Roger Yancey: Hand to the plow, not looking back

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Roger Yancey has been the executive director and associational missionary for the Tryon Evergreen Baptist Association since 2004. From deep in the heart of one Texan, he shares his background and thoughts on ministry and the church. 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.

Background

Where else have you worked, and what were your positions?

I became a student minister at the age of 18 for First Baptist Henrietta, Texas. While in seminary at Southwestern, I assisted in planting a church in Arlington, which was followed by two additional church plants in the Grand Prairie area as the lead planter as part of the Texas 2000 emphasis. Following that time, I served as the senior pastor of Thousand Oaks Baptist Church in San Antonio for eight years.

Where did you grow up?

Wichita Falls was the city our family was anchored to and returned to, though my father’s business interests necessitated us also to live in Fort Worth, Houston, Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

How did you come to faith in Christ?

The Lord Jesus Christ became my personal savior after my sixth birthday. The benefit of being raised in a Christian home provided an atmosphere that made understanding the love of God and receiving the gift of his Son a natural response. When I realized God desired to enter into a personal relationship with me, I talked with my parents and accepted Christ during a time of prayer with them. The following Sunday, I made the decision public.

Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?

I attended Midwestern State University (Bachelor of Science), Baylor University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Master of Divinity, Doctor of Ministry).

Ministry/Profession

Why do you feel called to your particular vocation?

I was called into the ministry as a child and made it public as a student. In college, that call expanded to an understanding that I was supposed to go from church to church assisting them in their ministries. It was only after 20 years as a church planter and pastor of local congregations that I realized God had been building in me the experiences and skillset needed to be an effective director of missions in an association.

Please tell us about your association—where it’s located, the key focus of its work and ministry, etc.

The Tryon Evergreen Baptist Association is located on the north boundary of Houston and makes up all or part of six counties. It has more than 1.2 million people in its borders with more than 2,500 people moving into the Association each month. The fastest growing city in the United States in 2017 was Conroe, which is in the geographic middle of the Association.

The ministry of the Association would not be possible without the support of the member churches and the staff members with whom I get to work. I am very grateful for the gifts God has put into each of their lives and the passion they have to serve the local church. Our team understands we are, at most, the bridesmaid to the bride of Christ and that we exalt Christ best when we help his bride fulfill its purpose on earth.

As an Association, we focus on three areas of ministry: missions, leadership development and church strengthening. This means we are heavily invested in church planting and missional partnerships in Texas, the U.S. and internationally. We are focused on helping pastors and ministry staff members be effective in leadership and healthy personal development. Church health and revitalization is an ongoing emphasis within the Association, and we leverage healthy church relationships to assist churches facing challenging situations.

What do you like best about leading your association? Why?

The relationships I have come to have with the pastors, staffs and the member churches is a constant source of encouragement. It is a tremendous honor to be able to speak into the life of a minister or a church family. Being part of the process that helps churches become externally focused so they can impact their communities as well as assisting them in planting new churches is a tremendous blessing as well.

What aspect(s) of associational ministry and/or its mission do you wish more people understood?

The tremendous legacy and value of partnership ministry among churches is a core principle of associational ministry. Associations are the oldest entity in Southern Baptist life and continue to have a crucial role to play in helping churches fulfill God’s purpose for them. The lasting impact of churches working together finds its basis in the local efforts of their association.

How has your association and its mission changed since you began your career?

The most significant shift has been related to the needs of a continuously growing population and the increased diversity within its makeup. At this time, we have more than 70 language groups within our Association but far less diversity in the church language options available to each group of people.

How do you expect your association and/or its mission to change in the next 10 to 20 years?

While healthy relationships will always be important, the platform they operate within will continue to develop. Technology will increasingly allow for greater communication and connection with the probability of the growth of virtual associations. Affinity networks and other partnership options available to churches are already demonstrating the reality of virtual associations as a viable option for churches. We already are in the beginning stages of assisting churches that are geographically outside our area but need ongoing assistance and relationship.

About Baptists

What are the key issues—opportunities and/or challenges—facing Baptist churches?

The local church is the most exciting place to experience the reality of God in your daily life. Churches will thrive who commit to reaching those without the hope of the gospel, to live in genuine community and to shepherding people in their faith journey. Churches who are unwilling to champion scriptural principles over personal preferences will find themselves eventually sidelined and increasingly ineffective.

What are the key issues facing Baptists as a people or denomination?

Southern Baptists have a long history of commitment to the hope of the gospel and the integrity of Scripture, but the decline of baptisms, plateaued and declining churches, and the need to continue to cultivate a heart for cooperation are critical concerns in Southern Baptist life.

What would you change about the Baptist denomination—state, nation or local?

That we would better remember the sacrifices made by those who came before us to build a movement that became a denomination, to purposefully recover the broader understanding of cooperative ministry, and to reflect on and value the strength in the various expressions of healthy congregations seeking Jesus fully.

About Roger

Who were/are your mentors, and how did/do they influence you?

The impact of growing up in a Christian home cannot be overstated. I learned so much from my parents about trusting Scripture, loving both the Old and New Testament, the value of being faithful to God in your finances beginning with your tithe, opening your home for hospitality, and supporting in prayer and conversation your church and pastor.

God blessed my life with mentors very early in life. Charlie King was my 8thgrade Sunday school teacher, and he invested personally and spiritually in my brother and me both inside and outside the Sunday school hour.

When I was 16, Roy Fish became the interim pastor of our church, and he initiated meeting with me on a weekly basis to talk about Jesus and to pray together. That became a basis for a lifelong friendship that included him performing our marriage ceremony and being an important part of my life until his passing.

While in seminary, I met many amazing people, who also served as mentors including Tommy Lea and Jimmy Nelson.

God also blessed me with many friends in ministry, who have helped shape me and have been both a cheering section and a voice of correction when needed.

My wife, Pauline, has been the greatest earthly influence in my life. For 35 years, she has shown such grace through challenge and faithfulness in spirit. She loves the Lord deeply and is my primary prayer warrior. She has taught me so much about walking in faith when the shadows are dark and pain is your constant companion.

I am so deeply grateful for the voices God planted into my life. I have that echo in my heart as I make choices each day in a God-honoring manner.

Other than the Bible, name some of your favorite books or authors, and explain why.

I read a strong variety of both sacred and secular works. I enjoy everything from the early church fathers to contemporaries like N.T. Wright, Timothy Keller or Eric Geiger. I also read a wide selection of biographies, books on business, and works of fiction on a regular basis from writers such as David McCullough, Peter Drucker and John Grisham.

Two of my favorite authors are my son, Preston, and his wife, Hilary. Both are published authors, and their style of writing and the heart they share is a source of wonder to me.

What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?

Choosing a favorite passage over others is like asking which of your children you love better. That being said, the pivotal verse for my calling is found in Luke 9:62: “No man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Reading through that passage in Luke solidified my calling and has served as a consistent reminder to stay faithful and focused in my walk with Jesus.

Who is your favorite Bible character, other than Jesus? Why?

I am attracted to the people in Scripture who are unnamed and who I will one day know in heaven. I want to talk to people like the widow in 2 Kings whose need God supplied with oil; the Gadarene demoniac whose life was transformed; the healed leper who returned to say “thanks;” the centurion who trusted in faith; the boy who gave Jesus his lunch; and so many others just like them in both the Old and New Testament. So many people who made an impact in the Bible and the church today are unknown to us by name. God knows them, and I am motivated by their lives.

Name something about you that would surprise people who know you well.

Most people would be surprised to learn I play the saxophone, but then if they heard me play it, they might think my claim would be an exaggeration.

If you could get one “do over” in your career, what would it be, and why?

I would have been less driven to complete the task at hand quickly and would have loved the people of God more fully. Early in my ministry, I was too focused on getting things done instead of allowing adequate time just to be with God’s people and experience life with them.

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