Category Archives: BGCT Presidential Journal

Reflections: BGCT McAllen

El Paso: Nearly a week has pasted since the Baptist General Convention of Texas annual meeting in McAllen. I must admit serving as president of the convention means much of what happened was a blur to me. In some respects it has taken me a week to get my barring back, and to gain some perspective on the event.

Overall, I was very pleased with the spirit of the meeting. I believe a number of significant things were accomplished. Of course, these kind of subjective feelings are not much to build on, but to be frank, I would rather leave with a heart full of positive memories than to walk away with a deep feeling of frustration. The energy in the room was positive and uplifting and the  business was conducted with great dignity and respect.

Of course, one of the big white elephants in the room was the sparse attendance. The attendance was low by any standard. Interestingly enough there were more guests than messengers. In fact, there were more professions of faith (789) during Valley Reach than there were messengers. Without doubt there are 789 people who are thankful Texas Baptists showed up in the valley.

Personally, I believed the new format with three worship services and two business meetings has a great deal of potential for future meetings. In addition I think the Morning of Missions was well received.

From the perspective of planning the meeting the new format allowed for more creativity and energy in the worship services. I had hoped to bring in one or two nationally known keynote speakers to McAllen to create a high sense of anticipation for the sessions, but trying to schedule these kind of speakers on such short notice is very difficult. I believe with the new format of advance planning approved by the convention, the BGCT will be able to bring these kind of speakers to future conventions.

Dr. Everett and Victor Rodriguez challenged the convention with two powerful words of hope. I totally agree with Victor that it is time for us to open our eyes to the future.

I believe Victor Rodriguez will serve as an excellent president. He is a man of vision and courageous leadership. He will represent all of our Baptist family very well, and owns no one for his place of leadership. I am also confident Victor Rodriguez,  Jerry Carlisle and Sylvia DeLoach will serve as a good team.

If you were paying attention you will note that the motions made at the convention by messengers were dealt with by this annual meeting. We made a concerted effort to make sure that the people who were willing to make the trip to the annual meeting would be empowered to do the business of the convention. Three motions from the floor were passed and I believe each of them helped us take a step forward into the future.

In addition, you will note that one recommendation from the Executive Board was voted down, and one major recommendation was amended twice. I believe these are very healthy signs for our convention. We left the rubber stamps at home, and came together to do business. These business items were debated, but the debate was respectful and fair. As moderator I believed that each one who spoke wanted what they believed was best for our convention, and even though many of the votes were divided, it appeared from my vantage point that the  house was not divided. I believe what we witnessed Baptist polity at its best.

In closing, I find myself agreeing with this post by Ken Coffee on his blog Strong Coffee:

Amusingly, some continue to critique the McAllen meeting even though they were not present to witness it. Frankly, I was surprised at the spirit that prevailed. The 1731 people who registered may be the last vestige of support for the BGCT, but, if they are, so be it. Let’s build it from there.

I believe we have something to build on coming out of McAllen. Let’s get to work and spread hope across Texas.

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A “Wright” Moment in McAllen

El Paso: At the close of the business session of the Baptist General Convention of Texas annual meeting, it is customary for the convention to stop and honor those who have joined the great crowd of witnesses in glory during the past year.

Each year this has been a touching moment for me as I am vividly reminded how richly my life has been blessed through the touch and influence of others.

This year as I closed out my second term as president I sat at my place on the platform with my mind racing back over the past four years. During this four years  I struggled to help our Baptist family pull together for our future. Suddenly as my mind was racing through the flood of memories and emotions, I saw the smiling face of my dear friend and comrade Bill Wright smiling right back at me. It was a moment that caught me off guard. I was not fully prepared for the flood of emotions I felt. It was hard for me to control my emotions.

In an instant I remembered Bill asking me to consider being nominated for president when no one else was knocking on my door. I remember our first step in the journey in Lubbock when we invited David Currie to meet us for a face to face meeting to talk about the election and to lay down the ground rules for this journey into the unknown. I remembered Bill’s nomination speech in Amarillo when he closed with these lines “if you can’t vote for David, then by all means vote for Joy!” (As you know Joy won by a slim margin and some even suggested it was his fault… which is clearly not the case. Of course my final instructions to Bill before he stepped on stage was: “Bill, please don’t cuss!”) I remember countless long conversations about the future as we played the parts of good cop/bad cop to our very best.

Bill Wright stood tall as a Texas Baptist. He knew our only hope was not walking away but getting involved. He challenged me to be better than I thought I could be–I miss him more than words can fully express.

Some have suggested that under my administration nothing really changed. I would dare to disagree but only time and history will tell the full story. Often times real change must begin in the heart and in the attitude. The BGCT that Bill Wright dreamed of was a BGCT that worked together to share the gospel with those searching for hope. It was a BGCT that sacrificed for those in need.  It was a BGCT that sought to major on the majors and not on the minors.  He dreamed of the BGCT being family not a collaboration of factions and political parties.

I for one think Bill would have had a great time in McAllen. Fresh winds are blowing. If you looked closely the people at the convention wrestled with the issues and made decisions. We left the rubber stamps at home and brought our hearts and minds to bear on the task at hand. In addition, the exhibit areas were abuzz not with closed circles of those plotting some denominational strategy, but with friends laughing with friends, and new friendship being born.

Next year we will return to Amarillo for the annual meeting. I have decided I am going to spend most of the convention in the hallway in a circle with my friends catching up on old times, laughing and having fun! I cannot think of a higher tribute to Brother Bill!

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McAllen Here We Come!

It is hard to believe the annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Texas is just around the corner. I will be heading to the Valley tomorrow.

Frankly, we have no idea how many of our Baptist family will gather in McAllen. I had a contact from a pastor in Dalhart who said he would be there. If you can make it from Dalhart to McAllen, you can make it from anywhere!!

I have heard through the Baptist grapevine that some are fearful to go to the Valley because of the Border violence. Since I now live in El Paso I believe I can speak with some confidence–you need not fear. You will be as safe in McAllen as we were on the streets of Houston last year. Besides if we go in the name of the Lord and for His calling, I believe we can count on His watchful eye on us.

I believe this convention will be a pivotal meeting for us as Texas Baptists. We will select a new leadership team. We will consider a number of weighty matters. We will affirm our brothers and sisters in the Valley by our presence. It is still not too late to make plans to join us.

Next week I will lay down the mantle as president of the convention, but my commitment to our cause will not diminish. I am committed for the long haul. We have work to do and I pray we will work hard and not look back!

See you in McAllen!

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First Baptist Church Roanoke Homecoming 2010

Roanoke, Texas: This weekend I had the honor of returning to participate in the centennial celebration of the First Baptist Church of Roanoke, Texas. This historic old church in south Denton County began its ministry in 1874 and moved to its current location in 1910. Over its 136 year history fifty-two pastors served the church, and I had the privilege of being one of its youngest pastors back in 1982. These hardy people called me to be their pastor when I was at the ripe old age of twenty-two years old!

As I look back on their willingness to take a risk on a kid, I am filled with gratitude. In Roanoke, I was ordained, performed my first wedding, baptized my first follower of Jesus, and stood at the table of our Lord as we celebrated communion. Among these saints, I led my first business meeting and worked closely with a small band of deacons who loved me and believe in me.

As I mixed among my friends, I was amazed at the flood of memories. It was also interesting to learn how I was remembered. No one spoke of my sermons, but one lady remembered the week I worked with her husband digging out the sewer line at the parsonage. Another member commented how I impacted her husband because I spent time with him and reached out to him as a friend. When I thank one of the older ladies for her love and support—for raising me as such—she said “We always looked up to you.” This homecoming was good for me. It reminded me of the lessons of “incarnational” ministry. It is not so much what we say, but how we live that makes all the difference. People don’t remember our sermons they remember us as servant leaders.

As I begin my ministry in El Paso, I pray I will not forget the lessons I learned when I was wet behind the ears. I pray I will not forget to “love and lead” the people of God.

Footnote: When you choose to love you also take the risk of being wounded and hurt, but it is worth the risk. Always lead with love and grace and trust God for the results.

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Ezell and the Complicated World of Missions Giving

El Paso: The trustees of the North American Mission Board elected Kevin Ezell, pastor of Highview Baptist Church of Louisville to be its new leader. Ezell brings to the job an incredible record of leadership and innovation. However, after his nomination many found fault with the giving record of his church to the Cooperative Program and to the Annie Armstrong Offering for North American Missions.

In days gone by, those marks would be the benchmarks of record to determine a church’s priorities and passion for missions, but we live in a new, much more complex day. In defense against his critics and more importantly the critics of his church Ezell in a published report shared the following facts:

Highview’s “Million to Missions” campaign sets aside $582,000 for local missions, including $145,000 for a mentoring/intern program at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and $340,000 for campus ministry at nearby colleges and universities.

Nearly half of $150,000 for national causes goes to church plants in New York City, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Atlanta, Indianapolis and Boise, Idaho. Another $24,000 is set aside for mission trip supplements and $25,000 for a student mission trip, compared to $10,000 for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering that supports work of the NAMB.

International giving of $700,000 includes $400,000 in Cooperative Program and $100,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering that supports work of the SBC International Mission Board. Other funds include $100,000 in mission-trip supplements, $5,000 for a missionary house and $10,000 for an international adoption ministry.

As you can see from this glimpse into Highview’s world of missions, Ezell led his church to be hands on in ministry and to be very intentional in the use of their mission dollars. Without doubt these qualities played a significant role in his selection as the new NAMB president.

As Ezell enters his new world as a denominational leader he must face the fact that fewer and fewer churches are giving to missions and to the Cooperative Program as they had in years past.  More and more churches of all sizes are tackling the call to the Great Commission by going themselves and keeping the money under local control. Since this is a pattern Ezell followed, he is in position to find ways for NAMB to capture the imagination and commitment of these churches and to call them to sacrificial giving to NAMB and its work.

The future of NAMB and other denominational entities rests in their ability to create new partnerships and networks with churches and creative dynamic leaders. Using old benchmarks of loyalty will not restore what has been lost. SBC leaders must grapple with the fact we are doing Kingdom in a new world with new paradigms. We sail together into a “sea change” that has called into question the traditional methods of missionary support.

As a leader in the BGCT, and as a pastor of a church on the cutting edge of missions, I feel the pressure, and wish I had the answers we need for tomorrow. Personally I am more inclined to hold to the old patterns, but I realize I am a dying bred. The future will not be captured by looking backwards to our glory days, but rather living with abandonment and creativity as we engage the future.

God has placed Kevin Ezell in a position to help us claim tomorrow. I pray he will bring the same creativity and passion to his role as NAMB president as he did to leading Highview to be beacon of light and hope to the city of Louisville.

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A New “Starr” Rises Over Baylor University

Waco: Baylor University inaugurated Judge Kenneth Winston Starr as its fourteenth president. The largest Baptist university in the world will be lead into the future by a Christian servant leader who has demonstrated his devotion to higher Christian education in the courtroom, classroom and in the halls of power and politics.

The ceremony was a deeply moving and historic day for the Baylor family, and a day of significance for all Christian institutions of higher education because Baylor is the flagship of the Christian armada waging war in the spiritual struggle for the hearts and souls of the next generation of young leaders.

With Judge Starr at the helm of Baylor those of us who value distinctively Christian scholarship have a new champion. Judge Starr lived and exemplifies the very values he seeks to instill into the hearts and minds of the young men and women who come to Baylor to be equipped for world-wide servant leadership.

During the ceremony, Judge Starr’s daughter Carolyn Starr Doolittle stepped forward to read a text from the Old Testament prophet Micah. As she glanced over her shoulder at her dad she read with passion and heartfelt commitment:

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8 (NIV)

With these words the LORD reminded Judge Starr of His path to greatness and significance.

After Judge Starr took on the robes and mantle of leadership over the Baylor he stepped to the podium affirming his vision of the future and linking his vision to the hallowed past.

Pro Ecclesia

Pro Texana

These words from the crest of Baylor University will be his guiding principles—for the Church—for Texas. Under his watch Baylor will serve in the tension between these two realities. Baylor will champion of the cause of Christ and church by advancing the Kingdom through the lives of wave after golden wave of young leaders.

Baylor will continue to inform our greater society how the claims of Christ speak into the injustice and deceptions of our secular world. Starr noted in his address how the “Free Church” movement puts Baylor in a position to seek truth without fear by inquiry, study, and research because as “the truth will set us free.” He also stressed the importance of the individual conscience in one’s spiritual and intellectual journey.

Baylor was founded during the days of the Republic of Texas by Judge R.E. M. Baylor back in 1845 with a vision to be a “city on the hill” that would be “for all ages to come!” I believe under Judge Starr’s watch the light on the hill will shine brighter.

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Baylor Blunder Parable

This morning as I was reflecting on my Baylor blunder of “overdressing” for the presidential inaugural dinner, It dawned on me that one of the reasons I felt uncomfortable was that I was dressed like a “servant.” You see every man in the room dressed in a tuxedo was waiting on tables. Here I sat dressed up but in the moment I was dressed down—like a waiter.

Lessons impact our lives in an amazing ways. On a night when I was hoping to mix and mingle among the Baylor elite, I learned a lesson about humility.  Jesus is relentless in his pursuit of our souls. I can hear in my soul his whisper saying “the greatest of all is the servant of all.”

Once again I learned a life lesson at Baylor!

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My Baylor Blunder: Presidential Style

Waco: September 16, 2010

Tonight I attended the inaugural dinner on the campus of Baylor University for its new president Kenneth Winston Starr. My wife and I are alumni and looked forward to this homecoming with great anticipation. Frankly during our days at Baylor we would have never dreamed we would have been part of such an historic gathering.

When the invitation arrived several weeks ago, I read closely the instructions about when and where the dinner would be held. In addition, the invitation stressed the dinner would be a “dressy affair.” I must admit in the circles I run in “dressy” typically means “Sunday–go to meeting” clothes, but since it was Baylor I assumed it meant “black tie”–so in an effort to blend in, I brought my bow tie and formal wear.

When we arrived on campus and parked I began to scout out the crowd entering the dinner. I noticed that most of the men were in suits and ties, but I hoped they were the ones under dressed. As we entered the Barfield drawing room we were greeted by young Baylor students dressed in tuxedos, so at first I felt relieved until I entered the room and realized I was the only guest dressed in formal wear.

At this point, it was too late to turn back. Once again I had made a freshman blunder at good ole Baylor. So I painted on my smile and tried to look like wearing a tux was natural to me as a worn pair of jeans. Of course one of my biggest fears was that someone was going to hand me a tray and ask me to serve drinks or bus tables.

Finally, I was able to sneak into the room hoping and praying that I could sit in the back of the room. Of course, the room was full of the “rich and famous” of Baylor circles. Things were going well until the chairman of the board made his way to our table to greet us. When he came to me he mistook me for a musician who would be performing later in the gala. When I introduced myself to him I wish you could have seen the look on his face. It was embarrassing for both of us.

In many ways my return to Baylor reminded me so much of my freshman year when I so wanted to fit in only to stick out. As the evening closed, we said our goodbyes to our table guests, and quickly made our way for the door only to be greeted by two lines of Baylor students dressed in black tuxedos. It gave a whole new definition of the good ole Baylor line to me on this special evening.

It is funny how clothes can create so many different emotions. I dressed up to try to make myself blend into a crowd I was intimidated by–I think on this evening the LORD used my social blunder to teach me a simple lesson. I learned clothes do not make a man–Jesus does. I need to stop trying to be someone I am not, and I need to start simply being the person I was created to be.

In closing I want to thank President Ken Starr for inviting me to this very special event–I can promise you it will be a night I will laugh about for years to come. Sic’em Bears!!

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Response to David Montoya

Below is my reply to a blog posted by David Montoya. Over the past ten year David has had his eagle eye on the work of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. I may be blind, but I believe David sincerely wants the BGCT to be at its best, but he has been deeply troubled by much of what has happened in recent years.

I have had numerous conversations with David and have sought as president of the BGCT to look into many of his concerns. Often this happened behind the scenes.  As president of the BGCT I have sought to represent all the diverse factions and groups without our convention. Leading the BGCT is not for the faint of heart. Our unity is defined by a “holy tension.” The BGCT has sought to keep the tent big, and the vision bold.

This week David Montoya suggested Randel Everett was seeking a way out and was a lame duck leader. Below is my personal observations that I posted on Montoya’s blog.

Dear David,

In fairness to Dr. Everett and Shelia I want to weigh in on your observations. I don’t know who your source is, but I believe you have been misled.

First, Dr. Everett is not by any stretch a lame duck. He is passionately seeking to lead our convention into the future. He inherited a troubled organization and has sought to cast a bold vision for our future. A vision rooted in our foundational values of evangelism/missions, Christian education, and advocacy.

Like any leader he is concerned about the convention’s financial situation, but he is trying to keep his eyes on the future. Although cuts had to be made to the staff he is calling us to take the gospel and to be the gospel to Texas and the world. God called Everett to this post for this time. I believe he is tough enough and determined enough to see us through. I believe in Everett, and I will work with him in the years to come.

Secondly, Shelia Everett is a good godly woman who loves Randel and loves the BGCT. Shelia has challenged us to pray more not to change the decorations. She has a heart to touch our state with the gospel. I realize I am not in the Baptist Building regularly, but I have rarely ever seen her there. Her influence is in how she loves the LORD and loves her husband. She is a strong leader, but I believe that is one of the way she helps Randel to be at his best.

Thirdly, Jeremy Everett is a bright light among Texas Baptists and a friend to the poor in Texas. As recently as this week I had a conversation with Jeremy about how he can pull together key church and government leaders to come to El Paso to help us address the plight of the poor in our city. From Austin to Washington the name Jeremy Everett is linked to creative hard work on the behalf of the hungry. I too had had a well known pastor as a father, I suspect being Randel Everett’s son has helped him along the way, but not in the ways you might suspect. Jeremy had in Randel an example to follow, and someone to look up to, someone to inspire him to be his own man.

Granted some may argue that I am now an “insider” and that I have been blinded by the culture of the Baptist Building. Each one has the right to make the own judgment of my motives and my perspective, but as president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, I can tell you that Randel Everett is the real deal. He loves Texas. He loves our churches, and he is laying down his life for the sake of the Kingdom.

David, I believe you sincerely want what is best for our convention, but attacking Randel and his family will not get us where we need to be.

For these two years as president I have worked hard to help us change the conversation and to move into a new day. I believe those who are leading us  have a new sense of passion and urgency not driven by trying to save jobs, but by seeking to bring hope to Texas.

I would challenge those who care about the BGCT to come to McAllen and let your voice be heard. Get involved at the local level. Call or email Randel or one of our staff leaders in your region. Share your concerns. Share your visions. Help us. Now is the time for a new generation to step forward.

Sincerely,
David Lowrie
President of the Baptist General Convention of Texas

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A Word of Encouragement

A few days ago I receive a card from a fellow pastor. Jay Smith serves as pastor of First Baptist Church of Clifton. He noted in his card that I had recently moved to El Paso. He also promised his prayer support during my transition to a new assignment on the Border.

As I read the card it was so encouraging to know Jay was praying for me. I am learning more and more that we are all in this together. However it was his closing comments that struck a deep chord with me.

Jay wrote:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go”

Little did Jay know that it was these very words that God used to turn my heart toward El Paso and Juarez. When I read the card, I had to put it down as I marveled at the hand of our LORD.

I am learning God oversees every detail of my life. I am secure in His hand, and He has thousands upon thousands of His loyal followers who are ready at a moment’s notice to bless you if you will just keep your eyes on Him.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Jay, and to my LORD.

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