On January 1, 2018, Chuck Beem became director of missions for the Gulf Coast Baptist Association in Brazoria County, Texas, after a dozen years in the United States Air Force and even more years serving local churches. 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 leader to be featured in this column, or to apply to be featured yourself, click here.
Where else have you worked, and what were your positions?
- United States Air Force for 12 and a half years as a software engineer
- First Baptist Church in Fairview Heights, Ill., minister of education and evangelism
- First Baptist Church in Brazoria, Texas, student pastor and then discipleship and missions pastor
- First Baptist Church in Rosharon, Texas, pastor
Where did you grow up?
My father was career Navy, so I moved about every three years. We call the St. Louis, Mo., area home.
How did you come to faith in Christ?
During training in the Air Force, two of my classmates brought a stack of Christian tracts from Keith Green’s Last Days Ministries. I was at a point in my life when I was searching for something more in life. When I read about Jesus, the Lord opened my eyes and heart to the gospel and he saved me.
Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?
- Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio, Bachelor of Science degree in computer science
- Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, Master of Science degree in computer science
- Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, Master of Arts degree in religion
I am blessed to serve as the executive director in the Gulf Coast Baptist Association, headquartered in Angleton, Texas. I have served in churches in the association more than 15 years and have come to love the churches and people here in Brazoria County. The churches here enjoy fellowship together and, even better, they work together for the gospel without a sense of competition. This is a unique and amazing place to minister!
Why do you feel called to your particular vocation?
I was first called to vocational ministry at a Promise Keepers Conference while I was still in the Air Force. I tried to ignore the calling, but God wouldn’t let me rest. When I surrendered to his call, I finally felt at peace. Throughout my different ministry positions, making disciples and missions has always been a passion of mine. As I look back on the road that God led me down, I realize he was preparing me for just this situation. God is taking my mistakes and the lessons I’ve learned from them and using them to help individuals and churches catch a vision for making disciples.
Please tell us about your association—where it’s located, the key focus of its work and ministry, etc.
Gulf Coast Baptist Association is located in Brazoria County, just south of Houston. I work out of an office in Angleton, but my office, my staff and I are not the association. The association is the churches that partner together for the gospel and the people in those churches. Our motto is “Churches doing more together than we ever could alone.” Together we are striving to be obedient to the Great Commission by doing four things:
- Create communities that cooperate together
- Develop leaders in our churches for the purpose of sending them out of the churches to serve the Lord
- Plant churches wherever God leads until every person in Brazoria County has a church home
- Raise up committed pastors, leaders and churches around the GlobaLocal vision of disciple-making (GlobaLocal = globally and locally and everywhere in between)
What do you like best about leading your association? Why?
I love being a part of an association that is excited about making disciples and is actually doing something about it.
What aspect(s) of associational ministry and/or its mission do you wish more people understood?
I’m still new to associational ministry and learning more about it every day, but I have noticed the average Southern Baptist doesn’t understand the relationship between churches, local associations, state associations and the SBC. Southern Baptists are fiercely autonomous. I use the word fiercely on purpose.
Our pastors and churches answer to the head of the body, Jesus, and not to associations. As an associational leader, I don’t have the authority or the power to tell churches their business. This is good because I don’t know God’s specific vision for every church. This is bad because it makes associational work very challenging!
James Sullivan said we Southern Baptists are held together by a “rope of sand with strength of steel.” You can’t pull on the rope, because of autonomy. But there is a great strength in our cooperation because we have chosen, under God’s leadership, to work together for the sake of the kingdom of God.
How has your association and its mission changed since you began your career?
Still too early for me to answer this one.
How do you expect your association and/or its mission to change in the next 10 to 20 years?
I don’t believe our mission will change. We exist to encourage and help churches carry out the Great Commission, which is the mission of every church. Since the mission of churches won’t change, I don’t believe our mission will change either.
That said, I believe how we help churches carry out the Great Commission will change. What this will look like will depend on how churches change in the next 10 to 20 years. This will be influenced by multiple changes.
Name the three most significant challenges and/or influences facing your association.
Generational: Churches with aging congregations who refuse to change are slowly declining and will eventually cease to exist as the congregation dies off if they do not change course.
The loyal Builder generation will soon be gone from our churches. These are the folks who built and have sustained our churches for decades. The Boomer generation seems to be “checking out” and just going through the motions in church. They, too, will be gone in the next 20 to 30 years.
We need to involve the younger generations in leadership in the association so they can see the value of working together.
Financial: The cost of buildings and staffing (e.g. health insurance) has become a tough issue for churches. As a result, the first thing that usually gets sacrificed is money that goes to missions (Cooperative Program, local association, state association, International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, etc.).
Denominational: The culture of America today is very polarized. I would say the culture among Southern Baptists is polarized as well (conservative vs. moderate, Calvinist vs. Arminian, praise music vs. hymns or Southern Gospel music, Democrat vs. Republican, etc.).
One of the strengths of the SBC is our doctrinal agreement through the Baptist Faith and Message. We must get back to the place where we can agree and cooperate on the major points, and let differences on the minor points go for the sake of cooperation. We need unity. That’s what Jesus prayed for in John 17, and he prayed for unity so the world would know God loves them and sent his Son for them.
What one aspect of your job gives you the greatest joy or fulfillment?
I love it when God uses the cooperative efforts of our churches to reach the lost. When our pastors work together across racial, generational and geographical lines, it blesses me. I love it when I see our folks work for the kingdom of God and not their kingdom.
What are the key issues facing Baptists as a people or denomination?
Many of the same challenges that are facing the associations, in particular, the challenge to get beyond our differences to see that what we have in common is what allows us to work together, and what makes us unique is what makes us work better together.
- The world is more lost today than it was yesterday, which means more opportunities to share Jesus.
- The world is hurting today, which means ample opportunity to meet people’s needs, build relationships and share the gospel à la Luke 10.
- Our world is more pre-Christian than post-Christian, which means a clean slate for teaching them about God the Creator and his plan for saving man through his Son, Jesus.
What would you change about the Baptist denomination—state, nation or local?
I would focus less on trying to provide a political answer/position to the questions for which the world and the media continue to ask. Instead, I would focus more on the task of making disciples and equipping and encouraging our people and churches to go out and do what Jesus did—meet needs, build relationships and share the good news of the kingdom of God.
Who were/are your mentors, and how did/do they influence you?
Donald Hintze, the previous executive director of the Gulf Coast Baptist Association. He was influential in the last 15 years in helping me discover for myself what the Bible really says about making disciples. He challenged me, encouraged me, corrected me and advised me as I traveled down the path of biblical missions. Reggie McNeal would say Donald forced me to choose between the red pill and the blue pill. I still talk to Donald multiple times each week, and he continues to be a great influence in my life. I am very grateful for him, but don’t tell Donald I said that.
Kenneth Glenn, the pastor of the first church I ever joined, who baptized me. Kenneth and his wife, Beth, were former IMB missionaries to Iran. Under his leadership, First Baptist Church in Bellevue, Neb., was a great discipling church. I learned how to pray, how to study my Bible, and how to teach from Kenneth. He has gone to be with the Lord, and I look forward to the day when I can talk with him again.
My dad. My dad didn’t grow up in church, and in fact, he didn’t come to know Jesus until after I was grown and out of the house. When my dad got saved, I noticed the difference in his life. He was the first person to tell me I need to be in church and I need to take my family to church. Within the next year was when I came to know Christ. I love my dad. He taught me the meaning of service through his years in the Navy and through supporting his wife and kids. I am so grateful we will get to spend eternity together.
Other than the Bible, name some of your favorite books or authors, and explain why.
Louis L’Amour. My family was stationed overseas while I was in high school. Without TV to watch, I did a lot of reading. My dad loved Louis L’Amour and had a ton of his books, so I read all of them multiple times. They’re classics—good guys vs. bad guys, good guys lose the girl and the ranch and then rise up against all odds to defeat the bad guys and get back the ranch and the girl. What’s not to like?
John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad. Missions for the glory of God. Enough said.
Eric Metaxas: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy and Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World. Also George Marsden’s Jonathan Edwards – A Life. I like to read biographies of great saints.
Anything by Tom Clancy, especially Red Storm Rising.
What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?
Romans 5:6–11: “ For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by his blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”
This passage is the good news! It reminds me I once was lost and couldn’t do anything about it, but God proved his love for me by sending his Son to die for me so I could be reconciled to him. My life purpose is to share this good news!
Who is your favorite Bible character, other than Jesus? Why?
Joshua and Caleb: Despite the physical evidence and the opinion of the majority, they chose to trust God and recommend that the Jews cross into the Promised Land.
Write and answer a question you wish we had asked.
What was the greatest college football team of all time?
Answer: The 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers under Coach Tom Osborne.