David Currie was the executive director of Texas Baptists Committed 22 years. 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 did you grow up?
The small town of Paint Rock, Texas. I had a high school graduation class of five, all boys. My great-grandfather, David Blount Currie, came to Paint Rock in 1879. He and his two brothers are buried there, as are my grandfather and father, but the first Currie to come to Texas was Robert Morrison Currie, who founded the First Baptist Church in La Vernia and was the first moderator of the San Antonio Baptist Association.
How did you come to faith in Christ?
My family, all the Curries, and there were many back then, never missed church. I felt the urge to express faith at age 8. A friend followed me that day and six other kids the next Sunday. I was baptized in the Concho River on Uncle Bill’s place by James Golden.
Why did you feel called into ministry?
I started feeling the call in junior high, and it got stronger the summer before my senior year in high school. Final confirmation came the summer I graduated at Lake Brownwood encampment with great help from Ferris Akins, pastor for First Baptist Church of Ballinger, a wonderful man.
In addition to your most-noted position, where else did you serve in ministry?
I was youth minister at First Baptist Church of Gorman, then served with Foy Valentine at the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission and as pastor of First Baptist Church Mason.
When did you leave your most-noted position and/or retire from full-time ministry?
Fall of 2009.
How have you occupied yourself since then?
I have always identified myself first as a rancher, then a minister, and now as a developer and custom homebuilder and Sunday School teacher, but God and I argued through my love for the dirt in Concho County long ago and reached a peace about it. I’ve had a wonderful life doing what I was gifted to do for Baptists and living 45 minutes from my ranch.
Where do you live now, and where do you go to church?
I live on 325 acres south of San Angelo (great deer hunting) and teach young professionals in Sunday School at Southland Baptist Church in San Angelo.
What was your favorite or most joyful aspect of ministry? Why?
The people I got to know though the years of leading Texas Baptists Committed, some wonderful pastors and especially laypersons.
What part of ministry delivered the greatest heartache or headache?
Phil Strickland and I used to lament the lack of courage of so many during the most important battle in Southern Baptist life. It was quite depressing to see so many just ignore the evil that was the fundamentalist movement in the SBC. What they did to our seminaries and other institutions is truly tragic.
What would you tell the young you, just starting out in ministry?
TBC used to host young ministers’ retreats, and I would tell the young pastors that their first job was to love the people, not change them or the church. Love the people, be honest with them, be honest about your own struggles and together, with the lay leadership, a church can be changed and made more effective.
What do you wish more laypeople knew about ministry or, specifically, your ministry?
I don’t think many realized that we were not trying to control Texas Baptists like the fundamentalists were. We worked to save the BGCT so it could be inclusive; the SBC takeover was about taking control in order to be exclusive. That is a huge difference in motivation. I wish more lay people had realized what the takeover was really about.
What were the key issues facing Baptists during the heart of your ministry?
Were Texas Baptists going to stay real Baptists? I’m still not sure.
What would you change about the Baptist denomination—state, nation or local?
The SBC is no longer a Baptist denomination except in name, so obviously I’d change it back to a Baptist group. I would want our state denominations and local churches to respect each other more and Baptist principles like local church autonomy more. I was heartbroken by the action taken by the convention last fall, but I won’t comment further. I’d like to work with Fellowship Southwest as a volunteer in my “golden years” if they don’t think I’m too conservative! Maybe there is a place for me there.
Who were/are your mentors, and how did/do they influence you?
First was my mother, Mary Jim, a remarkable, opinionated woman of grit and courage. She had great sayings like “You have to live in the real world” and “I hate dumbness,” among others. My parents influenced me by being so loving and supportive of me.
Nat Tracy, a professor at Howard Payne who retired the year I graduated in 1975, is the major influence on my theology with his teachings on what Christianity means to God. He taught me God’s character is unconditional love, acceptance and forgiveness. I quote something from him every Sunday. Please read his book, finished by Gary Manning, titled The Search for Authentic Christianity.
James Shields from Howard Payne taught me what you do comes out of who you are and you have to be before you can do.
Boo Heflin, Bobby Adams, Yandell Woodfin and so many other professors at Southwestern Seminary made the Bible come alive for me and taught me to think for myself and encouraged me in so many ways. Losing that seminary was a tremendous loss to the kingdom of God.
Foy Valentine taught me to learn the difference between making noise and getting something done.
Phil Strickland, my best friend and personal hero, taught me that you can get a lot done if you don’t mind who gets the credit. Phil was actually co-executive director of TBC. We talked constantly for 20 years and loved each other deeply.
I have been blessed with two wonderful friends in Gary Elliston and Jimmy Heerwald, both of whom I met the day I checked into the athletic dorm at Howard Payne in 1971. That’s a long time.
I have been wonderfully blessed with other, wonderful friend/mentors, like the late Ira Peak, Jr., the late Phil Lineberger, the late John Petty, Sam McCutchen, Floyd Craig, David Sapp, Doug Ezell, Charles Wade, Bill Bruster, Ron Cook, Charlie Johnson, George Mason, and so many more. If friends make you wealthy, I’m sure rich.
Other than the Bible, name some of your favorite books or authors, and explain why.
I have been greatly influenced by the writings of Frederick Buechner, Robert Farrar Capon, John Claypool (who was a personal friend), Wendell Berry, Will Campbell (also a friend) and M. Scott Peck. And I love reading John Graves.
What is your favorite Bible verse or passage?
Name something about you that would surprise people who know you well.
I wonder if people are ready for this. My hair is straight as a needle, so I curl the front of it with a curling iron every morning so it doesn’t fall into my eyes!
To read more “Deep in the Hearts of Texans” columns, click here.