Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! - Acts 20:28-31 (NIV)

My wife has a temporary job, working for a justice of the peace in our county. Because of the questionable character of some of those who make their way through that office, the judge keeps a huge Rottweiler visible to them. One of my wife’s first duties was to make friends with Rambo! While you might think that having a huge dog roaming around an office detracts from the professional atmosphere, the mitigating concern was to be on guard in the presence of those who might threaten your safety.

Before Texas Baptists meet for our Annual Meeting in Fort Worth next month, I feel a word of warning is in order. I turned 61 last month, have pastored churches in Texas for 34 years, and have spent much time and effort in the Texas Baptists Committed battle to preserve the freedom of the BGCT from Fundamentalist control. I wish we could reasonably conclude that “the battle is over, and we won.” However, this is simply not true. The very nature of Fundamentalism is to never relent in asserting itself. And, ironically, its greatest opportunity for success lies in the complacent and mistaken assumption that it has given up on Texas. So I offer two reasons why I know this is not the case.

  1. Fundamentalist leaders, when they lost their attempt to gain political control of the BGCT, pulled away to form their own convention—the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC).  This mechanism gave them a forum. But note that, apart from their participation in – and support of – the Southern Baptist Convention itself, they have no direct ministries! They have no hospitals, no universities, no seminaries, no children’s homes.

This dearth of institutions and ministries has been lost on those churches that have fled the BGCT, usually under the short-sighted leadership of a Fundamentalist pastor, who failed to mention this critical detail before leading them to vote to uniquely align with the SBTC.

That being said, however, SBTC leaders realize that this lack of these vital ministries is a drawback. I believe that they plan to eventually rectify the situation.

How will they go about doing it? Start up these ministries and institutions on their own? In today’s economy? I think not. I believe they will make a strong and reinvigorated attempt to do it as their parent-leaders in the SBC did it in the 80’s and 90’s—by stealing ministries and institutions that are already in existence! What is the shortest route to such an acquisition? Take over the Baptist General Convention of Texas! Yes, I understand that many of the institutions have taken individual steps to safeguard themselves against such a takeover, but the Fundamentalists could still make great strides by capturing the convention leadership and structure. That’s the strategy they used 30 years ago in the SBC.

All of this leaves our executive staff teetering on a tightrope. Some of the largest churches, which still give large amounts of money to the BGCT as a carry-over from a day before they themselves called Fundamentalist pastors, might well threaten to greatly reduce, or even cut off, their gifts to the BGCT. No fiduciary officer would like to see that happen. But the truth remains that those who fail to stand for something will fall for anything. The dilemma is how long, and to what extent, can we afford to feign oneness with these churches for the sake of keeping the budget afloat?

  1. This year, I have been serving on one of the BGCT’s key committees, where I have had the opportunity to observe what I believe to be subtle, precursory efforts toward a Fundamentalist “repositioning” aimed at reclaiming leadership. There is no one incident that, by itself, proves this suspicion, but the preponderance of events has alarmed this old TBC warrior! We must be careful, lest the noble cry that “We must be inclusive” winds up empowering those who, perhaps unknowingly and with the best intentions, would take us back into a precarious position.

I do not pretend to have the answer as to whether TBC should or should not endorse candidates for convention office. I will leave that for its leaders to decide. Just remember, though, that one uninformed committee on committees can inflict serious damage, and that committee chairs are appointed by the officers of the convention. I DO know that we cannot afford to relax our guard, lest we unwittingly jeopardize all we have fought for and see it ultimately undone.

I know that many will consider me an alarmist. But, at this point in the later years of my ministry, I would rather sound a trumpet than shrink back in indifference. Acts 20:30 is especially instructive—“Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”

Let’s get to Fort Worth and stay on guard!