Bob Dean: Leading on the front-line of ministry and mission

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Bob Dean has been the executive director of Dallas Baptist Association since 2006. From deep in the heart of one Texan, he shares his background and thoughts on associational ministry and the church. To suggest a Baptist General Convention of Texas-affiliated leader to be featured in this column, or to apply to be featured yourself, click here.

Background

Where else have you worked, and what were your positions?

  • 1970–1973: part-time minister of youth, Tokio Baptist near Waco
  • 1974–1978: assistant pastor & outreach, Northway Baptist, Dallas
  • 1978–2006: pastor, Northlake Baptist, Garland

Where did you grow up?

Dallas, Texas

How did you come to faith in Christ?

I was blessed to grow up with dedicated Christian parents who had a great influence on my life spiritually. They taught me about the Lord and modeled a genuine Christian life. When I was 9 years old, my pastor, W.W. Baker, came to our Sunday school class and shared the gospel with our class. I talked with him at the end of the class and prayed to receive Christ as my Savior and Lord.

Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?

  • Bachelor of Arts, 1974, Baylor University
  • Master of Divinity, 1978, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
  • Doctor of Ministry, 1986, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
  • Honorary Doctorate, Dallas Baptist University

Ministry

Why do you feel called to your particular vocation?

As a teenager, I felt called to full-time ministry. In seminary, I felt that God might be calling me to be a pastor or to work with college students. While serving as an assistant pastor during seminary, it became clear to me that God was calling me to be a pastor.

Please tell us about your association—where it’s located, the key focus of its work and ministry, etc.

Dallas Baptist Association is in Dallas and includes two counties: Dallas and Rockwall.

DBA exists to assist our churches in fulfilling the Great Commission of making disciples of all nations. We focus on assisting our churches by praying, starting churches, strengthening churches, and connecting our churches.

What do you like best about leading your association? Why?

I enjoy most the opportunity to work with our staff team, pastors and church leaders in our association to develop and implement strategies to reach Dallas and Rockwall counties for Christ.

What aspect(s) of associational ministry and/or its mission do you wish more people understood?

I wish more people understood the unique role of the local association in reaching a major metropolitan area. We are an international mission field with a population that is 25 percent foreign-born. This mission field is so large and lost that it is bigger than any one church, but not bigger than what God can do through churches working together. There is not another organization like the local association in the Southern Baptist Convention. We are the closest agency to the churches and to the mission field.

How has your association and its mission changed since you began your career?

Our mission, which is to assist our churches in fulfilling the Great Commission, has not changed. We have changed to be more team oriented as a staff and more focused on customizing strategies for individual churches and communities.

How do you expect your association and/or its mission to change in the next 10 to 20 years?

In the next 10 to 20 years, associations should focus on three aspects of their unique role in Baptist life.

  • Proximity: They are closest to the churches and the local mission field.
  • Connections: They have relationships with churches, local ministries and community leaders.
  • Leverage: Working with the associations, churches can leverage what they are doing for a much greater kingdom impact.

Associations also will need to be lean financially and find ways to accomplish more for God’s kingdom with the same or less income, as well as to find alternative ways to supplement the financial support for the work of the association.

About Bob

Who were/are your mentors, and how did/do they influence you?

I have had many mentors, but the two most influential were my parents. They were both very committed Christians and actively involved in church. My dad passed away in 1995, but he was a great leader in business and in the church. I still think every week about lessons I learned from him. I am blessed that my mom is still living and continues to be a wonderful, godly influence for me and my family.

Other than the Bible, name some of your favorite books or authors, and explain why.

One of my favorite authors is John Stott. I first read his book, Basic Christianity, in college. His book, The Cross of Christ, is one of my favorite books. I found that John Stott wrote in a clear way that was thoroughly biblical, logical and practical.

What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?

My favorite Bible verse is Ephesians 3:20-21. We have experienced as a family in many different ways the truth of this verse that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”

Name something about you that would surprise people who know you well.

I met my wife, Ellen, while serving on the Baptist Student Ministry Summer Missionary interview committee with the BGCT. In addition to several BSM directors, there were three students from around the state of Texas who were asked to serve. Ellen (Texas Tech) and I (Baylor) were two of those students. We celebrated our 44thanniversary last May.

If you could get one “do over” in your career, what would it be, and why?

In looking back, I would ask the question more often, “What should we stop doing?”

In church ministry, we are better at starting ministries and events than we are at ending them. It is important that we stop doing things that are no longer as effective as they once were and keep us from beginning something new that will be more effective.

Sometimes by doing less we can accomplish more.

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