Month: August 2003

The status of homeschooling in Texas

The National Home Education Research Institute estimates that about 2 million students in the United States are being educated at home. Texas contains a large representation of those who homeschool nationwide. “In terms of numbers of homeschooling families, Texas has become the leading state in the nation,” states Tim Lambert, president of the Texas Homeschool Coalition.

Lambert estimates about 100,000 families in Texas home educate their children, representing about 300,000 children from kindergarten through 12th grade. That number is significant to Texas evangelical churches since around 75 percent of Texas homeschoolers are evangelical Christians, according to Lambert. “They [evangelical Christians] are primarily homeschooling for religious, spiritual and values reasons,” he said.

Legal struggles for Texas homeschoolers began in 1981 when the Texas Education Agency issued a policy stating that home education was not an acceptable substitute for public or private school education. For several years, the rights of parents to decide where and how to educate their children came under attack, and some parents were prosecuted for teaching their children at home.

Between 1985 and 1987, three legal cases decisively ruled on the question of a parent’s rights to educate their children. Through those cases, homeschoolers received the same status in Texas as unaccredited private schools. To homeschool in Texas, a parental authority must have curriculum for reading, spelling, grammar, math, and citizenship.

Since 1987, homeschool legislation has slowly moved from defensive reactions that protect parent’s rights, to a more offensive stance shaping legislation that puts homeschooling on equal ground with other methods of education. The most recent example is House Bill 944, effective Sept. 1, 2003, which will require state supported colleges and universities to treat graduates of unaccredited private schools the same as other students for admission purposes. Previously many schools required non-traditionally educated students to meet a higher standard than those traditionally schooled.

With the increasing numbers of homeschool graduates, questions about the quality of homeschool education are being answered. Lambert said that ACT test administrators have been tracking homeschoolers as a group, and they score about 5 percentage points above the national average.

Questions about proper socialization are also being answered. Many have questioned the wisdom of removing children from schools where they interact with their peers and develop social skills. In his book Uniting Church and Home, Eric Wallace states, “In my work with homeschoolers over the past ten years, I can say that I am beyond impressed with the ability of these youngsters to communicate meaningfully with adults and others who are not in their immediate age group. This is an aspect of ‘socialization’ that many people forget but is one of the most important if a child is going to function in society.”

Another question often raised by believers involves removing children of Christian families from public schools. Many wonder how Christians can be “salt and light” with decreased contact with the secular world.

Jason Montgomery, pastor of Faith Community Baptist Church in Ft. Worth, struggled with that question as he considered the option to homeschool his children. With no clear direction from the Lord, they sent their son to public school where he completed kindergarten and first grade.

As the Montgomery’s began to think about homeschooling they sought advice from other homeschoolers, both new and seasoned ones. On the question of Christians exiting the secular arena, he finally concluded that his child was not yet prepared to be a missionary. “My kid’s not a little light. My kid’s a little part of the darkness. We’re talking about my totally depraved creature at home being sent out to interact with all the fleshly impulses of the world battling against his little mind that’s not yet ready.”

In his book, The Heart of Homeschooling, Christopher Klicka states, “In many ways, homeschooling is a moral and spiritual revival in which children are being seriously trained in God’s Word, not only to believe as Christians but also to think and live as Christians.” Most homeschoolers deeply desire to be salt and light in their world, but see little hope to instill that in their children if they are bombarded daily with humanistic philosophies.

A Homeschoolers’ diary; a mothers’ journey


LAVON, Texas ? When the Adams family decided to homeschool their 4-year-old son, they were met with predictions of failure. Equipped with only a high-school diploma from the Dallas school district and Mary Pride’s Big Book of Homelearning, Connie Adams sought to equip Steven, who showed signs of a learning disability, with a Christian worldview and the tools to battle today’s culture.

“We began our journey sure of our choice but with some measure of fear of choosing something different for our children than others had chosen in our community and with some disapproving attitudes of our extended families,” Connie said. “Many predicted that we were making a mistake and that we would regret our choice. Others accused us of attempting to racially segregate our children. None of these predictions or accusations proved true.”

The year was 1989, and the legal status of home education had yet to be decided in the state of Texas. In 1996 the Texas Supreme Court required homeschools to meet the standardized regulations of private schools in the case Leeper vs. Arlington (TEA). Uninformed about their rights as parental educators, the Adams joined a national legal defense group called the Home School Legal Defense Association, based in Virginia. Connie began attending seminars on legal issues surrounding home education as well.

In 1989 public sentiment regarding homeschooling was also undecided. Much of the public believed home education deprived children of social skills as compared to opportunities in a public-school environment.

“As a result, many expected homeschoolers to perform poorly when measured against their public school peers,” Connie said, adding that time has shown the opposite to be true. “Public opinion seems to have become more accepting, but I still meet people who think I keep my children locked in their bedrooms and slide papers under the door for them to learn.”

In addition to facing criticism from the public eye, the Adams also found themselves to be different than members of their local church. The Adams were the only homeschooled family in a church where many members served as public school teachers and administrators.

“I tried to be sure they understood that I was not making a choice against what they represented, but that I chose homeschooling because it offered our family things that traditional education could not offer,” Connie explained. “Our curriculum was all Christian based, our science was always creation theory versus evolution and our history curriculum always included the Christian and non-Christian motives of our forefathers in forming our country and its progression.”

Despite a difference in education, the Adams experienced support from their church. A deep relationship between the pastors’ family formed between the two and the Adams continue to emphasize the importance of local church involvement in the homeschooling process.

“If I could change one thing, it would be that we would have had one or more families to go through this journey with us,” Connie said, adding that three homeschooling families have joined the church. “But God knows best, and because we had to be ‘pioneers,’ my children have learned to stand alone even in the face of peer pressure or the pressure of conformity. I count that a blessing and a virtue for the world they will have to face as adults.”

Due to the home education method, Connie said Steven, 19, and Mary, 17, “consider God in every choice they make and look at life from God’s viewpoint when they encounter difficult situations.”

“My son has prayed many times that God would lead him to do what he has planned for him. My daughter is beginning to look at her future and realize that there is no better place than to be in the center of God’s will.”

Steven is attending Collin County Community College in preparation for enrollment at Mary Hardin Baylor in the fall of 2004 or 2005 with a double major in history and political science. As an Eagle Scout and Cadet Commander in the Civil Air Patrol, Steven originally felt called to military service.

“When he was a junior in high school, while praying, he felt that God showed him he was to be a servant to our country through the government, not the military.” Connie said. “Since then he has sought God for ways to prepare and clear direction for paths to follow to be the man God would have him be. Steven believes that one day he will be a senator and that his crusade is to overturn Roe v. Wade and save innocent children. It is a great calling.”

Although also a Cadet Commander in the Civil Air Patrol, Connie describes Mary as an artist gifted in the areas of music, art and drama. Recently Mary attended Summer Worship University, the Southern Baptists of Texas leadership camp.

“I believe this was a week of self realization in who God made her. She was involved in the drama “track” and spent some time with the media people that were there. She is so excited about starting a drama ministry in our church,” Connie said. “She has been a different, more positive person, since she returned. She is so excited about getting the gospel communicated to y

Texas Southern Baptists view Passion movie

DALLAS–Mel Gibson’s representation of the sufferings of Jesus Christ in the movie “The Passion” surpasses all earlier efforts by cinematographers, according to Southern Baptists who recently viewed a rough cut of the film in Dallas. “For the next two hours plus, I sat with a knot in my stomach and a lump in my throat,” stated Jim Richards, executive director of Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. (In his column in this issue of the TEXAN, Richards offers his first-person account of viewing the movie.)

“It is certainly the most graphic and dramatic portrayal I’ve ever seen,” added another guest, Gary Hearon, executive director of Dallas Baptist Association. Referring to the demonstration of how the crucifixion occurred, he added, “I didn’t see anything I’ve not read in Scripture, but I saw it in a more graphic way because it was portrayed before our very eyes. You see the flesh and blood flying as a result of the scourge.” Adding that it conforms to all he has read about crucifixion, Hearon added, “It’s very true to life.”

Southern Baptist Convention President Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, said, “The movie is biblical, powerful and potentially life-changing. He predicted millions of people would see “The Passion” when it opens on Ash Wednesday next spring. “The thing that I’m most excited about is the opportunity it’s going to give those of us who preach the cross to explain the meaning of the cross and message of the cross to untold millions of people who are going to be asking questions about the cross and why Jesus died.”

Graham said he was particularly impressed with the quality of the film, the accuracy of content and overall emotional impact. “There’s no question it is the most hard-hitting display and demonstration of the crucifixion.”

“Graphic is the most accurate word to express what we saw,” stated Janet Denison of Dallas whose husband, Jim, pastors Park Cities Baptist Church. She expects the final version will be even more graphic since the sound has not been fully mixed. “I would not use the word entertaining with this movie at all. It was very difficult. At one point I wanted it to be over,” she said.

And yet she intends to take her two sons, ages 15 and 17, to see movie when it is released. “I have thought about it a lot. I would prepare them, see it with me with them, and talk about it afterward.” She believes the R rating will actually cause more parents to see the movie with their children instead of seeing it separately were it rated PG-13. She recalled several members of the screening audience pressing Gibson over their concern with the rating. “He said it will stay R-rated, but added that the Bible is R-rated” in some of its content.

Graham said parents would have to make a decision as to whether their children are mature enough to handle the film. “It is extremely violent because the cross was violent,” he stated. While many Christians do not see R-rated movies of any kind, he believes the exceptional quality of “The Passion” makes the movie an exception to that rule.

While Hearon does not promote R-rated films, he understands why “The Passion” will earn the rating. “Twenty-five years ago we never would have seen anything like this,” he conceded, adding that society has become numb to the violence in most movies. He is hopeful that the rating will not prevent some people from seeing it that ought to go. “The evangelism will come later,” he added.

That’s the way it should be, Mrs. Denison added. “I think he is concerned that people deal with it,” describing Gibson’s desire “to simply put it in front of them and make them need to choose.” She added, “That’s where he is going to stop it and I think that’s decent evangelism. When it comes down to it, it’s an individual choice. You cannot leave that movie and not think about what you just saw; asking did it really happen and why.”

Ed Young Jr. of Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, has no doubt that the movie will be one of the greatest evangelistic tools in modern day history. “I think people will go to it and then flood into the churches seeking to know the deeper implications of the movie. That’s where we have a chance to capitalize.”

Hearon added, “It’s a very clear gospel presentation of the last eleven or twelve hours of Christ’s life.” He observed some things in the movie that are not in Scripture, per se, but found no problem with its veracity.

“As Protestants, we may think there’s a little bit greater emphasis on Mary,” Mrs. Denison, referring to settings in which she was present even when Scripture does not confirm her participation, specifically citing the scourging of esus.  “I have no problem with that.  Richards also mentioned the same scenario, adding that nothing was included that violated Scripture in the limited number of extra-biblical scenes.

Hearon disallowed the criticism of an Anti-Defamation League spokesman objecting to the movie’s portrayal of Jews as being responsible for the crucifixion.  “All you have to do is read the gospels.  The Romans crucified Jesus, but the Jewish leadership delivered him up to be crucified.  The gospel is clear in that.”

Mrs. Denison added, “You’re arguing with the script which he took from the Scripture.”  She said critics ought to take the matter up with the Bible as opposed to the person presenting the message of the Bible.

“Anyone with open mind knows this is a story of faith, hope, forgiveness and sacrifice willingly given,” Graham said.  “No one is placing the blame on anyone.  We all share the blame for the death of Christ in that we have all shared in sin.  The issue is not who killed Jesus,” he insisted.  “The issue for everyone is who will respond to this great love of God.”

“The bottom line is that our sin nailed Christ to the cross,” Young added.  “The movie crosses all barriers to black, white, Jew, Gentile, white collar, pink collar, blue collar.  The whole message is one of love and forgiveness and grace.

Putting the focus on the portrayal of Jews misses the point, Hearon observed.  “Of the 250,000 people who were crucified, only one came back to life,” he reminded.  Furthermore, Hearon said, “The Jews didn’t take Jesus’ life.  The Romans didn’t take his life.  He laid it down voluntarily,” an emphasis that he found clearly presented in the movie.  “Jesus gave his life for the salvation of the world, Jews and Romans included.  They didn’t take his life.”

Graham also found the scene Hearon described as the most moving theme of the entire presentation.  “The movie clearly portrays Christ as laying down his life voluntarily.  Jesus was laying down his life in love for the sins of the world,” Graham reminded, quoting John 10:18, “No man takes my life form me, but I lay it down of my own accord.'”

After the bludgeoning beating, Graham said the scene moved to the road as Jesus carried the cross, then collapsed at the place called Calvary.  “Gibson portrayed Jesus as crawling, laying himself down on the cross.  It was an incredible demonstration of the love of God and heart of Jesus to give himself as a sacrifice.”

Mrs. Denison observed that Gibson had made a movie that “is not particularly commercially viable,” recalling his explanation that he “wanted people to come and leave differently.”  She believes he succeeded in that goal, adding, “Palm Sunday will be very difficult because I saw that movie.”

Graham added, “Mr. Gibson’s sole intent really is to share simply, but profoundly, his faith, and not only his faith, but the faith of millions of Christians who believe in Christ.  I was comfortable with his desire and motivation to get this message out.”

Hearon was impressed with Gibson’s determination to fund the entire project in order to achieve his purpose.  “He wants the whole world to know the price Jesus paid for our salvation.”

Young believes Mel Gibson has “the legitimacy, track record and authority to carry a project through” as well as a personal relationship with Jesus that motivates him in producing this movie.  “I admire him for his stance, for taking all the arrows.  It’s a bold and gutsy move on his part, but when you’ve been touched by Jesus like he has been then that’s the response.  He simply wants to share this message out in the world.”

Reaching Texas song supports missions emphasis

IRVING, Texas ? Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Youth Evangelism Associate Tom Cottar wanted to “hammer” home the concept of cooperative efforts in reaching the state of Texas with the good news of Jesus Christ. While brainstorming for a new name for the annual SBTC State Missions and Ministry Offering, Cottar felt impressed to record the importance of reaching the lost in a song called Reaching Texas.

“Our number one goal is to ‘Reach Texas’ with the gospel of Christ, working together to build the kingdom of God,” Cottar said. “The message is really very simple. I wanted to hammer the message that we are to reach people with the love of Christ.”

Intended for use in a promotional capacity for the SBTC Reaching Texas Offering, Cottar said he hopes the song inspires individuals and churches across Texas to work together by contributing the annual offering.

“It’s not about equal giving, but equal sacrifice,” Cottar said. “By working together as the Body, God has given us an incredible opportunity to be a part of something eternal. By working together, we can answer the call to ‘go and tell’ and give hope to those that are living in darkness! It doesn’t get any better than that!”

In addition to the song, the CD includes a full mix (radio mix) churches can use in radio spots, websites or background music in worship services. The CD also contains an accompaniment track that can be used for choral or solo performances during worship, as well as an instrumental track. Worship leaders can also insert the CD into a computer and print of lead sheets and chord changes to use with a praise team. Background vocals on the CD are provided by SBTC staffer Jennifer Dean.

Currently, the CDs are being mailed to each SBTC church with the Reach Texas Offering promotional packet; however, extra copies are available upon request.

“My hope is that the song will remind us whatthe missions offering is really about,” Cottar said. “As a childwe learned the words to the song JesusLoves Me. The tragedy is that there are a lot of people who only know the words and still don’t know theSavior. My prayer is that this song will remind us that we are not about programs but about people – peoplewhose eternity can change in an instantfrom an encounter with the true, living God. Texas is waiting.”

Homeschoolers’ influence on church ministry

As more and more parents experience a revival in their parenting skills by implementing biblical teaching and living in their families, their views of ministry in the church are beginning to change as well.

Evangelical homeschooling parents are often a very determined group to develop a new approach to ministry in which the family worships together, learns together and ministers together to model kingdom living for their children. Some examples of the more family-integrated approach can be seen in some newer, smaller churches formed often by many homeschool families.

One such church is Teravista Fellowship Baptist Church in Round Rock, Texas. Teravista began meeting in January 2003 as a church plant of Great Hills Baptist in Austin. Although the membership is mainly homeschool families, Pastor Clay Harris has a spiritual conviction not to become an enclave.

“Our burden is to evangelize the lost first. The second component is the area of discipleship, or equipping families to be effective in their family relationships,” said Harris. “So many people need to see families that work,” he said. The third stage of their maturity will be to plant more churches.

During the week, a women’s Bible Study and men’s discipleship group is offered. Outreach efforts include a prison ministry, a tutoring ministry in one of the local schools and Saturday morning visitation to homes in the community.

“On Saturdays we have about 32 people go out visiting,” said Harris. During June and July, members knocked on 1,200 doors, spoke with more than 500 people, shared the gospel more than 100 times, and saw about 14 professions of faith.

Teravista’s Saturday morning visitation is a weekly family event, and children as young as 3-years-old participate. Their job is to ring the doorbell and befriend the pets. Harris’ 3-year-old son Mitchell was instrumental in one of their visits. The team approached a house with a “no solicitation” sign on the door. They were about to pass it by, when Mitchell rang the doorbell. Before the visit was over, the woman inside prayed to receive Christ.

At this time, Teravista does not have a Sunday School, but they hope to begin one soon, according to church member Kelley Westenhover. “If we do we’ll probably have something for all the children together, or a family class.” Westenhover participated in a family class at a former church. Parents and school-aged children met together during the Sunday School hour for Bible study. After a time of singing together, the teacher taught everyone. “He would have the kids read the Scripture, and often he would have a drama that the kids could read,” she said.

Faith Community Baptist of Fort Worth also seeks to involve children in ministry with their parents to model committed faith. The membership of the four-year-old congregation is about 60 to 65 percent homeschool families and 30 percent public school families. Currently the church is comprised primarily of young families, but they have outlined a youth ministry philosophy they hope to implement in the future.

Jason Montgomery, pastor of Faith Community stated, “Youth ministry is a great thing, but it needs to be done well . . .and not necessarily be done by taking youth away from their families. The youth minister in a lot of churches becomes a surrogate parent, and that is a shame. He ought to be there to help and encourage the family.

“We want to do some projects where boys can get together with their dads and go work on somebody’s house. Why do you have to take a 13-year-old boy away from his dad to go do ministry? Why not get him to go do ministry with his dad? And if his dad’s not doing what he needs to be doing, then this might encourage his dad. If dad is doing what he needs to be doing, why does the youth minister need to be a model for the boy?”

Wesley Black, professor of youth and student ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, believes that Southern Baptists have developed one of the strongest youth ministry models in the world. However, he stated, “One area that today’s youth ministries need to work on is the area of family ministry. We have neglected the emphasis on parents in the lives of their teenagers. We have assumed that parents are strong Christians and can guide their teens at home. But that is not the case today.”

Brownsville church opens doors for ministry

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Jacob had only a stone for a pillow much less a roof over his head. Did Elijah have three square meals a day? What about an advance team? Forget it. But those called today to the unforgiving climate of the Rio Grande Valley to tell of the love of Christ can have all of that?at a price that would put most hotels out of business.

The vision of Bob Clements, former pastor of First Baptist Church Brownsville, has become the mainstay of mission work for the congregation. The Mission Outreach Center (MOC) provides dorm-like housing and meals for mission groups who come to the valley to spread the gospel. Groups sleep in bunks and eat food prepared by volunteers from the church’s youth department and kitchen coordinator Connie Hendrick.

Groups are charged only $99 a person for a seven-day stay at the Center. That’s just enough to cover food and electricity costs, said FBC Minister of Missions and Education Ricardo Rivera.

“Our vision is we’re in kingdom work,” said Rivera. “We’re not in this for our church.”

FBC Senior Pastor Steve Dorman described the MOC as a staging area for mission activities in the valley and across the border. In addition to providing meals and lodging, FBC helps churches find locations in which to work, and transportation. Rivera and long-time valley missionary Dwight Hendrick act as an advance team, completing prep work so groups can get right to work as soon as they arrive.

“I do all the leg work,” Rivera said. To secure locations for Vacation Bible School programs, Rivera contacts area parks departments, property owners and churches for permission to use their land and facilities. Hendrick maps out areas within Mexico’s colonias for door-to-door evangelical outreach. The colonias are regions on either side of the Texas-Mexico border inhabited by squatters living on the fringes of civilization ? most colonias have no running water or electricity and some people live in homes made of nothing more than cardboard.

It is these people and the families of the Rio Grande valley who draw mission groups from across Texas, the southern United States, and from as far north as Michigan to the Brownsville MOC, the only facility of its kind in the valley.

This “kingdom work” has changed scores of lives throughout the years. Rivera and Dorman said hundreds of decisions are made for Christ each summer through the colonia outreach and the Vacation Bible Schools held throughout Brownsville and the surrounding area.

Most of the mission groups bunking at the MOC are youth groups. A new group arrives at the MOC every Saturday evening throughout the summer from the time school is out until the first week of August.

Work begins right away, Rivera said. Teams who arrive early enough are taken to the sites where they will be hosting VBS. If a church is not available to co-sponsor the program, private property and parklands are used, and a big white tent is erected as center stage.

Building relationships with families in specific neighborhoods keeps some mission groups returning to the same site year after year. Some mission workers have seen families grow up. Adults ? who as children, attended the VBS under the white tent – are now bringing their own children.

Before the groups head out on Sunday to recruit VBS participants, they receive Spanish evangelistic training from Hendrick for their work in the colonias. Most of the youth staying at the MOC do not speak Spanish so they are given Spanish/English gospel tracts and given some very basic instructions on how to present the information in Spanish.

On Monday morning, Rivera said, “We pack up the vans and go to Mexico.” The youth are transported to a predetermined site within the Mexican colonias. Most of the participants are very excited about the outreach. They will go into the streets and door-to-door presenting the gospel all morning. But last year was different for one young missionary.

“We had a little girl?and she was scared to death,” Rivera said. He recalled how she couldn’t even speak she was so afraid of going into a different place. As the teams dispersed into the streets of the colonia, a little boy approached her and read the Bible tract she held in her hand. On the spot he accepted Jesus as his Savior and led the girl all morning through the streets translating the gospel message for her.

On average 35-40 children will attend each VBS, said Dorman. With hundreds of decisions made each summer, the biggest challenge for his congregation is not housing and feeding hundreds of hungry and tired teenagers but following up on all of the decisions, ensuring that each person who accepted Christ is then channeled into a church or some form of discipleship. Rivera said, “We get so many that it’s very hard to keep up with.”

But other valley churches are recruited to help. Rivera said if the VBS was done in conjunction with another church, that church would do the follow-ups. If there is no co-sponsor, a church in the area is contacted and given the list of prospects from their neighborhood.

What happens south of the border is just as exciting

Texas association takes gospel to the Black Hills

RAPID CITY, South Dakota ? Two thousand miles, 44 hours on the road, 12 salvations, seven Backyard Bible Clubs, three Vacation Bible Schools, and two revivals?all recently accomplished while on a one-week mission trip to South Dakota. As a part of a partnership to reach communities throughout the Black Hills, Fannin Baptist Association led a team of Texas churches in a mission trip to the Black Hills Area Baptist Association in Rapid City, South Dakota in late July.

The preparations for the mission trip began one year ago with the purpose of sharing the gospel with a cosmopolitan community comprised of a mixture of religions including Catholic, New Age and Mormon. Approximately 122 leaders and lay people from churches in Fannin Baptist Association (FBA) gathered to take the gospel to the Black Hills. Activities included Bible studies, a youth rally, a block party, and building repairs.

The churches of FBA ministered and served through the 19 churches and two rescue missions of the Black Hills Area Baptist Association. “From the beginning, we made our primary goal to be faithful in fulfilling the Great Commission. In our preparation, we became personally involved and made it our obsession to share Christ with everyone,” said Jerry Christopher, director of missions for FBA. “We wanted to light a match in the hearts of lost people in the Black Hills communities, and furthermore throw logs onto the fires already burning in the hearts of members in their association of churches.”

Throughout the week, those on mission visited homes, city parks, the rescue mission, churches, mobile home parks, and apartment complexes. Members of FBA were housed in five different churches throughout Rapid City communities lodging in sanctuaries, fellowship halls, and classrooms.

Some of the churches affiliated with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention that participated in the associational effort included Boyd Baptist Church in Bonham, Elwood Baptist Church in Ivanhoe and First Baptist Church of Savoy.

First Baptist Church, in Savoy took 16 people from their church leading in Vacation Bible School, two Backyard Bible Clubs, the Rescue Mission, and construction work. FBC Savoy mission team members helped pour concrete pillars for a small church and manned their VBS. The church they helped had a low attendance rate, usually seeing only the same three people each Sunday.

Travis Reynolds, youth minister at Savoy said he was deeply impacted by the amount of faith and the effort of the three church members in keeping their church running.

“I take for granted living in the Bible Belt and was amazed that they did the job that takes 200 people here to do,” Reynolds said. “They were so excited that we came in and brought kids in off the streets. We started out with 11 kids the first day, and finished with 18. After following up with one of the adults, they expressed their excitement over the fact that the kids that attended Vacation Bible School the week we were there had brought their families to church the next Sunday.”

Reynolds said, “The most touching time at Vacation Bible School was when I saw two of our 7th grade girls leading a little girl who had been asking questions all week to [faith in] Christ. It was such a blessing to witness youth that young stepping up and sharing their faith. The students from FBC Savoy came back to our town fired up and ready to serve in any area they could.”

Bill Thornton, FBA coordinator for the trip, said, “We were there to serve. Our main goal was to partner in strengthening the churches in that area. All ages were on the trip. One 79-year-old man called me and asked if he was too old to join us. I said, ‘As long as you’re living?you’re never too old to serve God.'”

Many on the trip shared the love of Christ simply by acting out his love. Sandy Petree, member of First Baptist Church in Savoy, served in the Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter in Rapid City. While at the Rescue Mission, Petree shared God’s love with a second grade Native American boy, Gordon Little Eagle.

“I was so impressed at his interest in the Bible and how he listened intently to the Bible studies,” said Petree. “I was blessed by him and the fact that I was able to plant a seed in his life.”

The FBA mission team was the first to visit the Black Hills Area Baptist Association for mission work.

Garvon Golden, director of missions for the Black Hills Area Baptist Association, said, “The groups from FBA spanned out among several of our churches to coordinate activities in various areas. Some of the activities had not been publicized, but the groups put their best foot forward in getting people to come. They went door-to-door passing out literature and Bibles. Every church involved with the FBA mission team experienced an increase in community attendance by the end of the week.”

Episcopal columnist Christian realignment

DALLAS?Conservative Episcopalian William Murchison finds a bright side to the recent action of Episcopal leaders regarding homosexuality. In an on-air interview with KCBI radio CEO Ron Harris Aug. 13, Murchison said, “Already, the support for the scriptural traditionalists within the Episcopal Church has come from places like Africa, South America, and Australia.”

Murchison told Harris that the Aug. 5 action by the ECUSA House of Bishops confirming the first openly homosexual bishop in denominational history could spark realignment within Christianity. “Sites of Anglicanism such as England, Canada, and the U.S., have seemed in large measure to have lost their faith, but the faith is alive and well in places like Africa. I find very heartening the phenomenon of southern conservative bishops standing shoulder to shoulder on this issue with African bishops.” He observed an unrelated consequence in such interaction. “This may be one of the best things that happened to race relations in recent history.”

Murchison, a contributing columnist for the Dallas Morning News and former senior editorial columnist, is the author of There’s More to Life Than Politics and Reclaiming Morality in America. He contributes to many other publications including Human Life Review, Chronicles, National Review, The Wall Street Journal, and First Things.

The local parish to which Murchison belongs strongly opposed the recent action, he said. “We’re waiting to see what the Holy Spirit has in store for us. We’re going to stick with the Bible with our traditional understanding of moral witness as opposed to these new ideas that others like the [ECUSA] General Convention are trying to introduce.”

Murchison told KCBI the tendency “to disparage the scriptural witness on morality” has been manifest throughout Christianity. He expressed gratitude for the opportunity “to wrestle with it and reassert Christian truth in this context,” adding, “We’ve needed to talk about this thing in a specific, intentional way for a long time.” He traces the current cultural crisis over sex, marriage, and the family to a new spirit introduced after World War II. He described the shift to affirm as right, valid, proper, and loving “just about everything an individual wanted to do in the context of a sexual relationship.” If personal preferences clashed with traditional values, Murchison said those favoring immorality “reinterpreted scripture to make it look fine.”

He expects a split among Episcopalians since the recent decision ignores the Anglican bishops’ affirmation of heterosexual monogamy as the Christian norm in 1998. That resolution rejected sexual activity by gays and lesbians as “incompatible with scripture.” Also opposed was the recognition or blessing of same-sex unions, and the ordination of non-celibate gay men and lesbians.

“What they have done flies in the face of this and they will not get away with it. World leaders are very strongly opposed to what the General Convention did.” When local leaders gathered in Plano, Texas, last month they agreed to allow local congregations to redirect funds normally sent to ECUSA for local ministry use.

The Episcopal Diocese of Florida, representing 75 congregations in northeastern Florida also announced a decision to freeze funds to the national denomination as a result of the pro-homosexual action. Clergy in the diocese will meet Sept. 4 and consider whether to continue withholding contributions.

Earlier on KCBI Rev. Canon Charles A. Hough, III, assistant to the bishop of the Fort Worth Diocese described the two-million member Episcopal Church as “a very small and liberal denomination that has been hijacked” in contrast to the 37 other provinces of the nearly 80-million member Anglican Communion represented in 164 countries. “The majority of its bishops and lay leaders have embraced a new religion,” Hough said of the Episcopal leadership, when they “unhook themselves from the authority of Scripture.”

Hough said 25 of the 100 dioceses in the Episcopal Church are conservative, including the one he serves. An effort to “stop this erosion” failed, he said, when the smaller group opposed an Iowa bishop who was ordaining homosexuals in the mid-1990s. “We are in the vast majority in the mainstream of the Anglican Communion,” Hough said, though a minority in the U.S.

The Anglican archbishop of Canterberry’s call for an emergency meeting of primates in October “to deal with the American problem” was described by Hough as historic. He expects a realignment to occur, placing the Episcopal Church outside the Anglican Communion. “There are a lot of hurting clergy and laymen that feel betrayed by this action,” he added. “We’re tryi

Hollywood handles the gospel accurately in

Entertainment in general and movies in particular have been a challenge for me in recent years. Showing solidarity with the Southern Baptist Convention, I have refrained from attending Disney movies or purchasing any of their merchandise. Going a step further in my personal convictions, we installed a curse-free gadget on our home television. It had gotten to the place where I could not watch some “family” shows without profanity being poured out in my living room. Attending movies has almost become a forbidden fruit. Where can you go without seeing salacious sex or hearing blue streak obscenities.

Christians have tried to break the Hollywood hold on movies and TV. Most of the “Christian” films are poorly written, directed and filmed. People who do not know Christ are unimpressed with cheesy second-rate movies that try to evangelize or teach a biblical perspective. Some quality films are produced by Christians, but those rarely get broad distribution. Few television programs or movies portray Christianity in a positive light. Recently I had an experience that gave me some hope.

I was invited to attend a screening of a film titled, The Passion. The cost of the film is being underwritten by Mel Gibson. He is also the director. His stated desire is to glorify God in the film. The faxed invitation said Mel Gibson would be there. I said, “Sure, right.” After checking to be sure that I was not the object of some cruel hoax, I agreed to attend.

When I entered the facilities, a few familiar faces greeted me among the thirty or so invitees. The majority of the crowd was a cross section of the evangelical community in the Dallas area. Mega-churches and Para-church organizations were represented. We were informed that Mr. Gibson had been delayed in his arrival from a Houston screening because of protesters. Once he arrived we were permitted to mingle with him informally for over thirty minutes. He came across as a very sincere and down to earth person. He is also committed to his faith.

For the next two hours plus, I sat with a knot in my stomach and a lump in my throat. The portrayal of Jesus’ sufferings surpasses anything I have ever seen. The scourging and crucifixion are graphic in detail. I have preached the cross for 33 years. The movie is everything I could ever convey with words and more. I was deeply moved by the scenes of the physical, emotional and spiritual sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Please note that The Passion may not be appropriate for young children.)

I am not a professional critic, but the acting, casting, sound and special effects, and music was superb. There are a limited number of extra-Biblical scenes, yet nothing that violates scripture. Several groups will find fault on ideological grounds. One is the legalist, who would never find any movie satisfactory. Another is the secularist who will never find a presentation of truth from the Bible acceptable. Finally, there are those who have already claimed the film is anti-Semitic. They should consider that many who embrace The Passion worship a God who came in the form of a Jewish man.

When The Passion is released, I urge you to go see it. It will touch your heart and hopefully touch the hearts of those who have never experienced forgiveness through the blood of Christ.

The call to homeschool

Christian parents hoping to impart a faith legacy to their children face a serious dilemma?virtually every area of today’s culture works to counteract even their best efforts. In working through this conflict, some parents feel called to educate their children at home. How do parents know that God is calling them to homeschool?

Some parents are called to homeschool through a series of life circumstances. Elizabeth Watkins, member of Cottonwood Creek Baptist Church in Allen is among those who God led step by step. “The very first seed planted about homeschooling was by my oldest daughter’s third grade teacher. She was a very dear woman. At the end of the school year she told me that if she had it to do all over again, she would homeschool.”

After some alarming events in her daughter’s fourth and fifth grade years, Watkins began to seriously consider homeschooling. She and her husband had recently taken the course Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby. They began to seek God in prayer, in studying Scripture, in their circumstances, and through the counsel of others to discern God’s will for them in the education of their children. They became convinced that God was leading them to homeschool, and they began homeschooling their older daughter in the middle of her fifth grade year.

For over two years Watkins has been teaching her daughters at home. She supports others who home school by directing the Kingdom Kids Homeschool Ministry, a home school support group for mothers at Cottonwood Creek. They recently studied Educating the Whole Hearted Child, by Clay and Sally Clarkson.

In their book, the Clarksons offer several biblical tips and insights for parents as they seek to discern God’s will for their family in the area of childhood education. They state, “Public education is all we have known as a generation, so it has become the default standard by which we reflexively evaluate ‘education.’ God . . . doesn’t want us thinking about anything by default.” First, the Clarksons encourage parents to renew their minds, then to build on truth.

Next, they say, sow for Christ. “If you want to reap secure, mature adults, you must sow together the seeds of time, togetherness and training. If you want to reap godly character, you must sow the seeds of a good example. You can no longer sow to please your own desires, but to please Christ.”

The final principles are to value the eternal and to be content in Christ. “A decision to homeschool is a decision to accept limitations on your life,” say the Clarksons.

Like Watkins, Nancy Sirratt of South Park Baptist in Grand Prairie was led into homeschooling through circumstances. She started homeschooling when her nephews came to live with her. The boys were from a small town, and Sirratt felt that pushing them into a huge school was not in their best interest. “People at my church encouraged me to homeschool them.” She told her friends, “I don’t know how to do that!”

With guidance of others she realized she could. “It was a very big blessing for our family,” said Sirratt, who went on to homeschool her now 10-year-old daughter, and will begin teaching her five-year-old son in the fall.

Unlike Watkins and Sirratt, Tom Campbell, pastor of Southside Baptist in Carthage, and father of two homeschooled sons felt his call to homeschool apart from extenuating circumstances. Campbell’s parents and grandparents were all public educators, which made their decision to homeschool particularly interesting.

He said, “We had a real conviction. The years go by fast as they are growing up. We wanted to make sure we spent as much time as we could with them, instilling our values and teaching them to live for Christ the best that we could.” Campbell referenced Deut. 6 as an important Scripture verse which indicates that parents are to teach their children as they go about their daily routines.

John Yeats, former Texas pastor, home educator of three sons and current editor of the Baptist Messenger, the news journal of the Oklahoma Baptist Convention stated, “The ‘call’ to home educate is nothing less than the extension of training your children to be all that God created them to be. God did not ordain educational institutions for child training. He ordained the family, parents and the network of their extended family and church to train children to first of all walk with God, and then to develop market skills. Parents who choose to sacri