Ted Lam was alternately roasted and praised during a surprise retirement dinner following the annual Church Planting Conference at Moore, First, March 28. Lam, who retired as church planting specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma March 31 after 10 years of service, was called passionate, committed, an inspiration and a blessing by state leaders and friends.
“All of us are going to miss you because you’ve lived in a way that will cause us to miss you,” Anthony L. Jordan told Lam.
Jordan, executive director-treasurer of the BGCO, was responsible for bringing Lam to the convention 10 years ago, and said Tulsa, Chinese International Church, where Lam was pastor, hasn’t forgiven him yet.
“In one way, I’m glad he’s leaving,” quipped Jordan. “Tulsa, International has hated my guts for 10 years because Ted was such a good pastor to them.”
Jordan said Lam is a gentleman who deserves “all the honor we can give him.”
“We have come to honor Ted’s wife, Jane, as well, because there’s not a Ted without a Jane,” Jordan said. “She is one remarkable lady. Not only is she a piano teacher, but a concert pianist.”
Jordan insisted Lam will be missed around the Baptist Building, but workers will be able to understand Bo Holland (the new church planting specialist).
“Ted comes from a country that uses chopsticks, and that’s what Ted’s language is,” joked Jordan.
Jordan noted that the most important thing about a person is not their ministry, but who they are-their character and those who exude a transformed life in all they do.
“You walk away saying you’re a better person after being around them,” Jordan explained. “They understand following Jesus. Their greatest testimony is they have walked among us in such a way, it makes us want to honor Jesus, to give our lives in service to Him.”
He said Lam’s strategic mind is committed to pray, plan and strategize to see that “we get the best bang for our buck.”
“Ted’s commitment was to use every dollar in places we can plant churches resulting in vibrant alive churches reaching people from this day forward,” he said. “Ted seeks God for places to plant churches which will reach people, whether they are white, upper class Anglo, Hispanic, Chinese or Filipino. Oklahoma Baptists worship in 40 languages every Sunday. We are the most ethnically diverse denomination in the nation.”
The focus of Oklahoma Baptists has changed in the years of Lam’s leadership, Jordan pointed out, starting nearly 400 churches in the 10 years.
“God has multiplied Ted’s ministry over and over again as we have planted churches to the glory of God,” he emphasized. “One day, when Ted stands before God, his crown will be filled with names of churches he has led to be planted.”
Jordan said he likes to be around Lam because he is an inspiration and passionate about what he does.
“He has a goal to plant 100 churches a year in Oklahoma,” Jordan revealed. “He inspires us to go where we’ve never been.
“You’re our friend and fellow worker, and we have a deep love and respect for you.”
Three surprise guests also spoke of Lam’s influence.
Paul and Vivian Spann from Little Rock, Ark., said Lam is their mentor in church planting.
The Spanns, who conducted a Chinese Bible study in their home, wanted to start a Chinese church-the first in Arkansas-but didn’t know where to begin. They were put in touch with Lam, who to gave directions on presenting a mission statement and securing Chinese Bibles and hymnals.
“Ted is the father of the Chinese church in Arkansas,” said Paul Spann.
Mark Thng, a deacon at Tulsa, International, said church members were indeed upset when Lam moved to the BGCO.
“We’ve extended an invitation for him to come back,” Thng said. “His heart is to serve God fully. When I sway, I look to Pastor Ted, and he leads me in the right direction. He is representative of how God wants us to lead our lives.”
Danny Lee, from Houston, said he learned leadership skills and how to respond to mistakes from Lam.
“I am impressed with his character and his uncanny ability to get things done,” said Lee. “To impact me from a distance, he has to be someone special.”
Jack Comer, Lam’s predecessor in church planting, said Lam had to face negativity when he came to the convention.
“Everyone said it is important to start new churches, but no one wanted one in their town,” he said. “Ted is a loveable guy. He doesn’t stand very tall until you’re around him. He’s been an inspirational, God-directed leader. My life has been fuller because I know him.”
Holland, who is succeeding Lam, actually helped Lam plant his first church.
He said he wasn’t sure he wanted the job after seeing Ted in his office almost every night until 7 or 8 p.m., until Lam explained he wasn’t going home because Jane was giving piano lessons and he didn’t want to listen.
Lam said the 10 years at the BGCO has made a big difference in his life.
“God put me in a special time to plant churches in Oklahoma,” he said. “My passion for church planting is not going to fade away in retirement.”
Lam said he came to this country 47 years ago.
“I believe in America. It is the best country you can ever find,” he said. “I came to America to give myself to America. America is my country, Oklahoma is my home and the BGCO is my extended family.”