|We all love the plucky people, the underdogs who fight back against impossible odds. Maybe that’s why otherwise sane people are heralding the return of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Of course it’s a big week for the tourist industry (restaurants, bars, emergency rooms, etc.) and it is the event for which the city is best known, but is that a good thing?
Visitors to the city as it was anytime of year found it hawking beads and voodoo paraphernalia as well as excess in the consumption of food and drink. On a weekend, the party never ended. Did that have anything to do with the deep poverty and general dysfunction of the pre-Katrina city? Is that the New Orleans we want back? Is this what we paid for?
I don’t think so. The New Orleans we rooted for and helped was also trade and education and families and churches. The annual pre-Lenten riot works at cross purposes with that more solid foundation. Even if they do make some money during Mardi Gras, part of it is lost again in the costs of extra and overstrained law enforcement, injuries, and destruction that accompanies even a temporarily dissipate community culture.
In a nutshell, that tradition should die. New Orleans couldn’t really afford it before Katrina and they can’t afford it now.
It is also a bit unseemly for a city or a person to quake in terror before a storm, beg for mercy, beg for help, and then, after those prayers are abundantly answered, to run naked through the street yelling, “Laissez les bon temps rouler!” If a seedy section of your city blows away in a tornado, are you going to celebrate the return of the Kitty Kat Klub? New Orleans was best known for being the bad side of town for the entire South. I’m disappointed that Mardi Gras was the big roll out for the city in recovery.
Yes, I know, I’m a Baptist and we don’t know how to have fun. But are you ever troubled by the idea that we need places with legal prostitution and gambling (Las Vegas) or seedy strip joints (the margins of any large town), or an annual Bacchanalia (New Orleans) before we can have fun? Fun doesn’t have to come with disease, poverty, crime, pain, and a host of other bonus features we somber Baptists are left to help clean up in the lives of the participants and victims.
I’m for New Orleans. I’m not for the clueless goobers who think casinos and bars will suddenly be the solid foundation for a revitalized city. It never has been and it won’t be now. We Baptists have a lot we could teach our neighbors about how to have a good time–a good time where we could bring the kids without fear or shame.
Church planting in the SBTC has come of age. Most of us recognize the need for more new churches of a variety of styles, models, sizes, cultures, affinities and languages. New SBTC churches have a healthy survival rate, a baptism ratio of three to one over established churches, and are becoming multiplying churches themselves.
Our statistics show that things are going quite well. Some occasional reminders of what church planting is all about, however, are certainly healthy. Ponder these:
Church planting is not the end, but a means to make disciples. The Great Commission is to make disciples, not to plant churches. Still, we plant churches because they are the local and culturally appropriate expressions of the church, which is the agent and sign of the kingdom. Local churches, we believe, are the best means for making kingdom-minded disciples of Jesus. Therefore ?
Planters must first be missionaries. Yes, planters must be pastors, teachers, evangelists, organizers, counselors and leaders. They must, however, first be missionaries in their communities and to their people. They must first study the community and the people they are called to reach and ask, “What will a biblical disciple of Christ look like here and now?” The planter, therefore, must be willing to jettison all predetermined methods, strategies, and models until he knows his community thoroughly. Therefore ?
Model and style follow missiology and ecclesiology. That is, ecclesiastical form follows ecclesiological function. The first question is “How will we make disciples from among this people/community?” The planter should be able to describe what a disciple will look and act like in his own cultural context. He should be able to describe how Jesus’ commands to worship and pray, love and serve, know and do, give and go apply to the disciple’s life and to the local congregation.
The Bible, after all, is relevant to?and judges?every situation, culture, and time. Can the planter say how this is so in his unique context?
The second question relates to form. Here is the tricky part. The ecclesiology?nature, characteristics, ordinances, mission of the church?must be biblical (see BF&M 2000, Article VI for the essentials).
The ecclesiastical form, that is, the methodological shapes, styles, models, systems, processes, programs, relationships, and ministries must be culturally appropriate. This is inevitable. Every church reflects a culture, but not always the appropriate culture. Whether jeans, suits, sandals, cowboy boots, ties, guayaberas, hymns, praise songs, coritos, piano, guitar, Stamps-Baxter, Third Day, Sunday School, home groups, communion crackers, loaf of bread, pews, chairs, pulpit, stool, steeples, multi-purpose, committees, teams, door-to-door, bulletins, websites, or any other form, they all reflect somebody’s culture from some point in time.
Everything we do in church, even the biblical functions described in Acts 2: 43-47, is wrapped in cultural expression. If this is the case, then ?
Let’s be careful not to make church an idol. That is, let’s not make our expression, our form of church, an idol. Whatever the cultural expression the question should be, “Are we making disciples of Jesus?” If anything gets in the way of that commission, it is an obstacle if not an outright idol. When we criticize how others are doing it, we sin. Hold to doctrinal purity; be flexible in method and expression. Consequently, we arrive at this conclusion:
We need to agree on a church-planting ethic to practice. Here’s a list:
1) An absolute commitment to the inerrancy of the Bible and to the teachings that flow from it. The SBTC is a confessional fellowship. All our churches and church plants are affiliated according to their affirmation of our doctrinal foundation.
2) No criticism of style or method. A healthy debate and an honest critique of methods and style are certainly acceptable. We learn from these. What we do not want to do is to offer dismissive criticism of what others are doing differently from us. Let God determine and correct if it is ineffective. Let God bless and honor if it is biblical and effective. We need all kinds of churches and all kinds of approaches to fulfill the Great Commission.
3) An appreciation for what others have done, are doing, and will do. No planter or church has the corner on the market of effectiveness. What a church, new or established, is doing may certainly be out of my comfort zone, but if God is being glorified and disciples are being made, I need to get over it.
We need to remember that we all stand on the shoulders of saints who paid the price long before we came along. We also need to remember that we are all only a short decade away from being criticized by the next generation.
4) A commitment to pray for, encourage, and cooperate with what others are doing, both through giving and going. Too often we talk about “kingdom work,” when what we really mean is “my piece of the kingdom work.” Can we commit to pray for others even if they are doing something really different from us?
5) A focus on conversion growth that leads to disciple making. Whatever the style, model, or method, if disciples are not being made then legitimate questioning is warranted. Perhaps the wrong model is being imposed. Perhaps the focus has been on attracting believers from other churches.
Whatever the case, the planter must start with the clear understanding that the church is to glorify God, exalt Jesus, and be empowered by the Holy Spirit, all for the purpose of leading lost people to become disciples of Jesus. Again, a missiological thrust must drive church planting.
Church planting is sweeping the country. Most denominations are making it a priority. Planting networks are springing up globally. Greater numbers of men and women are being called to be planters. Better assessment and training systems are being developed.
It is all very exciting … and risky. Still, there is no better way to fulfill the Great Commission. Let’s all celebrate together what we are all doing cooperatively in the SBTC.
Last month two reports were given to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee about the Cooperative Program. Both of them were positive in nature and emphasized the importance of Southern Baptists working together. There were nine recommendations for individuals, churches, state conventions and the SBC. Let me point those out and give you my take.
1. That we commend the Ad Hoc Committee for its excellent work and affirm this report as an outstanding plan for advancing stewardship and the Cooperative Program in the Southern Baptist Convention.
It is about time! Prior to 1979 conservative Southern Baptists were concerned about their CP dollars going to liberals and a bloated bureaucracy. The CP was criticized as a “sacred cow.” During and following the Conservative Resurgence and the restructuring of the bureaucracy in the 1990s, little has been said about the Cooperative Program. It is time to realize the Cooperative Program is the “sacred HOW.”
2. That every segment of SBC life be encouraged to reaffirm our commitment to biblical stewardship and to our cooperation in the Great Commission/Acts 1:8 mission.
There are two parts to this statement. The first deals with a unified enthusiasm to accomplish biblical stewardship and the Great Commission/Acts 1:8. From headquarters in the local church to the association, to the state convention and finally at the SBC, everyone must be on the same page for us to accomplish what God has set before us.
Secondly, there is a functional side. For over 125 years Southern Baptists viewed missions as something for the vocationally called. It was like the commercial showing a driver taking a car through a treacherous course and the voice over says, “Don’t try this yourself. Leave it to the professionals.” Giving was essentially the only way church members participated in missions.
Now, the trend is hands-on. Many in the church are going. Unfortunately, the trend is substituting going for giving. Missions is both Giving and Going.
3. That we strongly encourage each believer to tithe of his financial resources to his local church and encourage all Southern Baptist churches to adopt a missional mindset as they contribute at least 10 percent of their undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program to local and global missions.
As a percentage, giving is at an all-time low among Baptists. The average is just a little over 2% of individual incomes. The average was over 3% during the Great Depression. Churches as recently as 1990 averaged giving 10% through the Cooperative Program. Today SBC churches are averaging less than 7% of their budget through the CP. What would the 3% difference make? The added funding would enable a significant strengthening of our efforts to reach the unreached people groups of the world.
Rather than set an arbitrary percentage, I would simply ask every SBTC church to consider what you are doing through the Cooperative Program and seek to increase participation.
4. That we encourage the election of state and national convention officers whose churches give at 10% of their undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program.
Steve Swofford is pastor of the great First Baptist Church of Rockwall, Texas. He is the president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. He is a wonderful model of leadership in Cooperative Program giving. His church gives 18 percent through the CP.
Bobby Welch is pastor at FBC, Daytona Beach, Fla., and is SBC president. His church gives 15 percent. Leaders like these show how God works through Going and Giving.
Again, rather than setting an arbitrary percentage, I think leaders should be those who are seeking to be more involved through the Cooperative Program on a consistent basis.
5. That each state convention have a plan for forwarding an increasing percentage of receipts to SBC mission causes through the Cooperative Program with the Cooperative Program Advance Plan being one possible model.
Space does not allow for an explanation of the Advance Plan, but it is simply an incremental increase of giving. Maybe something like the Advance Plan ought to be the model for churches and leaders.
I found it interesting that an arbitrary percentage was placed on churches and leaders but not on state conventions. Maybe a 50-50 allocation would be a good goal. The SBTC is the only state convention that has ever given away more than it retains in Cooperative Program operating budget funds.
I heard a quip once that since nine of 10 people who die do so in a hospital, one might lengthen his life by staying away from hospitals. That’s a problem with statistics — they are open to interpretation, or misinterpretation.
I thought of that this week as I considered the current dust ups at our mission boards. The crises at the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board are distinct but related in that they are both centered on the trustees of those two organizations. As with hospitals, I don’t think it’s fair to blame trustees for all the troubling things that happen in their midst.
The trustees’ role in controversy is more obvious at the International Mission Board at the moment. The board seems to be in disagreement with the administration and, to a lesser degree, with itself. IMB President Jerry Rankin’s candid talk with a group of Baptist editors underscored the differences he has with recent board decisions regarding missionary candidate qualifications.
The trustees voted by a better than three-to-one margin to implement a policy to disqualify missionary candidates who speak in tongues or use a “private prayer language.” Dr. Rankin argued against the policy before and after the vote. But the vote wasn’t even close. Neither would it be close if the entire convention voted on that same matter. The trustees, in this case, represent what Southern Baptist churches do and think. That representation is what Southern Baptists need trustees to stand for.
But the North American Mission Board trustees are also on center stage in their own way.
A major report in The Christian Index, the Georgia Baptist Convention’s official news journal, alleged significant problems in the way NAMB does business. Some think Bob Reccord, the agency’s president, is the culprit. Others blame the reporter for what is admittedly a flawed and unfair report in many ways. The real criticism is of the agency’s trustees, though. They are responsible for setting NAMB policy and employing executive leadership.
The critical report has been broadcast very widely, far more widely than NAMB’s effective response. Regardless, enough questions have been raised so that the trustee board needs to address them.
These stories are developing, but my point is that the best hope our mission boards and seminaries have for resolving a crisis is through the trustees. They speak for the owners (SBC churches) and help the employed leadership of the agencies discern the will of God on the most important decisions they make.
Admittedly, trustee boards can be less than the sum of their parts. I’ve served on boards and served under boards in several settings. A body made up of outstanding and godly people is sometimes less than glorious as a whole. Internal politics, the fog of public deliberation, and the relative ignorance of individuals who only come to town two or three times each year?all conspire to diminish the potential of their governance.
What’s the alternative for the SBC, though? Imaginable options include either an imperial executive (absolute power with all its potential for good and evil) or a committee made up of a larger body (the convention) even more susceptible to confusion. Some of us seem to lean toward the latter option.
What do we do when we are unhappy with an agency’s leadership? This happened when Southwestern Seminary’s board fired their president in 1994. Students were mad at the board, as were alums, newspapers and faculty members at Southwestern and beyond. Some called for firing the board and one motion was submitted at the SBC to accomplish that.
The response at that time was very similar to the current response by some to the disagreement between Jerry Rankin and his board. Some want the board fired by a committee of the whole convention and others want Dr. Rankin to have his way. We are quick to reject the trustee system when we disagree with their actions. Why not reject it?
The executive of a denominational entity is accountable to the messengers of the churches that make up the SBC. The most immediate way this is implemented is through the convention’s elected representatives. Long term, the convention votes with its feet and money. An organization not truly accountable to its constituents will die slowly. So accountability expressed through a rotating and diverse board of constituents is a useful reality check for those whose ministry sometimes insulates them from the owners/consumers.
There is often wisdom in the perspective “outsiders” bring to plans and policies initiated by staff members. The counsel might be part of that reality check when a good idea is not a realistic one. It is also a means God uses to reveal his will for the agency. Important matters are more often revealed to us corporately than individually. Spiritual gifts, our experiences, and our different roles are given largely for the benefit of those around us.
EULESS?The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Board unanimously elected two new ministry associates to the convention staff during a meeting Feb. 6 at the First Baptist Church of Euless, filling positions in evangelism and disaster relief.
The meeting coincided with the SBTC’s Empower Evangelism Conference.
The board elected Jack Harris of Grapevine as senior associate for personal and event evangelism, and Jim Richardson of Atlanta, Ga., as director of disaster relief. Both positions are new. Richardson is the first SBTC ministry associate to work exclusively with disaster relief.
SBTC Evangelism Director Don Cass introduced Harris as a longtime friend, having met him in 1978. He described him as a “soul winner” who practices what he teaches others to do.
Harris told the board about his conversion in the sixth grade in Lubbock and later his call to ministry in 1974 at First Baptist Church of Carrollton after he had begun a career in corporate finance. In 31 years of ministry, he has started and led evangelism programs in every church he has served, he said.
Harris said he and Cass would be assessing the needs of churches in equipping members for personal evangelism.
“It will take some time to get our feet on the ground and get a feel for understanding what the churches need and where they are,” Harris said. He said he has served mostly in larger churches, but he said he is eager to help small-attendance churches make the most of their evangelism resources.
“Without personal evangelism, we will not reach Texas and we will not reach our world,” Cass said.
“The world, the lost, do not attend our worship services,” he added. “We must take the gospel to them.”
The board also elected Jim Richardson as SBTC director of disaster relief?a newly created position. Richardson has held a similar post with the Georgia Baptist Convention.
Previously, disaster relief, chaplaincy and Texas Baptist Builders fell under the auspices of men’s ministries, led by Gibbie McMillan. Late last year McMillan took an assignment within the SBTC to coordinate hurricane recovery and relief. Other duties previously under the men’s ministry umbrella have been reassigned to other SBTC departments.
Texas Baptist Builders will work with the SBTC church ministries team in assessing projects, and through the missions team for construction. Disaster relief will work through the SBTC missions team, the church ministries team will coordinate men’s ministry, and the evangelism team will direct chaplaincy efforts.
Richardson spent 10 years with Georgia Baptists, helping develop the state’s disaster relief operation into one of the largest in the Southern Baptist Convention, he said.
EULESS?Joe McKeever, director of missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans, encouraged SBTC directors of missions to “pray big” at the 2006 Empower Evangelism Conference that took place at First Baptist Church in Euless.
McKeever, a minister for more than 40 years and an accomplished artist, has been on the forefront in helping rebuild churches and providing relief to residents in New Orleans and surrounding areas since Hurricane Katrina hit last fall.
Previously totaling 135 churches and missions in the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans, McKeever said the association has either temporarily or permanently lost almost half its churches since Katrina.
But in the rebuilding process, McKeever said God is doing great things in the city and it’s “a fun time to be a Southern Baptist in New Orleans.”
He shared with the Texas DOMs several things he’s discovered about New Orleans since the disaster occurred last fall: Every person was affected by Katrina, and everybody is tired of the subject, and God is using it to work amid the devastation.
McKeever said, “One of our pastors [working with the disaster relief] said, ‘We have led over 600 people to the Lord.’ Before Katrina, Baptists were known for what we are against. Since Katrina, we are known by what we are for.”
He concluded by encouraging the SBTC ministers to “pray big” that God would take New Orleans back, that he would do a new thing in the city, and that it whatever happens as a result would be a “God thing.”
“When it’s all over,” McKeever said, “let us be able to say, ‘God did this.'”
EULESS, Texas–In America, biblical Christianity is dying because the home has lost its place as the center of evangelism and discipleship, Voddie Baucham told the Empower Evangelism Conference Feb. 7.
Baucham, a Christian apologist and author from Spring, Texas, near Houston, cited recent studies by the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life and LifeWay Christian Resources, showing that somewhere between 75-88 percent of students raised in church are leaving the church by their freshman year in college.
Lamenting the generation gap in the SBC, Baucham stated: “There are a lot of you in here who are upset with the Emerging Church movement. You’re upset with Brian McLaren and some of the theology that he’s espousing. I don’t like a lot of the theology that’s coming out of the Emerging Church movement, but can I tell what the impetus is behind the Emerging Church movement. Twenty-somethings are gone. The Emerging Church movement is saying, ‘What do we do to recapture this age group?’
Compounding the danger is that for the first time in history the American birthrate–1.9 children per family–is below the replacement rate?2.1 children per family–and the birthrate among evangelical Christians is similar.
“What that means is we’ve not having enough children for our culture to continue to survive. Our culture is dying one generation at a time.”
The French birthrate of 1.5 children per family, for example, is not only below the replacement rate, it is overshadowed by Muslim immigrants, who average six children per family.
“Which means in two generations France will be a Muslim nation by sheer numbers alone,” Baucham said. “Why? Because they want prosperity more than they want children. And it’s the same for us.”
The unwritten rule among Southern Baptists and others is two children per family.
“We despise children in the Southern Baptist Convention. You don’t believe me? Find a woman who has six or seven children and follow her into a Southern Baptist church and watch the way we mock her. Watch the way people who don’t even know her come up to her and say, ‘Haven’t you guys figured out how that happens yet?'”
Baucham noted that there are 16 million Southern Baptists–“on paper,” he said, an obvious allusion to the many inactive members on church rolls.
At the current birthrate, Southern Baptists will number about 250,000 in three generations. Increasing evangelism efforts alone will not suffice, Baucham said.
“In order to replenish those numbers by evangelism alone, we would have to reach three lost people for every one Christian. Currently, we only reach one lost person for every 43 Southern Baptists,” Baucham noted.
“Now let me make it plain and bring it home: Christianity in America is dying one generation at a time, one home at a time. Christianity is dying.”
Among the Jewish community the same thing is happening, according to researchers Anthony Gordon and Richard Horowitz, Baucham said. Intermarriage, declining birthrates and inadequate Jewish education “continue to decimate the American Jewish people,” Baucham stated, reading from their report.
“We’re right behind them,” Baucham insisted.
“Our answer has been to divorce ourselves from the issue and hire youth pastors to make it better.”
The last 30 years has seen the greatest number of specialized youth ministers, youth resources and parachurch youth ministries and an unprecedented decline in youth baptisms.
Preaching from Ephesians 6:104, which speaks of children obeying parents and parents gently training their children in the Lord, Baucham said the predominant youth ministry model not only lacks biblical foundation, it is antithetical to Scripture and it doesn’t work.
“Or do I need to say it again? Seventy-five to 88 percent is our current failure rate.”
“I want to show you through the Scripture the centrality of the home in the discipling and evangelizing of the next generation,” Baucham said. “God has a plan for multigenerational faithfulness. That plan is the family.”
Many church youth ministries have as their mission to evangelize teenagers, to disciple them, and to equip them to reach other teenagers.
“Two problems with that. Number one, nine times out of 10 we never mention parents. And number two, it’s not your job. Whose job is it to evangelize my children? The church? No, it’s mine. Whose job is it to disciple my children, the church? No, it’s mine. Which means that any youth ministry that’s going to exist at all had better have a mission statement which says ‘We exist to equip and assist parents as they do what God called them to do and not the church.’”
Many youth ministry programs are moving toward ministering to youth and their families.
“That’s still the wrong answer,” Baucham maintained. … The problem is that “for 30 years we’ve been telling (families), ‘We’re trained professionals. Please don’t try this at home. You don’t understand your kids. Your kids don’t like you. Trust me, just drop them off, now.’ And now (parents are) mad because they’re doing what we’ve taught them to do for 30 years.”
The context of Ephesians 6:1-4 depends on Ephesians 5:15-18, which speaks of walking wisely, being filled with the Spirti, being worshipful, thankful and submissive.
“What he’s saying here is this: ‘Show me a child who is not submissive to his parents’ authority and I’ll show you a child who is not a yielded to the Spirit of God.’ Which means if we want to lead a child toward being Spirit filled, we don’t lead them toward a youth pastor, we lead them toward mom and dad.
“I’m not telling you all to go fire your youth pastors tomorrow. That’s not what I’m saying here. But we have to completely revamp our philosophies.
“Disciple your children. ‘Can I get someone else to do it?’ No, it’s your job. You do it.”
Current evangelistic efforts amount to filling up a bucket with a hole in the bottom, Baucham said.
According to Barna Research, the Nehemiah Institute and the National Study of Youth and Religion, less that 10 percent of professing Christian teens operate from a biblical worldview and less that 5 percent are “theologically born again.”
“By that, I mean they say they are born again and they say they trust Christ as savior and Lord of their life. But they’re wrong on the deity of Christ. They’re wrong on substitutionary atonement. They’re wrong on just about every important theological issue related to salvation. Only 5 percent of them have the information they need to be saved.”
Baucham said the answer lies in Christians having a biblical view of children as blessings from God, revamping youth ministry to help parents disciple their children, and “we have to adopt a biblical view of church leadership.”
He said it is a biblical imperative that the pastor be able to teach and be able to manage his household well. “The Bible says if you are not discipling your children in an exemplary fashion, you’re not worthy of being called a pastor.”
EULESS?Biblical and extra-biblical evidence shows the claims of the blockbuster book “The Da Vinci Code” are purely fiction, despite subtle suggestions by the author that he has mined the truth about the historical Jesus.
That’s one of the messages Carlos Fernandez Silva of FaithSearch, a Chaska, Minn., Christian apologetics ministry, is spreading to Hispanics in the United States and Latin America.
Silva brought his message about “The Da Vinci Code” to about 35 participants in a workshop during the Hispanic Session of the Empower Evangelism Conference Feb. 6 at First Baptist Church of Euless.
The book’s author, Dan Brown, has written “The Da Vinci Code” in a way that combines history with fiction and leaves unwitting readers struggling to parse the truth, Silva said.
The story portrays Jesus as married to Mary Magdalene, whom he plans to install as leader of the church. The couple has a son and Mary and the child flee after the crucifixion. From Jesus and Mary Magdalene a line of European royalty is produced, according to the book. Over the centuries an elite group that included famed painter Leonardo Da Vinci guards the secret.
The book contains numerous and noteworthy fallacies, Silva told conference participants. Aside from the claims of a married Jesus, the book asserts that the early church did not view Jesus as God and the Scripture as infallible until 325 A.D. when the Roman emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicea, which produced the Nicene Creed.
Brown claims the Nicene Council sought to canonize an infallible Bible and proclaim Jesus as divine to increase the power and riches of Rome.
As Silva noted, history shows the early church fathers referred numerous times to New Testament passages in their own writings. For example, Clement, a pastor in Rome writing in A.D. 96, cites 11 different books from the 27 that Christians view as the New Testament. Additionally, Ignatius, writing in A.D. 110, cites 24 New Testament books. And in 2 Peter 3:15-16, Peter cites Paul’s letters among “the rest of the Scriptures.”
In fact, there was general agreement, based on extra-biblical sources, about the New Testament canon 200 years before Nicea, Silva said.
Moreover, the basis of the flourishing early church was the deity and resurrection of Jesus, Silva added.
What history does show is that the Nicene Creed?in response to heretical views spread by Arius of Alexandria?helped clearly state what the Scriptures teach about God as eternally Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It did not invent Jesus as God; the early church believed in the deity of Jesus from the resurrection on, Silva stated. Furthermore, archaeology and extra-biblical writings attest to this, he said.
Silva said a Spanish language version of the book “Breaking The Da Vinci Code” by Dallas Theological Seminary professor Darrell L. Bock is now available.
Later this year “The Da Vinci Code” will hit the big screen in a movie starring Tom Hanks.
The Hispanic Session included a Feb. 5 rally that drew around 550 people to Primera Iglesia Bautista in Garland. Sessions on Feb. 6 included a series of morning seminars that drew 180 people and an afternoon worship service that exceeded 230, said Mike Gonzales, Hispanic Initiative director.
EULESS–Those attending the 2006 Empower Evangelism Conference Women’s Session at First Baptist Church of Euless were encouraged to share “the most effective tool of evangelism a woman can have.”
Susie Hawkins, wife of Guidestone Financial Resources President O.S. Hawkins and a part-time instructor at Criswell College, told the women: “I’m convinced that the most effective form of evangelism for a woman is to live her life with a fragrance for Christ,” Hawkins said. “There is nothing as powerful as a life that is fully sacrificed to the Lord Jesus Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, and lived obediently walking with him.”
Hawkins explained that throughout history, fragrance has been considered a powerful source of communication. And in the Bible, fragrance is frequently mentioned as a worship experience.
“Our sense of smell is 10,000 times more powerful than our sense of taste,” Hawkins said. “Your sense of smell is stored in the same part of your brain as your memory. That’s why so many smells trigger your memory.”
She stated that the fragrance of Christ results from three sacrifices in the life of a believer: physical, financial, and spiritual. “It may be financial, praise, prayer, or your own life,” she said.
Hawkins encouraged the women in attendance to sacrifice in all areas of their lives to please the Lord and bring others to Christ.
She concluded, “Preach the gospel at every opportunity. When necessary, use words. The finest apologetics never brought people to Christ. They were drawn to God by the fragrance of Christ.”
North Carolina speaker and author Angela Thomas shared the story of her awkward childhood (and her desire to become an astronaut), her teenage years discovering the reality of life, and how she came to call herself the “Jesus girl.”
A divorced mother of four whose life took an unexpected turn, Thomas said she grew up in a Christian home, and found her passion as a young adult in teaching the Word of God to others. After college and then Dallas Theological Seminary, she began ministering to high school girls in her church’s youth group, eventually got married and had children.
According to her website, “she seemed to be living the life every woman dreams of having. But on the inside, Thomas was keeping all the balls in the air and going through the motions, eventually pretending and becoming what she calls ‘a church lady.'”
It was through her divorce–something she never thought would happen–that she said she became empowered by God to share her story and what God taught her in those dark times.
“Life caught up to me,” Thomas said. “It was beyond anything that you could have imagined could come to you. It was the most awful day when my perfect Jesus-girl dream broke.”
According to Thomas, she began to better understand the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5 in her brokenness. She said, “Growing up, I heard all of these things in this list … and it seemed like [I had] to be all of these things in one woman. I asked myself, ‘How could you be all these things?'”
But she soon realized that people in the Bible came to Jesus in their disappointment, brokenness, aches, and wounds, and he looked into the truth of their humanity and spoke words of comfort.
Thomas said, “The Lord took me through a season of dire brokenness and I asked, ‘Lord, what do you do with a woman who is broken into a million pieces when the wounds are paralyzing and the consequences make living almost impossible?’”
“What I’ve come to know about the Lord … is that he’s not afraid of broken people or broken lives or broken hearts,” Thomas said. “If we will stay in his presence, he can work with that. I just don’t know how many people know that about the Lord. It took the most devastating life circumstances for me to know that.”
“When you come with the truth of who you are into [his] presence, he will come in with the covering of his blood and add the blessing. … The Lord in his sovereignty took an ordinary broken-down Jesus girl and …[covered me] with his blood and raised me up.”
Thomas concluded, “You can’t bring it until you’ve been somewhere to get it, so you’ll have something to bring. Jesus said, ‘When you come and you abide in my presence and you stake your whole life on the truth, then that is enough and I will add the blessing to your meager offering.”
Closing out the session, LaDonna Gatlin, sister to the legendary singing trio The Gatlin Brothers, entertained the crowd with her testimony and singing. A resident of Frisco, Gatlin has been speaking to audiences, writing and performing for many years. She encouraged those in the audience to value the blessings that cove from unexpected trials in life.
EULESS?Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. told those gathered at the annual SBTC Cooperative Program Luncheon Feb. 7 that amid rapid cultural decline and consequent challenges, Southern Baptists must stand on truth.
Mohler thanked the SBTC for its support of SBC missions causes and said when those in SBC entities think of friends, “we think of you.” He also thanked SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards for his support, stating that Richards “is one of the most forward-thinking and theologically minded leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Preaching from 1 Kings 18 and 19, which recounts Elijah’s confronting of Ahab and his subsequent flight from adversity, Mohler said standing on truth will eventually put you amid controversy.
“And if you’re going to stand there you are going to find yourself permanently fixed in some level of controversy.” Mohler said well-meaning Christians sometimes ask him: “How long are we going to be in this level of controversy? When are we going to get past it? Well, I think it is about the last chapter of the Book,” Mohler quipped.
In 1 Kings 18, Elijah found himself in a controversy worth having, opposite the prophets of Baal, over God’s true identity.
Mohler noted that in 1 Kings 18:17, King Ahab accuses Elijah: “‘Is this you, you troubler of Israel?’
“It’s a wicked king who considers God’s prophet the troublemaker.”
“That’s where we are,” Mohler said. “We’re living in the midst of a wicked society that thinks God’s prophet is the troublemaker. Some things never change.”
Mohler said the problem of hesitating between two opinions, which Elijah confronted the people about in verse 21, is a real temptation for today’s pastors?even those who believe the truth.
“A denomination which hesitates between two opinions on key issues of truth and crucial issues of doctrine,” Mohler stated, “is a denomination that has swallowed the poison pill of accommodation and compromise and it will reap what it has sown.”
A church cannot be unclear about what it is truth and what is and is not the gospel. Likening double-mindedness to mental illness, Mohler said such thinking “is the affliction of our age.”
“If the Lord is God, follow him,” Mohler said, citing the text. “But if Baal, follow him”
Elijah thought he alone was left as the prophet of God; he was mistaken, Mohler noted.
After God called down fire and brimstone in awesome power, Elijah became fearful of Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, finally hiding himself in a cave, thinking he alone was left as God’s man.
“This (fear) is the pastor’s dilemma,” Mohler said. “This is the Christian leader’s predicament. Even denominations find themselves in very similar challenges,” Mohler said.
When God confronts him, Elijah again mistakenly states that he alone is left among God’s prophets. Instead, God informs him of 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal.
“One of the reasons for us to gather together is to remember that we are not alone,” Mohler reminded.
“We are not alone. There are faithful churches all over this country. There are faithful churches all over this state. It’s not our doing, it’s God’s doing. God has his faithful all over the world. But sometimes, in some contexts we can stand alone, but even then we’re not really alone.”
After the successes of the conservative theological resurgence, “We arrive in the year 2006 ? in a year in which it would be very tempting to hide in a cave,” Mohler said.
Referring to a news article that claimed Southern Baptists were scared of modernity, Mohler stated, “I’m not scared of it. But I do fear it. I see the worldviews taking captive soul after soul after soul. I fear the theological accommodationism that has taken denomination after denomination, church after church, institution after institution.
“I’m not intimidated by modernity. I just intend to fight that aspect of it with every fiber of my being.” Souls hang in the balance, he added.
Mohler said Baptists don’t have to be thankful for the theological controversies of the past, but they must be thankful for what God did through them.
“Your state convention is proof positive that there are people who will take a stand for truth and do the right thing.”