Monthly Archives: August 2009

BGCT Presidential Journal 27

Waco/Canyon:  This week had the opportunity to participate in the convocation of the fall semester of Truett Seminary, August 25, 2009. In addition, I was humbled by the privilege of being named an honorary alumni of Truett Seminary along with Dr. Mark Brister, former president of Oklahoma Baptist University, Bernie Moraga, who serves with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Kathy Hillman who serves as associate professor at Baylor University and is a former president of the Texas Woman’s Missionary Union, and Carol_ann Cooper, pastor of Lakeshore Baptist Church of Waco. I must admit I enjoyed becoming an alumni of a fine institution of learning without having to read one book, or turning in one paper late! Seriously, Truett is doing a good job preparing the next generation of young leaders.

Truett Seminary along with all our institutions of higher learning have a high calling from the LORD to prepare the next generation of leaders to embrace their calling. On the evening before the convocation my wife and I had the opportunity to share a meal with all the recipients and Dr. David Garland, his wife, Dr. Dennis Tucker, and Dr. David Hardage and his wife. Dinner fellowship is a wonderful time to get to know people, and their hearts and attitudes. I can assure you that Baylor and Truett are in good capable hands.  From my seat, Dr. Garland is doing a remarkable job leading Baylor during these trying days of transition and testing. A record number of freshmen enrolled this year, and spirit of the university appeared to be high. There are even hopes for a successful football campaign under the able leadership of Coach Art Briles, and his sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin. In fact, it was suggested that Griffin’s name be added to all the prayer lists of the Baylor Line! Coach Briles motto of “From Hype to Happening” is a challenge for all who want to make a difference with their lives.

During the convocation, Dr. Dennis Tucker gave the address. He opened his address referring to his favorite definition—“a people called together for a summons.” He commented that this is a very fitting description of a gathering of seminary faculty and students. The LORD himself has summoned this gathering to be His people on mission. We would all be wise answer His summons.

Dr. Tucker chose for his text Ezekiel 1. In this “dangerous text” deemed so for its mystery and imagery, Ezekiel revealed the heart of a priest turned prophet. Tucker noted that when Ezekiel spoke of his revelation in his thirtieth year this was far more than an idle comment. At thirty a priest was called into active service in the Temple. For a lifetime the young priest awaits this opportunity to serve, but Ezekiel at this critical rite of passage found himself in exile rather than serving in the Temple courts.  However, this exile turned into an amazing encounter with the living God who rules and reigns over all creation. Tucker challenged the students to realize that God often shows up in the unexpected places of life. God is “ever present and always coming.”

One challenge from his message that resonated with me was Tucker’s challenge to not just go “half way” in my devotion. He pointed out that if one was willing to go the “second half” one must be willing to “disown” his or her life. This dying to self is critical for those who are answering the summons of the LORD to go and be His people.

As the fall semesters begin across the state put high on your prayer lists the presidents, faculty, staff, and students of our institutions of Christian higher education. As the darkness looms on every side, pray the light will shine from our schools, so the world will know that we worship and serve the God who is “ever present and coming.”

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BGCT Presidential Journal 26

Dallas: This week has been quite an emotional roller coaster personally. On Tuesday, I moved my daughter Jamie to Dallas to be an incoming freshman at Dallas Baptist University.  As a father I must admit it was quite difficult living my little girl behind in Big “D.” However, if there was a consolation in this rite of passage it was the fact Robyn and I were entrusting her to the hands of DBU.

From the moment we turned into the entrance of the campus, we had the sense Jamie was in good hands. For years I have advocated that the Baptist churches I have served gave a bad name to “organized religion.” DBU took planning, preparation, and organization to new heights. The professional staff and student volunteers moved in three hundreds students into the dorms in three hours! It was by far the easiest transition I have ever witnessed first hand. All I had to do was back up my van full of “girl’s stuff” and open the back hatch and a swarm of smiling upperclassmen began grapping boxes heading for Jamie’s dorm room. The smiling helpful faces of the staff and students made me proud to be part of the BGCT family.

I drew great assurance from knowing that I was entrusting my daughter to a university that was committed to Christian higher education with a capital “C” for Christ! Dr. Cook has done an outstanding job leading DBU to put Christ first in the discipline of training the next generation of young servant leaders.

Since I am on the board of Howard Payne I am proud of our Texas Baptist family of universities and seminaries. I believe every parent this fall that drops off their student at a BGCT school can sleep well at night knowing their child is going to a school committed to training the next generation in a distinctively Baptist context. This fall, I have students from my church at Baylor, Wayland, Hardin Simmons, Howard Payne, Dallas Baptist, Houston Baptist, and Mary Hardin-Baylor. The only school that we don’t have a student in is East Texas Baptist, but it seems to be half way around the world from Canyon. (Note: my brother Stephen is a proud graduate of ETBU as well as my nephew Dee). Texas is a big state, and Texas Baptists have made a huge investment in making it a great state by sending out waves of graduates ready to change the world.

In addition this week, I had the opportunity to meet with the Committee for Nominating Executive Board Directors (CNEB). Linda Mastin did an excellent job leading this very important committee in their work. The Executive Board is charged with the incredible responsibility of leading our convention between annual meetings. As I witnessed this committee at work I was struck by the huge diversity of our Texas Baptist family. I was also encouraged to hear the committee members nominate a wide variety of qualified leaders. Many of this year’s nominees will bring fresh perspectives to our work together. The nominees this year will be a wonderful blend of new faces and veteran leaders. I especially appreciated the tenor of the meeting. The bottom line of the day was choosing leaders who have the best interests of the BGCT at heart.

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“And a little child will lead them…”

Centuries ago Isaiah envisioned a world where the wolf and the lamb would lie together and “a little child will lead them.” Children often radiate with the image of God through their innocence, openness and trust. Last Sunday I was amazed and encouraged by the example of our children.

Two weeks ago I had challenged our children with the World Hunger Challenge. Our mission committee entrusted $20 into the hands of our children with the challenge to take the money and make it grow for the sake of hungry children across Texas and around the world.

Over the course of the next two weeks our children with the guidance and helping hands of their parents multiplied the money entrusted to them into hundreds of dollars to feed the hungry. The children came up with creative ideas that included lemonade stands on the square, bake sales at Wal-mart, a spaghetti dinner at Calvary Baptist Church, a movie night in the backyard, a raffle, and a cookout in the front yard.  Just like the little boy who gave his five loaves and two fish to Jesus for the starving multitude. These children put their all into Jesus’ hands and he multiplied their gifts into hundreds of dollars. At the end of the week, we collected $12,701.00 for the Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger.

In closing Jesus told the story of the King who will divide the sheep from the goats. To those on his right, he said

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…”Matt 25:34-35 (NIV)

To his amazement the righteous replied, “When did we see you hungry?” And the King replied,

‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Matt 25:40 (NIV)

Giving like this comes from the heart…a heart at peace with God.

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BGCT Presidential Journal 25

Dallas: This week my responsibilities took me to my home away from home—Dallas. As you probably know the Baptist Building of the BGCT is located near Baylor Hospital close to downtown. The beautiful spacious offices are a testimony to the foresight of our Baptist leaders, and the providence of God. You may not be aware but the Baptist Building and its operation is not directly a result of Cooperative Program giving! The Baptist Building celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, and I learned the story of how a handful of key Baptist leaders had the wisdom to sell the BGCT offices in downtown and to take the proceeds to purchase the current land, build the offices, and to endow their upkeep all from the proceeds of the sale. With the help of Baylor Hospital this piece of property has become an effective tool in the hands of Texas Baptists.

This week a subcommittee of the Committee on Convention Business (COCB) met to review the requests for exhibitors for this year’s annual meeting in Houston, November 16-17. During the meeting we reviewed requests from a wide variety of ministries and vendors. I was encouraged and amazed at the wide variety of ministry partners God is bringing into our circle. If you have the opportunity to attend the convention, you will find in the exhibit area many old and new friends. A few of the new exhibitors will be Mercy Ships, Navpress, Lead Like Jesus, and Remote Sermons.  I must admit one of my favorite parts of conventions are the hours spent in the exhibit areas learning more about the new ministry opportunities and partnerships available to me and my church, and hanging out with my friends. In fact, Bill Wright, one of my closest friends, looks forward to going to the convention so he can hang out in the halls and harass messengers as they pass by! Usually Bill has more people hanging out around him than anyone I know.

The “City Reach” for this year’s convention in Houston is going to take a powerful evangelistic turn with the help of the Bill Glass Evangelistic Association. Dr. Everett, John Randles and Bill Glass have worked together to put together an evangelistic effort that could potentially give us the opportunity to share the gospel with over 100,000 people during our days in Houston. Texas Baptists will join up with Bill Glass and his team to enter the prisons near Houston on the weekend before. In addition, Bill Glass will be bringing in a team of professional athletes to speak in high school assemblies all across the greater Houston area. These same athletes will be available to speak in area churches on Sunday in special evangelistic events. If you or your church would be interesting in hosting one the athletes please contact me so we can make the necessary arrangements.

In closing, I traveled north to Lewisville to have lunch with Matt Chandler and Jeremy Pace of the Village Church in Highland Village. Matt Chandler is one of the finest young pastors in the nation. He is a product of Hardin Simmons University, and has an amazing heart for God and for reaching his generation with the gospel. I wanted to talk to Matt because I believe he represents the kind of young leaders that we need to shape our future. During lunch together they shared with me about the synergy of the Acts 29 Network, and their desire to plant over 200 new churches in Texas in our major metropolitan areas. I hope and pray this conversation will deepen our relationship with Matt. If we are going to embrace the future, we need to get young leaders like Matt at the table. Better yet, we need guys like Matt leading the way.

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A Pastor’s Wife

This afternoon I attended the memorial service for Patsy Hancock, who served along side Pastor Jim Hancock for the last fifty years as a “pastor’s wife.” Patsy went to be with the LORD suddenly early this week after a battle with heart disease and other physical complications. For seventeen years she served as first lady of First Baptist Church of Canyon, and left her special mark of the hearts and lives of young and old in our congregation.

I consider myself a self appointed expert on “pastor’s wives” since I was raised by a “pastor’s wife” and I have been married to a “pastor’s wife” for over twenty-seven years. From my front role seat, I do not believe you can find a higher or more difficult assignment in the Kingdom than theirs. Loving a pastor is like loving a “fireman” on steroids. Your life is not your own. Permanent plans are tentative. The expectations are high while too often the tangible rewards are few and far between. Living in the fishbowl of the parsonage is not for the faint of heart, but the pastor’s wife makes it home for her husband and children by balancing the demands of the church with the essentials of family life together.

During the message Rev. Steven Puckett, pastor of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church of Denton aptly described Pasty as a “live wire.” I remember Patsy sharing with me about how she used to “grade papers” and knit during Jim’s sermons! Patsy had a wonderful sense of humor, and an amazing way to keep life fun and in perspective. In fact, Patsy reminds me a great deal of my wife Robyn, and my mom Alice. It appears to me that being yourself is a key part of being a great “pastor’s wife.”

Without doubt Jim will face the future with a deep emptiness in his heart, yet his heart still beats with wonderful memories of fifty years walking with the Lord and His people together. I know Jim will be on my prayer list for the days ahead.

I thank God for Robyn, Alice, and Patsy. Every “pastor’s wife” deserves a smile, big hug, and a kind expression of thanks.

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BGCT Presidential Journal 24

Pampa: On Thursday evening, I had the opportunity to be the keynote speaker at the Top O’ Texas Baptist Association “Men and Boys Fish Fry” at First Baptist Church of Pampa. For me it was like a journey back in time. The large spacious fellowship hall was filled with at least four generations of men and boys. These Baptists had gathered from small towns and communities all across the Panhandle of Texas. The average travel time for these men was at least an hour, but the fellowship in the room was worth the journey.

A young pastor Joe Stepp from Southside Baptist in Perryton was the master of ceremonies for the evening, since their Director of Missions James Greer was on a mission trip to Africa. During the programs Greer’s son and three week old grandson brought a word of greeting to the gathering. In just a few days, Greer’s son will be on his way with wife and newborn in tow to a remote Eskimo village in Alaska as a missionary to three hundred people who live in the winter darkness of not knowing Christ.

Missions runs deep in the hearts of these Baptist men from small ranching communities and oil fields. I sat next to Andy Dietz, the missions and evangelism pastor of First Baptist Church of Borger. During the meal he shared with me about the vision of their church to have a presence on every continent in the world. They already had foot holds in Africa, Asia, South America, and North America, and they had tangible dreams about the next step for their church.

During the program, Richard Laverty, pastor of First Baptist Church of Perryton, shared about how his church was taking the lead in urging Southern Baptist churches across Texas to take up a special “Christmas in August” offering to help offset the short fall experienced by the International Mission Board when last year’s Lottie Moon Offering fell $30 million short. Laverty shared with me in line for dinner that each Sunday night this month his church is taking a special offering for the IMB and on the first night they raised over $3,000.

I went to Pampa hoping to encourage my brothers in their work, but I was the one encouraged.  I wish I could have captured the feeling of community and cooperation in the room. It seemed that the divisions and the distractions that had hindered so much of our work together was absent from the room last night.  There must be something special about followers of Jesus gathering around a mess of fish to remind us that we were called to be “fishers of men.”


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Year of the Lord’s Favor

Jesus came to fulfill in vivid colors the ancient prophetic words of Isaiah. Surrounded by His hometown friends, family and neighbors, Jesus read:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Luke 4:18-19 (NIV)

The year of the Lord’s favor was bought and paid for by Jesus’ example and great sacrifice. Sadly times do not change. Even today if those on the margins of life are going to enjoy life, freedom and the dignity of being created in the image of God, it comes by heralds of a new day willing to lay down their lives for others.

When I was just a boy playing in the dirt with green plastic army men, a war was raging for freedom that I knew little of. Even though my mother was born and raised in Northern Mississippi, I knew little of the struggles of the civil rights movement. I vaguely remember grainy black and white pictures of angry mobs yelling a little African American girls going to school, and wondering why are these people so angry.

In 1964, Carolyn Goodman, mother of young civil rights worker Andrew Goodman, heard the news that haunts every mother. Her son was missing in Mississippi. Andrew had gone south on a mission to work so African Americans could vote just like every other American citizen. For forty-four days she waited, and hoped for good news. One dark day the bad news shook her world. Andrew along with two co-workers were found dead near Meridian, Mississippi. Andrew had been shot by a .38-caliber revolver once in the chest, but his African American friend James Chaney had been savagely beaten to death.

In stead of retreating into her grief and despair, Carolyn took up her son’s cause. She chose to go to the front lines when most respectable adults left this work to the “children.” Carolyn adapted the words of poet Stephen Spender for her son’s tombstone. Inscribed are these words:

“Born of the sun he traveled a short while towards the sun, And left the vivid air signed with his honor”

May each of us be voices for freedom, understanding, community, and declare the “year of the Lord’s favor” by our words and deeds.

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Spiritual Warfare: The Battle for His Glory (part 2)

During a Spiritual Warfare Conference at our church last week, Dr. D.L. Lowrie challenged us with the realities of the war raging all around us. Even though I was more than familiar with the Biblical texts he had chosen, too often I find myself lulled into complacency and indifference. It is all too easy to simply go through the motions and play church. When we do, our arch enemy grins with glee.

Dr. Lowrie reminded us of the “axis of evil” standing in the way of all devoted followers of Jesus. This “axis of evil” is the world, the flesh or sinful nature, and the devil. The world seeks to conform and shape us into its image. The flesh (or the imposter as Brennan Manning calls it) makes war against our spirit and soul from within our own hearts and minds. The devil intimidates, lies, and deceives his way to power and influence within our lives. Against this kind of onslaught from within and without it is good to know as John proclaimed “greater is He that is within us than he that is in the world!”

In Dr. Jerry Rankin’s book Spiritual Warfare: The Battle for God’s Glory he wrote a probing insight about our arch enemy the devil. He wrote:

“Spiritual warfare is not so much about demon possession, territorial spirits, or generational bondage as it is overcoming Satan’s lies and deceits in our own life.”

Jesus called Satan “the father of lies” and this description still holds true today. His mission boils down to getting you to believe lies about yourself, God, and true fulfillment and completeness. Like a flashy lure dazzling the attention of an unsuspecting fish only to hook it and turn it into tonight’s dinner, Satan lies and lies seeking to deceive us into turning from the truth and living our lives in the shadows.

One of the areas he attaches me is in the area of my security. Too often I give into the trap of “people pleasing” and seek to be everything to everybody. When someone disapproves of me, or criticizing me I find myself crippled in my tracks, and almost defenseless against the disapproval. Suddenly I see myself as worthless, broken, or marred. My security in Christ is exchanged for a feeble attempt at self confidence by trying to be everything others want me to be. There is only one voice that gives life and security and it is not the deceiving voice of the enemy, nor the fickle voices of the crowd, nor the inner scheming flesh. No the only voice that speaks life is the still small voice of God amplified by His Spirit within us.

We would all be wise to stop believing the lies and to hold fast to the truth. Remember what Jesus said:

“if you continue in my words, you will be my disciples indeed, and you will know the truth and the truth will set your free.”

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African American Fellowship Conference: BGCT Presidential Journal 23

Desoto: This week I had the honor of attending the African American Fellowship Conference held at the Community Missionary Baptist Church in Desoto. This year’s conference rallied around the there “Transforming the World through the Word.” President John Olgetree of Houston did a wonderful job bring together some of the finest preachers and conference leaders from around the nation to inspire the pastors and people who attended the conference.

I received a warm welcome from my brothers and sisters in Christ, and learned a great deal. On Thursday, President Olgetree pointed out how our AAF churches had led the way in giving this year. Our AAF churches gave 8.5% more this year while most of our churches gave less. These churches gave out of great sacrifice and commitment to be full partners in the work of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. We should all follow their example not only in giving to the BGCT, but even more importantly, we need to follow their commitment to “transforming their communities.”

Dr. Michael Bell, former president of the BGCT, and pastor of Greater Saint Stephen First Church was elected president of the fellowship. Dr. Bell is highly committed to lead the AAF to make huge strides forward in their work of taking the gospel to our great state. Under his able leadership, I am confident this is going to be an exciting year.

Exciting is a good word to describe the AAF conference. If you have a chance to participate in next year’s conference in Houston, I would highly encourage you go. I found the preaching and the music exciting and challenging on many levels. I was deeply inspired by the preaching of Bishop Vaughn McLaughlin of the Potter’s House Christian Fellowship, Jacksonville, Florida, and by Pastor Denny D. Davis of St. John Church of Grand Prairie/Southlake. These two men of God lifted up Jesus and called us to “go over the top” with our devotion to him.

Bishop McLaughlin has led an amazing work in Jacksonville around the theme of “occupy until I come.” His church has purchased a mall and turned it into a Kingdom enterprise. The truth I took home from him was taking “heaven to hell.” He challenged us to take the keys of the Kingdom and open the gates of hell and “get our stuff back.”

Pastor Davis spoke of the transfiguration of Jesus, and challenged me by reminding me that only a select few are invited to the mountain top with Jesus. He also pointed out how on the mountain top, law (Moses), prophecy (Elijah) and grace (Jesus) all came together.

The African American Fellowship Conference reminded me of the great power and diversity of our convention. We truly do practice heaven on earth.

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