Month: November 2003

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

Thanksgiving of a different sort

Gratitude is an ongoing mandate for God’s people, but a special day for a national focus is also a good thing. Our gratitude is of a different quality, though. It is not as limited as what we see in the lives of our neighbors. Thanksgiving is not a concept that stands alone. We must be thankful for something and to someone for the word to have any meaning. Consider some of the ways a believer’s celebration of this holiday will differ from that of our neighbors.Believers are grateful for different things. Understandably, the non-spiritual mindset is focused on what we have, how we feel, and what we need or want. There is a note of fear in the thanksgiving expressions of those who think God might be there but don’t know him. “Youth, health, and prosperity can’t last forever. If God is there, he is the one who knows or controls my days. I wonder what his blessing or cursing of my life is based on,” the thought might be.

In contrast, believers have an eternal relationship with our creator. Redemption, revelation, hope, joy, fulfillment, strength, and a host of other gifts flow from that relationship. So long as we trust God for the things we need we can escape the superstitious desperation that creeps into expressions of gratitude offered by those outside of Christ. Because we know our God, we value most highly the things that are as certain and eternal as he is.

Believers express gratitude in a different way. The world has little to offer except vague, ritualistic prayers at mealtime. The thought that God might be involved more personally in their lives is not always a comforting one to those who don’t know him. Apart from this revelation people have not much improved on the superstition of idol worship. Even cults today that venerate a god who is spirit rather than wood or stone say “I hope so,” or “Maybe,” or even, “I wish I knew,” when asked about their relationship with their gods. Thanksgiving for them is a little like the prophets of Baal seeking the right combination of praise, repetition, and self flagellation to convince their capricious deity to bless them.

A better thanksgiving is born out of a sure relationship. What our God has revealed of his character is in perfect harmony with our experience of him. He is beyond our understanding but has also gone to extraordinary lengths to show us all of himself that we can grasp, and a little more for our imaginations. He has certainly shown us enough so that we can trust his love for us. Based on the promises of Scripture, we can also be confident of our relationship with him through Christ. We can rejoice without mixed motives because he has shown where we stand with him. It’s a blessing we should not take for granted.

It is often noted that the up and down cycle of Israel’s relationship with God is recognizable to Christians as we wrestle with our old man. Notice, though, that many of Israel’s worst days were born out of ingratitude. God’s provision for the nation recorded in Exodus is a good example. The people were in bondage, so God delivered them with great and unmistakable power. The were pressed by their enemies and cried out in fear that God had delivered them to be killed by Pharaoh’s army before the Red Sea; again God delivered them in a way that pointed to his unique power. In chapter 16, they seemed convinced that God was going to let them starve and again returned to the mantra of, “We’re better off in Egypt.”

God gave them food so that they did not need to cultivate or do anything except gather and eat. After that, they seemed convinced God was going to kill them with thirst. The miracle of God’s provision here was always presumed and rarely appreciated. Many of us get a good chuckle from the whiny way that Israel followed God, but mostly our laughter is at ourselves. We are those guys. We must diet because we’re overfed and then worry the world will end because our second or third car is acting up. We should remember our sure relationship with God and if, like Job, we are stripped down to having only that, God’s blessing is still sure and evident.

The extent of our thanksgiving should also be different. If limited to the things I own and the health of my loved ones, I never completely shake the thought that I am somewhat responsible. If things are great, I give myself some of the credit for being so careful and talented. When things go badly, I can always think of things I might have done better. My instincts are false here. Yes, there are consequences to wise and foolish acts but our fortune is in the hands of God, in detail. Apart from Christ, we are left to thank somebody we suspect might not exist for things we mostly believe we did for ourselves. And our gratitude is occasional at best for even these things.

Again, it is different for believers. The most certain thing in our lives is also the most precious, eternal, and inarguably of divine origin. I do not suspect for a moment that my salvation is the fruit of my own labor or goodness. Starting here, I know that all the more temporal blessings of this life must also answer to their creator, regardless of what I sometimes feel. It is therefore natural to express specific thanks to my God daily and several times each day. I do not operate in a closed system. God constantly intervenes in ways I see and in ways I don’t. Although Thanksgiving is a precious and warm holiday for many of us, it is not the full extent of our expressing gratitude to God for his blessings.

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Patterson installed as 8th SWBTS president

FORT WORTH?Paige Patterson, a key architect in the conservative theological resurgence among Southern Baptists, was inaugurated Oct. 21 as the eighth president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary amid family, students, friends and colleagues. Majestic hymns and fiery exhortations from Baptist leaders?rife with historical references to past champions of biblical integrity?characterized the service.

The son of the late T.A. Patterson, a pastor and leader among Texas Baptists, Patterson and his platform guests entered the formal environs of Travis Avenue Baptist Church adorned in academic robes and regalia.

New Orleans Seminary President Charles Kelley and O.S. Hawkins, Southern Baptist Convention Annuity Board president, charged Patterson with presidential responsibilities. Patterson’s son-in-law, Mark Howell, delivered the inaugural message.

The program included Baptist leaders such as SBC President Jack Graham and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Executive Director, Jim Richards, who greeted Patterson on behalf of the SBTC’s 1,370 congregations.

“The churches of the SBTC believe in you, Dr. Patterson, and believe in Southwestern. Our shared core values make us spiritual partners,” Richards said.

Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler, citing the faith of the church fathers and later Baptist forebears, exhorted Patterson in his signing of the Baptist Faith and Message confessional statement. Kenneth Hemphill, Patterson’s predecessor, presented Patterson the seminary’s Presidential Medallion.

Hawkins’ charge to Patterson drew applause and was defined by a rousing historical account of seminary founding President B.H. Carroll’s doctrinal beliefs.

“President Carroll, Bible in hand, did more than standardize orthodoxy in Texas; he rallied the host of Baptists to the Bible doctrines of the Holy Scripture,” Hawkins said in quoting J.B. Gambrell, Carroll’s friend and contemporary.

“Southwestern has always been known as a conservative place. Why? Because we have always sought to conserve something: the trustworthiness of the word of God, the dreams and visions of those founders.

“So we come this evening to celebrate a president of Southwestern Seminary” characterized by the courage to fight for the inerrancy of Scripture, the conviction to use confessional accountability, the consistency to hold to the Bible amid cultural change and a belief in denominational cooperation.

Hawkins then quipped, “And lest anyone in here this evening misunderstand, and lest you (Patterson) get too puffed up, I’m not speaking of Dr. Paige Patterson. I’m speaking of Dr. B.H. Carroll, the founder of Southwestern Seminary.”

Hawkins said Carroll’s writings are documented in “hundreds of printed pages that leave us the answer” as to how Carroll might respond to current theological debates.

“B.H. Carroll, though he is dead, still speaks.”

Patterson said Carroll believed in the “verbal, plenary (complete) inspiration” of Scripture.

” ‘One part is no more inspired than any other part,'” Hawkins said, quoting from Carroll’s book “The Inspiration of Scripture.” “‘It is perfectly foolish to talk about degrees of inspiration. What Jesus said in the flesh as we find it in the four gospels is no more his word than what the inspired prophets or inspired apostles said.

” ‘In other words,’ Carroll said, ‘we cannot pit the words of Christ over the words of Paul, as some seek to do today.'”

Continuing his quoting of Carroll, Hawkins said, “‘The modern cry (of) less creed and more liberty is a degeneration from the vertebrate to the jellyfish and it means less unity and less morality and it means more heresy. It is a hurtful sin to magnify liberty at the expense of doctrine.’

Alluding to debate about SBC views on female pastors, Hawkins said Carroll believed in women’s ministry and even had deaconesses who served women at First Baptist Church, Waco. But, Hawkins said in quoting Carroll, “The custom in some congregations of having a woman as pastor is a flat contradiction to the apostolic teaching and is an open rebellion against Christ our king and is high treason against his sovereignty.”

Hawkins said Carroll immersed himself in denominational controversy, in Carroll’s words, “for one purpose ? to promote unity.”

Hawkins continued. “It’s not hard when we take time to read our forefathers in their own words to see who the real denominational loyalists and preservers of Baptist heritage truly are. One must ask, ‘Who has moved from Baptist roots?'”

Howell, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Little Rock, Ark., delivered the inaugural sermon, “Why Do We Do What We Do?” from Acts 20:17-38.