Guarneri to Executive Board: Trust in the ability of the overcomer

by Texas Baptists Communications on February 21, 2024 in News

In his Monday evening address to the Baptist General Convention of Texas Executive Board during its February meeting, Executive Director Julio Guarneri spoke of trust in God, a renewed cross-cultural witness and a rallying of kingdom partnerships.

Three perspectives on God’s mission

Considering a new season of ministry for Texas Baptists, Guarneri drew on an illustration of the Israelites approaching the promised land.

Speaking from Numbers 13:21-24 and subsequent verses, Guarneri spoke of the various ways God’s people respond to his invitation for his mission.

Some focus on the size of the obstacles, some distort the notion of old times, and some trust in the ability of the overcomer, he said.

When the spies came back from the Promised Land and spoke of the Nephilim there, they spread fear among the Israelites.

“There will always be some among us who choose to focus on the giants in the land, who will be intimidated by the size of the obstacles,” said Guarneri.

“We don’t have to be blind to the challenges we face. We don’t have to ignore the giants in the land. But neither do we have to let them intimidate us from moving forward.”

God’s people also longed for a return to their days in bondage in Egypt. They thought of the past as safe and familiar, said Guarneri.

“I’m aware that Texas Baptists have a great legacy,” he said.

“We all have good memories of the great things that God has done in the past. But we’re also aware that in every era of Texas Baptists history, there have been challenges. We were born and forged in the midst of challenges and difficulties. God doesn’t call us to go back to the past. The only reason God’s people should ever look to the past is to remember that he is faithful and that he is able to bring us through our hard times.”

Rather than fearing obstacles or longing to return to past days, the people of God can also choose to trust in God and in His future, said Guarneri.

“If the Lord is with us, it doesn’t matter how many giants are in the land,” he said.

“Faith doesn’t constitute denial; it calls for trust in overcoming. Our call as Texas Baptists is to occupy the land…to saturate our state with the gospel. We are called not just to see our state as a mission field but to continue to see our state as a mission force.”

‘The nations have come to us’

Guarneri pointed to the rapid rise in state population. Texas grew by 43% over the past 12 years, gaining more than nine million new residents during that time. He noted that Hispanic or Latino residents now make up the largest demographic group at 40.2% of the 30.3 million residents and that 164 languages are now spoken in Texas.

“The nations have come to us…Texas has become more diverse than ever before,” said Guarneri. “What are the implications for our churches, our Texas Baptists ministries, our leadership training and development?”

We must be aware of the blessing God has given with more than 5,300 affiliated churches and 24 institutional partners, but business as usual will not get the Great Commission accomplished, he said.

Guarneri shared highlights from a few Texas Baptists ministries. In 2023, 8,992 people accepted Jesus as their Savior through River Ministry/Mexico Missions, 4,456 professions of faith were made through Church Starting, 616 students were sent on mission through Baptist Student Ministry (BSM), 79 churches are participating in PAVE church revitalization strategy, Missionary Adoption Program (MAP) missionaries are now serving in 17 countries, almost 700 pastors were blessed through counseling and grants and 97 local and 50 international ministries were funded by the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering.

Kingdom partnerships on the ‘wish list’

Guarneri shared a “wish list” he drafted at the start of his time of service as executive director. Included in the list were a renewed sense of harmony, a robust dedication to prayer, rekindled participation in evangelism, a reaffirmed commitment to church health and a rallying of kingdom partnerships.

“I believe that the future of denominational work is not going to look like it did in the past,” he said. “Things are going to look more like a network than they are a convention. Things are not always going to be geographically bound, but people are going to connect where their mission and their purpose overlap.”

Four immediate areas of concentration for Guarneri include prayer, pastors, presidents and partnerships.

Regarding partnerships, he noted that 62 churches in 17 states have joined the GC2 movement but that more work remains to determine the best path forward for that effort. When asked whether Texas Baptists aims to become a national convention, Guarneri responds that in some ways, it already is.

“We already have churches outside of Texas,” he said. “We have 71 missionaries in 17 countries. We do conferences in Texas, and people come from other states, even from Canada. Our footprint is larger than our state…that’s just what we are and what we do and how God is using us.”

Guarneri noted no desire to compete with national conventions.

“We just want to take our role in God’s redemptive plan,” he said. “There’s just too much lostness for anyone to think they can fulfill the Great Commission by themselves.”

Texas Baptists is a movement of God’s people to share Christ and show love by strengthening churches and ministers, engaging culture and connecting the nations to Jesus.

The ministry of the convention is made possible by giving through the Texas Baptists Cooperative Program, Mary Hill Davis Offering® for Texas Missions, Texas Baptists Worldwide and Texas Baptist Missions Foundation. Thank you for your faithful and generous support.

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