Month: February 2004

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.

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.

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.

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

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.”

At halftime, reaping what we sow

Ten seconds into the Super Bowl halftime show, I’d seen enough to know that I didn’t need to see any more.

We changed the channel before the “shocking moment” and then I spent the third quarter trying to get my wired 2-year-old son to sleep before returning to the living room for an eventful fourth quarter.

I didn’t learn about the incident until the next day. It was hard to miss all the talk about Janet Jackson’s upside, not football, with networks, CNN and Fox News devoting segments to it. And it was the topic of ABC’s “Nightline” — the show born during the Iran hostage crisis.

This also is a crisis, but I have heard very little examination of how and why it occurred. And very little about why we should be indignant at a bare breast but not at dancers bumping, grinding and groping in pirate-themed underwear and garters while Aunt Lucille and Uncle George and the kids are gathered around the TV set for what should be a Norman Rockwell moment.

The show was not family friendly and has not been for some time. Madonna was one of several big names who performed at the Super Bowl in 2001; the rock band U2 and their potty mouth lead singer, Bono, performed in 2002. What kept Madonna from baring it all? Why didn’t Bono give us a sampling of his infamous vocabulary?

Saying we’re shocked is like saying one is surprised to find human waste floating above the water in a sewer. The stuff of culture will surface sooner or later. Ours is a culture unable or unwilling to see cause and effect in our bending of sexual mores just enough to make us comfortable with our sin and the resulting “crossing the line” with stunts such as Jackson’s.

It’s OK for Super Bowl dancers to simulate intercourse as long as one doesn’t expose one’s privates. Sadly, if no one’s breast had been exposed, most of America would think nothing of the raunchy halftime show. That’s the real tragedy here.

Interestingly, the NFL acts as if it got blindsided. We reap what we sow. It’s time the NFL and the networks book family friendly acts. We should insist loudly on that.

Meanwhile, what an opportunity to contrast God’s genius plan for sex, love and the human body with the world’s empty and insatiable pursuit of pleasure.

Your church is precious

How we understand the church is important. Much of what makes us Baptists (as distinct from other Christian denominations) involves the how and why of our church organization. Ecclesiology was a key element of the Protestant Reformation. Non-biblical elements of Catholic doctrine had, at that time, expressed themselves in the formation of a church organized and functioning as an empire. The Reformation recaptured some of the congregational aspect of New Testament Christianity as well as the doctrinal foundation for other biblical elements of faith and practice.

Baptists emerged from those who continued what Martin Luther started in the Reformation. Our forefathers worked to obliterate hierarchy and political entanglement from our churches. The autonomy of our congregations protects them from the loss of vision that typifies large bureaucracies (denominations). At the same time, our congregational polity allows us to change the direction of the work and institutions we hold in common with other churches.

Let me back up a step from the importance of how we do church. My generation, and certainly the one behind me looks askance at the whole idea of institutions, including the church. The more basic question is the importance of the church in the first place. During the Jesus People movement of the early 70s, large numbers of young people made professions for Christ. Our iconoclastic tendencies kept that enthusiasm for Jesus from transitioning into a commitment to his church. We did not understand the heart of God at this point and many of us have fallen by the wayside because of this.

The church is important to God. We are told in the Bible that Christ loved the church and died for her. The personal aspect of our redemption is real and relevant but we tend to overemphasize the “Jesus died for me” aspect to the detriment of our understanding of his love for the redeemed as a corporate body. The church is also described as his body and his bride. We are not individually the bodies of Christ or his brides. We are only that in relationship with other believers. These metaphors exalt the relationship that together we have with God. As Paul points out in Ephesians 5, we tend to value our own bodies highly. Similarly, a bride is the dutiful groom’s object of love and sacrifice. Exalted images show us how important the church is to our God. We discount this at our own peril.

Believers are also gifted for community. The redeemed are universally promised spiritual gifts at the point of our salvation. These gifts are given for the building up of those around us and not for our own glory. In fact, there is no use for these gifts if we are merely individuals.

In the same way, we are described as priests in 1 Peter 2:5. The primary things a priest does, exhortation, intercession, and teaching, are done only in relationship with one another. In fact this verse compares us with stones being built into a house. One stone does not make the house but the several do. Sometimes, “priest” is misunderstood to simply mean that we have access to God through Christ without human mediation. We do have this access and need no earthly high priest for the atonement of our sins; but priesthood is a transitive idea?it has a subject and an object. Priests worked to intercede between men and God. Our prayers for one another are a form of this intercession. Encouraging one another to godly living is another priestly work. Teaching our brothers the things God has taught us first is still another. All these presuppose a community of the redeemed. Apart from this community, priesthood is hard to apply.

The church is one of three foundational institutions ordained by God. The family is the first, chronologically, and government second. Few who discount the importance of the church would also say families and governments have also outlived their meaning. If we assign any significance to God’s ordination, we must include the church in that list of necessary institutions. In addition to importance, God’s choice of these three should add timelessness. The forms of the church and its methods might develop and even become obsolete but the institution is as vital for the community of the redeemed as the family is for mankind.

When we say “the church,” we often refer to all the redeemed in every tribe and land. We all make up the body and bride of Christ. At the same time, we rarely exercise our gifts or practice accountability on such a grand scale. I am also part of a vast human race made up of billions who are dead, living, and yet to live. That is true but not often applicable. We live as redeemed humans in relationship with those we know well and see regularly. A local church is the place where we practically live out our faith. Paul’s letters describing spiritual gifts and how they work to build up the body of Christ were written to local churches. We are a part of all God’s people but we are in daily relationship with a specific body of believers, a church. Otherwise our giftedness and priesthood are only academic.

Significance and timelessness require that we test our beliefs and practice related to churches. Maintaining biblical clarity in our ecclesiology will help us avoid the slide into a merely human agenda we see in some churches and groups of churches. If the Bible is our mission statement, all we are and do should be constantly judged by biblical precepts. Who we are and what we do will be ageless if we do this.

As tempting (and easy) as they may be, arguments about how we do things will be less productive. Methodology, music style, worship style, and other preference-based issues are not foundational to the existence and mission of a church. That’s why we have less to go on biblically when we seek a “thus saith the Lord” statement on the subjects. That’s also why we’ll never settle disagreements on methodology.

The empowerment we receive as believers in community is a great stewardship. While we will never find perfection in a church, this does not mean that the institution God calls the body and bride of Christ is unimportant. We will miss most of what God is calling us to do individually if we do not commit to fellowship with other believers. Neither does imperfection mean that it is futile to seek better ways to serve God corporately. The significance, permanence, and crucial function of the church warrants full commitment as well as our faithful service.

Through two liver transplants, Tyler pastor

TYLER?When Dale Perry, pastor of Friendly Baptist Church in Tyler, got word in 1995 that he had Hepatitis C, an incurable disease which can only be slowed by a liver transplant, he thought there were three possible outcomes and was willing face any of those three, whichever would bring God the most glory.

However, God brought about an unforeseen fourth outcome that has brought more glory to God than even Perry had imagined.

“When I was diagnosed, I prayed and asked God to be glorified in this,” Perry said. He contracted the disease more than 26 years ago likely resulting from his lifestyle prior to his salvation in 1978.

“I had three possible outcomes: I knew God could miraculously heal me and I prayed for that. I also knew that I could have a liver transplant or third, I knew I could die. If that brought God the most glory, I was ready for him to take me home.”

For eight years following his diagnosis, Perry’s health stayed remarkably good, amazing the doctors. He attributed his relatively good health to prayer after he told the church of his illness nearly nine years ago. A layman in the church, Jim Cox, initiated a 24-hour a day prayer wall for Perry and other needs in the church, a prayer ministry and community-wide prayer phone line which are still in operation.

Last year, however, Perry learned he needed a liver transplant. On Aug. 19, he got the call that a liver matching his rare AB blood type was available and he had a just a few hours to get to Dallas’ Baylor Medical Center for transplant surgery.

Perry came through the nearly five-hour surgery well and by the end of August, he seemed headed for recovery.

Internally, however, the main artery which supplied blood to the liver had become 100 percent clogged, causing part of his new liver to suffer irreparable damage. On Saturday, Sept. 13, he was readmitted to the hospital and the next day, doctors told Perry and his wife, Mitzi, “It’s terminal. There is not anything more we can do.”

By Sunday evening, the church learned their pastor’s situation and began praying. Assistant Pastor Pat Alvey, a staff member at Friendly for nearly 20 years, went to Dallas at Perry’s request to help with funeral plans.

Soon, ministerial staff and their wives came to Dallas. Perry told them how much he loved them.

“When I lost my new liver, it was the lowest time for us, and especially for Mitzi. It was during this time that Mitzi came to me and said, ‘Dale, the Lord’s not hearing my prayers.’ I told her ‘Mitzi, he is.’

Perry thought God was going to glorify himself not with healing or a successful liver transplant, but in his passing.

He began to examine whether his salvation experience on May 28, 1978 was real or “just an emotional experience.”

“I remember seeing Mitzi and the nurse crying together, holding each other. I began to think, ‘Lord, is salvation real?’ I came to the bottom line of my faith.

“The truth is, after all my years of preaching, I stripped all of that away when they told me that there was no hope. I began to go back. I looked at my life. I remember laying there in that bed, looking up saying, ‘God, did I just have an emotional experience? Was it real? Did I really give my life to Jesus Christ? Did I really accept him as my Lord and Savior?’ I wanted to know that.”

Perry later told Friendly Baptist Church that his “bottom line faith” test revealed the Scriptural truth that during those times, God’s Spirit bears witness that we are children of God. “Now, I’m a preacher,” Perry said Nov. 23, his first time back in the pulpit since August. “I read this Book every day. I got down to the bottom line. I wanted to know, ‘Do I know for sure that I’m a child of God?’ I knew I was fixing to meet him.

“That’s when God’s Spirit takes over. God’s Spirit bears witness with your spirit that you are a child of God. Mitzi couldn’t tell me I was saved. My children couldn’t tell me I was saved. Only God can. God settled in. He just reassured me through the power of the Holy Spirit that lived within me that I was saved.”

Mitzi said when her husband lost the first liver she went through a time when she couldn’t pray, couldn’t read her Bible and couldn’t even concentrate. She asked for God to give them a sign to help her through this all-consuming period when he was in ICU.

Within days, a man came in who looked good and healthy, and told Mitzi “Don’t give up hope. A year ago, I looked like that (pointing to Perry), and as a matter of fact I was even worse.” She said that at that point, she broke down and thanked God for giving her hope.

Remembering his and Mitzi’s lowest points, Perry says when they each hit the end of themselves,