Month: July 2003

A lion among Southern Baptists

An army of deer led by a lion is more to be feared than an army of lions led by a deer. -Philip II of Macedon.

An army of lions led by a deer will never be an army of lions

-Napoleon Bonaparte

Leadership is everything. In sports, in business, in battle, in church, groups of competent people will mill around seeking someone who has a clue and who is willing to expend himself for the shared goals of the larger body. Without him they will languish. All of us have experienced the similar situation of a less gifted group brought together successfully by the right person at the right time.

Perhaps Southwestern Seminary has found its lion. Paige Patterson has shown so many characteristics of outstanding leadership throughout his ministry. You can read his resume and testimonials elsewhere in this issue of the TEXAN. Read those for yourself and you’ll get a picture of the best man for the job. Even those who disagree with him must acknowledge his gifts and character. Consider some further benefits that may accrue to Southwestern and to Texas as God blesses Dr. Patterson’s ministry here.

Texas is in sore need of a clear theological dialog. Academicians are the most fit and credible spokesmen for such a debate. Moderate schools at Baylor and Hardin-Simmons will, by definition, sound an uncertain note. Southwestern has not been adequately engaged in our theological debate for many years. Part of Dr. Patterson’s nature is to joyfully engage critical issues that bear on the health and mission of the churches. So-called “openness of God” theology has a firm hold among Texas moderates and is little-understood among Texas Southern Baptists. Amazingly, this assault on God’s nature has not been adequately exposed and refuted in our state. I predict that will change. We will welcome the help.

We also need an advocate and leader in cooperative missions. Dr. Patterson has led Southeastern Seminary to the forefront of North American missions with a church planting project in New Hampshire. Students from SEBTS have also leaped into some of the most dangerous international mission fields. This contagious spirit of missionary adventure has characterized Dr. Patterson’s ministry for decades. The influence of a revitalized Southwestern Seminary will help to counter the “Texas first and Texas only” mentality that has captured some of our Baptist brethren.

Then there is Southwestern itself. Well-funded and well-kept, the seminary is poised to become something more than it is. A theological school is not a monastery where the focus is inward and sterile. It is a laboratory for learning and doing kingdom business. It should also be a source of encouragement and role models for the region’s churches and pastors. A seminary should lead in the investigation, understanding, and implementation of God’s revelation of himself and his will. Southwestern today is a solid, stable theological school. Add to those foundational traits some energetic creativity, and you’ll have not only the largest of seminaries but also a world leader in theological education. As a Southwestern alumnus who lives in Texas, this is an exciting possibility to me.

Now friends, please read to the end before you write me. It’s a struggle to express excitement about the future without criticizing the past by comparison. When we praise someone, his peers may smart at what is not being said of themselves. I know these things and don’t need to be told of Southwestern’s past accomplishments or current strength. I believe those things already. Dr. Patterson was correct in pointing out the solid foundation Ken Hemphill laid for the future of Southwestern. As I said, the school is poised for the next step of ministry. Neither do the opening quotes imply that Southwestern’s current faculty is made up of deer as compared to lions. I don’t know most of these men and women. It is likely that Southwestern has a mix of both species. The point is and always was the leader. If you disagree with my point that Paige Patterson is the best leader that Southern Baptists have to offer Southwestern Seminary, we’ll just have to disagree. But don’t make this article about past leaders or a criticism of past glories. Those who focus on guarding the school’s legacy from its potential are missing the best. It’s about the future.

It is also true that no mere man is our savior. The true lion is the Lion of Judah.  Paige Patterson is a lion among men because he follows and gifted by the true Lion.  Give me a break with my metaphor, though.  Philip and Napoleon are demonstrably correct in noting that a gifted and bold leader will hearten any cause or body of men beyond their own talents.  At this time and for the future, Southwestern needs this. Texas needs this.

SBC president asks Southern Baptists to salt

PHOENIX?Texas pastor Jack Graham, in his president’s address at the 146th annual meeting of the 158-year-old Southern Baptist Convention, June 17, told messengers he knew he was stating the obvious.

“If we are going to make a difference, we of course must be different,” he said, challenging Southern Baptists to represent Christ to a decaying culture.

Citing a familiar passage from Matthew 5:13-16 about Christians being “salt and light,” Graham recounted Jesus’ description of how a citizen of the Kingdom of God is to live.

While it may be difficult to define the Kingdom, it is essential to demonstrate the Kingdom, he stated, referring to this year’s convention’s theme ? Kingdom First. And although the concept is commonly understood by Southern Baptists, Graham said there seems to be little difference between “the way Christians live today ? or professing Christians ? and the way the world lives.”

Elaborating on the words of Sir Winston Churchill, Graham spoke of the opportunities each person has to make a difference.

“To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared and unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.”

Graham challenged Southern Baptists to rise to their “finest hour” at a time of “an ever darkening and increasingly decaying world” in which people seem to invent new ways to demonstrate “sinful depravity.” That should not surprise God’s people, he said, recalling the apostle Paul’s warning in 2 Tim 3:13 that “in the last days, evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”

The optimism of the 1990s encouraged by a flourishing economy and seemingly impregnable national security was erased by the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on America, he said.

“Once again, we recognized the face of evil and the weight of sin,” Graham admitted.

“Some would say we should pack it in, go to our churches and worship and wait for the next bus to heaven. Some would say the world is going to hell and there’s not anything we can do about it.”

Strongly disagreeing, he insisted, “There is something we can do about it. There is something we must do about it. Future generations, our own children and our grandchildren, for their sake, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, we must make a difference for the cause of our King.”

That occurs by penetrating the decay of the culture and illuminating the darkness with the mission and vision of God rather than “retreating into some Christian subculture,” he added.

“It seems that in our time the world wants to hear every view but our view, and then they even have the audacity to blame the problems of the culture and society on us. We have been called in recent days terrorists and bigots. … You are the national scapegoat,” Graham said, adding that it reminded him of the biblical account of King Ahab calling the prophet Elijah a “troubler of Israel.”

“Elijah shot back,” Graham said. “‘It’s not me. You, O king, you are the troubler of Israel because of your idolatry.'”

Graham drew applause when he challenged Christians not to retreat in the face of persecution. Instead, “run to the roar of our king and the king’s battle, and we will win the day. May God give us the lion heart of our King.”

While some forces are attempting to silence believers, discouraging them from influencing schools, workplaces and lifestyles, Graham said Christians cannot “resist the rub and the call of God to penetrate our world.”

“Can you imagine the moral condition of our world if it were not for Bible believing, Kingdom-living Christians?” asked Graham.

“Can you imagine where we would be, for example, on the abortion issue in our times were it not for the salty influence and penetrations of God’s people at this particular time?”

Graham said people in the United States will not be made better nor the world changed through social programs, education, and legislation or even in electing the right president.

“There is only one way to change the world, and it is by changing people’s hearts. And the only way to change people’s hearts will be by the life-changing, unique and only message of truth ? the message of Jesus Christ,” he said, referring to the exclusivity of the gospel. “The cultural solution, the moral solution of our time is a salt solution.”

As a part of this process of preservation, Graham said the salt penetrates, irritates and stimulates. He pointed to the need for Christians to resist rottenness in order to combat evil and deter decadence.

Year’s recap proves missions priorities

PHOENIX – Southern Baptists supported 5,364 international missionaries serving in 15 regions reaching 1,497 people groups. Half of the 1,032 newly-appointed missionaries serve in World A in restricted locations where there is limited access to the gospel.

Over 99 percent of SBC missionaries had no problem signing an affirmation of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 last year and those who did are seeking other employment.

Missionaries baptized more than 421,436 new believers and planted 8,369 churches last year?a 42.5 percent increase over the previous year.

Southern Baptists are giving at record levels to mission endeavors, but those resources are not keeping pace with the number of new missionaries awaiting appointment.

More than 30,000 volunteers participated in short-term missions overseas, including 4,000 college students and 2,500 high school students.

Southern Baptists started 1,788 new congregations in the U.S., an average of almost five new churches each day. 5,204 missionaries and more than 300,000 volunteers served in missions in North America.

Southern Baptists feed more meals in disaster situations under Red Cross auspices than any private or religious group in the nation. Last year in the U.S. alone, there were more than 15,500 professions of faith stemming from hunger and relief efforts. Another 283 projects in 54 countries were funded overseas.

3,287 chaplains serve with the endorsement of the SBC and volunteer chaplains in the justice system surpassed the 1,000 mark. There have been 17,850 professions of faith reported by Southern Baptist chaplains last year.

Researchers access 6,283 separate materials housed in the Southern Baptist Historical Archives and Library, including books, annuals, archives, pamphlets, microfilm, photos, history files, recordings, periodicals and church and association histories. The website experienced 76,953 sessions.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission tracked developments and gathered information on nearly 900 issues, such as fetal stem cell research, divorce, drugs, pornography, homosexuality and education.

The potential listening, viewing and readership audience from media interviews of ERLC staff surpassed 100 million people. More than 1.5 million listeners heard the ERLC broadcast weekly on more than 600 radio stations. The three-hour, live, call-in program Richard Land Live is available every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on more than 50 stations.

Woman’s Missionary Union coordinated stateside housing for more than 2,000 missionary families in 543 houses offered by local churches.

More than 700 volunteers from 24 states gave 19,145 hours of service at one or more of the MissionsFEST or FamilyFEST projects of WMU.

The Annuity Board increased the number of low-income retired ministers and their spouses receiving direct financial assistance to 1,536, nearly doubling the previous year.

Over 90 percent of insurance claims presented to the Annuity Board are taken care of within 10 days. Forty percent of the $110 million worth of medical claims paid out last year were for preventable diseases.

The six seminaries operated by the SBC prepare more than 14,236 students for ministry at home and around the world. Another 4,292 lay ministers study through 451 extension centers.

The Southern Baptist Foundation ended the fiscal year with assets under management of $206.3 million, down approximately seven percent from the prior year. In spite of declining earnings on assets managed, the Fixed Income Fund enjoyed strong results.

About 6,795 churches have used LifeWay’s FAITH evangelism strategy. In 2001, approximately 3.2 million people were enrolled in VBS with more than 109,000 decisions to accept Christ. Over 100,000 guests were served at the Ridgecrest, N.C. and Glorieta, N.M., conference centers leading to more than 2,900 spiritual decisions.

LifeWay Christian stores served more than 98,000 people and churches in 110 countries through their internet site and maintain 5.7 million accounts through their stores.

Reaction to Patterson’s election underscores

FORT WORTH, Texas — The announcement that Paige Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and conservative resurgence architect, was being considered for the presidency of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary drew reactions from both seminaries, Tuesday, June 24.

During a closed meeting on the Fort Worth campus with Southwestern faculty members and staff, Patterson fielded questions from his potential colleagues on leadership style, criterion for professors and effective theological education.

Terri Stovall, Southwestern’s women’s program director and assistant professor of adult education, said the nearly three-hour meeting was marked by a positive tone.

“There was a freedom for the faculty and staff to ask whatever they wanted. I don’t think anybody felt like they couldn’t ask something,” Stovall said. “Dr. Patterson seemed to respond very openly and honestly even on some issues that may be considered a little touchy. I think the faculty and staff appreciated that.”

After listening to Patterson and trustees at the meeting, Stovall said her initial reaction to the announcement that the east coast president was being considered included a respect for the decision of the presidential search committee.

“My initial reaction was that the trustees had truly prayed about this and consulted the Lord, and that the trustees wanted the man that God had [for Southwestern]. Obviously the committee feels like it is Dr. Patterson — that’s the message I got,” she said.

As developer of the women’s program at Southwestern, Stovall said she looks forward to working with Patterson’s wife, Dorothy, to further opportunities for women at Southwestern if Patterson was elected later that day.

“I really look forward to working with Mrs. Patterson. To me, she has been a trail blazer in theological education for women,” Stovall said. “She has been somebody I’ve looked to often times as a role model for women in theological education.”

While some speculate about Patterson’s compatibility with Southwestern’s faculty, David Allen, Southwestern’s chairman of the Board of Trustees said he has high hopes that “our excellent faculty will work well with Dr. Patterson.”

“He leads by example and doesn’t expect people to do what he himself is unwilling to do. I think the faculty will respond very well to Dr. Patterson as they get to know his heart,” Allen said, in an interview with the Southern Baptist Texan.

SBC President Jack Graham also said Patterson’s strategy of leading by example has resulted in “hot-hearted preachers” leading Southern Baptist churches.

“In the first year of preaching in chapel [at SEBTS] when there was still a great deal of tension in the air, changes were evident,” Graham said.  “Go back two or three years after that, and you’ll see revival – the spiritual transformation of that campus. One of the things he does is to lead by example and to ask faculty and administrators to lead by example, being present, accounted for in chapel — it has worked powerfully and beautifully at Southeastern.”

During the meeting with Southwestern faculty members, Malcolm McDow, professor of evangelism at Southwestern, said Patterson outlined his philosophy for effective theological education. In an information packet distributed to faculty members, the philosophy was defined as “the exposure of the student to great men and women of God, to their lives, to their walk with the Master, to their homes, to their approaches to study, and to their methods of ministry.”

As an outgrowth of his philosophy of ministry, Patterson outlined his commitments to the faculty in the event he would be elected their leader, noting he would “emphasize evangelism and missions.” Professors and staff also learned that Patterson would expect the faculty to remain “loyal to Christ, Southern Baptists and to Southwestern.” Patterson also noted an expectation of the faculty’s involvement in missions as well.

The expectation to adhere to Southern Baptist causes and a commitment to missions and evangelism is nothing new to Southeastern professors serving with Patterson.

According to Southeastern’s professor of evangelism, Alvin Reid, Patterson has created a sense of collegiality around the principles of missions and evangelism.

“What’s great about the faculty here at Southeastern is that it is a brotherhood and sisterhood. Paige has built that by example,” Reid said. “There are those who have said for 20 years now, ‘Let’s not fight over doctrine; let’s just do missions and evangelism.’ He has demonstrated you can’t separate the two. Paige Patterson has done the great experiment, avoiding what virtually every seminary in the history of man has had ? extreme division between academic or theological scholarly pursuits and more practical issues like evangelism. He embodies the blend between a theologian and an evangelist.

“I’m excited for Southwestern – especially for my professors that taught me evangelism,” said Reid, a SWBTS alum. “Because what you will see is a renewed passion for missions and evangelism and perhaps Southwestern’s greatest days ever.” Southeastern’s Director for the Center for Great Commission Studies Keith Eitel said he believes Patterson w

Paige Patterson elected as eighth president

FORT WORTH?Leighton Paige Patterson accepted the unanimous invitation of the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to serve as the school’s eighth president effective August 1. He follows Kenneth S. Hemphill who resigned April 8 to give direction to the Empowering Kingdom Growth initiative of Southern Baptists.

In his affirmation of the board’s decision, Hemphill said, “If you look at the excellent faculty he has assembled [as president of Southeastern Seminary] and the growth and enthusiastic student body that have been drawn to Southeastern, you will discover an eloquent testimony to his credentials to lead Southwestern.” Hemphill said Patterson’s passion for missions and “great heart for the world” will “suit him well to lead the greatest mission-training institution in the world.”

Search Committee Chairman Denny Autrey of Lindale, Texas, said the committee was united in a decision to consider one candidate at a time, finding the current president of Southeastern Seminary qualified based on the conditions set forth by faculty, staff, administration, and students. Those qualities addressed trustworthiness, leadership, oversight of the school, communication skills, and donor development.

Autrey said the committee sought a president with personal maturity and family values, a call to seminary education, proven administrative leadership in higher education, openness and acceptance of all people, and the ability to identify with the heritage of Southwestern Seminary.

In a news conference following the June 24 vote, Patterson said the transition from one seminary president to another naturally causes faculty and staff to be anxious. “The problem is exacerbated by the fact that some of us have certain kinds of reputations that may or may not be fully deserved.” He pledged, “We come to you with open arms, love in our hearts and a desire to see Southwestern Seminary be everything it ought to be for the glory of God.”

First contacted on May 15, Patterson said, “In my wildest imagination I never dreamed I would be standing here today. Nor did I have any particular interest in it,” he added. “When you are totally satisfied and happy and blessed of God beyond any possible way to assess it and someone says, ‘Are you interested in moving,” the answer is, ‘No, I am not.”

His change of heart occurred on June 10 at 35,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean, Patterson said in his letter of resignation to Southeastern. “God spoke decisively to my heart,” he told the media.

Patterson described the faculty of Southwestern as “exceedingly kind and gentle” in the private meeting held that morning. “When the philosophy department went to the microphone I was temporarily stymied with fear that there would be some question about Kantian realism or something of that nature,” he quipped.

According to a source present for the meeting, topics discussed included the globalization of the seminary through the teaching of international students, student recruitment, faculty vacancies, styles of teaching, the broader evangelical community, equality of women and men and Christian education in local churches.

Other closed-door discussion with trustees addressed preparing students for smaller churches, pastoral authority, expository preaching, making evangelism and missions a priority, faculty tenure, undergraduate education, distance learning, seminary endowments, Cooperative Program funding and faculty with membership in churches that are supportive of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Baptist Standard Emeritus Editor Toby Druin quizzed Patterson on whether he would “push for faculty changes.” The president-elect said, “It was never necessary to relinquish anyone” when he took office at Southeastern. I cannot imagine any circumstance in which I would come in and, as you said, clean house. I would prefer instead to motivate on a much higher level.”

Patterson repeated for the media the hiring criteria he had outlined earlier. “The most important thing is that they be genuine men and women of God who have learned to walk with God and know what that means. They must be good husbands or wives and good fathers and mothers. I’m more concerned about modeling those kinds of things than just about anything else.” He said he expects faculty members to be “consistent witnesses for Christ” who “share their faith with people everywhere.”

Furthermore, Patterson said he will be looking for people who are “adequately credentialed with the appropriate terminal degrees,” who have “proven their ability in those areas and are willing to contribute to theological literature” through writing and teaching. He emphasized competence in classroom teaching “because I have a deep-seated conviction that it’s a sin to be boring.” And finally, prospective faculty must operate within the guidelines of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, he said.

The NBC affiliate in Fort Worth latched onto Patterson’s answer as to whether he would allow a woman to teach in the School of Theology.PAN

Paige Patterson bio

Paige Patterson began preaching at age 14. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene in 1965 and earned both a master’s and doctorate in theology from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Throughout his ministry, Patterson has visited more than 60 countries in revival crusades, missionary assignments and study tours. He is an author with books, theological commentaries and numerous articles to his credit. He has extensive editorial experience and served as the managing editor of The Believer’s Study Bible.

Patterson, 60, is married to the former Dorothy Jean Kelley of Beaumont. The Pattersons have adult children: a son and daughter-in-law, Armour Paige and Rachel, and a daughter and son-in-law, Carmen Leigh and Mark Howell. They have two grandchildren, Abigail Leigh and Rebekah Elisabeth.

Before coming to Southeastern, the native Texan, served as president of The Criswell College and associate pastor of First Baptist Church Dallas for 17 years. Before going to Dallas, Patterson pastored Second Baptist Church in Abilene from 1963 to 1965 and Sardis Baptist Church in Rotan from 1962 to 1963. Patterson also served churches in Louisiana and Arkansas. Patterson’s commitment to the integrity of Texas Baptist polity is underscored by the contributions of his father, T.A. Patterson, who served Texas Baptists as the executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas from 1961 to 1973.

Compelled by a burden to reach the East Coast and the world with the gospel, Patterson accepted the presidency at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1992, leading the school to pioneer church planting programs both in the United States and abroad not previously attempted by a Southern Baptist seminary.

In February 1997, Patterson announced the forging of a partnership between Southeastern and the New Hampshire Baptist Association aimed at establishing 50 Southern Baptist churches in that northeastern state over the next 10 years. In concert with the International Mission Board, he led Southeastern to pioneer the first church planting program on foreign soil. The seminary’s classes of international church planting students are sent out on two-year assignments in mission service. Also among Patterson’s notable achievements during his Southeastern tenure include revitalizing enrollment figures from 700 students to 2,200 today.

In 1998 and again in 1999, Patterson was elected to the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention, sharing his hallmark fervor for missions and evangelism he instilled in Southeastern with the rest of the nation.

Graham addresses homosexuality, budget decisions

PHOENIX ? Homosexuality, staff cuts at the International Mission Board, family roles of men and women, the Southern Baptist Convention’s decision to reduce funds to the Baptist World Alliance, and political involvement were among the topics posed to SBC President Jack Graham, during a press conference, June 17, after he was elected to serve Southern Baptists a second term.

“The outreach to the homosexual community is certainly of keen interest in our time. It’s obviously a huge cultural issue,” said Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, when asked about Southern Baptists’ Task Force on Ministry to Homosexuals. The taskforce is a joint-effort by the SBC’s LifeWay Christian Resources and Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission seeking to develop resources for hurting individuals. The eight-member taskforce was formed after the 2001 annual SBC meeting in New Orleans.

“We as Southern Baptists believe that a person can experience freedom ? sexual purity in their life ? and freedom. We do not believe that people are captured by a way of life that does not please God. A person can come out of that lifestyle,” Graham said, referring to a report by the taskforce at the meeting.

“There can be a past tense experience and the cleansing experience of the blood of Christ, the forgiveness of God.”

Because there is so much “volatility on this issue,” Graham clarified that Southern Baptists are not “angry or full of hatred” toward homosexuals.

Southern Baptists “oppose the homosexual lifestyle, but we lovingly and compassionately seek to bring people to faith and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. We want every person to know that Jesus loves them, and that the message of the gospel is for every person,” he said.

When asked about Southern Baptists’ involvement in the secular political arena, Graham acknowledged “support for the policies and the principles” of the Bush administration for the upcoming presidential election.

“We certainly want to encourage the people in our churches to register to vote, to be informed voters, to know the issues, and to be involved in the process,” he added. “Being salt and light includes cultural engagement on moral issues as well as spiritual issues. We believe the Bible is clear on these issues, whether it be an abortion issue or the issue of race.”

“I once heard that the church plays water boy in the game of life,” Graham said. “But I am glad that Southern Baptists are not playing water boy in the culture, but rather, we are in the game. We’re on the field. And we are representing a vast arena of conservative people across this nation.”

Answering a question on the comparative roles of men and women, Graham said Southern Baptists believe men and women have different roles and responsibilities in life and in the family.

“I believe the [breakdown and fracturing of] the family is the greatest social issue of our time,” Graham said, adding that such problems are evident inside the church as well as out.

While Southern Baptists acknowledge that men and women have equal standing with God concerning their personal relationship with Jesus Christ, they also acknowledge that men and women, as well as parents and children have different responsibilities in the family, he said.

Graham said the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 addresses this matter in a way that is both biblical and practical.

Critics of the BFM 2000 have recently set their sights on staff layoffs at the SBC’s International Mission Board after IMB officials cited a downturn in the economy as the underlying cause for such action. Citing a two-year trend since 2001 of 100 missionaries being appointed per month, Graham is not worried about the future of the historic missionary-sending body.

“I have a great deal of confidence in our International Mission Board. Southern Baptists are deeply devoted and committed to world missions,” he said, believing the “best days of the International Mission Board [to be] before it.”

The SBC’s decision to reduce its funding of the Baptist World Alliance from $425,000 to $300,000 per year results from “Southern Baptist not being heard or properly understood on our viewpoints on the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and other issues I am not exactly prepared to talk about today.

“We are struggling with that relationship at this point and endeavoring to work things out. There are issues at stake that are very serious issues for Southern Baptists.”

Facing a $650,000 deficit, the BWA reduced its 2003 budget by 20 percent, to $1.6 million. However, the SBC’s contribution reduction will affect the BWA’s 2004 budget year.

In looking to the future, Graham said he considers his election as Southern Baptists’ 52nd president a “calling from God” and “a sacred trust.” He wants to spend his second year as SBC president encouraging young pastors to remain closely involved in the SBC in hopes of continuing a trend he said shows that “participation in Southern Baptist life is strong.”

From night club to Baptist church

DOGWOOD CITY, Texas – Mike McClure, pastor of Lake Community Baptist Church in Dogwood City, said that legendary country singer Willie Nelson would be welcomed to come back to his church. But if he wanted to sing, he would definitely have to change his tune.

The last time Nelson performed in this small east Texas town near Lake Palestine, the building that now serves more than 100 church members was then serving up drinks under the name of “The Last Chance Club.” The bar, dance and pool hall was so named because it was the last bar on Hwy. 155 before going into Smith County, which is a dry county.

But now, instead of people drowning their sorrows and dancing the floors, people are burying their sins and walking the aisle. McClure said so far this year, the church has added 43 members, 31 by baptism.

Begun on Father’s Day, June 16, 1996, Lake Community Baptist Church is still technically a mission of First Baptist Church, Malakoff, but is soon to be self-supporting. The church was among the first to receive financial aid from the SBTC and has seen steady growth over the last few years, totaling nearly one hundred baptisms since its beginning.

Part of the original bar can still be seen in the front entryway and was used as the church’s main sanctuary and later for a fellowship hall. Now it is used for children’s church, while the rest of the congregation meets in the newly constructed, 131-seat sanctuary.

The journey from a bar to a Baptist church was nothing short of a miracle, according to Judy Murray, a charter member who was motivated to action when the “Last Chance Club” almost became a topless bar.

“I was involved in petitioning to stop it from becoming a topless bar, so when it started as a church, I decided to be a part.”

Murray said people from all over the community wanted to help the new mission church. Among those were Carolyn and Tracy Corzine and Jack McClung who recently got together with Murray and the pastor recalling the church’s start seven years earlier.

One of the first miracles in establishing the church was seeing the owner reduce the asking price from $150,000 to $80,000. The price of the building came down partly due to the financial advantages of taking a loss on the building, the intervention of future church member Jerry Everage and Glen Clifton, the church’s first pastor. The owner’s wife was also a Christian and wanted to see the bar become a church, Murray said.

The church had to not only purchase the building but also renovate it, recalled McClung who was the church’s first financial secretary.

“My hand was shaking when I signed for the loan (of $130,000),” McClung said, adding that the church soon went back and borrowed another $20,000 for the renovation of the facility. Since then, the note has been significantly reduced and the property is valued now at more than $250,000.

On two separate occasions, an anonymous giver in the community who is not a member of the church gave sizable gifts to help establish the new congregation. Volunteers came in with rolled up sleeves, gloves and dust masks to haul off trash and air out the stench of beer and alcohol. Tracy Corzine said the facility’s filth was staggering, “It was a trash heap.”

Murray said another example of the community rallying behind the cause was seen when the church’s first pianist, a member of an Assembly of God church, drove into the parking lot and volunteered her services until the church could get someone else.

“It’s rare that you find people all over the community coming together and supporting a cause like this. This church was a diamond in the rough,” McClure said. When asked what would cause church members and non-church members to work so closely together on a common cause, Tracy Corzine pointed to heaven and said, “It was God!”

According to the church’s “Historical Summary” written last September, during those early days the people earnestly prayed that the church’s seemingly insurmountable needs would be met.

“Suddenly, there would be a person or a company appear ‘out of the blue’ and ask, ‘What do you need? Is there anything I can do to help?’ The donor would ask, ‘How much do you need and when do you want it?’ A check for the full amount would immediately be forthcoming.” Members of the Smith County Baptist Church Builders also donated time in helping renovate the church. Early on, the church opened a food pantry, affiliated with the East Texas Food Bank, distributing food to needy families in the area.

McClure and his wife, Kim, and their two daughters came to the church on July 20, 2002, following the church’s first pastor and visionary, Clifton and his wife Dee, whom McClure gives a great deal of the credit to for starting the work. “Bro. Glen got it started. He

Family tops Kingdom Challenge emphasis

PHOENIX ?The message was clear to Southern Baptists attending the annual meeting held in Phoenix June 17-18. Homes in America are under attack, and Southern Baptists can play a strategic role in calling the family back to a biblical foundation.

“We can’t go back and unlive our past,” stated Tom Elliff, aware that single parents or couples experiencing conflict lead many Southern Baptist homes. “But by the grace of God, from this moment on, we can be what God wants us to be ? as a family.”

Speakers at the pre-convention Pastor’s Conference heard similar observations under the theme of “Building Kingdom Families”:

“If your Christianity does not work in your home, it doesn’t work. Don’t export it,” stated Dallas Theological Seminary professor Howard Hendricks.

Dallas author and speaker Josh McDowell told parents they must combat the truth crisis their teenagers face through exposure to secular education and entertainment. “If they don’t see truth in your life, they will walk away from it.”

Evangelist Hank Williams of Asheboro, N.C. warned each pastors that without a family that is spiritually healthy, “You don’t have a ministry.”

On Monday night, Pastors’ Conference President Mac Brunson yielded time to the first-ever Kingdom Family Rally to set the week’s tone. “A church is going to take on the personality and the flavor of the pastor,” Brunson said in planning the conference. “What he does in his family speaks so much louder than anything he says in the pulpit?how he treats his wife, how he treats his kids, what he does with his family.”

Tom Elliff, head of the Council of Family Life introduced the Seven Pillars of a Kingdom Family as guiding principles for personal and family life. They include: honoring God’s authority, respecting human life, exercising moral purity, serving my church, using time wisely, practicing biblical stewardship and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Elliff is depending on pastors whom he called “gatekeepers” of whether Southern Baptists will fully embrace the strategy for saving the family. As the Council launches Kingdom Family Conferences this fall, Elliff said, “Unless the pastor and wife attend, none of the church leaders” can register. “This puts the onus on the pastor,” he explained during a news conference.

The conferences scheduled this fall are set in Oklahoma City, Aug. 11-12; Wheaton Ridge, Colo., Sept. 4-5; Brandon, Fla., Oct. 2-3 and Highland, Calif., Nov. 6-7. In addition, LifeWay Christian Resources is developing resources that focus on both traditional and nontraditional families that will help churches support the Kingdom Family emphasis.

“Although LifeWay has been involved in this for decades, I believe the renewed emphasis by the convention has given new energy to once again say to pastors and Southern Baptists that we do care about the family,” stated Jay Johnston, director of church ministry leadership.

James Dobson of Focus on the Family and Dennis Rainey of Family Life offered praise for the emphasis from their perspectives as non-Southern Baptists. “We simply can’t let the institution of the family be destroyed by the postmodernism that swirls around us,” Dobson said.

Rainey called the initiative “the most important battle Southern Baptists have waged since you struggled over the inerrancy of Scripture. You won the battle for the Bible. If we lose the family, we will lose the church.”

Tennessee pastor Adrian Rogers reminded, “The home didn’t come from the swamps of immorality. It is the plan of God to meet the deepest psychological and emotional needs we have. (Turn to page 24 for more coverage on the rally. You can access the Council on Family Life web page through www.sbc.net.)

As the annual meeting opened on Tuesday, President George W. Bush added his thanks to Southern Baptists via videotape sharing a common value in upholding marriage and family as sacred institutions that should be preserved and strengthened.

The SBC’s Task Force on Ministry to Homosexuals dealt with another issue that affects family values. Formed by LifeWay Christian Resources and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission following the 2001 SBC meeting, the task force described how Southern Baptists can share the gospel with homosexuals and reach out to them without compromising biblical truth. (See page 20 for their report.)

Criswell students participate in Crossover

PHOENIX?Snow cones, inflatable water slides, even a shower provided by the hose of local firefighters could not quench the evangelistic fire of Criswell College students as they shared the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Valley of the Sun. From the heart of Dallas, twenty students led by Alan Streett, Criswell’s professor of evangelism and pastoral ministry, came to the Arizona desert determined to share with as many people as possible.

Kennedy Young, a student from Pflugerville, commented on the Criswell mission, “Wherever we have stopped, restaurants, gas stations?we have tried to talk to anybody and everybody about Christ.”

Criswell students shared the gospel with Chandler, Az., residents at a neighborhood block party sponsored by the congregation of Wellspring Baptist Church, a local mission church. The block party was one of many ministry efforts comprising Crossover Arizona, a joint venture of Arizona Southern Baptists and the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Approximately 3,000 Southern Baptist volunteers from across the country participated in the evangelistic effort. Crossover events are held each year on the weekend preceding the SBC annual meeting.

The students’ participation in the effort began on June 11, at the Interfaith Evangelism National Workshop, “Challenge of the Cults.” The workshop met from Wednesday afternoon through Saturday morning, learning about groups including the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“Learning more about Jehovah’s Witnesses was a big thing to me because we have a Kingdom Hall right next door to our church, and I would like to be able to reach out to them,” said Scott Gray, Criswell student and pastor of Lyon Road Baptist Church in Garland. “In the conversations I have had in the past with certain Jehovah’s Witnesses, everything that I ask them they will normally say, ‘Well that’s what I believe,’ or ‘I agree with you.’ So, I think the conference was really helpful; it gave us a little more insight into what to ask when dealing with people from these cult backgrounds.”

Young was also very interested in information obtained about Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Jehovah’s Witnesses stood out because they are more ‘evangelistic’ than even the evangelicals. They are more consistent to touching the needs of others.”

Jason Valleau, a member of First Baptist Church of Dallas, said he learned some of the steps that cults use to influence people. According to Valleau, “Cults prey upon peoples’ insecurities such as not feeling that they are loved by their parents. Also, cults tend to catch people when they are not in the best situations of life. Some of the cults will do things for you so you feel indebted to them.”

Valleau also stated he appreciated the training he received on how to speak to those who are either already involved, or are possibly considering becoming involved with a cult. “Speak to them in such a way, not as far as just the words themselves, but the process as well, that does not offend them or put them down. Always use the Word of God, don’t just say, ‘You’re wrong, you’re wrong.’ You have to show it to them.”

Dallas native Elisha Fuqua stressed that reaching cult members must be done through building relationships. Through these relationships the cult members come to realize that someone outside the cult cares for them enough to reveal the truth to them, she said. Fuqua explained, “Many of the people in cults have been brainwashed to think that there is no other religion. They are it. There is nobody that is going to accept them, and even if they did, it is supposedly a false religion.”

For Fuqua, one of the telltale signs of a cult is obvious. “The thing that I mainly noticed about it was that it is real easy to get cult members, because it is not something manufactured by God, it’s something that men manufactured. I found that to be very interesting,” she said.

Following the conclusion of the workshop on Saturday morning, the students moved on to the field experience portion of their trip to the desert – sharing the gospel.

The Chandler block party drew an estimated one hundred people who were not a part of the sponsoring church.

Almost all in attendance were presented with the plan of salvation, resulting in four professions of faith. Of those who made commitments to Christ, one came from a Roman Catholic background, one from a New Age worldview and two were teenagers claiming no religious background.

Streett related that the group had many strong witnessing opportunities stating, “I spent 15 or 20 minutes sharing the gospel with a girl who is living with her boyfriend. She was convicted because she understood what Christ did on the cross, that he took the wrath of God instead of her. Now she had a decision to make. Was she going to submit to him or not? And she knew the implications in light of her lifestyle?and she said, ‘No. I’m not ready.’ We had several like that.”

The witnessing work of the students did not end when the block party ended on Saturday. The group worshiped with the Wellspring congregation on Sunday, and then the students split into groups. The first group continued to minister to the local residents by serving at Wellspring’s Vacation Bible

</s</sc