Month: June 2003

30,000 young adults turn to God during OneDay03

BELLS?Rather than spending their Memorial Day weekend at beaches or amusement parks, nearly 30,000 college-age individuals sought the Lord on a 400-acre private ranch near Sherman, Texas, about an hour north of Dallas.

“OneDay03” stretched throughout the weekend, climaxing in seven hours of worship, teaching and prayer on Monday, May 26. Led by Louie Giglio, founder and director of Passion Conferences based in Roswell, Ga., OneDay included a number of well-known speakers, worship artists and other Christian leaders.

OneDay’s purpose was to draw students into a “sacred assembly” dedicated to seeking God, reflecting the Old Testament passage Joel 2:15. Maintaining this focus, names of speakers and musicians were not released in publicizing the event. Yet students still came, which Giglio saw as evidence that “they didn’t come to see us, they didn’t come to see people, they came to see the living God.”

This passion to see God drove students and leaders past many obstacles to arrive at the weekend. Torrential rains on Saturday, for example, caused 800 students to be relocated to Sherman High School to await entry to the property on the following day. Expectations of camping in tents were replaced by sleeping bags spread across the floor of the school’s gym, but students were undaunted.

After a night of little sleep, an impromptu worship service was held for an hour Sunday morning, led by students strumming guitars, singing, praying and reading Scripture. The group gave a standing ovation to the school’s principal, who teaches Sunday School at a local church and appreciated the chance to witness their perseverance in seeking the things of God.

“We believe [God] had something very specific to accomplish in each of these lives,” said Beth Moore, a Houston-based speaker and author who delivered one of the Monday messages. She and the other speakers challenged students to make their sole purpose living for the fame of God. Pastor and author John Piper of Minneapolis in his message defined the day as “the gathering and the awakening of a generation passionate for the holiness of God.”

As students worshiped and listened to the call to live for God’s renown, they were urged to take their passion for him to the ends of the earth. To this end, dozens of missions organizations gathered at site to help students mobilize for international outreach. Dt1:PersonName>avid Merrifield of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky staffed the seminary’s booth for this purpose. He explained that Southern and other schools sent representatives to OneDay because advanced training is the next step for many wanting to pursue a call to missions. Several other Baptist organizations were represented at OneDay, including the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board.

For Miki Guerra, a sophomore at San Antonio Community College and member of Castle Hills Baptist, the time spent praising God with so many other students was amazing. As the thousands of students worshiped in whatever way they chose ? standing still, with hands raised, and even on their knees and faces ? she felt the worship experience was “a glimpse of heaven.”

The college ministry of Sagemont Church in Houston had a unique adventure at OneDay03, having arrived at the weekend before thunderstorms rolled in Saturday night. As the Sagemont students huddled under an awning they had brought to the field, they also watched for chances to serve others as they came. “Many from our group helped our neighbors try to find matching tent posts in the dark with a monstrous thunderstorm engulfing the entire field,” recalled Lance Crowell, college minister at Sagemont.

After lightning began to hit areas of the ranch, the group returned to their vans, where they remained for the rest of the night. However, just as those who found other accommodations remained spirited, those stuck at the OneDay site continued strongly, too. “The Spirit of the Lord was so present that I did not hear complaints,” Crowell said. “Those who had everything they brought drenched were in a spirit of peace and joy.”

As Beth Moore noted on Monday, many saw the storm, with a magnitude uncharacteristic for Texas, as a symbol of the presence of God they had prayed would approach in the OneDay weekend. It was this presence that all enjoyed throughout the “solemn assembly,” which began with a wondrous display of God’s power in nature but continued with God’s presence in worship and powerful expressions of His truth.

Crowell wants the impact among his students to last. “I hope that we got the message, and I pray that this country will never be the same because God was present in a thunderous and miraculous way this weekend on a field in the small town of Bells,” he said.

Gregg Matte, who speaks to thousands of students each week through Breakaway Ministries at Texas A&M University, served in OneDay03 leadership, as did Chris Tomlin of Austin. Tomlin is lead worshiper at The Austin Stone Community Church, a recent Southern Baptists of Texas church plant in the heart of the capital.

SBTC coordinates food collection for Iraq

More than a million meals will be distributed to families in Iraq as a result of Southern Baptist churches in Texas partnering with the International Mission Board in collecting food. At least 2,689 boxes were collected at 10 different drop-off locations in Texas and trucked to Houston to be shipped to Iraq in May.

Leading the way for Texas was Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, donating nearly 900 boxes of food. Also in the north Texas area, about 830 boxes were brought to the Texas Baptist Men’s location in Dallas and about 150 came to the Euless drop off location. East Texas churches contributed 350 boxes of food, bringing them to the Tyler location.

Prestonwood took a creative approach by partnering with its nearby neighbor, Albertson’s Grocery Store, located across the street from the church on West Park in Plano, setting up a huge display in the produce department. Participants simply paid $50 for a box of food and the store’s employees then gathered, packed and loaded the 70 pound boxes onto the truck outside the store. Albertsons Store Director Teresa Murphy estimated two-thirds of boxes were purchased by members of Prestonwood Baptist Church.

“This was a very positive experience and we were happy to help out,” Murphy said, saying that church coordinators were in daily contact with the store and the customers seemed to be excited about being able to participate in helping those less fortunate.

Ross Robinson, minister of missions and evangelism, came up with the partnership idea and contacted the store. “We thought, ‘Let’s make it as convenient as possible for the people.’ It was very efficient. Church members would drive across the street, write a check and the store would do the rest.” The church also provided a charitable donation receipt for those contributing.

Prestonwood’s senior pastor, Jack Graham, led the way by identifying the opportunity to the congregation, Robinson said, and teaching pastor Dt1:PersonName>avid McKinley encouraged the Wednesday Night Connection service to contribute. An anonymous donor gave a $5,000 check and at least $2,500 came in as “seed money” early on, Robinson said. The church used that money to purchase the boxes for Albertson’s to fill.

“This has been a wonderful way to put feet to our prayers,” said Robinson, who also coordinates a similar effort for Operation Christmas Child through the Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse organization.

Other locations did not get such a strong response, as at least four drop-off locations received less than 100 boxes and two others did not receive any boxes. Gathering the food proved to be difficult as some of the food items, such as powered milk packets, lentils, and loose tea, are not carried in all stores. Also transporting the 70 pound boxes of food to the drop-off locations was a challenge to some.

Southern Baptist of Texas Convention Missions Service Associate Gibbie McMillan said that the short notice and quick turn-around time also contributed to the lack of proper publicity to get the word out before the tractor trailers left the locations. He said that it’s not too late to send in a financial contribution to the International Mission Board, as “there will be a huge financial cost of getting the food shipped to Iraq.”

However, other church locations rose to the challenge, with numerous small churches bringing in 20 and 30 boxes of food. Each box contained almost 70 pounds staple food items including beans, rice, lentils, flour, salt, sugar, loose tea, and powdered milk

The Iraqi food relief effort received national attention, stirring up debate in the media because it was Christian churches gathering food for a mostly Muslim country and because each box had a label quoting a Bible verse and stating the food box was “A gift with love from the Southern Baptist churches in America.” The verse quoted in Arabic was John 1:17 “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.”

Nationally, the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention stated it hoped it would receive as many as 95,000 boxes of food. The food boxes will take approximately three months to arrive, but so far the borders are not yet open for Southern Baptist representatives to enter the country. Once approval to enter is given, the International Mission Board is requesting volunteers to assist in personally distributing the food to Iraqi home directly.

Texans deliver relief to Missouri

DIANA?It wasn’t unusual for Pastor Mike Brittain to preach at Morton Baptist Church, an SBTC congregation in Diana, Texas, Sunday morning on May 18. After all, he has preached there for the last 20 years, and preached the previous Sunday evening.

What was unusual was that he had been home less than eight hours during the week between those two sermons.

The East Texas Disaster Relief ministry, Brittain and 11 other volunteers left Texas at 10 p.m. Sunday, May 11, traveling 17 hours to the northeast area of Missouri to help out after the devastating tornados had ripped through the midsection of the nation. The group rolled back into town at 1 a.m. the following Sunday.

“God opened the doors for ministry,” Brittain said about their ministry with the mobile kitchen in Canton, Mo. During the week, they served a total of 3,135 meals.

More than 40 buildings suffered damage in the city after storms, high winds and numerous tornados touched down just a day before the Texas disaster relief team left the Lone Star State.

In all, according to media reports, more than 300 tornadoes hit the central states in May, with more than 45 storm-related deaths, including 18 in Missouri. Fortunately, in the area where Brittain and others went, no deaths were registered.

The Texas team was activated by a call from Joel Phillips with the North American Mission Board to go to Missouri. While the physical disaster was evident there, Jerry Jones, a deacon at Morton Baptist Church and also a member of the East Texas Disaster Relief team, said that spiritual disaster there was also evident.

“There is a great need for revival in that area,” Jones said. In a community service held at a Methodist church following the disaster, Jones and Brittain said that there was no mention of God, Jesus Christ or thanks to the Almighty for the sparing of lives. “It was really strange. There’s a woman pastor of a church there whose husband is a Buddhist,” Brittain described. “The community service missed a great opportunity to bring the focus to Christ.”

The people he met “were super” and greatly appreciative of the ministry provided. However, he and others on the team sensed a great spiritual darkness there and following the community service, several went back to the local Baptist church. “We had a two hour service there, praising the Lord.”

When Brittain returned from Missouri, he preached Sunday morning and evening, but didn’t take the following Monday off. Instead, Brittain had previously agreed to coordinate SBTC’s Iraqi Food Relief project in the Diana area. With trucks leaving the area that week, he, Jones and Jim Barry, also a member of the church and the ETDR team, helped package and transport 59 boxes of food and drove an hour to the Tyler drop-off location.

While that may be unusual for others, it’s about par for the course for Brittain. In his church of just under one hundred regular attenders, more than half are involved in disaster relief minister. Their church alone collected 16 boxes of food.

Brittain was also on the scene in South Texas earlier this year, ministering to workers following the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster. Last year, Brittain was in the Middle East watching rockets and bombs flying overhead in the Gaza Strip, while he was providing assistance to those in need.

Perhaps one of the most miraculous things about Brittain was that he is still on the earthly side of eternity.

On June 11, 2001, Brittain suffered a brain aneurism. Doctors worked feverishly to relieve the blood vessel damage but gave his family little hope for survival, let alone recovery.

But God proved merciful, and within five months, Brittain was at Ground Zero in New York City, doing what he loves best: providing disaster relief.

Last year, the Texas Baptist Men presented Brittain with the Parabaloni award, recognizing his work in providing relief literally around the world. Brittain serves as a member of the Executive Board of Texas Baptist Men and also serves as a Harrison County volunteer firefighter.

And if they need help in delivering food in Iraq?

“I’ll be willing to go, but only if God wills,” Brittain said.

SBC president challenges Southern Baptists

PLANO?Much of the preparation Jack Graham needed to serve as Southern Baptist Convention president came at an early age. In a Christian home where his parents grounded him on the Word of God, a grandfather who lived with them read Scripture to him each evening. In a Fort Worth church the pastor convinced him that to preach God’s Word and share the message of Jesus was the primary goal of a pastor. And influential professors at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary taught him to believe and trust the Bible.

The pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, presides over the annual meeting of the SBC June 17-18 in Phoenix, Arizona. “I’ve never attempted anything in my life without a sense of God’s call,” Graham told the Southern Baptist TEXAN. “With that there is grace and provision to accomplish the task.”

Few Southern Baptists are asked to comment on such a range of topics as Graham has encountered the past year. The murder of SBC missionaries, the space shuttle tragedy, the war in Iraq, the evangelistic purpose behind humanitarian efforts, and closer to home, the new missions initiative by the Baptist General Convention of Texas, are just a few of the subjects reporters offer for the SBC president’s commentary. Yet his response on a national level is the same approach he utilized while pastoring in Cross Plains, Texas, over 30 years ago.

“Even though I’ve been a pastor for a long time, I can never completely prepare for the world situations and crises we’ve known in this past year,” Graham said. “It’s important for me to pray and ask wisdom from God,” he emphasized, appreciative of the willingness of Southern Baptists to pray for him and other SBC leaders.

“Throughout my ministry and certainly these days in serving as president, I have collected files from many sources on ethical and cultural issues. It’s always been important to have a “go to file” of materials and a well thought- out worldview that is biblically based and solid on the Word of God.” He looks for guidance on issues of the day in his study of Scripture.

Taking a cue from his grandfather’s instruction that “readers are leaders,” Graham strives to be informed by reading extensively, even beyond the normal parameters for sermon preparation, from books, magazines and newspapers. “It’s important to be alert to news,” he said, appreciative of “a media environment that makes it easy to go online, turn on a television, listen, watch and observe the debate.”

A call from a reporter comes at unexpected times and Graham has to be prepared to offer a response that speaks on behalf of Southern Baptists while giving a message of hope to the nation in times of crisis. While walking with his wife in the mall on a Saturday morning in February, Graham received a call on his cell phone, informing him of the shuttle explosion and asking for a comment.

“I heard a statement one time that the church must never play water boy to the game of life,” Graham said. “I’m grateful in these days that Southern Baptists have had an opportunity to be on the playing field of the great issues of our times. Other Southern Baptists have been weighing in on every conceivable subject. They’re not on the sidelines, but in the debate, engaging the culture with power.”

While his family grounded him from his earliest days on the truth of Scripture, Graham describes the influence of Sagamore Hill Baptist Church pastor Fred Swank as immeasurable. “He encouraged us to believe God’s Word without question and to study to show ourselves approved unto God.”

Graham began to see God at work in people’s lives during the days of the Jesus Movement in the early 1970s. “Those early years established me in my faith,” he said. “I went on to seminary where professors like Roy Fish, Huber Drumright, Curtis Vaughan further taught me and led me to believe and trust Scripture and to minister with that solid conviction.

“When you preach the Word of God it gives you a sense of boldness and authority. I never have to wonder what I’m going to preach next. That was the habit at my first church in Cross Plains to my current church of Prestonwood?to simply open the Scripture, explain, illustrate and apply.”

As president of the SBC Graham believes he must be a voice for Southern Baptists, offering a pastoral and prophetic role. That may involve presenting a gospel that is offensive to many, he said, referring to a life verse of Romans 1:16 to “never be embarrassed or ashamed to proclaim the message.” Truth cannot and must not be compromised, Graham said, “especially in a world in which belief systems are perceived as being equal.”

Greetings from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention

Welcome to this special SBC annual meeting edition of the TEXAN. It is truly a joy to welcome you to a quality publication that uplifts the Lord Jesus and ministers to Southern Baptists. Our desire is to report the news, inspire the hearts of God’s people to be on mission and to provide information. God has blessed us with a tremendous staff and we are privileged to have them working with us.

Let me share with you a quick recounting of what has happened with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention over the last four and one half years. Starting with 120 congregations in Houston, Texas, in November 1998, the convention essentially doubled each year in the first three years of existence. In 2002 over 200 congregations affiliated. At the first of June, 1312 congregations were a part of the SBTC.

Financially, the story is the same. Each of the first four years the churches gave millions above the budget to enable the SBTC to do more for Jesus in Texas, North America and around the world. From a $900,000.00 budget in 1999 to Cooperative Program receipts of over $13 million in 2002, the churches gave because they had confidence in the SBTC. In 2001 when one state convention cut funding to SBC seminaries and other important ministries, the SBTC stepped up and gave over $1.3 million out of in-state surplus to help.

We are unashamedly a confessional fellowship. Churches are in theological agreement. This is not conformity, nor adherence to a creed, but a confessional statement. Our commitment is have a minimal in-house staff. Missions and evangelism is the largest segment of the budget. The Cooperative Program is the giving vehicle that funds ministry and missions. The SBTC is the only state convention that gives away more than it retains in Cooperative Program dollars.

Continue to pray for us as we seek to represent Jesus and Southern Baptists in Texas.

More than navy beans and lentils

“You would think they would want more variety than just navy beans and lentils,” one woman commented as they were dropping off box for the Iraqi food relief.

The volunteer receiving the food smiled, having thought and heard the same comment several times already. “When you consider their options, either beans or starving, beans probably look pretty good,” she replied.

As a collection drop-off point for east Texas, our church had hoped to receive up to 650 boxes. In the end, about 350 came in here and more than 2500 boxes were donated state-wide.

Each box of food ended up costing in Texas between $43 and $50, lower than the nation-wide figure of $59 reported by the International Mission Board. That’s more than a $100,000 investment that churches have put into the project, not including the pallets donated, the trucks rented, the stickers printed with John 1:17 written in Arabic, and the banners made by the state convention.

It also doesn’t include the 188,000 pounds of food which have been hoisted onto trailers heading for Iraq or the hours of donated time by volunteers buying, transporting, loading, counting and, ultimately, distributing the food once it arrives in Iraq in about three months.

But consider the relatively small cost to feed an Iraqi family. Think about the vast need in extreme poverty brought on by a selfishly decadent dictator, impoverishing world-wide sanctions for the past 11 years, and then the tragic ravages of a brief but intense war. Most of all, realize the tiniest window of opportunity to minister in the name of Christ before another Islamic regime governs in Iraq.

When you consider all of these things, the really amazing aspect is not how many people gave, but how many more did not contribute to this unique missionary effort. We in United States truly cannot comprehend people living off a $43 box of food for a month. Many of us don’t hesitate at all to spend $2 for a soft drink or tea with a meal in a restaurant. A family of five can easily spend in one meal what an Iraqi family could live on for a month.

I recently dined in a Dallas with a small group of people at an all-you-can-eat restaurant. The cost was at least $22 a person and the result was most of us literally committed the sin of gluttony, with me being the chief of all sinners that night. We ate until we could not have possibly eaten another bite. In one meal, my wife and I spent an amount which would feed a family living in a mud house for an entire month.

Looking at our grocery bill, let alone our dining out budget, I have suggested, to no favorable response, that our family of six ought to try living off such a box for a month. (And if the truth be known, I’d probably complain the loudest after a few days of the diet).

Several summers ago, I lived for a week with a family in Mexico. There were no trips out to restaurants for this family. Their meals were simple but extremely routine. Early in the morning, the matriarch of the family would make the tortillas, eggs and coffee, the same meal the family ate every day, week in, week out. Lunch and dinner was basically the same. But even this simple, mundane meal would be the envy of our world’s most hunger-stricken population.

To identify with world hunger, the least we as Americans and certainly as Christians could do is to fast at least one day a month and give the money we would have spent on ourselves to others who don’t have that luxury. If health prevents you from totally abstaining from food, take a fast from eating out and instead eat frugally and set aside the proceeds to feed those truly in need.

In so doing, we’ve done it to Jesus Christ Himself.

Criswell College expands programs

DALLAS?The Criswell College is expanding its bachelor’s degree program to offer a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biblical Studies combined with tracks in either humanities, youth ministry, women’s ministry or worship leadership. At the same time, a significant tuition discount is being offered to the children of all Southern Baptist ministers.

Founded in 1971 by W. A. Criswell, the Dallas-based campus equips students preparing on the diploma, associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree levels. The school moved from the facilities of First Baptist Church to its present location on Gaston Avenue, east of the downtown area in 1991. The Vision 2010 capital campaign will provide funding to renovate a recently acquired seven-story building located across the street from the college, adding much needed dormitory space.

Since its affiliation with Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, TCC has offered half-price tuition to children of SBTC ministers. That offer is being extended to all Southern Baptist Convention ministers with children seeking a college education. With the variety of course offerings, students will receive a thorough grounding in the Bible with the opportunity to follow tracks in counseling, pastoral ministry, evangelism and missions, women’s ministry, worship leadership, youth ministry or humanities.

The newly approved tracks in youth ministry and worship leadership are designed to meet the needs of Southern Baptist churches, explained Douglas Wood, associate professor of Christian education and worship leadership. “We recognize that churches are looking for youth ministers who are much more than just activity directors. They want a person with a strong biblical background to be able to work with youth in local churches in a much deeper, biblically-based ministry,” he added. “This degree will blend an excellent biblical studies program with cutting-edge youth ministry courses.”

Wood received the first Ph.D. in youth ministries offered by any Southern Baptist seminary and served at Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, developing the largest youth ministry in the country at that time.

With 95 percent of all people who ever accept Jesus Christ as Savior making that decision by the time they are 21 years of age, Wood said churches should be pouring their resources into children and youth. “Statistically, if we don’t reach them for Christ by the time they are 21, we probably won’t reach them at all.”

Having researched what other Christian colleges and seminaries are offering in the area of youth ministry, Wood developed a program that addresses the unique needs of teenagers, parents and those who lead them. A required internship places students in a mentoring-type relationship with a dedicated youth minister so that the student will have a successful and strong “on-the-job” experience before graduating and taking his own position.

Another new program offering is the B.A. degree in Biblical Studies/Worship Leadership. “Many, many churches are looking for a minister to lead in worship who is much more than just a song leader,” Wood said. “They want someone with a strong biblical background who can effectively lead the church’s ministry of worship.”

Students who will receive the greatest benefit from this degree are those with some musical training either in junior college or beyond who want to add a biblical studies program and courses designed for local church worship ministry, Wood said. TCC is including courses that will help the minister address the challenges of worship styles, while understanding and leading churches in worship that is found in the Word of God. The hands-on approach will include Technology for Worship Leadership and Worship Leadership Practice in which the history and theology of worship are explored.

Students will have opportunities to assist in developing and leading various worship services at the college, as well as completing courses in voice, conducting and applied piano/instruments. Current thoughts in contemporary worship as well as understanding and appreciating the rich heritage of hymns will be featured.

“We find pastors are looking for the best in worship for their people and want worship ministers who have the ability to lead, learn, grow and provide a strong biblically-based ministry to the entire church body. This goes way beyond the music minister of the past,” he added. A required internship will team the student with an area minister of worship/music for further application of skills and knowledge.

Churches interested in providing internship opportunities for students preparing for youth or worship ministry are encouraged to contact Wood at 214-818-1330.

The newly launched humanities track will prepare men and women to serve the church within the marketplace of ideas by better understanding past achievements. “The classics are a critical part of a larger dialog that gives unity to the questions we ask and the answers we find,” the catalog listing states.