Month: August 2005

African American pastors lay out 10-point ‘Christian Family Manifesto’

ARLINGTON?A group of African American pastors led by a former SBTC Pastors’ Conference president released a “Christian Family Manifesto” during a press conference Aug. 4.

The Not On My Watch Coalition presented the 10-point manifesto prior to a “State of the Black Family” forum held at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, an SBTC church led by pastor Dwight McKissic.

Nine pastors joined McKissic in unveiling the manifesto. The 10 points called for:

4Sexual purity until marriage;

4Marriage for cohabitating couples;

4Outreach to fatherless children by intact families;

4Love, mercy and grace to homosexuals while supporting passage of a federal amendment protecting marriage and related state legislation;

4Fathers to pay child support;

4Men to honor marriage vows;

4Singles to cease from adultery, which harms families;

4Men to spend quality time with their children;

4Affirming single parents who are raising children alone;

Pro-life coalition opposed bill’s stem cell research provision

HOUSTON–School funding legislation was the focus during the 79th Texas Legislature, but a provision attached to a capital projects bill had advocates on both sides of the embryonic stem cell research issue lobbying legislators in the last weeks of the second special session.

House Bill 6 drew attention for a provision critics say could have facilitated future state-funded embryonic stem cell research. The bill itself would have allocated $2.75 billion in capital improvement bonds within university systems throughout Texas.

As of the TEXAN’s deadline, HB 6 had not been acted on.

The contentious provision read, “The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston: (A) $41,100,000 for facilities to be used primarily to conduct biomedical research. …”

Biomedical research, as requested by UT-Houston, would be stem cell research. In his request to the Legislature for the bond money, UT-Houston President James T. Willerson said taxpayer funds would be used to continue current research utilizing adult stem cells. But pro-life advocates like Kyleen Wright, president of Texans for Life Coalition, objected to the language because it did not exclude future use of embryonic stem cells.

To gather support for the coalition’s opposition to embryonic stem cell research, Wright organized a group of pro-life organizations and individuals called Texans for Ethical Research. They signed onto a letter distributed by hand to members of the Texas House and Senate Aug. 5 and 8 in an attempt to stave off passage of HB 6. As of Aug. 12, the bill had not passed. The special legislative session was scheduled to end at midnight Aug. 20.

SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards added his name to the list of 65 signatures as a show of the convention’s support for laws banning embryonic stem cell research. The letter requested that the Texas Legislature amend HB 6 “to ensure that public funds are used only for biomedical research that does not involve human embryonic stem cells or the destruction of human embryos.”

Sen. Kyle Janek, R-Houston, introduced similar language in a bill that was never voted on in the last regular session.

Wright said she is troubled that no anti-cloning or anti-embryonic stem cell research measure managed to reach a vote, despite Gov. Rick Perry’s stated support of both issues. Without such laws, Wright said it would be easy for scientists to follow the lead of foreign researchers who have announced making advances in human cloning technology.

The idea of human cloning is an abhorrent concept to most people, but the bar of compromise keeps moving, she contended. If research is not restrained by ethical standards, she said cloning could be called by another name and accepted as a common medical practice.

“This is what happens when we’re not tethered to God. Science is ahead of our culture when it comes to abandoning God.”

With embryo research supporters vying for the ears of legislators, Wright said it is difficult to wage a meaningful fight. She was competing against the sway of influential physicians and scientists lobbying for embryonic stem cell research. There was, she added, an automatic presumption of authority for academics who testified. “They have the degrees and positions to be heard by the legislators.”

Moreover, emotional arguments and arguments about the “greater good” further cloud the issue. “They had people in wheelchairs in regular session lobbying for this.”

“It’s had to make the case for humanity from a petri dish,” she added.

Wright said infants who have been adopted as embryos from fertility clinics may be the only useful emotional appeal pro-lifers can make against destructive embryo research. These “snowflake” embryos otherwise would have been discarded or used for stem cell research.

Wright and other pro-life organizations have reiterated the fact that they are not opposed to adult stem cell research—a proven technology currently undergoing FDA testing in the field of cardiovascular clinical research in Houston.

According to the UT Houston website, the Texas Heart Institute and St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in collaboration with UT-Houston will conduct the first clinical trial in the United States using Adult stem cell therapy in treating heart disease. The trial was approved based on the success of Willerson and his colleague Emerson Person with a test subject in Brazil.

Willerson said in a statement that adult stem cell research tends to be confused with embryonic stem cell research and therefore rejected by the public.

“Adult stem cell therapy will ultimately provide effective curative treatments for heart attacks, strokes, dementia, kidney and liver diseases, and many other devastating diseases, as well as for catastrophic injuries that result in paralysis. Adult stem cell research will help to revolutionize biomedical research and how we deal with injuries and diseases that, today, wreak havoc on our friends and families.”

It is such research and treatment that Texans for Life Coalition and the SBTC support, according to their letter to the Texas Legislature. But it is the lack of assurances that state tax dollars will not be used for research that requires the destruction of an embryo that has pro-life advocates concerned.

“We’re all for stem cell research,” Wright said. “Just don’t kill the donor.”

 

REACH TEXAS

According to the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board, 13 million people in Texas profess no relationship with Jesus Christ. Many of those are among the 600,000 people who immigrated from other countries to Texas between 2000-2004. They are also among the 140 language groups that live here.

Since 1998, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has helped start more than 300 churches in Texas. The SBTC state missions offering?”Reach Texas”?funds such work and has as its goal for 2005-’06 $1 million to help reach the state’s growing diversity of people.

“The offering is the ‘booster rocket’ for kingdom work in Texas,” said Robby Partain, SBTC missions director. “The Cooperative Program launches and sustains us each year. The Reach Texas Offering sends us to the next level. More churches are started and more souls are saved because of this special offering.”

Like seasonal offerings that help fund Southern Baptists’ national and international missions, everything given through Reach Texas is used in Texas missions and evangelism, Partain noted.

Of the Reach Texas Offering:

4450 percent funds church planting;

4425 percent funds missions work within Texas;

4425 percent funds evangelism training and events.

Each Reach Texas prayer guide, sent to churches in a promotional packet this month with resource order materials, contains eight daily devotionals. Each day also features “A God Story” of how SBTC churches and members who have benefited from Reach Texas have helped reach people for Christ.

The Reach Texas week of prayer is scheduled for Sept. 18-25. For additional information on the Reach Texas Offering, visit www.sbtexas.com, call the SBTC missions team at 817-552-2500 or e-mail cassyp@sbtexas.com.

A GOD STORY

“Shedding a Huge Weight”

The following is an excerpt from this year’s Reach Texas devotional guide.

When David and his girlfriend Blanca first came in contact with church planter Jeff Burkart and Bridgeway Fellowship, they were not ready to make a commitment to Christ. They had a hard time believing that Jesus would forgive them, that he had died for them personally. But they felt welcomed in this new church and got involved. Eventually they did make private decisions for Christ but were hesitant to publicly identify themselves as Christians. When they asked Pastor Jeff if he would conduct their wedding ceremony, Jeff used this opportunity to open the Bible and share with David and Blanca what it means to be saved. He showed them God’s promises about complete forgiveness and his amazing grace. David and Blanca had thought they needed to become “worthy” of the name Christian before publicly identifying themselves with Christ. Now they realized that it was the blood of Jesus and God’s free gift that provided all the worthiness that was needed.

Blanca says, “After that Sunday I felt as if a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I guess it was hard to accept that God could forgive me when I did not feel worthy of forgiveness. But now David and I have been chosen to put Christ in the center of our lives and our marriage. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that I can start over with a clean slate. I would not trade that for anything!”

SBTC board takes first step toward foundation, hires 3 ministry staff

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Executive Board took the first official steps toward establishing an SBTC foundation during its summer meeting Aug. 2 in Grapevine. The board also hired three new ministry staff, including a South Texas area coordinator and associates in the collegiate ministries and financial services areas, and approved a proposed 2006 budget of $19.3 million.

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Executive Board took the first official steps toward establishing an SBTC foundation during its summer meeting Aug. 2 in Grapevine. The board also hired three new ministry staff, including a South Texas area coordinator and associates in the collegiate ministries and financial services areas, and approved a proposed 2006 budget of $19.3 million.

The board unanimously voted to establish the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Foundation (SBTCF) and to “file the appropriate documents with the Secretary of State of the state of Texas and to further pursue tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service and the state of Texas.”

If SBTC messengers meeting in October in Amarillo vote to officially establish the foundation, it will then be able to accept gifts, according to a motion the board passed.

Further, the board approved $60,000 of SBTC surplus funds for the foundation’s “start-up, operational and other costs.”

“We have worked very diligently with the staff and have worked to ensure that we have struck the proper balance between equipping the new board and the new entity to do what it is intended to do, and that is to develop resources for the kingdom’s work and the work of this convention, and to do that in the broadest manner possible,” said Terry Simmons, a lawyer specializing in charitable foundations who has helped the SBTC in developing the foundation.

In a statement to the TEXAN, SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards said: “After careful study, the Executive Board proposes to the convention the creation of a separate entity. There are incredible possibilities with this ministry. Kingdom-minded people want to invest funds for the glory of God and provide for the work of ministry after they are gone. The SBTC Foundation is a vehicle that will help forward-thinking believers accomplish what they desire. New church starts, scholarships for SBTC students, evangelism efforts and a myriad of other expressions of faith will come to reality through the foundation.”

Simmons said increasing instances of litigation against non-profit organizations “makes it appropriate to separate (the foundation’s functions) from the convention proper” yet maintain control over the separate convention entity.

According to an organizational summary given to the SBTC board:

>The Foundation will have a five-member board of directors that SBTC messengers will elect; they must be members of a church in fellowship and cooperation with the SBTC,

>”The Foundation is a supporting entity of the SBTC (which means it will contribute funds to the SBTC) and is a ‘controlled entity’ since it is controlled by the SBTC.”

>”In addition to holding and managing assets for the benefit of the SBTC, the Foundation will also be able to hold and manage assets for other entities as shown in the bylaws. …” However, “We cannot hold and manage assets long term for entities that have no relationship with us.”

>Prior to the 2006 SBTC annual meeting the SBTC Nominating Committee will “select the interim board of directors and name the elected and appointed officers of the board. Elected officers must be on the Board. These board officers are also officers of the corporation.”

>”At the SBTC annual meeting in October the Nominating Committee will nominate and the Convention will elect a new board of directors (may result in the continued service of the interim Directors).”

PROPOSED 2006 BUDGET

Administrative Committee chairman Randy Davis told the board the proposed 2006 SBTC budget of $19.3 million is “pretty much a flat budget” compared to the 2005 budget of $19,245,933–an increase of $54,269 or .28 percent.

The budget includes projected Cooperative Program receipts of $18,726,347, with 53 percent distributed to Southern Baptist Convention causes and 47 percent retained for SBTC ministries.

Executive Director Jim Richards told the board that during the convention’s first five years affiliated churches gave an average of $1,000 of undesignated CP gifts per month. Recently that level has dropped to an average of about $900 per church—something Richards said he attributes to many new church starts and newer affiliates who have little knowledge of the role of the Cooperative Probrag in funding SBC missions, and often tight finances.

“It is not because churches are giving less necessarily—although that is the case in some places because some churches have chosen to take formerly Cooperative Program dollars to fund their direct mission efforts. But it’s not ‘either/or,’ it’s ‘both/and,’ hopefully,” Richards said.

“It is always better to receive 110 percent of your budget, than it is to receive 98 percent of your budget,” Richards said, noting that this year’s 18 percent budget increase would likely be met by year’s end based on mid-year numbers that you are almost at pace with projections.

BUDGET YEAR-TO-DATE

Chief Financial Officer Joe Davis reported to the board that though CP receipts were 1.5 percent below budget at the end of June, total revenues were nearly one-half percent higher than projected because of interest income and designated gifts.

Compared with the same period last year, CP receipts are $160,859 higher, Davis said.

Based on income and expenses at midyear, Davis said he expects a surplus of around $900,000 at year’s end.

Reserve operating funds are approximately $3.25 million–$900,000 above the convention’s stated goal.

Also at the end of June:

>Reach Texas, the state mission offering, was $882,736—more than $110,000 above the same period last year;

>The Annie Armstrong offering (North American missions) was $1,709,885–$90,949 above the same period last year;

>The Lottie Moon offering (international missions) was $5,132,131—less that the $6.3 million during the same period last year.

Including the three new ministry associates elected during the meeting, the convention employs 22 ministry staff members and 23 ministry staff assistants.

NEW MINISTRY STAFF

The board elected three new ministry associates, including Kyle Cox as SBCT area coordinator for South Texas. Cox’s hiring gives the SBTC one area director in each of its three areas of East Texas, West Texas and South Texas.

Cox is a former SBC missionary to Chile who served for nine years as executive director of Galveston Baptist Association. He has served the SBTC this year as a consultant in minister-church relations and is a Southwestern Seminary graduate.

“My vision and my desire and dream (for South Texas),” Cox said, “is to network with pastors in the area, to bring them closer in cooperation with our convention … and to instill in them a desire to get in touch with Bro. Robby’s (Partain) department to begin new churches. I would like to see churches doubling in that area as soon as possible.”

The board also hired its first collegiate and young adult ministries associate, Lance Crowell of Deer Park, Texas. Previously the convention used consultants to serve its church-based collegiate ministry program.

Crowell, also a Southwestern graduate, has served as college and career minister at Sagemont Church in Houston for six years.

Crowell told the board that college ministry is “one of the most vital areas of ministry to the next generation.”

“My vision is that we would connect these college students and young adults, 18-to-25-year-olds, to the local church, because they are going to be the leaders for this next generation.” Crowell also said he hopes to help churches develop effective ministries to the young adult age group.

The board also elected Randall Jenkins as associate chief financial officer, a new position that will include management of the new SBTC Foundation.

Jenkins is a veteran banker and chairman of deacons at Galloway Avenue Baptist Church in Mesquite. Since 1998, Jenkins has served as vice president and commercial relationship manager at Compass Bank in Dallas.

He is a 1980 graduate of Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas.

Jenkins told the board he has sensed for some time that commercial banking was “just a vocation” for him and that “God had other things for me to do.” When corporate search agencies would occasionally call to see if Jenkins was interested in other positions, he never felt impressed enough in prayer to respond, he said. When the SBTC called, however, Jenkins said he realized the Lord had been preparing him for a ministry vocation through his 24 years in banking.

Jenkins’ job description includes management of the SBTC budget, internal accounting oversight, human resources, SBTC office operations, and assisting in the SBTC Foundation’s development and management.

In other business, the board:

>Recommended Skeet Workman of Lubbock as recipient of the 2005 H. Paul Pressler Distinguished Service Award.

>Renewed affiliations with East Texas Baptist Family Ministry and Jacksonville College.

>Established an affiliation with Texas Baptist Home in Waxahachie, a ministry of the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas.

>Created a new category of relating to outside ministries known as “ministry partnerships.”

>Recognized the Korean Baptist Fellowship of Texas and Texas Baptist Men as ministry partners under this new category.

>Received an addendum, signed by SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards and North American Mission Board President Robert E. Reccord, to the cooperative agreement between the two entities that asks NAMB to provide SBTC staff written notification of planned NAMB events within Texas “twelve months prior to public promotion of such events as well as clear communication of any other conferences conducted in Texas.”

 

 

Grand Prairie church finds flexibility valuable on Ohio mission trip

HAMILTON, Ohio?What’s a church to do when the new church start that was the focus of an upcoming out-of-state mission trip suddenly disbands and the leader accepts another pastorate?

For Inglewood Baptist Church of Grand Prairie it meant remembering the often-cited adage to be flexible while on mission. Ultimately, that led to an expanded ministry to residents of the site of the previous church plant in Hamilton, Ohio, as well as the pastor’s new flock in nearby Fairfield.

When Inglewood Baptist began looking for a new opportunity to spread the gospel beyond Texas, the missions committee learned of a new church plant in the Five Points area of Hamilton. For more than a year Point of Hope Baptist Church pastor Doug Morgan and his family led the church to reach the community through block parties, clothing distribution and ministry to teachers and students of a local elementary school.

“We wanted to share the love of God with this neighborhood and start something that was different, but relevant to people,” Morgan said. “Our ministry is showing God’s love in a practical way to people who are hurting and lonely.”

Inglewood supported several of those efforts, purchasing backpacks for kids in the Hamilton neighborhood who could not afford them and helping host a breakfast for teachers working in the challenging school setting. Three IBC staff members traveled to the church last November to get a better sense of the needs while participating in a Thanksgiving community dinner.

SBTC church planting associate Leroy Fountain provided the Inglewood committee with an overview of the needs in Ohio, where 635 Southern Baptist churches attempt to reach a population of 11 million. As part of a multi-year partnership between Ohio and Texas Southern Baptists, churches have been encouraged to link up with the particular “impact association” chosen for yearlong emphasis by Ohio Baptists. Southwestern Baptist Association of Ohio in 2004 gained Inglewood’s attention and plans for a mission trip began forming last fall.

Just as Inglewood began promoting the 1,000-mile trip to Ohio set for mid-July, IBC missions pastor Doug Hixson learned that Morgan had accepted the pastorate of Governor’s Park Baptist Church in nearby Fairfield, Ohio. Although the Point of Hope ministry had been successful, the 40-member church was never able to provide adequate support for the pastor who had resigned his job as a policeman to begin the church in Hamilton.

The core group of Point of Hope members offered to join Morgan’s new church in Fairfield, which, in turn, began bussing in families and other prospects from the Hamilton site. Inglewood’s 15-member mission team joined teachers at Governor’s Park Baptist Church’s Vacation Bible School during the evening and drew kids from both neighboring towns to a morning basketball clinic.

On two of the days, the Texas group helped the association’s New Life Mission by restocking the food pantry and sharing a meal with the several hundred residents who filtered through for a free lunch. Larry and Linda Gaines lead the ministry, serving as North American Mission Board missionaries.

Hixson said manpower became the best tool for Inglewood to encourage a church like Governor’s Park. “Many churches don’t do mission trips because they don’t believe they can afford them. I believe we can’t afford not to do them,” Hixson said, citing Jesus’ command to go to all the nations.

In the sweet by and by

“If heaven was never promised to me, never God’s promise to live eternally; it’s been worth just having the Lord in my life.” — Andrae Crouch

 

This chorus from a pretty song made sense to me 30 years ago. Why, after all, would a twenty-ish immortal think a lot about heaven? A man’s perspective changes as his 20s (and his immortality) fade into flawed memory. I’ve come to understand that our heavenly hope is integral to the gospel?from the beginning of our salvation to its completion.

 

Take, for example, the language of Romans 5:12-21 where Paul contrasts the first Adam, the historical father of all people, and the Second Adam, Jesus. When we all sinned in the first Adam, we lost our clear and unhindered relationship with God as well as eternal life. There came to be a gulf between heaven, the special dwelling place of God, and the now corrupted earth. God was still everywhere present but his holiness necessitated his separation from sin-tainted creation. Simply, we lost heaven and intimacy with the God who makes it heavenly.

 

That’s where the Second Adam comes in. In Christ, the things lost in Eden can be restored. Our restored access to God matures until we stand before him, complete in Christ and absent from this flesh. Heaven is what we lost and heaven is what can be regained through God’s provision in Christ. We feel the loss in many temporal ways?hunger, alienation, fear, sickness, and so on; but fixing these things is not the point of the gospel. We shouldn’t act as though it is. Without the hope of heaven, what importance does forgiveness of sin have?

 

Joy, peace, and love are fruit of the hope that accompanies our redemption. These things are not the hope. If our goal is to be happy in ways we understand while still lost, we will define it as prosperity, a healthy marriage, good kids, health, and close friends. Shortcuts (from here to “happy”) are appealing to those whose vision is merely temporal. The same shortcuts are tempting to ministry leaders who wish to draw large crowds by addressing felt needs. A shortcut that skips a biblical statement of man’s need, God’s solution, and the essence of his promise is mundane, insufficient. Without the promise of heaven, why do we hope, love beyond our self interests, or see life as significant?

 

For today, an awareness of heaven’s reality should motivate us to righteous living. 2 Peter 3:10-13 describes the day of the Lord when temporary things will be destroyed with fire before the promised new heavens and earth appear. “?since you look for these things,” Peter says in verse 14, “be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless.” The fact that most of what presently makes us happy and unhappy will pass away should motivate us to be more focused on heaven, then. A desire to lay up treasures in heaven will be expressed by doing the things God says will be of lasting importance.

 

Without the promise of heaven, why not live as we wish?

 

Of course I wouldn’t be saying these things if I thought current ministry emphases were on target. We neglect heaven to a great degree. Abandoning the hymnal (the collection of music, not the book) has had this side effect. Our desire to be seen as relevant sometimes binds us too closely to the here and now. A well-intended sensitivity to the felt needs of lost people has affected not only methods but the message. We still say things that are true but not all that are important. We need to restore substance to our style.

 

Most important to my mind, preach the Bible. A pastor can selectively preach Bible passages and preach a good message every individual time. Why be selective in the first place? It is not possible for a man to know or meet actual needs of his church as well as the Holy Spirit does. There will be gaps in what the church learns if you preach to issues, topics, agendas, goals, or objectives. Preach it all, systematically?not with a goal of covering all the issues but with the goal of preaching the whole word of God. You’ll cover all the issues, including many you didn’t know were relevant.

 

If music is to be part of your worship (it is not the whole thing), sing some thoughtfully chosen and substantive old songs along with some new ones, also thoughtfully chosen and substantive. Music that affirms the essential elements of our faith will address the nature of God, the universality of sin, a call to repentance, encouragement to holy living, and the bright promise of eternal life. I think pastors, as worship leaders for the church, should see and approve all the music used in worship services, by the way. The pastor’s responsibility is real and his qualifications to judge the message of a song are likely the best in the church.

 

Or we can go with the flow of our culture. A recent article in Texas Monthly suggested in passing that Joel Osteen, pastor of what some call a “gigachurch” in Houston and a best-selling author, might be the next Billy Graham. I’m sure the writer was thinking of a preacher who draws large crowds or becomes the country’s best-known preacher. Maybe he will but probably not. Notice his substance, though. He’s not all that evangelistic by his own admission and he answers “I don’t know” on most timely moral issues. He uses very little Bible in his messages and draws people to his various events by making them feel good about things. That’s his goal and he’s reaching it. I’m not climbing on the “kick Osteen” train; others have done it well enough. I think he’s discovered the secret of building a successful, popular, enormous audience for our time. We should eit

SBTC board renews affiliations, adds 1

The SBTC Executive Board during its summer meeting Aug. 2 renewed affiliations with East Texas Baptist Family Ministry (ETBFM) and Jacksonville College and approved a new affiliate, Texas Baptist Home in Waxahachie.

The SBTC distributes budgeted funding to affiliated ministries. Ministry partners and fraternally related ministries receive no budgeted SBTC funding.

Based on 272 acres near Timpson, Texas, East Texas Baptist Family Ministry affiliated with the SBTC in 2003. The ministry includes a children’s home, maternity home and ministry to seniors.

Jacksonville College, a ministry of the Baptist Missionary Association (BMA) of Texas based in Jacksonville, Texas, affiliated with the SBTC in 2004. The two-year college grants associate degrees.

Texas Baptist Home in Waxahachie is also a ministry of the BMA of Texas. Established in 1910, the ministry includes foster care and child placement and homes for unwed mothers.

The current agreements specify SBTC budget designations.

4For East Texas Baptist Family Ministry, the SBTC will distribute an amount “equivalent to 1.5% of the annual undesignated in-state Cooperative Program budgeted receipts” in monthly payments.

4Jacksonville College will receive “equivalent to .65% of the annual undesignated in-state Cooperative Program budgeted receipts” in monthly payments.

4Texas Baptist Home will receive a $10,000 grant for 2005 and an additional $24,000 in 2006 in equal monthly payments of $2,000.

The SBTC executive director or a designee serves on each affiliate board ex officio. Additionally, the convention may nominate up to five members of the ETBFM board, up to three for Jacksonville College and two for Texas Baptist Home.

The SBTC also has an affiliation with Criswell College in Dallas and a fraternal relationship with Houston Baptist University.

During the Aug. 2 meeting, the board designated formerly fraternally related ministries Korean Baptist Fellowship and Texas Baptist Men as “ministry partners,” a new category.

The board’s definition restricts affiliated and fraternal relationships to “educational and human care institutions.”

Ministries in other categories will be designated ministry partners.

4Created a new category of relating to outside ministries known as “ministry partnerships.”

4Recognized the Korean Baptist Fellowship of Texas and Texas Baptist Men as ministry partners under this new category.

Saddle Up Your Horses

Usually I wait until September to write about the SBTC annual meeting. This year I wanted to give you a special invitation and plenty of advance notice. A little humorous CD invitation should arrive at every Southern Baptist Church in Texas around the middle of September. If you would like to receive one, let us know and we will send it to you. I’ll give you a teaser; Mike Gonzales and I are riding horses.

For the first time in the seven-year history of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention we will be meeting west of I-35. Most of the people in Texas live east of I-35. One source says 80 percent. Most of Texas is west of I-35. The mystique of old Texas is captured best in the West where there are wide open spaces, beautiful sunsets and friendly people. It is important for us to travel a little to do a lot of good for our Lord.

The SBTC messengers are invited to attend the annual meeting at The Church at Quail Creek, San Jacinto Baptist. This great church is accommodating their guests with a customary hospitality. Prior to the annual meeting there are several important activities.

The inaugural Crossover will be on Saturday, Oct. 22. Churches in Amarillo are inviting us to join them in reaching their communities for Christ. We will do special events and door-to-door witnessing. Plan to bring a youth group, senior adult group or any mission-driven folks in your church to impact the city for Jesus. Speaking of “impact,” Team Impact will conclude the day with a rally at San Jacinto Baptist that evening.

Sunday night promises to be a tremendous time of spiritual challenge and encouragement. Ivy Shelton, Stan Coffey and Jimmy Draper are the featured preachers for the Pastors’ Conference. An Amarillo combined choir will provide the music. Monday completes the Pastors’ Conference with Johnny Funderburg, Dwight McKissic and Jack Graham bringing the messages. It will be a blessed experience.

We are setting aside Oct. 19 as a day of fasting and prayer for the annual meeting. Although several important business items will be considered, the desire of the elected leadership and your staff is that God will move on us with a spirit of revival. Texas desperately needs a spiritual awakening and I believe the SBTC has been raised up to assist in facilitating it.

During the annual meeting, President Chris Osborne, Steve Swofford and Junior Hill will bring the three featured messages. Four theme interpreters will minister to us as well. The music will reflect the diversity of styles that are in our churches. This has been a tradition of our annual meeting from the beginning. Praise, Southern Gospel, Choral and Traditional will be a part of the program.

Everyone is invited to attend. You do not have to be a messenger. You do not have to be in an affiliated church. Bring others with you. You don’t have to ride a horse to get to Amarillo, but get there the best way you can.

Richards: CP engagement necessary; ‘No Church Left Behind’ should be SBTC goal

In his address to the SBTC Executive Board, Executive Director Jim Richards said a new church is affiliating with the convention an average of every other day?between 150-180 churches a year?but not all understand the significance of Southern Baptist cooperation. Richards also addressed declining churches, saying the convention should adopt an attitude of “No Church Left Behind.”

Of newly affiliated churches, half are new church starts, which are vital in Great Commission work, Richards said. “The other half are churches that have no Southern Baptist background or have not been actively engaged or involved in the Cooperative Program or participation in convention life.”

Only about one-third of new affiliations are coming from the Baptist General Convention of Texas, Richards said.

“So that gives us a different approach to our Cooperative Program giving because in our first five or six years the majority of churches that were coming in every month were churches that had already had a history of understanding the Cooperative Program and were committed to Southern Baptist life. It provides us with a wonderful opportunity to engage, involve, encourage and educate churches that are now coming to be partners in Southern Baptist life.”

Amid generational shifts in church leadership the SBTC is working effectively to build relationships with young pastors, Richards said.

Nevertheless, “Our Cooperative Program education and growth remains a need for all SBTC churches,” Richards said. “Therefore, we are committed to the task of educating our churches about the Cooperative Program and showing them that this is the best method that God has allowed us to have in Baptist life. The societal method (mission agencies vying against each other for funds) has not worked.

The direct funding method (churches supporting individual missionaries) has not worked. We must never lose sight of that and somehow communicate it to emerging leaders and those who have joined us from other giving traditions.”

Also, Richards said the SBTC must always keep sight of its three core values?doctrinal agreement, missiological activity, and methodological approach through Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program?while moving forward with its three primary functions.

Those three primary functions are:

4Assisting in starting new churches;

4Assisting existing churches to be “Acts 1:8” churches;

4Advocating spiritual awakening and revival to all churches.

“Sad to say, some are not experiencing Acts 1:8 likeness. Some churches are not experiencing the presence of God in power. Our desire as a convention staff and our purpose in existence is to assist in starting new churches, assist existing churches to be Acts 1:8 churches, but to advocate spiritual awakening and revival in all our churches.”

As President Bush initiated “No Child Left Behind,” Richards said, “I’d like for us to initiate ‘No Church Left Behind.’ There’s no need for plateauing and declining churches. If a church continues in that direction it will cease to exist. Our desire as a convention is that no church be left behind.”

Satan’s Reveal

I could have been a smoker. Although my folks didn’t smoke, other pieces were in place that gave me a positive attitude toward the habit as a child. Both my grandfathers, one grandmother, and a favorite uncle all smoked from my earliest remembrance. Additionally, they seemed to like it. I liked the smell of a newly lit cigarette and used to stack unopened packs like building blocks on Granny’s dining table.

 

Then the other shoe fell. Before I was old enough to have an opinion of my own, Grandad got sick. He retired on full disability in his mid-40s because of emphysema. Granny and my uncle quit smoking partly to make it easier on Grandad. My other grandfather developed a long list of health problems mostly traceable to his own tobacco addiction. My attitude changed as the truth about smoking played out in my extended family. I’ve always considered this a good illustration of the deceit of things only partially true.

 

A lot of other things are like that. We misunderstand the responsibilities or consequences of adult decisions when we’re young. That’s a big reason God invented parents.

 

I was reminded of this while listening to a discussion of sex education. It is considered sophisticated today to ridicule abstinence-based education?regardless of the facts. Also scorned are the old fogies who fear that values-free sex education may encourage extramarital sex, compounding the problems the instruction is intended to curb.

 

The appeal for kids is a little like smoking. Sexual behavior is grown up and sophisticated. A child doesn’t have to be very old to understand that there is fun and pleasure associated with the way men and women interact. Curiosity and some degree of desire appears pretty early as a child approaches adolescence. Then some genius decides to add some instruction on technique, anatomy, and ways of preventing outward consequences of extramarital sex. “It’s fun, it’s grown up, and you won’t get caught,” the kids are told. “A final caution, though.” The kids roll their eyes as they await the inevitable moralizing. “You need to wait until you feel you’re ready before starting on this wonderful journey.” That’s it. A whole roomful of kids who feel ready have just now been set free to do what they think best.

 

There is something more, though. Something only a nagging moralizer would tell you. Sexual behavior has consequences a condom or an abortion cannot erase. A sexual relationship is a relationship between two spiritual beings. Meaning is attached to behavior in a relationship that cannot be just shrugged off. We are more than biology.

 

Some don’t agree with that. For them, let’s reframe the discussion. Let’s talk about driving. Kids want to drive long before they are legally able. It’s fun, grown up?desirable to make one wise. So let’s teach them how to drive, wrap them in bubble pack, give them a little body and fender training and, after handing out licenses, tell them to not drive until they “feel like they are ready.” That’ll work.

 

Without moralizing about judgment, safety, responsibility and consequences, the job is not complete to anyone’s satisfaction. The driver’s manual is chock full of moralizing. Policemen and judges likewise have a lot of moral opinions about how you exercise your right to drive.

 

I’d argue that driving a car is easier, less dangerous, and generally less important than the way men and women behave toward one another. Institutionally, we use a lot more care in preparing young drivers than we do preparing young moral decision-makers. Even the care we take in this area is one dimensional?based on the assumption that avoiding disease and full-term pregnancy adequately covers the subject.

 

In fact, a message that acknowledges the moral aspect of sexuality is more likely to head off even these merely overt consequences of extramarital sexual behavior. The Heritage Foundation study by Robert Rector and Kirk Johnson (cited on page 11 of this issue) notes that teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases are significantly impacted by abstinence pledges and programs like True Love Waits. Even years after the pledge, young adults are more likely to be sexually pure for having pledged to be so as teenagers.

 

Why then the ridicule of moral teaching? Why do government programs for minor children spend more on values-free sex education than on abstinence teaching by a ratio of more than four to one? Why are researchers and media spokesmen so eager to believe that a moral message is a detriment to young people rather than a benefit? I think it’s a blinding prejudice. These well-meaning people have been conditioned to think that anything believed by religious people is false and backward. Their research begins with this assumption and then sets out to prove the assumption.

 

It is a rare adult who believes that extramarital sex, certainly among teenagers, benefits an individual or society. It is a rare adult that considers the matter merely neutral. We know better. We’ve lived with our own mistakes and we’ve seen families and individuals wrecked by immoral behavior. Those rare adults who think otherwise have influence disproportionate to their numbers.