Bruce Webb has been pastor of The Woodlands First Baptist Church since 2007. From deep in the heart of one Texan, he shares his background and thoughts on church and ministry. To suggest a Baptist General Convention of Texas-affiliated minister to be featured in this column, or to apply to be featured yourself, click here.
Where else have you served in ministry, and what were your positions there?
While in college, I served on staff part-time at First Baptist Church in Stanton, Calvary Baptist Church in San Marcos and First Baptist Church in Floresville.
While in seminary, I served part-time at Creede Baptist Church in Creede, Colo., and University Baptist Church in Fort Worth.
Although they were summer and part-time positions, I mention those churches because they were very important in clarifying my call to be a pastor. It is probably safe to say those church experiences did more for me than I did for them.
I have had the privilege of being the senior pastor of three Texas churches: The Island Baptist Church on South Padre Island (1991 to 1998), Central Baptist Church in Jacksonville (1998 to 2007), and my current position.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Big Spring, Texas.
How did you come to faith in Christ?
My mother died when I was 6 years old. I learned of her death when some family friends brought my brother to my elementary school. When I saw them, I thought they were coming to take me fishing. Instead, the family friends drove off, and my 15-year-old brother, Bob Webb, walked me to my grandmother’s house and told me Mom had died.
I remember us both crying and Bob praying for us. From that moment, I had an awareness of the importance of eternal life, that it was possible to die, and that I needed to have a relationship with Jesus.
Our family did not have much money, and my brother Bob and I slept in the same bed. When I was 7 years old, I remember him sharing the plan of salvation with me as we were going to bed.
I understood what it meant to be saved, but I told him I wasn’t ready. He didn’t try to pressure me but told me I was going to be a great Christian someday. I always will be grateful for that.
When I was 15 years old, a girl I liked in the youth group at East Fourth Street Baptist Church invited me to go to youth choir. I already was a member of the Sunday School there, but I rarely attended after my mother’s death. But I liked to sing, and I liked girls.
When I went, someone invited me to play on the church league softball team. The rule was you had to attend church the Sunday before the game in order to be able to play.
So, I went to church because of girls, choir and softball, but as I attended the services, I became aware that God loved me and wanted to do something significant with my life.
During a Lord’s Supper service as the elements were being passed, I refused to take the bread or the cup because I knew I wasn’t a Christian. I determined when the service was over, I was going to commit my life to Jesus. For the first time I ever can remember, the pastor didn’t give an invitation, and we didn’t sing multiple verses of “Just As I Am.” It was very unusual.
When the service concluded, the pastor called on someone to close in prayer, and as he walked to the back of the sanctuary to shake people out, I stepped into the aisle, grabbed his arm and said, “Brother Guy, I want to be a Christian.”
I was saved at that moment. The Holy Spirit had spoken to me for months through Matthew 10:32-33, which says: “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”
I was afraid to be open about my faith. The moment I did, Jesus was right there to save me. I was 15 years old, and it was the best decision I ever have made.
Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?
I graduated from Big Spring High School. I have a music degree from Texas State University (1987), a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1991) and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1995).
Why do you feel called into ministry?
Because God called and motivated me to share with others the incredible grace and love I have received from him.
How has your ministry or your perspective on ministry changed?
The last few years, it has become clear to me the importance of helping our youth hear the call to local church ministry. After spending my sabbatical in England preaching at a small Baptist church for 10 weeks, I think the Holy Spirit helped me see this. The people in the church I served seemed eager and ready to reach out to a growing community, but there are so few young people being called to Christian ministry. It is a crisis in Europe, and unless something changes fast, it will be a crisis in the United States, as well.
Churches needs pastors who are called, educated and enthusiastic about reaching people for Christ. Without them, the future is in question. This means Christian parents and churches need to find ways to encourage their students to consider a calling to local church ministry and provide opportunities for them to serve in the church as interns. A potential call to ministry is solidified by doing ministry.
Name the three most significant challenges and/or influences facing your ministry.
• Handling the LGBTQ issue correctly.
• Addressing the destructiveness of internet pornography.
• Cultivating young, emotionally and spiritually healthy ministers.
What are the key issues facing Baptists—denominationally and/or congregationally?
One of the major issues facing Baptists is the acceptance or rejection of women in ministry.
It is absolutely possible to have the highest view of Scripture and believe women can serve as ministers within the local church. In fact, my belief in favor of women in ministry is not in spite of the Bible but precisely because of the teaching of the Bible.
I am not suggesting and would never ask someone to reject or ignore what the Bible says about women. I am asking people to be willing to look at what the Scripture actually teaches rather than allowing tradition alone to determine their position. Good, sincere Christian people disagree about the issue, but I respectfully am encouraging people to take a second, biblical look. I have a sermon entitled What God Wants Women To Be should anyone be interested in exploring this further.
Why is this so important? There is a shortage of younger ministers called to serve the local church. If we tell half the population of Christians they cannot serve the local church in ministry, we are working against ourselves.
We also are communicating by our actions that any young woman who does feel called to ministry needs to leave Baptist life in order to serve. The denominations to which young women are forced to move often do not have a high view of Scripture.
We need young men and women called to serve the local church to have a high view of Scripture, a firm commitment to its truthfulness, and a passion for Jesus and the local church.
Who were/are your mentors, and how did/do they influence you?
My three main mentors in ministry have been Bob Webb, Randel Everett and Paul Powell.
I learned from my older brother Bob what it meant to be an authentic Christian and pastor.
I served as Randel Everett’s pastoral intern when he was pastor of University Baptist Church in Fort Worth and while I was in seminary. His memorization of Scripture was inspiring to me, as was his preaching. Randel was the first pastor I ever encountered who knew how to cast a vision that was clear enough people could follow.
Paul Powell was my mentor for over 25 years. He didn’t choose me, but I definitely chose him. He and two other large church Baptist pastors showed up at South Padre Island on my second Sunday as a senior pastor.
My sermon wasn’t very good, but while the other pastors were talking Baptist politics, Paul went out to his car and got one of his books, signed it, gave it to me, and told me how proud he was of me. I followed up with a thank you letter and an invitation for him to come do a revival at my church. He accepted, and I pursued him until he adopted me as one of his boys.
When something great happened to me in ministry, Paul was always one of my first calls because he was legitimately happy for me. When something happened and I needed advice, he was my first call.
He recommended me to Central Baptist in Jacksonville and First Baptist Church of The Woodlands.
I remember telling him once that I didn’t know how I could ever appropriately do something for him to show my gratitude, and he said, “Do it for someone else.” I have tried.
One of the greatest privileges of my life was to speak at Paul’s funeral, and I didn’t know how much I would miss him until he was gone. I love Paul and Cathy Powell.
What is the impact of ministry on your family?
Nancy and I have served in three imperfect churches as senior pastor, and that has made us a really good match because we are imperfect, too. All three churches we have served have loved us and our three girls, and we have loved them, too. They allowed us to be ourselves, and our girls have had very positive experiences as pastor’s kids, for the most part.
What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?
I love the Bible far too much to be able to choose one or two as my favorites. It seems like the passage I am studying to teach on any given week is my favorite at the time, but here are several of my favorites.
John 1:14 says: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
In so many places, it’s all grace and no truth, or all truth and no grace. In Jesus, however, grace and truth intersect, and that is what I am going for in my ministry and our church is striving for, as well.
Galatians 5:22-23 says: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Too often, we evaluate ourselves and others in ministry by the gifts of the Spirit, rather than by the fruit of the Spirit. It was life-changing for me when I realized giftedness doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit is working through us. It just means we are talented.
The real measure of whether the Holy Spirit is working in our lives is the fruit of the Spirit. So, for me, the fruit of the Spirit is a constant check on authentic ministry that pleases God.
1 Corinthians 15:58 says: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
This verse is special to me because I memorized it when I was 15 years old and had just given my life to Jesus. I used to walk down the hall of my high school quoting that passage and praying God would help me be a good witness.
Whenever I hear or think of that verse, it reminds me of the passion I had when I first became a Christian, and it reminds me it needs to continue to be true of my life.
What is the key to a successful ministry?
One of the keys is a spouse who loves the Lord and is committed to Jesus, as well. I met my wife Nancy on a Baptist Student Ministry ski trip, and she has been a wonderful partner in ministry. My advice is to marry well.