Month: January 2004

Beruit Trip

During the Christmas-New Year’s break, I traveled along with 20 other hearty souls to Beirut, Lebanon. My concept of the area was one of militant extremists and veiled women. It was not like that at all. Lebanon is about as Muslim as America is Christian. There is an influence, but the overarching culture is very secular. We were able to speak freely and safely as we went door-to-door witnessing and distributing Bibles.

Lebanon is the gateway to the Middle East. If we want to change the mindset in the stricter Muslim countries, we can do it through the work in Lebanon. Plans are being made to expand our partnership with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and the nationals in Lebanon.

Several SBTC leaders went on the trip: Mac Brunson (FBC, Dallas); Steve Washburn (FBC, Pflugerville); Lamar Cooper (The Criswell College) and Terry Coy (SBTC staff). I would encourage you to prayerfully consider making the next trip to evangelize the lost and encourage the believers in this strategic country.

Right upon us is the emPower Evangelism Conference. Much planning, work and prayer has gone on in the last year. The speakers and musicians are the best ever. This is a time of inspiration, encouragement and challenge. I hope every pastor will attend. Set aside the time to be with us on Monday and Tuesday.

On Tuesday at noon, the annual Cooperative Program Luncheon will be held. IMB President Jerry Rankin is the guest speaker. We will hear what God is doing through our SBC missionaries and once again be blessed by the news about the Cooperative Program.

Pastor, consider bringing some laypersons to the conference and luncheon. This is the best occasion for you to ignite a passion for souls and commitment in your laypersons. Layperson, this conference is for you. Plan to attend.

God is beginning to stir a fire of spiritual awakening in Texas. Be a part of what He is doing. See you in Arlington.

Your servant in Christ,
Jim Richards

Criswell Communications plans “Hispanic Radio Day”

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DALLAS?On Jan. 30, Criswell Communications’ flagship station, KCBI (90.9 FM) will broadcast a “Hispanic Radio Day” fund-raiser to boost support for its increasing ministry to the 1.4 million Hispanics in the Dallas-t1:City>Fort Worth area.

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Douglas E. Price, Criswell Communications vice president of operations and chief operating officer, said the ultimate goal is to have a full-powered AM or FM station broadcasting the gospel message in Spanish.

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Meanwhile, Criswell Communications has distributed about 4,000 sub-carrier (SCA) radios that broadcast original Christian programming in Spanish, Price said.

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In December, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention contributed $5,000 towards the work of Criswell Communications’ Hispanic radio ministry, Red Hispana de Radio Cristiana. Criswell Communications is an entity of the The Criswell Center for Biblical Studies (CCBS), which includes The Criswell College. CCBS is affiliated with the SBTC. KCRN AM and FM in San Angelo and KSYE in Frederick/Lawton, Okla.

Project seeks to connect with emerging leaders

Jeff Harris is not a denominational outsider or a doctrinal novice.

He loves Southern Baptists and is rooted deeply among them. His father, George Harris, just completed two terms as president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) and recently retired as pastor of Castle Hills First Baptist Church in San Antonio.

Yet Harris, a young Southern Baptist pastor, believes Southern Baptists will play a diminished role in gospel work in the next quarter century unless Southern Baptist leaders begin envisioning the future through the eyes of an emerging generation less brand loyal than previous generations.

Unless such change occurs, “ultimately, only those congregations that persist in traditionalism will be supporting the Cooperative Program, out of principle or tradition,” he said.

Pastors like Harris and others less familiar with Southern Baptist cooperation prompted SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards in 2002 to ask the elder Harris, then SBTC president, to organize a plan to reach out to younger pastors with the hope of passing on the “core values” of the SBTC as they emerge in leadership.

“By the year 2020 most of the current leadership of the convention will be off the scene,” Richards said. “The kingdom will suffer if we do not prove the value of our historic Southern Baptist cooperation while being innovative in our approach to the emerging generation.”

Harris accepted Richards’ request, and with help from SBTC staff, the 20/20 Connection Project was officially born last year. The name connotes a clear future vision and relays the idea that those under 40 will be leading by 2020, said Robby Partain, 39-year-old SBTC director of missions.

In a preliminary meeting last February, about 20 young pastors from Texas churches met with several SBTC staff members to exchange views about the future of the SBTC and Southern Baptists. Both groups came away more informed about the other, Partain said.

“You look around and primarily we have connected with an over-40 group,” Partain said. “This focus group we assembled in February all have some connection to the SBTC, yet their ways of doing things, their philosophies about ministry, they’re just very different. How are we going to connect with them?”

Partain said the meeting led to a commitment to establish a “broader, more comprehensive effort to connect with these guys” and to pass on the SBTC’s core values?theological agreement (inerrancy), missiological activity (helping churches do the Great Commission) and methodological approach (SBC cooperation)?with what is vital and important to them.

Partain said the focus group communicated the need to be more “relational” in dealing with younger pastors and to add value to their ministries by understanding them. ‘Why do we need a state convention?’ and ‘Why should I invest my time in it?’ were questions that arose from the meeting.

“It wasn’t a matter of ‘do I connect with the SBTC doctrinally’ because they already did,” Partain said. “It wasn’t a matter of ‘do I believe in the Southern Baptist Convention’ or ‘do I believe in the conservative resurgence,’ all those kind of things, but more of a utilitarian question. What’s it for? What’s a convention for and why is it important for me to invest my time, energy, commitment into being an active part of the SBTC?”

“They communicated that they need somebody who takes the time to get to know them and what their ministry is all about?to add value to what God has called me and my church to do,” Partain noted.

Furthermore, the emerging generation is not comprised of joiners or attenders, Partain said. The builder generation that fought World War II were organizational loyalists with an organizational mindset. The baby boomers were less so.

The generations that followed have a different mindset, Partain insisted.

“Just because they agree with you about doctrinal positions, just because maybe they agree with you about core values or just because they may share some affinity with you does not mean they are going to come to your meeting just because you have it. It does not mean they are going to attend things just to be loyal to the institution or the organization. It’s much more utilitarian for them.”

Partain said parachurch organizations offer much more numerous and diverse ministry resources than in the era of the builder generation and younger leaders will focus on resources and events that they perceive as adding value to their ministries.

George Harris did not attend the meeting with the focus group because he was recovering from a motorcycle accident last February. However, he said his impression is that young leaders see denominational bureaucracy as “repelling” and are distrustful of it.

He said the Cooperative Program, for instance, needs a makeover because the younger generation’s understanding of missions requires a hands-on approach. “Missions must involve the local church on more than a dollar level for it to have meaning to them,” he said.

Also, George Harris noted, the emerging genera

IRS offers helpful hints for churches

Church business administrators should note that church donors should be reminded through church bulletins and other communications to not file federal income tax returns until a contributions receipt is received from their churches.

According to the December issue of the publication Church Treasurer Alert!, donors cannot deduct more than $250 of church giving if they file a tax return prior to receiving a receipt of yearly gifts from the church.

Also, church administrators should also note that contributions deposited in the church offering in 2004 cannot be deducted on 2003 tax returns even if the check is backdated to 2003.

The exception is checks that are mailed and postmarked in 2003 but not received until 2004.

In 2004, the IRS allowable mileage rate is 37.5 cents per mile for all business trips, up from 36 cents last year. This figure is useful for businesses and ministry organizations in computing mileage expense allowances.

If reimbursement is more than the IRS figure of 37.5 cents, the excess is considered taxable income and must be reported as such, Church Treasurer Alert! reports.

If a church reimburses at a rate less than the IRS allowable rate, the difference represents an unreimbursed expense that may be claimed as a business expense deduction by the employee if certain conditions are met.

Texas Southern Baptists invited

The SBTC is in its second year of missions partnership with the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio. Opportunity exists there in the state’s large cities such Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus to rural ministry across a state that encompasses flatlands and Appalachian foothills.

The State Convention of Baptists in Ohio (SCBO) includes 635 congregations among a population of 11 million people.

Leroy Fountain, SBTC urban church planting associate and a liaison on the Ohio partnership, said, “We need churches from Texas to partner with Ohio Baptists to reach a group of people that just need to know that God loves them and that he does have a plan for their life right where he’s planted them, and also to give another generation hope and to make a difference in each respective part of the state.”

“There is every kind of opportunity you can imagine,” added Duane Floro, the Ohio convention’s ministry evangelism strategist. “Metropolitan cities like Cleveland that have multiple cultures and people groups ? to cities such as Cincinnati, which, if you have listened to the news much lately, is a racially divided and also a religious divided city. The opportunities in a city like Cincinnati are as far as you can see and then some. To be able to see God do a healing work in that city and to have churches from Texas come up and help us to see the queen city come back to the King of Kings would be phenomenal.”

Also, the state includes vast farmland and poverty-stricken Appalachian foothills in the southeast region. “English as a second language is making an incredible impact in that part of the state.”

Ohio also has tremendous potential for college ministry, with Ohio State University in Columbus, one of the nation’s largest campus populations, and many smaller colleges as well, Floro said.

In 2004, the SCBO has chosen the Southwestern Baptist Association as its primary focus area. The partnership with the SBTC provides varied opportunities, from helping gather prayer support throughout Texas to financial giving to hands-on missions.

Southwestern Association has a vision for church planting and church revitalization. The area near the association has grown by population while associational churches have declined in number, in church members and in baptisms.

In 1964, the association had 42 Southern Baptist churches; today the number of constituted congregations is 27. Baptisms have declined from 492 per year in the 1960s to around 250 annually today. Meanwhile, the population in Butler County, where most of the churches are, has grown from 199,076 in 1960 to more than 330,000 in 2000.

The association’s mission statement reads, “The Southwestern Baptist Association exists to glorify God by being on mission together in resourcing and equipping our churches to live out Acts 1:8,” a verse that promises the help of the Holy Spirit as believers bear witness to Christ in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the far ends of the world.

The association’s strategy borrows an acrostic, ACTS 1:18: Advancing Healthy Leaders, Church Health, Training & Reaching Future Leaders, Starting New Churches, and 1:8 On Mission Together.

These areas include equipping and encouragement in children’s and youth ministry, facilitating church planters and starting eight new works in 2004, training pastors and church leaders, and equipping the laity for church ministry and missions.

Additionally, established churches are sought to encourage and partner with new churches through the association’s “Adopt-a-Church” program.

For additional information on the SBTC’s partnership with Southwestern Association, visit or call John Bailey, associational missionary, at 513-893-3811 or at

For opportunities statewide, contact Floro at 614-827-1754 or


Also, the SBTC and the International Mission Board are sponsoring a “vision” trip to China April 12-22 for pastors and lay leaders interested in taking mission teams there to work with IMB representatives.

The SBTC took a small group of pastors and lay leaders last March to China to gain a vision for the needs there, said Terry Coy, SBTC ethnic church planting strategist and the contact person for the ChinaVision 2004 trip.

East Texas couple sounds culture warnings

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While most folks their age are looking forward to or already enjoying retirement, Russ Polson, 77, and his wife, Wynell, 66, spend weekends traveling among the churches of East Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas, calling Christians to discern the destructive nature of much in today’s entertainment industry.

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Their motivation, they said, is their grandchildren, great-grandchildren and the many young people they encounter week after week growing up in a culture hostile to biblical values. Using videos produced by the Phil Chalmer True Lies Ministry, the Polsons present a message intended to enlighten and engage Christians without browbeating them.

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Russ Polson Ministry, formerly Resource Center for Biblical Morality, is about a passion to help young people and their families understand that some of the influences of this world can only bring heartache and desensitize people to the value of human life, Russ explained.

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What the couple presents is relevant and compelling, said David Nugent, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jasper. He said the students of his church were encouraged to live pure lives. And they, he added, are not ignorant of the things of this world. “The youth are in the know. Nothing really surprises them.”

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It’s the parents, Nugent said, who are shocked to learn what kids listen to in music and see in movies and on TV. “Parents are the ones who are naïve.”

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“Tell me about it!” Russ exclaimed. “I just want to shake them and tell them.”

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There is no physical shaking during Russ’s presentation, merely spiritual shaking. He said many parents are stunned to discover what their kids?church kids?have been exposed to via the entertainment industry in foul language and sexually explicit lyrics in music CD’s, movies and even video games. For example, Russ said, much of rap music and other violent and sexually explicit forms of pop music “have just ravaged our kids.”

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“It’s ruining our kids,” echoed pastor and long-time friend, Ray Tenpenny of East Mountain Baptist Church, home church for the Polsons.

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Tenpenny said as far back as Aristotle adults have been concerned with the unseemly elements of their day and its influence on the young and impressionable. For his generation, Tenpenny, 71, admitted with a laugh, it was country music?Hank Williams, if one were to name names. For his kids it was Elvis and Archie Bunker. “That was mild,” he said, compared to what kids mentally ingest these days.

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Russ admits that every generation of parents has its concerns of what negatively impacts their children. But things are different today, said the World War II veteran. The messages proclaimed through music and movies?be they explicit or subtle?can negatively impact the value a teen places on his own life or the lives of others.

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Russ said the problem of unwed motherhood was real when he was a teenager, but it was not as common and casual an issue as today. Fifty years ago, he said, the young girl in question would “go visit her aunt” and come home a few months later. Now young girls visit an abortion clinic and come home that afternoon.

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His involvement with the Right to Life movement years ago was truly the impetus for what he does today. Just seeing how life is held in such disregard moved him to action in ministries such as the Gideons, Underground Evangelism, or his ministry today. At the heart of the ministry is his love and concern for his 12 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. For them and all the children who will inherit this nation, Russ said, “I’ll do this until the Lord calls me home.”

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If just a few hearts are touched by what he and Wynell present, than it is well worth any effort, he said.

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When the couple speaks to churches it is usually in three different venues. Wynell addresses the youth while Russ talks to the parents and other adults of the church. The evening service with all church members is a time of celebration of God, country, and what God has in store for those who seek his will in their lives and the lives of their families.

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“He is always very positive, very upbeat,” said James O’Dell of Calvary Hill Baptist Church in Mesquite. “Our folks just love it.”

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O’Dell said he believes the heart of what the Polsons do is simply rooted in a sincere desire to share with churches that are not aware of ungodly influences that hold sway over teenagers. “He’s there to encourage you ? it’s never a condemning. He never does a lot of preaching.”

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Russ said he doesn’t even go behind the pulpit. He said he’s not a preacher or evangelist. He doesn’t even quote a lot of Scripture. “Our churches have enough pastors,” Russ said with a laugh. “I’m just a Southern Baptist layman with a burden on my heart.”

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His wife shares that burden. “I find it so rewarding,” she said. “It’s just something I can do at this time in my life.”

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Wynell said she approaches the students as a grandmother. She encourages the teens to hold one another accountable to the higher