Monthly Archives: January 2010

Reformating the Baptist General Convention of Texas Annual Meeting

Dallas: Have you make your travel plans to travel to McAllen for the BGCT Annual Meeting? If not, why not? One of my priorities this year as president is the make the annual meeting a meeting you will not want to miss.

As you probably know, last year in Houston we had the fewest number of messengers in years. In jest, I attributed this downturn in attendance to my effective leadership and the restored trust of the people. The harsh reality I believe we were hit by a perfect storm of circumstances including an economic downturn, high cost of a downtown venue, lack of meaningful elections or controversial issues, and a continued downward spiral of denominational interest. If the BGCT had a hard time drawing a “crowd” in Houston, imagine the challenge we face going to the Valley.

In light of this reality, I have led the Committee on Convention Business (COCB) to color outside the lines a bit and to put together a meeting that will not resemble what we have done in recent years. Of course, there is very little that is new under the sun, so these innovations are really not radical, but I hope they will bring freshness to our gathering.

We are currently in the dreaming and planning stage, but let me paint with a broad brush where we are heading. Many of the suggested innovations were a byproduct of my personal reflections after meeting with the committee appointed to study our annual meeting. This committee under the leadership of Kyle Henderson, pastor of First Baptist Church of Athens, has nicknamed themselves “The Green Hat” committee. The “Green Hat” represents their passion and priority to present “new ideas” for our future. During their meeting, Kyle encouraged the committee to think “outside the box.” However, I loved the comment by Dub Oliver, president of East Texas Baptist University, when he suggested that we get rid of the box altogether. I suspect this excites some and terrifies others!

So if you come to McAllen what will be different?

  1. The corporate meetings will be divided between inspirational meetings and business meetings. In others words, we will not try to blend the business and inspiration together. Each gathering will have a purpose and a focus. So we will have three “empower sessions” and two “business sessions.”  During empower sessions we will focus on casting vision, inspiration and telling our story. During the business sessions we will do the “work” we were sent to accomplish.
  2. The schedule of the sessions will be as follows: We will open on Monday afternoon with our first empower session during which the Executive Director and the President will cast the vision for the future. After this session, we will take a break and return in the middle of the afternoon for an hour and half business session during which we will seat messengers, approved the agenda, elect officers, introduce new business and have the Executive Board report.

After this first business session we will break for the dinners. We will end the day with an empower rally that will focus on telling the amazing stories of  what Texas Baptists are doing together, and we also will have a nationally known speaker who will challenge us to be the people of God.

On Tuesday morning, we will have a “morning on mission.” During this morning, the messengers and guests will be invited to get their hands dirty in ministry or to go exploring the mission opportunities in the Valley and along the River. It is the hope that this morning will instill in us the importance of missions, and will make a positive impression on the people of McAllen. How this morning will flesh out is still in the works, but the commitment is in place to do this.

On Tuesday afternoon, we will return for a second and final business session. During this business session we will elect any remaining officers, approved the budget, elect trustees and Executive board members, and handle any business that needs to be addressed by the body. (Note: The exhibit areas will only close during the evening empower rallies and during the “morning on mission.” Otherwise, they will be open for fellowship and networking.) After this business session we will break for another set of dinners and reunion events.

The “official” convention will conclude Tuesday evening with our final empower session. This session will feature the annual sermon this year by Victor Rodriguez, the president of the Hispanic Baptist Convention, and an address by a second nationally known speaker. This second speaker will also stay over to be the keynote speaker at our G5 meeting that will be help on Wednesday morning.

As you can tell we are intentionally lengthening the meeting rather than shortening it. The reason is simple. We want to slow the pace, so we can have more time for fellowship and networking. I don’t believe shorter is better. Most of us go to the convention to do the business of our convention, but also to be with our friends.  This takes time.

  1. Morning on Mission

The “Morning on Mission” will still need to be fleshed out, but it will take two tracts. One track will be hands on mission projects in cooperation with local churches and agencies. The second track will be exploring mission possibilities for future partnerships.

Other items: This new format will extend the time available to our exhibitors since we will only close the booths during the evening sessions. The exhibit area will open on Monday morning rather than Sunday and will close at approximately 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday. The format will also provide two prime times for alumni events and institutional gatherings on Monday and Tuesday evening. There will also be a projected reduction of workshops due to the format change and limited space available.

These projected changes are still in the works, but I am excited to see the possibilities of this new format for our annual meeting.

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A Paramount Story about Helping Haiti

On Sunday, January 17th the Texas Baptist Men were preparing to be deployed to go to Haiti to provide water purification systems for the people struggling in the aftermath of last week’s earthquake. By faith they were ready to go even though they were $60,000 short in paying for the equipment.

Meanwhile, Paramount Baptist Church gathered for worship as usual, but this was not going to be a normal Sunday. Pastor Gil Lain and the leaders of the church decided to do something quite out of the ordinary. They decided to give away Sunday morning’s offering to help the people of Haiti through the efforts of the Texas Baptist Men. They made this decision even though they were running $140,000 behind their budget. Disaster relief is a passion for the people of Paramount, so this act of sacrifice was quite within their DNA.  When the offering was collected and counted, the people gave over $62,000.

A call was made to the Texas Baptist Men’s headquarters to report the news. God is good. God revealed himself on Sunday through Gil Lain and the sacrificial generosity of his people. One group moved ahead in faith while another group gave by faith and together God is glorified in the midst of a tragedy.

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Community and Authenticity

As I was reading Gary L. McIntosh and Daniel Reeves book, Thriving churches in the Twenty-first Century I was caught off guard by this quote:

Size and location of church are not as important as they used to be, a trend that could cause a lot of consternation in church board rooms. Many church leaders and consultants, however, see that in the near future the optimum size for the typical church is about three hundred to five hundred. The emphasis, though, will be on community, authenticity, and a move away from the primacy of buildings.

In a time when we think “bigger is better”, and “mega-church envy” has been baptized as normal, we may need to revisit our aspirations. Community and authenticity were the marks of the early followers of Jesus. St. Patrick founded his revolutionary work in Ireland on these timeless core values. During this days of seismic, God appears to be calling us back to His values of “loving and being loved.”

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A Day to Remember Martin Luther King Jr.

On Tuesday, January 15, 1929, a segregated nation walled in by centuries of hatred, bigotry, and prejudice was given prophetic leader—a revolutionary leader. In Atlanta, Martin Luther King Jr. was born into the home of a young Baptist preacher, and following his father and grandfather’s calling to the gospel with a passion—a passion for the gospel to not only save the soul, but also to save a nation from itself.

Today across our land, Americans celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but I fear most of us have forgotten this man and his legendary struggle for civil rights. Like all great leaders King was loved and hated. He was followed and misunderstood. Like all men, King was a man of clay feet, but his voice changed the world.

In 1964, when I getting ready to go off to kindergarten, King was awarded the Nobel Peace prize for his struggle for civil rights during which he and his followers meet violence with a “turned cheek” and a loving heart. Gunnar Jahn, chairman of the Nobel Committee said of King:

“He is the first person in the Western world to have shown us that a struggle can be waged without violence. He is the first to make the message of brotherly love a reality in the course of his struggle, and he has brought this message to all men, to all nations and races.

Today we pay tribute to Martin Luther King, the man who has never abandoned his faith in the unarmed struggle he is waging, who has suffered for his faith, who has been imprisoned on many occasions, whose home has been subject to bomb attacks, whose life and the lives of his family have been threatened, and who nevertheless has never faltered.

To this undaunted champion of peace the Nobel Committee of the Norwegian Parliament has awarded the Peace Prize for the year 1964.”

King took the timeless principles of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as his marching orders from above, and changed to world. Sadly, his life was cut short by an assassin’s bullet as he stood on the balcony of a hotel in Memphis. On that dark day, his life ended, but his dream lived on—and changed the world.

Today, President Barak Obama, the first African American president of the United States, leads from the Oval Office, but he owes a great debt of gratitude to young Baptist preacher willing to dream “with eyes wide open.”

On August 28, 1963, King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in the presence of 250,000 loyal followers yearning for freedom. As the statue of Lincoln towered over him, King captured the hearts and minds of a generation by the simple, yet profound words—“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.” Thank you, Dr. King for helping to make that dream come true for my four little girls.

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Born Again?

The days so quickly pass, and another year has come and swiftly slipped through my fingers. As I complete this first week of the year of our LORD two thousand and ten, I am beginning to realize afresh how important and precious each day is.

It has been my lot to stand over the graves of two of the long tenured members of my church. One was a teacher to pioneer special education after the birth of her Downs syndrome son nearly seventy years ago. Gladys was the single mother of six children after the tragic accidental death of her husband in a farming accident in 1945. She was pregnant with her sixth child, a precious girl. When she heard of her husband’s demise she went into a terrible labor and was in such a state of sorrow she could not name her own child. Her little girl Linda was named by the women who cared for Gladys in her grief. Gladys rose from her sorrow to live an amazing life of 105 years. Her journey began in 1904 and ended in 2010 and all along the way she walked by faith and with a smile and a song.

Today, I stood over the grave of a hard determined man named George. George was hardened by life at a young age. He fought as a Marine Raider during the bloody dark days of the war in the Pacific against an enemy that was ruthless and relentless. He knew the valley of the shadow all too well. He was a Marine from that day forward. Often misunderstood, he was a good man at heart. He was one of the men who were willing to stand the post, and die for you if duty called. George liked me. I will miss him.

Moses composed the 90th Psalm looking over the river to a land that was fairer than day, but a land that he would never know. He knew all too well the fury of the LORD, and the rebellion and sin of his people. He also wrestled with his own rebellious heart. Out of this context he wrote:

“Teach us to number our days aright that we might gain a heart of wisdom”

I fear I do not make the days count as I should. Do I really value the significance of each morning, and the sweet sleep of the night? I probably have more yesterdays than tomorrows. Am I wise enough to embrace today?

G.K. Chesterton was a newspaper columnist, author, theologian and Christian thinker of an earlier time in England. One of my favorite quotes of his cuts me between the bone and the marrow. He observed:

“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”

It appears he knew all too well the cost of discipleship, and had no taste for cheap grace.

As we begin this New Year, let me share with you Chesterton’s challenge for a new day.

The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective. Unless a man starts on the strange assumption that he has never existed before, it is quite certain that he will never exist afterwards. Unless a man be born again, he shall by no means enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

May you begin this New Year with a “new soul…backbone…ears…and eyes”  and it is my prayer we will be born again the fresh winds of the Spirit blow over us.

Happy New Year!

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A Prayer for a New Year–A New Day!

In preparation for a sermon to begin the new year, I stumbled across this quote from Elisabeth Elliot. Elisabeth followed the LORD with an abandonment that we all should adopt as our own. She knows the deep hurt of loss beyond measure, and the joy of following the LORD with a whole heart.

“Here is my heart, Lord God, thankful for a thousand mercies…Sweep out the discontent. Give me a merry, humble, ever thankful heart that honors You.

-Elisabeth Elliot in The Music of His Promises

This lesson of humble submission she shared with her husband Jim who laid down his life at the hands of those he was trying to reach. He was murdered in a horrible spear attack by a violent tribe who were eventually reached by the loving actions of Elisabeth.

Jim said:

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.

In spite of all deep sorrows and hurts of life, Elisabeth learned to place her heart in the tender hands of her LORD.

I pray I will learn to do the same.

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