Cold, wet winds swept me into this week filled with meetings, lessons, and ice skating on four wheels through the streets of Dallas. Early Monday morning my wife and I caught a “company jet” courtesy of Southwest Airlines and made our way to Love Field. We were on our way to participate in the Engage Conference held at First Baptist Church of Grapevine. Our trip was rushed a bit by the discovery that I was scheduled to lead a break out session to the theme of “Creating Consensus for Evangelism.” I had noted I was on the schedule for Tuesday, but I had overlooked my Monday assignment.
We arrived at the conference during the lunch break. We secured a schedule and then went looking for my assigned classroom like children looking for hidden Easter eggs. With the help of a couple kind hosts, we found the room ten minutes before “show time.” When I peered into the room I found it empty expect for a cameraman setting up to film my session. Let’s just say this was a surprise, and immediately I realized how under prepared I was for this assignment. At this point I hoped no one would show up for the session and then I would be off the hook. At first this hope looked promising as only one lonely pastor entered room, but as the time neared the room began to fill thirteen hardy souls from across the state. It was a wonderful assortment of church leaders from as far away as Harlingen to staff members from FBC Grand Prairie who served with my good friend Bill Skaar. My actual theme was “ONE BIG HAPPY FAMILY.” I taught how evangelism works best when God’s people work together as one. I hope it was helpful to the participants. Since we were being filmed I lectured a bit too much, and did not allow for the interaction I had originally intended. I fear it was a bit too much of my “expert” testimony and not enough interaction to be helpful. Of course unfortunately you can be judges of the quality of the break out session when it debuts on the BGCT website for training events. Before you rush to see my wanderings, I would encourage you to check the other excellent offerings.
The Engage Conference this year was a wonderful collection of Baptist leaders, speakers, and musicians. John Randles and Scott Willingham did an excellent job drawing together some of the best leaders in evangelism. Bob Roberts, Steve Stroope, Roy Fish, Randel Everett and John Randles himself challenged and inspired those who braved the cold and icy roads to make the trek to Grapevine. I wish the attendance matched the quality of the program. Once again, only a remnant of Baptist pastors and leaders participated. To be frank I was disappointed, especially in light of our Texas Hope 2010 emphasis. I was particularly moved by Dr. Everett challenge from the parable of the separating of the sheep and the goats. His call for live “transformed” lives struck a deep cord with me.
Probably the biggest news of the week in BGCT life was the announcement that Dr. Jim Denison had resigned as pastor of Park Cities Baptist Church of Dallas to be the “Theologian in Residence” for the BGCT, and to lead “The Center for Informed Faith.” This bold creative venture came as a gift to the BGCT from a handful of generous Baptists who asked their beloved pastor about his dreams for the next chapter in his life. His dream became our gift. In some corners this venture has been met with mixed reviews, especially since so much money is being invested in the venture when many of our foundational ministries are suffering from the financial struggles of the BGCT during these days of a recession economy. I believe in the years to come, we will all be thankful for the visionary leadership of Dr. Denison. I would encourage all our churches to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to be challenged and taught by one of the finest minds in Baptist life.
My week closed when David Currie, Executive director of the Texas Baptist Committed, copied me on an article written by Wade Burleson of Oklahoma. Burleson took to task the decision of the Georgia Baptists to cut ties with the First Baptist Church of Decatur, Georgia because they called Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell to be their senior pastor. When Julie served among our Texas Baptist family there may have been those who disapproved, but I am very proud that we did not chose to distance ourselves from her and Calvary Baptist Church in Waco. The calling of a pastor must always be a local church issue. Only the Holy Spirit has the right to tell good and faithful Baptists who their pastor is to be. I would highly recommend reading Burleson’s thoughts in A Tale of Two Churches and Their Leadership. I admire Burleson for speaking out when too many sat on their hands.