Tuesday, April 22, 2008

More transitions

Probably one of the biggest changes in my life has happened gradually over the past few years.

Some of my friends would say I've become liberal. I don't think so. But I have to confess, there have been times of worry. When I disagree so strongly with many of the directions of American Evangelical Christianity, I wonder if it's me or Evangelicalism that has changed.

But this article from Christianity Today helps me feel a little more confident. Jim Wallis is viewed by most as a liberal, progressive Christian. I'm sure some on the far right would have a hard time believing the Christian part. But his writings and words have certainly influenced me over the past 5 years, and I would encourage you to read the interview CTi does with him.

Welcome to Buckner

Here's a link to a posting that Albert Reyes asked me to write for his Pan Dulce blog about coming to Buckner. For the 3.5 of you who read this blog consistently you'll notice the recurring relationship theme...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Transitions

I sit in a hotel room in Dallas, 11:30 at night, about to begin a new era in my own life and ministry tomorrow. Tomorrow I will report to Buckner Children and Family Services for day 1 of a new ministry role. I'm excited, and not sure I'm going to get much sleep tonight...

I cannot begin to tell you how hard it has been to say "adios" to the people at Baptist University of the Americas. I walked through the doors at what was then the Hispanic Baptist Theological School almost 5 years ago, awestruck at what God was doing with this little place with big dreams and muchas ganas. I was able to come in on the tail end of state certification to offer higher ed degrees and accreditation with ABHE. I helped structure the rollout of the name change to BUA. And I'm most proud of how our development team was able to build a stable base of financial support for the university--although more is always needed!

But what is really striking about BUA is the people. Staff and students came from as many as 20 different countries over the past few years. At one time 6 different languages were spoken on campus. There are immigrants, Tejanos, 3rd generation Hispanics, Anglos with cross-cultural sensitivity, Asians, African-Americans--the list could go on. There is nothing like the atmosphere of BUA's campus. Each of the other 8 BGCT related universities is important to the accomplishment of Christian higher ed, but I will tell you that none of them can duplicate what is found on San Antonio's southside. It is truly unique, and needs the support of all Texas Baptists.

BUA has marked me, branded me. I bear on my body the blessings of my 5 years in San Antonio. Not always easy, frequently challenging but always a place of calling and passion, BUA will be missed as a part of my daily life. I'm still in the family, and I know I'll see my friends at convention and such, but my daily life will ache with the empty spot that was filled by folks at BUA.

Adios. For now.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The emergence of diverse leadership

I was on the Strong Coffee blog this morning and responded to a comment about the sometimes competing values of excellence and diversity in our world. This particular situation was in response to struggles and challenges in denominational life for Texas Baptists. In his original post, Ken made this comment:

Suffice it to say that when excellence is supplanted by the pursuit of diversity, the organization will have some people in it who are simply not up to the task. It is not that they are bad people. It is that they are in over their heads. I know some of you will think I am racist, but I am just being honest as to what I have observed.

I definitely don't think Ken is a racist. But his comment made me think--is excellence a more important value than diversity? They don't have to be in competition with each other, but the reality is that sometimes they are in the short term. Over the long haul of generations, I do not believe that pursuing diversity is detrimental to excellence in organizational leadership. Here's part of what I wrote:

Second, while I don't believe what you said was racist, I will say that I believe the value of excellence does not trump the value of diversity. Yes, in the short term there will be OTJ training issues for those who have not had the kinds of experience in the worlds of church and organizational leadership that maybe a "more qualified" person might have. But I do believe that as a convention we must surf on the wave of diversity and not be trying to swim catch-up from behind. If the environmental ethos of the last half of the 20th century-both inside and outside the church-constructed obstacles that did not allow non-white Texas Baptists leaders to emerge and grow, we should not be surprised if there appears to be a dearth of "more qualified" leaders in those communities. We cannot spend several generations prohibiting ethnically diverse believers access to the experiences that lead to the natural emergence of leadership and then decry the apparent lack of experienced, qualified leaders to serve on the convention staff. The BGCT EB staff should be proactive in identifying, recruiting, hiring and training for convention leadership members of those communities who may not yet have all the experience to be "up to the task" but are emerging leaders and influencers in their communities. Yes, this may mean that someone gets in over their heads. But I have seen in my young life plenty of successful white ministers that have become ineffective as they moved into denominational or parachurch leadership roles. The Peter Principle knows no ethnicity.

Now let me state it here, I think there are some awesome leaders in the BGCT staff from all ethnic communities. I think that there is often only the appearance of a lack of quality because of the differing cultural values among diverse people. There are hundreds of illustrations of this, but perhaps none more poignant than the views of time vs. people in various cultures. Those who value time over people will make certain decisions that those who value people over time will not. This is NOT a matter of excellence, it is a matter of value, and the case can be made for either to be right or wrong, but usually they are just different. Diversity demands a gracious spirit to those kinds of differences, especially on the part of the dominant culture.

I'm not a proponent of hiring quotas, but I believe diversity is just as important as excellence when it comes to corporate values.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Relationship makes the world go 'round

I've probably said it a hundred times now--relationship is probably the greatest thing that humans can experience. It's why Jesus said the two greatest commands are what they are--mind your relationships.

Pop Quiz: When was the first relationship? I've probably asked this on the blog before, but for the new guy, when was it?

I got back from lunch just now and had an email from Amazon about Len Sweet's new book "11: Indispensable Relationships You Can't Be Without", which I thought was an interesting looking book. Leonard Sweet is worth reading just about anything he's written. And he's always got the coolest titles--my favorite is "Cup of Coffee in the Soul Cafe." But it made me think about the importance of relationships.

No, the first relationship was not Adam and Eve. Or Adam and God.

It could be that my last day in the office is today, so I'm thinking about relationships as they move and shift throughout time. I've made some great ones at BUA, and I will miss the daily markings they have made on my life.

No, the first relationship was not between God and the angels. Try one more time.

After I saw Len's book I saw on CT's Leadership magazine site an article by another great communicator, John Ortberg, about his recent weekend with good friends. It's worth reading, and you can find it here...

The first relationship never was, and always is. The emphasis of the trinitarian concept of God is that relationship has always been. It exists within the character and nature of God. In some ways it is the essence of God. So go and enjoy your friends. Make new ones. Renew old ones. And in so doing, you might just discover God himself in others.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Moving to the Metroplex

I'm about to get a huge taste of John the Baptist, camel hair wearing, locust eating prophet style ostracism. As I said in the last post, I pretty much can't stand the Cowboys and the Mavericks.

And I'm moving to Dallas.

Recently I accepted the position of Director of Church Relations for Buckner Children and Family services, the largest Baptist social ministry in the world. I'm excited about the job--in many ways it will be strategically creating a whole new process for Buckner to relate to the more than 9,000 churches in their database. But moving always has its challenges, and this is moving to Dallas. I would love for you to pray for my family and me. I hope in the next couple of days to write a few things about my time at Baptist University of the Americas and where I believe God is taking them in the coming months and years.

I can't wait to wear my Manu Ginobili jersey to work...

Why do I want Tiger to win?

You know, in virtually every other major sport setting I pull for the underdog. Unless of course it's the Cowboys or Mavericks. I absolutely loved the Super Bowl this year. It was awesome to watch New England get beat.

So why do I love to watch Tiger Woods play great golf? Why was I so disappointed today that he didn't come from 6 shots back to win his 5th Masters? I'm not sure. But I totally love to watch this guy golf his ball, and found myself getting mad at him when he didn't do well. When he holed a putt from 50 feet on 11, I just knew the comeback was on. But he never got his putter working.

I guess we'll all have to wait until 2009 for a grand slam. Unless of course Trevor Immelman has 3 more in him this year...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Stuff Christians Like

One of my new favorite funny blogs to read is www.stuffchristianslike.blogspot.com. It's a play on the satirical StuffWhitePeopleLike blog, but hysterically funny for those of us who have grown up in the church making fun of all the funny stuff going on.

My friend Texas in Africa linked to one I hadn't read yet. Can you imagine making a mural on your children's ministry wall of Elisha cursing the teenagers who called him baldhead? Two bears bolting out of the woods to kill 42 of the teens?

Check out the whole blog here...

I especially agree with the guy who says that "you better be glad I don't have access to bears..."

Monday, April 07, 2008