INDEPENDENCE – Long-time coach and Christian speaker Grant Teaff and pastor and evangelist Isaac Torres were recipients of the Texas Baptists Legacy Award during a morning worship service on Sunday, June 2, at the historic Independence Baptist Church. The two recipients were chosen by a selection committee for demonstrating a focus on the Kingdom of God throughout their work and ministry.
David Hardage, executive director of Texas Baptists, preceded the recognition by delivering a sermon from Matthew 6:33 on seeking God’s Kingdom first. He encouraged those in attendance to focus on heavenly things above all else, and to prune unimportant things that waste time.
“I meet people who do things well, but not the right things. We are to focus on His things,” he said. “When Jesus says ‘seek first,’ he is saying to ‘stay focused.’”
From the low platform at the front of the historic sanctuary, Hardage reminded those in attendance to remain faithful as followers of and believers in Christ. Furthermore, he urged them to continually grow in their faith.
“When I stop growing in Christ, other people suffer because of that [too]… Maintaining a firm, solid commitment to Jesus Christ is a way to seek first the Kingdom of God,” he said.
It is when believers seek God’s Kingdom first and remain faithful, Hardage said, that they are then able to bear fruit.
In closing, Hardage recognized Teaff and Torres as two individuals, “who have shown us how to focus, be faithful and bear fruit.”
The same message
The first recipient of the Texas Baptists Legacy Award, Isaac Torres, is a preacher, evangelist, missionary, and Texas Baptists leader. He was introduced by Jerry Johnson, the retired director of missions for Rio Grande Valley Baptist Association. Johnson declared that Torres will “share his testimony with anyone who will listen, and some who do not want to listen.”
Citing one example, Johnson shared about a time that Torres was arrested in Mexico in the 1980s. While he was arrested, he began explaining the Bible to a police officer, who then asked Torres to share the Gospel with the other officers.
By the time Johnson, who was supposed to have a meeting with Torres, found the prison Torres was being held at, Torres had even shared the Gospel with a few high-ranking government officials. This led to the formation of a church in that town. At the end of the story, Johnson identified the visitors in the congregation who were members of that church in Mexico, founded so long ago by Torres’ good work.
In closing, Johnson said, “It’s always the same message [with Torres]; ‘Christ died on the cross for your sins, would you accept him as your Savior?’”
From the pulpit, Torres stood and praised God, saying, “This isn’t about me, it’s only about God. It is a blessing to be here.”
Called into coaching
Grant Teaff, a Christian speaker and retired football coach, was presented by his daughters, Tracy Teaff, a retired education administrator, and Layne Pittman, a television producer. His youngest daughter, Layne, shared about Teaff’s dedication and strong faith.
“Dad has always been known as ‘a believer,’” said Pittman. “He has always had an incredible faith in Jesus Christ, and that has shown up wherever he has coached.” Pittman explained that it didn’t matter if their team won or lost, Teaff would always insist that the family attended church the following Sunday—even if they were in an opposing team’s city.
“He’s always believed that coaches can change the world because of their influence [on young people]...Wherever we go, people talk about not a great game, or a great play, or a great championship… they always talk about how he changed their life,” Pittman explained. Teaff believed in the young people he influenced, and that encouragement was fundamental in shaping the lives of many athletes throughout Texas.
Reflecting back on his coaching career, Teaff said, “God always wanted me to be in a place that needed to be built or rebuilt.”
Teaff also expressed gratitude for the greatest gifts in his life—his wife, children and extended family.
Continuing the legacy
Immediately following the awards presentation, a luncheon was held opposite the historic church and museum in the fellowship hall. In addition to Teaff, Torres, and their respective families and friends, past Texas Baptists Legacy Award recipients including Elmin Howell and others were in attendance.
The historic Independence Baptist Church, host of the Texas Baptists Legacy Awards, is also home to the Texas Baptist Historical Museum. In addition to pastoring the church, Phil Hassell manages the museum, which is open to visitors year round. To learn more about the museum, or to make a gift to support the museum, click here.
To nominate recipients for the 2020 Texas Baptists Legacy Award, email Becky Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dallas Baptist University graciously provided flowers for the service.