Houston an “open door” for new churches, strategist says

Exec board approves budget, ministry agreements, new church affiliations

GRAPEVINE—Referencing the Lord’s words to the Apostle John in Revelation 3:8—“ “‘Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut”—new Reach Houston Strategist Ben Hays said he believes the city of Houston is ripe for gospel works. Hays was introduced to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention executive board during their summer meeting Aug. 9.

“We have a lot of work to do in Houston,” Hays said. “We’ve got a lot of folks to reach with the gospel. We need to plant a lot more churches. We need to revitalize churches. We need some [mission teams] to serve on this great international mission field of Houston.”

Hays invited churches in Texas as well as those across the country to seek how they can be involved in reaching the ever-expanding city. Those who are interested can contact him at bhays@sbtexas.com.

“Through the Holy Spirit pouring out his power and strength on the churches in our state, to join together in collaboration, we can see God enable us to do some great things as we walk through this open door into the most diverse city and the fastest growing megacity in the United States as we plant churches and revitalize churches,” Hays said.

Having grown up the son of a Baptist pastor, Hays made a profession of faith at age 8. After serving as a summer missionary in Australia in 1999, he sensed a call to full-time vocational ministry. His ministry experience since that time includes church revitalization work, serving on staff in an established church, and church planting.

In 2005, Hays’ firstborn son was born with a incurable liver disease, which acquainted the family with Houston’s Texas Medical Center, the largest medical complex in the world. In 2008, the Hays moved from East Texas to Houston to plant Church in the Center in the heart of the medical district. His church reflects the international nature of Houston, he said, as more than half of the congregation was born outside the U.S.

“Through that relocation, God has revealed to me that Houston is an enormous and vastly under-reached mission field where people of all nations are ready to hear the gospel,” Hays said in his written testimony that was presented to the board.

Hays will continue to serve as pastor of Church in the Center as he fulfills his part-time duties as SBTC Reach Houston Strategist. His focus as strategist will be to connect churches and individuals with church planting and church revitalization opportunities. For more on the convention’s Reach Houston initiative, visit sbtexas.com/reach-houston.

In addition to hearing from Hays, the executive board also heard reports from the Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation, the North American Mission Board’s SEND Montreal initiative, and SBTC affiliated ministries—Jacksonville College, Criswell College and the Texas Baptist Home for Children.

Other business:

  • The board approved Related Ministry Agreements between the SBTC and the Korean Baptist Fellowship of Texas, the Baptist Credit Union, Houston Baptist University and the Conference of Texas Baptist Evangelists.
  • New requests from 30 churches seeking affiliation with the SBTC were approved along with seven churches removed—five of which had disbanded and two merged with another church. The number of affiliated churches now stands at 2,592.
  • George Harris was approved to receive the Paul Pressler Distinguished Service Award, which will be given at the annual meeting in November. Harris pastored Castle Hills Baptist Church in San Antonio for nearly 30 years and has taught preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Criswell College. He served on the SBTC executive board from 1999 to 2006 and as SBTC president from 2001 to 2003.
  • The board approved a recommended budget for 2017 of $28,159,810, which reflects a 1.5 percent increase over 2016 and requires approval of SBTC messengers during the convention’s annual meeting at Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, Nov. 14-15. The board also approved a reserves funding grant of $125,000 to be used to supplement 2017 health insurance premium costs. Over the past two years, insurance costs have increased nearly 40 percent, according to CFO Joe Davis.
Texan Correspondent
Keith Collier
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