Texas Baptists convene in Waco

Baylee VerSteeg | Multimedia Journalist

By Phoebe Suy | Staff Writer

Baptists across Texas gathered in Waco to share in fellowship, worship and attend workshops at the Texas Baptists Annual Meeting from Sunday to today. The three-day meeting held at the Waco Convention Center was a time for Texas Baptists to learn effective ways of ministering and reaching people with the gospel.

“Compelled is the theme of this year’s gathering. The two primary points of focus are the Great Commandment of Matthew 22 and the Great Commission of Matthew 28,” David Hardage, executive director of Texas Baptists said in a welcome statement. “As Christ followers, we are compelled to love the Lord and others, and we are compelled to make disciples.”

The Baptist General Convention of Texas’ (BGCT) annual meeting included congregational worship, two business sessions, an exhibit of various Baptist ministries and institutions and a multitude of ministry-related workshops.

Business and Baylor

Items on the agenda for the business sessions include the 2018 proposed budget, 2018 Texas World Missions Initiatives and Partnerships Allocation and recommendation to change the BGCT and Baptist Community Services of Amarillo from an affiliate to “an institution related by Special Agreement.”

The BGCT’s total proposed budget for 2018 recommends $37,135,129 for the Texas mission field. Sources of revenue include the Texas Cooperative Program, investment income, North American Mission Board, conference and booth fees and product sales.

The $37 million budget is allocated toward the Great Commission Team, Missions Team, Christian Life Commission, Connections Team, Collegiate Ministries, Educational Institutions, Advocacy/Care Institutions, Cultural and Associational Ministries and offices of and organizations within the Executive Director, Associate Executive Director and Treasurer positions.

Universities affiliated with the BGCT include Baylor, Dallas Baptist University, East Texas Baptist University, Hardin-Simmons University, Houston Baptist University, Howard Payne University and the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor.

According to the 2018 proposed budget, Baylor will receive $300,000 from the BGCT or 0.9 percent of the total Texas budget, as it did in last year’s proposed budget. Houston Baptist receives the same amount of support, while universities like Dallas Baptist and East Texas receive more than twice the amount.

In 2011, the BGCT cut off more than 50 percent of its funding to Baylor. A Lariat editorial written before the final decision calls upon BGCT leaders to explain the budget cut. “The BGCT still has a chance to prove itself as an honest Christian leader by simply being open about its reasoning and re-evaluating the proposal at hand,” the editorial said.

Baylor University was born in 1845 out of the vision of what would later become the Baptist General Convention of Texas. While the convention and university maintain their identity as distinct entities, the two work together to fulfill their Christian calling as Baptist institutions.

The relationship between the BGCT and Baylor is most clearly seen on the Board of Regents. Twenty-five percent of the Baylor Regents must be elected through a process by the BGCT. Nominees for the 2021 Board of Regent term are Joel Allison–FBC, Waco; Jennifer Elrod–Ecclesia West, Houston; Rene Maciel–First Woodway BC, Woodway. Allison is chair of the board.

Positions within the Board of Regents are elected by the Regents, not the BGCT.

Ministry Matters

Some of the workshops included “Preaching to Reach Hispanics in Texas,” “Reaching Millennials: Equipping Emerging Leaders for Ministry in a Post-Christian Context” and “Caring for the Least of These.”

Jimmy Dorrell, executive director of Mission Waco and pastor at Church Under the Bridge, shared his personal testimony of “caring for the least of these” at the workshop he presented Monday morning.

Dorrell and his family sold their house in Houston and traveled around the world for four and a half months, a trip that would change the course of their lives and the lives of those the Dorrell family encountered. Dorrell detailed how they saw mothers hold their babies as they died.

“It changes your worldview,” Dorrell said.

He noted one moment in particular during their months abroad–meeting Mother Theresa. Dorrell said they were in Kolkata around the area they knew she lived. Dorrell laughed as he said that they simply knocked on the door and Mother Theresa herself answered the door.

“She spent about 20 to 25 minutes with us and she had said this a lot, kind of a recurring statement: ‘Go find your own Kolkata. Go find the place where God calls you too,’” Dorrell recounted.

Mother Theresa’s advice, along with the other lessons the Dorrell learned and experienced while abroad, returned with them when they came back to Waco. Upon returning, Dorrell said he and his family decided they couldn’t go back to middle class America.

The Dorrell family bought a 4,000 square feet home for $12,000 in low-income North Waco neighborhood. Dorrell said there was a bar across the street from their home and a run-down shopping center known for prostitution and drugs.

“We came to believe that part of the call of Christians is to be incarnational. God became a man and dwelt among us,” Dorrell said. “That is not just a pretty Christmas verse, and yet for us in middle class America because of our fears, we run to the edges of society to get away from the bad parts of town. And then go down and do a mission trip here and there and take pictures of the kids we work with.”

The first thing Dorrell said he and his family did in their new home was build a basketball court. Eventually, teenagers would begin playing at their court and through that, Dorrell said he got to meet mothers and families. It was inevitable that they formed relationships, Dorrell said, even helping people look for jobs and other community resources.

“When you live incarnationally, it’s the mission trip that doesn’t go away,” Dorrell said.

According to Dorrell, one integral part of Christian community development is that the people with the problem should be a part of the solution. Dorrell emphasized that his ministries assess people’s needs and maintain dignity by not creating dependency, but instead empowering individuals and families.

The Heartbeat of the BGCT

Danny Reeves, president of the Texas Baptists Convention, began his address Monday morning by asking, “How on earth did we ever get into this mess? Our world seems to be in total chaos.” Reeves delineated several issues from the “heartbreaking tragedy of [a] sister church in Sutherland Springs” to earthquakes, specifically Mexico City and natural disasters that lead people to believe the world is “in total chaos.”

“In the midst of this chaos, what are we supposed to do, what are God’s people supposed to do?,” Reeves said.

Reeves implored the audience to remain faithful to Scripture, saying that Christians could not afford to turn away from “the priceless counsel of God’s word.” Reeves acknowledged his question was a difficult one to ask, but Reeves said he believes God has an answer in the Bible for when the world’s challenges exceed people’s amount of courage.

“This morning we have an answer and the answer is simply this, what are we supposed to do? Friends, we’re supposed to stay centered on Jesus Christ,” Reeves said.

Reeves’ address encouraged Christians to focus on Christ’s connection to believers, his control over everything that concerns them, his care for individuals and his commitment to his followers.

“To stay centered in Christ, we must learn the difference between hoping for something and hoping in someone and my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness,” Reeves said. “Hopefully I’ve convinced you of our need as a convention, of our need as a people, individuals, families and churches to stay centered.”

Reeves ended his address, saying that the heartbeat of the Baptist General Convention of Texas is this: to be compelled to seek God’s will, search God’s Word and support God’s work.

“May it ever be the passion of us together as God’s people who call ourselves Texas Baptists,” Reeves said.

The BGCT annual meeting concludes on Tuesday with another set of workshops and a final business meeting where they will worship, read Scripture, elect officers and hear from the last of the committees.

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