Monthly Archives: February 2010

Bro. Bill Wright: First Breath in Heaven

Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints. Psalms 116:15 (NIV)

On Friday night, February 19, 2010 at around 10:00 p.m., Bro. Bill Wright, pastor of First Baptist Church of Plains, Texas took his first breath in heaven. I can only imagine what his first moments in heaven must have been like, I envision him with a big grin, and a chuckle under his breath as Jesus welcomed him home. Heaven is going to be a fun place to be now that Bill showed up. I can see him circling up a crowd right now telling one of his classic Bro. Bill stories.

The memorial service for Bro. Bill will be on Wednesday, February 24th at 2:00 p.m. at the First Baptist Church of Plains. It will be a celebration of life, and an opportunity for us whose lives have been shaped by his to pay tribute to his life and ministry. However, the best tribute we can pay him is for each of us to finish well as he did.

In closing, the men of the First Baptist Church of Plains will be building Bro. Bill’s wife Linda a new home in Plains. The Wright’s had lived all their days in Plains in the parsonage, so the men wanted her to have a place of her own. If you would like to contribute financially or come help work on the house with your own two hands, you can contact First Baptist Church at 806.456.3661 or 806.456.4500. The people of Plains have been truly amazing in how they have expressed their love for Bill and Linda, and his family. I wish all of our churches were like the good people of Plains.

Words are inadequate to express all Bill meant to me. I will forever be indebted to him for believing in me.

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A New “Starr” at Baylor University

Waco: Yesterday I had one of the biggest surprises of my life. As president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas I was invited to a small reception for Baptist leaders to meet the new president of Baylor University. When I was invited to the meeting the only information I received was that the new president was not a Texan, so I was mentally preparing to welcome a new Baptist leader to Texas. Knowing first hand that Texas Baptists are a breed of their own, I was planning on speaking to the nuisances of being a leader in Texas. (To be frank, it is much like trying to herd cats!)

Anyway, when I arrived on campus I heard the rumor that Judge Kenneth Starr, Dean of the Pepperdine School of Law, was going to be named Baylor’s president. I must admit my first reaction was shock, confusion and disbelief. Immediately my mind raced to those dark days in Washington when Starr and President Bill Clinton faced off in a struggle that has shaped the face of the presidency to this day.  Consequently my mind was racing when I entered the meeting as I was trying to make sense of what all of this meant for Baylor and for Texas Baptists.

When my wife Robyn and I met President Starr we were introduced to a gracious, humble Christian gentleman, who welcomed us warmly, and greeted us with a genuine smile. He seemed very much at ease with himself in the middle of a whirlwind day of meeting all the key players in the Baylor drama. He spoke of his faith with clarity, and articulated a bold vision for Baylor to continue its heritage of producing Christian leaders ready for the challenges of future.

I was particularly impressed by his grasp of the principles of Baptist life. Even though Starr was raised in the Church of Christ, he championed the historic Baptist values of separation of church and state and soul competency. I walked way from my brief encounter with President Starr impressed by the ease in which he spoke of his faith, his professional commitment to live out his faith in the public arena, and his passion for higher Christian education.

If you would have asked me at the beginning of the day if I would be supportive of a non-Baptist leading the largest Baptist University in the world, I would have probably said no, but if you ask me now if I feel confident about the future of Baylor with President Kenneth Starr at the helm I would say “yes.” I say “yes” because I have confidence in the men and women who wrestled with this historic decision. I say “yes” because I believe President Starr brings to his Kingdom assignment a unique blend of personal strengths and profession skills. Finally, I say “yes” because I am confident the LORD has sent us a new comrade in arms who has demonstrated a unique blend of character and courage in one of the most charged political struggles in American history.

As those of us who are close to the Baylor story know Baylor is at a historic crossroads. We need a leader who can bring the Baylor family back together with one heart, and one vision of the future. I am thankful President Starr has accepted this challenge, and I would encourage each and every one of us as Texas Baptists to welcome him to his new post, and to put him high on our prayer list. This week our Baptist family has grown, and I am thankful the LORD sent Kenneth Starr our way.

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BGCT Presidential Journal 30: Border Lessons/The Santa Clause

Eagle Pass: This weekend I had the privilege of participating in the Del Rio/Uvalde Baptist Association River Ministry Retreat. It was my first time to the border since of was a teenager and traveled to El Paso with the North Fort Worth Baptist Church youth group on a mission trip. Over the years the situation along the border has dramatically changed since the early days of the River Ministry.

I was asked to be a keynote speaker, but I must admit I learned a great deal more than I suspect I shared. I traveled to Eagle Pass with a hunger to learn more about how our Texas Baptist family can positively impact the Kingdom work along the border.

After the evening session, I had a very enlightening conversation with Jeff Johnson, pastor of First Baptist Church of Del Rio, and one of his mission pastors Moses Reyes who serves across the border. Moses is a BUA graduate and has many years of experience along the border. As we discussed the needs and challenges, Moses shared a deep concern he has with our traditional approach to border ministry.

Moses referred to our efforts as the “Santa Clause” effect. He shared how the people of his village were “trained” to chase the “white church vans” to get the gifts and hand outs. The “Santa Clause” effect left the local churches and pastor in a strange bind. Due to their limitations, the local pastors could not “compete” with the gifts of the Americans, and so their churches were limited in their ability to reach out effectively. The well meaning American Christians sought to help, but in reality they were hurting the work.

As I listened to this pastor’s frustrations, I thought back to numerous mission efforts I had participated in and wondered how much we had really helped. We wanted to help, but I fear that because of naïve enthusiasm we only had a limited positive impact on the people and the churches.

I believe as we seek to redouble our efforts along the border that we need to look long and hard at our strategies and efforts. It would be wise for those sitting in the “headquarters” of our churches to talk to those in the “foxholes” on the front lines before we deploy our people. Of course this challenge is only magnified because of our freedom and autonomy as churches, I believe with the help of the Spirit of God, and communication and cooperation, we can transform the “Santa Clause” into the “Spirit’s cause.”

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