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!