By Marv Knox
Bedilu Yirga, the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ second vice president, will be nominated for first vice president when the BGCT conducts its annual meeting in Frisco Nov. 8-10.
Bob Dean, executive director of Dallas Baptist Association, announced he will nominate Yirga, pastor of Ethiopian Evangelical Baptist Church of Dallas, for the BGCT post next month.
Hailed as exemplary and representative
Yirga should take a step up in convention leadership because he is both exemplary and representative, Dean explained.
“Bedilu is an outstanding pastor and leader,” Dean said. “He has been at his church 20 years, 17 as the pastor. The church has had dramatic growth under his leadership. And at the same time, it has planted two other congregations locally and has planted churches and supports church planters in Ethiopia.”
“Throughout his life, he has been an outstanding leader,” Dean added, citing Yirga’s experience in Africa as an auditor for the Ethiopian government and for the World Vision relief, development and advocacy agency.
Other examples of Yirga’s leadership include his service as BGCT second vice president this year, membership on the convention’s Executive Board and involvement on various Dallas Baptist Association committees, Dean said.
“Bedilu is an outstanding follower of Jesus Christ. He, his wife and family follow the Lord,” Dean said. “In our association, he is widely respected. He has a lot of integrity. … He’s been very involved in the BGCT throughout his ministry. He is exemplary in every way.”
In addition, Yirga is “representative of what Texas is becoming—a very diverse state,” Dean added.
Minister to increasingly diverse state
If elected, Yirga would like to help Texas Baptists minister to the state’s increasing diversity.
“I would like to pursue the ethnic church involvement in church planting,” he said. “As we are receiving more and more refugees and immigrants in Texas, that is the No. 1 priority we should be engaged in.”
Yirga’s own church has planted two congregations in the Dallas area—Ethiopian Evangelical Baptist Church in Allen and Ethiopian Evangelical Baptist Church in Irving.
Help immigrants and refugees
Texas Baptists also need to help the state’s immigrant and refugee communities meet their basic needs, he said.
“When they have a crisis, they don’t know what to do or where to go to get help,” he explained.
For example, if immigrants and refugees encounter “any unforeseen problem,” such as losing a job, a domestic issue or problems with a landlord, they need help in the name of Jesus, he said.
“Most go to the Muslim community, because they get help,” Yirga noted. “A single parent with a problem? They go to the Muslims.”
Some seek help from ethnic Christian congregations, “but there’s only so much we can do,” he said. “But if all Texas Baptists participate, we can do something. … Texas Baptists have the resources. All we have to do is coordinate the resources so the immigrants and refugees can access them.”
Yirga has seen Texas’ burgeoning immigrant influx firsthand. From 20 to 40 new visitors from overseas attend his church every month, he said. The reasons Texas is a popular immigrant destination are varied, but he cited the state’s abundant job market as well as its societal values, which attract parents from conservative cultures who seek to raise their children to hold their ideals.
Pair Anglo and ethnic congregations
Yirga also would like to help Texas Baptists involve more ethnic congregations in foreign missions endeavors. He advocated pairing a predominantly Anglo congregation with an ethnic congregation to participate in overseas projects.
Such pairings would increase the effectiveness, particularly when ethnic Texas Baptists minister in their native countries, he said. They would lead to “more accurate reports” from mission fields, in part because language no longer becomes a barrier.
“Also, it gives us something to do in common,” he added. “When we do missions together, it’s something held in common.”
Yirga is a native of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He earned an undergraduate degree from Southwestern Assembly of God University in Waxahachie, a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth and a doctor of education degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
Before he became senior pastor of Ethiopian Evangelical Baptist Church of Dallas in 1998, he was an associate pastor. Since he became senior pastor, the church has grown to more than 800 adults and 300 children.
He has led the church to partner with Howard Payne University and Wayland Baptist University to create a ministry school for church leaders. Students can earn up to 18 credit hours toward an undergraduate certificate program.
Yirga is past chair of the BGCT’s affinity groups and cultural connections committees. He has been a board member and treasurer of the Ethiopian Evangelical Christian Community Association of America, and he is secretary of the All-Ethiopian Pastor’s Association in North American.
He and his wife, Almaz, have one daughter, Essey, and two sons, Levi and Addis.