In his last Annual Meeting as executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, Dr. David Hardage addressed a full room in a Monday morning workshop entitled “Texas Baptists: Today and Tomorrow.”
Hardage addressed general questions regarding who Texas Baptists is, why it exists, where the Convention is at work and what it is about, creating a snapshot of the state as he sees it nearing the end of his service to the Convention.
“We are a convention of churches. Today that’s about 5,300-plus churches, and that number changes almost every day,” he said. Additionally, Hardage broke down that number by demographics, with 1,100 predominantly Hispanic and 900 African American churches, around 350 churches from other cultures or ethnicities and another 200 western heritage/cowboy churches. The remaining number are predominantly Anglo congregations.
Hardage noted that the Convention is active in church planting, with some of the first Texas Baptists churches outside the state being planted, which he credited largely to the church planting model Texas Baptists implements.
“Our church planting model works, and we resource it well between the Convention, the church planter, the local association and sponsoring churches. There are quarterly meetings with all those people required to make sure everyone is on the same page and accountable,” Hardage said.
Hardage said the Convention’s purpose is two-pronged: It exists to help the local church do what it does and to help a church do what it cannot do by itself. For example, Hardage spoke of the Baptist Student Ministry work on approximately 125 college and university campuses across the state. Churches in those cities have the opportunity to support that vital work.
Texas Baptists follow the Acts 1:8 geographic ministry model, with each church’s “Jerusalem” being the first focus, followed by the state, Hardage noted. He added that 15 Texas Baptists River Ministry missionaries are doing work on the state’s southern border, and Texas churches are partnering with churches in countries around the world to provide support for Missionary Adoption Program (MAP) missionaries to reach their areas. Nearly 200 such missionaries are serving around the world.
“But our mission is Texas. The Texas into which I was born is not the Texas I live in today. Thirty million people call Texas home, and more people move here every day than move away,” Hardage said. “We need more churches, and we really try to invest in replanting churches. We find new people groups and new population centers and look for an opportunity to start a new church. We’ve developed five different revitalization models depending on what that church may need and they will work together to help that church replant.”
While the work around the state and beyond varies, Hardage noted that Texas Baptists are always focused on two things: the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.
“We want to be known as the people who love God and love others and are about building disciples. That has to be the future identifying characteristic of Texas Baptists,” he said. “I want to be part of a convention that rises above the denominational noise. There is too much at stake to wrestle and fight every day. We have enough to do.”