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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7 Comments

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

  1. What you say is true. The idea that having the “right” person as the next ED will fix “everything,” is foolish at best. However, what are the implications of who the next ED will be, if any?

    From what little I see, the idea is: if the next ED has close ties to TBC, then something has gone wrong. Granted, I think that people saying this have a misunderstanding of TBC. But, if (however mistakenly) someone is holding to this position; then the ties associated with the next ED seem to be of some importance.

    I hope that it isn’t a preacher. I know that many see the flaw in this thinking. I never claimed that my thinking wasn’t flawed. However, out of the 5700 Texas Baptist Churches; we can’t find one suitable person for the position of ED that isn’t a preacher? O.o That has to be some cruel joke! There has to be someone, out of the 5700 congregations that has the skill, training, and desire to take on such a task…. Right?

    Tim

  2. Tim,

    This is my personal opinion for what its worth. I believe the next ED needs to be someone who can embrace the reality of the face of the BGCT. We are a very diverse convention of churches. The vast majority of these churches are SBC in terms of their giving patterns.

    If the next ED has close ties to the TBC he needs to make it clear that the TBC will not be the only voice that he hears. He will need to immediately begin to build relationships and restore bridges with BGCT churches that have strong ties to the SBC for a variety of reasons from their commitment to a tradition of giving or a strong support of the mission of the SBC/IMB.

    I believe our next ED must be a both/and leader in terms of willingness to work with our churches whether they are aligned with the SBC/CBF or choose to do missions on their own. I agree with Ken Hall that the SBC/CBF issues are local church issues, so it is critical that our new leader not make these relationships a litmus test for cooperation with the BGCT.

    The BGCT needs to stay focused on our mission. I realize I started this debate months ago when I spoke of moving the BGCT back toward the SBC. I misspoke. I regret this. What I now believe that the BGCT’s vision and mission needs to move back toward the values and heart beat of many of our BGCT churches who have a relationship with the SBC.

    I believe too often we have been too reactive to the actions of the SBC. If the SBC did something we believed was wrong or offensive we felt the need to respond. I suggest we stop worrying about what the SBC does, let’s focus on our mission and man our section of the wall.

    As I stated earlier this is my opinion. I am praying for our committee. I am confident the Lord will raise up a leader among us who will embrace all of our churches and will help us accomplish our mission together.

    David Lowrie

  3. David,

    Thanks for sharing your heart with us. I agree that whoever the next ED needs to be seen as able to work with all of the churches that partner in this mix we call the BGCT. That will definitely take on an SBC flavor, however misguided or ill informed that may be due to the current spice of exclusionism that is rampant within the hierarchy.

    My point in my comment was that, 1) I agree with you in that the next ED will not be the savior that some make him/her out to be. It will definitely take a team approach, as you have pointed out. I also wanted to point out that 2) even though the next ED won’t be a hero, that person will still be extremely important to some people. If there are strong TBC connections, then I feel that some people will take that in a negative light. I won’t even try to make a prediction about how many churches may leave if that did happen, but there will probably more than one, and less than all.

    I’m becoming less than enthusiastic about the whole deal as we go along. I’m not seeing much of a shift within the institution of the BGCT to acclimate with what I think the world is falling into. It has to begin with the churches. I think we’ve gotten way to used to the top-down model of doing ministry. The State/National convention puts out a program, and the churches do what they are told.

    I think that the next ED will be very important. But, if he/she continues to lead in the methodologies of the past (which has nothing to do with being controlled by one supposed group or another), then the convention will have very little impact in Texas and beyond. The importance of this person goes way beyond what I believe even the most vocal of the “Loyal Opposition” clamor for. There needs to be a change in the BGCT; one that may feel like a multiple organ transplant. It may have to look so different that a number of people look at it and say, “That just isn’t my BGCT…” And, they will be right. But, it will be what God wants it to be for being an effective tool in His Kingdom Advancement. I feel there will be a greater possibility of loosing many more churches if this happens than if the next ED has strong ties to TBC. At least, that is my misguided and ill informed opinion. 😉

    Tim

  4. Tim,

    Don’t get me wrong the decision about our next ED is extremely important, but as I think you agree one person alone cannot do all that we need done.

    However, this leader can make a world of difference if he or she can help us catch a fresh wind of the Spirit and can lead us to make the necessary changes we need to make to embrace our future together.

    David

  5. Lee

    I agree with both of you that the next ED is not going to solve all of the problems, or do all of the work that needs to be done. To saddle him, or her, with that responsibility would be unrealistic and unfair.

    I have, however, said all along that the future of the BGCT will require the next executive director, along with the rest of the paid staff, and executive board, to be visionary enough to see what kind of changes are going to be necessary to move the convention organization itself into a position where it remains viable and relevant in terms of accomplishing its vision and purpose, and to have the courage and leadership to implement them. The need for that is immediate, there is no time to to waste and the new E.D. will have to hit the ground running. The other task is to contribute to the restoration of trust and fellowship within the convention, so that the first job I mentioned can have the support and help of the churches to accomplish.

    The turf protecting that is represented by ties to various Baptist groups (SBC, Dual-Affiliation with SBTC, CBF, TBC, Mainstream Baptists, etc.) will be a hindrance to the forward movement of the convention. While I do not believe that a new ED will solve all of our problems, I also believe that an ED with clear ties to TBC or CBF will make it difficult for any forward movement to take place. The perception out there is that the search committee was stacked with TBC and CBF leaders to make sure that they got “their guy” in that job. The sentiments I heard expressed by those who attended the listening session in Waco that I attended were unanimous in expressing to the committee that they not do that. From what I heard, that was pretty much the response all over the state. At the last associational meeting I attended, I heard a lot of comments to the effect that the BGCT administration and executive board “isn’t listening to us.” It’s a visible enough decision to convince me that the change we need to see happen in the BGCT will not occur if the ED who is hired is seen as being a “same old, good old boy, status quo” selection as the result of who someone knows, and what favors they are owed rather than their actual ability to do the job.

    I don’t know how accurate the “rumors” are that go around about who is in line for the job, but the names I am hearing so far are not going to be well received by the grass roots.

  6. Lee,

    Thank you for your keen observations. I concur with your concerns. I do believe that an ED with strong CBF and TBC ties would have an uphill struggle to gain quick acceptance by many in our convention. One of the challenges we face in this task is the size and scope of our convention. The BGCT is so large and diverse it will be a monumental task to build the relationships necessary to regain the trust of our people for a ED who is strongly perceived to be from the “old guard.”

    I don’t envy the work of our search committee. We need to continue to pray the Lord will guide them. These people are good men and women who love the Lord and I believe love our convention. I know I have been guilty of seeing them through the “lenses of labels”, but God looks at their hearts and we would be wise to follow His example.

    I believe the search committee has listened to us either in the listening sessions or by interpreting the significance of this year’s presidential election. The important thing now for them will be to listen to the voice of the Spirit. I pray they can hear His voice above our mixed voices.

  7. hi,really damn good shirt,do you know where i can find that beautiful.thanks,bill

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