Month: July 2013

Board member explains Bylaw proposals

The position of innovative leadership that the SBTC holds among Southern Baptist state conventions is one thing that excites me about being a part of this fellowship. The SBTC represents a new way of organizing Southern Baptists—leaner, forward thinking, confessional, biblically faithful. For the past six months a group appointed by your Executive Board has been prayerfully developing updates for our Constitution & Bylaws that will strengthen us to stay in the lead for the future.

We are proposing a number of changes that are important legally—you and I may mean the same thing whether we use the word “entity” or “agency,” but those two words can have different legal implications. Other changes simplify or standardize the language of these documents, just to make them easier to read and understand. We also tried to make the documents more practical in some cases: We set the time and place of our annual meetings more than one year in advance. We have employees at the convention office who preserve our minutes, not leaving that for our volunteer elected officers to do. The proposed changes to our Constitution & Bylaws will conform to these common-sense practices. In a few cases, however, we are proposing changes to our Constitution & Bylaws that will actually change the practice of our convention to address developing needs.

Some of these have to do with the qualifications that a church must meet in order to affiliate with the SBTC. At present our documents require that affiliated churches contribute regularly through the Cooperative Program. We are proposing that we change that. No state convention in Southern Baptist life is more committed to the Cooperative Program than is the SBTC. We are the only state convention that forwards more CP dollars for national and international causes than we keep for CP missions in Texas. Nevertheless, we have some churches among us who affirm the BF&M, share our view of the Bible, and give sacrificially for Southern Baptist cooperative missions, but who do so through a different formula than that of the Cooperative Program.

In a case like this, the convention faces a choice between two kinds of dishonesty or two kinds of honesty. First, we could dishonestly look the other way and pretend not to notice that we have churches that are not giving through CP.  Second, we could dishonestly redefine “Cooperative Program” to mean something other than the CP that Southern Baptists have been following since 1925. But these dishonest approaches, although they may be too common in Southern Baptist life, are beneath this great convention. We choose the path of honesty.

Our third option is to go honestly to these member churches saying, “We regret that you no longer meet our qualifications for membership. We are excluding you from the SBTC.” That approach, however, seems unduly harsh and also unwise. We are not afraid to define the boundaries of our fellowship appropriately and to enforce them, but when a member congregation simply wants a higher percentage of their gifts to go to international missions, does that rise to the level for us to break fellowship with them? We think not.

And so, we recommend that we embrace the fourth option and honestly change our affiliation criteria to require that churches cooperate “with the work of the Convention” rather than requiring that their financial cooperation be “through the Cooperative Program.”

Also, we propose that we update our language concerning women in pastoral ministry to bring it in line with the wording of the BF&M. The SBTC predates the BF&M 2000, as do our documents. We simply have not yet updated our documents to reflect the wording adopted by the SBC that year. We simply wish to bring our documents into line with our statement of faith, which all of our churches have already affirmed as a requirement for affiliation.

We also propose a change in the way that the convention allots messengers to SBTC churches. At present, we allot messengers to churches on the basis of the number of names on that church’s membership roll. For churches that change to a stricter accounting of church membership, the SBTC’s organizational documents may penalize them with a reduction in allotted messengers. It strikes us as unfair to think that a church that still has the same attendance, gives the same gifts to the convention, and performs the same ministries might have a smaller voice in the convention’s operations simply because they came to new convictions about how to count their membership. We therefore propose that we simply allot 10 messengers to every participating church.

Finally, because we know that sometimes we all may be tempted to extend our fellowship over breakfast during our annual meetings, and therefore not everyone is making it to our Tuesday morning sessions in time for the opening gavel, we propose that we lower our quorum to 25 percent of our registered messengers for our meetings. It would be a shame for us not to be able to conduct business on Tuesday mornings, and we fear we may have gotten close to that state of affairs once or twice in recent years.

These are the most significant changes that we are proposing. In each case your Executive Board has agreed with us that these changes make us a stronger convention to meet the Great Commission needs of the coming years. We will bring these proposals to our annual meeting in Amarillo. Our convention must approve them for two consecutive years before they will go into effect.

—Bart Barber is pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville and served as chairman of the Constitution & Bylaws Review Committee charged with drafting changes to the SBTC’s governing documents.

Book chronicles courtship, tragedy and perseverance for Moses family

GRAND PRAIRIE—Intrigued by the curly-haired girl who couldn’t stop smiling and jumping around like Tigger in “Winnie the Pooh,” Mark Moses recalled the first time he met his future wife Jan and heard her share about her call to missions at a Sunday School class fellowship through his home church, Birchman Baptist in Fort Worth. 

Both were attending Southwestern Seminary in the spring of 1983. Moses, a Texas native with a degree from Texas Christian University, and Jan, a Virginia native and a graduate of the University of Virginia, shared a common desire to serve the Lord through missions.      

At age 11 Mark’s elementary school paper revealed how early his thoughts turned toward missions as he wrote of his desire to be a missionary when he grew up. He spent a year as a missionary volunteer on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao after his first year of seminary, which only confirmed his calling.

God gave Jan a vision for overseas ministry while working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in central Georgia following graduation from college as she gave tours to the visiting public, many of whom were internationals.

With missions the topic of conversation and the godly character they observed in each other, Mark and Jan began to sense God’s ability to use them together to more effectively serve him. On Jan’s birthday, Dec. 31, 1983, the two were married and then appointed December of 1985 as Southern Baptist missionaries, moving with 8-month-old son David to the Philippines.

“Jan and I didn’t answer God’s call to missions reluctantly. We didn’t feel forced into it. We never felt it was a sacrifice. We became missionaries for the joy set before us—the joy of being on the front line of missions and partnering with God himself in redeeming a lost world,” Mark wrote. 

During their first four terms the couple served in Roxas City and Iloilo on the Philippine island of Panay, and Sara, Hannah, Martha and Jonathan were added to their family. Despite the heat and humidity, the noisy and crowded streets and the inconvenience of losing electricity, the Moses family was excited to serve where God was at work. An understanding of God’s sovereignty gave them peace raising their family in the Philippines and facing the uncertainties that life brings.  

In March 2004 life for the Moses family changed abruptly with the news that a suspicious looking mole removed from Jan’s arm was malignant melanoma. Jan knew this was no surprise to God, Mark recalled, and God’s Word gave her a sense of calm as she clung to verses like Psalm 31:15: “My times are in your hands.”

While Jan traveled to Houston where she underwent tests, scans and surgery, the challenges faced by the Moses family intensified. A CT scan revealed a large tumor on Mark’s left kidney and he, too, was diagnosed with cancer. Because the tumor would need to be surgically removed in the States the rest of the Moses family in one week’s time had to pack, say goodbye to friends and leave their ministry in the Philippines not knowing when or if they would return. 

As Mark and Jan recovered from surgery, each faced the reality that their cancer could return. In late October, after Mark and Jan’s scans revealed no evidence of cancer, the family was excited to receive the news that they were cleared to return to the Philippines. By December of 2004 the family was together again settling into their ministry in Iloilo. Mark continued work on a project he began in December 2001 developing simple and reproducible discipleship and evangelism training materials in the local Ilonggo dialect. The day after this project was completed in May 2005, Mark and Jan received the news from a recent CT scan that Jan’s cancer had returned.  

Over the next 18 months, upon their return to the U.S., Jan’s health reflected moments of improvement and decline until she died on Feb. 8, 2007. In the eulogy Mark gave at Jan’s memorial service, he said, “It didn’t take me long to realize that she could’ve been almost anything … but she chose to answer God’s call to be a missionary.”

In the years that followed, Mark returned as a church planter in the Philippines from March 2008 to August 2012 with Hannah, Martha and Jonathan while the other two children completed college.

Currently on furlough in Grand Prairie, Mark is surrounded by all five children. David works as a computer programmer at Texas Wesleyan College in Fort Worth. Sara designs Niemen Marcus catalogs. In the fall, Hannah will begin a master’s program in public history at James Madison University in Virginia after working in the operations department at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Martha begins her third year of nursing school at Liberty University with a plan to pursue medical missions upon graduation. Jonathan, also with an interest in computers, will begin his first semester at Dallas County Community College.

And in September, Mark will return to the Philippines in a new capacity as an empty nester. 

Mark Moses thoughtfully shares the story of his family’s journey of facing cancer as they entrusted their lives to God in his book “An Uncommon Faith.” Jan’s heart is revealed in the book through her journal entries, prayer updates and even the words she wrote to each child talking through the stages of the grieving process from a biblical perspective.

Not only does Moses’ book serve as a loving tribute to the life of Jan Moses but it also serves as encouragement to those facing cancer or the loss of a loved one and those desiring to serve God in missions, and also an inspiration for mothers who wish to raise children who love the Lord. 

Effective shepherding and good leadership go together

HOUSTON—“Leadership is embedded in the very definition of being a pastor,” said Eric Geiger, vice president of LifeWay Christian Resources’ church resource division, in a session moderated by Pastors’ Conference President Gregg Matte, pastor of First Baptist Church in Houston and joined by Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, and Rodney Woo, senior pastor of the International Baptist Church in Singapore.

Geiger said pastors who delegate leadership or fail to develop it do so at considerable risk. Effective shepherding and good leadership go together, he said, while also noting that God will hold pastors accountable for the well-being of their flock.

Shepherding is not without the conflict and criticism that come with the role of leadership, and Geiger advised to keep it in perspective since the pastor serves the entire congregation, not just the one complaining.

Woo was pastor of a declining Houston-area church and faced dissent as he worked to draw multi-ethnic neighbors into the once-Anglo congregation. When criticism arises, he said, take it in stride, consider the source and filter the complaint through Scripture and godly lay leaders.

But never discount it, Woo said, noting, “When the critics speak, listen.”

Woo said the most effective advice offered during the transition to a revived and ethnically diverse church came from a critic. The man—a friend born and raised in East Texas, an area still struggling with racism—suggested that Woo take the transition slowly. Doing so would help the church’s remaining Anglo members acclimate to the changes taking place instead of prompting an exodus from a congregation they no longer identified with or recognized.

Matte asked the pastors what spiritual disciplines best served them in their leadership roles. Woo said he was prompted by an otherwise boring seminary pastor to devote more time to reading Scripture. Since then he has committed to reading through the New Testament once a month.

Graham said humility of character is essential, while attitudes of entitlement or entanglements in worldly affairs “make us unattractive as leaders.”

“You can’t be a pastor without leadership,” Graham said.