FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–An undisclosed number of leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Baptist General Convention of Texas met at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary April 6 to discuss relations between the two groups.
An agreed-upon statement was released after the meeting at the Fort Worth campus. The statement did not report who attended the luncheon.
The statement reported: “Participants said the informal luncheon was a friendly and helpful conversation concerning ways the conventions can continue to work together in Kingdom causes. While acknowledging that there are concerns which continue to be studied, participants said it was the sort of conversation that can lead to a new level of trust and partnership.”
Prior to the meeting, Charles Wade, BGCT executive director, spoke at chapel. In his sermon, he said Christians need to help lost people see Jesus and wrap their arms around hurting people even when doing so is unpopular among other Christians.
Comparing Christians to the people who blocked Zaccheus’ view of Jesus, Wade said, “We’ve got front row seats to see Jesus, and we don’t want anybody getting our seats.
“Sometimes people can’t see Jesus because the people who love him the most won’t get out of the way. … Our calling is to be a people who get out of the way and let people get a good look at Jesus.”
Speaking from Luke 18:35-19:10, Wade told of Jesus’ trip through Jericho during which Jesus healed a blind beggar on the way to the city and ministered to Zaccheus, the despised tax collector.
“You can feel in the text that the arms of Jesus reach out to embrace this beggar in the street who can’t see and this rich man hated by the people … and Jesus brings them close to himself,” Wade said.
Wade became executive director of the BGCT Feb. 1. The 2.7-million-member state convention is the largest in the 15.8-million-member Southern Baptist Convention. It has about 6,000 churches and an annual budget of $51 million.
When he was asked to be executive director, Wade said he struggled with the decision for two reasons. First, he had to stop pastoring, the only career he had wanted since he was 11 years old. Second, he knew how big a responsibility it would be to minister to the entire state.
He said he put a map of Texas on his table and began to pray, “Lord, if you want me to do this, begin to give me a heart for this state.”
He said he soon realized “with the help of the men and women of Texas who love Jesus, together, we can put our arms around this state and we can hug the people of Texas up close to God. The rich and the poor, those who can’t see because they are blind and those who can’t see because we’ve been in their way.
“Not only in Texas but in other states and around the world, there are people dying without Christ who want to see him, there are churches to be built, there are ministries to be begun, there are hearts to be touched, and you and I by the power of our Lord Jesus have been given the arms of Christ,” he said.
“So I appeal to you, put your arms around your church, around your community,” he continued, “and all of us together, we can reach our arms around the world without God and hug this world up close to his heart through Jesus Christ our Savior who died for all the world and who was raised in power from the grave that the victory might be secured in our lives.”
From the text, Wade cited Jesus’ passion for people, noting that Jesus stopped to minister to the beggar, who nobody else had any time for other than to toss a few coins at him.
Jesus’ question to the beggar — “What is it you want me to do for you?” — is helpful in ministry, Wade said.
“I find that oftentimes Christians are quite willing to do for people what we think they need us to do,” he said. “And we will keep on doing anything for anybody as long as they are grateful.”
He added that Christians often want to minister only to people who they feel are worthy.
Wade also found a lesson in how the man responded to Jesus by asking to be healed.
“Sometimes, we ask for too little,” Wade said. “What he asked for was what only Jesus could do and that’s what we need to come to Jesus asking, ‘O God, help me.'”
In accepting his position at the BGCT, Wade said he prayed for wisdom and courage “in ways I never quite understood I needed to pray” but with confidence in the promise of James 1:5 that God gives wisdom generously, without criticizing and “begrudging us.”
Jesus’ question also helped the man receive the salvation he really needed, Wade said, explaining that the Greek word for healing used in the text is related to the word for salvation.
“Your faith has made you whole,” Jesus told the blind beggar.
In Jericho, Jesus encountered Zaccheus. Because he was short, Zaccheus had difficulty seeing Jesus through the crowds so he climbed a tree for a better view.
“I’m really grateful that [Zaccheus] didn’t do like a lot of people and say, ‘Those people at the church are so rude. They don’t like me, so I’m not going,'” Wade said.
Jesus saw Zaccheus in the tree and said he was going to the tax collector’s home. This did not sit well with the other people who hated Zaccheus, Wade said.
“And so they murmur just like people do today when you reach out to people they don’t like, they don’t want around, when you reach out to people [who are] different,” Wade said.
Wade credited Zaccheus for taking repentance seriously, giving back over and above what he had stolen from the people as a tax collector.
“We are so good at cheap repentance,” he said, “repentance that never causes us to change what we can about what we’ve done. But [Zaccheus] says, ‘I’ll make it right the best I can.'”
Wade concluded by saying that Christians need to see themselves as the body of Christ and reach out to people the way that Jesus reached out to the blind beggar and Zaccheus.
“It’s a great privilege God has called us to do,” Wade said, “and we have a great God who knows how to heal and save and embrace and lead us [so] that we become more and more like his own dear Son.”