By Fernando Rojas, pastor of Azle Avenue Baptist Church and a member of Leadership Texas Baptists Cohort 4
A few weeks ago, I was asked by a friend if they should apply for the Leadership Texas Baptists program and I said “Absolutely! There is so much to learn from this program!”
When I first applied for this program, I thought I knew what being a Texas Baptist was all about. Boy, was I wrong! I have been a Baptist for almost 30 years and had some knowledge about what Texas Baptists (BGCT) are all about, but I have learned so much more through this program.
For example, I learned that Texas Baptists come in all shapes, colors, sizes and styles! We have hundreds of languages worshipping God any given Sunday in Texas. We have cowboy churches, small churches, portable churches, megachurches, churches at home, churches by the river, churches in schools, and even churches inside other churches!
I also learned that Texas Baptists are everywhere, from Ukraine to the Philippines, and together we are making a difference, doing what we as individuals or churches cannot do on our own.
I learned that there are resources available to pastors and churches who are willing to partner with Texas Baptists via the Cooperative Program. Trainings, conferences, counseling, and consultation are only some of what is available at low or no cost to churches because we all work together.
But most of all, I learned about myself. I realized how little I know about the world around me. I am a fairly new Hispanic pastor and live in a mostly Hispanic context. This program opened my eyes to so many other Baptists who are serving within their own contexts – female leaders, African American leaders, pastors, children’s ministers, those who are just starting their college journey and those working on a doctorate. I was able to make so many new friends that I otherwise would not have, and I now have so many new resources to which I can ask questions and get responses from multiple environments and experiences.
I learned that there are things I need to change about myself to become a better leader, in my family and in my church. Rest can seem counterintuitive but the more I try to be intentional about getting it, the better I seem to be able to serve.
Another benefit of this program is the networking possibilities. Not only was I able to make new friends with those who were part of my cohort, but I was able to connect with other cohorts and other Texas Baptists leaders and participate in different meetings where I felt my opinion was heard and it mattered. As our state changes and becomes more diverse, I am glad that Texas Baptist continues to open itself up to a diverse group of young leaders who participate in decisions that will affect the future not only of the Convention but of God’s Kingdom.
Recently I saw a critical comment regarding this program and how there seemed to be no Gospel-focus to it. The truth is the Gospel is Good News and the Good News do not end with salvation. The Good News is also about discipleship. They are about bringing hope of a better future, and I, for one, can tell you that the future is bright with new leaders who are wanting to extend God’s Kingdom to the ends of the earth. In a world that says young people are stepping away from the church, Leadership Texas Baptists is here to say that our young leaders are a countercurrent. Our young leaders are turning that trend around.
So, this is what the Leadership Texas Baptists program is to me. An opportunity to learn, an opportunity to network, but most importantly, an opportunity to grow into the leader God has created you to be.
If I’m asked ever again if I’d recommend it, I will always say “Absolutely!”