Month: November 2003

Caswells blessed in their return to Yemen

CORPUS CHRISTI?Every time Terri Caswell attends a Southern Baptists of Texas Convention gathering she remembers the first year the state convention met.

“I had the great privilege of having my name on that charter and to see what God is doing through the SBTC,” the Southern Baptist representative to Yemen told a supportive crowd of more than 1,000 messengers and guests Oct. 27 during the SBTC’s sixth annual meeting.

The story of Don and Terri Caswell’s lives goes back much further than the five years since SBTC was formed, however. “It started before the foundation of the world,” she said, citing Psalm 139.

On Dec. 30, the Caswells, members of First Baptist Church, Eustace, will mark the first anniversary of the shooting at a Baptist Hospital in Jibla, Yemen which killed three Southern Baptist workers and sent Don near death.

After Don rested up from his injury and subsequent surgery, the family returned to the United States for a six-month furlough to decide their next step.

“We really didn’t know if we were to go back to Yemen or exactly what God had in store for us,” Don said, admitting that he didn’t expect they’d return. “But during that period of prayer and meditation, over time, God revealed to us the same call he gave us in the beginning.

Quoting Romans 11:29, Don said they found direction in reading that “‘the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.'” Upon returning in August, Don said God reconfirmed that is where he called them to be. New opportunities have arisen to share their faith with people who wonder why they returned.

“We could forgive them and love them just as God loved us,” Don said.

Further encouragement came as the widow of martyred worker Bill Koehn continued serving in the area where her husband was killed. Although the Islamic religion offers no security as to one’s eternal destiny, Don said all of the Muslims with whom he had talked expressed confidence that the three workers who were killed are now with God. “That is a great testimony to the lives they lived among the people.”

Don asked, “What is God calling you to do? Where is God calling you to go? If we don’t obey God’s call, then we will never experience the peace and joy that he has in store for us when we obey that call.”

Fear, middle age and safety were three of the reasons Don hesitated to respond to God’s call, he said. Despite those excuses, he related how he felt closer to God when the gunman prepared to pull the trigger than at any moment in his life. “A closeness of my God with me at that time gave me a peace and comfort I can’t describe. I thank God he allowed me to experience that at that time.”

Terri Caswell remembered the day the opportunity was extended to serve in Yemen. Looking on a map to see where it was, she said, “Immediately, with no hesitation, we said, “‘No!'” She added, “It was right smack dab in the middle of the Middle East and we didn’t feel God would call us to take our children to that place.” In time God worked to change their hearts, providing “calm assurance” to the Caswells.

During their first months in Yemen, Terri Caswell cried every day, she recalled. “I missed my life. I had my own car. I could go to Wal-Mart whenever I wanted to go?even at midnight,” she added. “I had my church, WMU, SBTC, and my girlfriends?and honey, we were close. We did fun things together. Then we moved and it was gone.”

Her unpleasant circumstances were compounded by the need to homeschool her children for the first time.

“For all of you mothers who love to homeschool, bless you. But I believe God made schools for mothers,” she quipped. “I had once told a friend of mine if God wanted me to homeschool he would have to hit me over the head to make me do it.” Instead, she said, “He sent me to Yemen and made me homeschool.”

One day while “whining, telling God how unfair it was,” God began to show her what it meant to be a living sacrifice. “He gave me a new way of looking at the service I was doing. If it took me all day to do school I wouldn’t fret.”

Gradually, she developed friendships and discovered creative ways to minister to those who needed to know God. When the news came that the hospital would be chan

emPower Conference to feature Zig Ziglar

Zig Ziglar, noted author and a highly-sought motivator on living a positive Christian life, will be among the speakers at the emPOWER Conference, sponsored by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, Feb. 9-10 at the Arlington Convention Center.

Ziglar, a member of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, will be among other well-known Christian leaders at the conference?formerly known as the State Evangelism Conference?such as Henry Blackaby, Jack Graham and Larnelle Harris.

Hilary Hinton “Zig” Ziglar was born in Coffee County, Ala., in 1926 and was raised in Mississippi. He became a Christian in 1972 and has tried to share the gospel regularly since then, he told Baptist Press in an interview last June at the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix.

After initial failure in sales, Ziglar found success. In 1955, he became an instructor at the Dale Carnegie Institute in New York City and was president of his own corporation from 1970-80. He speaks to audiences in the Christian and corporate arenas and now heads the Zig Ziglar Training Program.

Nine of his 23 books have been on the bestseller lists and titles have been translated into more than 38 languages and dialects. He has been quoted or written about in such publications as The New York Times, Washington Post, Dallas Morning News, Fortune, Time and Esquire and he has appeared on The Today Show, 20/20 and 60 Minutes as well as numerous radio outlets.

Known as a people builder who has taught companies worldwide to succeed by helping others reach their goals while standing on a character-based foundation, Ziglar has been given many honors and several honorary degrees, including an Honorary Doctor of Law from The Criswell College.

For more information on the emPOWER Conference, call the SBTC office at 972-953-0878 or toll free at 877-953-7282. For lodging group rates, see the hotel list below and state that you are attending theemPOWER Conference when making reservations.

The conference hotels are as follows:

• Wyndham Arlington, 1500 Convention Center Drive, Arlington, Texas 76011. Call 1-800-442-7275 for reservations or go to Use group code: 0208650SB.

• La Quinta Inns, 825 N. Watson Rd., Arlington, Texas 76011. Call 1-800-453-7909 for reservations.

• Baymont Inn & Suites, 2401 Diplomacy Drive, Arlington, Texas 76011. Call 817-633-2400 for reservations.

Spurgeon awards given to two SBTC churches

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)?The C.H. Spurgeon Awards ceremony and conference debuted last year, and this year two churches with ties to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention are among those honored. The awards are sponsored by the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth and was conceived by the school’s dean, Thom Rainer.

The Spurgeon Awards honor top churches in 12 categories, such as global missions, evangelism, prayer and innovative ministry. Rainer had been sending certificates of recognition to top SBC churches for several years prior to his founding of the Spurgeon Awards.

The Country Church SBC in Marion, an SBTC congregation, garnered a Spurgeon Award in the Innovative Approaches category. The pastor is Butch Ibels and the church is a plant that is now planting other churches, said Robby Partain, SBTC evangelism and missions senior associate.

Also honored was Holgate Baptist Church in Portland, Ore., where the SBTC has a missions partnership with the Interstate Baptist Association. The church was awarded in the Sunday School/Small Group category and is successfully doing the FAITH Sunday School evangelism strategy, Partain said.

“The purpose of the Charles Haddon Spurgeon Awards is to bring glory to God by recognizing His work in His churches,” Rainer said. “Although the churches do get rightful recognition, we are very clear that we do not seek glory for the churches, but to encourage and exhort them in the manner of the Apostle Paul.”

Both objective and subjective criteria determine finalists and award recipients in each category. All finalists receive a recognition letter from Rainer and the Graham School. A winner is selected from among the finalists.

The Spurgeon Awards have broadened their scope since their inaugural year. Last year, only Southern Baptist churches in the Midwest were eligible for the awards. This year, nominees came from SBC churches nationwide and the event will continue on a national scope in the years to come, Rainer said.

This year’s top church, Englewood Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, N.C., has experienced profound growth in recent years. The church averages 1,250 in attendance for Sunday morning worship and 800 for Sunday School. Sunday School attendees have increased by nearly 200 in the past two years and have climbed by a greater percentage of late.

The Spurgeon Awards are named in honor of the famous British Baptist pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who lived from 1834-92. In London, Spurgeon served as pastor of Metropolitan Tabernacle that underwent such meteoric growth during his ministry that the church built a 5,000-seat sanctuary.

“We use Spurgeon’s name for these awards for several reasons,” Rainer said. “He was a Baptist who had a high view of Scripture and believed that no church could be healthy without firm theological convictions. He had an evangelistic passion as clearly evident in his book, “The Soul Winner.”

“He was a pastor’s pastor, evident in the pastor’s school he started at Metropolitan Tabernacle…. He insisted on churches having some type of accountability beyond themselves. That is why he urged churches to report records of attendance and baptisms. He had no interest in numbers for numbers’ sake, but he did believe in congregational accountability through numbers.”

Rainer said the response from participating churches has shown that the Spurgeon Awards are accomplishing their goal of celebrating God’s work and encouraging congregations and leaders.

“We have had countless church leaders, staff and laypersons, tell us that they rarely, if ever, have received encouragement as they did through the Spurgeon Awards. They tell us that they are now more motivated than ever to press on for the sake of the Gospel and the glory of God.”

Winners in the 12 awards categories were:

• Church of the Year, Englewood Baptist Church, Rocky Mount, N.C.; first runner-up, Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, Marietta, Ga.; second runner-up, Long Heights Baptist Church, McKenzie, Tenn.

• Evangelism, Canaan Baptist Church, Bessemer, Ala.

• Prayer, Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, Marietta, Ga.

• Worship, Valley View Church, Louisville, Ky.

• Discipleship

SBTC elects new officers

CORPUS CHRISTI?Messengers to the sixth Southern Baptists of Texas Convention annual meeting unanimously elected Chris Osborne, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Bryan, to serve as SBTC president.

In making the nomination, Gil Lane, pastor of Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, described Osborne as a man whose “heart was in harmony with the beliefs of this convention before this convention ever existed.” Lane said, “It’s not his credentials that impress me, it’s his character. It’s not his leadership that brought me to this platform, it is his friendship.”

Messengers elected as first vice president for a second consecutive year Dt1:PersonName>avid Galvan, pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida in Garland, one of the largest Hispanic churches in Texas. Rudy Hernandez, former SBTC president, nominated Galvan, praising him as a preacher and a teacher who will continue to do the good work he has already begun.

As with the first two SBTC officers, conference messengers unanimously elected Bill Sutton as second vice president to the convention. “Bill has a passion for reaching Texas and the world for Christ,” said John Brady, pastor of Woodforest Baptist Church in Houston. Sutton is a former chairman of the International Mission Board and still serves as a trustee to that entity in addition to serving on the SBTC executive board. Sutton serves as pastor of First Baptist Church in McAllen.

Brenda Wills of First Baptist Church of Fort Worth was elected recording secretary following nomination by Barbara Smith of MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church in Irving. Wills is the wife of Donald Wills, pastor of First Baptist Church, Fort Worth.

All SBTC officers were elected unopposed.

SBTC Executive Board honors Richards,

CORPUS CHRISTI?The Southern Baptists of Texas Executive Board celebrated the five-year mark of the convention in its regularly scheduled meeting the morning after the SBTC’s sixth annual meeting, electing new officers, approving job responsibility shifts for three ministry staff members and welcoming a new ministry associate.

Steve Cochran, pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Longview, was unanimously elected board president. The board elected Joe Stewart, pastor of First Baptist Church, Littlefield, as vice chairman, and Sally Tillman of Exciting Immanuel Baptist Church in El Paso, as board secretary, both unanimously.

The board also recognized Jim Richards, SBTC executive director, for five years of leading the convention by presenting him with a book of letters and photos.

“Not very often do words fail me, but this is one of those times,” Richards remarked. “I am absolutely humbled by your graciousness and the expression of love that you have shown, not only this morning but also during the last five years.

“It’s been a tremendous journey, it’s been an incredible journey. And it would not have been possible had it not been for the pastor of the little church out in the country, the layman who was willing to take of his resources, the lady who was willing to pray, and all of those faithful Bible-believing, Christ-honoring Southern Baptists of Texas who said we need to have a ministry in this state. It’s because of them.”

Richards said he was given the opportunity to “raise the banner” and is thankful for those who have prayed for him and for the SBTC, adding he hopes others will continue to pray. He also thanked the SBTC ministry and support staff for its faithfulness, as well as the Executive Board for its support and vision for ministry.

“May the next five years be even greater than what we’ve experienced in these first five years,” Richards said.

The board approved the following staff reassignments: Robby Partain, from missions and evangelism senior associate to director of missions, beginning Jan. 1; Casey Perry, from director of minister/church relations to area ministry coordinator, effective Jan. 1; and Deron Biles, from minister/church relations associate to director of minister/church relations, effective Jan. 1.

Also, the board unanimously called, upon recommendation, Troy Brooks as minister/church relations associate, effective Jan. 1. Brooks is pastor of First Baptist Church, Groesbeck, where he has served since March 1986.

Upon accepting the call, Brooks commented, “Paula and I are deeply saddened at the thought of leaving First Baptist Church of Groesbeck, Texas. They have been our family for the past 18 years, We are, however, greatly excited about working with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and her more than 1,380 churches as we partner to reach Texas together.”

Brooks earned his bachelor’s degree at Dallas Baptist University, a master of divinity at Southwestern Seminary and a doctor of ministry from Louisiana Baptist Theological Seminary.

Joe Davis, SBTC chief financial officer, reported to the board that the convention has garnered $1.4 million of net operating revenue through Sept. 30 and estimated that figure to be $1.86 million at year’s end. When reduced by a $492,000 building fund allocation, the figure will be an estimated net operating income of $1.37 million, Davis noted.

“We’ve had a good year, receipts wise,” and “Cooperative Program receipts continue to be strong,” Davis said.

Receipts for Reach Texas, the state missions offering, are $700,299, compared with $672,091 last year, and the Lottie Moon Offering for International Missions yielded $3,509,412, compared with $3,091,775 last year, Davis reported.

The board also approved up to $300,000 in surplus funds to be used for SBTC ministry projects among the convention and its ministry partners. Specifically, the breakdown would be up to $100,000 for the SBTC Hispanic Initiative, up to $25,000 for the 20/20 Connection Project, and up to $75,000 for ministry in partnership with Houston Baptist University. Up to $100,000 was approved for special projects, which likely will involve the establishment of an SBTC foundation to support new ministry projects.

Richards reported that “we are very close” to calling someone to lead the Hispanic Initiative, a stepped-up effort to meet the rapidly expanding Hispanic culture in Texas. “Our desire is to reach the people that God is sending our way,” he noted.

SBTC praised by SBC leaders for leadership

CORPUS CHRISTI?Southern Baptists of Texas Convention messengers and guests heard expressions of gratitude from Southern Baptist entity leaders, grateful for the state convention’s commitment to send more funds beyond the state than are retained for Texas ministry.

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Charles Kelley Jr. led off with praise to the SBTC and Executive Director Jim Richards “for the incredible work you are doing in setting aside 52 percent of state Cooperative Program receipts to give to worldwide ministry. No state convention has ever done that before. Thank you for your vision to touch the world for Christ.”

The great challenge among Southern Baptist seminaries is not in finding faculty committed to the inerrant word of God, enlisting students to be trained, nor in offering groundbreaking, innovative curriculum, stated Kelley. “The greatest challenge we have is providing adequate funding for those seminary students.”

Despite a 10 percent increase in enrollment in the past 20 years, students are taking fewer courses because of the need to work to pay for their education. “Seminaries are working extremely hard at keeping costs under control, but the task gets ever more difficult to do,” he said.

Kelley described the extended ministry of NOBTS as “the sun never sets” on the graduates of the seminary. Inmates at “the bloodiest prison in America” have heard the gospel proclaimed by other prisoners saved and then discipled through the outreach of the seminary. Volunteer teenagers, college students and senior adults utilize campus dormitory space to offer ministry in the French Quarter.

“God put Baptists in New Orleans to show his gospel can flourish in any kind of setting if only his people will be brave and courageous enough to let that gospel loose.”

Told by a former Southern Baptist leader that “the seminaries are in ruin, devastated, with virtually nothing left of the great seminary system we once had,” Kelley said, “I had to pray and ask God that he would ruin us some more.” He praised the faculty at each Southern Baptist seminary for teaching the Bible “as the word of God, inspired, inerrant, infallible and sufficient for every need of the world today.”

Kelley urged churches, “Work harder than ever before to be faithful to the Cooperative Program God has given to us.”

“We are not to wait until we reach everyone in Jerusalem to go to Judea and Samaria,” said Southern Baptist missionary Randal Pegues in his report on behalf of the International Mission Board. “We do all of those at one time.” With 1.5 billion people having never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and 220 people groups with no access to that message, Southern Baptists are striving to share the gospel with all unchurched people groups with a population of 100,000 people or more by the year 2005.

“Southern Baptists are answering God’s call to missions, but must wait for financial support to catch up,” Pegues said. In spite of an 8.7 percent increase in the number of mission candidates responding, giving has risen by only 1.5 percent. As a result, the number of field personnel will decline from 5,510 to 4,800 by the end of next year.

In a videotaped message, IMB President Jerry Rankin appealed to SBTC churches to prayerfully consider increasing their gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions by 33 percent over last year. At that level of giving Rankin said Southern Baptists would surpass the $130 million goal and open the floodgates to send all of the candidates prepared to go. Without such a strong response among Southern Baptists, he said, “We’ll continue the status quo and send those 4,800 missionaries.”

Reminding Texas Baptists that the work of LifeWay actually began in Texas, President James T. Draper said Southern Baptists established the Baptist Sunday School Board in 1890 at the annual meeting in Fort Worth. Over a century later, LifeWay is partnering with the SBTC to provide $215,948 for student ministry, field service, training and promotional materials.

Draper described LifeWay as the largest publisher of religious resources and materials in the world with 119 retail stores, 188 monthly periodicals and more than 300 undated periodicals. That ministry has extended around the world as resources and training are provided globally. In 2002, Southern Baptist churches reported 109,000 professions of faith and 300,000 prospects through Vacation Bible School.

“VBS is still the best evangelistic tool Southern Baptists have,” Draper remarked.

As the only entity in Southern Baptist life whose primary focus is not on the message, but rather the messenger, Annuity Board President O. S. Hawkins said the Dallas-based entity seeks to assist pastors who often lack an advocate, partnering with them to enhance financial stability throughout life. By enrolling in a retirement plan, Southern Baptist ministers automatically qualify for matching funds that provide for disability and survivor’s benefits. “It’s a no-brainer. Every church ought to have its pastor and staff in the Annuity Board.

SBTC messengers approve $16.3 million budget

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CORPUS CHRISTI?Messengers to the sixth annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention adopted a $16.3 million budget for 2004 and marked the SBTC’s fifth anniversary, which included a surprise greeting via fax from President Bush.

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The convention elected its officers unopposed, including Chris Osborne, pastor of Central Baptist Church of Bryan, as its president. The convention elected Dt1:PersonName>avid Galvan, pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida in Garland, as first vice president for a second term and elected first-termers Bill Sutton, pastor of First Baptist Church, McAllen, second vice president, and Brenda Wills of First Baptist Church, Fort Worth, as recording secretary.

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Osborne succeeds George Harris, who retired last year as pastor of Castle Hills First Baptist Church in San Antonio.

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In nominating Osborne, Gil Lane, pastor of Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, said Osborne has many admirable credentials, “but it’s not his credentials that impress me; it’s his character,” Lane said. Osborne served as SBTC Pastors’ Conference president in 2003.

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The convention registered an attendance of 1,370, including 831 messengers and 539 visitors. The SBTC has 1,380 congregations.

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The SBTC’s 2004 budget of $16,339,576 is an 18 percent increase, or $2.47 million, over 2003. The majority?52 percent?will go to Southern Baptist Convention causes, such as the International and North American mission boards and the SBC’s six seminaries. The remaining 48 percent will fund church planting, missions and related ministry within Texas, reported Joe Davis, the SBTC’s chief financial officer.

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No other Baptist state convention sends a higher percentage of receipts to Southern Baptist Convention ministries through the SBC’s Cooperative Program missions funding channel than the SBTC, Davis noted.

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The 2004 budget is “aggressive,” Davis said?requiring $68,000 more per month in Cooperative Program receipts than in 2003?and we “believe this budget continues our practice of being good stewards with your Cooperative Program gifts and we are anxious to see what God will do in 2004.”

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Of the SBTC budget, 29.49 percent will go to missions and 9.29 percent for evangelism (formerly part of the missions category). The remainder includes 14.19 percent for minister/church relations; 13.78 percent for church ministry support; 11.57 percent for affiliated and fraternally related ministries; 10.93 percent for operational and financial services and 10.75 percent for communications.

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Gerald Smith, outgoing executive board chairman, reported to messengers that because of the “generous gifts of God’s people” the SBTC is building debt-free a 30,000 square foot office on 3.8 acres in Grapevine, set for completion next April. Owning a building will save the convention about $200,000 a year, according to a feasibility study, Smith said.

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Throughout the two-day gathering, which featured the theme “Victory in Jesus,” numerous platform guests noted the SBTC’s fifth anniversary. The convention began in 1998 with 120 congregations and now has more than 1,370 affiliated churches.

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During the Oct. 28 session, SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards stepped to the podium and read a greeting from President Bush, congratulating the convention on its five-year anniversary. The fax was to be accompanied by an official letter being sent by mail from the White House.

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“I send greetings to those celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention,” the president wrote.

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“Faith plays an important role in the lives of many Americans and in the fabric of our country. Throughout our history, people of faith have helped shape our character and have contributed to the vitality of our Nation.

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“By celebrating and sharing your faith, you help to sustain a spirit of compassion in our country. Your dedication to loving and serving others reflects the strength of America.

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“Laura joins me in sending our best wishes for a memorable event. May God bless you, and may God continue to bless America.”

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Richards remarked to the convention, “That was quite a surprise and I think Dr. (Richard) Land may have had his hand in that. We appreciate anyone who was responsible for notifying the president of our fifth anniversary celebration and we do thank the President of the United States for thinking of us at our time o