Steve Vernon: A Safe Leadership Decision

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.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Steve Vernon: A Safe Leadership Decision

  1. Lee

    I don’t know Steve Vernon very well, other than from his service as BGCT president. On the surface, it appears that he is a “safe” choice. He’s well connected, has served on numerous boards and committees, served as BGCT president and is well connected. On the other hand, the future of the BGCT is inexhorably linked to reaching the masses of multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, unchurched individuals who are pouring into are large cities, along with the immigrant population coming north across the border. Did we miss a chance, with this choice, to bring someone on to the convention staff with some experience, and a measure of success, in penetrating this large unchurched population with the gospel? The metro areas of Houston, Dallas-Ft. Worth and Austin-San Antonio contain more than half of the population of the state, and are burgeoning with people who have come here from every state in the union and dozens, if not hundreds, of foreign countries. Reaching into this population is a big part of where the future of the BGCT lies. The state convention staff needs to add individuals who can teach churches and church leaders how to reach into these people groups and start new churches among them.

    Randel Everett was a safe choice, a traditional leader with a pedigree of involvement in various Baptist leadership, and a hint of risk taking in his theological educational venture. I have nothing against Steve Vernon and I wish him well in his service. But it is time for the BGCT to start doing some more forward thinking in terms of its personnel decisions, as well as its ministry decisions, if it is to have a future.

    It may be anectotal, but in serving on staff of a church in Houston, I do have contact with a few people who are deeply involved in reaching the multi-cultural population of our city with the gospel. I don’t know of very many who look to the BGCT for much more than the minimal financial assistance they sometimes offer. We need state convention personnel who are passionate about reaching this population, trained to do so, and numerous enough to make a difference.

  2. Lee,

    Thank you for your observations and thoughts. I do know Steve, and he is a very good man. He is a man of integrity and commitment. Granted he has little if any experience reaching a large complex multi-rational city, but he has a heart for people and for our Lord. I believe God can use him to make a difference. Steve is a good servant of the Lord.

    I pray Randel and Steve will add to their team the kind of creative, innovative leaders who can help us reach our cities with the gospel.

    David Lowrie

  3. I serve with Steve on the Wayland Board. Not only is he a man who is committed to reachig all people, but he is an advocate of openess and is not afraid to speak his mind. Lee, do you realize how few people there are who have had success in reaching other ethnic groups, yet have the administrative experience to do a job like this? Some of those people are in large churches where they make twice the salary Steve will make at the BGCT, and are unlikely to want to make that kind of sacrifice. When you have a couple of kids in college, as my pastor does, one might think hard and long before sacrificing half his income.

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