Month: March 2003

Scioto Valley Baptist Association

As a part of its 2003 partnership with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, the Scioto Valley Baptist Association (SVBA) of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio is requesting mission teams for summer 2003. Through the ministry IMPACT 2003, simultaneous mission work will occur throughout the state in connection with SVBA, other Ohio associations and churches and SBTC churches.
SVBA Association Missionary Bill Wellman said the total population of the area numbers 475,000, providing ample opportunities for ministry.
“We have 10 counties that cover 5,000 square miles,” Wellman said. “The association consists of 33 works with a total membership around 7,000. The best data available for the area indicates between 75-80 percent are unchurched. Point being there is a great need to start new works.”
To reach the lost in Ohio, Wellman issued requests to participate in IMPACT 2003 on behalf of 11 areas in the SVBA. Each location needs five separate mission teams from SBTC churches to complete the joint mission venture. IMPACT 2003 includes surveying the community (June 22-28), conducting Vacation Bible School (July 16-20) or block parties (July 20-16), participating and planing crusade meetings (Aug. 3-9), and following up on prospects for new church starts (Aug. 17-23). Housing and meals must be provided by the mission teams.
“Several other communities are without Southern Baptist works. It is our desire to have a Southern Baptist work in all communities,” Wellman said. “This would allow people to attend a God-centered, Bible-teaching, evangelistic, mission-minded church.”
The Ohio locations include: Nelsonville, Oak Hill; West Portsmouth; Coal Grove; Beaver; Kingston; Tuppers Plains; Chauncey; Murray City; The Plains; Crown City; and South Webster.
Locations where churches are already being started or have been planted are also in need, Wellman said. Pastors or sponsor churches are ready to work alongside SBTC mission teams. These include: Portsmouth; Wellston; Chillicothe; Wheelersburg; Coalton; Jackson; Glouster; McArthur; and Lucasville.
For more information on any of these areas contact Leroy Fountain in the SBTC office at (972) 953-0878 or Bill Wellman at (740) 286-4484 or For more information about IMPACT 2003 or the Scioto Valley Baptist Association log onto

Christian Martyrs are Victors, not Victims

It’s hard to understand from within. Some of our best go to dangerous places. It doesn’t seem right they would fall to the insane acts of evil men. It raises age-old questions about good and evil. To our way of thinking the best and the strongest should win every time. On the surface this doesn’t seem to be happening in places where national Christians are persecuted and visiting Christians are murdered.


It’s hard to understand from without. Our denomination and our churches pray and give and support and send and go, and then this happens. Isn’t this the worst possible outcome? In talking to and listening to media representatives it’s a common question. Will we pull our workers out of dangerous places? How can we better protect our workers? Will future missionaries be afraid to go? These are strange questions to our minds. Non-Christians don’t understand the nature of Christian obedience or the lordship of Christ in our lives. They don’t understand that our calling makes us combatants in a war as old as Eden. They can’t understand it but they can hear the testimonies of those who do.


Non-Christians and Christians alike are tempted to think of those who are murdered as victims. A letter in USA Today following the Yemen murders questioned the wisdom and sanity of those who go into dangerous places. A murdered aid worker, he reasoned, is a lost asset. Similar criticisms were made of Heather Mercer and Deyna Curry after they returned from their ordeal in Afghanistan. They should have known better, it was said. Don Caswell, a wounded survivor of the attack on our hospital in Yemen, says he thought that way before going overseas. He thought it was foolish to go places where people hated Christians or Americans. His call to missions changed his mind. His work in Yemen changed his heart. Christians tend also to be wrong-headed when we assume that a safe rescue is a victory and martyrdom is a tragedy. Is this always true?


We see with eyes that do not comprehend eternity. What frightens or confuses us must be bad by definition. In hindsight we know this isn’t always true.


Compare two fairly familiar scenes. One is a missionary commissioning service. Scores of newly-appointed candidates parade across the stage and excitedly tell of the work they have been called to. A recent service I attended commissioned a large percentage who were going to places that could not be named for security reasons. They went joyfully onto the front lines of Great Commission work. It is safe to assume that some few will fall to disease, auto accidents, or violence during the course of their service. Yet they go.


The second scene is a military deployment. Men and women are lined up to get on a transport plane, rucksacks and rifles slung over their shoulders, babies and loved ones attached to their arms and legs. It’s a moving scene partly because of the long separation but mostly because of the clear danger they will face. As sorry as they are to leave people they love, military folks are ready to go where they are needed and do what they have been trained and called up to do. Some will not return alive from this deployment whether they fall in battle or to an accident. This is grievous to us but not usually seen as a tragedy unless the mission is a failure.


I know the two missions are different. There is a reason, though, that the God who reveals himself in Scripture used military imagery frequently in describing our service to him. The sacrifice is similar, the risks are similar, and the battles, spiritual and physical, require a similar commitment of all we are. A key difference is the assurance of victory we have as we serve the Creator of all things. Not assurance of safety or visible success or comfort or long life, just ultimate victory and eternal reward.


In great heroic battle stories, say the Alamo or the 300 Spartans, it is said that these few “sold their lives dearly.” That means that the enemy suffered disproportionate, even mortal losses in overcoming the defenders. That’s true of Christian martyrs. The first century church was strengthened by the witness of those killed for their faith. The fact that they would die before they would recant lent credibility to the gospel. The manner of their deaths belittled their killers and the evil cause they represented. Fox’s Book of Martyrs is full of such stories from the history of Christianity.


Our work today is heartened by the examples of Bill Wallace, Lottie Moon, Jim Elliot, and now Bill Koehn, Kathy Garrity, Martha Myers, and William Hyde. In these more modern examples also, the enemy lost ground in the deaths of these believers. The gospel will reign in some new place or heart because of their witness. After Mr.Hyde’s death, I heard his seminary professor, pastor, an IMB representative, and current seminary students headed for missions service all give powerful gospel testimonies on national television. They had this opportunity because a deceived man in the Philippines thought he could destroy those he disagreed with. He failed like all his predecessors have, all the way back to the garden. The best and strongest has won. Our mistake is forgetting that he is the Lord.

Texas ministry fishes for fishermen

FRISCO, Texas – It’s a beautiful winter day in Texas. There is a slight chill in the air, but with a few extra layers of clothes and a disposable pocket warmer, it’s bearable. The smell of exhaust from a 200-horsepower Evinrude motor begins to fill the nose with a familiar pungent odor that brings joyous memories of being on the water with dad. The brain begins to forget the chill and focuses instead on plunking that new Pro Model Scum Frog into the murky green water and landing that 10-pound largemouth “Hawg.”
Every weekend thousands of Texans take to the state’s waterways in an effort to catch a big fish – the Hawg. Bass tournaments are scheduled where teams of fisherman compete against each other to see who can land the biggest fish.
Some folks call fishing a sport. Others say it’s just a hobby. Jesus called it a way of life – sort of – when he said his followers would be fishers of men. The Fishers of Men Ministry believes fishing is a sport and a way of life.
Fishers of Men (FOM) began in 1998 in Sumter, South Carolina. Founder Al Odom wanted competitive fisherman to have a chance to compete in bass fishing tournaments and still be in church on Sunday (most secular tournaments are on Saturday and Sunday). Now the ministry is spread out across 22 states, including Texas.
Larry Shine, pastor of Pine Forrest Baptist Church in Onalaska, serves as the Texas State Chaplain.
Shine said he became involved with the ministry four years ago as a competitor. He took on the chaplain role about a year ago.
Each tournament follows a basic format. Fishermen arrive on the designated lake on Friday to “pre-fish.” Anglers are trying to uncover the hiding places of the big fish for the next day. Everyone has to be off the water by 5:30 to prepare for the next stage of the event.
When the teams of two return to the marina, the participants gather at a local church or a nearby pavilion to draw numbers for the following morning’s launch sequence.
The host church will provide a meal for the participants and some good wholesome entertainment. After dinner, the host church or Shine will present an evangelistic message. This is part of the two-fold mission of FOM.
“The mandatory Friday night services provide an avenue of telling lost fisherman how to be saved,” Shine said.
Evangelism is not just left up to the pastors and others “trained” in sharing their faith. Everyone can have a part in making an impact in someone’s life. Shine said, “active Christians are encouraged to fish with lost partners to expose them to the gospel.” Over 600 people were saved last year as a part of the ministry’s events – 29 of those were in Texas.
After a night of rest, the teams awake in the wee hours of Saturday morning and hit the waters. They have their boats inspected for safety and then begin their quest to coax the largemouth bass out of the water.
At the end of the day, each team turns in their catch. The top five fish from each team are weighed and the team with the most pounds of fish wins the competition.
At last year’s National Championship in Alabama, a duo from Winston-Salem, North Carolina combined to catch over 41 pounds of fish over the two-day event.
Shine said attendance at the regional events around Texas can vary.
“There can be as many as 150 teams of two or as few as five teams,” he said. Participation varies depending on the area, competition with other tournaments and the weather.
The majority of those in attendance are believers. This is the other half of the two-fold mission of the ministry: a place for Christian fisherman to compete without having to sacrifice church services on Sunday.
The peaceful surroundings of nature and the solitude of two people in a boat can lead to great opportunities of ministry. Shine remembers a time while fishing a regional tournament in Greenville, Miss.
“A grandfather/grandson team were competing,” Shine said. “The Lord impressed on me to witness to the grandson, whom I knew was lost. Rules say you must remain 25 yards from any other competitor unless you receive permission.”
Not wanting to alienate the other team, Shine asked the grandfather for permission to come close and speak with the young man for a few minutes. The grandfather agreed and Shine led the boy to faith in Christ.
“Best catch of the day for me,” Shine said.
The ministry continues to grow each year. Fishers of Men has an official magazine called Hawg Heaven that goes to each of the ministry’s members. The magazine keeps anglers up-to-date on results from past tournaments, dates of upcoming events, as well as inspiring the avid fisherman with uplifting stories and testimonies from other fisherman. A website is also available for information about the organization at
Wetting a hook and trying to land a big fish is not just an American idea. Shine said he is looking at taking the idea of the ministry on the road. He said he was working with one of the Southern Baptist Convention’s missionaries in South America about making a trip there. They want to use fishing as a way to reach the people of the South American Amazon.
“We hope to help those fishermen,” Shine said, “and may even arrange to do some fishing ourselves.”
In a sport that is probably best known for its embellished stories about the “one that got away,” fisherman across the state are now sharing the truth of the gospel.

Jill Briscoe shares lessons with staff wives

FORT WORTH, Texas – When Jill Briscoe arrived at the little church in Wisconsin where her husband Stuart pastored and grew Elmbrook Church in suburban Milwaukee for over 33 years, she had no idea how a pastor’s wife should behave. So she walked up and down the aisles of the church, asking women to write on paper their expectations of her.
“I took that paper home and made an English cup of tea which is what you do in times of crisis,” Briscoe shared with the Great Hills Ministry Staff Wives Retreat at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Feb. 20-21. “I read the paper and there wasn’t one of my gifts on it. I was devastated.” After explaining her frustration to her husband, she recalled that he looked at her unsympathetically and said, “‘Jill, the job has to be done. So just do it badly.'”
Arguing that she wanted to “do it goodly for Jesus and His church,” she realized she could not because she did not feel gifted to do all of the things listed by the women from the church. “He said it’s better to do it badly than to not do it at all,” Briscoe remembered. “He’s very logical because he’s English.”
She drew inspiration from Col. 3:23 to “do it heartily unto the Lord.” Briscoe soon began “doing it badly and doing it heartily for Jesus.” As a result, two things happened. “All those women looked at me and said, ‘Oh, that poor woman, she needs help. People who could do it ‘goodly,’ but had sat on their backside all those years came out of the woodwork. It was obvious I needed help and they came. Also, I discovered gifts I didn’t know I had.”
Briscoe said, “In England we have a saying–you have a go. You just have a go. You don’t have to do it excellently,” she added. “That’s the problem with American women, insecurity that if you can’t do it well, you don’t do it at all. Well, I’m British, so I didn’t care. It had to be done and I wanted to do it and I did it for him.”
At the age of 67, Briscoe said she is having the best time of her life as she and her husband serve as ministers at large for the church from which he retired three years ago. “My soul will never return to its original shape after these last three years. Never. It’s incredible,” she said, describing opportunities to minister in restricted countries where biblical training has never been available to pastors and their wives.
In her two messages to the 170 women gathered for the staff wives retreat, Briscoe related some of the lessons she had learned over a lifetime of ministry:
1. Make yourself time. Recognizing that there are never enough hours in the day to do all there is to do, Briscoe said, “We are distracted by the work of the Lord from the Lord of the work.
Setting aside 10 minutes a day to meet with God without an agenda can be lifesaving, she said. “When you’re in ministry and you’re giving out, preparing, thinking, and discipling– whatever you’re into-you get in a habit of reading everything with that in mind,” she warned. “We have to meet with him, just for his sake, not for Mrs. Smith, for her or him, but for his sake.”
2. Pray yourself quiet. “It’s my observation that the western church talks too much in prayer, in teaching, in everything,” Briscoe observed. “God is thinking, nicely, just shut up. Just listen,” she said, citing the instruction of Isa. 50:4 to get up early and receive a word for the weary.
“If I’ve gotten up and listened to him, He will give me a word in the morning for the evening and it will be the right word and it will do away with all our little canned formulas. I’ve often thought if I had missed that this morning, whatever would I have said to her? How would I have grappled with the situation I’m in now? For that you have to pray yourself quiet; have to learn to listen, and deal with some solitude which is something we do very badly in the West.”
By “taking your wristwatch off” during their times with God, Briscoe said the wives of ministers may conclude that they do not have to do half of the things that had previously considered priorities. “If the unexpected blessings [of extra time] happen in a crowded day, try not to dash to the washing machine. It doesn’t matter. Don’t sweat it. The tyranny of the urgent finishes off ministry people all the time.”
3. Keep your hands clean. From Ps. 24:4, Briscoe reiterated the need for clean hands and a pure heart. “I’ve got 13 grandchildren and there’s always a parent saying to one, ‘Go and wash your hands!” Similarly, God reminds his children to wash their hands, she said. “We often go straight to the selfish intercession first when we haven’t done the repentance bit first,” she said.
“If I don’t have clean hands there won’t be any fire on my ministry,” Briscoe said. “I’ll be like the prophets of Baal and will have to repair the altar of the Lord.” She added, “There is carnage in ministry today because people are not living with clean hands. And there, but by the grace of God, go every one of us.”
4. We know ourselves loved. At a recent conference for ministers and their wives, Briscoe learned that three-fourths of those present had been terminated by a church at some point in their ministries. “The pain in that conference was incredible. I was overwhelmed listening to stories I could not believe.”
Briscoe responded, “If you do not know that you are loved of God, affirmed by God and get your encouragement from him alone, you will not survive in a situation like this.” Just as a flight attendant advises passengers to secure an oxygen mask on themselves before aiding any children, Briscoe said, “Breathe in that wonderful air and then you’ll be able to rescue and help others. We’re too busy shoving oxygen masks on everybody else’s face.”
5. Think yourself clear. Briscoe recalled taking her preschool children out of their playpen as she stepped into the fenced area with her cup of tea and Bible. “I was away from their sticky little fingers for just 15 minutes,” she remembered, telling her children she needed to spend time with Jesus. Her oldest son, David, looked at his 2-year-old sister, asking, “‘Can you see Jesus? Mommy said she sees Jesus in our playpen.'”
Years later she heard her son recount the story while preaching, explaining that he learned to leave his mother alone when she was sitting in their playpen, because she was a whole lot nicer mommy when she got out than when she got in. “I was not deliberately modeling anything except desperation,” Briscoe added.
“Your husband is your head, but he is not your brain. We have to do the hard work of sorting this out before God, with our Bible. “Having observed that many pastors’ wives are just taken along on the coattails of their husbands’ calling, Briscoe said, “That’s not going to work.”
6) Hear yourself called. By submitting to each other following the pattern of Ephesians 5, Briscoe said, “You put on your gifting, calling, background, and training together and you will become formidable to God as partners; both submitting to Lord.”
As a result, assumed priorities may shift according to the demands of the day, she said. “I need to be obedient to the priorities God dictates in my life. If we can do that our family is going to do just great; so are our kids. If we teach our kids the world revolves around them, they won’t be ready to reach out.”
Warning against a tendency to sacrifice families on

BFM highlights priority of education

Since 1925 Southern Baptists have said, “The cause of education in the Kingdom of Christ is co-ordinate with the causes of missions and general benevolence, and should receive along with these the liberal support of the church.” More recent versions of Article 12 of the Baptist Faith and Message add, “An adequate system of Christian education is necessary to a complete spiritual program for Christ’s people.”
In June of 1999, an SBC Resolution on Christian schools acknowledged competing worldviews in America and reiterated the primary responsibility parents have to educate their children. Messengers commended LifeWay for its emphasis on “kingdom education” and the development of curricula designed to teach children and youth from a biblical perspective. Included was an appeal to all Southern Baptist churches to support educational programs that follow biblical principles, whether they are implemented in Christian, private, public or homeschools.
Southern Baptist Association of Christian Schools Executive Director Ed Gamble sees the BF&M statement as a mandate to take Christian education seriously. However, among the nearly 42,000 Southern Baptist churches, only 600 or so operate Christian schools on the elementary or secondary level.
“You can’t tell me we have a serious commitment to kingdom education when we only have a little over a dozen schools per state, most of them kindergarten and elementary.”
College and graduate level studies from a Southern Baptist perspective have flourished, with nearly 13,000 students studying in the SBC seminaries and 129,210 in the 54 Baptist colleges, universities, institutes and academies. While Southern Baptists have rallied to fund colleges and seminaries, funding for K-12 education is absent on a national scale.
“If you want your child to have a musical worldview, you have him start taking piano lessons when he’s four, put him in the kiddy choir, youth choir, take lessons and try out for the band,” Gamble outlined. “And yet we say, you go to this public school and get a secular worldview, then go to a Baptist college. That’s too late!”
Gamble sees the job of SBACS as carrying out the mandate of the Baptist Faith and Message article on education. “We need to create a system of schools like the ones that Catholics have, so that every community you go into has a Baptist school. It cannot be done without the support of people, churches and the denomination.”
Kids who are not attending a Christian school typically receive less than an hour of biblical instruction, Gamble said, up against 40 to 60 hours of secular education, depending on the extent of extracurricular participation. With few of those families spending time at home to make up the difference, Gamble said, “The vast majority of Baptist kids are being educated by the Chaldeans. So we shouldn’t be real surprised when they act like Chaldeans” and ultimately quit going to church altogether.
Gamble said parents have three options in providing a Christian education:
–homeschooling that is uniquely Christian,
–a Christian school that property integrates biblical truth into the curriculum, or
–a Christian education that occurs because parents take a vigorous, active role in discipleship, mentoring, worldview instruction while sending their kids to a public school.
The decision is largely economic, Gamble said, because the denomination has made no commitment to elementary and secondary education.
Gamble is grateful for Southern Baptists who serve as educators in the public school system, believing they are missionaries in a culture that does not know Christ. “When you get a principle that is a devout, godly Christian you can create a climate of Christian tolerance, but you’ll never be able to create a climate of Christian education. You’re not allowed to. The situation that existed when most parents went to school doesn’t exist anymore.”
He labels the argument that children provide “salt and light” in the public schools as “nonsense.” Instead, Gamble said, “mostly what happens is the salt and light of the enemy winds up infecting our kids.”
In order to train up the next generation of Christian disciples, Gamble said parents have to change their attitude and understand the compelling nature of Christian education and the result of not providing it. “Once parents make that commitment, it’s fair to say that eight to fifteen percent of their income ought to go toward the education of their children in a Christian way.”
Ultimately, Gamble longs for a day when the denomination creates an offering to fund the establishment of more schools. “I’m proud to be a Southern Baptist,” he said, praising the work of the denomination in the areas of missions, benevolence and higher education. “We say that Christian education is co-ordinate with missions and general benevolence. Our job is to make [what’s stated in] the Baptist Faith and Message a reality.”

Canton pastor prays in Jesus’ name

AUSTIN–Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick released a draft of a letter Feb. 6 in response to invocations that prompted some legislators to feel left out when offered in the name of Jesus. On the same day, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst insisted the Senate reinstate a prayer offered by a Jewish rabbi that had been stricken from the official record due to its political overtones, believing prayers should not be censored.
Seven of the House’s first 17 sessions included references to Jesus Christ, including one offered by Canton pastor Mark Moore of Lakeside Baptist. The House letter asks that “the tone and content be respectful of the diverse nature of the body, such that all members of the House, whatever their respective faith, may add their voice to the collective ‘amen’ that begins our day’s work.”
Offering his prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, Moore asked God to “influence this distinguished group to lead with uncompromising integrity” and “with righteousness which is derived solely from you.” Other than a reference to the challenging budget shortfall, Moore did not address any political issue, focusing instead on the need for God’s wisdom.
However, San Antonioan Rabbi Barry Block’s Feb. 5 prayer applied the seasons of Ecclesiastes 3 to current events that state senators will address. He cited “a time to speak” to encourage lobbying for resources to protect “women’s well-being.” Block prayed, “Planned Parenthood saves lives. Reproductive freedom is a cherished American liberty.”
The Senate’s parliamentarian and secretary excluded the text of the prayer from the official record due to its political nature, noting simply that Block offered the invocation. Dewhurst intervened, ruling that “all prayers will be printed as they were given,” according to an article in the Austin American-Statesman, quoting spokesman David Beckwith. “We said we shouldn’t be in the business of censoring prayers,” Beckworth said.
That drew praise from the Jewish rabbi who was quoted as saying, “I am well-versed in the difference between political statements and speaking out on moral issues. I would never offer a prayer that mentions any partisan political matter or an elective race. However, I would not accept any invitation to pray if I were told that the prayer could not address either spiritual or moral issues such as the one addressed.”
Democrat Scott Hochberg objected to Moore’s prayer because “there are a lot of us who do not pray in Jesus’ name.” Such a reference “cuts us out of the loop and that very much says we are not expected to participate,” he was quoted as saying.
The impact of such a House letter is dubious. Even Craddick’s spokesman, Bob Richter, acknowledged, “Once they get up there, they can say what they want,” calling the letter an attempt to set some ground rules. While Craddock, a Catholic, was not offended by references to Jesus Christ, he indicated that he understood why others were.
Hochberg, who is Jewish, said he was uncomfortable participating in a prayer that ran counter to his beliefs. “The purpose is to pray with us and the people of this state, and not at us.”
Moore disagrees. He told the Southern Baptist Texan, “The purpose of prayer is to get God involved in our lives and for his will to be done here on earth.” When praying before the House, Moore said he asked God to give wisdom, power, strength, boldness, compassion and endurance to all of the representatives. “If by praying that God would give these qualities to each representative was viewed as me praying at them or trying to proselytize them, then I don’t know what else some would want to be included in a prayer.”
The Canton pastor habitually ends every prayer in the name of Jesus, believing the Bible clearly states the only way to the Father is through Christ. “My prayer would be nullified if I did not pray in Jesus’ name.”
Moore questions whether religious freedom is fully understood by all concerned. “If I am attending an event where a Muslim was invited to pray, then I would fully expect that individual to pray an Islamic prayer,” he said, expecting the same approach by adherents to other faiths. “In fact, I would be disappointed in that person’s faith if he prayed contrary to his beliefs.”
For Moore, it seems that the only religion not being tolerated in America is the Christian faith. “You can call out name after name after name and hear no response, but the moment you bring up Jesus’ name, you have gone too far,” he argued. “In our society, the name Jesus is simply not politically correct.”
Both the Texas Senate and the House invite religious leaders from various Protestant, Catholic and Jewish groups to offer prayers, though no other religions have been represented thus far in 2003. All but one of the Baptist pastors invited before the House prayed with reference to Jesus, as did an Episcopalian, Church of God in Christ minister and a religious broadcaster. Some religious leaders danced around the divine references, preferring terms like “Creator of us all” and “Author of liberty” and “God of wisdom.”
Moore does not believe a political agenda should be promoted in prayer. “We need to get plugged in to God’s agenda and not man’s and this will not be accomplished by praying some generic prayer which gives everyone a warm fuzzy feeling.”
He added, “Christians should not be ashamed that Jesus Christ is the answer to our country’s problems,” thus praying in the name of Jesus. “These are serious times requiring serious leadership and this is no time for Christians to shirk their God-given responsibility to lead. It no longer is enough that Americans sing ‘God Bless America,’ but it is time for America to bless God.”

Invocation of Mark Moore

Our most gracious Heavenly Father, today I stand before not only you our Father, but also these men and women who have been elected by the citizenship as well as appointed by you to lead the great State of Texas. It is my hope and prayer for each of these representatives that they acknowledge your supremacy in all things. You have declared concerning your Son that, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him,” (Colossians 1:15-16). So therefore, under divine appointment and mandate, the members of this House of Representatives are subject to your kingdom.
You, our Father, have blessed this lone star state beyond measure. Texas has been a major launching pad which has provided dynamic and courageous leadership not only throughout these United States, but the world as well. We thank you for men and women of courageous faith who have dared to stand up and be counted, even in the face of great opposition. May you strengthen and empower these leaders to be the driving force for the welfare of every citizen of this state, whether rich or poor, weak or strong, educated or uneducated, young or old. Father, please place within each of these representatives the stamina to fight for that which is right and holy. No doubt, every single member of this select group will come under intense scrutiny and harsh criticism in the hours, days, and weeks to come. I ask in your son’s name, Jesus Christ, that you breathe within each of these the qualities and traits needed to govern in such a way as to not leave one single citizen behind. May each and every one of their votes be cast in such a way that their decisions will always make Texas a better place to live and to raise our families.

I ask you Father to influence this distinguished group to lead with uncompromising integrity.  Impress upon their hearts and minds that the oath of office which they took requires them to govern with righteousness.  And may they lead with righteousness which is derived solely from you.  This House of Representatives mush also be empowered to lead with a fierce compassion.  A compelling compassion that causes them to defend those who weep and to find out who or what is causing them to weep and put a stop to it.

And Father, may these men and women, who have come from every corner of this immense state, have an enthusiastic endurance.  Our state’s problems, which are numerous, especially the multi-billion dollar budget shortfall, desperately call out for leadership.  May you give wisdom to this legislative body to remain faithful to their high calling until they get each and every decision right.  We acknowledge that this type of wisdom surely must come from you as stated in your holy word, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him,” (James 1:6).  Father, we ask for this kind of inspired godly wisdom upon each of these legislators.

Thank you, Father, for these who have committed their time, talents, energy, and resources to serve the people of Texas.  Thank you for raising each of these individuals up “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).  May you bless them individually and as a corporate body as govern in these pivotal and decisive days.  We not only call out for you our God to bless Texas, but it is equally my deliberate and steadfast prayer that Texas might bless you.  I pray all of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our savior and Lord.  Amen.

Invocation of Rabbi Barry Block

To everything there is a season, a time to every purpose under heaven.  A time for despair: For weeks, even month, senators struggled.  So many needs, too few resources.  A time to die:  Saturday morning, our world stopped; last week’s concerns, suddenly supplanted.  A time to mourn:  Yesterday, the Senate joined our state and our nation, America, Israel and India, indeed all the world, in a gathering a grief; daily duties delayed.  A time to work:  Healing is incomplete; but business and budget beckon; the Senate returns to order.  A time to serve:  Even at an hour of tragedy, we preserve perspective on priorities — healing the sick, educating our children, protecting America’s freedom, the Senate’s sacred calling.  A time to speak out:  Delegates descend upon Austin, demonstrating democracy.  Lobbying legislators:  Women’s well-being requires resources, Planned Parenthood saves lives, reproductive freedom is a cherished American liberty.  To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.  As each of us directs ourselves differently toward the Diving, may we search for the sacred in every time. in every season. Amen.


Guidelines for selecting a Christian school

When considering a Christian school for one’s child or children, parents would be wise to consider the following factors in making that decision, especially if there is more than one option. No school is perfect, but these factors are critical in defining an effective Christian school.

Centrality of Christ
–Obsession about making Christ preeminent in all the school’s operation and programs
–Interviews give some evidence of that obsession

High view of the Scriptures
–Read school’s mission statement
–Ask about spiritual qualifications in its faculty hiring policy
–Ask how the Scriptures are integrated into the curricula
–Observe a few classes if permitted

Serious commitment to academic integrity
–Find out what textbooks the school uses; if all come from one Christian publisher, be cautious
–Ask about faculty hiring policy
–Teachers’ academic credentials to teach the subject/s assigned, e.g., the mathematics teacher has a mathematics major
–Operation monies and plan for faculty enrichment, e.g., workshops, advanced degrees, seminars

Discipline policies and procedures
–Awareness of dangers of legalism in disciplining children and young people
–Commitment to exhibiting grace in the context of maintaining discipline

The role of the board in the operation of the school
–Does the board empower the administration to hire and fire?
–Does the board empower the administration to handle discipline, especially suspension and expulsion?

Understanding of the role of a Christian school in supporting its families
–Evidence of cooperation with feeder churches
–Understanding that the Christian school is not to replace the local church in lives of its students and families
–Understanding the strategic role of the Christian school in providing Kingdom education for its students

Partnership takes SBTC to Northwest

IRVING, Texas – With sights set on the second largest population center in the Pacific Northwest, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention entered a partnership with the Interstate Baptist Association (IBA) in Portland, Oregan, for the purpose of strengthening existing churches and planting new congregations in the pioneer area.
The three-year partnership seeks to connect SBTC churches with the frontier of evangelism in the United States, said Robby Partain, SBTC senior associate for church planting.
The IBA is a fellowship of about 78 churches, of which more than a half average fewer than 50 in worship services. The mission statement of the association, “carrying out the great commission through strengthening and starting churches,” also serves as the strategy for the partnership.
SBTC churches will be encouraged to connect with a partner church within the IBA, said Robin Butler, executive director of missions for IBA, who hopes the relationships between churches will facilitate vision trips and short-term mission trips.
“My hope is that the partnership will help Interstate accomplish their vision, every IBA church connected to a partnership church, and mission of starting and strengthening churches,” Partain said. “I would like to see church-to-church relationships develop that lead to specific missions endeavors over a period of years. What a great expression of Empowering Kingdom Growth that would be!”
Mission ventures between churches of the two groups would target the association’s community which includes two major metropolitan areas including Portland and Vancouver, Washington. According to the North American Mission Board, an estimated 90 percent of the 2.2 million population of the Pacific Northwest do not possess a relationship with Jesus Christ.
An IBA fact sheet about the region reports that several of its areas with a population of 50,000 or more do not have a Southern Baptist church. The ratio of resident Southern Baptist church members to the total population in Lubbock, Texas equals one SBC church member to four people. Compared to Portland, the ratio is one Southern Baptist church member to 210 people.
“These folks are certainly lost, but it isn’t a belligerent lost,” Butler said, of the population of the Greater Portland Metroplex. “It is more like when Paul walked into Athens and he said to those Athenians, ‘I see that you have many, many gods and I notice your statues. You have this one to the unknown god.’ That is where our people are.”
Butler also noted that even though the area has a spiritual climate, it is not a Christian climate.
“The people are spiritual enough, but it just not the Christian faith. It is not much of anything. It is kind of a mix of new age, a little eastern mysticism and a little bit of Christianity kind of thrown into the blender together. It is an amalgamation of spiritual beliefs,” he said.
Although the area follows the trend of mixing beliefs from different religions, Butler said traditional ministries will be utilized to reach the lost.
“The greatest way churches can have an impact in their community is the same way any other church can – there isn’t a different formula. It is about talking to people about Jesus,” he said, naming door-to-door interaction through the FAITH evangelism strategy, Vacation Bible School clinics, sports camps, and other Southern Baptist outreach efforts. Short term trips will help IBA “work the field and to be the field hands for Jesus.”
SBTC churches have already committed to partner with IBA congregations. Butler said a group from the Dogwood Trails Area in Henderson County has already committed to bring a group of about 90 people this summer. This group, led by Area Director Mike Smith and First Baptist Church Malakoff Pastor Robert Webb, will conduct backyard Bible clubs, prayer walk, door-to-door surveys, and train members of IBA churches to strengthen their church. Butler also added that some groups will help with church construction and remodeling needs.
Using the motivation of the Dogwood Trails Area as an example, Partain said it is urgent for SBTC pastors and church leaders to embark on vision trips to Interstate Association. “If the partnership works, it will work through relationships,” he said. “SBTC churches need to help IBA plant the new churches that will reach lost people,” Partain added. “I would love to see every church that is planted in IBA in coming years have at least one SBTC church partner.”
Butler said he hopes to see significant kingdom advances through the partnership.
“If I can get pastors here and in Texas building a friendship and entering into partnerships that runs three or four years, then some significant things can happen out of that,” Butler said, citing a hypothetical example of a SBTC youth participating a short-term trip and returning to the Portland area 10 years later to become a strong pastor. “There is a chance of long-term return.”

Project Cloverleaf celebrates six years

CLOVERLEAF – Celebrating its six-year anniversary in February, Project Cloverleaf has been meeting the physical, mental and spiritual needs of local residents with plenty of success stories to back it up.
Founder and executive director of the program, Cyndi Burks, a missionary for the North American Mission Board working through Woodforest Baptist Church, says she’s just doing God’s work.
“The goal of the program is to lead people to the Lord,” she said. “To make a long-term change in their life, it requires meeting the physical, mental and spiritual needs. If you only provide the physical needs, and don’t treat the body as a whole, everything is only a short fix.”
Project Cloverleaf offers a variety of different programs including housing a food pantry, which serves 450 to 500 families per year and a clothes closet, which often aids fire victims.
There is a uniform recycling program in which the organization accepts used uniforms for area schools and distributes one used uniform and one new uniform to each needy student per school year. Last August, 457 students received school uniforms as well as supplies for their trek back to school.
In July, the organization holds a major health fair. Last July, more than 1,000 people received immunizations, hearing examinations, eye examinations and other testing. In November, the mini health fair is held which provides flu vaccinations, HIV testing, glucose and cholesterol testing.
At Christmas, Project Cloverleaf participates in Adopt-a-Child. More than 135 children received at approximately 7 to 12 gifts each. Two children from one family even received 27 gifts each. Christmas dinners donated by the organization fed 49 families during the holidays.
By far, the most popular program offered by Project Cloverleaf is the GED program, which offers high school equivalency tutoring. Since 1999, Burks has personally tutored more than 600 students.
Burks, who became a Mission Service Corp missionary last year, says Project Cloverleaf provides the hope and encouragement some people were never provided.
“We give them a reason to believe in themselves. Sometimes, we create a different person. Then, they can pick themselves up off of the group and provide a better life for themselves,” she said.
Burks has won two Bell Ringer Awards, which is the most prestigious award offered for literary. She also received the Dorothy McClinton Award for more than 1,000 hours given to literary per year.
With eight computers, Project Cloverleaf also offers Microsoft Office and general skills training.
“We train them on some minimums of Word and Excel?just some basic computer skills for a receptionist or date entry clerk job,” said Burks, working out of her office at Woodforest Baptist Church.
In addition, the organization makes thumbprints and photo identification for children. This program called “Kid Proof,” was added six months ago and has serviced more than 2,000 children.
Project Cloverleaf helps the low-income family, no income family, homeless or according to Burks, the spiritually lost.
“We have applications and conduct personal interviews. We try to find out why we need to help them and the reason for their financial situation. Sometimes we’re misled, but everything is in the name of Jesus,” Burks said. “We try to take people for their word.”
Burks said though the organization does not push religion on anyone who seeks help, they do speak about it to them.
“We always speak about Jesus to these people. We tell them ‘no glory goes to us, it goes to the Lord. You’re getting this because Jesus loves you,'” Burks said. “You can’t talk about Jesus to people who are hurting or in need. You have to show them the love of the Lord. When Jesus fed the multitudes of people, they followed him for days and when they finally stopped for him to give his sermon, the first thing he did was feed them because he knew they were hungry. He met the physical needs first, then was able to share his message.”
“I want people to know the Lord Jesus really loves them. It’s amazing what God has done with this ministry,” she added.
More than 100 people served by Project Cloverleaf have had a profession of faith, Burks said.
“Some people come in and work in the church nursery, some have gotten saved and become members of the church. Some just help out when we need it,” added Burks.
One of these cases is 23-year-old Sunshine Goode. More than two years ago, Goode began working with Burks to get her GED. Goode, who is planning on becoming a bilingual elementary teacher, also received help from Burks with her 1-year-old baby.
“Cyndi is like a second mother to me. She takes all her time to help me improve my self-esteem,” Goode said. “I got saved at the church. I go every Sunday, and I also help them in the daycare.”
In an interview with the Southern Baptist Texan, Burks unveiled plans for a 10th ministry of Project Cloverleaf, called “Beating Heart.” This ministry, a crisis pregnancy center will offer pregnancy tests, sonograms, counseling, and parenting classes. Women will also receive referral information for maternity homes, shelters, financial resources, and adoption agencies. The target date for the center, Burks said, is April 1.
“We can sit back as a church and talk about how wrong abortion is, but what are we doing to step up to the plate to make a difference?” she asked, adding that it is only Jesus that can make a difference in the lives of women. “But we must be willing to open our doors and heart with these young women to show them there is a light.”
Debbie Byerley, mother of 21-year-old Chris, also credits Burks with helping her family.
“We took our three kids in as foster kids 17 years ago. Because of their living conditions, they were behind. They call it environmentally retarded. Because they were behind, they had no self-esteem. I home schooled them,” Byerley said. “When Chris was turning 18, we took him to the social security office and he was two points shy of receiving social security for a mental disability. Now, with Cyndi’s help, he’s two points shy of receiving his GED.”
Byerley added that her children volunteer at the church and help with the organization when needed.
“For Christmas, my oldest daughter helped wrap presents. After [a] recent flood, my kids were up at the church sorting out clothes and helping when they could. Cyndi is good at building self-esteem and reaching out. Cyndi believes in people and makes them believe in themselves. She believes nobody is worthless,” she said.
Burks said though sometimes the situations are uncomfortable for families, Project Cloverleaf tries to assist as best as they can.
“We’re not judgmental. We go into some really bad situations. People are really leery about letting us in, at first. We go in and I think they’re amazed because we make them feel comfortable about where they are in life. We don’t belittle them. That really surprised some people,” Burks said.
This article used with permission from the North Channel Sentinel. Texan staff contributed to this article.