Texas Baptists Challenged to Reach Every Person in the State

Newly elected to lead Texas Baptists, the Rev. Randel Everett has already brought on an ambitious evangelism challenge – to give every person in the Lone Star State the opportunity to respond to Christ by Easter 2010.

"By Resurrection Sunday 2010, give every person living in Texas the opportunity to respond to Christ in his own language and context," Everett, 58, told the Baptist General Convention of Texas Executive Board just prior to his election Tuesday as executive director, according to the Associated Baptist Press.

The state Baptist convention is the largest in the nation with 2.3 million members.

"We no longer live in Acts 2," Everett told the board, referring to a time when there was a shared understanding about God. "We live in a pluralistic Acts 17 world," he continued, comparing postmodern culture to the time when the Apostle Paul addressed a philosophically and theologically diverse crowd at Mars Hill, as reported by ABP.

And in a pluralistic world, non-Christians want authenticity and hope, not linear evidence or proof of the gospel, he said.

The two-year evangelism goal was presented as Everett upped the Baptists' risk taking and expanded their idea of faith.

"If we are not operating in the arena where great failure is a possibility, we are not operating in the arena of faith," he said.

Everett, who is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Newport News, Va., was elected by a 78-6 vote after the state convention's search committee nominated him among a list of six to 10 candidates.

"Randel Everett cares about Texas, and he cares about people worldwide," said Ken Hugghins, chairman of the search committee. "He cares across ethnicities and across generations. He relates well to people."

The Virginia pastor has said he thrives on the diversity Texas offers, including the various ethnic groups and mix of rural and urban churches.

"I see it as an expression of the mosaic of God's love," he said.

Texas Baptists must demonstrate racial and ethnic diversity, both in terms of staffing and in the selection of people to responsible leadership positions, Everett said, according to ABP. Additionally, they must also recognize the opportunity to bridge racial and ethnic divisions as a privilege, not a burden, he stressed.

When deciding on a nominee to replace Charles Wade, who retired in January, Hugghins of the search committee said Everett can also help unify the state convention, which has faced competition from the more conservative Southern Baptists of Texas Convention in recent years.

Placing the focus on Jesus, Everett has chosen to scrap the conservative and moderate labels that often divide Baptists.

"Some want to know if I'm an SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) guy or a CBF (Cooperative Baptist Fellowship) guy or a BWA (Baptist World Alliance) guy. I hope you'll come to the conclusion I'm a Jesus guy," Everett said regarding his affinity.

Hoping Texas Baptists will unite and fulfill their goal of reaching every person in the state with the Gospel, he said, "I pray that we will work with anyone who shares our kingdom assignment."