Month: June 2005

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

Texas’ 79th Legislature: How’d we do?

Our state enjoyed (yes, enjoyed) a conservative majority in the Senate, the House, and a conservative governor for the 2005 legislative session. In these vigorous months, they considered about 9,000 bills and approved 4,000 of those. A few issues made national news; the “raunchy cheerleader” bill was ridiculed on national comedy shows (it was not approved, by the way), and a proposed marriage protection amendment became part of a national trend. They passed a 19 percent increase in the state budget and failed to pass a school finance bill. Some key moral issues were also prominent. Let’s look at how those matters were handled.

Gambling

This was a lively and underreported issue this year. Several bills were offered that would have expanded gambling in one way or another; electronic bingo, video slots, casinos, and Indian casinos were a few of the bright ideas intended to solve budget shortfalls. All failed. The gambling industry sunk millions into lobbying and demonstrations intended to con lawmakers into replacing responsible budgeting with false hope. They’ll be back. Never forget that they can spend millions, tens of millions in winning this fight and still make billions after they win. They are guaranteed to make billions; no one else is likely to be happy with expanded gambling.

The Republicans were better on gambling than the Democrats. That said, the Republican leadership was open, if not enthusiastic about the wispy prospects of gambling revenue. This bottom-line thinking is the beginning of all sorts of sorrow. Maybe we can trust a leader’s intent more readily than his judgment. It will be the same fight in 2007 as it was in 2005. If there is a special session on school finance, gambling will come up again this year as a solution to our financial needs.

Abortion

A parental consent bill has been sent to the governor and he plans to sign it. This law requires a parent’s approval for a minor child’s abortion, kind of like for ear piercing. There is a judicial by-pass that allows a judge to approve in the event that the child risks abuse from her parents. Of course this loophole can stretch as wide as judicial imagination. The bill also restricts late-term abortions except to save a woman’s life or when the baby has serious brain damage.

The law won’t save many babies but it is important because it is common sense and indicates a growing cultural revulsion for abortion on demand. The law will also uplift the role of parents in the lives of their own children. It also will save some babies and their young mothers. It’s a good step, though small.

Marriage

A proposed constitutional amendment banning homosexual “marriage” and civil unions was not strongly contested. There was some question as to whether our lawmakers would understand the importance of including marriage-like civil unions in the ban. Our state is conservative enough that the amendment will probably pass amidst some loud chest-beating by radicals. We need this to protect our laws from the agendas of creative judges who would inevitably overturn our Defense of Marriage Act.

This amendment can also further pave the way for a federal marriage amendment. Shameful though it is to say, an amendment is our only defense against the federal judiciary. They have already intervened in state law (Lawrence v. Texas) and have proved unpredictable in handling the clear reading of the Constitution. We need to clarify that for them. Texas will do her part next November if you do yours.

Child Protective Services

This important work by our state was in desperate condition. An overhaul during the 79th Legislature resulted in significantly more staff and outsourcing some parts of the administrative process.

A failed effort to ban homosexuals from being foster parents was an interesting sidelight. Supporters of reform did not favor the ban, fearing it would tie up more crucial changes in an anti-discrimination court battle. Maybe they are right. The foster care system has become an indirect way of mainstreaming homosexual “families,” though. When homosexual celebrities adopt, the whole nation coos adoringly. If we continue to operate legally as though homosexual behavior is genetically based and morally neutral, the truth of the issue will be shouted down. It’s a very dangerous experiment.

Oilfield Christian Fellowship Bible?’God’s Word for the Oil Patch’?hot item on rigs




HOUSTON?So far they have printed approximately 9,000 English Bibles for distribution on every oil rig in the world. Another 2,500 Spanish Bibles are on the way.

“Our goal is to get three free Bibles on each oil rig,” said Oilfield Christian Fellowship (OCF) President John Bird.

The fellowship began in 1991 after a discussion between Bird, a salesman for a service company and Jim Teague, a drilling engineer.

“We realized we knew a lot of Christians in the oil patch and felt that a breakfast would be a good place for them to get to know each other,” said Bird, a layman at First Baptist Church of Houston.

Forty-six men and women attended the first breakfast, which was held at FBC Houston.

Bird said the event was such a success that they decided to have a lunch the first Wednesday of each month. The ministry has blossomed; now the group usually has anywhere from 120 to 130 in attendance at its monthly lunches.

Lily Watson, who sometimes attends, said the great Christian fellowship attracts her.

“This is the third lunch I’ve come to. The speakers are great. It lifts your spirits as you get busy in the everyday work of the week,” Watson said at the June meeting.

The lunches have three main goals, according to Paul Mogabgab, who sits on the board of directors for OCF.

“We are here first to evangelize, then for fellowship and to raise money for our Bible ministry,” he said.

Mogabgab said the lunches help to raise funds to have Bibles printed.

The Bibles are published in a portable, pocket-sized version called “God’s Word for the Oil Patch: Food for the Soul.” The International Bible Society printed them using the New International Version. The Bibles include testimonies from oil professionals from around the world.

Since the Bible ministry began four years ago, Bird said about 6,000 of the 9,000 Bibles printed have been distributed in 29 countries. He said OCF encourages oil workers to take the Bibles with them when they travel.

The Oilfield Christian Fellowship also began a ministry at the Offshore Technology Conference held annually at Houston’s Reliant Center.

In May, OCF held its seventh prayer breakfast at the conference. More than 700 men and women attended the breakfast, 200 more than last year.

Bird said OCF is mainly about one thing: to lift up the name of Jesus Christ among the workers in the oil industry and beyond.

For more information about the Oilfield Christian Fellowship, visit www.oilfieldchristianfellowship.com.

Q&A: Intelligent design theorist says ID movement advancing, but funding isn’t comparable to opponents’




WACO?A mathematician and philosopher, William Dembski is usually mentioned with former Berkeley law professor Philip Johnson (author of “Darwin on Trial”) and Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe (Darwin’s Black Box”) as a leader among intelligent design (ID) advocates. He defended ID opposite evolutionist Michael Ruse on ABC’s “Nightline” program in early May.

His six years as a Baylor research professor?some of it tumultuous?officially ended May 31. Brought in by former President Robert Sloan to head an intelligent design (ID) think tank, Dembski became a provocative figure among some faculty members for his aggressive work in the blossoming ID movement. Consequently, the think tank, the Michael Polanyi Center, was dissolved in October 2000, a little more than a year after Dembski arrived. He stayed on as a researcher but taught no classes.

As of this month, Dembski is the director of the new Center for Science and Theology at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He will continue as a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture in Seattle and as executive director of the International Society of Complexity, Information and Design, he said.

His academic resume is rare: he holds Ph.D. degrees in mathematics from the University of Chicago and philosophy from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He also earned a master of divinity degree at Princeton, earned an M.S. in statistics and has done postdoctoral work at MIT. Dembski has written seven books, the most recent a co-edited work with his “Nightline” opponent, Michael Ruse, called “Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA.” Dembski and his wife, Jana, have a 6-year-old daughter and 4-year-old twin boys.

The following is excerpted from an interview done at his home near Waco last month.

Q. Intelligent design has really begun its ascent in the last decade. Where would you mark its beginning as a movement?

A. I would begin with “The Mystery of Life’s Origin” by Walter Bradley, Charles Thaxton and Roger Olsen. This was a critique of origin-of-life scenarios, which raised the possibility of intelligent design, and the epilogue came out in 1984. And then a year later, it was “Evolution: A Theory in Crisis,” by Michael Denton. It was a very stringent critique of evolution, based in Neo-Darwinism, and raised the possibility of design again. ? And then in the late ’80s, early ’90s, Phil Johnson comes up with a philosophical critique, poses a question: Why is this theory so widely held when evidence for it is poor? And so it’s a false philosophy he calls naturalism. And then in ’96, (Michael) Behe “Darwin’s Black Box,” which really ramps things up, because then you start having glimmers of a positive ID program. In ’98 I came out with a theoretical manifesto on design detection, how to do it, and it mapped very nicely on some of the things Behe had done.

“Darwin’s Black Box”?that was just a huge event. Behe is a biochemist at a recognized university (Lehigh) who is weighing in on these topics. ? Even to this day?and I think the last time I talked to him was about a year-and-a-half ago?it’s still selling 10,000-15,000 copies a year, which is amazing.

Q. What affect has “Darwin’s Black Box” had in academia?

A. The younger generation seems more intrigued by it if they haven’t been indoctrinated into the Darwinian way of thinking. Behe’s irreducible complexity notion?the idea that the cell, for instance, is so complex it could not exist unless all of its components came together simultaneously?does present a barrier for ID opponents. But you can imagine ways of getting around it. Behe has this five-part mousetrap he uses as an example of irreducible complexity. You’ve got the base, you’ve got the spring, the holding bar, catch and hammer. How could you evolve something like this by some gradual path over time? You might say if you remove any part and don’t modify the other parts, you don’t have something that can function as a mousetrap and the parts themselves are useless. But you can imagine what can be called an indirect Darwinian path, where you start out with a base that serves as a doorstop ? on and on until you have all the components?and then you have a mousetrap. But the components would have to serve another purpose until all the parts were in place. And that’s the scenario that people are speculating about. But they don’t have any detailed Darwinian pathways. They don’t tell how this actually happened with any level of detail.

Q. How would you appraise the ID movement right now? How has it progress

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