Monthly Archives: September 2009

Our Texas Baptist Cowboy

Last week, David Currie, executive director of the Texas Baptist Committed announced he will be stepping down from this post. His announcement marked a shift in Baptist life in Texas. Currie alluded to a new day in the life of the Texas Baptist Committed. Not long ago, I believe Marv Knox, editor of the Baptist Standard, called it “winning the peace.”

The Texas Baptist Committed under Currie’s leadership took a stand against Fundamentalism on the march. When the stakes were high in Texas Baptist life, Currie, Phil Strickland, Hebert Reynolds, and John Baugh called Texas Baptists to their historic roots. In a politically charge environment, Currie led the TBC to be the voice for reason and cooperation.

As the war for Baptist identity raged, Currie stayed true to his historic values and roots and fought hard to keep the BGCT safe from those who sought to control it, and possibly rob it of its institutions and mandates. That was then.

Now the challenges facing the BGCT are quite different. The struggles of the past are pall in comparison to the challenges of tomorrow. While denominations and conventions the nation over as cutting back, and moving into obscurity often by self-inflicted wounds, the BGCT stands at a crossroads.

The challenge of tomorrow is not so much a battle with Fundamentalism, but rather a challenge of capturing the hearts and minds of the generations to come. Most denominations are one or at best two generations from extinction.  Young leaders of today have little or no denominational loyalty. Many of these young leaders see the political infighting of the past as irrelevant for the future. They see the large cumbersome hierarchies of denominations out of touch with the “flat” realities of tomorrow.

The new task of the TBC rests with communicating the best of historic Baptist values and principles in a way that the next generation will embrace them as their own. The Baptist of tomorrow may not claim this honored name, but I hope and pray the principles our Baptist forefathers passed on will not die on our watch.

As Currie said, “Don’t get me wrong, I am not going away.” For this we can be thankful. Currie is often misunderstood, and maligned, but I found in him someone who shoots straight, loves Texas Baptists, and is willing to do whatever it takes to win tomorrow, even it means stepping down from a post he loves and cherishes.

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BGCT Presidential Journal 29

Marshall: East Texas Baptist University stands as a shining light in the heart of deep East Texas. I had the opportunity to speak in chapel, and was encouraged and inspired by what I experienced. Dr. Dub Oliver is the new president of ETBU, and brings a fresh perspective to this historic Baptist school.

On the ETBU website, Dr. Dub as the students affectionately call him declares:

“At ETBU, we believe all truth is God’s truth so we study and learn from a Christian worldview. Most colleges and universities in our nation today separate faith and learning. We integrate them. And, while we accept students of all faiths and no faith, we are unapologetically committed to fulfilling God’s call for us as an institution under the banner of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

While on the campus among the faculty and student body, I had the sense this vision of faith and learning was a present reality not a hopeful dream for tomorrow. While thumbing through the school paper I was a picture of Dr. Dub helping incoming freshmen moving into their dorms. It reminded me of the best of servant leadership—leading by example.

Allan Thompson, the director of the Great Commission Center was my host, and guide. Allan has a wonderful heart for the students and vibrant vision of mobilizing this generation of young leaders for kingdom work.

During a brief reception following the chapel I had the opportunity to meet two visiting professors from China who are teaching Chinese to the students of ETBU. I was encouraged to hear this. Chinese is increasing becoming the language of the future as the place and influence of China increases. If we are going to win the world, we will need leaders who speak the heart language of the Chinese people.

One of the challenges facing the Baptist General Convention of Texas today is how to embrace our future. We must never underestimate the importance of our Baptist colleges and universities in Texas. We are training the next generation of pastors and leaders for the future right now, it is critical that we teach this generation the importance of “kingdom cooperation” and listen to this generation as prepare for the future.

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Baptist Basics: Congregational Rule (Sermon Outline)

Baptist Basics

“His Voice, Our Voice: Congregational Rule”

Acts 6:1-7

Fully devoted followers of Jesus make decisions together about the future of their church.

  1. 1. The Principles for Congregational Rule

2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Acts 6:1-2 (NIV)

  • Jesus is LORD of His church.
  • Jesus expresses His will through the will of His followers.

  1. 2. The  Process of Congregational Rule

2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”  5 This proposal pleased the whole group. Acts 6:2-5 (NIV)

  • Leaders identify the opportunities and challenges facing the local church and make appropriate recommendations.
  • The people decide the best course of action.

  1. 3. The Product of Congregational Rule

7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. Acts 6:7 (NIV)

  • The local church makes healthy decisions about how to face things together.
  • The local church positions itself to continue to grow and thrive.

Final thoughts:

Congregational rule can be complicated and messy at times, but it is the most healthy way for the body of Christ to work together under the leadership of the LORD.


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Baptist Basics: Salvation by Faith Alone (sermon outline)

Text: Ephesians 2:1-10

Fully devoted followers of Jesus trust Him alone for their salvation.

  1. 1. Salvation by Works: Hopeless

  • No one can live a perfect life.

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, Eph 2:1 (NIV)

  • No one can cover their sin by doing enough good works.

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. Eph 2:8-9 (NIV)

  1. 2. Salvation by Grace: Amazing

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– Eph 2:8 (NIV)

  • Salvation comes by grace alone as a priceless gift.

  • Salvation comes by faith alone in Christ Jesus.

Final Thought:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”—Jesus (John 3:16 NIV)


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BGCT Presidential Journal: Houston 2009

The Committee on Convention Business is finalizing their plans for the Baptist General Convention of Texas annual meeting in Houston, November 16-17. The focus of this year’s annual meeting will be Texas Hope 2010.

As part of the convention, the Future Focus Committee will be presenting their recommendations about how we as Texas Baptists need to work together to embrace our future. Over the past two years under the direction and able leadership of Stephen Hatfield and Andy Pittman the Future Focus Committee has evaluated and dreamed about the possibilities and challenges facing our convention in the future. Many of the strategic changes identified have already been implements under the direction of Dr. Everett, and it is our hope a new day is dawning. Their report will be a pivotal part of the gathering.

The face of this years’ gathering should be quite different with a prioritized effort to bring in younger messengers by the hundreds.  I have invited the Robbie Seay band to be part of our gathering. Robbie will sing during the Monday evening session, and following the session there will be an afterglow worship concert led by his band. Robbie is a Texas Baptist and leads worship in one of our churches. I felt it was important that we celebrate this part of our story.

In addition, efforts have been made to make the face of the gather reflect closer the reality of our convention and its make up. Today, 43% of our churches are non-Anglo and it is our hopes that this annual meeting will reflect this reality. During the Monday evening session we will recognize many of the leaders of our ethnic churches, and will have a special time of prayer together for Texas Hope 2010. On any given Sunday morning, as Texas Baptists, we worship the LORD in over fifty languages.

Note: We are offering reduced rate hotel accommodations at the Hyatt for messengers from our ethnic and bi-vocational churches. Information about this assistance can be secured by contacting the BGCT or Dr. Everett’s office.

Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States, and the largest in Texas. I pray when we arrive in Houston this fall that we will let our light shine. Make plans now to join us. You will not want to miss this year’s convention.

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One Big Happy Family

David wrote:

Chapter 133

1 A pilgrim song of David
How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along! 2 It’s like costly anointing oil flowing down head and beard, Flowing down Aaron’s beard, flowing down the collar of his priestly robes. 3 It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon flowing down the slopes of Zion. Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing, ordains eternal life.

Psalms 133:1-3 (MSG)

Having grown up in a family of four boys, and currently the proud father of four girls, I can promise you for brothers and sisters to get along is not a small thing. It is often easier to get along with a stranger than a brother. This struggle relates the intimacy of life together. Bonhoffer wrote a classic book on Christian unity entitled “Life Together.” In this book he challenge the Christian community to lay aside its fantasies about what unity and brotherly love look like and to embrace the realities of loving each other in a messy, complicated world. Unity is not the absence of conflict, but rather an undying love and determination to remain in relationship no matter what the cost or obstacle.

As I travel to Dallas today to attend the Committee on Convention Business, I am mindful that I am proud part of a wonderful, diverse, and complicated family. I look forward to see God at work among us as we dream about our “family reunion” in Houston.

In the words of Gaither, “I am glad I am a part of the family of God.”

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BGCT Presidential Journal 28: Boards of Trustees

Amarillo: The last couple of weeks I have been quite busy at my “day job”—the one that pays the bills. However, I did have the opportunity to sit in on two meetings that I would like to reflect on in this post.

The first meeting was the Committee to Nominate Boards for Affiliated Ministries in Dallas on August 27th. This meeting was led by Chairperson Mike Jackson of FBC Perryton. During the meeting the various committee members reported on their subcommittee meetings with the 23 institutions that make up our larger Baptist family.

As each committee member reported and the names of the various trustees were discussed, I was impressed by the great number of quality Baptist leaders we have. I was also impressed by the work of the committee to broaden the tent and to involve leaders from our various Baptist churches and affinity groups. The task is not a simple one and is complicated by the work assignments of the various trustee boards. The CEO’s of our various institutions play a big part in the selection of our leaders. I did not sense their actions were “heavy handed” but rather a vigilant attempt to hold their trust as leaders of these institutions. Most of our institutions are facing challenging waters and it is important that those who serve on the boards can contribute expertise, wisdom, and leadership during these critical days.

As one reads over the report, you will be struck by the local flavor of the boards, and by historic relationships. The boards of our affiliated ministries are very diverse in their make up, but we still have strides to make in the ethnic representations. Even though our convention is only 57 percent Anglo, our boards do not reflect this reality very well. This is a challenge that must be addressed in the years to come for our institutions to gain the valuable contributions and perspectives of our many ethnic leaders across the state. For this to be a reality we must work hard at broadening our relationships and recommending quality leaders to committees for consideration.

My second movement into the world of boards was when I was invited to participate along with Dr. Randel Everett, Jill Larson, and Keith Bruce in a meeting with the Baptist Community Services Board in Amarillo. The BCS is a board led by Tim Holloway that has the assignment of overseeing ministry to the growing senior adult populations in the Panhandle and nominating board members to serve on the Baptist St. Anthony’s Hospital Board (BSA).

Last year BCS explored the possibilities of selling their interests in the hospital to our Catholic partners in this endeavor, but this investigation was halted by a number of factors both at the local and state level. The Executive Board subcommittee given oversight on this matter received a recommendation but chose to delay action until local leaders could come to an agreement that never came to be.

During the course of this action many things were questioned and there were lobbying efforts made to influence the decision about the hospital sale. Those not familiar with Baptist polity reached out to our Executive director and to me and others for help on the matter. However, the right approach would have been to go to the Board itself. In our system the local Board is the right place to start because the convention has entrusted to the trustees this right and responsibility.  The role of trustee is absolutely critical for our system to work effectively.

The title trustee is fitting for this assignment. It is built around the critical issue of trust. Without trust our whole system is flawed and venerable.

Paul in his letter to the church of Corinth shared about his understanding of being trustworthy with these words:

1 So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. 2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 1 Cor 4:1-2 (NIV)

As we all know trust is a two-way street. For our system to work effectively we need to select trustworthy men and women to hold these positions of responsibility, and those holding these positions must prove themselves to be trustworthy in word and deed.

Since I have been invited behind the curtain of Baptist life this year, I have grown in my confidence in those who hold places of leadership. Granted our system is not perfect, nor will it ever be as long as frail people are involved, but our system is at its best when trust is the currency of our transactions.

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Separation of Church and State Sermon Outline

Over the past several weeks I have been preaching a sermon series entitled: “Baptist Basics”. I decided to post my sermon outline from this week. I hope it stirs some ideas and thoughts.

Baptist Basics

“Separation of Church and State”

Matthew 22:15-22

Fully devoted followers of Jesus advance the work of the Kingdom for the sake of the nation.

  1. Don’t pass the buck: Render only to Caesar what is Caesar’s

“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Matt 22:21 (NIV)

  • Government has a divine assignment separate from the mission of the church.
  • When government reaches beyond its divine boundaries by promoting or restricting faith the spiritual vitality of the people suffers.
  • God did not sanction the government to be the guardian of the soul.
  1. Let the Church be the Church: Render to God your life and service

“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Matt 22:21 (NIV)

  • The Church has the divine assignment to be presence and voice of God in society.
  • Freedom of religion should not mean the same as freedom “from” religion: God expects His people to be the light and the salt of the earth.
  • The Church gives God all He so rightfully deserves—their very lives.

Final Thoughts:

  1. The Church in the United States needs to step up and be the people of God.
  2. Most of what is wrong with the United States can be addressed most effectively by the advance of the Kingdom of God, not the promotion of political solutions.


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Just Move the Chains

In the book of Ecclesiastes, the Wisdom of Solomon takes a dark turn; he speaks of the lessons learned in the midst of a meaningless life. He observed:

It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of every man;
the living should take this to heart. Eccl 7:2 (NIV)

Solomon pointed out that death teaches some of the most profound lessons of life. Today I learned one of those lessons of life at a funeral. I attended the funeral of Coach Larry Wartes, who ended his coaching career at Hereford High School, and lead Stamford High to a state championship after the legendary Gordon Wood left to go to Victoria High on his way to Brownwood.

During the funeral, a distinguished gentleman shared a story from his teenage years. Rusty was the starting quarterback on the state championship led by Larry Wartes. He shared how on the night before his first game at quarterback Coach Wartes prepared him for the season of his life.

On that historic night Coach Wartes called Rusty’s house and asked him to meet him at the fieldhouse. On the way to the school Rusty wondered what his coach was up to. Was the coach going to give him a final pep talk, or film session? Was he going to go over the game plan for one last time?

To his surprise, Coach Wartes led him to the equipment room and asked his young quarterback to pick up the first down marker chains, and meet him at the field. As Rusty walked toward the field in the dark suddenly the lights came on, and Coach Wartes appeared in the end zone walking toward him. Rusty stopped at the fifty yard line and waited. When Coach Wartes arrived he asked Rusty to lay out the chains between the fifty and the forty yard line. Then he asked (no ordered) his young quarterback to walk back and forth between the chains five times. At this point Rusty is wondering if Coach Wartes has been out in the sun too long. Has the crazy old man lost his mind?

Finally Rusty stops and asks his coach, now what do you want me to do? Coach Wartes walked up to Rusty and put his arm around his young charge and says, “Rusty tomorrow night on this field all I want you to do is to focus on moving the chains ten yards at a time…don’t worry about being a star or winning the game.” He paused and emphasized, “Rusty, just keep moving the chains.” On that fateful night Coach Wartes taught his young quarterback a life lesson that stuck with him through the thick and thin of life. “Just keep moving the chains.”

Effectiveness in life often does not boil down to the most talented or gifted, but rather to the one who just keeps doing what he or she can, and “keeps moving the chains.” It is taking life on day at a time, one challenge at a time that makes all the difference.

So if you find yourself looking at your future wrapped up in uncertainly or dread, take a lesson from Coach Wartes and commit yourself to just “keep moving the chains.”

Postscript: Rusty led his teammates to a state championship under Coach Wartes ten yards at a time.


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