Texas Baptists urged to proclaim Christ, care for vulnerable
WACO, Texas (BP) -- More than 2,000 participants in person and online witnessed the launch of Faith Fosters Texas at the 2019 Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) annual meeting Nov. 17-19. The new initiative, which aims to alleviate the child welfare crisis in Texas by mobilizing churches to care for vulnerable children and families, was formally launched during the Monday evening session of the 134th annual gathering held in Waco.
Messengers approved a $35.1 million budget for 2020 Cooperative Program giving and $1,150,000 for Texas World Missions Initiative and Partnerships. Messengers also approved the adoption of the recommendation to approve the change to the relationship agreement between the Baptist Church Loan Corporation and the BGCT.
All three convention officers were re-elected for a second year of service, including president Michael Evans, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Mansfield; first vice president Jason Burden, pastor of First Baptist Church in Nederland; and second vice president Jason Atchley, pastor of Bacon Heights Baptist Church in Lubbock.
Janice Trujillo, a messenger from Second Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, presented a motion for the Executive Board and Texas Baptists River Ministry to study the creation of a "Texas Churches Care" day and a special offering to support ministry at the U.S.-Mexico border. The motion was approved and passed on for study.
Four resolutions were approved by messengers, including a resolution expressing gratitude to Steve Vernon, associate executive director, and Jill Larsen, former CFO/treasurer, for more than a decade of service in leadership roles; and a resolution on helping vulnerable children in Texas and encouraging churches to engage in the Faith Fosters Texas initiative.
On Tuesday morning, David Hardage, BGCT executive director, recognized Vernon and his wife Donna for 11 years of faithful service to Texas Baptists. Vernon will retire on January 2 and be followed by Craig Christina, former pastor of Shiloh Terrace Baptist Church in Dallas. Hardage also honored Daniel Rangel, director of River Ministry and Mexico missions, who passed away eight days before the meeting.
On Monday evening, Texas Baptist Student Ministry (BSM) celebrated 100 years of reaching students for Christ. Mark Jones, director of collegiate ministry, shared about the advancement of the Gospel on college campuses across the state and the hundreds of thousands of lives impacted.
Four BSM directors shared about ministry on their campuses, including Jamie Russell from Texas Southern University, Robert Rueda from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Morgan Little from Tarleton State University—Fort Worth and Charlie Ramsey from Baylor University.
BGCT Cooperative Program director Chris Liebrum recognized nine churches as 2018 leaders in CP giving, including Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, First Baptist Church in Mt. Pleasant, Acton Baptist Church in Granbury, Central Baptist Church in Carthage, First Baptist Church in Ozona, Cornerstone Baptist Church Killeen in Harker Heights, Chinese Baptist Church of Houston, Northside Community Church in San Antonio and Christ the King Vietnamese Baptist Church in Hewitt.
During the president's address, Evans preached that the banquet table of Christ is for everyone and Texas Baptists are compelled to invite others to join the feast, drawing from Luke 14:16-24.
"He [Jesus] says bring the broken to the table, bring the poor in spirit to the table, bring the crippled conscience to the table, bring the spiritually blind to the table, bring the emotionally lame, those who will one day walk again. They will stand in the presence of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Compel them to Jesus," said Evans.
Duane Brooks, pastor of Tallowood Baptist Church in Houston, preached the Monday evening sermon, encouraging fellow pastors to proclaim Jesus. Drawing from Colossians 1:24-29, Brooks said, "We get a chance to lead people not only into a relationship with Jesus but also to grow them up so they mysteriously somehow match the head of the church who is Jesus Christ."
During the closing worship session on Tuesday morning, Victor Rodriguez, BGCT's Hispanic evangelism associate and discipleship specialist, preached from Psalm 126:1-3. He reflected on the Judeans' return to the land of Judah after their time in Babylonian captivity.
"As they reflected about how God had blessed them, they stopped to rejoice and expressed their gratitude unto God," Rodriguez said. "It is good to stop and marvel and just reflect on how God has blessed Texas Baptists through these many, many years."
Twenty-four workshops were offered during the three-day event, many with a focus on evangelism and discipleship strategies for church leaders. Bryant Lee, pastor of Higher Expectations Church in Humble, discussed why evangelism should be a central focus of each church. Don Guthrie, retired pastor of First Baptist Church of San Antonio, outlined a church-wide discipleship program that aligned all Bible studies, small groups and worship services around a set verse every week. Another workshop led by Clayton Bullion, BSM director at Tarleton State University, emphasized the importance of discipling new believers.
Dynamic worship sessions were led by the combined six chapters of the Singing Men of Texas and Dan Baker, minister of music for First Baptist Church in Amarillo, the Texas Country Boys and Jared Billups and Highland Music, the worship ministry of Highland Baptist Church in Waco.
Several meal functions were held throughout the event. On Tuesday morning, Richard Foss, co-director of the coordination program for Lily Endowment's National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders, attended the Texas Baptists Center for Financial Health's Hope Breakfast as a special guest speaker. Three awards were presented by the Texas Baptist Missions Foundation at their meal function, to recipients Lee and Ruthie Baggett of Amarillo, Baylor Scott & White's Faith In Action program and Mission Waco and Mission World.