Month: February 2004

No passionless Christ

Some movie reviewers have left themselves no where to go. If future movies are deemed pornographic, extreme, relentless, tortuous, or nauseating, media writers will be left with nothing to do but string “very”s together to indicate a higher level of offense. They have used up all these strong terms criticizing Mel Gibson’s portrayal of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and death. For them, it’s only about brutal violence.

Relentlessly, they complain that the Jesus of love and peace is all but left out of “The Passion of the Christ.” One writer says that she misses more emphasis on the Sermon on the Mount (more likely, the parts she finds palatable). Let me just offer a Howard Dean shriek at this point. I can’t escape the idea that they wrote these editorials without seeing the movie. They can see symbolism and subtlety and art in cynical postmodern chaos like “Pulp Fiction” but miss the meaning in Gibson’s portrayal of that part of the gospel usually soft sold. They miss it because they don’t value it, I think.

Have there been portrayals of Jesus that emphasize more pedestrian understandings of peace and love and gentleness? I guess so. How about “Jesus Christ Superstar” (no resurrection), “Godspell” (ditto), “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” “The Last Temptation of Christ,” and several smaller movies usually criticized as too boring or literal if they are not ignored totally? That “gentle” Jesus has had plenty of play and patronizing acceptance in our culture. Gibson went a level deeper than these writers want to go, it seems.

Gibson’s Jesus is more authentically gentle. He did not resist the horrible things done to his body or the terrifying spiritual battle required for our redemption. That fact is easily discernable in The Passion. Gibson’s Jesus was also about love. Why did he submit to all this horror if not for love of the Father and of God’s children? Again, it’s there in every scene from the garden to the grave. The violence everyone is so fixated on (granted, it is inescapable) actually emphasizes the meaning of Jesus’ life, his death, his resurrection, and his teaching, for those who are paying attention.

The new element?the one that grieves so many who hate this movie?is strength. From the time he ends his prayer in the garden and through the resurrection, The Passion portrays Jesus as commanding every circumstance of those last few hours. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he seals his decision to obey the Father completely and strides confidently toward the temple guards seeking him. There is no fear or weakness or victim hood or martyrdom in this portrayal of Jesus. He was determined and powerful in a way that intimidates Herod, Pilate, the Romans that beat him, and the Sanhedrin. Clearly in the movie, the beatings and anger are intensified by his lack of weakness or fear. Perhaps it is this Jesus that the reviewers find so over the top. One reviewer said, with naïve discernment, that Gibson’s is actually a war movie. The war, like his kingdom, is not of this world though. It is just fought here. Never has a battle been so gruesome, triumphant, and beautiful as during those last few hours. Without it, nothing Jesus says has any power, or even distinction.

The Jesus our culture praises is safe. He says and does things we consider nice but does not give them eternal meaning by proving his claims. The Jesus who actually exists is not safe at all. He has the prerogatives of God and the determined power of righteousness. It is understandable that this causes a stir in our day as it did in the first century. His blood, startlingly shown in Mel Gibson’s movie, offends the tame and shallow sensitivities of people in each generation. The scandal, like the triumph, is as real today as it was during those essential last hours of his sacrifice.

Caner: proclaim truth in flea marketplace of ideas

ARLINGTON?We are living in an age of opinion in which Christians must boldly proclaim truth, Ergun Caner told the attendees at the emPOWER Conference, sponsored by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, Feb. 10.

Caner is an associate professor of theology and history at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. He told the audience Christians are called upon, now more than ever, to provoke our culture.

Caner should know a little about provoking a culture. He was born into a Muslim family. His father was a mwazien, similar to a preacher in the Christian faith. When Caner was 16, he attended a Christian revival meeting, was saved, then ridiculed and beaten by his classmates and rejected by his father.

He endured, however, and has written books and speaks about Islam extensively throughout the United States.

Caner said our culture is chock full of protests. Every day hours of talk show guests spouting opinions permeate broadcast airwaves.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we don’t live in the age of technology; we live in the age of opinion, the flea market of ideas,” Caner said.

Caner reminded the group of more fiery days of pulpiteering when Christian pastors would demonstratively preach about the truths of Scripture.

“We [the church] now lecture and the shouting is taking place in the streets. Those that have opinions are taking it outside the church walls. It’s almost as if we have more prophets outside the church walls than inside.”

“Where, in the midst of the flea market of ideas, is the church? We have been tried and found wanting. We have been silenced,” Caner said.

There seems to be an all out attack on the church from the culture today, Caner said. The church is the only group that is socially acceptable to mock while speaking of homosexuality negatively is stigmatized.

“The church has been shoved into the closet from which the gays sprang.”

During his sermon, Caner spoke from 1 Corinthians 2, where Paul proclaimed, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Paul wanted the Corinthians to know there was nothing special about him, but something very special about his savior, Caner said.

First, for the church to confront the culture, it has to do so with an anchored faith. “It’s not about us, it’s about Jesus,” Caner said.

There was a time when the church viewed most things about the culture as wrong?sin. He said the church has allowed culture to turn the argument around. The culture begins pointing an accusatory finger at what it deems as hypocrisy in the church. However, Caner points out that the culture is also guilty of hypocrisy. Caner said we have to tell them, “I’m not perfect but I am redeemed.”

Also, the church tries to alter its approach to appease the accusing crowd, Caner lamented. “It’s not about your method. It’s about Jesus. It’s not about developing methods to get people to come to your church. More people are busy building crowds than they are building churches.”

“Methods without a message are meaningless,” Caner said.

“I started this week by being called a narrow-minded bigot,” Caner said, speaking of an interview where he spoke negatively about Islam. An interviewer asked Caner if he truly believed Muslims were bound for hell.

“I said, ‘Look you don’t have an argument with me. The book says there is no other name above Jesus by which a man can be saved,'” Caner said, quoting from Acts 4.

Second, Caner said the church must have an authentic faith. Paul told the Corinthians, “I came to you with weakness, with trembling, with fear.”

Caner said the church today needs to be “transparent” when witnessing. We have to show them we are humans, but that we serve a Christ that was both God and man.

Third, if the church is going to reach the culture, Caner said, “We’re going to have to do it with an audacious faith.”

“He has not called us to spiritual lethargy. He can do the amazing through us if we will just let him,” Caner said.

HBU speech, journalism teams lauded nationally

HOUSTON?The Houston Baptist University Mock Trial team placed third at the Quaker Classic Mock Trial Tournament held at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and the school’s yearbook and newspaper took honors at a Baptist Press student conference.

Among the mock trial teams, Princeton University won first place and Penn State University took second place. The HBU team competed against schools such as George Washington University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Columbia University.

“We had a fun experience at this tournament,” said Christopher Salinas, associate professor of speech communications and mock trial coach. “It was fantastic to see how well our students competed against students from across the country.”

Members of the team are sophomores Adam Achierno, Derrick Owens, junior Melissa Salvador and seniors Justin Kelly, Cher Cambridge, Chris Watts and Mandy Hess. And keeping up with the standard set by previous Houston Baptist University student publications, the Ornogah yearbook and the Collegian newspaper have started the year winning awards.

The Ornogah earned not only the President’s Award given to junior Megan Baumgardner at the Baptist Press Student Journalism Conference in October, but seven individual awards.

Nicole Dees, a 2003 HBU graduate, previous editor and current adviser, won first place in Art/Illustration and first place in Best Overall/Single Spread. Sophomore Jessica Smith earned first in Club/Portrait/Academic and senior Heather Mooney took second in Sports Copy.

Baumgardner won second and third place in Club/Portrait/Academic. Senior Sally Ruiz and junior Shaun Bradshaw took second place in Student Life Copy.

The Collegian also took two awards at the Baptist Press Student Journalism Conference. Senior Shauna Couri placed first in Center-Spread Design and former student Marcus Gafford took second place in Black and White Creative/Artistic Photojournalism.

The Collegian entered the Columbia Scholastic Press Association newspapercritique for the first time this year and won the Silver Medalist Award. The staff was 16 points from the Gold Medalist Award.

emPOWER Conference audience urged to seek and know

Inauguaral event draws near-capacity crowd to Arlington

ARLINGTON?Strive to know God intimately. Seek his agenda. Let him empower you.

Those themes dominated messages preached during the inaugural emPOWER Conference of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, which drew near-capacity crowds Feb. 9-10 to the Arlington Convention Center to hear preachers such as Henry Blackaby, noted vocalist Larnelle Harris and others.

emPOWER, formerly the State Evangelism Conference, drew an evening high attendance of 1,400 and day crowds of around 750 for two days of preaching, music and celebration of Southern Baptist missions work.

The conference, preceded by Monday’s Conference of Texas Baptist Evangelists (COTBE) meeting, included a Tuesday Cooperative Program Luncheon hosted by the SBTC that drew more than 600 people and featured International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin.

Another notable event was the presentation of the W.A. Criswell Lifetime Achievement Award for Pastoral Evangelism to Stan Coffey, pastor of San Jacinto Baptist Church in Amarillo and one of the leaders in the founding of the SBTC.

Blackaby, best known as the author of the “Experiencing God” Bible study, preached in two sessions, explaining God’s empowerment of his servants using Zechariah and Mary as examples and reminding those attending that the same power that raised Christ is available to believers to conquer sin and do God’s will.

Blackaby noted God’s enabling power is in the one he chooses, which includes every believer, for his specific purposes. He noted that in Luke 1 God sent the angel Gabriel to Zechariah and Mary, but has sent the Holy Spirit as a messenger to believers.

Luke 1:35 records Gabriel announcing to Mary that the Holy Spirit will come upon her and the power of the Almighty will overshadow her. Blackaby noted Luke 1:37 says nothing is impossible with God; Mary’s faithful response is recorded in Luke 1:40.

“What God assigns is more than you deserve and more than you can handle,” Blackaby said. But nothing is impossible with God, he said.

“Ask God, ‘What are you doing? What’s on your heart?'”

Blackaby said like Mary, Christians can have the “power of the highest order to overshadow” them. “In your ministry, are you living in the power of the highest overshadowing you?”

Like the creation in the beginning with God’s spirit hovering or brooding over it, “the power of the highest will literally brood over you,” Blackaby proclaimed.

“Don’t ever ask God to use you if you’re not ready for him to do it,” he said, recounting an example of God using a church he led in California to reach gang members who were threatening the nearby community. “He can bring harmony to a community when he broods over a community like he did at creation.”

Blackaby exhorted the conference to not only believe with the head but trust with the heart that God’s resurrection power is available to every Christian for accomplishing his purposes.

The conference also featured noted layman and motivator Zig Ziglar, a member of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano.

Ziglar told how he became a Christian in 1972 because of the stubborn witness of an elderly black woman and then was warned by friends his speaking career was over if he intended to talk about his faith on the podium. Ziglar said he has not solicited a speaking engagement in 32 years and that the Bible revolutionized his public speaking.

In 2002, Ziglar related how he nearly died after losing six pints of blood; he believes an angel visited him during his bout, hand gesturing to indicate he would continue living for awhile.

“I have a sense of urgency now that I didn’t have when I was first saved,” he said, adding that he is more overt about his faith than before.

Ziglar said “preachers will not win this war” of a decaying culture. “We’ve got to take (the gospel) to the marketplace” and show a distinction between Christianity and all other ideas.

“We’re the only Bible some people read. ? What we say and what we do is so important.”

The conference honored baptism leaders among SBTC churches. In percentage of baptisms to Sunday School enrollees, New Life Complete in Christ Baptist Church in Fort Worth led with a 1

Church Leadership Training set for March 13

The East Texas Church Leadership Training Conference is scheduled March 13 at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jasper.

Sponsored by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention in partnership with the Sabine-Neches Area Association, the conference will begin at 8:30 a.m. and end at 3:15 p.m..

It will feature a special pastor’s session and pastor’s wives’ session featuring LifeWay Christian Resources President James Draper and his wife, Carol Ann, at the respective events.

Other areas addressed will be deacon ministry, church growth, stewardship, women’s ministry, senior adult ministry, collegiate, youth and children’s ministry and more.

Early registration is $8 and due Feb. 25. Regular registration is $10. For more information call Georgette at the SBTC offices, 972-953-0878 or e-mail For location information, call Bill Gardner at 409-384-3371.

Portland area Baptists seek help from SBTC partner

PORTLAND, Ore.?Opportunities exist for Texas churches to participate in the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s partnership with Interstate Baptist Association in Portland, Ore. in the areas of construction and backyard Bible club ministry.

At Peninsula Baptist Church in north Portland, extensive work is needed on the church’s facilities. Most of the repairs are needed for insurance coverage, but the church has little money or manpower to complete the repairs. The repairs needed include:

v Water drainage near a wall;

v Gutter repair;

v Carpet re-stretch;

v Window installation;

v Floor/wall repairs in office;

v Wheelchair access to auditorium and restrooms;

v Fire door installation;

v Parsonage roof replacement.

Oregon City Baptist Church seeks help with two backyard Bible clubs in July along with possible sports camps, block parties and other evangelism and pre-evangelism during the same week.

For more information, contact Rob Penegra, new church strategist at Interstate Baptist Association, 503-452-2930 or 360-910-7797.

Ft. Worth church works to restore families

FORT WORTH?Tina Bell wanted the Christmas gifts for her children and nothing more. The Lord had other plans.

Bell was one of several people who testified Feb. 1 during “Restorative Justice & Community Outreach Sunday” at Glenview Baptist Church in Fort Worth of how the church and its related ministries helped lead her to saving faith and a radically different life.

Bell was a drug addict whose husband was in prison. She came to church to receive gifts for her children through the Project Angel Tree ministry of Prison Fellowship. She said she was not interested in religion, but the love of the church’s volunteers attracted her.

Not long after, she prayed to receive Christ as savior. Today, she is working in a management position at a Wal-Mart store?a miracle in itself, she said, because she had rarely held a responsible, legal job.

Roger Holler, executive pastor at Glenview, said the church began prison and restorative justice ministry in 1994 after initial involvement in Bill Glass’ prison outreach events.

The church discussed ways it could minister to inmates, parolees and families affected by imprisonment. “Mercy Heart,” a ministry to families affected by imprisonment, was born and eventually moved to a separate location off the church campus in Haltom City. Every Thursday, 35-40 people meet in a supportive environment for worship, study and fellowship.

Holler said the church knew if it were going to commit to such ministry, it would need to stay with the people involved and help them through the ups and downs of transitioning into life beyond prison.

“People quit these folks all the time,” Holler said. “That’s part of their problem.”

Glenview also sponsors a ministry that meets the practical needs of families in transition called “Family Relief Outreach” and a substance abuse overcomers group called “Mountain Movers.”

Both were birthed from Mercy Heart.

Every year 2,500 inmates are paroled back into Tarrant County, Holler noted, “So we’re helping them find jobs” and housing. He said the ministry keeps a list of employers willing to give parolees work and rental properties friendly to law-abiding ex-offenders.

A newer venture for the church is a small woodframe house that two female parolees are living in as they transition back into society. That ministry is called “New Beginnings.”

Three years ago, worship services started at the Mercy Heart facilities, Holler said. “It’s a very exciting fellowship, lots of ex-offenders. Just a great fellowship and growing and doing well.”

Sebastian Vasquez, a doctoral student at Southwestern Seminary, preaches there on Sundays.

The service Feb. 1 is an annual event to attract church members who might not have considered involvement in such a ministry. Holler said because of attrition the ministry needs 15-20 new volunteers each year out of the 80-90 who are regulars.

Holler told of an ex-offender who was saved through the ministry and has been substantially transformed. After his conversion, he went to trade school and now leads a team of heating and air conditioning technicians. He is also an usher at Glenview and one of its most active members.

“But we’re not without our failures either,” he noted. “They will sometimes crater on you. That’s why this ministry and loving accountability is so important.”

Bar hoppers’ show God’s love to prisoners

HOUSTON?Each week, the “bar hoppers” visit their brothers and sisters, who live in 6-foot by 9-foot cells separated by quarter-inch metal walls.

The Less Than the Least Ministry, a para-church outreach of Sagemont Baptist Church in Houston, has ministered to those behind bars since 1999, when God opened the doors at Sagemont to start a prison ministry. Today, they have 88 state-approved volunteers, otherwise known as bar hoppers, who visit prisoners across Texas.

“We exist to build a continually growing team of called volunteers to present the gospel to those who are incarcerated,” said Zeke Young, founder of the Less than the Least Ministry. “Not all of the volunteers work consistently because of their busy lifestyles. Some of them only go every now and then, but they stay faithful to serve.” Either way, the ministry seeks to recruit and train volunteers to go into the prisons and minister to those behind bars.

Volunteers are vital to the existence of this ministry and others throughout Texas. The Texas legislature recently reduced funding for prison chaplains, making it impossible to fulfill all the needs of each unit. But Less than the Least has succeeded in reaching out through their volunteers to share the gospel.

“Since 1999, we have led 250-300 inmates to the Lord,” Young said.

This ministry’s job is not easy, though. They deal with men and women who are murderers, thieves, and rapists. “These guys appreciate us coming in there,” Young said. “I’ve seen some of the biggest, baddest guys on their knees giving their lives to the Lord Jesus.”

Young recalled the life of one Christian inmate who would send him to witness to other inmates and would pray with him before he entered the cellblock. “He would say, ‘Brother Zeke, go and visit that man down in cell number 8. He needs Jesus.’ But things got to be too much for him and he committed suicide.” After the convict’s death, Young and Sagemont Church planned a burial for the man and a service for his family. During that time of mourning, the former inmate’s two daughters were saved. In turn, victory did come through their father’s relationship with the Less than the Least Ministry, Young noted.

There is joy inside the prison walls of the units visited by the Less than the Least Ministry. Volunteers come each week to lead the inmates in worship, drama, singing, and other activities. Each year, the ministry hosts a contest for the inmates and chooses the top 15 essays and paintings from the entries. Each winner receives $50 donated by Sagemont Church.

The state has also started a pre-release program, Interchange Freedom Initiative, led by Less than the Least volunteers. Tony Minchew, a Sagemont member and volunteer for Less than the Least, said mentoring inmates is a critical part of the ministry. Minchew discusses with inmates current events and issues to help them develop a Christian worldview.

An important aspect of the Less than the Least Ministry has been its radio ministry, which began more than two years ago. KIVY reaches 22 prisons in and around the Huntsville area and within a 60-mile radius. This one-hour program features Zeke and his faithful companion, Alma Goeman, otherwise known as “Grandma” to the inmates. “At the end of the program, I say a prayer of salvation so God can move into their cells and work in their hearts,” said Grandma Alma. “They are lonesome, bitter, homesick and they are searching for someone to lead in the right direction.”

In addition to the radio program, Less than the Least produces a newsletter, Frontlines Chronicle, where convicts are encouraged to write articles and columns. This newsletter gives inmates the chance to witness to other inmates and utilize their talents. The Less than the Least Ministry is equipping inmates with biblical principles for everyday living for those who will be released and for those who are lifetime prisoners. Teams of convicts are teaching precept Bible studies, witnessing and praying for their fellow inmates while in prison, Minchew said.

“God has blessed us with wonderful volunteers, but we are in the worst state that we have ever been when it comes to volunteers,” Minchew said. “This ministry is growing rapidly and we are looking for people to help on the outside and the inside of the prisons that have media skills, secretarial skills, who are prayer warriors, and more.”

Not only is this ministry searching for people with specific skills, but also volunteers are needed to minister to the families of those incarcerated. “We are to show a loving God to a watching prisoner, their victims, and their families,” Minchew said. There is much help needed also among women inmates throughout Texas prisons.

Grandma Alma started the women’s section of this ministry with a band of women volunteers known as the Angels in Disguise. This group visits the women’s prisons throughout Texas to teach sewing classes, minister to the inmates, and stick around to counsel the family members of those incarcerated. Grandma Alma’s biggest blessing is playing the role of “grandmother” to several thousand inmates each month, she said.

“Something about a grandma makes them think back to their grandmothers and it’s something special. I didn’t know what God wanted me to do in this ministry, but it really touches my heart to be able to minister

Evangelists told to answer radical call

ARLINGTON?More than 1,000 people attended the Conference of Texas Baptist Evangelists (COTBE) meeting Feb. 9, hearing challenges from conference preachers Bill Britt, Bruce Northam and Johnny Hunt to answer Christ’s radical call and to trust God as their power source.

The COTBE meeting, which preceded the emPOWER Conference of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention at the Arlington Convention Center, included music from the Randy Fair Family, Don Thornton and Jim Holcombe.

Britt, an evangelist from Mesquite, said God is calling Christians not to be cool or popular but to be soul winners who answer the “radical call of Christ.”

Citing German preacher Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s statement that when God calls a man, “he bids him come and die,” Britt said “when you get saved, you quit being the big shot. You become the little shot and God calls all the shots.”

Britt noted that when Saul of Tarsus was converted, he was a terrorizer of the church intent on stopping it, but he relinquished his plans for God’s plan.

Houston evangelist Bruce Northam told the audience the believer’s power is in God alone. Preaching from 2 Kings 2, Northam noted that when Elisha assumed Elijah’s mantle of power, Elisha asked, “Where is the God of Elijah?”

His was more than a question; it was a quest, Northam said. “The God of Elijah is what Elisha sought,” not just his mantle.

“With him all things flourish and without him nothing will work.” Northam noted “the same God is with us as was with Elisha, the same God as was with Peter and Paul.

“The power is where it used to be. The power is where it’s always been, not in the mantle, but in the God of Elijah.”

Johnny Hunt, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., preached from 1 Kings 17, emphasizing the importance of being “there” in God’s will, whether showing one’s face before God or hiding in God.

“There’s no place like being there (in God’s will),” Hunt said, noting his first “there” was his first church pastorate in South Carolina. “If you are there, let the blessed storms come. Nothing will keep you there like knowing you are there.”

Hunt said his second there was moving to First Baptist Church of Woodstock during a church split; the church was a laughing stock in the community and others couldn’t understand why he’d take that pastorate, he said.

“But I was there.”

Hunt said there are times God leads believers into the desert to hide you in preparation.

“When God hides you he’s preparing you. If you show up before he’s finished preparing you,” you will fail, he said.

Some churches are full of dry bones, but “if you preach faithfully to these bones, sooner of later the winds of God will blow.”

Too often, “When the brook dries up, we start sending out resumes.” Stay on mission until God moves you, Hunt warned.

Hunt noted God met Elijah’s needs through a brook, birds and a widow. “When God calls you somewhere, he’s preparing someone to meet you there.”

“God is looking for people who will allow him to be himself in them. ? Are you there?”

Betty Moni, music evangelist from San Antonio, said she assumed she had to be a “super Christian” until the burden got so heavy so could no longer hold it up. She said she was so discouraged she prayed, “If this is all there is, take me home.”

During a Bible conference, God impressed on her through a sermon Ephesians 5:18’s command to be “filled with the spirit.”

“God forgives and he heals and he teaches us through our failures.”

Moni said her grandson taught her a profound lesson one day when she asked the little boy how he was able to get the basketball high enough to make it in the hoop.

“I’m little but my Daddy is big,” her grandson explained, “and he will lift me up and make me stronger.”

CP missions luncheon draws 600 plus

ARLINGTON?More than 600 people attended a luncheon Feb. 10 hosted by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention to honor its top giving churches and to celebrate Southern Baptist missions.

The Cooperative Program Luncheon?held during the emPOWER Conference in Arlington?exceeded attendance projections, SBTC officials said.

Prior to keynote speaker Jerry Rankin’s address, Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, told how his congregation committed to giving more to missions while embarking on a $44 million facilities upgrade.

“God has invited Southern Baptists to be part of his mission-sending program,” said Brunson, whose daughter serves Southern Baptists abroad. “He has given Southern Baptists the premier missions giving and sending program” in the CP.

Brunson said many churches believe more CP giving reduces available funds for church ministry, but the opposite is true, he said.

Not only is the church giving monetarily, more people are surrendering to ministry, including Brunson’s youngest such encounter, a 13-year-old, and the oldest, a 77-year-old man who believes he’s being called to ministry.

“I told him, ‘I don’t know quite what to do with you, but God does and we’ll work at it together.'”

First Baptist, Dallas, gave a record $1.2 million through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. Brunson presented the check for that offering to SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards at the luncheon. State conventions typically administer missions offering gifts, 100 percent of which goes to the mission board for funding.

Rankin, president of the International Mission Board, a former missionary and a Southwestern Seminary graduate, said he is grateful for the faithful missions giving of Southern Baptists of Texas churches.

He told of joining the heads of other evangelical missions groups for a retreat and hearing one leader tell of his organization’s 30 percent attrition rate for missionaries because they could not raise enough support to sustain themselves once on the field.

He said he was almost embarrassed because Southern Baptists were experiencing their eighth straight year of missions giving gains.

“God continues to bless that vision” of the Cooperative Program, begun in 1925.

Even with gains however, Southern Baptist giving has not kept pace with unprecedented numbers of mission field volunteers, Rankin said.

Last year, Southern Baptist missionaries saw nearly 500,000 people baptized, started 16,000 new churches and began working among 192 new people groups, 140 of which heard the gospel for the first time, Rankin said.

“God’s mission will be fulfilled. The only question is, ‘Will we be faithful to participate?'”

Like the contemporaries of Caleb who were afraid to go up against the inhabitants of Canaan as recorded in Numbers 13:31, “We’re overwhelmed by the lostness” and other worldviews that are the antithesis of the gospel.

Such overwhelming lostness can be found in cities such as Jakarta, Indonesia, with 12 million people, Mexico City with 19 million and the megacities of China. “We are prone to say, ‘Lord, it’s too much.'”

Caleb, unlike his contemporaries, believed Israel could prevail, Rankin noted.

“Caleb saw them, but he saw them through the eyes of God.”

God was faithful to Caleb because Caleb had a spirit to follow God fully, Rankin said.

The churches that follow fully “are the churches that God is blessing in their ministries and outreach,” Rankin said.

The following churches were honored for missions giving through the Cooperative Program, in categories of total dollars and per capita giving.

Per capita giving leaders were:

1. Little Cypress Baptist Church, Orange.

2. Leavell Baptist Church, Beaumont.