Steve Vernon: ‘Faith, to be meaningful, must be deeply lived’

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Since 2008, Steve Vernon has served as the associate executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. From deep in the heart of one Texan, he shares his background and thoughts on leading Texas Baptists.

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Background

Where else have you served in ministry, and what were your positions there?

For 32 years, I pastored in Baptist churches:

  • Ames Baptist Church, Ames, Okla.
  • First Baptist Church, Kress, Texas
  • First Baptist Church, Panhandle, Texas
  • First Baptist Church, Levelland, Texas

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in the panhandle of Texas at Happy, Texas.

How did you come to faith in Christ?

I cannot remember a time when I did not know who Jesus was and that he loved me. When I was 13, I recognized the need to make a commitment to give my life to Christ.

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

  • Happy High School, high school diploma
  • Baylor University, Bachelor of Arts, religion and history
  • Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Masters of Divinity, Doctor of Ministry
  • Dallas Baptist University, Doctor of Divinity

Ministry life

Why do you feel called into ministry?

I literally felt a call to ministry that involved my skill set, my personality and a deep leading in my life that pastoral ministry was the direction I should pursue. That leading has been fulfilled at each place I have served.

What is your favorite aspect of ministry? Why?

My favorite part of ministry is the interaction with people.

What one aspect of ministry gives you the greatest joy?

I think my greatest joy comes from helping people and knowing that through me the Lord made a difference.

What one aspect of ministry would you like to change?

I would say that expectations on ministers are more unrealistic today than ever before. A pastor must be all things to all people: preacher, pastor, administrator, personnel director, evangelist, janitor, political expert and on and on. Expectations from some congregations to do all that well may not be realistic.

How has your ministry or your perspective on ministry changed?

One of the things I regret about ministry over the last several years is that the local church pastor was at one time a well-respected leader in the community. Now, because of the public failures of some ministers, as well as a change in the view of church and faith in the culture, that is not the case.

How do you expect ministry to change in the next 10 to 20 years?

I believe that the pastorate will become more and more bivocational over the next two decades.

If you could launch any new ministry—individually, through your congregation or through another organization—what would it be? Why?

One of the most neglected concepts of theology today is the relationship between Christian faith and materialism. I see many Christians, church staff, churches and many in the culture ruled by what they own. I think stronger teaching in stewardship of all things, including material things, time, talent and the environment needs to be stressed more and more.

Name the three most significant challenges and/or influences facing your ministry.

I think one of the most significant challenges facing ministry either denominationally or in the local church is apathy. Other challenges will be funding and leading change.

What do you wish more laypeople knew about ministry or, specifically, your ministry?

I have worked with the Baptist General Convention of Texas since 1978. I have been employed at the convention since 2008. I believe that the BGCT is the most efficient way to reach Texas and the world through her churches. I wish more people knew all we do and supported that work of the state convention.

About Baptists

What are the key issues facing Baptists—denominationally and/or congregationally?

One of the most significant issues facing Baptists today is the issue of faith addressing life. There are a lot of people who profess to be Christians, but there is no significant impact on their lives. We are moving into a time when faith will not be a spectator sport. Faith, to be meaningful, must be deeply lived in today’s world.

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

I would wish more people understood what it really means to be Baptist. We have deeply held concepts of faith that are unique in the way we put them together. Often, these are misunderstood or unknown to the average person in a Baptist church.

About Steve

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

There were several over the years.

  • Ralph Lynn in the Baylor history department taught me to see the world.
  • Bob Patterson in the Baylor religion department helped me understand how to think theologically.
  • Bill Hendricks at Southwestern taught me that everything is theology and needs to be examined through those lenses.
  • Charles Davenport and Dr. Travis Hart were my “go to” guys when I was learning to be a pastor.

What did you learn on the job you wish you learned in seminary?

How to do church administration. I learned most of that at Glorieta back in the day.

What is the impact of ministry on your family?

I believe that the ministry fulfilled our family. We did not raise our children to be a certain way because they were “preacher’s kids” but because they were our kids. My wife has been the most wonderful partner in ministry any pastor could ever have.

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

I read a lot of fantasy and science fiction books. Authors like Tolkien, Lewis, Bradbury, David Drake and others. It is both an escape and a way to capture a universe bigger than a local church or denomination.

What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?

Romans 8:28 because it is a reminder that God is in charge and can always bring life and hope from any situation.

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

I love Noah. What an act of faith to build an ark.

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

I can play the piano and the ukulele. (Not well, but …)

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

I don’t think I would want a do over.

Write and answer a question you wish we had asked.

In your job, you work with Texas Baptist institutions. Why do you enjoy that work?

I am a product of Texas Baptist institutions. I believe that is one of the greatest strengths we have in our work.

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