Frankly, I had hoped that after the annual meeting and as I approached retirement at the end of January, things would slow down a bit. And they have to some extent…I’m not spending any time thinking about what the BGCT needs to do in the next five years…but there are still important issues we are addressing in hopes that we can prepare as smooth a platform for the next Executive Director to operate from as possible.
I will meet with the Operations Team tomorrow morning as we launch our third of three Staff Weeks we have each year.
We would all appreciate the prayers of those of you who read this blog that God will give guidance to our reflection, discussion and planning as we evaluate 2007 and continue planning for 2008 and the arrival of a new Executive Director.
VIST TO WAYLAND AND A THANKSGIVING MESSAGE
Paul Armes, president of Wayland Baptist University, graciously invited Rosemary and me to be their guests for a retirement reception on Tuesday evening, speak in Chapel on Wednesday morning and visit with the ministerial students over lunch. He and Dwayna and Michael Summers were absolutely magnificent hosts.
It was a joy to meet some very outstanding young women and men who are leaders at Wayland. I spoke on the importance of cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude to the chapel gathering.
As I stood before them, I began, as I always do when I go to Wayland, by reminding them that Wayland was the first university in the Old South, public or private, to admit to its student body African Americans. It was 1951 and the trustees, at the urging of the President, voted to accept an African American woman from the Panhandle who was a teacher so she could finish her degree. And they also welcomed George May from the San Andres Island of the Caribbean who was a ministerial student.
George May attended College Heights Baptist church while at Wayland and pastored South Park Baptist Church in Houston for twenty years and then returned to his home to pastor and establish the Christian University of San Andres and Providence.
His daughter, Fanny, would later marry Dennis Young, who is now the pastor of Missouri City Baptist Church, Texas and is a former Vice President of our convention.
I am grateful that one of our BGCT schools was the first to break the color barrier in the South. It took other Texas schools a while to catch up. The folks at Wayland can be proud that they were pioneers to the Glory of God.
The basic points I wanted to leave with the students was that gratitude:
I. Pleases God II Corinthians 9:12-15. (note: Luke 17:11-19)
A thankful heart is always a welcome gift.
II. Helps us Live Right Ephesians 5:3-4
We live more faithfully from gratitude than from obligation; from love than law. Ethical living for Christians is the result of what he has already done for us not a bargain to get him to do something more for us.
III. Helps us Follow His Will Courageously Ephesians 5:15-20
A grateful heart is eager to express obedience and love to God and is determined to live in such a way that others begin to know the generous and saving heart of God.
Aren’t you thankful that when you stand to preach or teach you have the blessed, inspired word of God to guide all you say? Frankly, I would hate to stand before college students or any congregation without the Truth of God in my hand and in my heart.
Those of us who stand beside those who are grieving at an open grave, give thanks to God for the Book. We are not reduced to poetry or to man’s finest thoughts, we stand with the Word of God in our hand and when we read it aloud it gives comfort and assurance like nothing else.
OUR PROPER STEWARDSHIP OF THE TRUST GOD HAS PLACED IN TEXAS BAPTISTS BY CALLING SO MANY OF OUR YOUNG PEOPLE TO MINISTRY
As I fielded questions from the bright students who are preparing for ministry, a professor noted what I had already observed: there are almost as many women studying for ministry as men. How can we help them find places to serve?
I suggested to the professors, as I have at other times, that we need to be advocates for the women as well as the men students to the churches. Some professors are committed to encouraging their students by not only teaching and mentoring them but also looking for ways to introduce them to opportunities. I pray that our Baptist people will pay attention to what God is doing as he calls out our finest young men and women and places in their hearts a deep yearning to serve him and his church.
Baptist people need to get on their knees every day and thank God that he is still calling out our young people to serve him. There are denominations who are having a hard time finding called and qualified ministers. We must not take for granted that in our nine Texas Baptist schools there are over 3,000 undergraduate students preparing for ministry. (That is something like 46% of all ministerial students in the 50 colleges/universities that relate to our state conventions) The camp managers tell me that almost 2,000 young people expressed their willingness to be obedient to the call of God in their lives for special service this past summer.
I pray that our Texas Baptist churches will not waste this great resource God is trusting to us. Some of our churches might be open to a called and gifted woman being their pastor. Most are not. But there are many other ministry positions that women can fill without controversy and I urge us all to watch for those opportunities and advocate for all those God is calling to serve him and us.
My experience with Tilly Burgin, Minister of Missions for FBC, Arlington for over 20 years now, led me to see that the world is too lost and too broken for us to tell people whom God has called and gifted what they can’t do.
Pray for our professors in the seminaries and colleges who work with these incredible men and women, and pray with me that God will open appropriate doors of service for their students.
LOOK AT SOME OF WHAT YOUR COOPERATIVE GIVING IS DOING
If preparing the next generation of ministers were the only ministry the BGCT had it would be worth all the Cooperative Program dollars that almost any of churches give.
But in addition to that ministry, there are the ministries to orphan children and their families, to widows and the elderly, to the sick and dying, to strengthening churches through Bible study curriculum and training, through help with strategic and facility planning, through help with worship and music, through help with stewardship, financial planning and funding church loans.
Plus missions involvement including community ministries, evangelism, WorldconneX, mission partnership relationships in Texas and around the world, LifeCall volunteer missions, and starting churches.
You read the story of Brushy Creek Cowboy church in an earlier posting. Let me tell you about Pastor Sammy Garcia who is on the BGCT Executive Board. He came by to see me recently and told me this story about the church he founded:
Camino Real Iglesia Bautista in Denison, Tx. was founded by Brother Garcia. The King’s Highway Baptist Church was started in 1991 and became a self-supporting church in 1997. The BGCT church starting program was a significant partner to them in helping them get started and into their first building.
Since then they have started four churches in Mexico. Two by men he reached for Christ, discipled and mentored. They returned to Mexico to become the founding pastors of two Baptist churches in their home communities. They have also started a Hispanic church in Gunter, Tx. and in Bonham. The Bonham congregation is less than a year old and they baptized six in the last two months. The church has sponsored all these new starts without any financial help from the BGCT.
I know you join with me in praising God for his abundant grace and the faithful discipleship and stewardship of Brother Garcia and his wonderful church.
MISCELLANEOUS AND CONCLUSION
This is more than I meant to write when I started a little while ago…but I have been out of pocket for a while. I will try to be responding several times this week since I will be in all week for our Staff time.
Chris Liebrum has prepared a response to the question about how we have put together and used our retirement and severance contracts. It will be posted tomorrow.
I have read some wonderful reports from our Congregational Strategists and I have asked for some of them to be posted this week, as well.
Don’t forget to pray for one another. In a family as large as our Texas Baptist family, there will always be some church or institution which is going through a tough time. When I grieve for the difficulties some may be having, I am grateful that God knows their need or needs and I can pray. And I take great comfort in knowing how wonderfully effective most of our churches and institutions are at any given time. In fact, almost all of us go through down and difficult times, but look how God takes every challenge and, when we are faithful and cooperative, works through them to bring great victory and glory to His name.
God bless and keep you all and give you great victories this week. We are loved.