It has been a privilege for me to travel throughout much of Texas during the last month and see God at work in many of our churches and institutions.
I had the opportunity to meet with more than 1,000 of our pastors and numerous leaders of our institutions. I have been on the campuses of several of our universities, met with more than 90 percent of our directors of missions, been engaged in conversations with some of our Baptist Student Ministry directors and interns, and preached in several of our churches. I was privileged to attend the annual Woman’s Missionary Union of Texas meeting, the Hispanic preaching conference and the minister of education retreat. In each situation, there was a spirit of optimism and a desire to work together in our kingdom assignment.
Addressing ethnic diversity
Missions, evangelism and discipleship (through Sunday school or other small groups) were at the heart of the conversations. Questions were raised about what we need to do to better reflect the ethnic diversity of Texas and how to allow Texas Baptists 35 years old and younger to become more involved in the leadership of our churches. A strong loyalty to our schools and agencies was expressed from alumni and families who had been directly affected by BGCT partners.
Some misconceptions were addressed. Our recent reduction of budget led to the belief that giving through the BGCT Cooperative Program was declining. Fortunately, that is not true. At the end of April, our gifts through the Texas CP were slightly ahead of last year. The majority of BGCT operating funds comes from two sources—Cooperative Program giving from BGCT churches and investment income from funds provided over the years through faithful Texas Baptists. The 2008 BGCT budget called for an increase in CP giving of about $3.4 million, or 8.5 percent. It also projected the use of $6.8 million in investment funds, which is $1.9 million beyond the level called for by a new state regulation that went into effect this year. As a result, we anticipate BGCT budget income about $5.3 million less than what was projected. I’m hopeful the trend of increased giving will continue so we can approach the 2009 budget realistically and hopefully.
Deciding as a family
Another misconception is that we give to the Cooperative Program. Russell Dilday reminded the Future Focus Committee that we give through, not to, the Cooperative Program. Churches determine how they choose to support missions and ministry and then channel the gifts through the BGCT. As a Texas Baptist family, we decide how these dollars need to be directed for our kingdom work.
A new initiative, Texas Hope 2010, has been shared in these meetings. It is our desire to share the hope of Christ with every person in Texas within their own language and context by Resurrection Sunday 2010. This is the most important assignment we have as Texas Baptists. It will take all of us to fulfill this challenge. Let’s equip our children, youth and adults to begin to pray, care and share so that the lost of our state will experience the love of Christ.