Monthly Archives: November 2007

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!

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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!

 

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Personal Mission Statement

Today I enter the world of blogging by being proactive rather than reactive. My first introduction into this cyberworld of communication came earlier this year. I was to be nominated to be president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas so I decided to see what was being said about me on the web. I “googled” my name and was surprised to see mention of me on a number of blogs. Over the next several months I have enjoyed the connections I have made with people all across the nation.

I decided this week to begin being proactive and putting my ideas and thoughts on the web. I am new at this, so don’t know where to begin. I decided a good place to begin would be to share my heart with those who might drop by.

I am 47 years old. I am married to a wonderful woman who teaches English at a local university. I have four wonderful daughters. My youngest is 13 years old. I have been a pastor of a Baptist church since I was 22 years old. I currently serve a county seat First Baptist Church in the Panhandle of Texas.

A couple of years ago while studying for my Doctor of Ministry degree I wrote a personal mission statement. I have used this simple statement to be a guide to my ministry. My statement simply states:

“I am called and gifted to love and to lead the people of God through seasons of change”.

In this statement I try to capture my heart for ministry. I believe ministry and leadership begin with love. If you love your people they will know it. If they know it then in time they will follow you. Love is the key to relationships. However as I have matured as a leader I have come to realize that loving people is not enough. When I err toward simple sentimental love I fail to fulfill a primary role of a leader.

Not only am I called to love, but I am also called to lead. Leading demands risk, relationships, and vision. Leading demands stepping out and speaking out. Early in my ministry I was much better at loving than leading. I realize for the health and vitality of the organization I work with that I must be balanced in my approach that I must “love and lead”.

As a leader I must also realize that I am leading “the people of God”. These people under my charge are not mine, but rather I am a steward of these people. The people are God’s people. He assigned them to my care and I am accountable to Him for every last one of them. This accountability creates in me a fear and a great sense of responsibility. I need to keep up with them. I need to care for them. I need to teach and equip them. I need to lead them by following Jesus as closely as I can.

As a leader I have been often given assignments to lead through “seasons of change”. Leadership often revolves around change issues. It seems that every church I have served was in transition. I have lead three churches through the “sea change” of the “worship wars”. I will write much more about this over the next few months. My doctoral thesis was on “Corporate unity in a multi-congregational church”. I began my study looking at the implications of the worship wars in church life, but my lead professor challenged me to look deeper and I am so thankful I did. I discovered the worship wars are often signs of deeper problems that need to be addressed. Leaders do not create the seasons they lead through, but rather they adjust to the realities of the world around them and seek to lead the people in a healthy productive way.

This simple statements has helped me to stay the course over twenty-five years of leading, and I hope it will help me to finish well.

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