Saturday, July 29, 2017

Thank you
by Bill Jones, TBC executive director

Texas Baptists Committed – and I personally – owe some thank yous as we say goodbye. I know I’ll overlook someone, and I apologize for that, but I want to make my best effort to thank those who have played an especially significant role in what TBC and/or I have accomplished over the years. (And, if I think of someone I've forgotten, I may "edit" this post in the next few days and add them.) Much of this is stream-of-consciousness; please forgive the inconsistent punctuation, etc.

These appear in no particular order, with three exceptions - David Currie first, because of his preeminent role in both TBC's history AND my journey through Baptist life; and saving the two best for last (you'll see who they are when you get there):

David Currie
– for your leadership in keeping Texas Baptists free at a time when they were under their greatest threat; and, personally, for trusting this layperson enough, as you did with countless laypersons over the years, to help me get involved in Baptist life – recommending me for the BGCT Executive Board (2002); recommending me for the TBC Board (2006); giving me the privilege of editing your writings (including over 100 Ranchers Rumblings columns from 2007-2009) – and, most of all, for being a faithful and encouraging friend

TBC Board members through the years
 – from those who welcomed me onto the Board in 2006 to those who asked me to serve as executive director (2011) and have faithfully supported and encouraged me in my work and collaborated with me in this important ministry

Jill Faragher and Steve Wells
- When Steve Wells, pastor of South Main Baptist Church in Houston, chaired our TBC Board in 2010, he recommended that we hire Jill Faragher, financial manager for South Main, to work part-time as TBC's financial manager. From the beginning, Jill has been a blessing to TBC - and especially to me after I became executive director in January 2011.

- Many thanks to Steve Wells and South Main for sharing Jill with us.

- Many thanks to Jill for the wonderful work she has done for us during the past 7 years - recording and depositing donations; filing forms required of nonprofits by the state & federal governments; managing payroll; providing the Board and me with monthly, quarterly, and annual financial statements; mailing our informational and fundraising letters to our supporters; procuring needed supplies (letterhead envelopes, donation forms, etc.); mailing annual giving statements to donors; and anything else we needed.

- Jill has done all of this with grace and excellence. By doing all of this, she has made my job much easier, freeing me to do the work I've been called to do.

- Besides all that, it has been an absolute joy to work with her. Thank you, Jill.

Phil and Carolyn Strickland
- Phil was a member of the TBC Board when I joined it in January 2006, but he passed away only a month later, so I regret that I never got to serve with him on the Board; however, in the early 2000s, when Joanna & I were still members of a church in Plano that was headed toward Fundamentalism, I would stop by the Christian Life Commission booth and talk to Phil Strickland and Suzii Paynter about my concerns over that church; they listened and cared, and encouraged me

- in 2004, I drove down to San Antonio for Phil's CLC conference at Trinity Baptist Church, where one of his speakers was his good friend and his pastor, George Mason, of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas; Joanna and I had already decided we would soon be leaving our church in Plano after almost 17 years there; this was my first time to hear George speak; I called Joanna & told her we were going to have to visit Wilshire; when we did, Phil was excited to see us and encouraged us to join . . . we joined that August, on the day that Wilshire was celebrating George's 15th anniversary as pastor; Phil, sitting on the chancel to make a presentation to George, smiled as he saw us walking the aisle that morning

- Phil was a great friend and encourager to me, and I still miss him . . . more than that, he was a prophetic voice in Baptist life and played a key role in the history of Texas Baptists Committed

- in recent years, I've had the privilege of serving with his wife, Carolyn, on the T. B. Maston Foundation Board of Trustees; Carolyn has continued to give generously to support Texas Baptists Committed; together, Phil and Carolyn have provided a rich legacy for Texas Baptists

George Mason and Wilshire Baptist Church
- George Mason is my friend, my pastor, my encourager, and an unwavering supporter of TBC; from the pulpit, he has challenged me and deepened my understanding of God, scripture, and faith; Wilshire has been generous in its financial support of Texas Baptists Committed, moreso than any other church during my tenure, and words are inadequate to express my appreciation to George Mason and my home church that Joanna and I dearly love

TBC’s founders
– particularly Charles Wade and Bill Bruster, who began talking as early as 1985 about the need to build an entity that would protect Texas Baptists from those who were grabbing power in the SBC

Bob Stephenson
– who began providing much-needed financial support to TBC in the 1990s, then served on the TBC Board and in 2011, when the Board decided to continue TBC under my leadership, made – and kept – a five-year commitment of $80,000/year; TBC would have folded much earlier without Bob Stephenson’s faithful support; but that support was more than financial – I have enjoyed many wide-ranging conversations with Bob over the years, and he has always offered me encouragement; Texas Baptists have never had a better friend than Oklahoman Bob Stephenson, and neither have I

Babs Baugh and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation
– I first met Babs when I came onto the TBC Board in 2006 and we served together on that Board; she and I talked about the great legacy of our fathers; then, in 2007, our fathers passed away within months of each other; I count her and John Jarrett, her husband, and Jackie Baugh Moore, her daughter, as great friends; the Baugh Foundation has been extremely generous to TBC, including several $25,000 donations in recent years; one of those donations came at an extremely critical time in 2016, truly an answer to my prayers; most of all, Babs is gracious and generous, as were her parents

TBC’s supporters
– from the beginning to the end; though support has dwindled in recent years, there are some who have continued to faithfully support TBC to the end, and I can’t thank them enough; I’m only sorry that we can’t continue, because they are committed to this cause; we’ve even picked up a few new supporters in recent years; I found particular encouragement in a generous donation from a woman in Maryland – I have never met her, never heard from her, and don’t know what her connection is to TBC, but I thank God for her

Readers of TBC Weekly Baptist Roundup
– as TBC Weekly Baptist Roundup concludes with its final issue on July 29, 2017, over 900 Baptists are opening it every week; this e-newsletter has been a solitary effort through the years, most of it done in the solitude of my study at home, so I’ve found particular encouragement when attending conferences – in Texas and beyond – over the years, because invariably at least three or four people will introduce themselves to me and tell me how much they enjoy the Roundup; at CBF one year, Otniel Buniacu, then head of both the European Baptist Federation and the Baptist Union of Romania, stopped me, introduced himself, and told me he reads the Roundup every week; at CBF this year, a field personnel to Togo, West Africa, did the same, telling me the Roundup has enabled him to keep up with Baptist life back here in the States, and I had the sad duty of telling him its days were numbered; thank you all for faithfully reading the Roundup

Phil Lineberger
– a longtime member of the TBC Board, Phil had rotated off of the Board months before he passed away in 2015; the last time I spoke with Phil had been November 2014, when we strategized together about getting Kathy Hillman elected as president of the BGCT; from the time I took this job in 2011, I had considered Phil my “go-to person” when it comes to BGCT politics; I trusted him more than anyone else in that arena; his experience and wisdom were invaluable; every year, when it came time to work on getting the right officers for the BGCT, my first call was to Phil Lineberger; but I also simply enjoyed talking to Phil . . . his sense of humor, his encouraging demeanor, his friendship; at John Petty’s funeral in February 2011, Phil helped educate many of us on depression as a mental illness; that made it especially poignant when, a little over four years later, depression took Phil from us. I still miss him.

Steve Vernon
– as with Babs, I first met Steve after I came onto the TBC Board in 2006 and began serving with him there; actually, I don’t think I met him until that November, at the annual meeting where he was to be elected president of the BGCT; by the time I became executive director in 2011, Steve was BGCT associate executive director; in those years, Steve and I have talked several times a year, sometimes at length, about possible officers for the BGCT; I’ve appreciated Steve’s counsel and suggestions, and then – in most cases – have wound up making the call to ask a prospective candidate to run

- Steve and I have worked well together; last year, we disagreed on disfellowshipping churches over the LGBTQ issue, yet Steve graciously attended our TBC Breakfast – he has always been supportive – where he heard me criticize BGCT leadership for violating local church autonomy; then that afternoon, as we both wound up in the parking lot at the same time, getting ready to head home from Waco, we hugged and agreed that it’s okay for Baptists to disagree (sometimes it’s what Baptists do best); I trust Steve Vernon 100%, he’s a great friend

BGCT staffers
– many BGCT staffers are my friends; they have encouraged me over the years, they have welcomed me to Executive Board meetings as a guest, and I have enjoyed meetings with them, as well as simply fellowshipping with them

David Hardage
– for the first few years after he became BGCT executive director, David welcomed me to his office several times a year to talk about Baptist issues and what was going on in the BGCT; in 2013, David was keynote speaker at our TBC Breakfast, and he attended all of our breakfasts except our last one in 2016; regardless of how that relationship ended, I’m appreciative of the open door that he extended to me through those years

Journalists, op-Ed writers, bloggers
– they have provided the content for TBC Weekly Baptist Roundup, all I did was link to them, and they did the rest of the work; I especially thank The Baptist Standard, Baptist News Global, Ethics Daily, and Word&Way; I have friends at all of these publications, and I deeply appreciate the work they do

- I’ve had the privilege of getting to know a good many of the bloggers whose columns I’ve linked; it’s remarkable to me the proliferation of outstanding Baptist bloggers & op-Ed writers over the 6+ years since I began TBC Weekly Baptist Roundup; with the final issue (July 29), I’ve published 323 issues since it began in May 2011; after the first 250, there were so many bloggers that I decided to create an Excel file to keep track of whose op-Eds I linked every week so as to maintain variety from week to week; in the 73 issues since I started keeping track, I’ve linked to op-Ed articles by 523 different authors; incredible!

- Thank you, journalists and op-Ed writers/bloggers, for all of the challenging, thought-provoking content!

Suzii Paynter and Rick McClatchy
– When I took this job in January 2011, I felt a little overwhelmed, and that sense has never changed; I’m a layperson, not a preacher, never went to seminary, and had never led an organization until taking this job; I had no formal training for it, didn’t even have the luxury of moving up the organization through the ranks, simply BOOM! from Board member to executive director!

- From the beginning, I’ve considered Suzii and Rick my two primary “mentors.” Both were already longtime friends of mine before I took this job. I’m not sure they were even aware they were mentoring me, but I was always able to call them with questions and concerns and receive the counsel I needed.

- There was one time, however, when Rick mentored me with definite intentionality. In May 2011, we were at the Baptist History & Heritage Society conference at Dallas Baptist University. With a free afternoon, Rick asked to meet with me for a couple of hours in the DBU student building. With coffee cups in hand, we sat down, and Rick gave me a primer on postmodernism, saying that if I were going to lead an organization like TBC, I needed to understand the challenges of postmodernism. It was a most helpful  and enlightening two hours.

- Thank you, Suzii Paynter and Rick McClatchy.

Jase and Vivian Jones
Mother and Daddy have been gone for many years, but their love and encouragement, and their commitment to Christ, are always with me. Daddy's last words to me, the last time I saw him, just a week before he passed away, were to tell me how proud he was of me. I told him I felt the same pride in him. My parents were special.

Joanna Jones
– Joanna has been incredibly supportive of my work and ministry, especially where it concerns TBC Weekly Baptist Roundup. For the past 6+ years, we’ve traveled very little, haven’t even been able to take a little weekend trip here and there, because every Saturday I’m glued to my computer in my study, working to finish the Roundup. And I mean all day Saturday, and usually – as many of you have commented on – into the wee hours of Sunday morning. So no going out to a movie Saturday afternoon, no going out shopping together or on a little day trip, none of that.

- She has gone to conferences with me and stood there patiently while I chatted the hours away with friends . . . I’ve noticed I’m usually the last one out of a room after a meeting, luncheon, dinner, etc., because I’m always looking around the room for friends and invariably find one, two, or more. God blessed me when He brought her into my life, and she has somehow stuck with me for almost 41 years of marriage. Thank you, Joanna, for loving me and encouraging me in the work and ministry I love.

– Well, this seems obvious, doesn’t it? Yet God often gets ignored in these thank you lists. But it would be a terrible omission in this case. As I mentioned earlier, I felt pretty overwhelmed when I took this job in 2011. Then, in 2012, the T. B. Maston Foundation Board elected me as chair, a role I filled for four years. Then, in 2013, our son, Travis, suffered a stroke, and we moved him and his family to live with us. Four years later, he and his daughter (he & his wife divorced almost 2 years ago) are still living with us, and the stroke has left him with some physical limitations.

- From the time I took the role of leading TBC in January 2011, on through the other challenges that have come my way since then, I’ve had to go to God daily and say, “You know that I’m not up to this, but You are. So please do your work through me.” My testimony is that God has graciously and faithfully granted that prayer. I have seen him accomplish things through me that I know are beyond me . . . it’s all Him. I thank God for the wonderful opportunities He has given me . . . opportunities I never sought, because I could have never imagined them. God’s imagination is much bigger than mine. Thanks be to God for the grace He gives me every day.

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