Shortly after my election as Executive Director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, I sensed a need to address three significant issues related to a shared future of Texas Baptist life. One was the need to call out and prepare the next generation of ministers, particularly pastors. Another was renewing the practice of cooperation and collaboration. The third was the importance of raising up a new spirit of generosity among our people and churches.
I have had the privilege of speaking to many churches and other Texas Baptist groups during these first few months, challenging our entire Texas Baptist family to raise up this new spirit of generosity and a new generation of young adults who understand the Biblical themes of being generous.
The World War II generation has been rightfully named the "greatest generation," but personally, I've been referring to them as the "giving generation." So much of what we have as Texas Baptists -- our churches, institutions, missions programs and ministries -- exist because of the sacrificial giving so wonderfully demonstrated by those who have come before us. I pray every Texas Baptist (and for this purpose, every Baylor friend) would take to heart this same spirit.
The practice of Christian generosity really begins with our belief in and convictions about God himself. We believe God is the creator of all there is and that we've been assigned the privilege of stewarding His creation. As Christians, our convictions about God are that He has all power and all knowledge and is ever present. However, we also believe in God as Redeemer. His redemptive work culminated in the giving of his only Son (John 3:16). God held nothing back from us; He did everything necessary so that we might have life, abundant and eternal. The Bible describes God as love; love is so much about giving, and God gave us everything!
Generosity, as the Bible speaks of it, does not begin with our resources but rather with ourselves. In 2 Corinthians 8:5, the Apostle Paul commended the Christians of Corinth for their spirit of generosity among the Macedonians, noting that they "gave themselves to the Lord first." This act of surrender includes who we are and what we have, as in talent, time and treasure. The spirit and the practice of generosity can and should be one of those aspects of life that distinguishes us as believers from others in the world.
For an institution like Baylor, founded on the principles of Christian faith and commitment, surely the university's graduates, supporters and friends can lead the way in this practice of generosity. As a Baylor alumnus, fan and donor, I wholeheartedly affirm the importance of generosity within our university family.
And, of course, the Bible speaks directly about the joy found in giving. Paul quotes Jesus in reminding the elders of the Church at Ephesus that "it is more blessed to give than to receive." Experience verifies the truthfulness of this statement. It is a joy to give.
I have had the opportunity to be a part of several gatherings when students expressed their deep and genuine gratitude to donors for the scholarships they had received. My testimony to you is that the greatest joy in the room is not from the students -- though they are certainly authentic with their appreciation -- but rather in the hearts of the donors who see and hear the students' stories. There is great blessing in these moments.
My wife, Kathleen, and I decided some time back to establish a small scholarship in her name that will provide assistance to students pursing a degree in education with the intent of serving in a public school setting. Here's why: For almost 30 years, Kathleen taught in the Texas public school system. We have a strong conviction about the positive spiritual difference a Christian teacher can make in the public classroom. This scholarship enables us to give a little now, and we have arranged, through our will, that an endowed scholarship will be completed at the time of our death.
Generosity is a Christian, Biblical principle, and I hope those of us with ties to Baylor will lead the way in the practice of it.