|Although it is still a hot Texas summer, your convention staff is preparing for the annual meeting of the messengers of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Oct. 25-26 at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano. The first session is Monday night and there are three sessions on Tuesday. The program is almost complete.
So who will be there? No, I am not talking about the featured guests, pre-convention speakers or talented musicians. Who makes up the messenger body of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention?
Some of the largest churches in the SBC are affiliated with the SBTC. With fear of leaving out someone, I’ll mention FBC Dallas, Prestonwood, FBC Houston, Second Baptist, Houston, Sagemont, Houston, San Jacinto in Amarillo, Castle Hills in San Antonio, Great Hills in Austin, FBC Euless, Fielder Road in Arlington and Fellowship Church, Grapevine. Many other near “mega” churches are a part of the SBTC. These churches will have messengers who will bring excitement to the annual meeting.
Suburban churches and county seat churches will send messengers. Some are in growing areas, others in declining areas. They all bring a desire for fellowship and encouragement.
Significantly, the SBC is comprised of small membership churches. Churches averaging fewer than 150 in attendance are in the vast majority. Small membership churches provide strength to one another through the convention. Without this segment there could be no SBTC. I thank God for the faithful pastor and congregation in the country and small towns who are witnesses for Jesus. They will bring commitment, boldness and humility to the annual meeting.
African-American churches have affiliated with the SBTC in unprecedented numbers. African-American pastors have expressed a sense of belonging and full partnership in the cooperative work of the churches. A great movement of God is taking place among the black churches of the SBTC. They will bring diversity and enthusiasm to the annual meeting.
Hispanic, Korean and other ethnic churches constitute over 10 percent of the affiliated congregations. God has brought the world to the United States in general and Texas in particular. The SBTC has the joy of many languages in its fellowship. The ethnic churches’ messengers bring a worldview to the annual meeting.
House churches, Cowboy churches, Saddleback-style churches and other affinity-type congregations are a part of the SBTC. Contextualized missions produce a variety of expressions of the body of Christ. These churches are reaching people where they are with the gospel. These messengers will bring a positive broadening of methods to the annual meeting.
Who makes up the messenger body of the SBTC? It is not some monolithic, lock-step group of “fundamentalists.” It is group of people who come from churches that affirm the Bible as inerrant and infallible. They have chosen the SBTC as a provider for mission strategy, ministry assistance and facilitating organizations. They believe that the best giving method is the Cooperative Program, because it pools the resources of all the churches to do the most good and reach the most people. The messengers look very different from one another, but they have one heart, one vision and one mission.
Plan to be with us Oct. 25-26 at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano.
Your servant in Christ,
TYLER?In light of the overwhelming generosity of Southern Baptists through record-setting contributions to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, IMB trustee chairman Thomas Hatley of Arkansas said, “We awakened a giant. When the need for more to be done in our finances was personalized to the churches by demonstrating to them the number of people who could not be appointed because of a lack of funds, they responded with generosity.”
Hatley said the resources of Southern Baptist are greater than they realize, setting a goal of “balancing the need for the called to respond and the need for the called to be sent.”
“Until we have more money than missionaries we are not again balanced,” Hatley said. “To this end I am launching my own study of the relationship between those who are willing to go and the level of resources needed to send them to the field and keep them there. I want to know how much it is going to take, above what we are already doing, to send all those who are willing to go.”
Hatley predicted Southern Baptist churches would respond when they see the need. “Part of our job is to define, personalize and communicate that need.”
The new trustee chairman also called for exposing myths posed by some. “For example, doctrinal clarity will not slow us down. It is a key element in what will propel us,” he stated. “Deliberative strategy will not create hesitation, but will streamline ministry and offer years of better ministry.”
By incorporating discipleship principles into the church planting movements, Hatley said the advancing edge of growth will be slowed, “but it will prevent the world and the devil from diverting it.”
Hatley concluded, “Hell has a plan for this board. We will only take a moment to glare at it with disdain as we lift our eyes unto the hills from whence comes our help.” He prayed, “Lord, we are here at your request and we stand poised for your commands. Please pick out for us a battle so large that to fight it and win it will cause the populations of heaven, hell and the earth to say, ‘only God could have done that with those people.’ “
|An amazing percentage of life is focused on our vocation. Small children are asked what they will do when they grow up. Their play often centers on being a cowboy, homemaker, soldier, astronaut, accountant (just kidding), or other vocational role. Between 12 and 20 years of education is largely aimed at success in a later career. After graduation(s), our days are involved with our vocation, our nights are controlled somewhat by our next day’s work schedule, our weekends may be overproduced and frantic in celebration of our time off?for about 60 years, our work has our attention. After that, we are still identified by what we did formerly and are, even then, not free from a variety of daily chores which are a mundane part of our work.
It is stylish, particularly among those who produce nothing but entertainment, to ridicule this expenditure of our lives. We are “hamsters on a wheel,” “wasting our lives” in a “dead-end job” in so many popular songs, movies, and plays. I doubt this portrayal stands up to closer examination.
Contempt for work was a luxury mostly reserved for the idle and the artists, up until the rise of the Baby Boomer generation. We wanted “more.” We wanted fulfillment in our work, fulfillment beyond what we earned or produced. Our jobs must now be our passion or calling. Those stuck working for their daily pay are pitied by many of us. A throw away comment in a travel magazine caught my eye last week. The writer marveled at the joy a Caribbean farmer found in his “chosen vocation.” It was a condescending comment that assumed joy was a function of what we do, not in the doing of necessary, noble, productive work. That is the voice of contemporary Americans who do not understand their parents or grandparents. More on that later.
Why do we work? The short, incomplete answer is that we work to earn our keep. Working and working for a living are two different things introduced at different times in history. We work because we bear the image of God. Adam and Eve were given the privilege of continuing God’s creative work in Genesis 1:28. He told them to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue the earth, and rule over every creature on the earth. The next verse says that their food would come from every seed-bearing tree on the planet. Their work and their food were not tied together at this point. It was not until Genesis 3:17-19, after sin entered the world, that God said that Adam would “eat from (the ground) by means of painful labor” and that he would “eat bread by the sweat of (his) brow.” We would, or should, work even if we didn’t need to for survival. It is part of our nature and our reason.
This is apparent every time I take a vacation. I like kicking back for a few days. It restores me to play with my family, see someplace new or visit with old friends. After a few days, though, I start to feel useless. I’m ready to continue projects I left behind or to try new ideas that occur to me while I’m away. My inner Baby Boomer says that this is neurotic, too much. My reason says he’s wrong. I don’t need to work simply because it feeds my self esteem (although it does); the fact that I work confirms my place in God’s creation and my submission to his purpose.
Contempt for our workaday world may be born out of humanist perversions of work. Work, thus twisted, can become dehumanizing and ignoble. One such mistake ascribes worth to a worker and his labor according to what he produces. If he produces what we consider valuable, he is considered more important than someone who produces fewer or more common things. Thus, an entertainer who produces little of significance is celebrated because we value his wealth and notoriety.
Personally, we may consider ourselves important if our work allows us to acquire goods or surpass our competitors. This is a variation of the same humanistic error. In this scheme, we have no inherent value given by our Creator. Our work is not an extension of his and thus worthwhile. Again, we are esteemed if what we do is temporally valuable. This viewpoint is a powerful motivator, like hunger, but our work becomes a form of slavery. We will come to hate it, what we do, the “sweat of our brow” required, and even that we have to do anything at all. We will hate it because it will not satisfy us, regardless of how much we attain or who we defeat. In this model work is an act of worship, but the object of our worship is human, no greater than ourselves.
It is not necessary that we enjoy our work every day, Genesis 3:17-19 says that we won’t. God’s command, given before the Fall, indicates that it is also wrong for us to resent the fact that we must work at all.
Apply this to your father or grandfather. Most who read this, particularly those over 30, were raised by men in middle class jobs. They made things, grew things or fixed things. They did hard, noble work but didn’t consider it a calling. Usually, they didn’t do it because it was a “career choice” or fulfilling in itself. It was a means to an end, providing for the family. Work was also what a man did. Mostly, our predecessors would rather earn a little than take charity. Our fathers found a satisfaction in producing something that would have been denied them with charity. Like the Caribbean farmer mentioned earlier, their joy was based on satisfaction that came from taking care of business, and with just plain working. Be careful when you speak disdainfully of that.
DENTON?The 174 students gathered at the University of North Texas July 12-16 had one goal in mind: to “feel the burn” and to spread its heat among their peers.
Jeremiah 20:9 states: “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”
Using the verse as a theme, the students?all considered leaders in their student groups from churches across the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention?mixed classroom time with small group “breakout” sessions talking about such things as servant-leadership and defending their faith against false claims.
No church brought more than14 students to the “Outbreak” student leadership camp this year; most brought groups of six or eight students, which is the camp’s intent, said Tom Cottar, SBTC youth evangelism associate. Last year, some churches brought entire youth groups, but Cottar said he wanted Outbreak to focus on equipping leaders to elevate their ministry and witness. Working with smaller groups of students facilitates that, he said.
“Our goal is to equip students for evangelism and apologetics and to build a foundation of a Christian worldview,” Cottar said.
In a group of about 15 high school juniors and seniors, Ron McGowin, youth pastor at First Baptist Church of Fairfield, explained that Christian leaders must exhibit a servant heart and must learn to love God and others as the Scriptures command.
McGowin said the prerequisites for Christian leadership demand loving God with all one’s heart, soul and mind and then loving others as oneself.
“A loving servant is one who loves God and loves others,” McGowin said.
The week was to culminate with the Youth Evangelism Conference at The Criswell College. See the Aug. 9 edition of the TEXAN for YEC coverage.
Another SBTC-sponsored event, Summer Worship University, was held at UNT simultaneous to Outbreak.
Ken Lasater, SBTC church ministry support associate, said students participated in ministry tracks of their choosing, such as orchestra, vocal music, drama and multimedia.
Last year’s SWU helped several participants assume leadership in developing music ministry geared toward their peers and, in at least one case, transformed a student from a passive observer to an active leader, Lasater said based on reports he got from pastors and youth pastors.
During the daily recreational time and evening worship, students from Outbreak and SWU congregated together, Lasater said.
FORT WORTH?”I have 8,200 jars of baby food, do you want them?”
That’s probably not a question most people face every day. But that was the question posed to Westland Heights Baptist Church Pastor Richard McCormack.
McCormack said he received a call on a recent Monday morning from someone asking if he could use three pallets of baby food?two pallets of squash and spaghetti noodles and one pallet of nonperishable baby cereal. He said yes. Then reality set in: “What I’m I going to do with 8,200 jars of baby food?” he thought.
The church kicked around a few ideas, including sending the food to Mexico. Then they began to ponder who in their neighborhood could use this type of gift.
McCormack’s wife called the Fort Worth Pregnancy Center and the Pregnancy Help Center, also in Fort Worth, to see if they might have needs. Both said yes, and most of the food was redistributed to these outlets.
Polly Isinghood, director of the Pregnancy Help Center in west Fort Worth, said they see about 130 women per month. The center offers free pregnancy tests, sonograms, parenting videos and food to young women in the Fort Worth area.
She said women are referred to her office through various means, including high schools, the web page and telephone book advertisements.
“Word of mouth is usually the biggest,” Isinghood said.
The church donated about 100 cases of the baby food jars and 25 cases of the baby cereal to Isinghood’s agency.
A team of Southern Baptists, including four people from Texas and two from Florida, has returned from a 10-day trip to China to assess possibilities for work in that persecuted country. The trip was coordinated through the International Mission Board and included a Southern Baptists of Texas Convention group.
Out of the 1.9 billion Chinese people, there are about 480 people and language groups and varied religions. One of the cities the team members stayed in had 1.3 million people. In the communist country, there are 166 cities that have over 1 million people in them.
“On average, there are 20,000 people a day coming to Christ in China,” said David Kimberly, director of missions for the Big Spring/Lamesa Association and a member of the SBTC contingent. “It would take us through the 21UP>st century to reach every one of them, and only five percent of China‘s population call themselves Christians.”
In China, Christian churches are generally required to register with the government and are controlled and monitored by authorities, which has spurred an underground church movement.
Most Chinese have an understanding of heaven; the plethora of religions active through the nation include Taoism, Confucianism, astrology, Chinese folk religion, shamanism, ancestor worship, Buddhism and Islam. Forty-two percent of China‘s population actually claims no religion after the government’s atheist rule became preeminent.
Kimberly said the underground church movements are multiplying quickly within the country. “Two house churches are each larger than the Southern Baptist Convention’s membership [totaled],” Kimberly said. “The Chinese people who are Christians are taking the good news to the Muslim world and back to Jerusalem.”
Kimberly said a local businessman was hired to drive and interpret for the group as they traveled the Chinese countryside. During their stay, they talked with the man about Christ, including him in the worship service they conducted in their hotel room during the week.
“He would ask questions about children, how to raise them, and other things,” Kimberly said. “We would answer him from a biblical standpoint. It intrigued the driver. He saw the joy we had in the Lord.”
After Kimberly and Garland Stuart, pastor of Midway Baptist </
Messengers defeat proposed study of new name for Southern BaptistsINDIANAPOLIS–A proposed study committee to consider changing the name of the Southern Baptist Convention proved controversial when the idea came to the floor of the SBC annual meeting June 15 in Indianapolis.
Messengers voted by a slim margin to refuse the suggestion outlined by SBC President Jack Graham in February to appoint a committee. It was presented to messengers as a motion by Texas pastor Claude Thomas.
With about 8,500 messengers registered at the time of the ballot Tuesday night, 1,731 (55.4 percent) opposed the motion while 1,391 (44.6 percent) were in favor of the proposed study committee.
In what Graham praised as “a spirited debate,” most of those calling for a study related the challenges that local churches face when ministering in an area that is far from “southern.”
In the Midwestern region where the annual meeting was held, Southern Baptist work is relatively new compared to the SBC’s 159-year history in the South. Southern Baptists in Indiana organized in 1958 during a decade when the convention began expanding to the West, North and Northeast.
A comity agreement with Northern Baptists (who changed their name to American Baptists) fell apart as migrating Baptists from southern states started churches like those from which they came. In the case of Indiana, Southern Baptists found encouragement from their neighbors in Kentucky and southern Illinois who helped plant the earliest Hoosier churches.
SBC President Jack Graham informed the Executive Committee in February of his desire to have a study committee consider a name change. At the EC’s pre-convention meeting June 13, Graham said he had received “a very positive response” to the proposal.
The issue has been raised almost every decade over the last half-century, Graham said, but has never received a favorable recommendation.
“The South isn’t your daddy’s South anymore,” Graham said, noting he observed more Yankee and Red Sox fans than Ranger supporters at recent baseball games in Texas. “That’s primarily because of the vast number of people from New York City and Boston who have moved to Texas.
“This is not only about the missiology of the name and its relationship up north,” Graham added, “It has to do with our identity all across America and potentially around the world.”
Graham conceded the biggest challenge would be in finding a name better than the one that has been used since 1845.
Claude Thomas, pastor of the Dallas-Fort Worth-area First Baptist Church of Euless, made the motion proposing the study, recognizing “the expanse of our mission and ministry has transcended regional identification.”
Thomas said he believes it would be wise to authorize the SBC president to appoint a study committee to determine whether identification with a southern region “has been an impediment to our effectiveness” in reaching across North America and the world.
The four messengers voicing support for the motion were from regions outside the South — while a number of other messengers cited concerns about the resources that would be needed to conduct such an assessment.
In support of the motion, John Flint of New Horizon Baptist Church in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., spoke of serving a small church in upstate New York where any mention of Southern Baptists “is almost evil” due to cultural perceptions.
“We don’t have Baptist in our name,” Flint said, “not because we’re not proud we’re Baptist, but because it becomes an impediment to sharing the Gospel.” He said he would rather see the name changed in order to see one more person saved than continue using a name that might be a stumbling block to non-southerners.
In opposition to the motion, messenger Sid West of First Baptist Church of Bosque Farms, N.M., asked for an estimate of the cost of the study, amusing the audience when he said the question made him “sound like a deacon.”
“The brief answer to your question, my brother deacon, is we don’t know,” Graham answered. “It certainly will require financial resources to do the right kind of study.”
Ed Taylor of Amissville (Va.) Baptist Church, cal
INDIANAPOLIS?The oldest son of the world’s most famous preacher told Southern Baptist Convention messengers June 16 they are called to be witnesses and must tell the truth of sin and redemption even if it offends hearers.
Franklin Graham’s sermon closed out the SBC’s annual meeting, which drew nearly 9,000 messengers to the Indianapolis Convention Center. Sounding more like a fiery prophet than his evangelist father, Graham lamented a U.S. News & World Report article that he said described evangelical churches that “have a McDonald’s franchise in the lobby” and make visitors to feel like they are anywhere but a church.
The nature of the gospel makes people uncomfortable, Graham said. Believers must carry out the Acts 1:8 mandate of being Jesus’ witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth?even amid criticism.
“A witness has to tell the truth always. ? has to tell the truth no matter what,” Graham said. “You see, the truth is what God sent his Son to do ? the truth that Jesus Christ rose, suffered and died on the cross without sin, the truth that Jesus Christ is the only way to achieve eternal life. ‘You see, no man comes unto the Father but by me,’ Jesus said.”
The world dislikes hearing that its human goodness isn’t enough, he said. “It’s offensive, yes, but friends, you’ve got to tell the truth if you are going to be a witness.”
More than 3 million people have been executed by the Sudanese government in recent years, including many Christians, yet Graham said the church has flourished and grown amid the persecution.
Graham told of meeting the Sudanese president who had the “blood of millions on his hands.” Graham shared the gospel with him and told him about a hospital Graham’s ministry, Samaritan’s Purse, helped build in southern Sudan.
Seven times the government tried to bomb the hospital but missed every time, Graham said. When Graham brought up the bombings in their meeting, the Sudanese leader laughed and promised to make Graham a convert to Islam.
The Sudanese government planned to annihilate the church by the year 2000, but instead the church there doubled, Graham said.
“Friends, we must be a faithful witness in the things God calls us to do.”
Graham told messengers of a Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) program to train and certify children to be evangelists to their schools. If a youngster completes the training, he or she will receive a card certifying their training.
“I want to see child, at least one child, in every classroom in every public school in America who is a witness for Jesus Christ. Let’s not surrender the public schools; let’s take them back,” Graham said, drawing loud applause.
“I believe the Lord of Lords and King of Kings is coming soon. ? I must tell them the truth because this is heaven or hell.”
CCBS approves relocation of KCBI
to east Dallas Criswell College site
DALLAS?When The Criswell College (TCC) moved east of downtown Dallas in 1991 to the renovated facilities of the former Gaston Avenue Baptist Church campus, the Criswell communications division, including KCBI-FM, already had moved to a retail Arlington site a few years earlier.
KCBI-FM continued round-the-clock broadcasts of Christian programming in Arlington while TCC moved into facilities that provided more space for classrooms, a library, faculty and staff offices and its own 1,700-seat auditorium for chapel.
The school and the station now have expanded ministries, and plans for building expansions have naturally followed. TCC needs space for student housing while the communications division needs more room for reception, administration, studio and volunteer workers.
At their June 4 meeting, trustees of The Criswell Center for Biblical Studies (CCBS)?which encompasses both the school and the station?advanced an idea that provides both divisions adequate space at a lower cost that earlier plans anticipated.
The board approved in principle the relocation of Criswell Communications and KCBI to the Gaston Avenue location, authorizing administration to secure revised building and financing plans for a seven-story building located across from the school that was purchased last year to provide dormitory space for students. The sale of property in Arlington used by the communications division will be investigated, trustees said.
The board’s decision is consistent with earlier commitments not to sell KCBI or separate it from CCBS, directing administration to achieve greater integration of the college and the communications division.
Using two full floors of the 4005 Gaston Avenue site for communications will provide approximately 20,000 square feet of usable space, which amounts to 4,000 square feet over existing facilities. Furthermore, the communications division will have access to a new cafeteria and coffee shop and existing auditorium, gymnasium, conference rooms, classrooms and broadcast studio.
CCBS President Jerry Johnson told trustees he anticipates “greater integration and coordination of both divisions” with the station relocated nearby. “With the present arrangement, we have one family in two houses,” Johnson added. “We need to bring the family together.”
While the inclusion of the radio station into the Gaston Avenue project will raise the total construction cost for that site, the increase would be less than the total estimated cost of separate projects at both locations. Great efficiency and savings is expected as staff positions and service contracts are combined in the areas of utilities, custodial, security and human relations.
“As the Criswell Center for Biblical Studies seeks to evangelize the lost, and to raise up a generation of spiritual and cultural warriors, we have the message and the megaphone to be ‘salt and light’ to this generation,” Johnson said. “To have maximum kingdom impact, it is imperative that we coordinate the work of The Criswell College and KCBI in this tangible way,” he said, calling it an “open and unique door of opportunity.”
The 21st century is a century of religion and policy-makers must understand it, SBC ethicist says.
HOUSTON?Religious persecution worldwide is increasing and U.S. foreign policy must grasp the religious dimensions of conflicts if democracy and peace are to flourish globally, Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land told a Rice University audience June 8.
Land, in a lecture titled “Global Security and U.S. National Interests: Why Religious Freedom Matters,” delivered at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy on behalf of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), said if the 20th century was known as the century of ideology, the 21st century is the century of religion. Nearly every conflict worldwide has a religious dimension, and U.S. foreign policy must engage countries that suppress the God-given right to freedom of conscience, Land contended.
President Bush appointed Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, to the USCIRF in 2001 and again in 2003.
“The world is filled with religious-related persecution and the situation is getting worse, not better,” Land said.
Such persecution was the impetus for the International Religious Freedom Act, passed with broad bipartisan support by Congress in 1998, which brought USCIRF into being, Land noted.
Old concepts of national security based on sovereign nations competing for strategic superiority are being replaced by ethnic and religious strife combined with high-tech weapons capability, Land said.
“It’s important for future leaders to be able to take religion seriously?to understand its yearnings, to use its potential and to counter its danger,” he said. “Diplomats and politicians and policy-makers who are not equipped to do that are going to find themselves falling short in putting forward U.S. policy goals in the 21st century.”
Land cited four reasons why religious freedom concerns are vital to U.S. national interests.
First, Land said, religious liberty has been integral to America’s history.
“I believe we always do best in the world when we reflect who we are and when our foreign policy reflects who we are. And religious freedom, freedom of conscience, is an integral part, a foundational part, of why this nation exists,” he said. “… From our nation’s founding, the belief that every human being has a fundamental right to believe, worship and practice according to his or her own conscience has been a core conviction of the vast majority of the American people.”
Thomas Jefferson, Land said, called religious liberty the “first freedom,” and the founding fathers “believed that these rights were inalienable because they were understood to exist prior to society and to government and were granted by neither, but instead were merely recognized and protected.”
Land said the practice of religious freedom entails other rights such as freedom of assembly, free expression and property ownership, and such freedom creates “breathing room” for political dissidents, labor organizers and human rights advocates. Religious freedom fueled democratic reforms in Eastern Europe and has inspired communist