Since 2001, David Bowman has served as the executive director of the Tarrant Baptist Association in Fort Worth. 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?
I was a congregational strategist for Texas Baptists for four-and-a-half years before coming to Tarrant Association. I served in pastoral ministry for twenty years at churches in Baytown, Nocona, Point and Cleburne. I also served as an evangelism coordinator on staff of the Baptist Student Ministry at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Sulphur Springs, Texas.
How did you come to faith in Christ?
I grew up in a Christian home and attended a church where the good news was faithfully preached and taught. I gave my life to Christ on February 11, 1976, during a Bible conference at our church.
Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?
I graduated from Sulphur Springs high school, Texas A&M University-Commerce (formerly known as East Texas State University) and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I was a history major in college. I earned the Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees at Southwestern.
Why do you feel called to your particular vocation?
This is one of two jobs I said I would never have. The other was working for a state convention. Now I have done both.
I love my job! I have the privilege of working with some of the most amazing leaders I have known.
Becky Biser began on staff at TBA over 35 years ago as a receptionist. She is now the director of leadership development. I don’t know anyone who hears and responds to God like she does.
Gary Crowell has been on staff for over 15 years. He served as an IMB missionary for 19 years in Peru. He was shot and left for dead by Shining Path terrorists. His recovery was miraculous. He does miracles for TBA and our affiliated churches in the areas of finances, legal matters and ministry to internationals.
Jay Harris had been on staff at TBA for nearly 20 years. He abandoned us in early 2018 for the greener pastures of retirement. He continues working with us in the areas of leadership coach training and life planning. He is the kindest, gentlest man I know.
Hector Mendez does double-duty as a local church pastor and church-starting consultant. He is an international evangelist and ministry trainer. He and Gary have extended TBA’s reach to Venezuela, Peru and beyond.
Troy Wolfe serves on our staff as a church-starting catalyst. He is an experienced church starter and one of the most intense men you will ever meet. He also serves on the staff of Fellowship of the Parks in Keller.
Casey Lester is our assistant. She is a seminary student and is married to a seminary student. She will graduate in May and then pursue a Ph.D. at Dallas Baptist University. She is also expecting their first child. Casey is an author, blogger and photographer. She plans to become the next Becky Biser.
Walter and Cindy Krueger serve as volunteers for TBA. They keep things working that would otherwise fall apart. They are endlessly delightful and incredibly helpful.
I am called to serve these wonderful leaders as they serve the hundreds of churches that affiliate with TBA. Their ministries extend around the world. They multiply disciple-making ministers.
Please tell us about your association—where it’s located, the key focus of its work and ministry, etc.
Fort Worth is on the kinder, gentler side of the Metroplex. The Texas Rangers play in Tarrant County. The Dallas Cowboys play in Tarrant County. DFW Airport is in the city of Fort Worth. Fort Worth is a big city with the heart of a small town.
Tarrant Association does three things: leadership development, church starting and community engagement. If it doesn’t fit in one of those boxes, it probably belongs to someone else. We focus on opportunities to multiply disciples and churches.
What do you like best about leading your association? Why?
I love working with the pastors, staff members and lay leaders in this community who seek to extend God’s kingdom among the men, women and children who need to know and experience a loving relationship with our Father in heaven. We live and work on mission.
Our mission statement is: “Investing in relationships to connect others with Christ.” Our vision is: “Creating a culture of Christ-centered catalysts.”
No other entity and no other leaders wake up every morning with Tarrant County on their hearts and minds like we do. We want to maximize disciple-making leaders in every domain of community life.
We want the church to be the church seven days a week in their roles as schoolteachers, garbage collectors, city managers and restaurant workers. We want to know our city and county leaders, and we want them to know we pray for them and stand ready to serve them and alongside them in making our area a little more heavenly every day.
What aspect(s) of associational ministry and/or its mission do you wish more people understood?
Associations are not cooperative program ministries. We do not receive funds from the SBC or its entities. We receive a declining measure of support from Texas Baptists because they receive a declining measure of support from Texas Baptist churches. Most associations across the USA are struggling financially.
We have said, for as long as I can remember, that we can do more together than we can alone. Yet we seem more intent on going alone or in going with others rather than working together. However, no church is big enough and powerful enough to serve a community like ours by itself, or even with a handful of others. We really do need each other.
What one aspect of your job gives you the greatest joy or fulfillment?
I love seeing pastors make their churches the heroes. In a day when building a platform has become big business for religious leaders, it is refreshing to hear pastors tell stories about their members who are making a difference in their homes and communities.
Let’s tell more stories like the businessman whose daughter asked about a homeless man as they awaited entry to a performance. That dad went back to work with a new passion to serve his community. He was able to marshal hundreds of thousands of dollars to serve needy people in our area in response to his daughter’s question.
Let’s tell about the elementary school principal who invites church partners to pray over every chair in every classroom after school hours.
Let’s tell about the city manager who wants to demonstrate that inner cities can become oases of peaceful, vibrant, family-friendly entertainment.
Who were/are your mentors, and how did/do they influence you?
I grew up without many mentors.
As I walked across the parking lot of the small, country church where I was pastor when I was 26 years old, I thought to myself, “If I ever figure out what I’m doing, I’m going to spend the rest of my life helping others figure out what they are doing.”
I think God let me do everything the hard way so that I would have plenty of stories to tell and experiences to draw on for the role I am in now.
Other than the Bible, name some of your favorite books or authors, and explain why.
You really do not have time or room for my answer to this question. However, here are a handful of transformational texts.
- “Church Unique” and “God Dreams” by Will Mancini
Will is a personal friend and occasional business partner. Every church is uniquely shaped for significant ministry. Most never take the time and effort to think about this in a manner that provides breakthrough clarity. This book will set a church on that journey.
- “Nothing to Prove” by David and Caron Loveless
David was the pastor of one of the largest and most innovative churches in America until he was forced to resign due to an affair. He didn’t want to have an affair, but he did. How do you recover from the worst mistake of your life? David and his wife, Caron, lead us through the steps of healing and restoration. I’m proud to call David a friend.
- “Hearing God” by Dallas Willard
Read anything and everything by Willard. It will be good for your soul. Take your time. This is not light reading. You need some heavy lifting now and again. This book is a great place to start.
- “Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson
How she managed to write this book so beautifully and so captivatingly, I will never know. However, I will be forever grateful. The last line haunts me still years after it first took my breath away.
What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?
My life verse for the first half of my life was Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
My life verse for the second half of my life is John 3:30: “He must become greater; I must become less.”
What better bookends for a small-town boy from a no-name family adopted into our Father’s family and called into his service?
God is with me wherever I go, whatever I face. Wherever I go, whomever I meet, they need to see Jesus more than they need to see me. May that become ever more true in my remaining days.
Who is your favorite Bible character, other than Jesus? Why?
I read years ago that Barnabas is the second-most important character in the New Testament. Obviously, Jesus is first. Why Barnabas?
If it were not for this man, whose nickname means Encourager, we would not have Mark’s Gospel or Paul’s letters. That is over half of the New Testament.
One man who saw the best in others and obeyed God in building them up changed the world for millions of people. Unless he is the author of Hebrews, we don’t know much about what he taught. We do know how God used him to edify others. He could have created a platform for himself, but he was too busy building them for others.
That is a great role model for modern ministers.
Name something about you that would surprise people who know you well.
I was once struck by lightning, have been shot at twice and had three close encounters with bears in the wild.
If you could get one “do over” in your career, what would it be, and why?
I put my foot down one night. I stepped in it.
Write and answer a question you wish we had asked.
What can you tell us about your family?
I’m glad you asked. My wife is the associate superintendent of a large school district here in the Metroplex. Our son is a Captain in the United States Marine Corps. Our daughter is in her final year of law school and serves as an intern in the district attorney’s office. Our unofficially adopted daughter is an award-winning school teacher. Her husband works for a NASA contractor. Their son is one of the smartest boys in the whole world.