PLANO, Texas?During its annual meeting Oct. 25-26, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention adopted a $19.2 million budget, re-elected its president and passed resolutions on such topics as activist judges, the terrorism war, abortion and embryonic stem cell research, education, Christian holiness and evangelism.
Messengers also honored Joe Atchison, a native Texan and longtime pastor and director of missions in Arkansas, with the H. Paul Pressler Distinguished Service Award “for sacrificial and extraordinary service” in Southern Baptists’ conservative theological resurgence.
Formed in 1998 with 120 churches, the SBTC marked its seventh convention at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, registering a record high 2,040 people, including 1,035 messengers. The confessional convention has grown to more than 1,550 affiliate churches.
The evening session Oct. 26 drew an estimated 4,500 people during a “Hope and Heritage Rally” co-hosted by the SBTC and Prestonwood that featured the Prestonwood choir and orchestra and a message from Jerry Falwell, the pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., and founder of the Moral Majority organization that mobilized millions of evangelical voters in the late 1970s and early 80s.
Calling Christians to be “the conscience of the culture” one week before the Nov. 2 election, Falwell, who this year has had his ministry’s tax-exempt status threatened for his public support of Bush, said evangelicals support Bush because of his values.
The former independent Baptist who joined Southern Baptist ranks in the mid-1990s said he didn’t involve himself in cultural issues until the late Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer confronted him in the 1960s, complimenting Falwell on his gospel proclamation but telling him he was a “total failure in confronting the culture.”
BUDGET AND OFFICERS
The convention elected as president for a second term Chris Osborne, pastor of Central Baptist Church in the College Station-Bryan area. The church has a large ministry to Texas A&M students.
Also elected were Ed Ethridge, director of missions at North Texas Baptist Association, as first vice president; Bill Sutton, pastor at First Baptist Church, McAllen, second vice president; and Brenda Wills, First Baptist Church, Fort Worth, secretary-treasurer.
Ethridge, the only officer serving a first term and in the only contested election, succeeded Garland pastor David Galvan of Primera Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida, who completed his second term. Ethridge received 299 votes; Gil Lain of Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo garnered 123 votes.
SBTC messengers adopted a 2004-05 budget of $19,245.933, up $2.9 million from the previous year. Of receipts SBTC churches give through Southern Baptists’ CP missions funding channel, the SBTC will forward 53 percent of funds to Southern Baptist Convention causes, up from 52 percent last year and towards a goal of 55 percent by 2009.
The SBTC remains the lone state convention passing more funds to the SBC than it keeps for in-state work. Of the SBTC operating budget, about 40 percent is earmarked for missions and evangelism, much of which funds church planting.
In the only resolution that generated debate, messengers overwhelmingly resolved to “instruct parents to ensure the godly education” of children, “whether in public schools, private schools, home schools, or through the church’s education program. ?”
FORT WORTH?Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustees meeting Oct. 19 pledged their support in recruiting students for an undergraduate college during their semiannual meeting. Tentatively named The College at Southwestern, the school will offer a baccalaureate degree in biblical studies and other programs in the history of Western ideas.
Trustees agreed to “take up the challenge of spearheading recruiting efforts” by providing contact information for home school associations, Christian high schools and academies, and the names of prospective students in public high schools who are involved in their church youth groups. Corporately, the board will recruit 50 students to the first class slated to begin in the fall of 2005.
Several trustees voiced concern that public school students should be recruited from the youth groups of Southern Baptist churches. As one of the few areas prompting discussion in the plenary meetings, the motion was amended to add the reference to public school students alongside those being recruited from home school and private schools.
Southwestern Seminary Vice President Rudy Gonzales said the motion encouraging recruitment was not intended to exclude other possibilities.
“But we do believe home school associations and private high schools and academies will probably be the most fertile ground initially. Certainly we’ll expand our recruiting efforts into other areas as well.”
“If they feel they’re left out by not having a contact, we’ve lost a great group of kids that need to be included,” stated Texas trustee Michael Dean of Fort Worth, favoring inclusion of a reference to public school students. “Out of our youth groups and churches we will look for young men and women who would be candidates for the College at Southwestern.”
Trustee Anthony George of Winter Park, Fla., encouraged amended language “so the intent of this college’s founding is not expressed here as just being another extension of isolated circles in the Christian community.” George added, “I don’t want to imply in writing that our recruitment efforts are limited to those in Christian education.”
The College at Southwestern would provide “unique preparation for students who wish to engage culture and advance the gospel,” according to spokesman Greg Tomlin. He also indicated that the cost of attending the college would be much less than the average university or private Christian school.
Trustees also responded with enthusiasm to Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson’s call for every student to participate in an international mission trip. “We know not every student is called to be an international missionary, but we believe every student ought to have his arms around the world,” Patterson said in reporting a five-year commitment of the seminary to send students in short-term mission assignments in Cuba, Zambia and Siberia.
“There’s nothing like a short-term mission assignment to cement that deeply in their hearts,” Patterson insisted, adding that professors will also benefit from such experiences. When the entire campus is focused on reaching lost people for Christ, Patterson said the imperfections and squabbles that naturally occur fade in comparison.
In plenary session trustees elected a new vice president, a new faculty member, and approved the inauguration of two new academic chairs. Privately, they were informed that former Euless pastor Claude Thomas had declined to accept an opportunity to serve in a chaplaincy post at the school.
C. Gregory Kingry Sr. was named vice president of business affairs, having directed business services for the North Africa-Middle East region of the International Mission Board since 1997.
Johnny Derouen was elected associate professor of student ministries, having served as minister to youth at Travis Avenue <st1:P
DALLAS?The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Board elected a new evangelism associate to the convention staff and re-elected three board officers for 2004-05 during its Oct. 27 meeting.
The officers are: Steve Cochran of Longview, chairman, Joe Stewart, Littlefield, vice chairman, and Sally Tillman, El Paso, secretary.
The board elected to the convention staff Brad Bunting, a Stephenville native and graduate of Howard Payne University and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, as associate director of evangelism/youth evangelism.
Bunting succeeds Tom Cottar, who left the staff last July to become student pastor at First Baptist Church of Pflugerville.
Bunting told the board how he prayed to receive Christ at age 6 after several conversations he initiated with his parents, his grandfather?a pastor for 52 years?and finally, Bunting’s pastor. He sensed a calling to the gospel ministry in high school and began preaching as a high school senior. He is a veteran speaker at youth camps and youth revivals and served as a youth minister while a student at Southeastern, where he earned a master of divinity degree last spring. He is working on a doctorate at Southwestern.
Since September, Bunting has served the convention staff as a consultant.
“It has been an absolutely wonderful experience. I love the work.”
Answering a query from a board member, Bunting said he has four requirements for every endeavor of youth evangelism, which will occupy most of his time.
?That it be Christ-centered;
?of the highest quality;
?Great Commission focused.
Bunting will coordinate the programs for the Youth Evangelism Conference, pre-teen camp, and other youth evangelism efforts, and will assist Don Cass, SBTC evangelism director, in SBTC evangelism initiatives, including the Empower Evangelism Conference.
In introducing Bunting, Cass said: “He’s a young man who loves Jesus Christ with all his heart. He’s a strong witness for Christ, he’s not ashamed to share the gospel anytime, any place, anywhere, and I’m glad of that.
“I believe that through the years we’re going to be grateful to God that he’s brought this young man our way.”
Cass said evangelism professors Roy Fish and Malcolm McDow of Southwestern and Southeastern’s Alvin Reid all recommended Bunting.
In praying over Bunting, Cass said: “I pray, Holy Spirit of God, that you would guard him, protect him from the evil one. I pray, God, that his witness would be strong and powerful. That your anointing would rest on his head all the days of his life. ? I pray that there would be thousands upon thousands of people who would say ‘Thank you’ to him because he led them to faith in Christ.”
In other business, Chief Financial Officer Joe Davis told the board that CP missions receipts through September were $13,069, 367?about 10 percent ahead of budget for the fiscal year.
The convention’s total net assets are $8.4 million, which includes a property value of $4.5 million and $2.52 million in operating reserve?equal to about 3.7 months of operation expenses, Davis reported.
Giving to international missions and North American missions through the Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings rose, respectively, by 83 percent and 22 percent.
Financial auditor Vern Hargrave, who presided over a certified audit of the SBTC, reported to the board that they “should be proud of the business aspect of the operations of your convention.” Hargrave said the SBTC staff has been very responsive to suggestions that ensure quality and accuracy in the accounting procedures amid tremendous growth.
Davis also reported that a hearing date is pending in Tarrant County over a lawsuit the convention has filed to protest the county’s decision to withhold tax exemption on the SBTC’s property in Grapevine and asked the board to continue praying for a favorable outcome.
The approximately $200,000 in potential tax could be used in ministry causes instead, Davis noted.
The board also voted, with one dissent, to grant $250,000 towards refurbishing the Yucca Lodge
PLANO?In his capacity as executive vice president of the SBC Executive Committee, David Hankins said the SBTC’s partnership with all Southern Baptists contributes to a record number of missionaries and seminary students preparing for ministry.
Yet, “Even though giving is up, the aggregate percentage given by Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program has dropped from 10.6 percent to 6.9 percent,” Hankins said, contrasting receipts over a 20-year period. Total mission dollars given to all causes declined from 17 percent to 11 percent. On average, Southern Baptists barely give more than two percent of their income through local churches, Hankins said.
“Perhaps we need to dust off the old 1950s slogan, ‘Every Baptist a Tither,’ and see what God says about what belongs to him.” He encouraged pastors to encourage tithing, asking members to give to the point of sacrifice “so we may continue to reach out and do ministry” to reach the next generation with the gospel.
North American Mission Board Vice President Harry Lewis applied the expression of Paul in Philippians 1:3, thanking God upon every remembrance of the SBTC. He reported that 5,200 missionaries serve in the U.S. and Canada on behalf of Southern Baptists while 2,400 chaplains are endorsed through NAMB. “Lives are being changed across the world through these chaplains,” Lewis said.
Among his reasons for giving thanks for the convention were:
?faithfulness to the Word of God.
?faithfulness to missions through the Cooperative Program and Annie Armstrong offering for North American Missions, ranking it ninth among 43 conventions;
?leading all state conventions by giving 52 percent beyond the state.
Lewis asked the SBTC to continue to partner with NAMB in new and unique ways. “Together, let’s just do it for Jesus’ sake.”
O.S. Hawkins, president and CEO of Guidestone Financial Resources (Annuity Board), said, “(Guidestone) has no greater partner in ministry than the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.” He said the convention is a big supporter of the matching funds program and he urged pastors and churches to invest in the retirement and financial planning resources Guidestone offers.
He said the agency annually selects a Bible verse to which the organization will hold itself accountable. This year’s verse is Isaiah 54:2: “Enlarge the site of your tent, and let your tent curtains be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your ropes, and drive your pegs deep.” (HCS)
Hawkins said Guidestone employees pledged to work with an attitude of service, providing biblically-sound guidance to clients. The company will stick to the basics of promoting accountability between Guidestone, churches, and individuals.
He said one of the most significant programs Guidestone oversees is the Adopt-an-Annuitant project. Some surviving family members of pastors have been left with little to live on because of insufficient funds or no investment in retirement by pastors or their churches. The adoptive program matches participating churches with annuitants in need of financial support.
Hawkins also praised the efforts of the Widows Mite prayer program for their support of Guidestone.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, reminded messengers of the importance of voting.
“This is a time that people of faith need to vote their values and convictions,” he said. Christians need to put aside loyalty to party, family voting heritage and perceived economic interests.
“Our loyalty belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. We ought to be looking for candidates who vote our ? beliefs.”
The day Land addressed the SBTC meeting, Oct. 25, it was announced that U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist had thyroid cancer. He said the next president would likely appoint one to three judges to sit on the high court. He asked the congregation if they wanted a country “of the people, by the people and for the people or of the judges, by the judges and for the judges?”
Lifeway Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Mike Arrington, introduced a video presentation from Lifeway President Jimmy Draper. In it, Draper cited the need for the SBC to connect with emerging leaders seeking a place of service in the denomination. “They love our heritage and want to continue it, but there needs to be a greater connection between old and new generations,” he said.
Draper reminded messengers that Lifeway had invested $1.6 million in 14 state conventions in an attempt to double baptisms across the country?to 360,000 in the year 2005.
Although an SBC-governed entity, Lifeway Christian Resources is self-funded and receives no Cooperative Program money.<SPAN style="m
PLANO?The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Pastors’ Conference elected new officers and was challenged to persevere in faith and sound doctrine. The conference, which immediately preceded the annual meeting at Prestonwood Baptist Church, elected as president Rix Tillman, pastor of Exciting Immanuel Baptist Church in El Paso, Carroll Hambrick, pastor of Beverly Hills Baptist Church in Waco as first vice president, and Domingo Ozuna, pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista in Grand Prairie, as secretary-treasurer.
The conference featured preaching from an ethnically and stylistically diverse slate of pastors in traditional preaching segments and in smaller breakout sessions.
Preaching from Malachi 1:6-14, Randy Weeaks, pastor of Walnut Ridge Baptist Church in Mansfield, warned that as Christians forget the greatness of God, they also forget to honor the things of God. Thus, their sacrifice lessens and their worship becomes meaningless.
“Aren’t you glad you belong to a convention that still honors the Word of God?” Weeaks asked, drawing affirmation from the crowd. “God’s family needs to be reminded that this is the book of life,” he said, referring to the Bible.
Weeaks said he is weary of Christians who put sports and social engagements ahead of Sunday worship. “My friend, as for me and my house, Sunday morning we’re going to church. Weeaks boys don’t like it a whole lot, but they don’t have a vote in the Weeaks family.”
Further, Christians often give monetarily what they can get by with, Weeaks noted.
“I know people who are tipping and not tithing,” wondering why they should give God the best. “Do you know why? ‘For he is a great king, says the Lord Almighty,'” Weeaks said, quoting Malachi. “He didn’t send us a blind and crippled animal; he sent the spotless Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world.”
Worship also becomes meaningless when people make themselves the focus, Weeaks said. “We’re here tonight because he is a great king.”
A relative newcomer to the pulpit, Pastor Bryan Carter of Concord Baptist Church, Dallas, warned his more experienced peers that, just like Elijah, they too can fall prey to despair if they don’t learn a lesson from one episode in the prophet’s life. Carter recalled that Elijah ran in fear for his life and how he abandoned good sense and good friends out of desperation (1 Kings 19:1-9).
Although only a senior pastor for a year, Carter said he wished to relay what he’s learned from his experiences, knowing that even seasoned pastors face doubt and defeat. Carter said in the loneliness of his first months in a new state and new pastorate, he was just as guilty as Elijah when it came to forgetting all God had done for him and through him.
Carter said it’s easy to fall into thinking “victory is what God did yesterday. But this is today.” Feeling defeated, Elijah ran from his problems, and consequently, his friends, Carter reminded.
Without Christian friends in his church and fellow pastor friends, Carter said the pastor is left to his own devices.
“Elijah decided he didn’t need anyone to help him,” Carter said. Loneliness, he added, makes people vulnerable and will lead to sin as people seek connections from ungodly sources.
But in loneliness, God can teach. Elijah wished to die; God refreshed him and gave him what he needed “at that season of his life.” During that self-imposed isolation, Carter said, “God can remind us.”
God can also lighten the emotional load if pastors avoid comparing themselves and their ministries to others. Carter said God deals with each Christian based on what he expects from that Christian, not what he expects from someone else.
Troubles can be reduced, too, if pastors “erase their exaggerations.”
Elijah, like many pastors, Carter said, was burdened under a load that he did not need
PLANO?Tom Hatley, chairman of the International Mission Board trustees, brought greetings to the messengers on behalf of the IMB trustees, administration and 5,277 missionaries abroad.
Hatley, an Arkansas pastor, thanked the SBTC for its gifts last year given through CP missions and for the large Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions.
“Secondly, thank you for calling out the called. People are surrendering to missions at record numbers in your churches and they are our greatest resource when it comes to pushing back the curtain of spiritual darkness in this world.”
Hatley said 25,099 volunteers joined IMB field missionaries across the globe last year. “We are sure that many other trips were taken that we did not record. Keep that up, it does more to personalize missions to our churches than anything else we can do. Last, but not least, you made last year one of the best ever in evangelizing the lost because of your generous giving to the Lottie Moon Christian Offering.
“The record offering helped to arrest a decline in our missionary force that had occurred because of severe budget cuts that were forced upon us in the two years previous. At one time, we had over 5,600 missionaries on the field. The current count is 5,277 and rising. With another generous Lottie Moon Christmas Offering we should be back above the 5,600 level soon. However, that will not be sufficient for the lostness of our world.”
Hatley continued: “Consider the lostness: Over half of the people who have ever lived are alive today. Out of the nearly 6.2 billion people in this world, over 5.5 billion of them are lost. Every two seconds three people are dying lost without Jesus and are thus separated from him forever. Let me describe the lostness another way. If you could see the faces of the lost at a rate of five every second, it would take you 15 years just to see them.”
Hatley said he would meet this month with trustees, staff and IMB regional leaders to strategize in reaching the unreached across the world.
“The knowledge that comes from that discussion will give us some long term goals to present to you. ? It is time we dare to look at completing this task. For 2,000 years we have been approaching this day and with advances in travel and technology we can bring the gospel to every nation, language, city, village, and tribe within this generation. We have the resources, we have the commission, and we have the calling. We must simply dare to stretch for the finish line.” Hatley noted that in spreading the gospel, “we are also guarding the integrity of the gospel.”
Citing a meeting last summer between trustees, staff and missions professors about the danger of expediency at the expense of doctrine, he said, “We must be sure we are planting Baptist churches which have a commitment to the Word of God as infallible and inerrant.”
Hatley said the 510,357 IMB baptisms last year crossed the half-million mark for the first time ever, with 16,721 new churches started last year. Hatley called on pastors willing to commit two weeks per year to training foreign church leaders in doctrine and leadership.