Month: March 2003

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.”

Priority of kingdom education includes starting Christian schools

DALLAS   The proud parents of a newborn listen intently as the pastor prays for their commitment to raise their first child in the admonition of the Lord. Overwhelmed by the responsibility, they are eager to rely upon experienced parents and other church leaders for encouragement.

In the preschool years those parents faithfully take the growing toddler to Sunday School, encourage him to play and learn alongside other children at Vacation Bible School, and videotape his first choir presentation. Each night one of them reads a simplified Bible story and listens as he offers a prayer thanking God for the day’s blessings.

In the protected world that revolves around their home and church, the young parents confidently keep the pledge they made five years earlier. As they take the next step toward formal education, the choices are more complex. The once common assumption that most every five or six-year olds will move from being at home for most of the day to spending half of their waking hours in a school building has changed.

Many Christian parents are re-evaluating the path that best prepares their children to know Christ and serve him throughout their lives. Some will continue to find public schools to be a viable educational option that offers academic challenge and reinforcement of worthy character qualities in their children. Many godly teachers influence the next generation through their commitment to train young minds.

A growing number of parents continue the educational process by homeschooling their children, utilizing a wide range of curriculum choices and cooperative education with likeminded parents. Government surveys placed the number of homeschoolers at 850,000 in 1999, although experts say it could be twice that many.Educational testing results indicate that home-educated children typically surpass the scores of students in other types of schools, earning the attention of college recruiters.

A third alternative is found in the private and Christian educational institutions that make up one-fourth of the nation’s schools, attracting 11 percent of the student population. Private school enrollment has risen 10.6 percent in the last decade – keeping pace with growth rate for public schools. Seventy-five percent of that growth can be attributed to the astounding 46 percent increase in conservative Christian schools, according to Council for American Private Education’s biennial private school survey drawn from U.S. Census Bureau studies.

Christian leaders are challenging churches to establish these schools as a way of achieving the Great Commission, while parents find such schools to be an educational option that upholds their own values. Academics, discipline, a more positive environment, and smaller student-teacher ratios in Christian schools are characteristics that appeal to parents as they seek to fulfill those commitments made when their children were born.

Texan Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, issued a call as president of the Southern Baptist Convention for SBC churches to plant new schools to develop young disciples through education. As members of the SBC Executive Committee gathered in Nashville for their fall meeting, Graham applied the denominational emphasis known as Empowering Kingdom Growth to the educational context.

“I think it’s time that Southern Baptist churches and associations and groups of churches look more seriously at establishing kingdom schools, Christian schools,” Graham said. He told the Florida Baptist Witness that Christian education must start earlier than at the college and seminary level. He urged Southern Baptists to train up a new generation of leaders “who understand their faith, who are able to communicate their faith and to live their faith in whatever their career or calling.”

Prestonwood Academy draws 1,059 students to its Plano campus situated next to the church Graham pastors. He is well aware of the “many wonderful public school teachers and coaches” and doesn’t see kingdom schools as a reaction to public schools. Instead, the choice of public education, Christian education or homeschooling should be a “matter of prayer” for each parent “as it fits the need and the place in life for that child,” he said.

“The world is too much with us and so, while we are not trying to cocoon our children, we don’t want to put our children in a position to fail. I think Christian schools put children in a position to succeed spiritually.”

The director of Christian school resources for LifeWay believes the church is losing its most valuable asset, its children. Drawing on research by George Barna, Glen Schultz told a New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary audience that only seven to eight percent of people identifying themselves as Christian today are biblical in their understanding of life. He looks to the generation now sitting in America’s classrooms to decide whether society is headed for either spiritual revival or moral anarchy.

Schultz said the education children are receiving in many classrooms might contribute to their failure in achieving the Great Commission of the church. “We’re betraying our children,” he said. “”We’ve prepared our kids to go to college and get a good job. We’re not preparing them to think and act from a biblical perspective.”

Research suggests that 70 percent of the teenagers attending a church youth group will stop attending church within two years of high school graduation, he said, half of them never coming back. He cites the way in which Christians have allowed their children to be educated as the problem.

“The end result of all education is a worldview,” Schultz said. “That worldview is either man-centered or God-centered. We tell our kids to love the Lord, get good grades and do well in school. Many schools teach things like evolution, directly refuting our biblical view, yet we tell them to get good grades, and therefore they end up believing these philosophies.”

Waiting until kids go off to a Christian college is too late, Schultz argued. “By the time a child reaches age 18, that child already has formed a general worldview upon which he will build the rest of his character and life,” he said. “Children are God’s homework assignment to parents,” he added. “When I’m through training my child, I’m handing Christ an arrow to use on the spiritual battleground.”

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.

Regional evangelism rally inspires all ages

ODESSA, Texas – “It’s about one soul coming to know Jesus – that’s why we do what we do.” These words, from Ruben Hernandez, director of missions and evangelism for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, stood as a rallying cry for Texas Baptists in West Texas on Feb. 9. “We should pray, we should work, we should testify, we should preach expecting souls to be saved,” he said. This was the goal of the SBTC’s regional evangelism rally, held for the fourth year at Sherwood Baptist Church of Odessa.
About 15 churches from Odessa and surrounding towns brought approximately 325 adults, 160 youth and 40 children to Sherwood Baptist for a night of worship and preaching anticipated yearly by Baptists in the community. Because the conference included a separate meeting for each of the three age groups, entire families received encouragement to win others to Christ.
Jerry Dennis, pastor of Bible Way Family Baptist Church in Athens, spoke to adults, calling pastors to be both morally and doctrinally pure despite great pressure to conform to the world’s standards
“Don’t go along to get along with the world,” he urged the audience, which included about fifteen pastors. He then encouraged church members to follow their pastors as they stand for truth in their churches.
Because of its prophetic tone, Dennis called his message “The Sermon I Didn’t Want to Preach.” However, Tom Hiser, pastor of host church Sherwood Baptist, felt the message was right on target, especially for him and his fellow ministers. He said that Dennis encouraged reaching out to the community but still drawing the line on sin. “I thought it was an excellent presentation,” Hiser noted.
The next featured speaker was Stan Coffey, pastor of San Jacinto Baptist Church in Amarillo and who served as the first president of the SBTC in 1989. Coffey gave an expository message from Revelation 1, describing in detail the significance of John’s vision of Jesus. When one really gets a clear view of Christ, Coffey claimed, he will always want to share him.
Hiser described this message as “right on point, because he spoke right where we are. He just gave us an insightful view into who Jesus really is.”
Coffey ended his message with a challenge to the congregation. He asked to see the hands of all those pledging “to lead somebody to Jesus in 2003.” Hundreds of hands went up across the auditorium, a testimony to God’s work through the conference.
If each person there led one person to Christ, hundreds of new souls would be added to the Kingdom, said Hiser who was astounded at the power of this commitment
Throughout the course of the adult conference, Don Thornton led the congregation in three praise and worship sessions. Thornton, a fulltime music evangelist from Fairfield, mixed well-known hymns with praise choruses and performed solos as well.
The main message of the night was highlighted by one young man at the close of the service. The man, who for a time had been homeless, was led to Christ by one of the church’s evangelism teams the previous Monday. After finding him at an apartment complex, the members presented the gospel to him and purchased food for the man. At the conference, the group surrounded the young man as he professed his new faith.
While adults participated in the conference in the church’s auditorium, the youth piled into the gym. Nationally-known speaker Bill Gravell presented an evangelistic message that included humor to the large crowd and several personal experiences. He called students to be sure of their salvation. Knowing that many in the crowd may be depending on a false “aisle walking” experience in the past, he urged the students to make sure they had made Jesus their own. He also targeted those brought by other youth who may have never heard the gospel at all.
Worship band Destination Known led the youth in contemporary worship, but they also included a hymn portion in their music set. Sherwood Baptist Youth Minister Dennis Houston appreciated this mix and felt that the band led into Gravell’s teaching with great skill. “After that, the students were willing to hear anything,” he said.
Houston noted that the youth portion of the annual conference is also highly anticipated in Odessa and the surrounding communities. “It’s growing more and more every year,” he said. “We had good participation from other churches, including Spanish Baptist churches.” Sherwood’s own youth group brought 50 to the conference as well. “The kids liked it,” Houston said. “Those are messages and songs that everyone that can hear should hear.”
Houston rejoiced over the decisions made by youth at their portion of the evangelism conference. At the end of the night, five students made decisions – four of which were professions of faith.
A new addition to the annual conference was the children’s event, held in the church’s FAITH evangelism program training room. Jon Merryman spoke to the children about his own testimony and encouraged them to trust in God in all circumstances. Merryman had experienced a plane crash earlier in life, and his story of the experience grabbed the kids’ attention
Cara Nelson, a Sherwood Baptist fourth grader, hoped to have the same level of trust in God. “His experience was scary,” she remembered. “So he kept asking God to save him.” When friends ask her about the evangelism conference at school, she hopes to tell them about Jesus if they don’t already know, she said.
“Jon Merryman really impressed our people,” Pastor Hiser said. “He should be dead, but he survived and is helping other people.”
This year’s evangelism conference at Sherwood Baptist was the biggest yet. Hiser has enjoyed facilitating the conference for the past four years at his church, but he also looks forward to visiting other congregations in the community in future years.
“It’s like having a family reunion, and the main event is Jesus at our reunion,” he said. “We were thrilled to death to be the host church, but we’re looking forward to going to other churches so we can participate with them. It’s not an ‘us and them’ deal; it’s a ‘we’ deal.”

Resolution of partnership passed by TBM board

Whereas the Mission Statement of the Texas Baptist Men mandates that we assist Texas Baptist Churches as they lead their men into a love relationship with Jesus Christ that will thrust them and their families into a lifestyle of missions and ministry, and
Whereas Texas Baptist Men believe the Bible is the source of this mission statement and mandate, and are convinced that the Bible is the accurate witness to the miracles that happened (in the precise time and space) as recorded, Texas Baptist Men believe the events of the Bible are historically accurate and that every word of the Bible was breathed by God through those He chose to be the authors, and
Whereas Jesus’ life is the model for the ministries of Texas Baptist Men–for example as Jesus in His miracle of multiplying the loaves and fish to feed a hungry multitude so Texas Baptist Men respond in times of disaster to feed the hungry; as Jesus is the builder of His church, Texas Baptist Men respond by building church buildings which are the houses that local churches use; as Jesus taught His followers to walk in a deep love relationship with Him, Texas Baptist Men respond through Kingdom Renewal, and
Whereas Texas Baptist Men believe that salvation is God’s grace gift to anyone who responds to Him through faith, that believers should identify with Him through baptism by immersion, and that this gift of salvation is an eternal relationship with Him, and
Whereas Texas Baptist Men believe that those whom God calls to Himself in salvation are also called and gifted to serve Him, Texas Baptist Men provide varied ministries as entry points allowing men and their families to be on mission with Him, and
Whereas Texas Baptist Men believe the Bible is the final authority for our faith and practice and the ministries of Texas Baptist Men are God led and Biblically based enabling men and their families to live out that love relationship with Him and fulfill the Great Commission.
Therefore, be it resolved, that Texas Baptist Men go on record, by board action, that we continue unabated to live in an unique affiliation and partnership with the Baptist General Convention of Texas and that we continue to partner with other state conventions in their Baptist Men’s ministry in cooperation with the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and thus we will officially work with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and their churches in a mutually supportive relationship, and with all associations of Baptist churches in Texas to assist them to encourage the men in their churches to be a part of the family of Texas Baptist Men as we work together for the glory of God.

TBM approve fraternal relationship with SBTC

AQUILLA, Texas — Texas Baptist Men will have an “ongoing dialogue and relationship building commitment” with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention following a unanimous vote of TBM board members Feb. 15 at Latham Springs Baptist Encampment near Aquilla. The request for a new fraternal relationship will be considered by the SBTC’s executive board on April 3. If approved, Texas Baptist Men will become one of the many avenues available for the 1,258 SBTC churches to be active in missions initiatives.
TBM has been a self-governing affiliate of the Baptist General Convention of Texas since 1967 when only one state Baptist convention operated in the state. The organization provides many avenues for mission outreach by men from Southern Baptist churches, with disaster relief being the best known. Funding has come from the BGCT, TBM’s Forever Foundation and, most recently, designated gifts from SBTC churches sent through the newer state convention.
Following several years of dialogue regarding how the missions organization will relate to SBTC, TBM’s interim executive director, Leo Smith, told board members, “We have a document now that to me is of God and will allow us to do what our desire has always been, to just be Texas Baptist Men and have dotted line relationships with both sides.”
SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards told the Southern Baptist Texan newsjournal, “The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is delighted that Texas Baptist Men want to provide missions services through an official relationship. Hopefully, together we can touch many lives for Jesus.”
The resolution and faith statement offered by Brian Goodland of Gordon underscores a commitment to assist Texas Baptist churches as they lead their men in a missions and ministry lifestyle as mandated in the Bible. The statement affirms the historicity of Scripture, describing it as God-breathed and points to the example of Jesus for TBM ministries that offer physical and spiritual relief.
TBM will continue their “unique affiliation and partnership” with BGCT, in addition to partnering with other state conventions in cooperation with the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board of the SBC. The resolution further states that TBM will officially work with the SBTC and its churches in a “mutually supportive relationship” and with all Texas Baptist associations.
“The BGCT does not control TBM and my understanding with the SBTC is that they have no desire to control TBM,” Smith said, urging support for the motion. “Wouldn’t it be a marvelous statement of God if this was passed in a unanimous kind of way and we could be an organization that could walk hand in hand with the Baptists of Texas, doing ministry to the glory of God?” Smith asked, drawing “amens” from board members.
“I strongly suggest you accept this and you begin that walk and not look back, but just look forward to what God is going to do in the days ahead.” With no further discussion, board members unanimously approved the measure in a ballot vote.
TBM’s acting president, Andy Andreason, introduced the discussion with a poem decrying men who “persist in building walls who should be building bridges.” Having come to the meeting “very heavy-hearted,” he said, “I was thinking we were going to have division even within TBM. God just showed us that was not the case. We’re still his organization and we can still march down the road as one.”
Andreason told board members, “Jim Richards has read this and is very supportive of it. Charles Wade [BGCT’s executive director] has read this and is extremely supportive of it. So both the major conventions are supportive of this particular resolution,” discouraging any amendment to the language. “I think this permits us to go into every single church in the state to carry out the ministries God has called us to do.”
In 2000 Richards invited institutions built by Texas Baptists to establish fraternal relationships with the new state convention. Affirmation of a “high view of Scripture” and an official expression of a desire to work in partnership with the SBTC were the conditions set forth.
The TBM board responded in 2001 by changing their bylaws to open membership to men in churches not affiliated with the BGCT. However, they chose not to establish a formal relationship with any convention and did not acknowledge the SBTC in any official way, preferring to honor a 33-year-old “gentlemen’s agreement” with the BGCT.
The matter resurfaced a year later when a task force of former TBM presidents and retired staff proposed a resolution calling for a relationship with the SBTC, using language that met the SBTC’s conditions for a fraternal agreement. TBM board members approved that statement by a vote of 44-15. However, Smith, then-president of TBM, ruled that it was not in God’s timing due to a divided vote and set the vote aside.
In November of last year, the SBTC hired Gibbie McMillan as missions services associate to develop a disaster response system and volunteer “builders” network, coordinate chaplaincy ministry in cooperation with the North American Mission Board and establish specialized men’s evangelism projects and fellowships relating to interest areas. McMillan also assists churches in providing Royal Ambassador training and other mission education for men and boys.
Speaking to the Feb. 15 meeting as interim executive director, Smith explained that because TBM is supported by funds from the BGCT, he shared the proposed resolution with the BGCT’s administrative committee where changes were suggested. Wade and Richards then discussed modifications to the final draft that would satisfy both parties.
“Our desire was to be able to walk with both of these conventions and be able to minister because we’re so entwined in all of our ministries with the men from all of the churches,” Smith said.

University model and classical education

The newest approaches to Christian education are some of the oldest-increased parental involvement and a return to classical education. A parent-based method known as University-Model School began a decade ago in Arlington, Texas, while the renewed emphasis on classical education comes out of Moscow, Idaho, with adherents throughout Texas.

University-Model Schooling integrates desirable attributes of traditional schooling and homeschooling, emphasizing academic standards; character-driven student activities; a strong work ethic, with more time for parents and other adults to mentor their children-all at about half the cost of a traditional, private education.

“The immediate goal is quality, cost-effective, college-preparatory education accomplished in a way that gives parents more time for imparting the faith and values they hold precious,” explained Southern Baptist John Turner, Jr., author of Character Driven College Preparation and the dean of character education at Grace Preparatory School in Arlington.

A pastor of Southern Baptist churches since 1981, Turner received his master of divinity degree from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctorate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He described the ultimate goal of UMS is that of “producing wholesome, competent men and women of character who make a positive difference in the next generation.”

In addition to the initial Arlington campus, UMS schools have begun in Denton, Fort Worth, Lubbock, Lucas, Marble Falls, Waxahachie and Wylie, Texas, with four other schools located in Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina and Kansas. Elementary students typically attend Tuesday and Thursday classes led by qualified professional educators, then study for those classes at home on Monday, Wednesday and Friday under the guidance and supervision of their parents.

When the students reach seventh grade, the class schedule shifts to Monday, Wednesday and Friday and study is completed at home on Tuesday and Thursday.As children progress through the grades, the role of the parent changes from that of a primary teacher to a co-instructor, and study guide. In athletics and fine arts, the parent serves as a coach or active supporter.

The test school for the university model, Grace Preparatory Academy in Arlington, has grown from its original 186 students to over 635 in 10 years. Hundreds more are on a waiting list to be admitted. The majority of those graduating receive college scholarship offers.

“Some students take only one or two classes a semester and receive the rest of their instruction at home,” Turner said. “Others take a full load of five or six courses a semester and will graduate with a diploma that is commanding greater and greater respect among the nation’s universities because of the college-simulated training it represents.”

Turner believes all approaches to education are strengthened when parents are meaningfully involved, but he is quick to say that the university model absolutely depends upon such participation.

“To lay the responsibility for America’s educational crisis only on the schools is to fail to understand the issues,” Turner said. “Even in the best of school situations, teachers and administrators must work with children who are products of home environments that both precede them and extend beyond their scopes of supervision. Parents are the ones responsible for preparing their children to show, at the very least, reasonable respect for authority and basic consideration of others so that, once in school their instruction can be accomplished in an ordered environment conducive to learning.”

Because schools reflect homes, Turner finds, “University Model schools are accessing the most powerful known single influence for reforming education in America-meaningfully involved parents.”

Proposed solutions to America’s educational problems typically recommend more time in class, removing students even further from the teachers they need most, Turner said, referring to parents. “University-Model schools are not only empowering and ’employing’ parents in their teaching paradigm, they are also demonstrating the positive differences made when parents know that they are built into the learning process-needed, wanted and expected.”

Another crusader for an educational reformation is Douglas Wilson, one of the founders of Logos School in Idaho. In order to be Christ-centered, Christian education must be more than a baptized secularism, Wilson said in Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning.

Wilson observed the way life in the western world, including the theological and intellectual history, laws and social customs have grown out of the heritage of the ancient Hebrews, Greeks and Romans. As the gospel spread thoughout the ancient classical world, the early Christians developed a teaching method which revolved around what were called the Seven Liberal Arts, he explains.

The first three of these Seven Liberal Arts were called the Trivium and comprised the means by which students were given the “tools of learning.” Adoption of the Trivium as a method of instruction is essential to the formation of a classical school. The first part, grammar, concerns the particulars of any given subject. Logic is the second and deals with the reasoning which ties all the various particulars together. Rhetoric is then used to teach the students how to express what they have learned in a polished and effective way.

The Trivium is a teaching model that seeks to tailor the curriculum subject matter to a child’s cognitive development. Concrete thinking and memorization of the facts of the subjects is the focus of elementary school, analytical thinking and understanding of the subjects begins in middle school while abstract thinking and articulation of the subjects is emphasized in high school.

Classical Christian education is also characterized by exposure to the history, art and culture of Western Civilization, including Latin and Greek, reading of the Great Books of Western Civilization and the Christian tradition through the study of philosophy and literature and the development of a biblical worldview with “theology in its proper place as the Queen of the Sciences.”

“From the chanting grammar of the elementary students, to the logic class in junior high, to the inventive rhetoric and study of literature by the high school students, the various stages of the Trivium are thoughtfully lined up with the abilities and desires of the students,” Wilson explained.

What Parents Do

Training our children is one of our most important tasks. The lives we impact through our ministries and careers are a legacy of those who taught us; our children’s life impact will be part of our own legacy. Our duty in this area is a whole. It is not limited to the lessons stereotypically associated with our homes. Forming a child’s character is usually the focus of Christian messages on the subject, and this is important. It is part, not the whole of what we must teach our kids. All the things our children need to know are our responsibility, whether we teach them or someone designated by us does the work. We will answer for our stewardship over our children’s education.

Well-known passages in Proverbs 22, and Deuteronomy 4 and 6 highlight our duty to teach our children the ways of the Lord. Tammi and I have always considered this to include walking and talking and discernment and reading as well as spiritual growth. The words “teach” in Deuteronomy and “train” in Proverbs render two different words in Hebrew. The first describes the impartation of knowledge, in this context the ways of the Lord. The second calls on us to show and demonstrate what our kids should be. In both words, parents superintend the work. The ways of the Lord can rightly describe an endless variety of true things. Our curriculum is thus enormously broad.

Look at it another way. Our children depend on us for critical knowledge starting well before we hear our first barrage of “whys.” Almost all of what they know and know how to do comes directly from us for their first few years. It should not be a given that at six or seven years we send our children to learn from others and assume that things will turn out right. Neither common sense nor Scripture give us sound reasons to expect that will happen without our close involvement.

Make a knowledgeable choice, one that takes into account the unique nature of each child. The use of the singular “child” in Pr. 22 (“train up a child?”) implies that you train each one in the way he should go, not adopt some cookie cutter solution. When we started home schooling, we had friends and family members who would often ask how long we planned to teach our children at home. They asked hopefully as if we might have repented our choice. Our answer was honest and probably disconcerting. “This year, we’ve not decided what’s best for next year yet.” That has been our practice from the beginning. One year, we had one child in private school, one in home school, and one in public school. Three appropriate solutions for three different people. At one point or another, each of our kids has tasted of each option. Understand that the choice you make, whether you make it by default or intentionally, is one you will be held accountable for. The outcome and the process must be of interest to parents.

For over a decade, home schooling was our method of preference. We weren’t mad at anyone but believed the attention we could give our kids would allow them to flourish according to the gifts God had given them. Our experience tells us that the outcome more than justified the sacrifices we made in that work. Friends have had great experiences in private and public schools. The academic performance of some of these kids has compared well with that of our children–way above the norm. This is primarily because of the part, the primary part that each set of parents has played in educating their kids, not because of the method chosen or the inherent intelligence of the children.

Maybe this is the secret we’ve sought for years in the face of poor performance by our nation’s students. If I hear public school teachers cry out for one thing most consistently, it is parents who care about the education of their children enough to get involved. They don’t usually ask for the things we give them instead, not more pay or smaller classes or more extensive bureaucracy above them or more guidance counselors or computers in each classroom.

If this is the answer, our churches have something our nation’s families need. We must equip and encourage our families to do their spiritual duty. Churches must also assist single parent homes to do alone work that is more than enough for two. Public school teachers must also be encouraged in their work and trained to incorporate their faith into what they teach and how they relate to children and parents. It is difficult and vital work they do. Christian public school teachers are the true missionaries in our government institutions, not our children.

Christian schools, if we start them, must be different and not just separate. Spiritual discernment and maturity should be a more basic qualification for Christian school teachers than an education degree. Our Christian schools must be something more than a poorly-equipped public school plus a chapel hour. The university model described in this issue is a good and effective model. We chose our current home partly to be close to such a school. Nothing this side of home schooling has invited and required parental involvement to the degree we’ve seen in the university model.

Our government also has a responsibility to help or at least not hinder parents as they take the lead in educating their own children. Any kind of voucher system would arrive too late to help my family so my motives are pure when I say that this is a common sense approach that deserves broad support. Vouchers are not government support for religion but rather fair treatment for families who want to make private educational choices. Giving parents this choice with the use of their own money will result in better education for our children–the stated goal of so many failed and expensive programs already.

March is a Time for Families

March is usually the month of spring break. When I was a pastor I knew that one of two things were about to happen: There would be a special student event or families were about to scatter. Sometimes both happened. Schools were different in the pre-social revolution of the ’60’s when I was growing up. They did not worry about political correctness. We had “Easter break” back then. It would be Friday before and Monday after or maybe even a half week. We almost never got a whole week. Our son Nathan is getting two weeks off for spring break this month! He is my reason for writing.

As some of you know, June and I are later-in-life parents. While most people our age have grandchildren, we have a twelve year-old. [I thought this was a good story until I was with Sam Douglas, pastor of Ridgecrest Baptist in Greenville last month. He is fifty-two and his wife is having a baby.]

There is nothing like having a kid in the house. I cut the TV on to watch the news and it always comes up the Cartoon Network. It was baseball tryouts and a basketball game all in one day last Saturday. We find notes from school about events that happen tomorrow although the notice was sent a week ago. Hamburgers, pizza, and junk food are regular fare. It would drive someone at Cooper Clinic crazy.

How many questions can a kid ask? I never feel so stupid, unintelligent or ill-prepared as when some of the most profound questions roll off of my twelve-year old’s lips. And of course, don’t even think about beating him at a video game, I quit that a couple of years back. Now he is 5’6″ and 165. I don’t even want to wrestle him.

Hunting and fishing had to be a recessive gene going back to an uncle or grandfather. I like fishing OK, but Nathan would just as soon stay out in the woods or on the lake all the time. How can a city boy have this attraction to something that makes you get up before daylight rambling around in foul weather? Even when we end up with nothing at the end of the day, he wants to go back.

God blessed us with two wonderful daughters. We enjoyed them. But I wish I had known then what I know now. I would have enjoyed them growing up even more. June and I praise the Lord for the blessing those girls are to us.

Well, this spring break I don’t know what we will do. It may not be a special trip, but we are going to “hang-out” with Nathan. You see one of the things we have learned, is that one day he will move on and spring break just won’t be what it is now. We trust that God will bless him and use him in the days ahead. Who knows, maybe in a few years we might have grandchildren to “hang-out” with during spring break.

Take time to tell some family member you love them. Enjoy your spring break.