Tag Archives: The Colony

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The Merge

Church splits are common. However, I only know of only one church that reunited after dividing, and I was part of it. “The Merge” of First Baptist Church, The Colony was official 28 years ago today.

In January of 1988 I began the Master of Divinity program at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth. I filed my resume’ in the placement office with the hopes of serving in a church during my seminary career. By the end of the semester I received a call from the newly appointed pastor of First Baptist Church, The Colony. Pastor WB had seen my resume’,  and, after an interview, wanted me to be their Youth Minister. He invited me to introduce myself to the congregation during a Sunday morning worship service.

On the drive from Ft. Worth to The Colony that Sunday morning I took a wrong turn and ended up passing by the old Texas Stadium in Irving. First time I’d seen the fabled home of the Dallas Cowboys in person. As I walked up to the church I encountered two middle school boys sitting on the monkey bars in the children’s playground. They would be part of the small youth group I led beginning in the summer. Our first official activity was to attend the Youth Evangelism Conference at Reunion Arena in downtown Dallas.

Every weekend I commuted from Ft. Worth to The Colony and built a Saturday-Sunday youth program. Over the next six months our group doubled in size, from a dozen members to a high attendance of 26. I really enjoyed working with those kids.

At that time The Colony had around 20,000 residents, many of whom were younger families, so you’d probably expect the First Baptist Church to have more teenagers. In fact, you’d anticipate more members. Our auditorium seated 200 and it was never filled on Sunday mornings. You see, something had happened to this church before I arrived.

When Pastor WB first interviewed me he mentioned that the church had exprienced a split. A large group had left First Baptist and formed a new church called Calvary Heights, which met at the local high school. They called the former youth minster of FBC to be their pastor. The old pastor of First Baptist had evidently been the source of the contention that resulted in the split, and had subsequently resigned. First Baptist had called WB to be their pastor only a few months before he brought me in as their new youth minister.

So, the church had split over a disagreement concerning their former pastor. I was leary about this when I interviewed, but once I met the youth it didn’t matter. Several months into my tenure at First Baptist talk of a merger began. Each church appointed three members of a committee, which met for several months to discuss the possibility. By the end of the year, the committee had a recommendation: Merge! Wow, I was amazed at this. However, the pastor that hired me was not so enthusiastic. In fact, WB wholeheartedly opposed the merger.

You see, the committee’s recommendation was for the 27 year old pastor of Calvary Heights to be the senior pastor of a re-formed First Baptist Church, and for 60-something WB to be the associate pastor. I would be the youth minister. I was in favor of the merger. However, I had been hired by, and called by the church to, serve under WB, and he was opposed.  During my brief time in ministry training I’d been taught that staff at a church are called to serve under the pastor. That means submit to his authority. However, I was still a member of the congregation of First Baptist Church, and the church would make the decsion here. What should I do?

I remember the meeting I had with WB to discuss the issue. He was angry with me. He accused me of undermining his authority because of my support for the merger. In fact, at one point he began to yell, then lunged at me over his desk. It was not a very Christlike display of character. However, it helped me decide what I must do.

A business meeting where the congregation would vote on the merger was scheduled for a Sunday night in December. I knew what I must do. At the appropriate time in the meeting, before the merger vote, I stood up and read my letter of resignation. Then I walked out the back door, expecting never to return to First Baptist Church, The Colony. I met with a couple of my students at the McDonald’s across the street to say goodbye. I drove back to Fort Worth that night sad and shaken.

Now, that’s not the end of the story, or I wouldn’t be writing this today. But perhaps I should explain why I resigned rather than remain and vote for the merger. My primary responsibility if I am not the pastor is to serve the church under the pastor’s authority. If I cannot support the pastor, I do not oppose him or try to undermine him, I simply seek another place of service. That’s why I resigned.

On Monday morning I received a call from a congregational leader, perhaps one of the deacons (I don’t recall), informing me that my resignation had not been accepted. Ok, what, how could they refuse my resignation? This leader continued: WB had quit, stormed out the back door (and broke the glass on his way out!), the congregation had voted to merge, call the pastor of Calvary Heights, as pastor and me as youth minister. My objection to supporting the unstable and unChristlike WB was eliminated when he quit. I chose to serve the newly merged congregation under the new pastor, Bill Wilks. I would serve alongside two wonderful men: Morris Seay, education minister, and Ralph Baxter, music minister. It was like being called to a new church, except I got to keep the youth I’d worked with over the previous months.

The first official day of the merger was Monday, January 9, 1989. I remember the date distinctly because it was listed on so many records as the date people had joined the First Baptist Church. I had nine youth in attendance the last Sunday before the merger. On the first Sunday after the church reunited we had 90 youth!

There is so much angry energy expended when we disagree with one another. Divorce, political division, church splits and many other examples abound. It’s like the power of an atomic bomb, the destructive power of which was unleashed by the USA at Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. Those bombs worked by splitting atoms. However, there is exponentially more energy released when atoms unite in nuclear fusion. That is, when atoms unite.

When the church unites to do God’s will, His power is released, and people are saved, delivered and healed. Our families, our churches and our nation need to come together in the name of Jesus. I believe that will only happen when we who claim to be Christians actually follow Jesus, and allow the Holy Spirit to fill us so that we have “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

“… walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”  The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Ephesians 4:2–6.

 

Vindication Promise 1

This is the first installment of a muliti-part story about 21 years of overcoming conflict and opposition as I’ve tried to learn how to minister and speak the truth in Garland, Texas.

 

Twenty-one years ago at around this time of year I was seeking God about the call to a new church. I’d been the youth minister for one congregation while I attended seminary. Now the time had come for me to graduate and move on. I made my resume’ available through the seminary placement office and several churches showed interest. My plan was to move back toward Arizona or California, but a church just 45 minutes away in Garland, Texas pursued and interviewed me. I spoke there in view of a call. They voted to call me as their Associate Pastor and Youth Minister. 

 

Now, I had said to myself, maybe to God, that I wouldn’t serve there unless the vote was one-hundred percent in favor. I’d already experienced drama related to a church that was not entirely behind their pastor and I didn’t want to be part of a divided church situation, especially over me. Trouble is, many churches with congregational forms of government do not agree one-hundred percent– on anything. When the pastor called with the news that they wanted me to serve, I asked about the vote. He said there were three or four people opposed. I declined the offer. The pastor wisely asked me to think about it and let him know by the following Wednesday evening.

 

Wednesday came and I sat in my office at the old church. I was planning my message for our weekly youth event called Fusion. I prayed about the new church and whether it was God’s will for me to go. I asked the Lord to speak, and I read my Bible to seek an answer. I don’t know how I arrived at the passage, but the words from Isaiah 41:8-20 jumped off the page. Here’s the text to verses 11-13 in the midst of the passage.

“All who rage against you 

will surely be ashamed and disgraced; 

those who oppose you 

will be as nothing and perish. 

Though you search for your enemies, 

you will not find them. 

Those who wage war against you 

will be as nothing at all. 

For I am the Lord, your God, 

who takes hold of your right hand 

and says to you, Do not fear; 

I will help you.”

 

What this said to me at the time was: it doesn’t matter what a few nay-sayers vote; you will be vindicated. God had my back, and he wanted me to serve at the new church. If you look at the passage, it speaks about people “who rage against you… your enemies… those who wage war against you.” That would be too strong if it referred only to a few people who voted not to call a future associate pastor and youth minister. As it turns out, this passage has been an essential promise to me during a generation of service in this community.

 

Time and again I’ve encountered opposition. At first this came from older people who didn’t understand my relational style of reaching teenagers, or why we wanted to do a Sunday night meeting for youth at a recreation center instead of attending church with the adults in the sanctuary. One Sunday evening before our youth moved to the rec center an older gentleman approached me and pointed out that one of the teenage young men was wearing a hat in the sanctuary. I turned to see who the offending youth might be and witnessed the boy’s mother directing him to remove the offending headgear. He complied (probably grudgingly). I courteously responded that it appeared the situation had been taken care of. The man never spoke to me again. This is a minor example of a growing rift between the old and the young. It happens in many churches: traditional expectations versus innovative methodology. I cannot say that everything I did was wise, nor can I say that I did enough to communicate with the older generation in that church. I do believe that everything we did fulfilled the church’s mission of reaching the unreached.

 

Understand, this was opposition to my method of ministry, not warfare. A critic is not the enemy. In fact, there can be healthy criticism if it is intended to edify and encourage. We can agree to disagree on some points. The real warfare is spiritual in nature, and the real Enemy is called Satan. His name comes from a Hebrew word that means adversary or enemy. This Enemy was preparing deeper harm to me and to my ministry than I ever imagined.  

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By the way, let me pause to affirm that this is not unique to me. Anyone who makes the effort to pursue God’s call and do His will is going to be opposed by the same Enemy. This is the one about whom Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10a).