement our vision.

I believe this six principles can help us to do more together. To make sure my point is clear. Corporate unity is not an end in itself. It is a primary means by which we accomplish the Great Commission. When Jesus prayed for us to be “one” as He and the Father are one. He clearly stated:

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. John 17:20-23 (NIV)

We must come together so the world will know!


Filed under BGCT, Corporate Unity

The Unseen World of Thanksgiving

“If you’re miserable with ten dollars, you’ll be miserable with a million dollars”—Michael Begin, certified financial planner

During my recent research on the topic of contentment I stumbled across this quote from Michael Begin. His comment spoke about the world of instant money, especially Lottery winners who believe falsely that money can buy happiness.

I believe Begin has uncovered a key aspect about life—especially life in affluent America. Our well-being has less to do with how much we hold in our hands, but rather “who” holds us in His hands. Financial security has less to do with the bottom line, and more to do with living a life of trust and contentment.

Thanksgiving can often feed the wrong side of the heart and mind. Too often the focus off Thanksgiving revolves around material blessings like houses, cars, clothes, and other creature comforts which can be provided by money at the neglect of those “heavenly” gifts that are priceless.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!—Paul

2 Cor 9:15 (NIV)

Let me encourage you to thank God this year for things money cannot buy. Let me prime the pump by suggesting just a few. At the top of my list would be what Paul called “the indescribable gift”—Jesus Christ our Lord. I owe my life to the simple truth that “God SO loved the world that he gave his one and only son”. If you robbed me of every gift from above but left me with Jesus—I would have more than enough to find purpose and meaning in my life.

Running a close second would be “amazing grace”. The older I get and the more I stumble along I realize how truly the grace of God is amazing! It staggers my mind that God knows me for who I really am with all my fears and hang ups and He still loves me. We live in such a conditional world that when we try to get our minds around “unconditional love” it simply does not compute. We may not understand it, but it does not make it any less true. God loves you and me and saves us by His grace.

I close with a trio of my favorite gifts from above “peace, love, and joy”. Along the way I have discovered that happiness can be fleeting, but that “peace, love, and joy” remain and sustain me. Peace rocks me to sleep at night. Love inspires me to live life to its fullest, and joy brings a smile to my face and strength to my steps.

This Thanksgiving don’t forget to give thanks for God’s priceless treasures

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Dreamers of the Day

Dreamers of the Day


Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible.

T. E. Lawrence
Lawrence of Arabia)
from The Seven Pillars of Wisdom


      “And afterward,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.

       Joel 2:28 NIV


These two quotes capture one of the key qualities of leadership. Leaders see tomorrow, and act on their vision today. When a leader loses his or her vision of tomorrow, he or she gives up the vital role of leader. Leaders need to know history, and learn from the past, but they must keep their eyes on the horizon and keep moving forward.


When I allowed myself to be nominated to be president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas it was because I believe I had a vision to tomorrow that needed to be heard. We needed to move past the reactionary ways of competition and political positioning to a new day of cooperation, collaboration, and synergy.


In large diverse organizations the “glue” that holds people together begins with a big, bold compelling vision of tomorrow. A vision big and bold enough to capture our imaginations, and this vision must be broad enough to make room for everyone at the table.


The stated mission of the BGCT is as follows:


The Baptist General Convention of Texas encourages, facilitates and connects churches in their work to fulfill God’s mission of reconciling the world to himself.


This mission states clearly our mission, but the lingering question is “how can we do this in an effective way among such a diverse people?”


How do we encourage churches? How do we facilitate church health and growth? How do we connect churches to each other? Do we really believe the work of the “Great Commission” is “their work”? Is the BGCT playing a key role in encouraging our churches in fulfilling God’s mission of reconciling the world to himself?


We answer these questions by looking at how we spend our time, talents, and treasures. We answer these questions by how we invest our energies. Is the BGCT a key part of the solution or has it contributed to the dysfunction?


Those are hard questions to wrestle with and the answers would be insightful and telling, but the biggest question is what kind of dream will we dream for tomorrow?


Can you imagine the BGCT being the greatest missionary force in the State of Texas and possibly the world? I can. This can be more than a dream if we are willing to live out this dream during the day!



Filed under BGCT