Monthly Archives: January 2009

BGCT Presidential Journal 4

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.

 

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Center for Informed Faith

Christmas came early to the Baptist building in Dallas. Sunday afternoon word began to spread across the Texas plains announcing the Dr. Jim Denison had resign as pastor of the prestigious Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas to assume the role as theologian in residence and director of the Center for Informed Faith housed in the offices of the Baptist building in the heart of downtown Dallas. In a time of announced cutbacks all across the Baptist world from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to Southern Baptist Seminary such a major advance seems out of place and out of tune with the present context, but Denison’s leadership came as a gift from a handful of visionary Baptist leaders who wanted to give their pastor and friend the opportunity to pursue a lifetime dream. You heard it right, Denison, and his staff will be financed from gifts outside of the Cooperative Program. God is still amazing.

When Randel Everett announced this move he was practically giddy. Denison is a close friend to Everett. Denison wants to help the BGCT to be a world-class leader in theological education and speaking truth into a world desperately seeking answers. Instead of many of the talking heads on television that are high on volume and low in substance, Denison speaks of a reasoned faith rooted in the real world. If you don’t know Denison’s journey of faith it is story that needs to be told. Denison was introduced to the faith by riding a bus to church in Houston with his big family Bible under his arm. Can you imagine the scene of this young man climbing down the steps of the bus with his huge Bible in tow looking lost and out of place. Praise the Lord for the bus worker who knocked on the door of Denison’s apartment and the church that welcomed him in with open arms. Even though Denison has moved in the upper echelons of Baptist life he is still rooted and grounded in the world of his youth.

The BGCT is beginning to show signs of life and visionary commitment to be a significant force for good in Texas and around the world. The BGCT stands as a miracle in the Kingdom of God. It is one of the most diverse religious organizations in the world. Now at its core it has a theologian that can speak in the heart and head languages of the people.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

BGCT Presidential Journal 3

On the BGCT presidential front I had extremely busy week at my “day job” as pastor of FBC Canyon, and a relatively slow week on the convention front. Like history has taught over and over again fighting on two fronts for change can be very difficult and taxing. One of the greatest challenges I have discovered in this role as president revolves the constant struggle for balance. Making choices between the good and the best are the order of the day and I fear too often the best for my wife and daughters is where I have failed. Saying “no” has never been my strong suit. I rose to leadership in ministry driven by the insanity of trying to please all the people all the time. In recent years I am seeking to hear the voice of “one” and seeking to please the Lord by seeking his counsel and guidance above all, but I must confess too often my inner voice for approval, and the cries of the crowd drown out His call.

Two Years Too Late

This week I had a brief conversation with the pastor of a large county seat BGCT church that made the deliberate decision to leave our ranks and to join our Southern Baptist of Texas Convention brothers and sisters. Shortly after my election members of our Executive Board staff had the opportunity to plead our case for cooperation to the congregation as well a leader from the SBTC. I had called the pastor to share my sense that the winds of change were blowing and that much of what concerned him was changing, but before we had a chance to talk his church had already voted and taken action. One of his comments struck a cord with me he said, “I wish you had called two years ago.” I do too.

Meanwhile last week I received news that one of our large flagship churches in the DFW Metroplex voted to dually align with the SBTC. I personally have no fight against the SBTC. I believe their mission like ours is to implement the Great Commission of our Lord, but my deep concern revolves around the brutal facts that we cannot continue to lose churches and do all God has uniquely assigned us to be and do.

My simple plea is this: every one of us who claims to serve under the banner of the BGCT needs to take responsibility for his brothers and sisters. If you know of a leader or church standing on the edge of leaving our ranks for whatever reason, talk to them, listen to their story, and encouraged them to get involve in the solution. If there is a pastor or church that feels like they have no voice in our future tell them to call me or to call Randel Everett. We cannot be passive any longer. If our cause is noble and right and I believe it is, then it is a cause worth the struggle and our active engagement. Tradition will no longer win the day. We must win the hearts of our people with a renewed vision of tomorrow. I believe Texas Hope 2010 sets the tone for who we long to be. It is not a desperate last ditch effort it is a signal call of a new day.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Welcome Mr. President

On January 20th, a bitterly cold blustery day in Washington D.C., one of the miracles of the modern world took place amidst fanfare and celebration but no bloodshed and violence. The mantle of leadership of the greatest most powerful nation in the world was passed from one man to his successor surrounding by a cheering crowd of proud citizens and under the watchful eyes of the world.

 

In the freezing sunshine of a new day, President Barak Obama took the oath of office and became the 44th president of the United States, and the first African American to hold this high office and responsibility. History stood still, and what seemed utterly impossible fifty years ago in a racially divided nation became reality. In his prayer Rev. Rick Warren spoke of the heavenly celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. along with a host of heavenly witnesses.

 

As President Obama gave his inaugural address if you listened closely you could almost hear the voice of Martin Luther King Jr. shouting from the other end of the national mall “I have a dream…I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Today was a day we can all be proud to be Americans.

 

As we welcome our new president to his appointed post, as followers of the Lord Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, I would encourage us all to get on bended knee and pray. Pray the Lord will guide, direct, inspire, and use President Obama to lead our nation into a new day of freedom. Pray the Lord will humble us before His throne so the mighty dollar no longer reigns, and that compassion and love become the true marks of significance. As Amos the prophet of old declared: “But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

BGCT Presidential Journal 2

I am writing this note from Dallas after a busy couple of days of working with Carolyn Strickland and Bob Broyles. This has been a very productive week, and I am proud of the work we did together.

One of the key roles we have as officers of the Baptist General Convention of Texas is the responsibility to nominee members of a number of key committees. We nominate eight members of the sixteen members of the Committee on Convention Business. We name five to serve on the Committee on Committees by far the most influential committee in Baptist life. We nominate members to the Credentials Committee, Resolutions Committee, and the Memorials Committee. Unlike the Southern Baptist Convention that places the authority for these appointments in the hands of the President alone. The BGCT officers work in concert with each other.

Going into the appointment process it was our commitment to do this work together. We wanted to broaden the tent, and to bring some fresh faces to Baptist life. We wanted the face of these committees to reflect the faces of the BGCT. As you may or may not know, the BGCT is by far one of the most diverse religious organizations in the world. We worship in dozens of languages. We have mega-churches and tiny open country churches. We have fast growing suburban cities, and struggling inner city churches. We have churches in the deep piney woods of East Texas and on the open plains of West Texas.

I am not at liberty to reveal the appointments at this time, but as the names are released I believe you are going to see a mosaic of people whose hearts beat as one for the advancement of the Kingdom in Texas, people for whom Texas Hope 2010 is much more than a slogan, but a lifestyle. Behind closed doors Carolyn, Bobby and I had open and frank discussions. We struggles with some decision, and quickly moved through others. The appointments will not reflect any one of our perceptions of the future, but rather reflect all of us working together with the good of the BGCT at the forefront of our decisions. I learned a lot about myself during these negotiations, but also learned I have a great team to work with in Carolyn and Bobby.

Good days are ahead. Don’t forget to pray at noon every day for Texas Hope 2010!

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Enough to Change the World

Last week I had a brief but very insightful conversation with Bob Roberts, pastor of Northwood Church in Keller, Texas. Bob and I have been friends for over twenty years. Our friendship dates back to when Bob started Northwood, and I was a church planter in Flower Mound. Starting a new church was one of the greatest joys and one of the most difficult struggles of my life. Bob shared the journey with me, and his example inspired me to be at my best. I learn a great deal from watching Bob at work. I especially appreciate his bold abandonment to Kingdom work.

Today Bob is an international leader and his church literally touches the ends of the earth with their ministries and influence. We would all do well to follow his lead in missions and evangelism.

The reason I had called Bob was to visit with him about his relationship with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. In recent years Northwood had invested their mission dollars in their projects around the world, and I hoped to encourage Bob to come join us as we seek to dream new dreams for our work together.

In the course of the conversation Bob began to ask me a series of questions about the BGCT. The dialogue was as follows:

Bob: How many churches do you guys have?

David: Over 5,000 churches

Bob: How many members of those churches?

David: We have over two million on the rolls, but probably closer to a million in active participation.

Bob: How big is your budget?

David: We have over forty million dollars in our budget.

A pause..Bob: You are in position to change the world!

It dawns on me. He’s right! It is hard to move forward looking in the rear view mirror, and it is even harder looking down.

Don’t forget Jesus said to a ragtag handful of disciples and followers on the side of a hill before his ascension to His throne, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given unto me. Therefore go make disciples of ALL NATIONS…” He wasn’t kidding. It’s time to look up and get busy!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

BGCT Presidential Journal 1

This

As a forum for dialogue and communication, I am planning to write a BGCT Presidential Journal each week between now and the 2009 BGCT Convention in Houston. I will use these journal entries to share about some of my activities of the week, and observations.

This week I spent two days in Dallas handling convention matters. I had the opportunity to speak to the BGCT staff at the weekly chapel service. It was a wonderful opportunity to spend some time in worship with those on the front lines of the ministry of our convention. I wish all Texas Baptists had such an opportunity. I came away with a much higher commitment to our common cause and a deep appreciate for the men and women who put heart and hands to our vision. I spoke on “New Wineskins” and challenged us all to be “soft, pliable, and ready to be stretched” by the winds of the Kingdom of God. To do this we need to look at the world around us, listen closely to those speaking to us, learn new lessons, lead from the heart, and love the people. If we are serious about leadership we win the hearts of people with love.

Texas Hope 2010 is more than a slogan for our state staff. They are contributing financially and personally what they are calling the “Jerusalem project”  an effort to provide gospel DVD’s to over 20,000 homes around our BGCT office in East Dallas. This effort encouraged me to go back and to double my efforts at home as well.

I had the opportunity to have lunch with Randel Everett, Steve Vernon, and Chris Liebrum. They shared with me about some exciting developments in our future, and about their efforts to put Texas Hope 2010 in front of our churches. At lunch Steve Vernon led us to pray for the lost and hungry of Texas like we are calling all us to do.

During the afternoon, I made some calls to some key Texas Baptist leaders to encourage their support of Texas Hope 2010. One conversation I will blog on later will be a conversation with Bob Roberts of Northwood Church in Keller. Bob is a long time friend, and mentor. I pray we can learn from his example and heart.

On Thursday, I along with Carolyn Strickland and Bobby Broyles met with the Committee to Nominate Executive Board Members. This meeting was their orientation for their work this year. The spirit in the room was high, and it was good to make new friends. I encouraged them from Isaiah 54 to “lengthen the cords and spread the tent wide.” Pray for them as they do their work.

On Thursday afternoon, I had the opportunity to shot my first video (DVD) spot. I taught a lesson on healthy relationships. This video spot will be part of our efforts to share Texas Hope 2010. A number of Texas Baptist leaders will present different segments of this video series. The series will focus on  Oscar Thompson’s “Concentric Circles.” His wife with the assistance of editors has released again this classic work and a copy of this book will be sent to every Texas Baptist pastor this year to be used in our churches. The training material will be available online and through DVD.  My church will be using this material beginning January 11 as we commit to reach our “Circles of Caring” in Canyon.

Remember Sunday January 11 is our statewide commitment day to Texas Hope 2010. I pray all of us will be part of this great movement of God among Texas Baptists.

Leave a comment

Filed under BGCT Presidential Journal