DALLAS – “I believe when we look at our Texas Baptists family and the diversity God has blessed us with, as we are striving to be a movement of God in this hour, as we hear talk about revival and awakening that the story of Pentecost can speak to us today,” President Julio Guarneri said during his address at the February Executive Board meeting.
Guarneri spoke from Acts 2, where he explained that the miracle of Pentecost was the inclusion of all God’s people, of every culture and every language.
“God sees you and invites you to his table,” Guarneri said. “The inclusion of every people, every nation and every language is the celebration of the great diversity God has created. Pentecost for us today is an invitation to practice that celebration.”
Stating that the upcoming Family Gathering July 16-18 in McAllen, Texas, is an opportunity to practice Pentecost by joining in worship together and celebrating the diversity of Texas Baptists, Guarneri called on Texas Baptists to spend seven weeks in prayer from Easter to Pentecost, praying for God’s mission in Texas.
“The nations have come to us here in Texas, and we want to see the Holy Spirit empower us for mission,” Guarneri said. “Pentecost did not come without prayer.”
Associate Executive Director Craig Christina, addressing the board during his Monday evening report, asked whether the attendees were “ready to pivot” to the future work to which God is calling Texas Baptists.
Christina urged Texas Baptists to have a passionate, persistent, penitent, and possibility faith to continue changes that began amidst the pandemic under the leadership of former executive director David Hardage and continue today.
Christina explained how convention staff pivoted by offering resources, grants and programs to help churches and pastors during the worst of the Covid-19 outbreak. At a time when others were cutting budgets and laying off staff, Texas Baptists set aside $500,000 in reserves to help bivocational pastors who lost their secular jobs, gave away nearly $800,000 in grants to pastors, provided $161,000 in sabbatical grants and $262,500 in inflation relief grants to pastors and ministers and gave a million dollars to help ministers pay off debt through the Lilly Endowment grant.
“Sometimes God chooses to pivot his people to something better, but to do that, we need to have great faith,” Christina said. “God is up to something with Texas Baptists. God has given us a God-size vision of reaching the state for Jesus Christ, but we have to pivot. God is going to bring a new executive director here. Are we ready to follow the vision God gives to him or her? Will we follow with a great faith?”
David Mahfouz, pastor of First Baptist Church of Warren and Chair of the Executive Director Search Committee, reported the nomination period for the new executive director of Texas Baptists had closed. Using the prospectus that was created after several listening sessions with Texas Baptists church leaders, the committee will move forward with selecting candidates from the nominees and ask those candidates to submit resumes.“It's a vetted process that we are following as we move through,” Mahfouz said. “We look forward to the day when we come and share with you the individual God has set aside to lead Texas Baptists on to the next future. It’s my prayer that we leave a legacy for the generations to come, and we will fulfill God’s great commission and his great commandment.”
Cooperative Program giving increase
Ward Hayes, Treasurer/Chief Financial Officer, delivered a financial update to the board. For the first time in more than 10 years, Texas Baptists Cooperative Program (CP) giving increased to 100.3% year-over-year. Referring to a graph depicting CP giving trends since the year 2000, Hayes expressed optimism for the stability and growth evident in church financial support.
Hayes pointed out that while overall Cooperative Program giving is on the rise, the bulk of giving comes from about 2,900 of the more than 5,300 churches who affiliate with the convention.
“The CP issue is complex, but God is doing great things through Texas Baptists,” Hayes said.
Hayes reminded the board that strong Cooperative Program giving allows for strong ministry that can reach more people for Christ, and urged board directors to share the story of what God is doing through the Texas Baptists.
Responding to needs and celebrating missions giving
Mickey Lenamon, executive director/CEO for Texas Baptist Men (TBM), shared an update on TBM's response efforts to Turkey and Syria in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake that has left more than 46,000 people killed.
A small team has traveled to Turkey to provide water for 25,000 people daily through a water filtration system. Additionally, TBM is sending 10,000 blankets to Syria. Lenamon asked for prayer for what he called #blanketsyria.
Tamiko Jones, executive director-treasurer of WMU of Texas, and Earl Ann Bumpus, president of WMU of Texas, shared that in 2022, the Mary Hill Davis Offering for Texas Missions raised $3,531,129 and supported over 80 ministries.
“We aren’t your moms’ and grandmas’ WMU anymore,” Bumpus said. “They want us to look with fresh eyes and see the new opportunities we have at WMU to partner with you and your church. No two churches are alike. We want to partner with you in any way we can. Thank you for giving to Mary Hill Davis Offering for Texas Missions because the needs are growing. That is how we’re going to partner together to reach Texas for Christ.”
The Christian Life Commission (CLC), during the public policy report, presented four legislative priorities the CLC intends to focus on during the 88th Texas Legislative Session. Priorities include human life, religious liberty, predatory financial efforts and adequate funding for public education.
“John [Litzler] and I have been meeting with a lot of people, a lot of coalition members and there is just a lot of energy in that building right now,” said Katie Frugé, director of the Christian Life Commission and the Center for Cultural Engagement. “The overwhelming sense we keep hearing again is that the Baptists are back, and they’re so excited about that. It’s been humbling to be a part of this team and see the weight that the name Texas Baptists carries in the capitol building.”
The Finance Committee’s recommendation to allocate the 2023 J.K. Wadley Endowment Fund earnings as follows: $150,000 towards Campus Missionary Interns for Baptist Student Ministry (BSM), $150,000 for BSM building maintenance, $50,000 for Missionary to Muslims, $50,000 for Western Heritage, and $25,000 for MinistrySafe.
Electing Allison Howell, First Baptists Church, Nederland, to fill a vacancy on the Executive Board.
Electing to the Baptist University of the Americas Board of Trustees: Belinda Reyes, Park Cities Baptist Church, Dallas, for the 2025 term; Sam Medina, One Accord Fellowship Church, Lubbock, for the 2025 term; W.H. (Bill) Brian, Park Cities Baptist Church, Dallas, for the 2025 term.
Electing to the Baylor University Board of Trustees: Tyler Cooper, Park Cities Baptist Church, Dallas, for the 2024 term.
Electing to the Hardin-Simmons University Board of Trustees: Drue Pounds, First Baptist Church, Grapevine, for the 2023 term; Daniel Stahl, Vista Community Church of Bell County, Temple, for the 2025 term.