Patty Lane has been the director of Intercultural Ministries for Texas Baptists since 2002, when the office was created, and has worked for the Baptist General Convention of Texas since 1984, starting as a church starting catalyst and consultant. From deep in the heart of one Texan, she shares her background and thoughts on leading this Texas Baptist ministry. To suggest a BGCT-affiliated leader 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?
I was a summer missionary in California and then later a missionary journeyman to Israel. I worked primarily with high school students attending the American International School outside Tel Aviv.
In 1984, I began with the BGCT as a church starting catalyst/consultant working with multiple cultures and languages in church starting. My title changed several times, but I always did the same basic ministry. I started out working only with people groups from the Middle East and India, but when I took my current position, I was working with about 30 different countries of origin and about 45 languages.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Kansas, lived in Oklahoma and then in both Breckenridge and Wichita Falls, Texas.
How did you come to faith in Christ?
We were a very active church family, and we did family devotions at night. I heard the gospel many times, and one night at a church service when the invitation was given, I began to walk down the aisle, but my Dad grabbed me, not sure why I was leaving my seat. As soon as he let go, I darted out and up to the preacher, my Dad trailing close behind. After lots of discussions with the pastor and my parents, they decided I really had prayed to receive Christ, and they let me be baptized. I was young, but I knew then I wanted to give my life to serve God who loved me so much. While I have had many other decisive moments in my faith journey, I know it was that night in that little church in Kansas where I gave my life to Christ.
Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?
I went to Baylor University and received a bachelor’s degree in education with a major in speech pathology. Later, I graduated from Southwestern Seminary with a master of divinity degree.
Why do you feel called into ministry?
Even as a child, I felt called to ministry, and I have seen how God has worked through my life to give me a love for people from other cultures. In serving them, I feel close to God and a joy in doing what he has called me to do.
What is your favorite aspect of ministry? Why?
I love the churches, pastors and leaders with whom I work. I learn so much from them, and my faith is stretched and grown by seeing how God is working in so many ways with people from so many different backgrounds and cultures. Each day I see firsthand just how big God is and how he is not limited by our limited understandings. His gift of salvation and his calling to be his disciples is for everyone, and it is a blessing to have the opportunity to experience God through believers who are different than me. Even though my life is not like theirs in culture, language, family, etc., our love of God binds us together. I just love that!
How do you expect ministry to change in the next 10 to 20 years?
I do not know how it will change, but my prayer is that we as Texas Baptists will be able to experience the joy of knowing well and collaborating with the many amazing churches in Texas that are full of immigrants and refugees. I pray we will see the gift these bold and brave Christians are to us as a family of churches and that together we will all grow closer to who God would have us to be.
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If you could launch any new ministry—individually, through your congregation or through another organization—what would it be? Why?
I would like to pursue creating a mission network that utilizes the strengths of the immigrant populations living in the United States to build more effective strategies for ministry and evangelism overseas. This not only would create more contextualized missions, but also would build more mutual relationships within the body of Christ.
What do you wish more laypeople knew about ministry or, specifically, your ministry?
I wish more people knew that a person’s income or their ability to speak English has absolutely nothing to do with their spiritual maturity and wisdom. So often it seems hard to understand that someone can need help learning English or finding a job, but spiritually they may be very mature. The truth is some of the wisest and most spiritually mature Christians I know were born in other countries, and English may be their third or fourth language. When people hear their hearts and understand their experiences, I think they will realize it is no accident or burden to be a country of immigrants but rather a blessing and opportunity given to us by God.
Who were/are your mentors, and how did/do they influence you?
My mom, who raised five children and made sure we grew in our love of Jesus and always lived a life of faith, showed me that God was God for everyone and that those who know him need to tell others about him. She gave me a love for the people of the world as she found time to teach Girls in Action in our church. She wanted to be sure the next generation—her daughter included—would not only know God but have a heart for missions.
Another mentor when I was still in high school was Roy Bowling. He was a layperson at our church who saw my interest in sharing my faith and was willing to take me on Tuesday night church visitations to let me learn from his example and encouragement. More than any of his advice, what I remember was his belief in me and his validation of God’s call in my life.
What did you learn on the job you wish you learned in seminary?
Ministry is not as much about knowledge in my head as compassion in my heart.
The more I seek to develop eyes that see people as God does, the more I feel his presence in my ministry.
God can use the very smallest of interactions to seed huge transformations. Impactful ministry should not always be measured by just what is flashy and big, but also in the quiet obedience that reflects a daily walk with God. I see this each day in the lives of the intercultural pastors with whom I work.
What is the impact of ministry on your family?
In a way, ministry created my family. It was through ministry that God spoke to my heart about adoption—a foreign adoption. It has been 12 years since that step of faith led me to my daughter, and I am grateful each day for the blessing that has been.
What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?
Romans 8 and Psalms 139. I love both for the same reasons but from different perspectives. In each passage, I am reminded of the closeness of God. In Romans, I hear how nothing can separate me from God, and in Psalms, I understand the depth of his inward closeness and knowledge of who I really am.
Who is your favorite Bible character, other than Jesus? Why?
One of my favorite stories is the Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego story in Daniel 3. I always loved the miracle of God saving them, but years ago, I discovered in that story a challenge to my faith that I try to live by each day. In verse 18, Shadrach replies to King Nebuchadnezzar that they believe God will save them from the fiery furnace, “but if not,” they still will obey their God. This act of faith challenges me to have the courage to obey God and trust him with what happens next.