'04 decisions will impact decades
2004 will get a dog-eared and tattered page in Texas Baptist history books. Generations from now, our descendants will pore over these months, evaluating their impact on all that follows.
Next week, the Baptist General Convention of Texas Executive Board will consider the most significant reorganization of the BGCT in at least five decades. The board will act on new mission, vision, values and priority statements that place the health and vitality of local churches at the center of everything the convention does. It will vote on governance proposals that drastically reduce the size of the BGCT's rambling decision-making apparatus and make the convention more accountable to the churches. And it will review strategies that will outline how the convention will serve churches to make them stronger so they can bring people to Christ and minister in Jesus' name.
If the Executive Board approves, then messengers to the BGCT annual session this fall will vote their approval or disapproval. And if the messengers ratify the changes, BGCT Executive Director Charles Wade will begin the vital task of assigning staff to new responsibilities and allocating budget dollars to make it all happen.
Some Texas Baptists may be tempted to give this process the ho-hum treatment. We've all seen organization charts come and go. We've read mission and vision statements until our eyes cross. We've seen staff reassigned. What's the big deal?
This is a huge deal, and we all should pray it becomes reality–a new reality for the BGCT.
The proposed guiding statements and governance reorganization have the potential to change the culture of the BGCT. You won't sense it in Sunday school next week or mention it in your missions committee meeting next month. You won't feel it when your finance committee reports this quarter or ponder it when a church in your association picks a pastor the first of next year. But if these changes are approved and implemented well, they will impact all those aspects of church life before too long.
For decades, the BGCT has been program-driven, just like every other Baptist convention and most other denominational bureaucracies. The convention's job has been to develop programs at the Baptist Building in Dallas, promote them vigorously and pass them along to the churches. This hasn't been bad. God has blessed, and our churches and convention have prospered.
But times have changed. Just as the marketplace has been consumer-customized and businesses have become more client-oriented, the changing pace of our culture has geared churches to seek customization and specific support. Seek it because they need it. Cookie-cutter approaches don't cut it any more. And the proposed BGCT reorganization–a reorientation of the convention's function–will address those changing, changing church needs.
Within a couple of years, the reorganization will decentralize the convention. It will mean moving staff out of Dallas and closer to churches across Texas. It will mean shifting from calling the Baptist Building to get the latest upgrade of a program to working with a consultant to find the just-right options for your church. It will mean providing input from your church–ideas about what works and doesn't work and why–into a system that will take that knowledge and use it to help not only your church but other congregations. It will mean creating more flexible response systems for starting churches and doing mission work across Texas and around the world. It will mean investing in research and development to test approaches to ministry and to make the best practices available to all the churches. It will mean focusing resources on ministry to Texas' swirling demographic realities and training ministers to lead all our churches, including thousands not yet started.
It will mean all that. And more.
It hinges not only on approval, but also implementation. Pray for the Executive Board as it deliberates Sept. 28 and BGCT messengers as they meet Nov. 8-9. Pray for Charles Wade as he considers how to move reorganization to reality. And pray for all Texas Baptists as we anticipate a changing–and exciting–future.
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