Month: May 2006

SBC presidential candidate Ronnie Floyd: Spiritual renewal needed

SPRINGDALE, Ark.–Spiritual renewal is the emphasis native Texan Ronnie Floyd will bring to the Southern Baptist Convention if elected president at the June 13-14 annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C. The pastor of First Baptist Church of Springdale, Ark., spoke with the Southern Baptist TEXAN after Georgia pastor Johnny Hunt announced that he would nominate Floyd for the top SBC office.

“It was a little over 10 years ago when the Lord really moved in a profound way in our church. That spiritual encounter with God that came as a result of days of fasting and prayer literally took the entire church ministry to a brand new level,” stated Floyd, the pastor of the largest Southern Baptist Church in Arkansas. As a result, the church became even more mission driven and evangelistic, ultimately planting churches in cooperation with Southern Baptist ministries on every continent and in key U.S. cities.

If elected as president of the SBC, Floyd said, “My heart is to passionately lead a desperate call to a spiritual movement in this denomination that is Bible based, Jesus centered and Holy Spirit controlled. That’s my heart and that’s who I am personally and that’s what I try to lead our church to do successfully as God would so lead and permit and endow,” Floyd stated.

“We’re people of the book,” he said, calling on Southern Baptists to operate by the book–“encountering God to the point where we have some lifestyle change going on.” While individual believers should seek to win people to Christ, one by one, Floyd reminded, “We don’t have a chance if God doesn’t get in on this thing. There are thousands of people that drive by my church every day. They don’t even notice us. We’re in a lost and pagan culture. We need God to stand up through our churches to make a major difference.”

He believes that type of renewal is the answer to issues surfacing within the denomination as well.

“We’ve got a lot more people talking about each other than we have talking to each other,” he stated. “We need to get before the Father. We need to ground our personal preferences, our attitudes in some areas, and we need to lift up the kind of things that Jesus has on his heart and the way he wants us to treat one another.”

Spiritual renewal would continue current SBC President Bobby Welch’s call for increased witnessing that yields more baptisms. “Everything we do should be moving us toward the fulfillment of the mission of taking the good news of Christ around the world, beginning right here in our backyards,” Floyd said. “I’m talking about the kind of spiritual movement that brings alive the church with a heartbeat for God and the way we relate to God and to one another. That is critical,” he insisted.

“We have so many issues out here that are raging within the fellowship of Southern Baptists that are only going to be solved when we start really placing a strong, deep abiding belief in the right things that bring about spiritual movement–the importance of prayer at a deeper level in our churches, the mentioning at least of a nod at the significance of fasting along the way if a church would ever feel led to do that, or whatever it may be—those things that god loves.”

Every church and every individual must encounter God personally, he added. “If we want to finish the task, which is what we’ve been challenged to do over the last two years, how much more tremendous a message is there?”

Floyd insists a “Bible-driven, Bible-based body of people” need not add anything to the Word of God. We need to let the Word of God stand on its own. “Consequently, in relation to spiritual revival, Floyd said, “It’s got to be within the parameters of Scripture.”

Furthermore, he added, “We’ve got to come out of the minutia of thinking that God has called Scripture and the Lord himself to judge us and we’ve got to put down some of those things and come back to what the Word of God says and practice matters by the Word of God.”

Theological differences ought to be tested to see whether the view ignites a greater passion for the Word and reaching the world for Christ, he said. He points to Acts 1:8 as the best expression of the heartbeat of Jesus. Asked specifically about what some perceive as the threat of Calvinism, Floyd encouraged recognizing “the good that exists in whatever people believe and try our best to come together to discuss what we can do together and believe together. The more we split hairs on various matters, the less effective we’re going to be in carrying forth our mission,” he added.

“Whatever our persuasions are theologically, they have to result in a great passion to reach the lost and the unchurched with the gospel of Jesus Christ. If it does not then that does not represent the heart of the redemptive story and the Great Commission that Jesus gave us before he ascended to be with the Father.”

Floyd said he has been innovative in his approach to ministry while “never one time sacrificing biblical truth.” He asserted, “Orthodoxy is not threatened by innovation. Real truth can stand through the test of time.” He urged churches and the denomination “to really put forth without argument that we have a truth in the Word of God and in Jesus Christ,” adding “that it can be packaged in a way that can be appealing to a 21st century generation. If we do not do that then we can share truth all day long, but it may not be heard by the masses who need to hear it.”

Floyd said he was surprised by the request from his friend Johnny Hunt who asked to nominate the Arkansas pastor for the leadership position. “It caused me to move into a radical evaluation—of prayer, of our church, of the denomination of which I’m a part of and I’m engaged in.” After a month-long consideration, Floyd consented to the nomination and began what he called an enormous learning curve to review the state of Southern Baptists and an “expedited” spiritual journey to perceive God’s direction.

One of the priorities Floyd believes should be emphasized was just as important to him a decade ago when he served on the committee that restructured the SBC. The mission statement adopted by messengers when implementing the Covenant for a New Century led with “the conviction that the churches, and not the agencies and institutions, are central to the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Even within each local congregation, pastors are challenged to keep the attention of their own people on the priority of the church, Floyd reminded. “What I want us to understand always is the heartbeat at the center of this denomination is always the local church,” he reminded, emphasizing the SBC’s role in helping churches carry out the Great Commission.

Pastors will not respond to empty appeals for denominational loyalty, he said. “Tell me about what you want to do for God. Tell me about how you want to reach this region, and I’m going to listen. They’re going to choose what they participate in based on that. We have to understand the importance of missional relevance rather than institutional loyalty,” he insisted, noting the complexity of pastoring today.

Floyd upheld the autonomy of every local church to decide how much should be given to the Cooperative Program, the 80-year-old mechanism for funding Southern Baptist causes. “It is a tool, a vehicle for churches to join together in our world missionary enterprise.” From his conversations with others, Floyd believes there is not a pastor that does not know his church can do better in CP giving.

“there was never mandated cooperation,” he said, refuting any concept that giving a tithe to the denomination is scriptural. “I don’t believe that’s what anybody’s saying, but we need to be careful.” He said such expectations might dampen continued interest from independent churches affiliating with the SBC after finding their beliefs compatible.

“We don’t want to give off a signal … that we’d love to have you, but remember, if you come to be a part of us, we ask our churches to give 10 percent to this. I don’t think that’s what anybody wants to give off or to say or represent, but when we start carving certain things and we’re not really thinking through how that’s going to fly down here in the local churches of America, then that’s a different ballgame.”

Instead, Floyd affirms encouraging churches to give more to the Cooperative Program, pledging that response for his own congregation. “Our commitment is to do more,” he said of their level of giving. In 2004, Floyd said the church increased its Cooperative Program giving by 21.1 percent over the prior year and in 2005 the CP allocation increased by 4.2 percent over the 2004 total. “Our Financial Team has made that commitment and we are making it towards the future,” he said.

It’s real difficult to spend percentages,” Floyd emphasized. “You spend dollars and cents. I don’t think we need to be judging a church in relationship to what it gives percentile-wise. It violates the whole essence of the Cooperative Program which it voluntary cooperation.”

Responding to a recent Executive Committee study encouraging the election of SBC officers from among churches that give at least 10 percent to the Cooperative Program, Floyd said, “The very men who turned this denomination back to biblical inerrancy would not have been qualified. We would have eliminated so many great people who now are giving large sums to the Cooperative Program.”

Instead, Floyd reasoned, “If we want people to give more money to CP—and they will—we have to give them a vision that is so attractive that dollars, cents, resources, persons and personnel will be elevated to a brand new level.”

He praised the International Mission Board for assisting local churches in personalization of missions. “That’s what we’re doing with them,” Floyd stated, referring to the 17 churches that the Arkansas congregation has planted since 1999, impacting every continent of the world. Through discussion with the North American Mission Board, Floyd anticipates the church will sponsor church planting efforts in Cleveland and San Diego. “At the same time we are taking a mission trip at least once a month. Every graduating student from our school who wants to go [on mission] we fund to send them around the world,” he added.

“That doesn’t show up in CP giving,” Floyd said of each effort by his church to spread the gospel in partnership with Southern Baptist efforts.

“When we equate being missional—that you’ve got to do it with us, then we’re going to eliminate the vast majority of churches in the 21st century.” Instead, by appealing for partnering relationships, churches and their pastors will want to engage in missions and get their people personally involved, Floyd predicted.

“Some churches God assigns to certain tasks and some he doesn’t,” Floyd said, asking pastors to find a way to get their people personally involved in missions. “Let’s just make the vision so attractive that all of us want to be a part of it,” he recommended.

“My whole perspective changed to so many things around the world,” he said in recalling a mission trip he took over a decade ago. “That was the beginning of much more.”

Floyd said he finds encouragement and accountability in being part of the Southern Baptist Convention. “It is the strong conviction in my heart that it is the only way my church can help fund missionaries around the world, help churches of all sized in American and around the world, educate our students to be preachers, proclaimers of biblical truth, as well as training up other types of professions in our schools. It’s knowing that I have someone in Washington, D.C. that is standing up for the cause of the family that I know is going to be biblically sound and consistent with what we believe.”

And while the restructuring he helped develop was implemented a decade ago, Floyd said Southern Baptists must remain forward-looking, seeking ways to simplify the structure even more. “Is it relevant? That’s what they’re asking?” Floyd said of young pastors that came out of his church wondering whether to be engaged in the denomination.

“That’s a provocative question for a guy like me who saw the denomination go through the challenges and come out on the winning side for biblical truth.” Southern Baptists must call on pastors to help the denomination think strategically about the future, he said. “We’ve got to assure them that we can be relevant, constantly rethink, look at, evaluate … and communicate to them we are doing that.”

Such a forward-looking mindset is critical for local churches as they seek to understand the culture and somehow package truth in a way that will be heard, Floyd explained. “The stronger the church today, the more futuristic they are in their thought processes.”

Careful not to categorize all expressions of concern as coming from younger Southern Baptists, Floyd said he sees a need for cross-generational participation. “I would want to hear from those people, create venues somehow whereby generations are talking to each other about the right things.”

He encourages those who feel left out of leadership to remember “the Lord is the one who exalts in due season,” quoting 1 Peter 5:6. “I didn’t ask for where I am right now, and you know what? It hasn’t been proven to be true yet that I will be placed in that position.” Floyd said he has never asked to preach at any convention, pastor’s conference or to serve on any committee. “We have to live on our faith and live before the Lord and trust the Lord with what he wants to do with us.”

He described himself as a firm believer in the trustee system, having served for 10 years on the SBC Executive Committee and currently as a trustee for GuideStone Financial Resources. “I believe that’s the way churches are represented. It’s worked throughout the course of time pretty successfully,” he added, describing Southern Baptists as “a lot further along the track of advancing the gospel around the world and accomplishing more as a denomination in many areas of life.”

He refused to evaluate recent decisions of either of the SBC mission boards as they have faced challenges to leadership. “I don’t know the inside so it’s a little harder for me to judge, and it’s really not a Southern Baptist Convention issue until it’s brought forward to the Southern Baptist Convention itself.” Encouraging Southern Baptists to let the trustee system work, he urged prayer for the leadership of God on those entities and trustee boards.

As much as trustee boards need to hear representative views from each generation, Floyd said there might be a greater need for generations to appreciate each other. He added that the diverse ages of members and varied sizes of churches add strength to the denomination.

“If we’re going to be great for God it is because we have involved all generations to carry forth. We need to be able to hand over various matters to those that might be younger than those who are empowered presently.”

If given responsibility to serve as president, Floyd said, “I would want to be fair, but would want to appoint the very best people—whatever that means for that particular season and that particular responsibility.”

Floyd said Southern Baptists “believe the Bible as the Word of God, infallible truth, without any mixture of error. That’s who we are and with that we launch to do one major thing together—take the gospel of Christ to the ends of the earth.”


Candidate Frank Page calls for evangelism, inclusiveness

TAYLORS, S.C.–As the second candidate willing to be nominated for Southern Baptist Convention president, South Carolina pastor Frank Page calls for adding passion, revival, soul winning and missions to the convention’s 30-year concentration on doctrinal purity. Page pastors First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C. where over 12 percent of undesignated receipts are given to the Cooperative Program to fund state, national and international missions, and other ministries of Southern Baptists. Forrest Pollack, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church has announced his intention to nominate Page, citing his ‘bold vision for the future that involves the next generation of leaders.

“It is [a choice] about methodology,” Page said of the difference between two Southern Baptist pastors, both of them with ties to Texas. “I just believe that it’s time for people to not only say they support the work of Southern Baptists, but to show it. And I hope that my candidacy will bring that discussion to light,” he told Baptist Press on May 19.

Page has been pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., for the past five and a half years. “Our church gives over 12 percent to the Cooperative Program and we have a huge missions program on top of that, so we believe that one can do both. And I think that’s a model that I would like for people to be able to consider.”

Prior to accepting the pastorate at Taylors, Page had been pastor of Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga., from 1991-2001; of Gambrell Street Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, from 1987-91; and Lafayette Baptist Church in Fayetteville, N.C., 1981-87. He has served on the executive boards of the South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina state Baptist conventions.

A firm believer in what he labels “evangelism with integrity,” Page taught personal evangelism adjunctively at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary while pastoring in Fort Worth. In an interview with the Southern Baptist TEXAN, he emphasized the importance of winning people to Christ, then quickly guiding converts through discipleship.

When he arrived at Taylors First Baptist the church had been in decline, its membership had plateaued years earlier. Personal evangelism was not something that came naturally to the congregation, he said. During 2001 the church saw 49 people baptized and by 2005 the number reached 82. “This year we’ve already baptized 37 so we will be over 100,” he projected. “That’s no where near where God wants us to be, but we’re working hard to train our people in soulwinning,” Page added.

Through a program tagged L.E.A.D. for locators, evangelizers, assisters, and disciplers, Page said emphasis is placed on locating prospects then sending out evangelism teams to win them to Christ. Various methods used have included the FAITH evangelistic strategy developed by current SBC President Bobby Welch, One-Day Soul Winning and a gospel tract Page wrote called “You Matter.” Those who respond to the gospel message are assigned for follow-up to a personal discipler.

“We’re old fashioned,” Page said in describing the process by which new members are accepted. “We have an invitation and during that time people come forward and we have staff to counsel with those persons to see what their testimony is. If they’re coming by transfer or for baptism, we find out if they do indeed have a personal relationship with Christ.”

Aware that trustees of the International Mission Board have been grappling with the variety of approaches SBC churches use in receiving members for baptism, Page said the church determines whether there is a testimony of New Testament baptism by immersion.

“If baptized by immersion in an evangelical church whose theology would be consistent with scripture, then we go forward at that point. But we do require counseling with staff,” he noted, “to make sure they have a personal commitment to Christ” and review any prior baptism.

Page said he is not familiar enough to “speak with clarity” on decisions made by IMB trustees to evaluate the baptism of a missionary candidate and the disqualification of those who hold to a private prayer language.

“I just know that Scripture is clear that we need baptism by immersion with correct theology,” while adding that 1 Corinthians 14 addresses speaking in tongues.

In regard to the work of IMB missionaries alongside other Great Commission Christians deployed through evangelical mission agencies, Page said he affirms their work where it is possible and wise.

“I trust the trustees, the field personnel, regional directors and others to be able to work out a scenario that allows working with other Great Commission Christians with integrity. We can’t win this world to Jesus by ourselves, but there are areas in which we ought to be careful. There are probably areas in which we should not” partner with them.

Page said he is very comfortable with the Baptist Faith and Message overwhelmingly passed by messengers to the 2000 annual meeting. While serving in the state of Georgia, Page said he helped facilitate Georgia Baptist churches’ use of the doctrinal statement.

He served on the Georgia Baptist Convention Executive Committee in the fall of 2000 when messengers approved a resolution affirming the BF&M 2000 as having “great value as information, as a guide to interpretation, as a source of enlightenment and instruction concerning basic Baptist belief.”

Being engaged in such deliberations is an important part of being a Southern Baptist, Page said. While finding it important to attend annual meetings, Page added, “Even more than that, attend your state and associational meetings as well.”

Instead o opting out of the process, he encouraged Southern Baptists who have concerns for the denomination’s future to continue to give, volunteer, to probe and ask questions.

“Make sure what’s being done is indeed efficient and missional and appropriate. Instead of just saying I don’t like what they’re doing and I’m not going to give anymore, stay involved. Correct it from the inside rather than criticizing from the outside.”

As one who has expressed his share of concerns, Page said he is far more likely to listen to supportive Southern Baptists than to those who haven’t been involved. “If by some miracle I’m elected to Southern Baptist Convention president—and I do believe it would take that—I would listen far more readily to someone who knows what they’re talking about and who from the inside, as a supportive, giving Southern Baptist, has been contributing rather than someone who doesn’t even know the process.”

For many of his baby-boomer generation and younger, skepticism toward institutions seems to come naturally, he said.

“Some look askance on any institution and assume it’s bureaucratic and bloated. That may well be the truth,” he added. As a full-time pastor, Page said he hasn’t spent time examining the inner workings of each SBC entity, but has taken note of budget constraints imposed at the North American Mission Board.

“Many of these departments had to cut their budgets over the years, particularly in evangelism, so that other projects which have failed could be funded. Whether that’s a bloated bureaucracy or not I don’t know, but there’s obviously a need for attention to strong organization so the main thing—missions and evangelism—continues to be the main thing.”

With the resignation of NAMB’s president, Page said morale is at a low level and “questions about the agency’s effectiveness abound.”

Encouraging each SBC entity to “take an honest look and make sure that it is lean and mean,” Page said, “They can no longer just shout to pastors and churches, ‘Give more, give more,’ and just expect we’re going to listen if they say it more and louder. Show us the value. Show us that what you’re doing has worth.”

While personally convinced that such value can be demonstrated, Page encouraged a willingness to be responsive. “Show that the questions they’re asked are answered and suggestions when raised are listened to.”

By expanding the base from which trustees are drawn, Page believes the future of the SBC will be brighter. “If you’re truly involved in something you’re going to have far more ownership and want it to succeed. If we continue to have the same people, we’ll continue to alienate a large number of godly, conservative Southern Baptists.”

For Page that doesn’t mean sacrificing the theological standards nominees must meet.

“I would never be a part of any movement that would in any way compromise a high degree of integrity and belief in God’s Word,” he told the TEXAN. “If you want to say infallible, inerrant, I’ll use all those words,” he said in affirming the conservative resurgence. We do need to check and make sure they’re theologically conservative and believe in the integrity of God’s Word. I’d have it no other way.”

Concerned that “the rope that holds us together is becoming frayed and weak,” Page said broadening the base of leadership would provide needed strength. “I’ve said I will allow the tent to be broadened for anybody on three criteria—a sweet spirit, an evangelistic heart and deep belief in the integrity of the Word of God.”

He proposed looking beyond “the same names brought forth year after year,” calling for an SBC president who will actively seek to involve younger pastors, as well as those from small and medium-size churches.

Having pastored his first church in Possum Kingdom, Texas, Page said from that experience to his present pastorate in South Carolina he’s discovered “some really great leaders” yet to be nominated for SBC assignments.

“There are some great leaders who will never get the attention of a large church pastor. I believe it is time to say, ‘Let’s use those guys,’ and pull together experience and maturity with youth.”

If elected, he intends to challenge the members he appoints to the Committee on Committees to access computer databases to learn who has served in the past and then draw from “wonderful lay people and pastors who have conservative theological roots, but who have extreme leadership skills that have never been tapped.”

On the other hand, Page believes “several things have narrowed things down,” pointing to some recent trustee actions.

“I don’t know all of the exact things that went on at the IMB. I only heard third and fourth hand like most of us do, but I do think when denominationalists who say you have to give 10 percent to be considered, that’s narrowing the parameters. We have got to be careful about narrowing these boundaries in a time when we need to be expanding cooperation and participation. That’s what I’m talking about.”

Page said he could not call himself a Southern Baptist if he failed to give sacrificially to support the almost 10,000 missionaries, calling such an approach “morally irresponsible.” At this year’s annual meeting the choice between the two presidential candidates involves methodology, he said, reporting his own church’s percentage of gifts to the Cooperative Program as 12 percent of undesignated receipts.

“There are some denominational servants who seem to think if you don’t do everything through the Cooperative Program or some established denominational channel it doesn’t count,” he added, pointing to Georgia pastor Johnny Hunt’s success in planting many churches with or without SBC involvement.

“Ronnie Floyd does mission work that’s fantastic. I will say, “God bless you, praise the Lord. Our church has probably as big a mission program as the other two,” he added, encouraging churches to contribute generously to the Cooperative Program and be on mission.

“I will never cast aspersions upon any church or pastor who is on mission for God,” he stated in a news release. “Whether or not they do it through the Cooperative Program or through our convention or on their own, they have to answer before the Lord as to how they do mission work.”

Page told the TEXAN, “Balance is the key. Do I think some of the percentages ought to be changed? I personally do.”

He added that he supports an Executive Committee study recommending leaders be drawn from churches that give at least 10 percent to the cooperative Program.

“I do favor the suggestion as long as it’s clear that it is an encouragement and does not become in the minds of people an expectation or requirement that would narrow participation.”

Calling Hunt his friend and praising the reputation of Floyd, Page said, “This is not a personality contest. It’s not theological.” Instead, he said, the opportunity for a methodological discussion is the only reason God allowed him to permit his name for nomination to SBC [president.

“I do not want to be president of the Southern Baptist Convention. I have never wanted it. Some guys want it. It’s the goal of their life. God wanted me in this to get these discussions out there.”

With his regard for Hunt as a friend, Page said he would not run against him.

“Because of the late moment of his dropping out and announcing another candidate,” that changed in early May. “Let us have two or more conservative, solid candidates run each year,” he proposed in his news release. “Without calling into question anyone’s integrity or veiled threats regarding suicide of political futures, let us be able to have honest, open dialogue about points of agreement and disagreement.”

His candidacy attracted the interest of pastors who hold to Reformed theology after Oklahoman Wade Burleson testifies of his confidence that Page understood his concern that the parameters for participation in SBC leadership have narrowed. Though Page differs with Calvinists in his interpretation of soteriology (the study of salvation), he pledged to involve Calvinists and non-Calvinists who meet the criteria for appointment that he proposed.

In his book, “Trouble with the Tulip: A Closer Examination of the Five Points of Calvinism,” Page said he expressed his belief that “God has foreordained the how, not the who.”

Those foreordained in Christ become the chosen elect people of God, he added.

Noting that Reformed pastor John Piper’s books are among the most read books on seminary campuses, Page said the movement is huge and growing—“bigger than Texas,” he stated. “We must have honesty about this issue. There are churches splitting across the convention because pastors are coming in quietly trying to teach Calvinism or reformed theology without telling the pastor search committees where they stand. The vast majority of Southern Baptist churches are not Calvinistic in their theology and it’s causing some serious controversy.”

As a theologically conservative Southern Baptist, Page offered two clarifications: “I believe the Bible totally. I’m not mad about it.” To the less informed secular audience he affirms the Bible as God’s Word, calling it relevant to life today.

“It is authentic and that can be proven through manuscript evidence, historical affirmation and archaeological evidence. The Bible we have is authentic, real, relevant, and it can speak to your life today.”

Blogging of confidential IMB trustee forum prompts Hatley to recommend further restriction on Burleson

ALBUQUERQUE–IMB trustee Wade Burleson of Enid, Okla., will continue to be restricted from holding committee assignments in light of a May 24 report of the Board’s Executive Committee offered by trustee chairman Thomas Hatley of Rogers, Ark. Hatley recommended that newly elected chairman John Floyd of Memphis, Tenn., continue to restrict Burleson from service on any committee, encouraging the disciplined trustee “to change his position to follow a biblical model of restoration of wounded brothers and sisters in Christ.”

The restriction is to be lifted immediately once Burleson publicly acknowledges his actions during his first year of service “have seriously eroded the confidence of his fellow trustees and that he can and will work with them in a way that will instill mutual trust” and apologizes for repeatedly questioning their motivations.

Hatley said Burleson had made a good start with a statement on his web log at expressing an apology “‘that some trustees feel broad brushed with the allegation that they were a part of a group of people out to remove Dr. Rankin,'” referring to the IMB president. “That [the apology] would be really wonderful if that were expressed in the context of the statements themselves,” Hatley suggested. He further recommended Wade offer “a verbal apology before this board and not just on the blog site which many will not access, therefore they will not benefit from receiving that apology.”

In concluding, Hatley said he had initially removed from his report concerns about Burleson breaching confidentiality until informed of posts made to the web log regarding matters discussed in a private trustee forum only days earlier. Hatley said several trustees informed him of the new development and IMB counsel confirmed the posts by Burleson.

“Because of that and other breaches of confidentiality I would recommend that our new chairman also use his prerogative to bar brother Burleson from the forums and executive sessions in the coming year because of the lack of ability to restrain himself from publishing information shared in confidence,” Hatley added.

Hatley quoted statements that appear on Burleson’s web log from four dates in December and January. He cited the Oklahoma trustee’s characterization of “‘conservatives who love the battles of decades past'” who “‘have fallen victim to a crusading mentality of blood thirst'” with recent actions of the IMB board cited as evidence of Burleson’s charge. The conclusion Burleson drew was that “‘conservative crusaders have yet to learn how to sheath the sword, and rather than cooperate with fellow conservatives in reaching the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ, they have gone after the head of Dr Jerry Rankin'” A further reference was made to Burleson’s portrayal of trustees who disagree him as having “forgotten how to minister in the power of the Spirit through prayer, humility and cooperation.”

Hatley also questioned Burleson allowing posts from contributors to the web blog that characterized trustees as “‘bigoted'” and having “‘petty self conceit.'” He quoted a Jan. 12 statement in which Burleson said of some IMB trustees, “‘They might be guilty of shortsightedness, lack of wisdom, or may simply be clueless. . . ” A few days later, Hatley noted, Burleson blogged, “‘I have shown, and will continue to show, great respect for my fellow trustees.'”

The report read by Hatley recalled that Burleson “has, beginning late last year, posted and maintained on his personal blog site a running commentary on the operations of the Board that included the repeated assertion that our recently approved policy on private prayer language and guidelines on baptism were enacted not for any legitimate purpose having to do with the effectiveness of IMB global operations, but rather as a part of a concerted action on the part of un-named trustees to embarrass and undermine our president. While expressing his opinions Brother Wade was offensive and combative toward this board.”

While having “no desire to restrict his opinions” nor insisting “he agree with the majority of this board on any issue,” Hatley said “when character is impugned and motives are judged that a spirit of mistrust emerges that can damage the ability of this body to work together.” He indicated that while Burleson felt these matters stand reconciled, Hatley told the


PALESTINE, Texas?At the beginning of 2000, Dogwood Hills Baptist Church in Palestine was pastorless, $64,000 in debt and ready to shut its doors. On a good Sunday 10 people would show.

Six years later, the church is debt free and the membership has grown significantly through the leadership of pea-farmer-turned-pastor Kevin Willmott.

Mike Smith, director of missions in the Dogwood Trails Area, which includes Saline Baptist Association, said the 16-year-old church has made a dramatic transformation.

“Previously, there had been several different pastoral changes in a short period of time,” Smith said. “The church had gotten down where we were wondering whether it was going to keep the doors open or not.”

Dogwood Hills contacted Smith to help find guest preachers from Sunday to Sunday. So Smith called on Willmott to fill the gap because of his involvement in the Saline association and his church at the time, Concord Baptist.

Willmott felt the Lord leading him into full-time ministry, and the church needed a full-time pastor, so it seemed a perfect match, Willmott recalled. Dogwood Hills called him to be the pastor in April 2000.

“When I came here, my wife and I didn’t know how we were going to do it,” Willmott said. “We farmed 400 acres of produce and had 400 head of cattle. But the Lord really confirmed in my heart that I needed to quit farming and go into the ministry. So I sold my share to my brother and dad. We didn’t have the money to do it, but God told me to and he provided.”

When he became pastor, there were nine members and one visitor, plus himself, his wife, and his two children. Within a year, Dogwood Hills had grown to almost 100 people. Today, running 140-150 in attendance, the church mostly consists of people between the ages of 25-40 and continues to grow.

“God put me around so many people that had a vision for this church when I started,” he said. “They really rallied around me, and Brother Mike has helped me along the way. He can’t even believe what’s going on here. It’s just an unusually warm-spirited church.”

Smith added, “What’s really helped in the growth is Kevin’s leadership?being a compassionate and evangelistic pastor. Through evangelism, he has been able to bring in new people.”

Both Bud and Gerri Altman, six-year members of Dogwood Hills, joined just shortly after Willmott came as pastor. Bud is now the sole deacon within the church and is very active in the FAITH evangelism program, while Gerri teaches Sunday School, volunteers with the youth, and is the secretary for the AWANA program.

They have witnessed the incredible growth during this time. Gerri Altman remembers when there were only two teenagers in the youth group?the pastor’s son and their own.

“In the first year after Kevin came, the youth grew to 13 and the next year, we had 40 kids going to youth camp,” she said.

“We started an AWANA program last September that had 17 kids on the first night,” Gerri Altman said. “Within four or five weeks, we were averaging 70 kids. It’s something that I didn’t expect to happen. Most of their parents don’t go to church, but we’ve seen a couple of families come because their kids are coming.”

Almost a year ago, Willmott led the church through the FAITH program, which has led them to be even more mission-minded in their community and beyond?reaching out to the families of AWANA kids, visiting guests, and coordinating numerous mission trips each year.

Because of its desire to fulfill the Great Commission and using the steps of the FAITH program, Dogwood Hills has grown significantly.

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Patterson, Willis, endorse Floyd candidacy

TRONG>Related Story: SBC presidential candidate: Spiritual renewal needed

SAN ANTONIO?Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson and retired International Mission Board senior vice president for overseas operations Avery Willis have joined Georgia Pastor Johnny Hunt’s call for Ronnie Floyd to be elected SBC president next month. Floyd serves as Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Springdale, Ark., and The Church at Pinnacle Hills, Rogers, Ark.

Floyd has served in Arkansas for 20 years, although his ministry began in Texas. Born in a rural community, Floyd said he was raised in a small Texas church averaging 40-50 attendees on a big day. Floyd pursued a call to the ministry by attending Howard Payne University and completing M.Div. and D.Min. degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. Presently, Floyd acts as trustee of Guidestone Financial Services located in Dallas.

Hunt, long-time pastor of First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga, will nominate Floyd for the presidency.

In an interview with the Southern Baptist Texan, Hunt esteemed Floyd’s ability to motivate Southern Baptists to fulfill the Great Commission with “leadership par excellence.”

“I was with him when he started the Pinnacle Hills satellite campus,” Hunt said, noting he has observed and worked with Floyd during their 20-year friendship. Throughout this time, Hunt said Floyd has not wavered in his commitment to missions and evangelism.

Avery Willis believes that a spiritual awakening among Southern Baptists was both needed and possible. According to Willis, Floyd could be the man God is raising up to move churches toward obedience to God.

“About 10 years ago, Ronnie began to speak on spiritual awakening, and he took that message across America because it was in his heart, and now he recognizes that it must begin within the local church. I agree with him. If it doesn’t happen in our churches, we are not going to see it all,” Willis told the Southern Baptist Texan.

“I believe spiritual awakening is the great1:PersonName w:st=”on”>test need in America. The reason we don’t baptize 1 million people a year is so many churches are apathetic, lethargic, or dead. I told Ronnie that ‘I pray that God will use you to spread the fires of revival in our land.”

“[Ronnie] lives in the same area that I do, and I’ve had the opportunities to not only be with him, but to listen to many of his people talk about him, and integrity is always something that comes to mind when talking about Ronnie,” Willis added.

Having already served as president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee, Hunt believes God has uniquely prepared Floyd to serve Southern Baptists in a wider role.

“I feel that Ronnie has experience based on 10 years on the SBC Executive Committee, to know the denomination, to work with agencies, and to face things the SBC is facing these days,” Hunt said.<SPAN style="; COLOR: black; LINE-HEIGHT: 150%; FONT-FAMILY: 'Trebuchet MS'; mso-bidi-font-famil</ti

Bible Drill and Youth Speakers’ State Perfect Winners

SBTC Bible Drill and Speakers’ Tournament

Students from across Texas competed in the finals of the SBTC State Bible Drill and Speaker’s Tournament May 6 at the SBTC offices in Grapevine.

Bible Drill winners (at left). Pictured are: (L-R) Clara Boyett, 7th grade, Tanglewood BC, Jasper, third place; Blake Borinstein, 8th grade, Prestonwood BC, Plano, first place (tie); Abby Wood, 9th grade, Southside BC, Brownwood, first place (tie).

Speaker’s Tournament winners were (L-R): Sarah Wood, junior, Prestonwood BC, Plano, second place; Elyse Dodd, senior, Galloway Avenue BC, Mesquite, first place; Tori Covington, senior, Lakeview BC, Ore City, third place. Photos by Kyle Felts

Joshua Acock, FBC, Winnsboro; Siarra Azocar, Fairpark BC, Fort Worth; Briley Bair. FBC, DeKalb; Hannah Boyett, Tanglewood BC, Jasper; Naomi Carlton, Fairpark BC, Fort Worth; Megan Chambers, Westwood BC, Palestine; Miranda Chambers, Westwood BC, Palestine; Samuel Christie. FBC, Euless; Hannah Cooper, Fairpark BC, Fort Worth; Rhett Dailey, Tate Springs BC, Arlington; Alyssa Dean, Fairpark BC, Fort Worth;

Caleb Dena, Birchman BC, Fort Worth; Jessica Forbus, Carbon Community Baptist Church; Emily Fried, Forest Home BC, Kilgore; Chance Gabbard, Evangelistic Temple, Palestine; Jessekah Gonzalez, West Main BC, Alice; Maria Gonzalez, West Main BC, Alice; Rachel Haire, Tate Springs BC, Arlington; Candace Hutchinson, FBC, Euless; Lauren Jackson, FBC, DeKalb; KendraKelly, Mims BC, Conroe; Randi LeFevre, Prestonwood BC, Plano; Charissa MacDonald, Birchman BC, Fort Worth;

Derek Mankins, FBC, Archer City; Chris May, Lakeview BC, Ore City; Sean Newton, FBC, Archer City; Adam Polson, Fairpark BC, Fort Worth; Todd Reed, FBC, DeKalb; Natalie Russell, Birchman BC, Fort Worth; Ashley Sanders, Forest Home BC, Kilgore; Hannah Shirley, FBC, Madisonville; Meredith Stowe, FBC, Euless; Haley Talkington, North Oaks BC, Spring; Sarah Tipping, Birchman BC, Fort Worth; Reese Tomberlin, Champion Forest BC, Houston; Calder White, FBC, DeKalb; Gayla Williams, Forest Home BC, Kilgore; Hunter York, FBC, Archer City

Joy, by design

In 2005, I started a series of columns called “Captive Thoughts” intending to address how Christians might think about every endeavor of mankind as being subject to the lordship of Christ. After nearly a year’s pause, that series continues with this issue. The interview on page 5 is a new part of the series that gives those actually working in a field a chance to tell their own views of the work God has given them to do.

“Man by the Fall fell at the same time from his state of innocence and from his dominion over nature. Both of these losses, however, can even in this life be in some part repaired; the former by religion and faith, the latter by the arts and sciences.”

–Francis Bacon

It’s intriguing to think our dominion over the earth can be somewhat restored even as our spiritual being is built up for Heaven. The applied imagination of men, redeemed in Christ, can grant us little tastes of what we lost in Eden. By the sciences we can continue the ordering of nature and by the arts we can comprehend truth that has been clouded by our alienation from God and his creation.

But the two things, art and science, are not in discrete realms. Some things are beautiful by their usefulness. A rich piece of bottom land sprinkled with fat Herefords is lovely for all kinds of practical reasons. A Boeing 707 with no bright colors or flourishes still represents efficiency, longevity, and flexibility. It is a beautiful airplane because it works very well as an airplane. Those examples make sense to a pilot or farmer but we don’t often think of beautiful things as being useful for their very beauty.

In fact, some important messages have more impact when packaged in a less propositional and direct manner. When your heart rises into your throat during the Hallelujah Chorus, you are responding to a variety of senses that come together to move you, to lift your spirit. Is that useful? Is that a glimpse of something we were created to know? I think so.

An artist can convey meaning by whatever medium he uses. It’s more than just painting or photographing an interesting thing. The choice of the subject, its context, the colors you use or enhance, all these decisions have more than merely intuitive importance in the effort to communicate significance.

We mostly don’t believe it’s significant, though. Within the church our tolerance of artistic expression is limited to things that accomplish something. Music, good or not, is OK so long as it’s intended to deepen our emotions toward God. The architecture of our buildings … well, never mind about Baptist church architecture. A warehouse with a fan-shaped auditorium is the shortest distance between two points, after all. We don’t have any idea what to do with visual arts. Maybe there’s a mural in the nursery or a couple of Thomas Kinkades in the library but it’s mostly to keep the beige walls from looking so bare.

I say this with all affection. Every church our family has joined has been similar in its approach to art. We are just a pragmatic, post-Reformation, missionary people. Art is for cathedrals. Our pragmatism is based on the Great Commission. The more money we spend on pretty doo dads, the less we have for world evangelism. Even the professional artists I interviewed in this issue expressed a tension between the importance of art and the importance of missions when the church sets funding priorities.

But boy, aren’t those cathedrals a sight? Do people come to the U.S. to tour evangelical churches the way we go to Europe to tour cathedrals? Maybe this shouldn’t be our goal but I must say my heart soared as I went through Russian Orthodox cathedrals and saw the murals covering the walls and ceilings. The skill, the thought, the commitment that artists unknown to me left for the ages seemed valuable to me. The story these paintings told easily crossed the language barrier in our group of Germans, Spaniards, Hillbillies, and Hoosiers.

I think it’s worthwhile for us to look at and know a little about art. In fact, I’m convinced that somewhere between the functional, sparsely adorned Baptist church and the ornate Orthodox cathedral is a place where our work of creativity and our work of missions might both be appropriately honored. It’s a place worth finding.

Back to knowing a little about art. I know I’m losing you as you imagine I’m going to suggest art appreciation classes or visiting froo-froo art galleries. Relax, I’m a guy too and I understand. We’ve got to admit that many of our choices fro reading, music, movies, and pictures for our walls are made out of thoughtlessness or laziness. Do we read things because they’re good, or because they’re easy and trendy? Do we go to movies that lift our minds and hearts or ones where we like the actors and the chase scenes?

Dan Addington is right, (interview on page 5) this kind of thing is OK in small doses but it lacks a certain nourishing quality. The first, hard step is beginning to associate with something more challenging.

In Fort Worth, we have the Amon Carter museum. It’s a manly place full of Remington and Russell paintings of the American West. Spend some time at a place like that. Look at the differences between the two painters, even between one of their paintings and another. Why this color, why this light, why is this picture more photo-like and that one more dreamy? Spend a little while in there and you will no longer think of the paintings as merely an effort to record the bald facts of the scene. You begin to see meaning and emphasis in the choices the painter made, what he left out, how he treated the things included. That’s art. It conveys a feeling about something that we might recognize from something real or imagined in our own life.

Maybe we can think of it another way. I’ve never seen Heaven or Hell. I think they peek from behind so much we see every day. We can’t see them by looking for them square on. I sometimes have seen both places (not at the same time) out of the corner of my eye when reading something masterful or listening to the music of a true artist. Hell is jolting like a shot of adrenaline. Heaven is achingly wondrous, though no less shocking. The one repels us, scars us almost, and the other wounds in a different way so that we search for another glimpse of it for the rest of our days. No this isn’t an original thought but it does work that way. Some writers and musicians show me, even years after their deaths, a bit of what God put in their minds and hearts.

Such things can make us hunger and thirst for righteousness either by the horrible awareness of our need or the occasional thought that our comfort is close by. Seeing God’s truth in art begins by looking in the right places—places where skilled people spend hours and days trying to show us what they have seen in their hearts. It doesn’t come easy for those who do it right and it shouldn’t come easy to us as go looking for wonderful things there.

The sweetness of discovering something important and true is a godly gift. It is a taste of the joy that is ours for eternity, beginning now. We find it in surprising places, surprising to us, I mean. But God put it there on purpose. He put it there for Adam and Eve to enjoy and for their children to discover. The little bits we discern are always a surprise to us but not to God. He put them there by design. He has also given humanity those who provide a medium through which we can find it more often.   They share in God’s creative work. We can share in theirs, and his, by turning a discerning and intent gaze toward the arts.

Looking beneath the surface

Related article: Joy by design

EDITOR’S NOTE: In examining the work of artist Christians, The TEXAN interviewed three professional painters. Each has worked as a painter for several years. All three are Southern Baptists.


Describe your style for us.

Caffy Whitney: Realist, my art is primarily representational.

Dan Addington is a gallery owner and painter in the Chicago area. He uses mixed media to create a more three-dimensional impression. His use of paint bee’s wax, tar, and glazing produces a unique texture in his work.

Dan Addington: It’s more accurate to think of what eras have influenced a painter. Mine most resembles romantic and expressionist painters.

Steph Roberts: I describe my work as figurative, both in the sense that the main subject is fairly representational and in the fact that the subject is literally a figure. The space around the figure, however, is not representational at all. This is where an abstract approach takes over in my use of flat space, poured paint, graphic elements, and textural effects. This juxtaposition of a volumetric figure on a flat painting surface can be seen as a nod to postmodernism, in the separation of the diver from its “normal” context and its combination with an abstract picture plane. My work has evolved away from a consistent representational approach, where the painting acts like a window upon a scene. In some ways my paintings have incorporated the ideas of modernism, with the paintings asserting themselves as flat objects. I am less interested in creating the illusion of looking “past” a painting at the objects within. When I admire a painting, it’s not often that I am actually admiring the subject itself (“What a beautiful tree”), but instead I’m admiring the way the paint is handled in its depiction (“What a nice passage of yellow-green …”).

What’s it like to be Christians in the art community?

DA: I have often felt like a man without a country. Visual arts are often looked on as a frivolous pursuit or as suspicious by the church. I went to a Christian college. Even there, the visual arts were regarded with more suspicion that the performing arts because it was not easily used as a tool for evangelism. Meanwhile, I was attempting to function in a secular art world that often looked suspiciously at believers. I often felt that the most rabid secularists in the art world were still more accepting, even intrigued, by the faith element in my art than evangelicals were by the art element in my faith. I feel that is changing, and I think it has something to do with Christian institutions of higher learning.

SR: When I was in graduate school, I was questioned about my explicitly Christian subject matter and the reasons behind it. One professor felt they were “preachy”, and asked if I would be open to making work about other narratives besides ones taken from the Bible. This seemed to me to be beside the point because a main emphasis in developing one’s work in art school is honing your personal statement. What is the point of an artist making work about something with which he or she has no connection? It becomes illustration then.

CW: In my mural work, I’ve had opportunity to come in all kinds of environments and settings with construction workers. They all make jokes, call me “Michealangelina,” but almost every time I’ve been in that environment, the Lord has given me an opportunity to witness to those individuals. It’s been amazing to see. Just the other night I went to an art council meeting of community artists. I went with the intent of affecting the arts in our community with the gospel. It’s exciting to me to be an influence there where I can be with non-believers.

Does your art idealize or exaggerate reality in order to convey a message?

SR: It is an intent of my work to emphasize the physical tension in the divers’ bodies. The figures aren’t done in a photographic style because I enjoy the sense of vitality and agitation in the viewer’s eve that comes with broader brushwork and textural paint application.

DA: Art is a very subjective thing. I’m interested in work that seems to have a unique point of view. I would rather be challenged by something I don’t quite get in the first few minutes of viewing, than be assured by something that is quick and easy.

CW: I think I do that, to make a statement. It is my job to create the image or idea or the emotion from the painting so that the viewer can interpret that.

Is abstract art a fit tool for communicating truth?

DA: When I talk to students and they question the relevance of abstraction, I try to get them to forget about visual art and the think about music. Instrumental music, Classical, Jazz, etc. is essentially abstract—it’s formal, yet it has an expressive element. So ask the same question but substitute Mozart. Can eternally true things be communicated through a great work of Classical music… through a great Jazz performance? I think so. It can happen in a painting, too.

CW: It’s an artwork with no apparent reference to reality. The abstract artist uses art elements such as color, shape, form, value and texture to create a visually stimulating composition. He’s not concerned with the mere appearance of something that one could easily recognize like with realism. He seeks the inner, invisible reality. That leaves the interpretation of the painting to the viewer. Abstract art has value because it does express intense feelings, moods, and life that can’t be defined in representational art. The Christian who is a n abstract artist is leaving much of the interpretation of the piece to the person who views it.

SR: One of the things I enjoy about abstract work is its ability to engage the viewer on many levels When the subject matter is not screaming its name at the viewer, he or she is more free to read the painting in broader ways. I find myself getting lost in the materials themselves, the tactile qualities of the surface, or even experiencing it on a sensation level. When the left brain isn’t dominating the experience of art, the viewer can be more open to emotional connections with it.

What is or should be the impact of art in the lives of non-artists? The church?

SR: As a Christian artist, I hope for more integration of the visual arts as a viable expression of faith. I do acknowledge that there is a comfort and encouragement derived by many people from earnest examples of popular Christian art. But we should not exclude art from our experience because it is not overtly Christian. There is a place for challenging works that express struggle or suffering as a part of one’s journey. We do not edit out the unpleasant passages of the Scriptures, but embrace them as part of what deepens our understanding of God. Works of art that are aesthetically excellent can enhance our experience as created and creative beings.

CW: Just like anything else that we’re not familiar with, it’s an opportunity to go beyond our comfort zone—beyond the mediocrity of what we’re used to. A lot of what Christians see as good art has a Jesus junk mentality. Just because something sells and is popular doesn’t mean it’s good art. It [understanding what’s good and valuable in a piece] takes time, it takes study. It takes going to a museum and spending time looking beyond your first emotional reaction to a painting.

DA: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with entertainment, which is how I would classify [more populist art forms]. Sometimes my soul wants more than junk food. It tastes great, and it’s not always bad for you in moderation, but is that all I should be eating? I believe God speaks great truths to us through art, created by artists. And like much healthy food, it can be an acquired taste. The artists don’t have to be Christians and the art doesn’t have to have Christian themes. Truth is the greatest Christian theme anyway. I feel like we should be discerning when it comes to quality, and pastors and teachers should lead. Protestants have a big hurdle to get over when it comes to the visual arts. The thing is, God has given the body of Christ many gifts. As a community of believers we should actively encourage artists to take their place in the church.

Caffy Whitneyis a painter who lives near Louisville, Ky. She has done illustration work, portraits, and murals in a variety of contexts. Her personal preference is landscape, ‘to take someone into it, and create an emotion that way,” and portraits in order to “capture the character of an individual.”