Archive for November, 2007

Good news at Brushy Creek

November 30, 2007

The folks in and around Putnam, east of Abilene, have turned an old “beer store” into a church that is growing more than the town.

Six months after its start, Brushy Creek Cowboy Church has 52 members, said Pastor Sam Stone. It has seen 11 professions of faith and performed 11 baptisms.

A hitching post has been set up outside the building so members can tie their horses outside while attending church. Inside, an old beer cooler has been converted into an air conditioner.

But the church is going to leave the old beer store behind soon. A local bank approved a $125,000 loan Nov. 29 for the church to buy 12.23 acres of land and build a 125 feet by 50 feet building. The new site also will include a roping arena.

Texas Baptists have had an important hand in making this happen. First Baptist Church in Clyde, Cherry Heights Baptist Church in Clyde, Callahan Baptist Association and the Texas Fellowship of Cowboy Churches have been in on the work big time. And the BGCT has been the biggest financial force behind it.

And the church is giving back, contributing 6 percent of receipts to the BGCT Cooperative Program, 2 percent to the TFCC and 2 percent to the association.

“God’s blessing hand over fist,” Pastor Stone said. And the congregation is excited about all that God is doing.

The pastor did note that the new church building will have a hitching post out front.

If you would like a little glimpse of Putnam and the church’s current meeting place, there’s a video called “Abandoned Texas Town” on You Tube, posted by someone passing through town. Turns out it hasn’t been abandoned by God or by Baptists working on His behalf.

Hall describes his vision for the BGCT

November 30, 2007

A lot of folks in the blogosphere have been talking about what the BGCT should be. And there have been a lot of different visions presented.

Yesterday, Buckner President Ken Hall provided his thoughts on his blog. I’ll post a portion below. What do you think of what Ken has to say? Is he on target? What do you think the future of the convention should be?

Because we need to be reminded that the denominational part of the BGCT was and is about the institutions of the convention. That’s why the churches came together in the first place, not so they (the churches) could be served, but so that they could serve (through their institutions).

But something has happened over time. We’ve turned our convention into a denominational form of fast-food service in order for the bureaucracy to meet the needs of the churches. We’ve trained our churches to ask the Baptist building, “What can you do for us?” But that’s not how it was set up more than a hundred years ago by our Baptist forefathers. Instead, they asked the questions, “What can we do for others? What can we do for orphans and widows? How can we educate more young people in a Christian setting? How can we start more churches across our state? How can we win more people to Jesus, even if they don’t join my church?”

A recent theme of the BGCT has been “Together We Can Do More.” Amen. But I’m afraid the too many in our BGCT family interpret that as being, “Together we can do more for my church,” when it should be, “Together we can do more for others.”

I’ve heard a lot of people say recently that we need the convention to be closer to the SBC, or the CBF, or the New Baptist Covenant. That’s not the convention’s decision. That’s a local church decision. What we need is for the convention to be closer to the institutions it was established to support in the first place. That’s what our churches want. They want to see orphans served; widows taken care of; lost people saved; churches started.

I heard the late Baptist comedian Grady Nutt say once that Baptists just can’t stand silence. His example was that if there’s more than a minute of silence in a Baptist church service, the organist gets up and starts playing. And historian Walter Shurden has written a terrific book about Baptists called “Not a Silent People.”

The longer I live and observe Baptists, the more I’m convinced that we degenerate into denominational politics because we just can’t stand silence. But if we were busy about Kingdom business like Jesus taught us, we’d be too busy to get sidetracked with that stuff. Maybe that explains why the BGCT as a convention is so caught up in politics – because we’ve lost the focus of what we’re supposed to be doing. Wouldn’t it be great if all those Baptist pundits out there talked about the needs in our world instead of focusing on denominational politics?

Notes from all over

November 29, 2007

Today I’m getting a chance to catch up on my mail. As I was looking through the newsletters I receive, it struck many how many different ways God is using Texas Baptists to advance His kingdom. Here’s a sampling from today’s batch of envelopes.

Mission Waco’s medical clinic tripled in size and added a complete health care staff Nov. 1. “This is a win-win situation for the poor in Waco,” said Allen Patterson, coo of the Family Health Center. “For a simple donation around $5 per doctor visit, anyone can get great medical care with lots of compassion.” God has used and continues to use Jimmy Dorrell, his wife and the staff of Mission Waco in amazing ways.

This summer, 26 people from the Bi-Fork Baptist Area joined with 80 others in a country-wide evangelistic effort in Belize. In eight days, more than 2,200 people prayed to receive Jesus as Lord.

In November, the Singing Men of South Texas traveled to Moldova where the group sang 13 concerts, ministered in two orphanages and provided a variety of supplies to help the ministries. (more…)

Baylor to hire Briles as football coach

November 28, 2007

According to the Dallas Morning News, Baylor will announce this afternoon that Art Briles will be its next head football coach.  Here’s some info on his background from the story:

Briles was an immensely successful high school coach at Stephenville during the 1990s. The program was a Class 4A powerhouse, winning back-to-back state titles in 1998 and ’99. The 1998 team racked up 8,650 total yards, which was a national record at the time.

In six years at Stephenville, Briles was 91-11-1.

When Texas Tech hired Mike Leach, he needed someone with knowledge of Texas high schools. That person was Briles, who became the Red Raiders’ running backs coach in 2000.

Briles stayed in Lubbock only three seasons. While he was a solid recruiter, Briles was somewhat marginalized as Leach installed his own pass-oriented system. That prompted Briles to search for a head coaching job, and he landed back at his alma mater, Houston, prior to the 2003 season.

The Cougars started off 5-1 in 2003 and went to their first bowl game in seven years. UH was only one of seven Bowl Subdivision teams to score 40 points in at least seven games that year.

UH dropped back to 3-8 in 2004 but managed to go 6-6 the following year. Led by quarterback Kevin Kolb, the Cougars still had the No. 1 offense in Conference USA in 2005.

Houston enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2006 by going 10-4 and winning the C-USA championship. The team ranked 10th nationally in scoring (33.0).

One of the program’s marquee wins that year was a 34-25 win over Oklahoma State. UH suffered a disappointing 14-13 loss at Miami the following week.

So Baylor alums, is Briles the guy to lead us back to being competitive? Some onlookers speculated Briles wouldn’t even being willing to accept a position at Baylor.

The next generation of Baptists?

November 26, 2007

While Marv’s editorial is getting most of the buzz around the blogosphere, I found the Second Opinion piece by Ken Williams, minister to students in Dripping Springs, more interesting. Ken — who apparently is a younger guy — talks about why he’s a Baptist and what he sees developing in young Baptist circles around him.

I’m particularly interested in what you think about these paragraphs. We’re always talking about the next generation of Baptists. From what you see, is this an accurate description of up-and-coming Baptists? And if Ken’s accurate, what do you think of these characteristics as hallmarks for a generation?

This is a new time, and I am part of a new generation of Baptists—a generation that is rising up all around the nation. We are a generation that finds great value in the principles of our Baptist heritage and yet finds it unacceptable to define ourselves by the principles of our recent predecessors. We believe the people of God are called to participate in the kingdom of God. We believe social justice speaks louder than political coercion. We believe in serving the world, rather than withdrawing from it. And we will no longer capitulate to a system that promotes intolerance and injustice in the name of dogma.

I see it all around me: I see it in the seminaries, I see it on the blogs, I see it in college groups and in the Emerging Church that is sweeping the nation. We are young, we are passionate about our values and we are mobilizing all across the country because we are unsatisfied, and we will no longer be silenced by the tyranny of a few powerful men. We are looking toward the future, and we are desperate for something new.

Something to be thankful for

November 21, 2007

DBU President Gary Cook continues improving. Yesterday he participated in the school’s 3 mile Turkey Trot. It was the first time he had to walk instead of run of the course. What a great time of celebration that must have been.

Back from Vacation

November 20, 2007

I have spent the past two hours reading the blog.  I had tried to keep up with the posts that were coming to my email site on my cell phone and thought I was getting all the messages,  but I find here that much dialogue has taken place that, mercifully, was not on my email site. 

We have had a good time on a week of vacation…45th reunion of my ’62 class at Oklahoma Baptist University; visiting with friends at our former church, FBC, Enid, Oklahoma, enjoying greatly the worship and preaching; admiring the recent remodeling of the 80 year old church buildings; relaxing at the Grand Lake of the Cherokees, visiting the tribal headquarters of the Osage in Pawhuska and finding out why they held up statehood for Oklahoma until they could get satisfaction regarding the treaty they had with the government…we were there on November 16th which was the centennial holiday for the whole state…the Osage Nation wasn’t celebrating…watched my nephew in an exciting 8 man football game at Pond Creek; and sat by my sister in her church on Sunday morning.  So it was a good time for us.

I regret that I have not been able to respond more quickly and helpfully during this time.  Your comments and interactions have been interesting to read.  I am going to try to answer the questions that I have listed from a review of the blogs…if I overlook one, I am counting on you to ask it again and remind me.

I realize that several of you have copied your blogs to my email site.  I am going to try to answer them here rather than a personal response to each blog.  But if there is a question that you want to ask of me that you don’t want on the blog, please indicate that when you email me so I can respond there.  The last thing I want to do is ignore someone or fail to be responsive…so if this blog does not cover everything, please press me again on the matter.

Let me express appreciation to my staff for trying to keep up with this during my time away.  I have read Paul Atkinson’s comments and appreciate what he has brought to our church starting efforts.  I also want to say, “thank you,” to Ron Gunter, our COO for the past two years, for leading the effort to review our church starting policies and procedures and getting them to the place they are now.  We have elevated to policy status the bulk of our church starting procedures and they have been approved by the Executive Board and cannot be changed without Board approval. 

I noticed that Paul Atkinson invited everyone to consider starting a new church and I want to echo that call.  There are 10-11 million people in Texas who do not claim any church relationship.  The need is vast…24 states, the last I checked, do not have as many people living in them as we have unchurched people in Texas!

Working the process with our church starters will do more to alleviate your concerns about the integrity of the process than anything anyone can say, I suspect.  They are all very aware of the challenge we have to rebuild confidence and trust in our procedures.  Many people in Texas live in areas where it may seem the last thing needed is another Baptist church, although new churches are needed for pockets of people in places that are often overlooked.  But in other places in Texas the population is exploding and it is diverse and the need for new churches seems overwhelming. 

Pray for our church starters, for pastors who have a vision for new churches, for our Mission Funding Group as they help us be both effective and accountable.

Now to the questions:

Did I offer money to Jon Becker to get him to move FBC, McAllen back to the BGCT?    No, absolutely not.  While I obviously would be glad to have the support and involvement of any of the churches which left the BGCT for the other convention, I, nor any of our staff, would ever offer funds or funding to anyone to “bring a church back.” 

Regarding the character of FBC, Weslaco:    I appreciate Manuel’s comments regarding his great appreciation for his church.  I have celebrated across the last few years the growth and vitality of the church.  Though, I do not know the people or leaders in the church, it is my impression that they felt they were adding another service, a third worship service, to accomodate the growing congregation.  Jon explained to our church starter, and he had a well written document outlining the philosophy of “starting a church within a healthy church” in which he cited the success of this model in some other places, that he would like to start the new church as “The Family Fellowship,” and it would meet in the church building at the 9:30 a.m. time.  As best I can tell, the church starter thought that this was a strategy adopted by the church or, at least, the missions committee. 

What was not understood was that the church body, and apparently not the deacons or the missions committee, ever discussed that strategy of “starting a new church within a healthy church.” 

Furthermore, it was never the plan for the monies allocated to the church to be used to pay Jon Becker.  It was assumed by our church starting people that Jon was being paid by the church in the manner customary to Baptist churches.  The reports turned into our offices never showed that the mission support dollars were being used to pay a salary to Jon.

Jon Becker came to my office in September of 2005 and asked for a one time gift to help the three church starts by FBC, Weslaco make the transition through his anticipated departure to FBC, McAllen.  He indicated that the situation was critical.  I had no idea that he was talking about money that would be paid to him. 

I took him to our church starting office and asked them to talk to him and evaluate the need.  I left him there to talk with the church starting leader (who no longer works for the convention, but was and is a faithful and sincere Christian) and the decision was made to give FBC, Weslaco another $5,000 to help make that transition.  I don’t believe that our church starting leader knew that 2800 of the 5,000 dollars would go to pay a salary to Jon.  I believe he thought that it was a good and wise investment to help the new church starts continue.  At that time there was no reason not to believe the pastor’s word about the matter.  In case you are wondering…my door is open to pastors, mission organizations, associations, institutions and many other people have come to me to see what the convention could do to assist them in worthy endeavors.  I have taken those requests to others on our staff to see what their counsel would be and where we could help, many times we could and many times not, we have tried to do our best to pray for and where possible and appropriate offer financial assistance.

The two Hispanic congregations are still in operation and we trust will both grow into full orbed churches.  The Family Fellowship was discontinued a few months after Jon left Weslaco to go to McAllen.

It is my clear understanding that FBC, Weslaco wants to put all this behind them, help the two Hispanic congregations continue to develop, and return the $26,500 that our records show was given to the church to fund the Family Fellowship “start up.”  It is my understanding that Jon Becker has returned $30,000 to the church with an apology for his actions.  It is also my understanding that the deacons and the church are seeking to act as redemptively as they know how to do in restoring Jon to a place of wholeness in their congregation.  We should all pray for them in that process.

Someone asked if Jon ever offered to apologize to the BGCT for his actions.  He has been repentant in his conversations with our representatives.  He offered to come to the annual meeting in Amarillo and address the convention.  We did not feel that was the right thing to do, since we were still working on details with the church and trying to make sure all the facts and details were in place.

Obviously, the tone of some of the blogs has been to suggest that as the Executive Director I allowed all this to take place.  In the sense that the buck always stops at the CEO’s desk, I take that responsibility.  Some suggested that I resign last year when the information from the Valley investigation was released.  I did not do so for these reasons:

First, the investigation by the independent legal team did not point blame at my office and indicated that our church starters, although not following procedures, did not steal or misappropriate funds.  There was no indication that anyone on the BGCT staff profited financially from any of the matters involved.

Second, it was and remains clear to me that I had the responsibility to make sure the problems were addressed and resolved, that a new process be developed, and trust restored.  I believe the actions of our staff and Executive Board have affirmed that that decision was right.  Not one thing has been “swept under any rug.”  I don’t know of any denominational entity that has ever produced as thorough a report and been more open in discussing it in a public forum, including open Executive Board meetings, than the BGCT has been in this matter.

Even though we (the Executive Board and I)  have been accused of not taking prosecution of those who apparently took money under false pretenses seriously, we have gone to the Valley and spoken with the three pastors, had prayer with them and asked for the restoration of funds.  We have spoken with the leaders of all three churches where these men are or were pastors, and I admire and appreciate each of the churches and their people.  They have been hurt by all this, but they have continued to serve God and to grow and I applaud them.

We turned over all the investigative materials to the proper authorities in Brownsville, Tx. in December of 2005.  We have followed legal counsel since that time in our actions with them.  They know we want them to proceed with their investigation.  We have been ready to go and visit personally with them at any time.  We have given regular updates to the Executive Board, including our attorney from the Valley who spoke to the Executive Board in its last meeting and gave a full report which was reported in the Standard.

We have rebuilt good relationships with the Association…in fact, we will be going to McAllen for our annual meeting in 2010…we have done what we can to encourage the churches affected by all this.

Hopefully, this has  been of some help.  I will try to stay involved on a regular basis through the holidays and December.  I have a lot of other things I want to talk about, but I am willing to try to respond as long as is needed in these matters.

This week in the Standard, I will share a word about the great gift gratitude is to the human heart.  I am grateful for you and for our work together.  Let’s keep talking and keep praying for one another.


Baylor lets go of Morriss

November 19, 2007

Well, a while back I posted about HPU getting a new coach. It looks like Baylor will as well. Eventually. According to the AP, the school let go head football coach Guy Morriss on Sunday. Morriss had some nice moments at Baylor, though his overall record may not show it. Last year’s team showed some promise until the quarterback was knocked out for the year.

Among those who are being mentioned as the next coach is Mike Singletary, the Baylor alum and Hall of Fame linebacker who is currently on the staff of the San Francisco 49ers. Singletary was interviewed for the head football coach spot when the school hired Morriss, and his resume is stronger now. Of course many Baylor alums love the idea of the firey Singletary building the program back up.

Me? I’d just love to see them go to a bowl game. I don’t care which one, where it is or against who. I’d be there. What do you think, can Singletary get us there?

Open and honest, not attacking

November 15, 2007

I’m in a quandary. I want this blog to be an open and honest discussion, but I do not believe we should allow personal attacks. It’s just not the way we should communicate with one another. My plan from here forward is to remove such language if it occurs; I will note that I have done so and will, of course, allow the non-attacking part to remain.

Does this seem like a fair and appropriate approach? I am open to your feedback.

By the way, Charles Wade has not asked me to do this. He is away from the blogging world the rest of this week.

Executive director nominee ‘unlikely’ before Jan. 1

November 15, 2007

Psuedo-hot off the electronic press: 

DALLAS – A nominee to be the next Baptist General Convention of Texas executive director is “unlikely” to come before Jan. 1, according to the chairman of the BGCT Executive Director Search Committee.

Ken Hugghins, pastor of Elkins Lake Baptist Church in Huntsville who is leading the committee, said the first round of candidate interviews continues. Once that is finished, the committee will begin narrowing the field further. To do that, committee members will analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates and compare those with the characteristics they value for the position.

The committee is looking for a person who can unite Texas Baptists behind core causes, bringing together the strength of Texas Baptist ministers, laypeople and institutions across diverse national denomination ties.

Hugghins asks Texas Baptists to continue praying for the search committee and the person who God already has chosen for the position.

“We appreciate Texas Baptists’ patience,” he said. “Please translate that to prayer. We trust that God is leading us to the person He would like to serve as the next executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.”