Month: August 2005


FORT WORTH?It was an unorthodox invitation by some standards.

“No music, no manipulation, no scare tactics. The majority of you here tonight I believe are saved.” As for others, Clayton King said, “your belief is not the kind that saves.”

Moments later more than 100 teenagers had stood from their seats and made their way to the front, waiting to meet with counselors about their professed desire to accept Christ as Savior.

King, the main speaker during the Friday night portion of the Youth Evangelism Conference (YEC) held July 15-16 at Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth, had just contrasted three types of belief of which two?inherited belief and intellectual belief?do not save, he said. The third type of belief Jesus cited in John 6:29, King explained.

“Jesus replied, ‘This is the work of God: that you believe in the one he has sent.'”

During the annual summer conference, which drew more than 2,000 students and sponsors, 146 students prayed to receive Christ, said Brad Bunting, SBTC youth evangelism associate. This year’s theme was “Search + Rescue,” based on Luke 19:10: “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost!”

Preaching from John 6:26-31, King asked the crowd, “Here’s my question: What kind of belief out of these three do you have tonight?”

King said inherited belief is evident in John 6:31, where the Jewish crowd mentions that their fathers ate manna in the wilderness.

“Do you know where they had their belief? Not in God, certainly not in Jesus, but in their forefathers. They had inherited belief.”

“You do not inherit Christianity from your family,” King said. “You inherit death.”

A second type of belief, intellectual belief, relies on seeing or understanding something?also evident in verse 31 as they asked Jesus what kind of sign he would perform.

King said Christianity has gotten too entertainment oriented. Noting his friendship with the rock band “Third Day,” King said, “I know those guys. I would vouch for them. They love Christ and I think you should support them.”

But though 30,000 people will buy tickets for one of their concerts, “See how many people show up” for a 30-minute prayer meeting on a Friday morning.

King recalled watching Michael Jordan play college basketball at North Carolina and later with the Chicago Bulls. “I know all sorts of facts about Michael Jordan,” and though King believes in him, neither man knows the other, he said.

The meaning of “believes” in John 3:16 and John 6:29 connotes more than intellectual belief. It means “to hold something as true so deeply that it radically changes your life with consequences,” King contended.

“Has it altered your life with consequences? Are you different?”

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Moderate leader’s call for ending SBC funding challenged by prof

HOUSTON?A moderate leader’s call for Baptist churches in Texas to stop supporting the Southern Baptist Convention has been challenged by a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor at the Houston campus. In an open letter to Texas Baptists Committed Executive Director David Currie, assistant professor John D. Laing described Currie’s April 2005 newsletter article as a ploy to get “faithful Southern Baptist churches to redirect their monies.”

Currie praised what he termed a “very popular” idea in “traditional Baptist circles” of “moving on from the SBC,” but argued that the “one huge crying need that must be met if we are going to move on to a glorious future” is money. In his column, “Moving on from the SBC: Bring the Money,” the TBC leader noted that Texas Baptist churches sent over $14 million to the SBC last year in addition to seasonal missions offerings.

In his rebuttal, the Southwestern Seminary theology and philosophy professor said it was difficult to follow Currie’s logic in calling the North American Mission Board and SBC seminaries as “particularly unworthy of financial support.”

Currie reiterated an argument he made several years ago when urging the BGCT to end its support of NAMB because missionaries appointed and funded by the Southern Baptist entity were expected to minister in accordance with the newly revised Baptist Faith and Message. In his recent column, Currie encouraged “individuals who are ready to move on” to give to “something you believe in” such as CBF’s Global Mission Offering in place of the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, which he said netted $4.73 million from Texas Baptists.

Laing questioned Currie’s reasoning that NAMB is unworthy of support since the majority of missionaries do not receive full funding. Using himself as an example, Laing said he receives no pay or benefits from NAMB for his chaplaincy work although the mission board endorses him. “A number of church planters receive some income from the churches they pastor or the associations they serve in, while also receiving supplemental income from NAMB,” he added, citing the website at

NAMB reports 3,126 of the 5,126 missionaries and their spouses are funded cooperatively with state conventions and local associations while another 2,000 are long-term Mission Service Corps missionaries with two or more years of service.

“While there may be some room for evaluation of payment policies of NAMB for home missionaries, it should be noted that the administration makes every effort to use the monies entrusted to NAMB for the glory of Christ,” Laing said, describing a range of funding from salary supplements to provision of health benefits made possible through Cooperative Program support by local churches.

“Whatever the case may be, it is simply ludicrous to suggest that the tithe monies that faithful SBC members give to the glory of God on Sunday morning are being wasted because there is not a large percentage of fully funded missionaries,” Laing added.

Currie also questioned the value Texas Baptists are receiving from the $3 million BGCT churches sent last year in support of the six Southern Baptist seminaries. He added that the BGCT-related seminaries of Logsdon School of Theology at Hardin-Simmons and Truett Seminary at Baylor also received about $3 million from funds that BGCT labels as Cooperative Program gifts.

“Now ask yourself, in fact pray about it?which seminaries had you rather support?” Currie asked TBC readers. “Which seminaries do you think will produce the kind of pastors you would want serving in your church?”

“We cannot have a glorious future apart from the SBC if we continue to support the SBC when doing so denies scriptural teaching as well as Baptist principles,” Currie wrote. Unless churches affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas redirect their “cooperative contributions,” the recently established seminaries in Waco and Abilene, Texas, as well as the Baptist University of the Americas in San Antonio and other moderate-funded causes will lack needed funds, he said.

Laing again questioned the truthfulness of statements Currie labeled as “facts about the current Southern Baptist Convention,” including the assertion that only 460 of the 3,008 students enrolled in the fall of 2003 at Southwestern Seminary were considered full time. Currie drew on figures released in a report by the Association of Theological Schools, which Laing questioned and was found to contain a typographical error.

ATS communications director Nancy Merrill confirmed that the 2002-2003 ATS Fact Book on Theological Education from which Currie pulled what he described in his article as “the last head count available” included a full-time equivalency (FTE) figure for Southwestern Seminary that was in error and should have been 2,138 instead of 460.


Downed pilot recounts six days evading enemy

FORT WORTH?Hiding among some trees in Bosnia, Air Force Capt. Scott O’Grady had evaded his enemies since early that afternoon. It was now 1900 (7 p.m.) and the enemy was circling an area within 50 yards of him.

Automatic weapons sprayed the area near him six times in the next half hour. He figured they were seeing something that would give him away.

“I have never felt more fear for losing my life than at that moment,” O’Grady, now a North Texas resident, told students and sponsors at the SBTC’s Youth Evangelism Conference July 15. Then, “I went from being afraid to having a peace throughout that entire experience.”

The experience, which he called “the most positive six days of my entire life,” occurred in 1995 inside war-torn Bosnia, where three factions were engaged in civil war and American pilots were charged with enforcing a NATO no-fly zone policy.

O’Grady and a companion F-16 pilot were veering their planes out of hostile territory at nearly 30,000 feet when the rocket blindsided his aircraft about 10 feet behind the cockpit. Amid fiery wreckage, O’Grady ejected. His parachute carried him down into a clearing closed in by dense trees on all sides. On the way down, he watched enemy trucks convoy along a dirt road toward his estimated landing area. He fled into the trees just before enemy soldiers arrived, he said.

It was about 2 p.m. and for the next six hours, O’Grady hid, waited for nightfall and prayed.

“I have to tell you, that was the longest six hours of my entire life,” O’Grady said.

Over the next five days, O’Grady moved to two more locations, oftentimes within a few feet of the enemy.

O’Grady said three things?faith in Christ, love of family and love of country?motivated him to survive on several packets of water and almost round-the-clock praying.

“I learned something about my prayer life when I was in Bosnia,” he said. “We don’t always get what we want in life. We don’t always get what we desire in life. But what I realized is the thing we need most is already provided for us through the grace of God, through Jesus Christ and his redeeming blood.”

He was wet, fatigued and fighting hypothermia when on the sixth day he made radio contact with an American pilot for the first time.

“I wanted to laugh. I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry, because virtually I had been dead. ? I had been dead to the outside world for six days. Now someone knew I was alive.”

Soon, four helicopters carrying 32 Marines were dispatched for his rescue; two provided air cover while two tried to locate him.

Under fire, the helicopter that rescued O’Grady was seconds later hit by small arms. A bullet ricocheted inside, landing near the feet of a young Marine. The Marine picked up the bullet and put it in his pocket as the helicopter flew away. En route to the U.S.S. Kershaw, no one aboard the helicopter cheered but O’Grady said the young camouflaged faces showed a contented look. “Thirty-two came. Thirty-three went home,” O’Grady said, choking back tears.

With Texas spared, SBTC teams prepare for ministry in hurricane-ravaged Mexico

With Texas spared from serious damage when Hurricane Emily struck the northeast Mexican coast, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention disaster relief workers were preparing July 28 to deliver non-perishable food staples to storm-ravaged areas 70-80 miles south of the Rio Grande, said Bill Davenport, state director of SBTC disaster relief.

A Southern Baptist assessment team that included representatives from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention ventured into Mexico July 23 to see damaged areas and to talk with Southern Baptist missionaries there. Pending an official request by the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board, the SBTC will send disaster relief workers across the border with trucks carrying food staples such as rice, beans, bottled water and masa, a corn meal used to make tortillas, Davenport said.

“In two to three weeks they should be back on their feet,” Davenport said of the damaged Mexican villages. “They don’t need us to bring meals to them. They need these basic staples until they can get their infrastructure back in place.”

Davenport said the SBTC teams likely would be dispatched for about five days.

Emily produced nothing more than a mid-grade tropical storm July 20 along the Texas side of the Rio Grande Valley, but 70-80 miles south into Mexico, the hurricane was a Category 3 storm with 125 mph winds that struck harshly at fishing villages on the northeast Mexican coast and downed power lines and water-pumping windmills farther inland.

Emily was a Category 4 storm with winds of 135 mph when it struck the Mayan Riviera of Mexico two days earlier, stranding tourists and tearing the roofs from several hotels in Cancun.

Twenty people from SBTC churches departed July 19 for South Texas as part of a Salvation Army feeding contingent preparing for Hurricane Emily. The Salvation Army reported distributing 6,836 meals to those waiting for the storm in municipal shelters in the Texas border towns of McAllen, Port Isabel and Harlingen. The SBTC team returned a day later after the storm produced no serious damage in the state.

“I don’t think you could have had a better situation with two groups working together than the Salvation Army and Southern Baptists,” said the Salvation Army’s Texas disaster coordinator, Al Ritson.

SBTC flood recovery and chainsaw crews were on standby but were not needed, Davenport said. “The good news is that Texas was spared any major damage. The benefit to our SBTC disaster relief teams is it was a great exercise in preparedness,” Davenport said.

Changing U.S. population forcing urban Texas Baptists to think like foreign missionaries

HOUSTON?As the world continues to come to the United States, Southern Baptists are beginning to re-evaluate how they reach those new and established immigrants with the gospel. Training once reserved for missionaries bound for foreign lands is now being made available to local missions directors bound for neighborhoods within their own cities.

Because it is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the U.S., Houston serves as a prime arena for integrating this new concept, The Texas Great Commission Initiative. Terry Coy, senior church planting strategist with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, said, “If we’re going to reach the uttermost ends of the earth, the uttermost ends of the earth are here.”

Union Baptist Association Executive Director Tom Billings has known this for some time. As the director for the association covering the Houston area, Billings and other directors in the largest Texas cities have been rethinking how to reach their ever-changing communities.

Billings said, “Houston was changing so dramatically that we needed to work like missionaries in our own environment.”

Houston, the fourth-largest city in the country, is host to 82 foreign government consular offices and 87 international chambers of commerce, government trade offices and private business associations, according to the Greater Houston Partnership. Houston is consistently ranked as the city with the third-largest consular representation, coming in behind New York and Los Angeles. Billings added that more than 100 languages are spoken in Houston among the 200-plus ethnic groups.

It was at a 2003 meeting in London where International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, and state and associational representatives like Billings met to discuss the shifting American population. The meeting was held in London to show the participants the dynamics of a mega-city with a diverse population. IMB missionaries, for example, are not sent to London to reach only Anglo “Londoners” but the growing number of Muslims immigrating to the city. Billings said London is about 10-15 years ahead of American cities in its population shift and therefore served as a good example of what churches in major U.S. cities can prepare for.

Beginning in the 1980s, the IMB spent more than a decade gathering information on the people groups of the world before presenting its findings to the board of trustees at an April 1997 meeting in Little Rock, Ark., said Jim Slack, IMB global evangelism and church growth consultant. The culling of all that information, he said, has resulted in what is today the most accurate and up-to-date people group database in the world. With that kind of information, IMB can send missionaries to a very specific population instead of commissioning them to work in a certain geo-political region that could be home to people of varied backgrounds.

Coy said missions directors in the U.S. were asking, “Why aren’t we doing that in North America?” On a national, state and local level, Southern Baptists have developed programs to reach people from differing ethnic backgrounds, but that approach has become too broad, Billings said. Associations can’t just target Mandarin-speaking Chinese people, he said, because of the disparity between the people of that nation. Language is not necessarily the common bond between peoples as populations find their identity in shared culture, not shared nationality.

NAMB has historically recognized the need to focus mission efforts on specific people, but the approach is not as culturally specific as IMB has become. That is why the two associations met in May to discuss the development of a database for the identification of people groups within North America.

In the meantime, IMB resources will be used to help connect churches and associations with people groups in their cities. In mid-May, Slack met with Coy, Billings, and representatives from other Texas churches, associations, and conventions at Trinity Pines in what was the first of three meetings designed to teach churches how to identify and reach specific people groups.

Slack led the week-long meeting with the same manuals that are used to train overseas mission workers. The first step in the evangelism process, he said, is to identify the people groups with

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.