Monthly Archives: June 2009

The Broadway Dilemma: A Fork in the Road

The great baseball philosopher Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!” Often in life it is so tempting to try to live in two worlds or simply to take the “fork” and attempt to go down both paths, but the harsh reality is one must chose his or her path whether it is broad or narrow.

The events of this week revolving around the relationship between the Southern Baptist Convention and Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth have placed the churches of the Baptist General Convention of Texas in an interesting spot. How do the BGCT and its leadership respond to this situation? In a real sense the BGCT stands at a fork in the road.

I want to call us to step back and look at the “big picture.” As difficult and delicate as this situation is, we must be careful and intentional not to allow this controversy to distract us from our main task of Texas Hope 2010. The gospel of Jesus holds the key and the power to transform our culture by touching individual lives in such a way that the sting and vicious cycles of sin lose their controlling powers.

If we allow this controversy to divide us and to distract us, we have lost our way and the real losers are those who desperately need the hope of Christ. Let’s be frank, we are not divided on this issue. The BGCT has gone on record to state:

“The homosexual lifestyle is not normal or acceptable in God’s sight and is indeed called sin.”

This definitive statement was adopted in 1982, and was practically expressed in 1998 when the BGCT ceased its relationship with a church that ordained a homosexual to serve as a deacon. The BGCT, as a family of Baptist churches, affirm and believe without question the mandates and clear teachings of the Word of God on this issue. The actions of Broadway Baptist Church cannot and do not color nor dictate the collective wisdom and values of the BGCT family.

On a personal note, I believe Romans 1 clearly outlines the slow destruction of a society that rejected the knowledge of God and suffered the due consequences of its sin. Homosexual behavior is the natural byproduct of a society ravaged by the rejection of God and a sexual revolution leading to the destruction of the home. When the home falls apart children are victimized in its fall. Those within the homosexual community are all too often victims of abuse and the dysfunction of broken homes, and must not continue to be victimized by church.

I believe we victimize those who struggle with homosexual tendencies and behaviors all over again if we offer them “grace without repentance” by simply affirming their choices and lifestyles. I also believe we victimize them if we seek to make them the scapegoats for the brokenness of our society. The silence and disconnect of the church to our society is more to blame for the brokenness of our society. You don’t blame those in the darkness for the lack of light you call for those with the light to let their light shine.

As people of the light, we must find a way to create Christian communities that welcome people who struggle with broken, sinful lifestyles like those who struggle with homosexual preferences and behaviors while at the same time calling them to repentance and the hope of the gospel. In our day when the drum beat of tolerance is deafening, we must stay true to the faith handed down to us from the Word of God and offer real hope rather than “cheap grace.”

So which path do we take? I would strongly recommend that we stay focused on Texas Hope 2010 and make every effort to share the gospel with every man, woman, boy and girl in Texas.  Let’s not be distracted. We must keep our shoulders to the plow, and trust our Lord to help us respond to this challenge in a redemptive way consistent with our historic values and the Word of God.

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Less Talk

Robyn and I just thought we were tired as we made our way through the DFW airport to catch our connecting flight home from Louisville and the Southern Baptist Convention. We had spent three days attending various convention meetings and participating in a number of what seemed at the time to be important decisions. I had just finished a length mobile phone call to a friend debating with him about a course of action on a controversial matter facing our convention when we arrive at gate B 10 for our flight to Amarillo.

Much to our surprise and with great joy, we heard familiar voices of a group of friends welcoming our arrival. It was our tired and weary mission team returning from India. I could immediately tell from the smiles on their faces that they had been part of something much bigger than themselves. In spite of having been traveling for well over twenty-four hours, these ladies radiated with the glow of the Spirit of God. They had been busy changing the world!

This surprise airport encounter vividly reminded me of the huge difference between talking and doing. Jesus did not call us to “talk about” the Great Commission to change the world into His image. Jesus called us to “go” and do the Great Commission.

This year at the Southern Baptist Convention, the messengers voted to align our churches with what is being called “The Great Commission Resurgence.” A call and mandate for the SBC to once again make the “main thing the main thing.” For our small mission team to India they were doing it while we were talking about it. To put it bluntly, I believe it is time “to put up—or shut up!”

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SBC/Broadway Decision

On June 22, the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention made the decision to recommend that the Southern Baptist Convention cease its relationship with the historic Broadway Baptist Church of Fort Worth. Broadway cooperated with SBC for over 125 years to reach the world with the hope of the gospel and wanted to continue this relationship for the sake of the gospel.

I am deeply saddened that the SBC Executive Committee felt compelled to make this decision. I worked feverishly behind the scenes to help the SBC leadership and the leadership of Broadway Baptist Church to come to some kind of win/win solution. The crux of the situation boiled down to two distinctively different views on how to minister to those marginalized by society. The SBC leadership felt compelled to hold true to their biblical understanding of the brokenness of homosexuality, while Broadway Baptist Church felt compelled to offer the gospel to all regardless of lifestyle choices. Sadly common ground could not be found, and the SBC messengers will have to make a decision about its relationship with Broadway.

Throughout these discussions and negotiations the leaders of the SBC and Broadway sought to conduct themselves in a Christ-like manner. Even though the final outcome was not what I had hoped for,  I was encouraged to see men and women talking openly and frankly with each other in a spirit of love and understanding. There are times in following Christ that relationships are complicated and messy. There are times we cannot agree, but I pray we will disagree in the spirit of love and understanding.

The key to the future for all followers of Jesus is finding creative and compassionate ways to offer hope to all people, especially those on the margins.

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BGCT Presidential Journal 21

Canyon: Last week I traveled the state digitally by mobile phone and wireless internet. As you are so keenly aware we are living in a rapidly changing world. Change seems to be the only constant we can depend upon. It drives our daily reality in ways that stagger the mind when you step back in look. I did two funerals last week for members of my church who were born before the Great Depression. As I prepared for their services I was reminded how the world they lived in changed from a world of horse and buggies to space shuttles and mobile phones. They journeyed from a world of isolation and distance into a “flat world” of almost instant access and total interdependence.

In light of how the world has changed, the organizational patterns and systems of the 20th century must be replaced with new ideas and systems. Sadly, even though we worship and serve the God of time and creation. The God who knows and directs the future, His church seems to stumble behind the times locked in the traditions of the past, and all too often apparently afraid of the future.

Falling behind the times is not a strength of traditional timeless faith; I fear it is a sin of not following the Spirit of God at work within and among us. When Peter stood on the day of Pentecost to usher in a new age he called on the words of the prophet Joel and declared:

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)

Peter envisioned a faith world inspired and fueled by the powerful movement of the Holy Spirit within the hearts and minds of the followers of Jesus. These followers’ young and old alike would dream dreams and see visions of the future with their origins from above and “ahead.”

In light of this spiritual reality one of the challenges we face as the Baptist General Convention of Texas is the coming together of the generations around a common vision and strategy to further the Great Commission of our Lord. When we gather for our annual meetings too often it has been the gathering of the “gray” heads of our past and present. Missing in action have been the young leaders who will shape tomorrow.

In a practical attempt to change that reality this year’s annual meeting will not be your “Grandfather’s Oldsmobile” to steal an old advertising line, but will at moments have a fresh new feel to it. One of our stated goals is to have more than five hundred elected messengers under the age of thirty years old. We hope these young messengers will come from our innovated churches, universities, seminaries, and Baptist Student ministries from across the state and particularly within a hundred miles of Houston.

To give this gathering of young leaders a time to meet, worship, and draw inspiration, we have invited the Robby Seay Band of Houston and the Ecclesia church. Robby and his brother Chris represent a new generation of young “Baptist” leaders who are influencing the culture and changing the world. Robby wrote the theme song “Rise” for the national phenomenon “American Idol” and travels the nation inspiring a young generation with a “Song of Hope.” On Monday evening, Robby and his band will lead worship during our “Texas Hope 2010” story time during our evening session. Following the session Robby’s band will lead an afterglow worship concert designed to be a rally point for the young leaders among us. It should be an amazing night. I hope and pray you will make plans to join us and to bring with you the young leaders you are mentoring and serving side by side with.

Interestingly enough Robby’s father Ed is pastor of First Baptist Church of Magnolia, Texas so Robby is a second generation Baptist leader. Also surprisingly Robby’s favorite car is a 1984 Oldsmobile with a sagging roof liner! See we are not all that different. We are one family! Let’s come together in Houston and put an end to two decades of struggling over our differences and let’s celebrate our oneness in Christ.

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BGCT Presidential Journal 20

Canyon: This week I had a reprieve from my travels and spent the week at home being a husband, father, pastor, and president. Robyn and I celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary with an overnight getaway, and reflected on a fast-paced busy life together. Next week, our daughter Lorin will be marrying Phillip Scott of Houston on Saturday. Needless to say love is in the air.

On a light note, a couple of weeks ago while I was on the road our staff met for their weekly meeting. During the meeting our youth minister Jason Atchley quipped, “I think we need to form a pastor search to find our pastor!”

This week I have devoted my presidential inquiries into a couple of national matters. The Southern Baptist Convention will be meeting June 22-24 in Louisville. One matter of old business looms on the horizon related to a BGCT church. The historic Broadway Baptist Church of Fort Worth has been in negotiations and discussions with the Executive Committee of the SBC about their relationship. The issue that has forced these discussions revolves around Broadway’s position on the place of homosexuals within the life of their church. The Executive Committee has worked hard to help Broadway to find a workable solution, but to the point a solution has not been found. I believe both parties have worked in good faith to find a positive solution for the sake of the Kingdom. Pray the Lord will guide our brothers and sisters in this delicate and difficult matter.

Another challenge facing our Southern Baptist churches is the call by SBC President Johnny Hunt for individuals, churches, and institutions to get on board with what has been deemed “The Great Commission Resurgence.” As the SBC annual meeting nears there has been quite a bit of controversy about what signing on to this movement really means. It appears Dr. Hunt and Dr. Akin may be calling for the SBC to take a hard look at how it does its work, and also there is some concern that they want to redefine what “cooperative giving” really looks like. The fear is that we may be moving back to a society approach to mission giving. This is a struggle at all levels of cooperative Baptist life today. Giving to the “budget” has lost much of its appeal to many today, but we must remember what the “budget” does and how important it is for Baptists to find ways to work and give together.

The genius of the Cooperative Program has helped us to do so much more together than we could ever do apart, but we live in a new day with new challenges. Teaching the principles of Kingdom cooperation may sound boring and old school to many who are addicted to the lure of relevance, but I believe the whole theological concept of the “body of Christ”  and “the Kingdom of God” call for us working together as “one.”

Concerning the “Great Commission Resurgence” I fear are making things too complicated.  I believe we could focus our energy on the Great Commission if we stopped drawing lines in the sand. Cooperation and collaboration demand trust. Trust has been the victim of years of infighting. The simple challenge of the Great Commission (go make disciples of all nations) and the Great Commandment (love one another) ought to be enough to keep us busy for quite sometime.

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June 4, 1982

Miracles never cease to happen. For me it took just two words to change my life forever—“I Do.” Standing in the presence of God and all my friends and family, with knees shaking and a big lump in my throat, I promised my heart and life to Robyn with two simple words. The greater miracle of the moment was that she returned the promise with a big smile and a twinkle in her eyes.

The miracle of marriage changed my life for better, not for worse, twenty-seven years ago in Dallas. Our journey began with a honeymoon in the hills of Arkansas and has led us through stops in Roanoke, Lewisville, Mabank, Milwaukee, and Canyon. Along the way the LORD filled our wood-paneled station wagon with Kalie, Lorin, Jamie and Madison. It has been an amazing ride, but I suspect the best days are ahead.

Next Saturday June 13th at 2:00 p.m. the tables turn. It will be one of my little girls that will stand before me as a woman ready to experience the miracle of marriage in the arms of her true love. Life flies by too fast. In my rush to make a life and career, I fear I have missed too many of the special moments worrying and chasing after things that really don’t matter much in the end. I hope you can join Robyn and me on this special day as we celebrate another miracle of love.

In 1982, Rocky Balboa had the “Eye of the Tiger” while Hall and Oakes sang about “Maneaters” on the prowl. My hair was longer, and my sideburns nearly touched my chin. Bell bottoms were in, and leisure suits were on their way out (thank goodness!), but one thing was true then and is still true today. Only God can perform the miracle of marriage by making “two into one.”

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His Commission Unites: Texas Hope 2010/Great Commission Resurgence

Ken Coffee challenged the Texas Baptist bloggers to write out evangelism this week. I commend him on the challenge, and hope to write more on the subject as the week unfolds.

Last year Randel Everett, Executive Director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, took the reins of our state convention by calling us back to the basics of evangelism and compassion with his vision for Texas Hope 2010. His bold audacious goal was for the BGCT churches to covenant and work together to share the gospel with every Texans by Resurrection Sunday 2010, and to make it our objective to address the issue of hunger in Texas. This bold vision changed the conversation among Texas Baptists and called us back to our heart beat and core values. In a day when it was so easy to find reasons to divide and splinter, it is the gospel that calls us back together to do more.

Meanwhile, Johnny Hunt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, along with Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, have challenged SBC churches to what they have deemed “The Great Commission Resurgence.” This challenge came complete with a “ten point” challenge on orthodoxy and practice. However, one must not miss the point and get caught up in the details or fine print. The simple point is getting back to the “Great Commission.” I would have been satisfied to simple make a renewed commitment to “Go and make disciples of all nations” but sometimes as Baptists we feel the need to add our “two cents worth.”

The encouraging part of these two movements revolves around the calling back to the basics. After twenty-five years of struggling against each other on many fronts, we are consciously and intentionally looking for ways to work together. Unity around mission helps to reinforce our message. Jesus put it like this “by this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

In Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17, He pleaded, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,  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” John 17:20-21 (NIV).

The strategies and methods may differ from church to church and context to context, but it is essential that the message and mission be the same.

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