Month: June 2005

Rowdy Faith Hill parody sets stage as ministers’ wives urged to walk worthy

NASHVILLE, Tenn.?In what will become an annual Monday morning conference for minister’s wives, well over 1,000 women gathered in the Ryman Auditorium, challenged by the faith and experience of speakers who have walked in their shoes and modeled the qualities found in the Colossians 1:9-10 theme to “walk worthily.”

Anita Renfroe of suburban Atlanta ensured the audience was awake for the back-to-back messages from three women, opening the session with spirited music, followed by her comedy routine. The author of “The Purse-Driven Life” entertained the women, connecting with their experiences as ministers’ wives.

“I know why Christian women are gaining weight at a faster rate than the rest of the population,” Renfroe offered. “It’s because of that little bitty book we all read and then asked, ‘Lord, enlarge my territory.'” Then she recalled a t-shirt she’d seen that read, “If our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, then I’m not fat, I’m just a megachurch.”

No subject was off limits for Renfroe, whose husband tells his buddies that the couple is in “estrogen evangelism.” She told of her gratitude for “23 years of hot, righteous monogamy!” Describing her husband’s ministry for 20 years as an associate pastor, she explained, “That means he actually did all the work,” drawing laughter from wives of associate church staff members.

Renfroe said knowing that none of her children had been on Jerry Springer gave her hope that they had turned out well. “I learned a couple of things as a mom?if you need to hide a present, put it in the dishwasher. And no matter what a brochure says, absolutely nothing is fun for the whole family.”

Standing on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium, Renfroe said she composed the song “I Can Smell Your Breath” from a hit by country music star Faith Hill, who was in the youth group of the first church Renfroe’s husband served while in seminary. Sporting a long blonde wig and eventually a gas mask, Renfroe changed the words to describe waking up to a husband with bad breath.

SUSIE HAWKINS

As Bible study teacher Susie Hawkins of Dallas attempted to follow Renfroe’s act, she told the audience, “Anita’s job was to warm you up. Instead, she’s got you hanging off the rafters.”

Hawkins drew her own share of laughs by describing the reception she was given at the first church her husband served after seminary. One woman asked if she could sing solos, another wondered if she could play the piano and a third asked if she’d think about being the director of the upcoming Vacation Bible School. “I told O.S., ‘I don’t care when we move there but it has to be after Vacation Bible School.”

Having been a pastor’s wife in Oklahoma, Florida and Texas, Hawkins commiserated with the women who are expected to be like Shirley Dobson as a wife and mother, Martha Stewart in the home, Beth Moore as a Bible teacher, Karen Hughes as an administrator, Elisabeth Elliot as a missionary, Lottie Moon as an evangelist and minister to the sick like Mother Teresa.

Instead, Hawkins said the wives of ministers should “take a deeper look at what God has called us to be and what God has called us to do.” She offered an overview of the role of a pastor’s wife, drawing from historical and biblical evidence. “Because of the Reformation, marriage and children and wives regained a certain amount of respect and women came to be considered an important part of the husband’s ministry.”

Her Ephesians 4 text instructing Christians to walk worthy of their calling paralleled the session’s Colossians 1 theme as Hawkins told the women they are called as a partner, to a people and for a purpose. “If you are married to a man who is called to ministry, then you are called as his partner in ministry,” she stated.

“I’ve heard too many times, ‘That’s his job, but I’m not called. I don’t have to do that stuff.'” Hawkins urged women with that attitude to “think and pray on this because the Bible is very clear that we are called as well.” The primary role of a minister’s wife is to be a helper to her husband, praying and encouraging him, she noted.

By exercising the godly characteristics of humility, gentleness, patience and acceptance of one another in love, the wives of ministers will encourage unity in the church as they serve people. By maturing in the fullness of Christ, Hawkins said the wives will achieve the purpose of glorifying God. While the setting for ministry may change, she said the purpose remains the same.

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Texas couple finds place to serve during Crossover Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn.?When Texas pastor Chet Haney arrived at the Crossover Nashville kick-off rally late Saturday morning, the volunteers assigned to help 147 area churches were walking out the door. That didn’t stop Haney and his wife, Terri, from finding a place to serve.

When he saw group gathering at nearby First Baptist Church of Nashville, Haney asked if they could use any extra people. “When we got over there they had a group of good volunteer drivers and they were glad to see us,” said the pastor of Parkside Baptist in Denison.

In a nearby government housing area known as Shelby, the Haneys found “a lot of ministry to be done.” At the first house they found a friendly face and distributed Bibles to the woman and her four grandchildren. “She wasn’t really open to a full length gospel presentation so we didn’t get as far as we’d have liked,” Haney told the TEXAN, adding that she allowed them to have prayer with her and the kids.

As they continued up and down the rest of the street, the Haneys saw a woman walking to meet them who asked, “‘What are ya’ll doin’?'”

Haney said, “The Bibles we were passing out caught her eye and she took one. We got to share the Lord with her and she prayed to receive Christ,” Confident that the woman was sincere, he remembered, “She thanked me four times. She said, ‘Thank you so much for being here, for coming to our part of town.'” Haney said he imagined from her weather-beaten face that she had some sad stories that grew out of a difficult life.

The downtown Nashville church that organized Crossover visits in the area was working on behalf of nearby Edgecliff (Baptist Church). “It’s an older church that had to go bivocational just last year due to decline, but it was well known in that neighborhood as we talked with the people,” Haney said.

The second person the Haneys led to the Lord was the same age as their oldest daughter. The 22-year-old woman was a marginal member of an area church, but had no assurance of her salvation, Haney said. “She listened very carefully and was glad to get the Bible,” he added, noting that his wife talked with her at length about the need for discipleship.

Haney said the first words of a next-door neighbor were “‘Praise the Lord'” when she heard about the young woman’s spiritual decision. “We encouraged her to pray and follow up with her,” Haney said.

When they asked the neighbor how they might pray for her own family, she said, “‘Pray old forky toes will keep out of my business.'” Haney said the Devil’s presence was evident throughout the neighborhood where they visited. “We literally prayed for Satan not to discourage this young girl.”

Further down the street the Haneys met an elderly woman sitting on her porch to avoid the heat in her kitchen. “It was like she was sitting there waiting for us to arrive. When Terri was explaining the gospel to her, saying ‘H’ stands for heaven, she said, ‘I’m not going to heaven?no way! What are you thinking? Me go to heaven?'” Haney’s wife explained how the woman could receive the gift of eternal life and while she seemed to clearly understand the gospel, she would not accept it, he said.

A few doors down the sound of gospel music could be heard from a radio. At the exact moment when Haney was praying with a woman who received Christ as her Savior, they heard a song about the joy of having Jesus come into a life. “I’m hearing this song while we’re praying,” he shared. “It was the coolest thing!”

Haney’s commitment to evangelize continued throughout the week, making an appointment to pursue a discussion he had earlier this year with a storekeeper in a Nashville mall. The Pakistani Muslim read a tract Haney gave him when he was in town for a conference and the two continued to correspond by e-mail regarding the man’s faith.

Meeting for breakfast at a downtown Nashville hotel, the man was eager to discuss the questions he had about Christianity and ultimately accepted Christ as Savior. Haney is working with a Southern Baptist church near the man’s residence to be certain he is discipled.

Austin Texans find real ‘Hill Country’during Crossover event in Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn. ? The 10 Austin Southern Baptists who volunteered to help in this year’s Crossover evangelistic blitz may think they live in Hill Country, but the street they were assigned for their door-to-door visits in Tennessee proved a lot steeper than any Texas incline they knew of.

That didn’t deter the group from joining approximately 150 members and visitors at Judson Baptist Church on Nashville’s south side. Armed with free Holman Christian Standard Bibles to give away and bottles of water to keep them refreshed, the Texas contingent traveled by foot from house to house, most of them situated on two-acre lots.

“We plowed some hard ground today,” stated Michael Lewis, pastor of Great Hills Baptist Church of Austin. Of the dozen or so visits his team made, most of the people answering their doors professed to be Christians. Only after working through the survey questions asking why people attend church, whether Bible reading is helpful and how the local church might serve them better could the volunteers sense whether the resident claimed to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

The 80-something Nazarene woman patiently listened as Lewis conducted the survey, ultimately asking if she’d like to accept Jesus as her personal Savior. “Well, I thought I’d already done that, but you wanted preach a sermon,” she told the Texas pastor. Team members assured her they wanted to make sure she understood the gospel message and laughed at her blunt response as she clarified her commitment.

Lewis wasn’t taking any chance on being misunderstood as he delivered a clear presentation of the gospel at every door that was opened. That included a retired LifeWay employee who was grateful for the opportunity to fellowship with other Southern Baptists. He welcomed the foursome into his home to pray with his wife who was dealing with the effects of Parkinson’s disease.

“Here’s my list of the preachers we watch each week,” the man shared, naming Ed Young of Houston and Ronnie Floyd of Springdale, Ark. When he pointed to a picture of his recently married daughter, the Texas group discovered that she lives in the same town as Lewis and he encouraged the father to point her to the nearby Austin church.

The next household listened carefully to the FAITH presentation, affirming their trust in Jesus Christ. Seventeen-year-old Roy Stewart understood the importance of taking the gospel to the people, having trusted Christ as his Savior only a few months earlier.

“A friend invited me to Great Hills and I listened to Pastor Lewis preach each week and got saved,” Stewart explained. Now he’s a part of a youth group that regularly shares the gospel with other teenagers. “We made 16 stops and shared the gospel five times,” Stewart told the Judson Baptist members. ‘Those driveways were like that,” he added, aiming his hand straight upward.

“People are talking about how hot it is here,” stated Candy Devany of Pflugerville, Texas. “Oh, come on?this is beautiful,” she told the group at Judson Baptist. On her team’s last visit they presented the gospel message to a young Muslim teenager and were at the point of praying with her when the father interrupted them. “She had said she wanted to accept the forgiveness God made available, but when her dad walked out he shared that they were Muslim. It was a good conversation and I think God will use this young girl who is open.”

One of the Nashville church volunteers told of their visits in a nearby neighborhood, expressing appreciation for the involvement of Texans Liliana Lewis and David Brandt, both from Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin. After nine visits, no one had professed faith in Christ, he said, “but Liliana said we have to do one more visit.”

Approaching a nearby house that was not on their list of assignments, they found a woman with three young children. “This young girl didn’t speak English so Liliana took over and I heard the entire FAITH presentation in Spanish,” added the Judson Baptist church member. The Lord was in that visit. Both the mom and her 7-year-old daughter gave their lives to Jesus.”

Turning to the Texans, he added, “We just want to praise God for that. Liliana is a great lady and I know she’s a blessing to your church.”

“I learned a lot today about visiting,” shared Murph Cathcart of Nashville. Teaming up with Texans James and Peggy Tisdale, the longtime Judson Baptist member said, “James told me to go and knock on the door, tell them my name is Murph and this is James and Peggy and we have a little survey. Then he would take over.”

“We do this all the time at home,” stated Tisdale, who currently serves as transitional pastor at Andice Baptist Church in Florence, Texas. Pointing to Murph, he added

Austin pastor: Everyone can go and tell ‘blessed message’

NASHVILLE, Tenn.?Austin’s Michael Lewis called on Southern Baptists gathered for the SBC annual meeting to mobilize in faith to share a “blessed message” with a dying culture.

Lewis, pastor of Great Hills Baptist Church, preached during one of several “Everyone Can!” challenge sermons that led up to the launch of the “Everyone Can!” evangelism campaign to baptize 1 million new believers in the next year.

Before his sermon, Lewis’ wife, Lilliana, a fluent Spanish speaker, prayed in Spanish and then English.

Lewis preached from 2 Kings 7 the story of the four lepers who found food after a famine and were then burdened to share the good news of God’s deliverance to the rest of the city.

Amid their misery, the men asked themselves, “Shall we sit here until we die?”

“That’s a wise question in light of their city’s soon destruction,” Lewis noted. “In the next hour as I preach this message, 7,000 people will die. That’s 87 every minute. ? That’s an important question for us tonight as Southern Baptists: ‘Shall we sit here until we die?'”

Lewis explained annual baptisms grew from 100,000 among Southern Baptists in 1900 to around 400,000 in 1962. Since then, baptisms have plateaued.

In 1900 it took 21 people to bring one person to saving faith; today it takes 43 believers to reach one new convert.

“The goal is to witness to, win and baptize a million people in the next year. The response is, ‘Everyone can, and I’m it. You’re it.'”

“In my home city of Austin, people are lot more eager to hear than we are to share,” Lewis said. “Billy Graham has said that God is a lot more interested in apathy in the church than the iniquity of the world.”

Lewis told of a Muslim man who had become a Christian because someone in his church used a gospel tract to witness to him.

“It’s amazing what God can do when you share,” Lewis said, adding that 89 percent of Gallup Poll respondents said they are “intensely interested in spiritual matters.”

Lewis said the gate where the lepers were gathered was a place of decision where they put their faith in God.

SBC president: annual meeting, Crossover turnouts encouraging

NASHVILLE, Tenn.?The mobilization of thousands of Southern Baptists for the June 18 Crossover Evangelism outreach and the increased attendance at the June 21-22 annual meeting in Nashville provided SBC President Bobby Welch with the indicators he was looking for to consider this year’s meeting a success.

Welch told reporters at a June 21 news conference he would come to such a conclusion “if we have a substantial effort on Saturday at Crossover?which I think is a foregone conclusion now that we have [reports] and it was a lot bigger than we even thought?and if there is good attendance at this convention and we moved forward with a lot of spirit with the ‘Everyone Can! Kingdom Challenge.’

“If the convention at any level will go to the people about the most important thing to those people?the eternal spiritual well-being of their loved ones, family and friends?then we can go forward with the same endeavors,” he said, referring to his challenge to unite around evangelism.

Welch, co-creator of the popular FAITH evangelism strategy, led a 50-state, 25-day bus tour in August and September to encourage a convention-wide effort to win 1 million people to Christ. Many involved in this year’s Crossover effort noted their participation was prompted by Welch’s challenge and on the opening day of the annual meeting registration of messengers from local Southern Baptist churches surpassed 11,000.

Welch believes Southern Baptists need a unity of purpose that will draw them together on a quest. “You can come do evangelism at this convention when you may not come for anything else. We have a lot of people listening, hearing and thinking” about that priority, Welch said. “Younger pastors light up when you start talking about that.”

The hardest part of presenting that challenge during his first year as president involved “trying to find the way that everyone could come on board with a unity of purpose for evangelism and still maintain their personality, peculiarities, methodology and their schedule.” He called on Southern Baptists to work their hardest within a 12-month period to do all they can to enlarge the kingdom of God.

In order to “fan the fire” of evangelism, Welch said he will try to go to large gatherings of Southern Baptists such as annual state convention meetings and evangelism conferences. “If you can’t be for evangelism you’ve got to wonder what you are here about. It’s the lowest common denominator. It has Christ in it, the word of God and the Great Commission.

Asked by Alabama Baptist editor Bob Terry if he had considered inviting Cooperative Baptist Fellowship-related churches to join in this evangelistic emphasis, Welch said, “Nobody’s telling anybody not to try to reach people. You might be surprised to know there were one or two churches involved with CBF that I did stop at on the bus trip. That usually shocks some people, but I did,” he added. “Someone would call and say, ‘Did you know that’s a CBF church?’ If they want to go soul-winning, God bless them,” Welch responded.

The pastor of First Baptist Church of Daytona Beach, Fla., explained why he encouraged several local churches to publicly baptize new converts as a part of the convention program. “The whole reason to do it was to emphasize and promote what we’re emphasizing and promoting?and that is baptizing.” Recalling a comment that Southern Baptists surely knew about baptism in Nashville, Welch said such public demonstrations would provide over 10,000 churches with the first baptism they’d seen in 12 months because they didn’t baptize anybody.

“We’ll promote it and encourage it and I hope they’ll go home and think we need to do this.” Welch said baptism is “that huge first, giant step toward a local body and discipleship. We’re not making it easy?that bar is just as high as it’s ever been,” he added, contrasting the call to baptize one million people with the “million more in ’54” campaign “where we’d do anything to get them in there.”

Asked by a Boston Globe reporter why baptisms had leveled off in recent years, Welch said, “The reason we’re not doing the baptisms is that we’ve given up on trying to get into people’s lives. We’re afraid of them. We go out there and we get involved in their lives and we will discover that some of them have spiritual needs,” he added.

While discovering the ministry needs in the lives of people, Christians will want to do more for those who are sick and need medicine, those who have kids and need jobs to support them, Welch said. Asked if he finds political activism to be a distraction from the primary task of evangelism, Welch said, “I’m not calling on them to give it up. I want the best political leaders we can get, but I’m not thinking for one heartbeat political leaders are going to do our spiritual work for us. But I believe if we do the spiritual work like Jesus did, we will be involved inescapably in the lives of people and what’s better for them in their community.

“So many pastors are looking for the drive-through window to order a silver bullet and be done with it. It’s not out there. It’s hard work to break ground,” Welch said. “You get away with just about anything until you bust hell open.”

Reporters pressed Welch to

SBC urges education diligence, ends 8-year Disney Co. boycott

NASHVILLE, Tenn.?Southern Baptist Convention messengers meeting in Nashville June 21-22 passed a resolution urging parents to “investigate diligently” the cultural climate of public schools and ended an eight-year boycott of the Walt Disney Co. The nation’s largest non-Catholic denomination also launched a campaign to “witness” to, “win and baptize” 1 million people in the next year.

SBC President Bobby Welch of Daytona Beach, Fla., elected to a second one-year term, ended the convention by launching the “Everyone Can!” evangelism campaign with bluegrass musician Ricky Skaggs blowing a ram’s horn followed by music, balloons, fireworks and fog machines spewing inside the Gaylord Entertainment Center.

“This is the time. This is the place. We are the people and we call ourselves to this hour to stop slouching toward a cold graveyard of mediocrity” and win the world to Christ, Welch implored the messengers, from 4,976 congregations nationwide.

They numbered 11,641?the most since 2000, when 11,918 messengers gathered in Orlando, Fla. The 519 Texas messengers comprised the eighth-largest group.

In addition to Welch, the convention elected Jerry Sutton, a Nashville pastor, as first vice president; Roy Fish, professor emeritus at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, as second vice president; John Yeats, editor of the Baptist Messenger in Oklahoma City, as recording secretary; and Jim Wells, director of missions in Ozark, Mo., as registration secretary. Yeats was first elected in 1997 and Wells in 2002.

The SBC’s Crossover evangelism effort (See related stories that are linked.) drew nearly 10,000 participants who changed automobile oil, distributed groceries, held block parties and used other outreach methods to share the gospel in Nashville-area neighborhoods.

The effort yielded around 2,500 salvation decisions, according to records submitted by 80 of the 100 venues reporting to the Nashville Baptist Association office, Baptist Press reported. Between speakers and business sessions during the meeting, Nashville-area pastors baptized eight new Christians in front of messengers.

President Bush, speaking from the White House via satellite, addressed messengers for the fourth straight year, thanking Southern Baptists for their prayers, which he called “the greatest gift anyone can give to me and Laura.” The president reiterated his support for a federal marriage protection amendment.

EDUCATION RESOLUTION

The education resolution, which passed overwhelmingly, cited biblical commands in Proverbs 22:6 and Deuteronomy 6:6-7 for parents to take responsibility in raising and educating their children.

Drafted by the committee during meetings the week before the convention, it differed from a resolution submitted by Texans Voddie Baucham and Bruce Shortt, which called for parents to remove children from schools where homosexuality is being taught as acceptable.

Instead, the resolution called on “parents and churches to research and monitor the entertainment and educational influences on children” and urged them to “exercise their rights to investigate diligently the curricula, textbooks, and programs in our community schools and to demand discontinuation of offensive material and programs.” The resolution acknowledged that schools are “often an effective gateway to children’s hearts and minds” and called on churches to aid parents in educating and discipling their children.

The committee wrote: “Homosexual activists and their allies are devoting substantial resources and using political power to promote the acceptance among schoolchildren of homosexuality as a morally legitimate lifestyle.”

The resolution also cited “marketing and entertainment campaigns that redefine truth, morality, and family relationships.”

The resolution was amended from the floor to “commend godly teachers and students who feel called by God to take a stand for Christ in secular schools as a light shining in the darkness.”

The education resolution and one ending the Disney boycott were the only resolutions of nine prompting floor debate.

Shortt, a member of North Oaks Baptist Church in Spring, told messengers: “I know that Dr. Baucham, if he were able to be here, would be commending the committee for taking this important first step in protecting our children.”

Shortt told messengers there are more than 3,000 clubs under the guise of “safe schools, diversity, multiculturalism and similar sorts of things” that are promoting homosexuality in public middle and high schools.

Shortt, an attorney who last year submitted a resolution that called for a public school exodus, told reporters afterward that until this year the SBC had been “quite silent” on public education. “In life, you don’t get 100 percent of what you want,” he said.

A Michigan messenger who described himself as a licensed teacher said homosexual students “are among the most vulnerable in the school system, public or private. But I’m also committed to bringing to them a

Swofford offers strong warning to churches that forsake CP giving

As the sixth recipient of the M. E. Dodd Cooperative Program Award, Texas pastor Steve Swofford of First Baptist Church of Rockwall urged fellow Southern Baptists to avoid robbing “Peter to pay Paul” by replacing CP gifts with direct mission funding.

“I am truly blessed to pastor a church that believes so strongly in the Cooperative Program,” Swofford told the June 21 gathering of the Southern Baptist Convention. “I’ve always believed that God blesses the church that tries to bless the world and I know of no better way to try to bless the world than through the Cooperative Program.”

Swofford continued, “I thank God for men like M. E. Dodd who had the vision to lead all of us to see how much more we could do as we cooperate together. Both at home and abroad, it’s the envy of other Christian organizations as a funding tool. They know how well it works. There is no better way to get more bang for our buck than CP. It has been God-blessed and God-used.”

The Texas pastor drove the point home for churches of all sizes by adding, “I know that this is the day of hands-on missions when many of our people want to go and see and feel and touch and I understand that nothing will turn the heart to missions faster than a hands-on experience. But we dare not rob Peter to pay Paul. We must not back off one to enjoy the other for it is the Cooperative Program that makes it possible for our missionaries to be there to meet and greet our people and to be there when our people go … It’s CP that enables us to educate and to send and do almost everything we jointly do as Southern Baptists.”

The award, inaugurated during the 75th anniversary celebration of the Cooperative Program in 2000, honors a person, congregation or organization that has demonstrated continuous, long-term excellence in supporting missions and ministry efforts of state and regional conventions and the SBC. Swofford received a sculpture of a farmer “sowing the word as he walks across the world,” explained SBC Executive Committee President Morris Chapman in recognizing Swofford.

In the 16-plus years since being called to FBC Rockwall, Swofford has led his church to give 18 percent of its undesignated offerings through the Cooperative Program, amounting to about $462,000 in 2004. In 1989 the church was giving $67,000 to CP. Attendance has grown from an average of 250 in worship attendance to over 1,200 in one of three morning services today.

Swofford chaired the Home Mission Board and now serves on the International Board as well as having served on the board of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. “Steve has a heart for missions,” Chapman said, describing this as “a life-time achievement award” for his commitment to the Cooperative Program.

“May God help us to stand behind, stay with and increase our part in the Cooperative Program,” Swofford said in closing, “knowing it will bless the world and then God will bless us because God blesses the church that tries to bless the world.”

Ministry goes beyond pastor’s study to ministering and going on mission

NASHVILLE?Dallas pastor Mac Brunson of First Baptist Church drew from the apostle Paul’s instructions to Timothy to relate the importance of preaching biblically, ministering to people and being “on mission” around the world. “He began to reflect back on his own personal ministry and say, ‘Everything God called me to do I was faithful to do. I served with a clear conscience.'”

Warning Timothy to kindle afresh the gift God had placed within him, Paul reminded Timothy to “stick to the word,” Brunson said. Moving to 2 Timothy 1:15-16, Brunson told pastors, “You are called to do more than master texts and tradition. You are called to have a devotion to ministry and mission.” From the examples Paul cited of individual believers who had abandoned him in a time of great need, Brunson said ministers often neglect ministering to one another.

“I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that coming to these conventions are men who are at the end of their rope. You’re struggling. You’re hurting. It’s tough and you’re frustrated.” He speculated that some came to the convention as the last thing to be done before going back to resign a church, leave a wife or give up on ministry.

“The thing that concerns me is we say we’re the most committed to ministry, yet those of us so often seem to be the least concerned with a brother that is hurting. We don’t even stop and speak to somebody in the hallway. It’s as if my position is so great and so important and you are so beneath me that I don’t have time for you because you can’t pull power plays and you can’t benefit me.”

Like the child who refuses his mother’s instruction in etiquette by saying he’ll use the proper silverware when he’s away from home, Brunson said, “If we don’t minister to one another in here why should God let us get out of here and say we’re going to minister out there?

The lone example Paul gave to commend ministry shown to him was Onesiphorus, Brunson said, describing the service he offered as a cool breeze on a hot day. “Some guys say I don’t have to go overseas to do missions. We can do that right here at home.” From verse 17, Brunson observed that Onesiphorus eagerly searched for Paul. “You’re not gonna find them sitting on your blessed assurance in your pastor’s study. You’re gonna have to decide God didn’t just call you to preach. God called you to minister and part of ministry is missions.”

Brunson said he’d spent the last several years doing everything he could to be able to stand and say that a church can begin as large a building program as it wants to and still do more for missions than has ever been done before. “Your ministry at home should never negate your ministry around the world.”

Knowing is half the battle

My kids loved GI Joe during his second life in the 1980s. Our house was littered with outlandish vehicles in garish colors and implausible configurations. The boys would charge from room to room shouting “Yo, Joe!” as they pursued reptilian bad guys. One part of the cartoon stuck with our family. Anytime someone refers to knowing something or needing to know something, another family member finishes the thought with “?and knowing is half the battle.” This refers to a series of goofy GI Joe public service announcements on fire safety, drug abuse, going with strangers, etc. The hero Joe would tag the message with, “And now you know, and knowing is half the battle!”

Everyone agrees that learning and teaching have high value in our culture. We may not agree about the content of necessary knowledge?some value technical information more than the theory behind it?but we all find information of some sort worth pursuing. Our natural curiosity will find an outlet.

That’s one reason we spend billions on education. That’s why no success of our recent Texas legislative session compared with their failure to address school funding. We want our kids to know; and knowing is?well, half the battle.

Progress in our society is dependant on passing along the lessons of those who have gone before. Even before reading and writing were commonly-held skills, new generations were orally given the understanding accumulated by their forebears. There have always been teachers.

In our culture, that work depends heavily on professional educators in a public school. Thousands of our college grad education majors feel called to serve in this context. These teachers are central characters in the life of our communities. Because it is a service profession, many Christians are drawn to the work.

While teachers agree that the joy of their work and their preferred focus is teaching children skills and knowledge, their time is increasing taken with other responsibilities related to social needs of families and students. This trend is a source of some discouragement among those who love to teach children. One retired teacher added that her responsibility increased as the authority to fulfill it decreased. The experience of being a teacher today is completely mixed with these increasing frustrations.

Their primary challenge is to do the thing they love in an increasingly complex setting. Some of the complexity comes from being a governmental institution. Some of it comes from the troubled homes of the children. Teachers at the beginning of their careers may seek another profession before they’ll take a position at a school where they expect teaching to take a backseat to social and disciplinary problems.

For Christians there is an aspect of mission to the work. They carry with them a view of truth that inevitably shines through as they work with students. This, by the way, is a reason why the character and behavior of teachers matters very much. A teacher who prays for her students and who sees them as valuable bearers of God’s image will be a better reading teacher than one that only judges potential and accomplishment. Conversely, a teacher ravaged by a self-destructive lifestyle is poorer at whatever he tries.

Christians currently engaged in public education face new challenges. I don’t believe a teacher today is as free to overtly uphold the values I saw in many of my teachers. No Christian can or should leave his faith in the car when he gets to work. But can the living out of one’s faith in the context of this local and very personal government service be allowed? In many places, the answer is still “yes.” Those places will be fewer as each year passes.

I don’t expect the challenges faced by public education will be solved. These problems reflect the moral confusion of our culture; they do not cause it. Because it is a government entity, a school wanders through the same political minefield as other public institutions (the military, welfare, etc.). Since religion, specifically Christianity, is controversial, government agencies try to steer clear of ultimate truth claims. That’s why advocacy groups freak out when some Christians at the Air Force Academy witness to their friends. That’s why the Supreme Court offered such mixed, tortured opinions about displaying the Ten Commandments on public property.

What about the other, harder half of the battle, applying what you learn? You simply can’t teach skills or capabilities separate from their right application. Sex education is a fair example. It is not value neutral. We either offer guidance regarding proper sexual relationships or we leave students free to apply what we’ve taught them (and what we taught is necessarily selective) as they wish.

Teaching, particularly teaching our children, is always values-laden. There are assumptions behind any teacher’s message. If Christianity is out of bounds, some other belief system will fill the vacuum, every single time. Currently the most acceptable belief system is wildly relativistic. All foundations for understanding truth are considered equivalent, dissimilar though they may be.

Teaching history, for example, in this way is a mess. An event may be seen from many different perspectives but not all are equally significant or even valid. Trying to teach this way separates facts from meaning. This is also true in science (the question of origins or bio-ethics), literature (what weight to give classic western literature), or grammar (spelling and punctuation are culturally weighted). Arguably, teaching error is better than teaching that truth cannot be discovered or valued. A firmly held but wrong belief can be addressed; this pale “all things are true and precious” nonsense is as hard to engage as it is to define.

 

Baucham: Christians must engage, give reasoned answers to unbelieving culture

NASHVILLE, Tenn.?Christians must reclaim intellectual ground they surrendered years ago by being equipped to explain why they believe the Bible, Houston-area evangelist Voddie Baucham told the SBC Pastors’ Conference.

Preaching during its opening session June 19, Baucham, a Houston-area evangelist, lamented that many Christians, in response to the rise of rationalism and secular humanism, retreated years ago from intellectual pursuits and some have instead taken a mystical view of their faith.

“We are at a place where theology and doctrine are bad words. We are at a place where there’s a generation coming up that will believe anything if you say it with enough feeling. So there is an intellectual wall that needs to be rebuilt. We need to be a people who continue to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul and all our mind, and all our strength.”

Preaching from 2 Peter 1:16-21, Baucham said that passage is foundational for answering the most crucial question that Christians can answer: “Why do you choose to believe the Bible?”

Some will answer, “‘Well, I believe the Bible because I was raised like that.’ Well, bless your spirit if that’s your answer. But please, don’t go out of here and say that to anybody.”

Baucham said others will answer that they believe the Bible because it works for them. “My mother’s Buddhism worked for her,” Baucham noted. “That’s why she was a Buddhist. I need something more than ‘Because it works.'”

“Here’s the answer. I give it to you and I’ll unpack it for you: I choose to believe the Bible because it’s a reliable collection of historical documents written down by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They report supernatural events in fulfillment of specific prophecies and claim that their writings are divine rather than human in origin.”

Baucham said Peter’s words in 2 Peter 1 lay the foundation for an argument for the Bible’s authority. First, in verse 16, Peter wrote that the disciples did not follow “cleverly devised tales.” And in verse 21, “But men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

Further, Baucham said, eyewitnesses recorded the New Testament documents during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses, as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15, which says the resurrected Christ was seen by more than 500 brothers at once, most of whom were still alive at Paul’s writing.

Baucham cited prophecies such as Psalm 22, part of which Jesus quoted on the cross and which foreshadows details of Jesus’ crucifixion.

“Folks, that was written 1,000 years before by a man who had never witnessed crucifixion because it had not been invented.”

“We have got to teach the people of God, number one, that the Bible has the answer, and number two, how to learn and give it,” Baucham continued. “Anybody who can learn this passage in