Messengers gave Charles Wade a standing ovation as he came to deliver his final Annual Meeting message as executive director. Here is the written document from which he spoke; it may vary in small ways from the actual spoken message:
“To Honor The Lord Himself”
II Corinthians 8:18-21
Rosemary and I have ten grandchildren…seven boys and three girls. Three of the boys have a part of my name. You could say that makes me very happy. Rosemary is generally happy for me about something like that, but a Charles, a Russell, and a Wade got to be a little much when there was no Rosemary or Rose or Mary to be found. Then our third little girl was born and her parents named her Emma Rose. I thought it was the prettiest name I had ever heard. When they told us, both of us cried.
They go to Williams Trace Baptist in Sugarland. Emma Rose has a little friend at Sunday School. They love being together. Last Easter Sunday afternoon, Emma’s friend was walking around in her house thinking about her friend and singing quietly, “Emma Rose, Emma Rose, Emma Rose.” Her five year old brother finally interrupted his little sister by saying, “It wasn’t Emma who rose. It was Jesus who rose!”.
And it’s because Jesus died and rose again that we are all here today. The resurrection of our Lord is the victory we proclaim to all people everywhere, “Because he lives, you can live also!” John 14:19
Here is the mother of Emma Rose, Mary Robin Wade Gaston. And here are our two daughters Roshelle Wade Risenhoover; Karee Wade Kelly; and our son Charles Mark and his wife Pam Childers Wade, who sang so powerfully just now. And here is their mother and Emma’s Mimi, my dear Rosemary, who has been with me through every pastorate and every day of our service to you. Emma Rose’s other proud and grateful grandparents are here also, Susan and George Gaston, who serves as Regional Vice President for Ministry at the Baptist Hospital System in San Antonio.
We give thanks to God for trusting us with these children who love and honor God in their lives and calling us to serve Him all these years. The Lord has been and is our strength and joy through every day of our journey. And more than anything, if we know our hearts, we have wanted as Paul said, “to honor the Lord himself,” in all that we have done.
Our text for this message is II Corinthians 8: 18-21.
In this seminal narrative we see churches learning to cooperate together to meet an urgent need. An offering was being taken for the Christians in Jerusalem who were suffering through severe famine. Their old networks of support had broken down as they declared their loyalty to Christ Jesus, and Paul called on the Christians in the new churches to relieve the suffering of those in the mother church. But he was fully aware that some were raising eyebrows and whispering sly remarks regarding the integrity of the offering. So he took proactive steps to guard the handling of the money so that it would “honor the Lord himself.” (v.19) And, of course, he also wanted to encourage generous giving on the part of the churches.
Paul is not chastising those who are concerned about the handling of the offering; he acknowledges the importance of “taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.” ( 8:21) So he sends Titus and two unnamed brothers who are trusted and respected by all who know them in the churches to help collect and report on the offerings given.
There is a reason that financial accountability is important in churches and in denominational life. For the very same reason your Executive Board, David Nabors and I have focused our attention on doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord and also in the eyes of men…”To Honor The Lord Himself,” or as the RSV translates it….”For the Glory of the Lord.” And, also, as Paul wanted to do…encourage faithful and generous giving on the part of the churches.
The Executive Board through its Audit Committee has instituted an internal audit process which, added to the annual financial audit we have always done, will help the BGCT continually review the way it uses the mission and ministry dollars given by the churches and individuals. We do this to make sure we do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.
We were in the process of redoing our church starting manual last year as the devastating news came that there was misuse of church starting funds in our church starting efforts. We have worked through that heartache, restored confidence in our policies and procedures, retrained our church starting team, and now enjoy an excellent relationship with that association.
We have promised all our people and all churches who want to start churches, that we will not allow the Evil One to gain a victory here by causing us to withdraw from the field and close our eyes to the staggering needs in our state for new churches among African Americans, Hispanics, Cowboys, Asians, Africans, those from Europe and the Middle East, and our English speaking peoples in the burgeoning cities and suburbs of Texas. The good news of our church starting efforts the last eighteen months is in my report to you in the Book of Reports, p. 5.
Our convention has been faithfully and effectively represented by the EXBD members you have elected. These men and women have been very conscientious about their responsibilities and have been determined to listen and discuss as long as necessary so that they could make the best decisions possible. I want to publicly commend them and say “thank you, Executive Board and chair, Bob Fowler, for your careful and thorough work in this challenging and critically important time for our convention.”
Our convention officers have been key leaders, providentially available to help lead this convention this past year. No more effective and respected leaders could have been found to serve us than Steve Vernon, Joy Fenner and Robert Rodriguez.
And I want to express appreciation to the staff who has worked with me to serve you. To Ron Gunter and David Nabors, to Chris Liebrum and Myla McClinton and to each and every person on the staff who has labored faithfully and with a sense of calling…you have been a gift from God to me and a joy to work with.
Change is never easy, folks. It is the same in our churches. You will find that many of those who say they want change, really do not. At least they don’t want change if it affects them or someone or some ministry that is very special to them.
There is no activity I know that offers more opportunity for second guessing, for hind-sight, than engaging in change. We have been through a lot of change in our staff assignments. I really thought we could get through the change and to a new synergy within two years. It has been more like four years. Would I do some things differently? Sure, of course. Would I do it again? Absolutely.
There is no good way to downsize a staff. It is important to offer the best severance, job placement services, and retirement packages you feel you can and that is right to do…but it still hurts and it takes time to recover.
But I want to report to you that your staff loves the churches, associations and institutions they serve. They are ready for the future and they will be great partners for our new Executive Director.
I want to encourage all of us to consider all that our convention has been through, the achievement of governance goals that have been talked about for many, many years, the challenges we have faced from those who do not wish us well, the challenge of helping churches and pastors see the vision of the BGCT as part of their desired future in a time when there are many critics of denominations and shared mission strategies…and take a deep breath. Let us say, “Thanks,” for all that God has done through this convention and let us be prepared to say, “Yes,” to all that lies before us.
I want to say, “Thanks,” to God and to you for allowing us to walk together on this journey. When we started in 1999 there were several things I wanted to see happen.
I wanted us to get our arms around Texas and hug this state up close to God.
I have prayed for and encouraged churches all across Texas to be Jesus kind of churches and hug their communities up close to the heart of God. I have seen congregations who have taken seriously the challenge to ask themselves, “If Jesus came to our town to whom would he go? What questions would he ask? Who would he listen to? What would make him weep and what would make him laugh? And knowing that, we know where we need to be this week.” The arms of Jesus that embrace the lost are on our bodies.
I celebrate with you the starting of churches all across Texas, the renewal of the vision in congregations large and small to be the presence of Christ, and the creative and truly extraordinary work of our institutions who touch 10% of the Texas population every year.
We have prayed for a renewed and vibrant call to evangelism in our churches throughout Texas. Jon Randles has come to help raise our passion and develop workable, biblical strategies for evangelism. You will want to be at the state wide Engage: Evangelizing Texas Conference, January 13-15 at Lake Pointe, Rockwall. Additionally, there will be five regional Engage conferences in February. There is a fresh wind for effective evangelism blowing across us and I urge you to let it fill the sails of your obedience and stir up a zeal for seeing people be saved.
I wanted our presence in Austin through our Christian Life Commission to be an increasing blessing and witness to Christ on behalf of all Christians and people of good will.
Your CLC is recognized by Texas legislators as the source of honest, intelligent, carefully researched information that can help them make the best decisions possible. Our Texas Baptist voice has been on behalf of morality, compassion, integrity, righteousness and justice. We have spoken out for children, both the born and the not yet born, and for religious liberty. We have been for everything that helps people and against everything that hurts them.
Thanks be to God in all of this we are getting our arms around Texas.
I wanted us to see the growing diversity of the population in Texas and plan to make our staff, our church starts, our leadership look more like the face of Texas.
Thanks be to God for the strong advances we have made in our priority to be more multicultural, to include everyone.
I wanted Texas Baptists to be friends with and an encouragement to Baptists around the world.
We joined the Baptist World Alliance as full partners in 2005. Before that we became members of the North American Baptist Fellowship, a subset of the BWA. The NABF joined with a coalition of Baptists, including the historic African American conventions, and the great and diverse Baptist bodies that make up our North American fellowship to call Baptists together this coming January for a celebration of a New Baptist Covenant. This gathering of Baptists will lift up the great vision of our Lord in Luke 4: 18-19 (I call it the Jesus Agenda!) and apply it to our time and the challenge we face in America to “preach good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,” All in the name of Jesus.
I have had two hopes for our involvement with BWA. One that Baptist people around the world could be encouraged by our participation and involvement with them. Two, that our Texas Baptist family would discover how rich and blessed we are to have fellowship with courageous and dedicated Baptists we have not known very well before.
I wanted our BGCT witness to be faithful to our historic Baptist principles.
We have stressed passion for evangelism, missions, and ministry; gospel preaching and strong, servant leadership models; have lifted up the Lordship of Christ; the inspiration, truth and authority of all Scripture; the soul’s competency before God; the priesthood of each believer and all believers; the autonomy of the local church; a free church in a free state; religious liberty for all people; believer’s baptism as a sign of God’s grace and salvation, of his call to discipleship, and of a personal, experiential response to God’s call.
I wanted to encourage our Texas Baptist institutions, strengthen good relationships between them, collaboration on mutually helpful assignments and engagement with local churches so that our sense of partnership could grow and be mutually beneficial.
I wanted pastors and their families to feel valued, encouraged and blessed.
I wanted BGCT staff to be closer to the churches and associations, available, resourceful, strategic, and able to evaluate where we are being helpful and valuable and where we are not.
For all of these plans and hopes, achievements and progress made, I say, “Thanks.”
Now, let us say, “yes,” to the future.
A key to that future is answering the question: How do we really and effectively serve the local church?
Do we serve the local church best if we focus only on helping a church reach its own goals? What if these goals even in thriving churches are largely self centered? What if survival is the only thing that other churches worry about? What if celebrating property rights is more important to them then celebrating the love of God for people who live around them? What if they have come to feel they need no fellowship, no partnership with other churches or institutions? Is the BGCT responsible to call churches to catch a biblical vision of the kingdom of God and the partnership we are called to share in the gospel?
I say, “yes.”
The BGCT and its staff are committed to helping churches fulfill the mission God has laid or is laying on their hearts. We will encourage and facilitate your church in its worship, evangelism, teaching, stewardship, ministering, and enriching and protecting the unity and fellowship of the church. We will consult with you regarding the design of your facilities and pray and strategize with you about your priorities as a church. We will work to develop leaders, pastors, staff ministers and laity. We want your church to be a strong church, and being a truly strong congregation means you will have the needs of your communities, your state and your world on your heart.
Therefore, we see our role as connecting you to the work of 27 entities related to this convention which are doing God’s work in Texas and beyond and with whom you and your church are a valued partner and participant in the ministry they do and victories they win.
I am saying that we not only serve you by encouraging and facilitating growth in your church, but by connecting you to a vision of service and involvement that touches lives all across Texas.
Every child loved and put to bed between clean sheets and with a full tummy because of one of our child care institutions…is your ministry, Texas Baptists.
Every student seeking desperately to make good friends, to deal intelligently with questions and doubts is blessed if they are in one of our 10 Baptist schools or in the Baptist Student Ministry on over 100 university and college campuses across Texas…that’s your ministry, Texas Baptists.
Every one of the ministerial students who come out of our churches, called and eager to serve, are blessed by the work of these schools and our two seminaries. There are many things we must do, but none is more important than properly equipping and preparing the next generation of preachers and ministers for Texas and the world. That’s your calling as Texas Baptists.
And, today, we welcome three professors from Nigeria who are spending time with our schools providing opportunities for us mutually to benefit our work and the cause of Christ in Texas and Africa.
Dr. Ezekial Bamigboye – Church History
Dr. Ezekial Nihinlola – Theology
Dr. Rachel Lateju – Religious Education
When you help your people “connect the dots” from their Cooperative Program giving to the ministries that happen because of your church’s generosity, it expands their vision of the Kingdom of God and the incredibly important place your church has in it as partners together with God.
We are all aware that our mission paradigm has been shifting…no longer is it simply give and let others go, pray and let others serve. So another way we serve the local church is by helping your people connect with missions around the world. Here are some of the ways we do that.
Some years ago I said one of our goals would be that every Baptist church gets involved in at least one mission trip. We are still trying to figure out how to get an accurate count, but the only way I can describe what is happening in our Texas churches is that there is a mission explosion going on.
Our intercultural ministries are reaching into 50 language groups in Texas. Your church can partner with one of these churches and have an open door to establish a mission presence in their country of origin with their expertise and passion linked to the mission commitment of your church.
At this convention we are unveiling a new web site, beonmission.org. You are a pastor, chair of your church’s mission committee, staff minister looking for a place to connect your group to a meaningful mission opportunity… Where do you go to get information? Beonmission.org is designed for you. When it is fully functional in coming months you will be able to click on a country or some area of the United States about which you have some interest. Up will pop the missions information from our BGCT mission ministries, and Texas Baptist institutions. When fully functional in coming months, there will even be a way for your church to share your ministry activity, in Texas and various parts of the world. Beonmission.org will be interactive, connecting churches with other churches and all the mission activities of the BGCT. You can communicate with other churches and groups and create a mission strategy plan. WorldconneX and our BGCT missions staff are committed to working together to see that this service becomes a missions tool beyond belief.
What is the mission vision of the BGCT? It is comprehensive, collaborative, Christ centered, cooperative (interactive), and it connects churches to the mission work their people can do. It leverages the work of our institutions. It invests in the efforts, for example, of the European Baptist Federation to begin a church starting ministry in Eastern Europe where now there are 62 church planters with support coming from ten Baptist bodies including the BGCT. The gifted leader, Daniel Trusiewicz, from Poland who serves as the Church Planting coordinator is here with us today. In the BGCT there is room for both the innovative and the traditional mission activities and strategies.
This convention needs you. Every church is needed. What we should not, but often do, is take what we have been given for granted. Conventions and institutions can lose their way if we neglect to be involved. Now is the time for every Texas Baptist church to say, “Yes. You can count on us, for the sake of Christ’s gospel, for the work God has given us to do, we will step forward.”
The BGCT is your network to the needs of Texas and the world.
It’s really a lot like an old Texas windmill whose 12 blades are angled just so to catch the slightest breeze and working in concert pull the water from the earth to quench the thirst of cattle, sheep, horses and humans. Or, it may be like one of the new huge three bladed wind turbines rising high above a Texas landscape angled to catch the wind of the spirit and provide high voltage energy for calling, equipping, and connecting our people to the needs of a lost Texas and a lost world.
It is this missions piece that has been the vision drawing us forward and filling me with hope and glad anticipation for what is yet to be and is just around the corner! As Paul said to the believers in Corinth: We do what we do to be accountable to God and to you in order that you can give gladly, generously, and with confidence and, most of all, in order to honor the Lord himself!
For all that has been, I say, “Thanks,” and for all that is yet to be, I say with Paul, “In Christ it is always, Yes and Amen.”