Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas 2013 . . . A little different for our family

Christmas has taken on a different feel for our family this year. Every year, we are reminded that Christmas is not a joyous time for those whose despair and despondency are magnified when all around them are celebrating, singing carols, partying, shopping . . .

This year, our family has struggled as we almost lost Travis in April. It was only through the grace of God that Travis's life was saved, but - as he rehabs and slowly recovers the ability to do things that we all tend to take for granted - we are reminded daily of those frightening moments earlier this year.

We've also dealt with the news that Joanna's kidney disease has progressed, the prospect that she will likely need to begin dialysis in 2014, yet have hope in the possibility that she will soon be added to a kidney transplant list.

It's been a year of downs and ups, followed by more downs, then ups, and so on - a rollercoaster if you will.

I don't know what Christmas means to other people and families experiencing pain at this time of year - whether illness, injury, hunger, loneliness . . . because everyone's circumstances are different and, even within the circumstances, everyone experiences them differently.

So I can speak only of what Christmas means to me this year, as I've worried about the health of my son and my wife, as we've made the difficult adjustments involved in bringing Travis and his family into our home while he recovers, and even as we were introduced - in November - to our fourth grandchild, the third child for Alison and her husband Adam.

Because of Travis and Christy's travel plans, our family gathered Sunday afternoon to celebrate Christmas and open presents. Before we opened presents, I read a passage from Luke's Gospel, as usual, then gave a brief (after all, there were four squirming grandchildren in the room) testimony of what Christmas means to me this year.

In a nutshell, this is what I told them . . . the only way I've made it through this year without despairing has been God's presence. One of the first things I did, after arriving at the hospital that night and getting Travis's prognosis from the doctor, was to begin texting friends & family to tell them about Travis and ask for prayer. This is because I've learned through many experiences in past years that God wants to hear our concerns and wants us to ask Him to share in those concerns.

I don't know how I would have made it if I hadn't had the constant assurance that our gracious and loving God is with us, caring about all that we are experiencing, even experiencing it with us, holding us close, carrying us through it.

Through the years, I have learned that I can trust God for what I need - and that I DO need Him all the time. As I write this, I'm reminded of the words of a beautiful song that we sang 50 years ago in Joe Dell Rust's Youth Choir at Bethany Baptist Church in Kansas City . . .
I’ve seen it in the lightning, heard it in the thunder, and felt it in the rain; My Lord is near me all the time, My Lord is near me all the time. When the thunder shakes the mighty hills and trembles ev’ry tree, Then I know a God so great and strong can surely harbor me.
Another song comes to mind as well, my dear friend George Gagliardi's In the Shelter of My Father's Loving Arms, which says all of this much more eloquently and beautifully than I can.

I've experienced that safe harbor - that shelter - of the Father's loving arms over and over again. This presence of God isn't something that's theoretical or even theological; it's real. Not just in the frightening moments of life but in the joyous ones as well.

God was just as surely with me in that hospital room in November when I held my new grandson as he was with me in another hospital room in April when I looked at my son, fearing for his life. God is with me every day as I build and nurture relationships with family, friends, colleagues, and others. The challenges of my work - both for TBC and the Maston Foundation - are, honestly, beyond anything I can do on my own, so I confess that to God daily and ask Him to do His work through me; if it's my work, it fails; if it's God's work, it's glory.

That's what Christmas is really all about. It's about God coming into the world to live with us and care for us. It's about God's presence in our lives today, consoling . . . moving . . . motivating . . . instructing . . .  counselling . . . equipping . . . caring . . . loving.

Christmas . . . God's presence in us through Christ . . . so that we can be Christ's presence to others. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15, NIV)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

CHARLES FOSTER JOHNSON: Pastors for Texas Children: People of faith supporting public schools

(NOTE: The author is pastor of Bread Fellowship of Fort Worth, executive director of Pastors for Texas Children, and a member of the Texas Baptists Committed Board of Directors.)

Pastors for Texas Children (PTC) is a new organization that mobilizes local churches to provide both wrap-around care for local schools and advocacy for adequate funding to support those schools.

Launched in October 2012 by the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, we already have over 500 community faith leaders from all denominations recruited, with dozens more signing up each week. We now have a statewide organization with PTC directors in all 20 education service regions. Many county directors in those regions are already positioned. We have conducted meetings in dozens of local communities already, and intend to have a PTC chapter in every Texas county. Our web address is
The close partnerships that we forge between local congregations and local schools will help provide both the resources that our children need to receive quality public education and the support that our teachers deserve. We are asking pastors to make an appointment with their local school principal and/or superintendent to offer prayer and encouragement, as well as to host a teacher appreciation event in their congregation, recognizing the dedicated teachers, coaches, and staff who shape our children's lives. Furthermore, we are challenging churches to provide tangible support for those schools and children in the form of after-school mentoring, school supplies, food security, etc.
After this partnership is formed, we ask pastors to contact their legislator and inform him or her about the needs of their schools and to join together in arranging a meeting with that legislator in their own community to discuss the imperative for adequate funding for their community and neighborhood schools. Lastly, we ask that our pastors and faith leaders be willing to make at least one trip to Austin during the legislative session to advocate face-to-face for public education.
The local church and the local school are two significant institutions in every community and neighborhood advocating for the public good. Our goal, quite simply, is to help cultivate a strong bond between those two institutions and to bring that partnership to bear on education policy in Texas government.

Charles Foster Johnson, Pastor
Bread Fellowship of Fort Worth

Friday, November 22, 2013

Remembering November 22, 1963 . . . and the beginning of “the Sixties”

Shortly after lunch on November 22, 1963, I was sitting in Common Learnings class at Northgate Junior High School in Kansas City, Missouri, when we were told that President Kennedy had been shot and killed. I was in 7th grade. I don't remember whether our teacher, Mrs. Elliott, told us, or the principal told us over the loudspeaker.

My family and I had been gone from Dallas just a little over a year. We had moved from Dallas to Kansas City, Missouri, in July 1962, so I was in my second school year in the North Kansas City School District, and everyone knew that I had come from Dallas. I remember being needled constantly – especially on the school bus going home every afternoon – for the rest of the school year, and probably the next as well, about being from “the city that killed Kennedy.” Some of it was probably good-natured kidding, but some of it got pretty ugly, too.

Even as a 12-year-old kid, I had strong memories of the triple underpass that led to – at that time – R. L. Thornton and Stemmons Freeways, because during our 5 years there (1957-1962), my Dad had often taken me with him to his office at the Dallas Baptist Association in downtown Dallas during the summer, and we would take that route through the triple underpass when leaving downtown.

President Kennedy was inaugurated less than a couple of months before I turned 10. JFK was the first president to make effective use of the still-young medium of television. He held frequent press conferences in the State Department auditorium, and they were televised, usually late in the afternoon after I got home from school. I was mesmerized by his “performances” at these press conferences. Not that I had any understanding at all, as a 10, 11-, 12-year-old boy, of geopolitical or economic affairs; I simply enjoyed the quick and eloquent wit employed by JFK as he played cat-and-mouse with the reporters at his press conferences.

After the president died, Longines produced a three-record set of his speeches and press conferences. Mother and Daddy bought it for me. I listened to that album over and over and over. Today I can quote long passages of his inaugural address, as well as other speeches, simply because I listened to those records so much that his speeches are seared into my brain forever.

That weekend, we saw television grow up. From shortly after news of the assassination was first broadcast Friday afternoon until after his funeral on Monday, the three TV networks devoted 24 hours a day (and keep in mind, back in those days TV stations typically “signed off” around midnight or 1 a.m.) to coverage of the assassination and the events that followed (arrival of the presidential party, and the body of the fallen president, back in Washington; the arrest of the suspected assassin; the vigil around the casket in the East Room of the White House; the greeting of the world’s statesmen and other dignitaries by President Johnson; the murder of the assassin by Jack Ruby; etc.).

I recall that this coverage also included film of President Kennedy speaking to the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce that morning, as well as film of his and Jackie's arrival at Love Field in Dallas.

However, I’ve read where some people have said they remember seeing film of the assassination played and replayed over that weekend. This is not accurate. The only film of the assassination itself was shot and owned by a Dallas dressmaker, Abraham Zapruder, who sold exclusive rights to LIFE Magazine, which published the pertinent frames in its next issue. Neither the TV networks nor any local TV stations had access to this film – the ONLY film of the assassination – at that time. Also, I suspect that, even if they had, they wouldn’t have shown such gruesome footage that weekend, when nerves and emotions were already so very raw.

It was certainly a weekend that was a shared experience for our nation. Probably the only thing that came close in those days would have been the live televising of launches of our space missions, particularly John Glenn’s flight in February 1962, which was the first orbital flight by an American (two sub-orbital missions, by Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom, had taken place in 1961). Those were also communal events shared by people across the country in, as we would say today, “real time.”

Perhaps the most poignant and heart-wrenching moments of that weekend were first, the visit of Jackie and the kids on Sunday to the president’s casket, lying in state in the East Room. Holding her children by the hand, Jackie walked over to the casket, knelt down, lifted the flag that covered it, and kissed the casket. The second such moment came during the funeral procession on Monday, when John, Jr. (or “John-John,” as he was affectionately known) saluted his father as the casket passed by.

It’s significant that what we today think of as “the Sixties” really began with the JFK assassination. Yes, our nation had challenges before that event – the Cold War was in full swing, with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 bringing it into full focus; the Civil Rights Movement, too, with the March on Washington less than three months earlier. But there was a national confidence and optimism that was shattered once and for all on November 22, 1963. Dissent, chaos, and distrust took over and dominated the rest of that decade.

That doesn’t mean that good things didn’t happen. The Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts were enacted into law. Despite significant setbacks, including the deaths of three astronauts in a fire during a training exercise, America achieved President Kennedy’s goal of reaching the moon before the decade was out.

But the overall mood of the country following the assassination and throughout the rest of the decade was one of contention, dissent, chaos, and distrust (the “Credibility Gap”). I must say, though, that it was a fascinating time in which to grow up. In his Inaugural Address, President Kennedy spoke of that generation’s role in “defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger” and said, “I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation.”

I feel the same way about growing up in the Sixties. There was a lot going on – from Vietnam to Civil Rights to the Beatles to Hippies & “Flower Power” to a seeming epidemic of political assassinations and coups. Prime-time TV saw everything from The Twilight Zone to Dick Van Dyke to Green Acres to Laugh-In to The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour to Mission Impossible, and that’s just a tiny sampling of shows that are now considered classics.

And all of that dissent, chaos, and distrust that I mentioned earlier created a unique level of idealism – at once ironic and sincere – in young people that I don’t believe has been experienced by any succeeding generation. The true troubadours of that generation were the folksingers – Pete Seeger . . . Joan Baez . . . Bob Dylan . . . Peter, Paul, & Mary, among others. More than troubadours, they were prophets calling us to care about the plight of those around us, calling us to care about the consequences of our government’s actions, calling us to move beyond our own self-interest to seek the greater good.

This evening, I’ll visit the assassination site, which I’ve done at least every 5th anniversary since my wife and kids and I moved to the Dallas area in 1987. From 1988 (the 25th anniversary) on, I’ve visited the site at least every 5 years, just to be a part of remembering . . . remembering not so much the assassination itself as a presidency and the era that followed . . . that will always be very special to those of us who experienced it.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

TBC thanks Michael Bell, Joy Fenner, and Steve Wells

In recent months, Texas Baptists Committed (TBC) has lost - through resignation - the active service of three long-serving members of our Board of Directors.

TBC's accomplishments through the years owe much to the contributions of Michael Bell, Joy Fenner, and Steve Wells. Personally, I have come to consider all three to be dear friends in the almost 7-1/2 years since I first joined the TBC Board.

Michael, Joy, and Steve have always given themselves to God in multiple areas of service. We have been blessed that TBC has been one of those areas. In recent months, all three have decided that it is time to leave the TBC Board because of the time needed to meet their other commitments.

They leave with our blessing and our thanks, but also with our assurance that the door will always be open for them to return. In turn, all three have left us with the assurance that they continue to strongly support TBC and its mission, and that they remain available to help and advise us as needed.

In leaving at this time, they are expressing their confidence that - because of their efforts and those of their colleagues - TBC is well-positioned for the future. Their leaving also serves as encouragement for the TBC Board to bring on some new faces and fresh perspectives.

Any tribute I can give Michael, Joy, and Steve will be inadequate, but I need to say a few words in appreciation.

Michael Bell
At our annual TBC Board meeting early in 2007, time ran out & we adjourned just before the New Business item on the agenda, when I had planned to express a concern and make a motion to address it. So, when I ran into Michael Bell in the parking lot following the meeting, I shared with him what I had planned to propose. Michael was sympathetic to both my concern and my proposal, and we began to talk about how to pursue it.

That impromptu discussion in a hotel parking lot was truly the beginning of what would become my closest friendship on the Board and one of my closest friendships, period. It also marked the beginning of a productive partnership, as I learned to trust Michael as my "go-to person" on the TBC Board whenever there was something I believed needed to get done. Michael Bell is a no-nonsense person who translates talk into action. Over the almost 6-1/2 years since that parking lot meeting, Michael and I have worked together on countless initiatives.

In the summer of 2010, Michael succeeded Steve Wells as chair of the TBC Board, a role he filled for the next year-and-a-half. That fall, he asked me to consider assuming leadership of TBC on the executive staff; when I agreed, he took that proposal to the TBC Board, which unanimously accepted it. Michael and I found a Starbucks, about halfway between his church in Fort Worth and my home in Allen, where we began meeting for a couple of hours every month to discuss TBC business.

But those talks went beyond simply preparing for the next TBC Board meeting or conference call, as Michael often took the opportunity to educate me on the past 20 years of Texas Baptist leadership and politics. In 2005, Michael had made history as the first (and only, to date) African-American elected president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. I learned much in our discussions about the challenges Michael faced in that role, as well as the hard realities faced by African-American churches today, realities of which I was totally ignorant.

As Board chair, Michael helped to stabilize the progress we had made under Steve Wells' leadership and to build on it. He also helped me to begin making the connections that would increase my effectiveness in leading TBC from the executive staff.

Joy Fenner
Joy Fenner has given much to Baptists worldwide. Her years of missionary service in Japan are testimony to her deep love for people and her commitment to sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ - through preaching & teaching, but even moreso through simply loving people as Christ loves them, meeting them where they are and responding to their needs.

For 20 years, Joy led Woman's Missionary Union of Texas as executive director/treasurer, empowering other women to follow her example of service and leadership.

In 2007, Joy became the first (and only, to date) woman elected president of the BGCT. She was a reluctant candidate upon being urged to run by David Currie, then TBC executive director, and other Texas Baptist leaders. Making history wasn't high on her list of priorities. What persuaded her, she told a 2011 gathering honoring David Currie, was the thought that "Number One, Could my love for missions help Texas Baptists focus on missions? and then, Number Two, Women have been such a significant part of Texas Baptist life, wasn't it long overdue for one to become the president of the BGCT?"

In my own experience with Joy at TBC, I've found that she has frequently offered the sharpest, most insightful input of anyone during our Board discussions, especially concerning written material being prepared for public distribution. She has a sharp eye - and ear - for things that might be taken the wrong way or otherwise reflect negatively on TBC; but she has typically gone beyond that by constructively offering a more positive way of conveying the information. I spent 20 years of my professional life as an editor. One thing I've learned is that even editors need an editor! Receiving criticism of one's carefully-crafted words and phrases can be painful, but Joy has always delivered her "editing" with the grace that she shows in everything she does. So, even though she's no longer on the Board, I know I'll still be sending things for her input, because she will always make them better - and she'll do it graciously.

Steve Wells
In the fall of 2009, after David Currie retired as executive director, our TBC Board (on which I served at that time) began meeting face-to-face almost monthly to determine whether TBC is still needed in today's Baptist environment and - if so - what TBC needs to do to meet the challenges posed by that environment. The Board chose Steve Wells, pastor of South Main Baptist Church in Houston, to chair the Board and lead us through those challenging discussions. When I called Steve following his recent resignation from the TBC Board, I told him that anything TBC accomplishes, from here on out, can be traced back directly to the leadership he gave us at a time when we were unsure of our future.

It was Steve who kept our discussions focused, and it was his leadership that helped TBC to refocus, as we concluded that our primary purpose for the foreseeable future would be to work with churches to provide them with reliable information on pastoral candidates and to connect them with pastoral candidates who could be trusted to lead in accordance with Baptist principles of freedom and cooperation. We also agreed that TBC should work to educate people in our Texas Baptist churches on their Baptist heritage.

The TBC Advisory Network and Baptist Briefs videos are initiatives, birthed in 2012 & 2011, respectively, that sprang directly from the two focus areas agreed-upon in those discussions of 2009 & 2010. As I told Steve, his leadership of our Board during that challenging time is a gift that will keep on giving well into the future.

Oh yes, and there's one more "gift" from Steve Wells that keeps on giving to TBC. In the spring of 2010, Steve recommended that the Board hire Jill Faragher to work part-time - in addition to her work as South Main's finance manager - as TBC's finance manager. Jill, a licensed CPA, manages all of our finances, including deposits, donations, payroll, tax issues, and any other financial matters. It's a bonus that Jill handles all of these matters with both professional excellence and personal grace. We are indebted to Steve and South Main for sharing Jill with us.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A (not so) new executive director for TBC

On Tuesday, New Year's Day, after serving 2 years as associate executive director of Texas Baptists Committed (TBC), I transitioned to executive director. Our Board voted last month to name me to this post, and I want to express my appreciation to them for their trust and affirmation. They are my partners in this work (besides being my bosses), a group of gifted and gracious Baptist leaders, and it is my privilege to work alongside them in carrying out TBC's mission.

During the past 2 years, some of you have asked, "so if you're associate executive director, then who's the executive director?" Good question. The short explanation is that 2 years ago, the Board and I agreed that it was premature to name an executive director to succeed David Currie. Now it's 2 years later, and things have changed.

Let's back up for just a moment and look at the events and decisions that have led TBC to this point.

Changes in Baptist life - and TBC - bring reassessment
In the year or so following David Currie’s retirement in the fall of 2009, our Board of Directors (of which I was a member) met face-to-face almost monthly to discuss the question, where do we go from here?

Our Baptist environment - in Texas and elsewhere - had changed since the dramatic conflicts of past years. In the 1980s, we had witnessed the battle over the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC); followed by the 1990s tussle over the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT). But by 2010, the battleground in Texas had long since shifted from convention gavels to church pulpits.

Change can be painful, but it can also provide an opportunity for a much-needed reassessment. Following David Currie's retirement, we on the TBC Board began taking a hard look at changes in Texas Baptist life and seriously discussing whether the mission of Texas Baptists Committed was still needed & relevant and, if so, how we needed to adapt our focus to carry out that mission effectively in the years to come.

Answering our questions
After much discussion, we agreed that TBC is needed more than ever - especially in light of reports from members of Texas Baptist churches regarding the aggressiveness of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) in spreading misinformation about the Baptist General Convention of Texas to BGCT churches for the purpose of enticing those churches to align with the SBTC; and in maneuvering SBTC-friendly preachers into interviews with pastor search committees as well as search committees for associational directors of missions (DOMs). As with their SBC allies at the national level, the SBTC's goal is power and control, whereas the BGCT focuses on voluntary partnership and cooperation. 

So our Board agreed that TBC needs to focus on the local church above all else. We still encourage strong, effective, and diverse leadership for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, but the center of Baptist life is the local church. We agreed that our top priority must be to assist pastor search committees. Because TBC respects the autonomy of the local church, we never insert ourselves into local church situations, but we make our resources available upon request from church members, committees, and clergy.

We also agreed that TBC must educate members of Texas Baptist churches on our Baptist heritage and distinctives; and reach out to young people and show them why Baptist principles are important to the living out of their faith.

What to do about the executive staff?
As we began to form a consensus around these priorities in the spring and summer of 2010, we arrived at the question of executive leadership for Texas Baptists Committed. Should we immediately initiate a search process for an executive director to succeed David Currie? We kicked that question around the table but ultimately decided that it just wasn't the right time to do that. As a Board, we were in the early phases of refocusing our mission, and there was a general consensus that we needed more time before we could clearly tell a prospective executive director just what we expected of his/her leadership.

In the fall of 2010, the Board - led by Michael Bell as chair - asked me to become associate executive director, effective January 2011. Our understanding was that I would be responsible for moving TBC forward in accordance with the focus and priorities that the Board had identified. But the question remained of whether we would eventually initiate a search for David Currie's successor, and I was fully in agreement that we needed to take time to assess this question.

David Currie is a preacher; I'm a layperson. But one of the many important initiatives that David undertook in leading Texas Baptists Committed for 20 years was to recognize the value of laypersons and involve them in Baptist life at every level. In early 2002, David Currie recommended me for membership on the (then) 225-member BGCT Executive Board, and I took my first steps into Texas Baptist leadership. In January 2006, I was elected to the TBC Board, soon became David's editor, and was eventually asked by David & the Board to take responsibility for all of TBC's communications.

Our Baptist heritage is a key part of who I am, and I've counted it a blessing to be given the opportunity to have a part in promoting and preserving that heritage.

Two years - many steps
For 2 years, I've served as associate executive director, and we've made progress. Last month, the Board affirmed the work we've done together by naming me executive director.

During these 2 years, among other things, we have:
  • Produced 71 Baptist Briefs videos on Baptist history and principles
    • Used in Baptist identity classes in churches & some of our Texas Baptist universities
    • Cited by the Baptist History & Heritage Society, which has linked to them from its Web site
  • Produced a weekly e-newsletter, TBC Weekly Baptist Roundup, since May 2011, which is read by over 550 people every week
  • Held a breakfast and provided a booth at the BGCT annual meetings in Amarillo (2011) and Corpus Christi (2012)
  • Formed the TBC Advisory Network, a group of clergy and laity across Texas, to help keep us - and each other - informed of pastorless churches needing assistance, good pastoral candidates, and reliable information on pastoral candidates
  • Responded to numerous requests from pastor search committees for reliable information about pastoral candidates
  • Produced brochure, What Every Texas Baptist Church Should Know: Critical differences between the BGCT & the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention
Importance of partnership
But what is critical to understand is the importance of partnership in this work. David Currie left us the legacy of lay involvement, but his larger legacy is the model of partnership - that carrying out TBC's mission requires a lot of people, both laity and clergy, caring and working together. That's not just David Currie's model. It's the Baptist model.

I meet with our Board, either by conference call or face-to-face, every month. I report on our latest progress and initiatives. We discuss, deliberate, and decide what we need to do next. Between those meetings, I have one-on-one conversations with our Board chair and other members.

But there are other partnerships as well. For example, we work closely with the BGCT leadership to help Texas Baptist churches as needed. Also, during the past 2 years, we've worked to foster partnerships with other independent organizations, including:
  • Associated Baptist Press
  • Baptist History & Heritage Society
  • Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty
  • Baptist Standard
  • Baptist Women in Ministry
  • Center for Congregational Health
  • Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
  • Eula Mae and John Baugh Center for Baptist Leadership
  • Religious Herald
  • T. B. Maston Foundation for Christian Ethics (which I serve as chair)
  • Virginia Baptists Committed
  • Word&Way

TBC has also developed partnerships with several Texas Baptist universities and seminaries, and receives donations regularly from several Texas Baptist churches. We hope that, as we continue to work to assist churches, more of them will add TBC to their budget to enable us to help others.

All of these partnerships have come about because of our common commitment to Jesus Christ and the freedom that He gives. Some of our partnerships take the form of general and mutual support, some are more tangible, and some are still in the formative stages, but the point is that I don't do this work alone.

Again, this is the Baptist model: cooperation and partnership, God doing His work through strategic relationships forged among His people.

TBC supporters - without you, there is no Texas Baptists Committed
So I need the cooperation and partnership of other faithful Baptists to carry out TBC's mission. I've named a number of partners here, starting with our TBC Board and continuing with the BGCT leadership and others.

But I've saved our most important partner for last - YOU. In 2012, our number of donors more than doubled over 2011, and so did the amount of our donations. Your faithfulness in partnering with TBC attests to the importance of the work we do. Our mission is one that is needed in Texas Baptist life.

As executive director, I confess that it is you, not I, who will see to it that Texas Baptists Committed fulfills the mission that God has given us. Thank you for your support, and I ask you to continue to partner with us in 2013. If you have information that you believe would be useful to us, please call me at 214-986-7136 or email me at If your church is searching for a pastor, and you believe we could be of help to your pastor search committee, please call or email me. Or maybe you're like I was when I first contacted David Currie 13 years ago - frustrated and feeling alone in a church that seems to have abandoned Baptist principles - and you simply need someone to listen to you and maybe offer a little encouragement. I'm as close as the phone. We want to be available to you and your church.

Finally, if you agree with me that the mission of Texas Baptists Committed is critical to Texas Baptist life, then please give generously this year to further this mission. Consider yourself a partner with us in this work. That brings me to one more very important part of TBC - Jill Faragher. You can give your donation online by going to our Web site's home page and clicking the Join/Renew/Donate link. But if you mail your donation, you'll be mailing it to Jill.

Jill is the only other member of our staff. I'm located in Allen, just north of Dallas, and Jill is located at South Main Baptist Church in Houston, where she serves as finance manager, a role she also fills for TBC. I could not do this work without Jill; she is a CPA and handles all of our donations and other financial matters. She goes above and beyond in making sure all financial matters are handled thoroughly and effectively, and she is always gracious in doing so. I'm very thankful that Jill's a member of our staff.

So what's ahead for TBC?
My title changed on January 1, but my work is a continuation of what I've been doing for the past 2 years; it's just that there's a little more feeling of permanence (though I still serve at the pleasure of the Board), and I no longer have to answer the question, "so if you're the associate, then who's the executive director?"

Initiatives begun the past 2 years will continue. Many have found TBC Weekly Baptist Roundup a valuable central place to find Baptist news & opinion from a wide variety of sources. Every conference I attend these days, people come up to me and tell me how much they appreciate the Roundup. Our TBC Advisory Network is still in the formative stages, but it will gain traction in the coming months and make us even more effective in getting reliable information to pastorless churches and helping us to connect these churches with good and trustworthy pastoral candidates.

We are also working to strengthen our relationships with the various affinity groups among Texas Baptists. We want to continue to find ways to connect with young people. Finally, we are discussing ways of putting TBC on a secure financial footing well into the future, because we believe that its work will be needed for the foreseeable future in Texas Baptist life.

Of course, I say all of this while fully aware that change is a constant in all life, especially among Texas Baptists. Our Board and I are committed to staying informed and increasing our understanding of the dynamics and challenges of Texas Baptist life, and meeting all needs that are consistent with our mission.

It is my privilege to serve as executive director of Texas Baptists Committed. Thank you for your faithful support of TBC, and know that we welcome your full partnership with us in this work.