Month: September 2003

New Annuity Board team serves Texas churches

DALLAS?A new team is in place to assist Texas pastors and church staff members in their retirement planning through the Southern Baptist Annuity Board.

Instead of one area director available to assist the more than 1,300 congregations and 115 associations relating to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, there are now three area directors sharing this responsibility.

Chris Elkins will be working with churches and associations in the Panhandle and West Texas region. His major cities include Abilene, Lubbock, Amarillo, El Paso, Brownwood and surrounding associations.

Elkins came to the Annuity Board in 1999 after serving on the staff of Southern Baptist churches in Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas.

Brad Thompson will be working with churches and associations in South Texas. His region will include all churches and associations from San Antonio to Brownsville.

Thompson joined the Annuity Board staff in 1986 after serving as a missionary in Mexico City, on the staff of Green Acres Church in Tyler and as a singles and married young adult consultant.

Mike Harris will be working with churches and associations in Central and East Texas. His region will include the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex as well as Austin, Houston and East Texas.

Harris recently joined the Annuity Board staff after serving as a family financial planner the past five years. He also was the founding pastor in 1993 of Broadmoor Life Fellowship Church in Colorado Springs.

State Texas is a large and varied state so we have made the strategic decision to multiple persons to coordinate their efforts so the Annuity Board can provide quality service to all participants,” said Dixie Beard, Annuity Board relationship marketing manager and liaison to the SBTC.

“We believe the combined effort makes us more accessible to a larger group of individuals serving in the local churches and associations. In addition, any participant can contact the Annuity Board using the toll-free number at 1-800-262-0511 or on our Web site at,” Beard said.

IMB trustees grapple with limited funds,

AUSTIN?”We must be vision-driven with our eyes always on the goal of bringing into the kingdom of God those who from every tribe, people, tongue and nation will one day be gathered around the throne worshipping our Lord,” declared International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin in his report to trustees gathered in Austin, Sept. 9-10. The Great Commission task cannot be resource-driven nor limited to “simply doing whatever we can do for whatever may result,” Rankin added.

Trustees heard Rankin express the struggle the IMB faces in continuing to move forward during a time of financial and personnel restraints, global challenges and obstacles. Although giving by Southern Baptists exceeds previous records, it has not kept pace with the overwhelming response of individuals willing to go as missionaries.

Board chairman Doug Sager of Knoxville, Tenn., expressed confidence that God would provide a solution that would allow the IMB to further spread the gospel despite financial challenges. “We’re about to see something that’s a God thing. The thing that’s going to bring it to pass is prayer. That’s when we get focused, when we come into the presence of the Almighty,” Sager said. “I am excited about what God is up to in his world.”

Trustees approved a major change in the way all new candidates for long-term missionary service are appointed. They will complete a three-year apprenticeship before before gaining career or associate status. As experienced missionaries mentor apprentices, adaptation to cross-cultural ministry will improve, trustee Tom Hatley of Rogers, Ark., said.

A report on the 2004 budget recommendation reflected a $20 million reduction, anticipating lower income and delay of $10 million in capital expenditures until the operating budget is met. No salary increases are included for missionaries or stateside personnel and missionary operating budgets are reduced by seven percent.

Reaction to the recent decision to limit the number of new missionary appointments surfaced during strategy discussions in plenary sessions.

Trustees and IMB administrators shared a similar hope that grassroots Southern Baptists would respond to the dire needs by meeting the $133 million goal of this year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. Trustees offered solutions, which included:

challenging the 95 percent of Southern Baptist churches that give less than $10,000 to the Lottie Moon offering by utilizing creative methods to encourage raising that level of support this year;

asking pastors to gain a passion for worldwide missions;

encouraging Woman’s Missionary Union to raise awareness of the tremendous financial need;

personalizing missions by adopting people groups and participating in mission partnerships; and

trimming state convention budgets to increase the portion going out of state to fund Southern Baptist ministries.

“My concern is that no army ever won a war in retreat,” stated Kyle Cox, director of missions of Galveston Baptist Association. “Sometimes, against all odds and against all better judgment they press forward and that’s all it takes to tip the scales and win the war.” Cox admitted his discouragement over “the ease at which we have talked about the fact that this year we will be under five thousand missionaries and we are going to accept without complaint, hardly, that we are going to limit ourselves from over one thousand missionaries [each of] the last two years to six hundred this year.”

While the number of Southern Baptist overseas personnel peaked at 5,607 in July, the anticipated rate of attrition and limit on new missionaries is already taking its toll with a level of 5,000 projected in 2004. The 61 new missionaries appointed Sept. 9 at Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin represent a 40 percent reduction in the number typically appointed. (See page 10 for coverage of appointment service.)

“I see the [IMB] staff doing all they can to make the dollar stretch. Mobilization is doing all they can to get the word out. I don’t see us as a board of trustees doing very much to tip the scales and keep pressing forward. I’m disappointed in myself and I’m disappointed in us as a board,” Cox stated. “We seem to be accepting this retreat, however tactical it may be, so easily

Lyn Hyde anticipates return to Philippines

Lyn Hyde is hoping Southern Baptists will remember her on October 22. For 25 years she has known the power of their collective prayers on her birthday when her name is included on a missionary prayer list. A much different circumstance prompts her call for prayer this time.

Seven and one-half months after her husband, Bill, was killed by a terrorist’s bomb on the Filipino island of Mindanao, she’ll return to the Davao City airport where the March 4 explosion took place. While sharing her testimony God’s grace before International Mission Board trustees meeting Sept. 10 in Austin, Texas, Lyn Hyde said, “There is only one airport that I will fly back into and I will walk through the place where Bill was killed. I’ll go back to our duplex where we lived where Bill will not be, but his things will be.”

Over the three weeks of her visit, Hyde said she will seek to “hear from the Lord, continue the grieving process and try to determine what God is saying to me for my future.” She expressed gratitude for the IMB providing a full year to make a decision as to whether she will return to the Philippines as a missionary. Asking for continued prayer for her sons who, though ages 31 and 32, are deeply grieving the loss of their father. “As God continues to bring good to our lives, we can count on him doing that for us.”

In a testimony interspersed with scriptural references that had sustained her through the loss of her husband of 37 years, Lyn Hyde explained why they began serving as missionaries in 1978. “The reason Bill and I went to the Philippines is that the Great Commission has not yet been fully obeyed. We are called to follow Christ and to lay down our lives for the cause of Christ. Bill has returned to his owner and maker,” she said, expressing her thanks for the 37 years of marriage in which he was loaned by God to her. Quoting Isaiah 54:5, she said she was experiencing the reality of that scripture, reciting, “My maker is my husband, the Lord almighty is his name.”

Hyde has been living in Argyle, Texas, having one son, Tim, in nearby McKinney where he is a contractor. Her son Steve founded Words of Life Ministries, a missions organization in Southeast Asia and currently serves in Cambodia. While in the States she has enjoyed being a member of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, she said.

With the realization that March 4 was the only time she had not stood next to her husband while waiting to pick up fellow missionaries at the airport, Lyn Hyde is convinced God left her here to fulfill his purpose. “When the bomb exploded that killed my husband, it was as if my life was blown up into a thousand pieces like a jigsaw puzzle,” she shared. “In the hours and the days that I’ve spent with the Lord since that time, the Lord is slowly beginning to turn over the pieces of that puzzle.” As he puts them back together again, she knows the picture will not be the same as her husband is not there.

“I was complaining to the Lord not long ago that he has not even given me the border pieces of the puzzle of my life.” Quoting Psalm 16:5-6, she remembered, “‘Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.'”

In recent months Lyn Hyde has begun to see that the Lord is the border of her life, she said. When her husband’s life was cut short by a terrorist bombing she realized, “That did not kill a call to missions on my life. From the time I was seven years old when I came to know the Lord and from the time I met my first real-life missionary, all I ever wanted to be was a missionary. Even though Bill is gone from me, that call has not gone away.”

As she trusts God to put the pieces of her life back together again to send her back to the mission field, Lyn Hyde recognizes, “We all need to be alert for the fact that we are in a world in which we live where the enemy has been released.

“This is not an isolated incident. We need to see the larger picture taking place around the world,” she urged. “The cost for each one of us and the cost for the IMB is going to be far greater.” Through forensics studies conducted by the FBI, she learned shortly after the murder of her husband that the bomb materials were connected to the al- Qaeda network. Another 43 Filipinos died as a result of injuries from the blast with another 136 people injured. “We do know without any doubt that these people are enemies of Jesus Christ and we became the victims of these people.”

Upon his return from

Our part in international missions

In John 3, Jesus instructed his disciples to ask “the Lord of the harvest to send workers into the fields.” That prayer is frequently offered in our churches and homes as we consider the billions of lost people around the world. Usually we assume that if God will call them out, we can find a way to send them, and for years that has been true. The cry has always been for more workers. The possibility that our missionary force may decrease during the next year for financial reasons should change our assumptions about international missions.

The enthusiastic response of missionary candidates to a huge task and broadening opportunities is nothing but good news. Our missions board has also struggled to squeak every bit of efficiency out of available missionary dollars. This is demonstrable and commendable. It shows that they believe in what they are doing. A change needs to take place upstream on the missions funding river–my house and yours, my church and yours.

As it is, less than five percent of SBC churches provided nearly 47 percent of Lottie Moon gifts during the 2002 giving year. Of SBTC churches, only about 57 percent gave as much as $5 through our convention to the offering. Some of the remainder doubtless gave directly or through another convention and yet too many did not participate. Our total giving divided by the number of Southern Baptists comes out to a little over $7 per member. I’m not complaining, but you’d have to agree that we could do better. Here are few reasons why.

First, God has enabled us to address the Great Commission in this way. We have the resources and not all of us have been called or empowered to go. How else are we obeying our Lord’s command?

Next, as above, we have been commanded to be witnesses in the whole world. Can we deny that the need is great? The New Testament model is that some went and some sent, all prayed. The kingdom of God is not poor and Paul’s testimony from prison was not that his need was the reason for giving. Our giving is the witness of our spiritual life and growth. We are not exempt from this command or the need to give to the Lord.

Also, the IMB is not being presumptive in their exercise of faith. It’s one thing for me to step out in faith that God will provide for my family and ministry. It’s another for me to toss you out in faith that God will provide for you. As a missionary sending body, IMB does its ministry according to what God provides, after he provides it. To proceed regardless of available resources would be to tempt God.

Consider your own need. It goes against instinct but missionary generosity prospers the giver. I’ve been in churches and other ministries that were strapped for operating funds but I’ve never been in one whose primary need was financial. If the need is vision, giving will lift your eyes beyond your own horizon. If the need is greater love for God and others, how better than to give away something that is probably too precious to us anyway? A church prone to quarrel and look inward does so partly because it’s forgotten the scope of its mission. Look at the world beyond your locale. Even financial prosperity may follow the ministry that gives to others.

Friends, we need to give but the need is more specific than that. We need to support Southern Baptist missions. Other groups send missionaries. Some others hope to send missionaries someday. No other group of Southern Baptists has demonstrated the efficiency, doctrinal integrity, and effectiveness of our International Mission Board, though. It is not all the same. Not all causes are equally worthy of your support.

Our mission leadership has earned our trust. As Southern Baptist churches, we have, by definition, committed to support this work.

Do you know any missionaries? Have you seen the people God has sent them to? If you do, you will not be able to forget them when you consider supporting Southern Baptist missions. More than half of the world’s people groups have not been reached with the gospel. Fewer still can actually be described as “evangelized.” If you can’t go, look at the material prepared by the IMB to tell of the world mission field. The TEXAN will also give you a regular glimpse of Southern Baptist missions. The IMB ( website and that of Baptist Press ( will also show you pictures and stories of world missions. They are compelling and convicting. Both sites offer opportunities to receive regular updates of our work around the world.

Is it so difficult to promote the Lottie Moon offering in your church, maybe for the first time, this year? It’s not and the IMB offers resources and ideas to help you get started. Neither is it difficult to raise your goal over last year by reminding your church of the privilege we have to serve in this way. Maybe your own family has never participated in missions giving. You should.

It sounds like so little, maybe too little, to give a few dollars more. So easily it may sound as though God needs the money. He doesn’t but he calls us to function as a body. If those who should go respond to the call (and certainly, not all have) and fewer of those who should send fail to respond to the opportunity, we have today’s problem.  In the past three years our missionary count has grown at a rate 400 percent greater that Lottie Moon giving.  God has given us the means to do all that he calls us to do.  Simply, many of us are not doing what he has told us to do.

Our giving grew a little last year.  The opportunities grew to a greater degree.  Hallelujah!  Now that we’ve had our wake-up call, let’s obey our Lord’s commission in all the ways God has enabled in our lives and churches.

Texans share testimonies of God’s leading

AUSTIN?For more than 20 years Alan Brown thought success meant climbing the corporate ladder. “Six years ago God showed me that I was on the wrong ladder,” stated the former grocer from Tyler, Texas, as he testified to his call to missions during an appointment service of the International Mission Board Sept. 9 at Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin. Brown told the audience that he and his wife, Donna, were leaving everything behind to be on mission with God in northern Mexico where he will serve as a strategy coordinator.

God confirmed Donna’s call to missions on her first short-term trip to Mexico. “Seeing the excitement in their eyes and the smiles on their faces as the children learned about the love of Jesus, I knew I’d found my calling,” she said. “Now we’re going on a God-sized adventure in Mexico.”

Dallas native David Humphrey stood in a packed stadium as a college senior watching and listening as thousands of students from many nations worshiped Jesus. Years later, he and his wife, Danyl sensed God calling them to Brazil as they ministered among the homeless of that country. He will serve as strategy coordinator in Eastern South America.

“At a hostel in Israel, hearing the gospel preached simultaneously in Russian, Rojanian, Chinese, Hebrew and English,” Susan Taliaferro said, “God gave me a glimpse of seeing the nations represented in heaven.” Her husband, Jeremy, felt compelled to mission service while a youth attending Glorieta Conference Center.

They are members of Plymouth Park Baptist Church in Irving, where they were involved in an apartment church plant along with Primera Iglesia Bautista. He will serve as a strategy coordinator in Western South America.

“In a Brazilian slum, I shared the gospel with a woman who had never heard,” Taliaferro said, adding, “God was there. On the Apurucayali River, I listened as an Asheninka man shared biblical stories all night, finishing at dawn with the resurrection. God was there. Now we are going to the most isolated people in Peru. God is there!”

Before Aaron Tipps was born his grandfather prayed for a missionary to come from his family. Looking toward relatives seated in the audience, Tipps said, “Praise God for answered prayer, Granddaddy.” During a mission conference held at his church, Epps sensed God’s call to missions. “On a remote grass runway in Papau, New Guinea, I told God, ‘whatever, whenever.'”

Tiffany Epps learned while serving a Detroit inner-city mission that “life was not about me.” She knew at that point that she would do whatever God wanted and go wherever He sent her. “A summer in Hungary confirmed my call. Now we’re going to the jungles of Brazil,” she said as she and her husband will be involved in outreach and church planting She was born in Nederland, Texas, and graduated from Western Texas College in Snyder.

David Janz pastored Lake O’ the Pines Baptist Church in Avinger, Texas, from 1997 to 2000 and will be serving in Southern Africa in an evangelism/church planter role. His wife, Jody, will be involved in outreach.

Gary and Donna Cain enjoyed the home church advantage as they expressed appreciation for the time spent with the congregation of Great Hills Baptist. “This generation could be our last chance to share the good news to a lost world,” he said. “As the sun sets each day, we have one less day to accomplish our unfinished task.”

In a Caribbean crusade Donna Cain was witnessing and a woman accepted Jesus Christ as Savior. “She didn’t have a Bible so I gave her mine. As I left her, she was clutching the Bible to her heart with tears of joy running down her cheeks,” Donna recalled. “God us


Oct. 15 day for prayer, fasting

Americans have become very nutrition-minded. People want to eat the right foods. My idea of a balanced diet is a piece of chocolate cake in each hand.

Perhaps one of the most uncomfortable times for us is when we cannot have food. Fasting for medical reasons is a familiar practice for most of us. (Before entering a fast, be sure it will not adversely affect any current health situation you may have.) Fasting for spiritual reasons is relatively unknown.

October 15 has been declared a “Day of Fasting” for revival and prayer for the Southern Baptists of Texas annual meeting. For four years we have set aside a day to ask God to move among our churches and make Himself known at our annual meeting.

Conventions have a tendency to be about reports and voting on budgets. While there is a small portion of our agenda that reflects these activities, the majority of our time together in Corpus will emphasize the spiritual realities of Empowering Kingdom Growth.

Fasting is not getting God obligated to do something for us. Fasting is not some “lucky charm” that brings favor to the practitioner. Fasting is simply an expression of surrender to God. Saying with Job (t1:time Hour=”23″ Minute=”12″>23:12), that God’s presence, prominence and pre-eminence is more important than anything, even life sustaining sustenance.

The biblical rationale is clear and the scriptural mandate is evident. Fasting was practiced by the Jews, promoted by Jesus and perpetuated by the early Church. There are various types of fasts, both corporate and private. The supernatural fast is doing without food or water for 40 days. Moses, Elijah and Jesus are the only ones who have done this. Over 50 references in the Bible make the scriptural fast one of abstaining from food, while having water in-take. Daniel (10:3) and others used a selective fast by drinking water and eating only small portions of subsistence-type food.

Since fasting is to be a spiritual exercise, motive is the all-important factor. Isaiah 58 addresses some general reasons for fasting. Confession of sins, being sensitive to God’s Word and intercessory prayer are all reasons for fasting.

On October 15, I encourage you to join me in a fast for revival and a movement of God in the churches of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Let us pray that God will bring an awakening of soul winning and holiness among His people. See you in Corpus Christi, October 27 and 28.

Your servant in Christ,

Jim Richards

Short takes

American troops continue to die in our war on terrorism in Iraq. May we never grow numb to the reports each day but may we not forget the righteous cause behind these sacrifices. These young men and women, personally known and loved by so many of us, have made the world a safer place.

Most of us will witness more faithfully when held accountable for doing so. Doctrinal fidelity, then, is only one reason our overseas personnel need active supervision. Oversight will affect our message and our mission. Those who scoff at our confession of faith and its use by our mission boards often devalue biblical doctrine and biblical evangelism. Each action has an idea behind it. If you despise the idea, you’ll soon despise the action.

Christians can be scary when we disagree. The Sept. 13 issue of World contains a column in which Editor Joel Belz nails an important issue?meanness between Christians who disagree. Richard Land and James Dobson set a high tone in their disagreement over Alabama Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore’s response to federal court rulings that he should remove a stone copy of the Ten Commandments from his lobby. I don’t know many Christians who agree with the federal court ruling. I know several who are uncomfortable with Judge Moore’s response to the ruling. Apart from the example of Drs. Dobson and Land, the level of rancor between the brethren over this was entirely too high. Angry rhetoric and over-the-top accusations should not be mistaken for dialogue.

Galveston church brings light to darkness

“Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?”

James 2:5

GALVESTON, Texas?What was once a dark place is now a place of light for those who once abandoned hope a long time ago. Called the Imperial House when it was constructed in 1914, the block-long building was designed for one purpose?to serve as a bar and brothel in the heart of downtown Galveston.

More than 80 years later Abe Hudson said the Lord lead him and cohort Mark Weible, with the Galveston Baptist Association, to start a church for the poor and homeless on the island in 1999. Two previously selected sites were discounted by God, Hudson said. The first site selected was destroyed in a storm, and the owner of the second building decided to use his facility for storage instead. That led the men to 306 25th Street where the church is now located two blocks off the Strand, a popular Galveston tourist destination. In the section of the building adjacent to Mission Galveston, Calvary Church put down pews.

According to those who operate the church, it’s the only congregation of its kind on the island. Lennen joked that what was once the Imperial House of Sin is now the Imperial House of God.

The long, narrow room which now serves as a sanctuary used to be a dark and dreary place said Hudson’s wife, Diane. The walls and ceiling were painted black. But with the help of a youth group from Denton the walls and ceiling are now white, and the dirty floor has been stripped to bare concrete.

“It’s been a joint effort,” said Diane. She points to the pulpit. It was made by some folks at Northside Baptist in La Marque. The communion table was a gift from Central Baptist in Galveston. The pews came from Nassau Bay Baptist following a remodel of that church’s chapel. The piano and organ were donated by NBBC member Jane Harton after the death of her husband, Paul.

Some may think it’s not much to look at, and most congregations would not choose to worship there. But that is the point, state the Hudsons, adding that the homeless and poor who come to worship at Calvary Church would not feel welcome at a typical church.

And, so, they said, the need for such a church is real and ongoing. Calvary Church is not an outreach ministry of a congregation seeking to give a hand out and a hand up for those less fortunate. It is a place of worship, fellowship and Bible study for people on the fringes of society. It is the church home of the homeless.

One Calvary congregant who takes great pride in his church is Roger. A confessed former drunk and drug user who, when he was intoxicated, was so mean he wanted to shoot his neighbors.

Taking a sip of coffee, Roger said, “I used to drink here,” indicating with a wave of his mug around the portion of the former bar which now serves as the church kitchen. Each of the five entrances to the building had a different themed bar, Roger said. And he tried them all. Now sober and on fire for the Lord, Roger now ministers to those who stumble upon the church.

Hudson joked, “Roger’s our outreach director.” On more than one occasion Hudson has arrived at the church to find the pews filled with sleeping homeless people. None of which, Roger admitted, would leave without something to eat. His specialty? Ramen noodles.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays are washdays, and Roger sees that everyone who comes to the church for a shower and shave signs in and receives toiletries and a towel. A stackable washer and drier are also available on those days. And no one leaves without Roger giving them a list of community resources.

“I used to think you had to have money to be rich. I’m not making money, but I’ve got the Lord. I’ve got peace,” he said. Roger is also getting his family back. He has taken his small disability check and found a place where he, his adult daughter and son, and his grandchildren can live.

“I got us a house together?and I’m trying to teach my grandkids a better way of life.” Roger’s children have troubles of their own and have not made a profession of faith. “But,” Roger said with a grin,” I’m working on them.”

A year ago, church member Nando left a life of drugs and violence when he and his wife, Debra, happened upon Calvary. “This church,” he said, “serves people that most people would turn their noses up at.”

But Nando admitted to turning up his nose up at the idea of going to church. He and Debra were passing Mission Galveston where a sign announcing jobs was posted. Needing work the two went inside. While being assisted the couple was told they would have to attend a brief church service next door before getting aid from the mission. Recalling that moment, Nando rolled his eyes and said he did not like being told he had to go to ch


Ft. Worth church ‘coloring outside the lines’

FORT WORTH,?Team Church DFW in Fort Worth is “coloring outside the lines” of mission work typical to many Southern Baptist churches. Instead of building up its own body, the year-old congregation sends teams of church members to participate in weekly mission trips across the metroplex for church planting.

John Worcester, missionary and church planter for 23 years, founded Team Church with the goal of starting four new plants each year. Today, the congregation has grown to about 70 with almost 50 members participating in weekly mission trips to facilitate two area church planters.

“We are not just under one church, but basically an orchard of churches,” said Worcester, who has planted and pastored six churches including one in Moscow. “We will be planting churches that will plant other churches. They won’t be all like Team Church. That’s what we exist for as a church?to plant other churches.”

Along with planting churches, the Team Church staff is creating a city-reaching strategy as a prototype for other churches desiring more mission involvement.

“It’s a little different in that we’re gathering people in this hub and building them up so they can go out in the communities on Sunday mornings and reach people for Christ.”

After being approached by Tim Ahlen, the former director of church planting for the Dallas Baptist Association, Worcester was convicted for the need to create a new strategy to catalyze a church planting movement.

“I asked myself how we could create something that was very effective,” Worcester said. “I asked myself ‘What do church planters need the most in the early stages of the planting process, and how can I start a church that provides that?'”

Worcester soon realized that teams for ministry were crucial to church plant longevity. “Church planters are not usually very administratively-oriented. They need help with books and obtaining permits, and we can help in those areas.”

Team Church was born in November of 2002 and already supports two church plants, with plans to plant one more church by the year’s end.

During the week and on Saturdays, Team Church members divide into evangelism, children’s ministry and administrative teams to facilitate church planters. The teams distribute fliers for upcoming launch services, organize block parties and canvass neighborhoods for prospective members. Worcester said as Team Church grows, teams for worship, technology support and church planting will grow as well.

Team Church members gather on Sunday evenings for “hub meetings,” for corporate worship. Hub meetings consist of worship, a report of church planting activity from members and a fellowship meal. Small groups are also held on weekdays for accountability, prayer, support, and shepherding.

This strategy, Worcester said, frees the church’s ministerial staff and members to do mission work and facilitate church plants on Sunday mornings and during the week. Acknowledging that a church that does not offer Sunday morning worship services is different in Southern Baptist life, Worcester emphasized that Team Church is a prototype for mission work.

“We’re still learning and trying different things,” he said. “We see ourselves as the research and development division of the convention?trying new things to start church planting development.”

The first of two plants Team Church is currently undergirding held its first pre-launch event on June 9. About 200 people gathered in the backyard of Ryan and Gena Heller for a block party previewing Fellowship of Stonebridge in McKinney, pastored by Ryan.

“The kids enjoyed jumping in the bouncy house, getting balloons, hugging Chuck E. Cheese, and having their faces painted by clowns?along with all kinds of refreshments,” Worcester recounted. “The adults had a great time meeting neighbors and winning prizes donated by local businesses.”

As a result of the block party, almost 50 children signed up for Stonebridge’s weekly children’s ministry, “Club Rock.”

In July, Stonebridge hosted Vacation Bible School at which six children made professions of faith. On Aug. 24, the church plant held its first preview worship service with 270 in attendance, and on Sept. 7 the plant baptized an individual for the first time.

Rankin: Church planters not doctrinal watchdogs,

AUSTIN–Instead of asking whether or not new church starts adhere to the Baptist Faith and Message, the International Mission Board president believes the focus should be on missionaries proclaiming and sharing a gospel that changes lives and society while using their influence to promote sound doctrine.

Jerry Rankin addressed the subject during his Sept. 9 report to trustees meeting in Austin. He noted that neither missionaries nor the board have any authority over churches that are planted.

“Our missionaries do not serve as bishops nor doctrinal watchdogs over autonomous congregations around the world,” he said. “Missionaries go to proclaim the gospel and use their influence to train leaders and encourage these churches to believe and practice what the Bible teaches.”

IMB administration and trustees ensure personnel abide by the doctrinal convictions of the denomination while at the same time recognizing that the phenomenal growth in overseas church starts complicates efforts to assess effectiveness. The basic task of evangelism is accomplished “through proclamation, discipling, equipping and ministry that results in indigenous Baptist churches,” according to IMB principles, incorporating the command to “go” and to “make disciples.”

Questions arose in the recent board meeting as to the length of time IMB missionaries should spend in the discipleship process while planting churches that remain doctrinally sound.

Rankin did not back off of his conviction that Southern Baptist missionaries should affirm and carry out their work in accordance with the BF&M 2000, reminding trustees that all current missionaries have honored his request to do so. “Those of us in administrative leadership of the IMB and every regional leader have said that we will lead our mission efforts consistent with the Baptist Faith and Message. I would hope that assurance would be adequate to give you confidence in the integrity of our church planting efforts around the world.”

Texas trustee Debbie Brunson of Dallas told the Southern Baptist TEXAN, “The Great Commission commands that we go, teach and baptize.” She spoke of her daughter’s service as a journeyman missionary in an area where the use of the Baptist label would cause new Christians much difficulty.

“I do not have a problem with the necessity of starting ‘Baptist’ churches overseas,” she said, emphasizing the overwhelming need to deliver the gospel around the world. “More important than titles are souls that can be reached with the gospel. To me, that must place an urgency in our hearts to reach as many people as we can with the gospel,” Brunson said. “As I have shared many, many times on the mission field, it is not about religion. It is all about a relationship with Christ.”

Rankin said the suggestion that the IMB ought to more closely examine the fruit of overseas efforts implies what a church does reflects on the integrity of a missionary’s work. “Our personnel are out in the hinterlands, seeking to penetrate the lostness where there are no churches. The issue is really not who we should work with and whether or not they are churches that agree with our statement of faith. Our primary objective and relationship is with a lost world. We must not be diverted from the main task, and return to an era of negligible growth because our time is consumed in trying to lead and control the churches once they are established.”

He cited the biblical account in Acts of rapid church multiplication to explain the nature and power of the gospel. “Many have identified a church planting movement as a movement that is out of control as churches plant churches,” he told trustees. “Is that not what we want to happen? Is that not the power of the gospel? Is the life-changing message of God’s word, indwelt by God’s Holy Spirit, not something that should spread spontaneously?”

In East Asia every new believer is immediately encouraged and trained to share his faith and lead others to the Lord, he explained. New converts become leaders of other church fellowships, train more new believers to replicate the pattern of winning others and starting additional house churches. “Would we want to curtail this biblical model and stifle growth in order to exert control?”

He posed the question to warn of “skeptics and detractors” who question what is being called a church by the IMB and whether or not the new churches reported are Baptist churches. Rankin said, “We have always recognized that our witness and mission efforts, whether through institutions, social ministries or direct evangelism, must result in local, indigenous churches.”

Southern Baptists have one missionary unit [or couple] for every 1.8 million people, he said, a figure that expands to one unit for every 9.6 million people in South Asia. “Even the most effective personal witness would never be able to touch such a large population segment,” he said.

When those won to Christ are drawn together by the Holy spirit into a visible body of believers, Rankin said the witness of the missionary is extended as churches multiply and reproduce, undeterred by dependency on foreign leadership or outside resources.  ” A network o local churches potentially makes the gospel accessible to an entire people group, a nation and the whole world.”

Rankin said a lone missionary couldn’t control or determine what these churches believe and practice, seeking only to exert influence through discipleship anchored to the Word of God.  While the churches being reported by Southern Baptist missionaries probably “are Baptist in terms of their strict adherence to the pattern and teaching of the New Testament,” Rankin said they do not necessarily replicate “the traditions and forms of what we know as Baptist in America.”

In many cases overseas churches avoid a Baptist designation due to persecution, Muslim oppression, advantage gained with a neutral name, and prior identification of an ethnic group with Baptist name.  Furthermore, churches begun in countries where existing Baptists are liberal prefer not to be identified with “established leadership and influenced by the heresies they represent.”  Rankin elaborated, “The strain in our relationship with BWA is not simply due to their recognition of CBF, but the fact that many member bodies do not reflect a commonality of doctrine compatible with the convictions of Southern Baptists.”

For example, he said, “We’re starting churches in countries where the Baptist union is so liberal we would not want these groups of new believers to be identified with that label.  To do so would allow them to be perverted by the established leadership and influenced by heresies they represent.”

When asked specifically to respond to rumors that Southern Baptist missionaries are planting churches that have female pastors, Rankin said the committee evaluating IMB strategy had been sensitive to this question, particularly in East Asia where the growth is so prolific and a lot of women are pastoring.  “We have yet to find any IMB personnel that is planting a church and encouraging and advocating and putting in place women pastors.”

As chairman of the committee involved in the assessment, Trustee Jay Owens of Vinton, Va., said 8 of the 15 regional leaders said that all of their churches limit the office of pastor to a man.  In the other regions, he said IMB leaders made it clear that “none of the missionaries have planted churches that have called a woman as head pastor, however, a small minority of churches that belong to one of the national conventions have” called women as pastors.  He described these churches as “not coming from any of our influence,” adding, “Unequivocally, we are not planting churches with women as pastors.”

Texas trustee John Hatch told the Southern Baptist TEXAN of reports from the field received by some trustees that raised concerns over whether certain church were operating according to biblical principles as reflected in BF&M 2000.  “We are sure from the reports we’ve had now that our missionaries are planting New Testament churches,” Hatch stated.  “That concern that we had has been answered.  I’m satisfied that the missionaries we’re sending out are working in accordance with the statement of faith.”

He is concerned that Southern Baptist representatives not abandon new church starts too quickly “before they’re really firmly set and going in the right direction.”  Hatch praised the “valiant efforts” of missionaries to do that.  Unprecedented growth in some regions “causes you to want to get your breath and get things in perspective.” he said.  “That tension will always be there.  We’re seeing God blessing in the growth of churches and things are moving forward.  At the same time, we want to be sure, as best we can, that we nurture them properly.”

Other Texas IMB trustees share a concern that discipleship remains a part of the mix.  “Since we are starting indigenous churches, we cannot take rule over them,” stated Bill Sutton of McAllen.  “But, like Paul, we can guide them on a proper course.  We should start churches that hold to the same faith principles that we use in our own churches.”

Giving records show IMB trustees from Texas come from churches with strong contributions to mission causes such as the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.  Several Texas trustees are members of churches that rank among the top givers to Lottie Moon.  Several of these have made great strides toward increased giving since the individual became an IMB trustee, reflecting an increased awareness of the needs.  While asking hard questions, trustees are pushing their churches to give more generously and be involved more personally in missions.

In examining the IMB’s effectiveness overseas, Texas trustees remain supportive of the vision to “lead Southern Baptists to be on mission with God to bring all the peoples of the world to saving faith in Jesus Christ.”

“I do believe in the course we are on,” stated Sutton.  “But we need an ‘army’ of missionaries to do follow-up where our ‘marine’ missionaries have established a beachhead.”  He’s leading his church to raise their Lottie Moon goal by a third to help fund more personnel overseas.

Having served as a missionary to Chile for eight years, trustee Kyle cox of La Marque, Texas, understands the dynamics on the mission field.  “Therefore, the question of [whether missionaries are starting] Baptist churches has not been a major concern to me.”  However, because he is familiar with the denominational situation stateside, he said he understands why the issue was raised.

“It is appropriate to deal with that issue,” Cox affirmed, adding, “Yes, I am very satisfied with report [by Rankin] and trust the general membership of our churches will also.”

There are circumstances in which overseas churches actually adopt the Baptist Faith and Message as their own doctrinal statement at their own initiative.  In some areas where the document has been translated into the native language, house church networks are adopting the BF&M as their own statement of faith, Rankin reported.  However, he said, the issue is not whether or not “all the churches being started around the world adhere to the Southern Baptist Faith and Message, but do we want our missionaries to proclaim and share the gospel we believe has the power to change lives?”

Responding to a floor question, Rankin clarified that the IMB defines a local church as “a group of baptized believers convenanted together into a community by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of worship, fellowship, nurture and ministry, with the following characteristics:  The meet regularly for worship, fellowship, and mutual support in ministry; proclaim Christ to unbelievers; disciple believers; organize and administer their affairs, choosing their leadership who may or may not be paid, trained, ordained or one of the members of the group; they administer the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.”

At the board’s next meeting in Lexington, Ky., trustees will review a comprehensive assessment of church planting movements through Strategic Directions for the 21st Century, previously called New Directions.  Rankin said statistical reports will describe phenomenal growth and advance around the world as church planting movements emerge in unexpected and unlikely places.

In his closing statement Rankin spoke of “a prominent southern Baptist leader” who often challenged him with the question, “do you believe that what we believe and practice as Baptists is worth maintaining and propagating in our mission efforts overseas?'”  Rankin said his answer had always been an unequivocal affirmation.

“But I think the more valid question is, ‘Do we believe the lostness and destiny of those without Christ and the consequences of their eternal destiny is worth getting the gospel to them through whatever means and channel it takes?’ and, ‘Do we believe the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to the extent that it can penetrate a lost world and bring people into the kingdom whether it is through a witness identified as Baptist or not?’ I hope our answer would also be an unequivocal, ‘Yes!'”