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Bill Hogue, evangelism advocate, dies at 82

BROWNWOOD, Texas (BP)–C.B. “Bill” Hogue, executive director emeritus of the California Southern Baptist Convention, died Jan. 26. He was 82 and was undergoing treatment for cancer at the time of his death.

Before leading California Southern Baptists, Hogue served as vice president for evangelism of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) from 1973-82 and director of evangelism for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, 1971-73.

During his tenure in California, from January 1985 to February 1995, Hogue continually studied CSBC programs and organizational structure and initiated an ongoing process of evaluation and adjustments to improve both efficiency and effectiveness.

Among organizational changes over which Hogue presided was a restructuring of executive board staff to emphasize evangelism, missions and church growth. In 1990, a committee was appointed at Hogue’s urging to examine “the structure and strategy” of the convention for the 1990s, resulting in a plan with four primary objectives: to reach people, strengthen pastoral leadership, develop believers and grow in stewardship.

Upon his retirement, Hogue said his greatest satisfaction was “seeing churches grow, seeing many new churches [started] and especially reaching into many language and racial communities with new churches and make an impact there.”

When Hogue retired, the number of CSBC churches totaled 1,648, an increase of some 40 percent.

It was during Hogue’s 10-year term the convention’s name was changed from The Southern Baptist General Convention of California to the name still in use — California Southern Baptist Convention.

It was Hogue’s motion at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in 1993 in Houston that led to the restructuring of the SBC set forth in the 1995 document, “Covenant for a New Century,” approved by messengers to the SBC annual meeting in Atlanta. Hogue subsequently served on the SBC Implementation Task Force and chaired the incorporators of the North American Mission Board that recommended its first president.

In a 1997 celebration of the 152 years of Home Mission Board work before it was restructured as NAMB, Hogue said the HMB had been “the lifeblood of states like California. When I went to that convention, we had 905 churches and missions, and when I retired we had 1,660 worshiping in 54 languages each Sunday. We could not have done it without the help of the Home Mission Board.”

Hogue also served as a Baptist World Alliance vice president and chairman of the North American Lausanne Committee for World Evangelism. Because of his commitment to world mission endeavors, Hogue led the California convention to establish its first partnership with Baptists in Ukraine.

Fermín A. Whittaker, CSBC executive director, said, “Baptists worldwide have lost a true friend and encourager with Bill Hogue’s passing. He was an evangelical Christian statesman who was a passionate communicator of the Gospel with an intense love for the lost.

“From our days as co-workers at the Home Mission Board, I saw firsthand his compassionate example of reaching people for Jesus. As a regional coordinator for HMB, I had the opportunity of planning missionary strategies for California with Dr. Hogue as the CSBC executive director. He was a man with high ethical standards who modeled the Savior’s love to all.”

Wendell Foss, retired CSBC associate executive director, said, “Bill Hogue was good for our convention. He brought needed changes and moved the convention in a good and new direction.

“Even though he was a leader of the ‘Conservative Resurgence’ within the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Hogue was able to minimize the negative effects in California of the controversy over doctrine and denominational politics,” Foss noted.

Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, said Hogue “effectively served the Southern Baptist family for more than 50 years. He had a passionate love for souls. He worked tirelessly to equip and motivate Southern Baptists at every level — local church, association, state and national — to integrate evangelism into every aspect of church and denominational life. As a faithful pastor, trusted denominational servant, effective evangelist and devoted husband and father, his contributions to Kingdom work are incalculable.”

Chapman said Hogue had been “a dear friend and great encourager” over the years. “Jodi and I certainly loved him and Betty. Our prayers are with her and their wonderful family at this time as they experience personal grief; but we also celebrate with them in our confidence that Bill is with Jesus, the One whom he loved and served so faithfully in his earthly journey of faith.”

Richard Harris, the North American Mission Board’s current interim president, was hired by Hogue at the HMB when Harris was a 32-year-old. “Bill had an unusual characteristic in that he sought out, brought in, believed in and mentored young leaders,” Harris recalled. “He brought in a lot of young leaders here, in Oklahoma and wherever he served.”

Harris said Hogue’s influence is still felt in the denomination today. “He was committed to advancing the agenda of evangelism among Southern Baptists and making sure it always continued as a priority. One reason evangelism is a priority of the North American Mission Board is directly related to Bill Hogue and his influence.” And, Harris said, Hogue’s commitment to evangelism was not just his 9-to-5 job. “He was a personal soul-winner. He modeled it, he taught it. He held you accountable to be a soul-winner,” Harris said.

A native of Stanton, Texas, Hogue was the youngest of eight sons of tenant farmer George Lee Hogue and his wife Virgie Mae. He and another brother were the only sons to graduate from high school. Hogue later graduated from Howard Payne University in Brownwood and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

As a pastor from 1952-1971, Hogue led three churches in Texas — in Happy, Post and Odessa — and in Ada, Okla.

He was the author of three books: “Love Leaves No Choice,” “I Want My Church to Grow” and “The Doctrine of Salvation.”

In Love Leaves No Choice, Hogue recounted his salvation:

“It was during a revival that I became a Christian. The preacher was holding open-air services on the side lawn of the church. He wasn’t a great preacher, but his message had a hold on me. I was uneasy every time he gave the invitation for new believers to come forward and join the church. When my friends became Christians, I was moved. During one service he said, ‘You can become a Christian anywhere if you will ask Christ to come into your heart.’ I decided to try. One afternoon, when I was alone, I prayed. Nothing happened. I went to church again that night; again I came under the conviction that I had to do something about my life…. The next day, going out after the cows, I really got down to business with God. I asked him to come into my life. He did…. I didn’t understand all of what happened to me because I hadn’t been to church much. But I understood the peace I had in my own soul.”

If the church is to grow, Hogue wrote in the book, “it must consist of born-again people who are more committed to ‘going’ than ‘coming.’ It must acknowledge evangelism as its top priority; it must mobilize all its resources in a comprehensive witness.”

Hogue is survived by Betty, his wife of more than 60 years, four sons, a daughter and 14 grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his seven brothers.

Funeral services are scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 30 at Coggin Avenue Baptist Church in Brownwood. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorials be sent to Vision 100 Fund at Coggin Avenue Baptist Church, 1815 Coggin Ave., Brownwood, TX 76801.
Terry Barone is editor of the California Southern Baptist, newsjournal of the California Southern Baptist Convention; Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.

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