Last week, Steve Vernon, pastor of First Baptist Church of Leveland, Texas and former President of the Baptist General Convention of Texas was named to join Executive Randel Everett as his top aide and administration. Vernon will fill the post of Associate Executive Director/Missions Coordinator upon the election of the Executive Board during their meeting September 29-30. Vernon comes to this task with a long history of involvement in Texas Baptist life. He also demonstrated himself to be a solid leader and pastor by faithfully serving FBC Leveland for the last seventeen years.
Vernon assumes this role with a deep knowledge of the challenges facing the BGCT. Vernon being an insider in much of what has transpired over the past ten years knows full well the difficulties, divisions, distractions, and diversity of the convention. During his days as president Vernon traveled widely and stood with Dr. Wade as he navigated the last days of his embattled administration. Vernon was as active and as involved as any recent president of our convention. Vernon has demonstrated a real heart for missions and as president convened a forum on missions challenging Texas Baptists to thinking boldly and creatively about the new face of missions in our “flat world” of constant change.
Unlike John McCann who daringly called Governor Sarah Palin to his side as his vice-president candidate in the race to the White House, the selection of Vernon was a safe, conservative choice. The upside of the choice rests with Vernon’s proven track record, long list of relationships, good people skills,his working knowledge of the scope and breath of Texas Baptist life, and the fact that he probably knows where “all the bodies are buried” where serious change needs to be made.
On the other hand, the challenges facing Vernon will be to break free from the pull of the past and to embrace the new realities being articulate by the vision statements of Everett. From my perspective the BGCT cannot survive another ten years of decline and struggling. With the gravitational pull against denominations taking its toll on conventions across the land; and with a generation of young leaders coming of age with a deep aversion to the political maneuvering of the past; it is critical that the BGCT reinvent itself for the challenges and opportunities of the future. “My father’s old convention” of the past will not survive very long in the thin air of the rapidly changing and flattening global environment of today. If “gray heads” like mine continue to dominate those who shape our future, and our young dynamic leaders coming out of our Texas Baptist universities and seminaries leave school and the ol’ BGCT behind in their search for the cutting edge of the Kingdom of God, we are in deep trouble. Everett and Vernon need to lead with open eyes, listening ears, daring dreams and a willingness to lay aside the status quo for a bold new vision of what cooperation will look like in the years to come.
Put Everett and Vernon high on your prayer list as we seek to embrace the future together. Theirs is a “God-sized” task that will demand the best of all of us.