DALLAS - Texas Baptists is preparing for a convention reset, Executive Director Dr. David Hardage announced at the Feb. 23 Executive Board meeting in Dallas, as they seek to best serve the state and churches in an ever-changing world.
This past year has produced big changes for the convention as the Executive Board made an agreement to sell the Baptist Building in Dallas in May 2014, signed a lease on a new office space in December 2014, finalized the sale of the building January 2015, and will begin operating under a new structure, effective by May 1, 2015.
Hardage explained the restructuring of Texas Baptists is based on the new philosophy of how the convention will work for and with churches, institutions and mission organizations. Two priorities the BGCT has in serving the church and the state are to 1) help the local church be and do church in the community and 2) collectively do what no single church can do alone.
Better helping the local church will require a nurtured connection between churches and the BGCT, Hardage said. To achieve that, a goal is set in place to have a personal touch with every church at least once a year through Area Representatives, Church Starters and other BGCT staff.
He explained the convention will be realigning under five main ministry teams, which are as follows: The Great Commission, Missions, the Christian Life Commission, Connections and Center for Collegiate Ministries.
The Great Commission Team
The Great Commission Team will be made up of the Evangelism Team and Discipleship Team, which will collaboratively better address the discipleship process and evangelism training for churches.
A new and key focus of this team will be creating a new church revitalization effort geared toward helping churches that have experienced a downturn in attendance due to any number of reasons. This new approach will holistically examine the church, its community and the local and state trends to provide insight and guidance into building a strong, vibrant community of believers.
Combined with the efforts are the aspects associated with raising up believers, building disciples and praising and worshipping our God which includes age-specific ministry assistance and a refocused music and worship center.
The Missions Team will specialize in and work with associations and churches for community impact through urban, rural, city, state, regional, national and international mission trips. River Ministry/Mexico Missions, Disaster Response and BOUNCE student disaster recovery mission trips are included in this renovated Missions Team. The goal is to energize and equip your entire church to be on mission where you live and wherever else God is calling you.
The Connections Team will lead the way in establishing relationships with church ministers and church laity as Texas Baptists forge new ground in reaching an ever-changing and lost society.
The Area Representatives reside in this team and are the church's connection to the vast ministries within the BGCT. Each of them is uniquely focused on relating to pastors and church leaders to hear and understand the need and connect them to the best person to assist. Other aspects of this team geared toward meeting the needs of the church and church staff are interim, bivocational, ministerial counseling ministries and church starting.
Christian Life Commission
The Christian Life Commission has completed its move to Austin and is retaining its focus on public policy issues, ethical living, the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering and community ministries. Regarding public policy, this team works with our lawmakers to ensure the Christian voice is heard as they draft the laws of Texas. Some current issues and opinions they are addressing include payday lending, human trafficking, religious liberty, public education, predatory gambling, and the hunger and poverty needs of the state. Through the CLC, the 2.2 million Texas Baptists are working to give a voice for those who have no lobbyist in Austin. Also through ethical living Texas Baptists can encourage and lead the state in doing what is right, good, Christian and biblical.
Some of the greatest mission fields in Texas are the state's numerous college campuses. Collegiate Ministries will continue its work ministering to and reaching these young people as they mature into the adults God wants them to be. The number of young, commissioned missionaries doing work around the world will continue through GoNow Missions. Shaping and forming Christians to reach their college campuses for Christ will also continue through the vast network of Baptist Student Ministries around the state.
Continuing the charge in understanding and addressing the needs of the changing demographics in the state is the Office of Cultural Connections, directed by Hispanic Ministries, African American Ministries and Intercultural Ministries, which are together identifying and enacting ways of doing ministry among the various ethnic groups in Texas all while pioneering new, integrated ministries as cultures continue to blend.
In addition, the convention will experiment with regional offices that will help coordinate the efforts among Baptist churches, associations and institutions to maximize collaboration and community change, Hardage said. The test area will be in San Antonio, effective June 2015, led by Regional Coordinator Elizabeth Biedrzycki. This section of the state, he said, is home to 26 Baptist Student Ministries, eight human care institutions, six schools and universities, three camps, 16 Associations and thousands of churches.
Other regional locations, in addition to the Area Representatives and Church Starters, include the Christian Life Commission in Austin and the Historical Collection, which will be moving to Waco by this summer.
Hardage also announced Texas Baptists will also be entering a partnership with Matryoshka Haus, a successful London-based ministry founded by former BSM Director and Texas Church Planter Shannon Hopkins, to design creative solutions for social change. Through this partnership, the BGCT will explore new opportunities for engaging churches, communities and emerging generations as believers and non-believers collaborate to see the power of God at work in their community.
While some reporting structure has changed, Hardage said the new reset of the organization has a zero net effect on the approved 2015 annual budget.
"In order to collaborate with someone, each partner must know the other well and share a common goal and purpose," he said. "As we begin to know one another better, our collaborative, God-directed work will enhance its reach around the state and world, creating a vast network of connected churches working together to spread the love of Christ."
To fuel co-laboring, the BGCT will be establishing a Cooperative Program Office, led by Chris Liebrum, which will be dedicated to speaking about and teaching the power of cooperation.
"Cooperative Program has long been and continues to be the lifeblood of Baptist work," Hardage said. "This new office will work with churches to promote missions giving among the congregation as well as speak to church leadership on the importance and benefits of being linked together through a unified missions funding stream."
"Amidst this new structure, we are positioning ourselves for flexibility to enable continual and strategic adjustments in what we do and how we serve the local church in a changing world," Hardage said. "We will constantly adjust for the future to meet the needs of the church and the state."