Monthly Archives: October 2009

DBU Pilgrim Chapel

Dallas: On Friday, October 16th I had the honor to participate in the dedication of the Pilgrim Chapel that towers over SW Dallas on the university hill of Dallas Baptist University. The chapel was designed along the lines the first Baptist church in Providence, Rhode Island. The church founded by Roger Williams in the early days of our nation.

The first gift for this chapel was given in 1999 in response to the vision of Dr. Gary Cook, president of DBU. In the early days, DBU actually met and worshipped under a tent on campus, but today the students will gather in a state of the art facility designed to be a place of worship and learning. The lead gift for this chapel was given by long time Baptist donor Bo Pilgrim of Pittsburg, Texas and founder of the Pilgrim’s Pride Company.

During the dedication service Dr. Cook called attention the ceiling of the chapel which is lined with scriptures.  He called attention to the verse, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” Mark 11:17. He called special attention to the words “all nations”, and then shared his vision of reaching the nations through the ministry and reach of DBU. As a vivid illustration of this reality he then had DBU students from all over the world come and introduce themselves and tell where they were from. As the students lined up I saw faces from practically every corner of the globe.  Young people from Asia, South America, Europe, and Africa stepped from to identify themselves and the people they represented. The world has come to DBU, and through these students DBU is touching the world.

I walked away from this service with a renewed commitment to faith, perseverance, and vision. The Pilgrim Chapel shines as a beacon very Dallas because Dr. Cook and others believed it was possible, worked hard to make this dream a reality, and gave all the glory to God. Long before the chapel became a reality Dr. Cook could see it in his heart and mind. One evening  he cast this vision to Adam Wright, a young leader charged with leading the campaign by sharing a verse God had burned on his heart—“We walk by faith and not by sight.” When we walk by faith we trust God to keep His promises, and to be God in our lives. We see what others cannot see. We risk what others will not risk. We may appear “fools” but we are “fools for Christ” because we believe.

Much is learned in the classrooms and libraries of our Baptist universities and seminaries, but some of the best lessons are learned when students see leaders living out their faith right before their eyes.

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Thought Provoking Quote

“A people who are caught up in their own little story will never be willing to lay themselves down as stepping stones for others”–Del Tackett, The Truth Project

This quote caught me a bit of guard today. Seeing the “big picture” often opens the heart and mind to sacrifice for a cause greater than yourself. No one takes up his or her cross without a vision of the Kingdom on God burned on their hearts.

I pray I will be someone who is more concerned with HIS story than mine.

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Wayland Baptist Missions Center

Plainview: This week I had the opportunity to participate in a strategy planning meeting for the new Wayland Missions Center led by Dr. Rick Shaw. This new mission center located on the high plains of Texas has a vision to touch the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Dr. Rick Shaw, a former international missionary to Albania, brings an inspiring and challenging perspective to his Kingdom assignment. Not only does he oversee the work of the missions center, but he is overseeing the Wayland Baptist University, Kenya campus. Yes, you read right “KENYA” campus.

In some ways Wayland Missions Center is one of the best kept secrets in Texas Baptist life. Dr. Shaw is an amazing missional leader, and the students I had the opportunity to interact with are some of the finest I have met in recent years.

During the strategic dialogue among a wide host of Baptist leaders and pastors from West Texas it was the consensus of the group that the face of missions today is changing. No longer does missions boil down to sending money through the Cooperative Program to national sending organizations like the International Mission Board or the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Missions today is more “hands on” and under the control and direction of the local church. In addition, this generation of students feels God’s calling to missions in ever increasing numbers. The harsh reality is that today there are more mission volunteers than resources to send them.

One of the challenges I gave to Dr. Shaw was to work on develop models for Kingdom cooperation and collaboration in the future. The Cooperative Program was the genius of the modern missionary movement, but it must change to embrace the new realities of missions today. For Western Christianity to be a player in the future of missions, and it needs to be, new models, processes, and networks for doing work together must be developed. In the development of these models, I believe this young passionate generation of leaders must be heavily involved in the dreaming and implementation. Young leaders are not going to lay down their lives for the old bureaucracies of yesterday.

The “top down” hierarchies of yesterday are being replaced rapidly by “flatter” more mobile systems and networks. These new models are much more relational and “hands on” in the past. Struggles for control are being replaced by collaboration and networking among leaders who are passionate about common Kingdom assignments. Centers like the Wayland Mission Center need to be places where older and younger generations talk and work together to create the models for tomorrow.

I hope and pray Wayland Baptist University will be leaders in the conversation and transition under the vision and leadership of Dr. Paul Armes, president, and Dr. Rick Shaw, director of the Wayland Missions Center. Out on the plains of West Texas God is up to something big for the future of His Kingdom.

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David Edwards: We miss you already!

Canyon: This week I was shocked to hear the news that Dr. David Edwards, pastor of First Baptist Church of Corsicana was killed in a tragic car accident when the car he was driving was hit head on by on oncoming car on Texas Hwy 31 near Hubbard.  When I heard the news my mind raced back to the last time I saw David sitting in his place during the Executive Board meeting in Dallas.

David is one of the good guys. He is a great pastor, wonderful husband and father, and a good man. You may have notice I am speaking of David in present rather than past tense because as a follower of Jesus David is still alive in well today. His earthly body died that dark afternoon, but David lives on.

Please pray for David’s wife Lyndy, his daughters Emily and Kate, and his son Evan, along with Kate’s husband Brian Mullaney. In addition, pray for the good folks of the First Baptist Church of Corsicana.

During difficult days like these in walking through the “valley of the shadow of death” I am comforted by the words of Job that seem cold and harsh at first blush but resonate with faith and courage in the face of adversity unspeakable. When Job heard the shocking news his children had died in a heartbreaking accident, he torn his robes and worshipp

ed God saying: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will return. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away—blessed be the name of the Lord.” How can one worship God when it appears He has ripped away the one you love so suddenly or failed to protect when death came near? The key is in one’s view of “the Lord takes away.”  The Lord does not take away our love ones to a dark place we will never see them again—He takes them home!

The timing of death is still a mystery, and often leaves us with more questions than answers in times like these, but thank God for His gifts and trusting His timing opens the path through the valley. God gave us a wonderful gift in David Edwards for which those who know him best will always be grateful for, and we can be thankful that one day we will see David’s smiling face again in the “land that is fairer than day.” Until that day, let’s keep on trusting the Lord, and loving each other. Don’t miss an opportunity today to tell those you love how special they are to you.


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Howard Payne: Perfect Storm

Brownwood: This week I participated in the board of trustee meeting of Howard Payne University. This historic Baptist school in the heart of Texas holds a very special place in my heart. My two oldest daughters graduated from this school, and one of my closest lifelong friends Dr. Gary Gramling has been on faculty there for as long as I can remember.

As a member of the board, I have had the opportunity and responsibility to help shape the future of the school the last three years. The challenges facing our relatively small Texas Baptist schools like Howard Payne are immense. Especially during these days of economic recession it is a daunting task to keep the school above water financially while trying to keep tuition down to reasonable levels.

Howard Payne in particular has sailed into what some would consider a perfect storm. The school enrollment is down by approximately 100 students, endowment income is down, gifts to the annual fund are down, and the financial support from the Baptist General Convention of Texas is also down. Talk about a “downer.” This is the challenge facing new university president Dr. Bill Ellis who moved from Hardin Simmons to lead the school during these challenging days.

I was personally impressed with Dr. Ellis’ smile and positive attitude toward what he deemed the “challenges” facing HPU. Ellis is absolutely confident that God’s hand is on HPU and the future is bright regardless of the economic indicators. It appeared to me that Ellis’ confidence rests in his undying faith in the provision of the LORD who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and the team of faculty and staff that serve with him. HPU like many of our Baptist schools has the amazing ability to do “more and more on less and less” as one former HPU president summed it up.

In times like these we would be wise to remember the profound lesson the disciples of Jesus learned on the open sea. After a long day of ministry, Jesus loaded his crew on a boat and directed them to sail to the other side while he caught a nap. While Jesus was sleeping a “perfect storm” arose and terrified this crew of veteran sailors. In a panic they woke Jesus up exclaiming “don’t you care that we are drowning?” Jesus stood and rebuked the wind and the waves, and then turned to His disciples with a stern probing question “where is your faith?” I fear that too often in the midst of the storm we too panic rather than trusting that as long as Jesus is on board we are not going to sink.

In the midst of a “perfect storm” we would be wise to ask ourselves—“where is your faith?”


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BGCT Presidential Journal 30 (Executive Board)

Dallas: This week I had opportunity to participate in the Executive Board meetings in Dallas. This two day meeting is pack with meetings, both formal and informal, as the board oversees the work of the convention between annual meetings.

One huge development this week was the absence of John Petty, who resigned as chairman of the board. Petty stepped down for personal reasons, and his presence was missed. Petty had proven himself as a capable leader over the past two years, and helped Dr. Everett greatly in his re-introduction into BGCT life. Petty was open, fair, firm, and a very capable leader.

Debbie Ferrer, who served as vice chairperson, stepped up in Petty’s absence and did a wonderful job overseeing the events of the week. In addition, Ferrer was elected to be chairperson of the board next year. Joining her in leadership will be Van Christian, pastor of First Baptist Church, Comanche, who will serve as the vice chair next year. Christian will be moving up from his post as chairperson of the Missions and Ministries Committee. Christian also serves as chairman of the Christian Life Commission. Both Ferrer and Christian care deeply for the future of the BGCT and will do a good job helping the convention navigate the coming days.

The big item of discussion this week was the proposed BGCT budget for next year to be recommended for approval at the Annual meeting in Houston. The $41 million budget marks another sharp reduction in spending by the BGCT. Dr. Everett and Jill Larson should be commended for their attempt to bring the spending of the BGCT in line with its income projects for the coming year. Over the past two years under Everett’s leadership, the budget has been slashed 20%. Yet, the spirit of the convention and the Executive Board staff seems to be very optimistic in spite of this reality.

In order to trim spending to meet the anticipated income for next year, the budget required sacrifices on every front. Two noteworthy sacrifices were on the part of the BGCT staff and institutions. The staff will see their employee contributions to their annuities reduced by 50% (10% to 5%). This cut in benefits will save the BGCT over $600,000. In addition, the universities, seminaries, children’s homes, hospitals and other institutions experienced another reduction in revenues. These two actions appear to have been necessary, but these trends need to stop if the convention is going to be a force for change in the future.

To address the issue of institutional support, the EB will form a study committee to take a hard look at how the BGCT funds its institutions and this committee will be making a report to the board by its May meeting. It is critical for the committee to help the BGCT to develop an effective strategy for funding its institutions for the future. Even though the Cooperative Program has taken some hits in the last decade, it still seems to be the most effective and efficient means of funding Kingdom enterprises.

I believe the EB is working hard to help the BGCT move forward into the future. Dr. Everett and his staff are giving visionary leadership, and I hope next year when we meet to discuss the budget we will actually have more money to spend and will be talking about a larger budget. When I was a church planter in the early days of Mission Texas, we were taught “the resources are in the harvest.” Let’s get to work on Texas Hope 2010 and trust God to provide the resources we need for today and for tomorrow.


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Thought for Today: Is Jesus in the boat?

Allowing fear to cloud your thoughts will lessen your effectiveness as a leader.  When you choose to accept the Lord’s helping hand, there is no need to fear.—“Lead Like Jesus Devotional” October 2, 2009

After a long day of ministry, Jesus encouraged his disciples to climb into a boat and cross the Sea of Galilee. On the trip, Jesus curled up on a pillow and fell fast asleep. Meanwhile a nasty squall blew up on the sea and the waves began to swamp the boat. The disciples began to panic even though many of them were accomplished sailors and fishermen.

The disciples shook Jesus and startled him to wake up shouting above the storm, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” Jesus got up, looked around, and commanded the winds and waves to cease. Suddenly the sea was as calm as a sheet of glass. Then He turned and said, “Where is your faith?”

The simple, yet profound moral to the story is: When Jesus is in the boat you have nothing to fear! Jesus promised to never leave or forsake us, so in a true sense, He is always in the boat with us.

Fear has a cruel way of gripping us and taking our eyes off Jesus. Fear thrives when we look at the circumstances around us and forget who is on board with us.

When fear sneaks up on me, and keeps me awake in the watches of the night. I cling to the simple words of the Psalmist.

3 When I am afraid,
I will trust in you. Psalms 56:3 (NIV)

The next time fear knocks on the door of your heart, let Jesus answer the door!

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Prayers for Bill Wright

This week Bill Wright, pastor of First Baptist Church of Plains, received news that he has advanced stomach cancer and that the cancer has spread to his lymph system. He will begin treatments on Monday with an experimental drug that has shown some promise in early tests.

Please pray for Bill and his wife Linda, along with his children and grandchildren. Also pray for the people of FBC Plains, as you might expect they are taking this news very hard.

As you might expect Bill has taken this news in stride and has a very positive outlook on his future. As he said to me, “I read the book, and it looks to me that either way I win!”

On a personal note: Bill has been an incredible friend and mentor to me over the past twenty years. We met standing in a hospital hallway as we came to minister to a young family in my church,  and our friendship has only deepened over the years. I love Bill’s spirit. He is straightforward, and strong, yet has a tender side brings great comfort in times of distress. He is an amazing pastor. He reminds me of what I believe Peter must have been like.

As always, Bill is in the Lord’s hands, so we have nothing to fear.


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