GREENSBORO, N.C.–Addressing Southern Baptists for the last time as convention president, Bobby Welch, croaking frog in hand, called on Southern Baptists to regain confidence in the gospel’s power to save souls and to set high the bar because “Christ wants more.”
Preaching from John 6 about the feeding of the 5,000, Welch focused much of his message on the “lad” who offered his five loaves and two fish as an answer to the multitude’s need.
In a sermon that also touched on the importance of the SBC’s Cooperative Program missions funding channel, Welch told messengers that if it dies it would take three generations before anything like it could emerge. Regardless of the cost, “We have to do more going, and we have to do more giving.”
Noting the five loaves and two fish offered by the boy in John 6, Welch emphasized that the boy saw himself as an answer to the need, and Christ “wants more because he sees more in the crowd.”
“And there’s still more coming,” Welch said. Southern Baptists must recognize where God is calling for more and must meet the need,” he said. “Christ wants more. Christ wants more because he sees more.”
Southern Baptists must do more than just invite people to churches or conferences and give people Christian books. Such methods are fine, but, “We must rediscover our confidence in the power of God’s gospel” to change people anytime, any place, Welch said.
Citing Paul’s profession in Romans 1:16 that he is not ashamed of the gospel, Welch told the messengers, “No wonder, listen to what it will do for you.”–it is the power of God to salvation for all believers, Welch explained.
“You don’t have to just invite them [to church],” Welch said. “You can win them on the spot.” A verbal witness is critical “because they might die before they get to the kool-aid stand or finish the book,” Welch said.
Calling on messengers to pray for the North American Mission Board’s search committee, Welch said the mission board “is in a position to identify and articulate what Southern Baptists believe about their theology of evangelism” and how to apply it. If Southern Baptists lose their commitment to evangelize, many souls will perish, Welch charged.
He was reminded of the power of CP giving, he said, while watching Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers after last year’s hurricanes. “I thought, ‘hallelujah’ … That was us on that truck … because we were there through the Cooperative Program giving.”
He also related the story of talking to an International Mission Board regional leader who lamented the millions who would not hear the gospel this year because the need exceeds missionaries and funding.
Welch said, “Whatever it takes in our going and our giving, we must do it. Whatever it takes.
“With the Cooperative Program everyone can, because your dollars work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year” across the world.
Welch said of the many discussions messengers had at the annual meeting about CP giving, everyone said SBC churches ought to give more, not less.
“The Lord has to get more from the Christian before he can get more for the crowd,” Welch explained.
In John 6, “Christ is calling for a lot” and the disciples are emphasizing what little they have–a danger of churches who undervalue their significance by thinking they are in a small town in a small church with small pews, a small Bible and small print.
“[A]nd all the while all God needed was a lad. Just a lad. Just a lad,” Welch marveled.
He suggested that the men in the crowd must have been vying for a seat at the leadership table or chasing after other unprofitable goals.
“I want to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, you can fool around, you men and women, and God will turn it over to a lad if you aren’t careful,” Welch warned.
“There is a lad—here! That’s what made the lad handy. He was paying attention. He’s here; he’s not preoccupied. There is a lad and he’s here. He’s present and accounted for.”
As the boy presents himself and his meager offering to the disciples, “he’s just fallen into the ‘Everyone Cant! I’m It!’ camp,” Welch said, alluding to the SBC 20006 evangelistic theme.
Despite the lack that many people perceive in themselves, “if you’re there, everyone can … and you could be it,” Welch charged.
Some people have tried to talk him out of aiming for one million baptisms, citing the difficulty, Welch admitted. He noted that high jumpers raise the bar high to reach their potential.
“We will baptize a million in a year. I don’t know if it will be this year,” Welch said. “We could baptize a million in a year if you’d get up and get out of here and go to work.”
“Some of you are practicing limbo when you ought to be going after a high bar,” although the high bar isn’t the emphasis, Welch said.
Rather the jumper is the emphasis, Welch said, and “we’ve been going around talking to jumpers.” The bar must be set higher because Christians “measure success in eternity.”
“You look at the Lord and he wants more. You look at the lad and he had more,” Welch said. Likewise, the crowd had more than they could contain and the world heard more than they expected because of the lad’s willingness and God’s faithfulness.
Welch said Southern Baptists are on the last turn in a NASCAR race. “That’s when you kick it. That’s when you accelerate, accelerate, accelerate. Give it all you’ve got,” he urged.
Welch recalled last year’s presidential sermon, when he presented two dead frogs that had strayed from their home, explaining their demise to Southern Baptists as a warning to stay in the deep-water safety of God’s Great Commission.
Welch said that several weeks after last year’s annual meeting, he received a package containing a dead frog and a note, which read: “Bro. Bobby, this frog’s name is Fred. He left the deep, hopped in the street, and now he’s dead.” The note was signed by the late Adrian Rogers and his wife, Joyce.
Noting that some of the frogs on his property stay in the deep water, Welch presented a live frog, “Fred Number 2.”
“This booger here is a deep-water doer,” Welch said to audience applause and laughter.
“All frogs don’t hop the wrong way. This ol’ boy hangs out in the deep. You ought to hear it at night when he and his buddies are down there.”
Welch then prompted Fred to croak several times. “That’s you by yourself.” Then came the artificial sounds of numerous frogs, including Fred, croaking together.
“You say ‘what are you doing?’ I’m working with the jumpers right now. And that ain’t Fred. That’s you. You see the difference in one and a unity of purpose? That’s the difference. That’s why this convention needs to come together on the main thing.”
Welch said the greatest fear driving the Southern Baptist Convention should be the realization that God will hold each to account at the bema judgment seat “and cause us to answer for our collective sin of squandering our opportunity as a convention. That’s what we need to fear.”
The SBC’s unparalleled strength is its size, which should humble its members and call them to greater stewardship of purpose, Welch said.
“All of you in this room will die. You will all die, all your children will die, and likely many of your grandchildren will die before you will ever, ever in your lifetime have a chance to see any organism or organization that has the capability and potential to change a whole world for Christ like the Southern Baptist Convention. It doesn’t exist. This is it.
“You tell me, you older guys. God help you older guys … if you fold your hands and say, ‘Well, I did all I could. Let’s see what they can do with it.’”
“God help you younger bunch if you jump ship and run and leave the convention that has done so much for you when you ought to be doing so much for the kingdom.”
Welch continued, “So I’d like to issue a warning: You older ones, you leave and you’ll be sorry. You younger ones, you leave and you’re going to show your ignorance—because you’ll never have another opportunity to help and lead and be a part of anything like this to change the entire world.”
Referring back to John 6, Welch said: “There is a lad here, and the lad heard that. Can you see the lad? Can you see him? Then he stepped out. Then he moved forward. I can just hear a woman in the crowd: ‘Oooh, where is that boy’s mother?’ I can hear another say ‘Yes, and look how dirty his hands are.’ And then I can hear a man as he creeps along—beside all those who should have been going—he creeps along and man says, ‘Hey, where are you going?’
“Another man grabs him by his coattail. ‘Wait just a minute, son. Who are you? What do you think you’re doing?’
“And the little boy tugs loose and he looks over his shoulder with those stinking little dried-up fish, and that crumbly bread with those dirty hands and unseemly outfit and says, ‘I may be it. I may be it.’ And he starts creeping forward.”
Welch said the boy must have realized that he really was “it.”
Welch continued, “Everyone can, and you are it. God help you God help us, not to mess this up with this great opportunity of ours.” He closed by saying he was not retiring from First Baptist Church of Daytona Beach, Fla., “for no good reason.”
“This convention is worth the best of the rest of all our lives and going and giving for the sake of lost souls is too. And I commit myself to that end tonight here. An I pray you will too.”
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.–Pastor David Galvan of Primera Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida in the Dallas suburb of Garland noticed people were not showing up early on June 10 for the Southside Baptist Church block party as a part of Southern Baptists’ annual pre-convention evangelistic effort, this year called Crossover Triad.
So he decided to strike out on his own and do some door knocking in the Winston-Salem neighborhood, leaving his wife to interact with people as they arrived in the older neighborhood where the church that once drew 700 to 800 people had declined to a congregation of 40.
One by one, Elvia Galvan approached Spanish-speaking adults walking onto the church lawn where bounce houses and homemade carnival games attracted youngsters. It had been several years since the Galvans had been able to travel early enough to the host convention city to participate in Crossover, but they determined this year would be different.
Leaving Garland on Thursday before the SBC annual meeting, they made the 1,093-mile trip in two days in order to volunteer at the Saturday morning event. Elvia Galvan said she was thrilled to hear of a young girl’s recent decision to follow Christ as she talked with the youngster.
“She didn’t have a Bible so I showed her how to start reading and feed her soul with the Word of God.” Afterward, she sought out the girl’s two brothers to ask them about their relationship with Christ.
“I tried to share Christ in the neighborhood, but wasn’t that successful,” David Galvan said of his house-by-house efforts. However, he was able to talk to three families who came to the block party.
Once back at the block party, Galvan said he had a “beautiful witness” with a man named Luis who was originally from Mexico. “He was there with his wife and children. I started sharing Christ with him and he told me he was Roman Catholic–that was his defense,” Galvan said.
When Galvan asked if the man attended church, Luis said only when they venerate–a special Roman Catholic service. Galvan’s thoughts turned to his own father, whose Roman Catholic upbringing seemed similar to Luis’s. So Galvan began to share his father’s story with Luis.
The Texas pastor explained that his father had been a worker in the border towns. He was also a Roman Catholic, and attended the veneration ceremonies honoring Catholic saints.
“But one day,” Galvan said, “Someone gave him a Bible and he found the Lord Jesus.”
Galvan realized that Luis needed some Bible knowledge. First sharing from Genesis, he told Luis, “A lot of people believe they are a son of God because Adam was a son of God. But look what happened in Genesis 3.”
As they sat under a tree in the field at the block party, Galvan shared how Adam and Eve chose to disobey God by eating of the tree God had forbidden. He explained Romans 5:12 to relate that by one man, Adam, sin and death entered the world. Then Galvan shared John 1:12, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”
Galvan exclaimed, “That man prayed to receive Christ!”
Southside Baptist interim pastor Max Furr accepted the responsibility a few months ago, having offered to give time during his retirement from 35 years as a Southern Baptist missionary serving Peru, Honduras, and briefly at the El Paso-based Baptist Spanish Publishing House.
“There’s nothing interim or part time about it,” Furr told the TEXAN, describing an effective strategy of attracting neighborhood children to weeknight sessions for tutoring, crafts, supper and Bible stories. He preaches in English to residents from the transitional community, but Bible study and English as a Second Language classes are available for adults while kids enjoy the Monday and Thursday events.
Five years ago Violet Smith began driving 15 miles from a neighboring county to help with what is called the F.R.O.G. ministry (named fro fully rely on God). More than 100 kids attend weekly with 35 workers drawn from seven area churches representing five denominations.
“They were willing to reach out in the community and that drew us,” Smith said. “We have a heart for missions and this church has a mission field in their own backyard.” About 75 percent of the community is Hispanic, a language many of the Anglo members are fluent in speaking.
The associate pastor of the Garland church, Benny Gonzales, was also present at the block party, along with his wife, Rachel, and they found many opportunities to present the gospel, they said.
“I was overwhelmed at how many Hispanics are in North Carolina,” Benny Gonzales said. “My wife and I got to share with some people. I shared with the husband. He didn’t accept the Lord, but his wife did.”
Rachel Gonzales had seen the couple sitting under a tree, and she struck up a conversation with the woman—Maria. “She was in need of someone to talk to. She was just sad.”
First sharing that Jesus knows how each person feels and how he can help, Rachel then turned to the witnessing outline from scriptures known as the Roman Road. Maria also asked Christ into her life that day.
Rachel took Maria’s information to pass on to the church for follow-up, and Maria asked, “Could you make a copy of that so you could call and talk to me sometimes?”
Rachel said, “It was a neat experience for me—one of those divine appointments. It’s always a blessing to see someone come to the Lord. Sometimes we get so busy at home. This is always a refresher and the Lord is willing to use you if you’re available.”
The two Texas couples plan to participate in Crossover next year when Texas hosts the annual convention meeting.
“It’s definitely going to be a good experience to be a part of Crossover San Antonio—it’s a terrific town,” David Glavan said. “There are going to be so many opportunities to share Christ. There is a lot of activity on the River Walk. There is a lot of the Mexican culture, a lot of places in the plaza settings where people go and congregate. And many churches—you’ll obviously have a lot of contacts and access door-to-door.”
Next year’s outreach will involve associations in the San Antonio area in cooperation with the North American Mission Board. As the 2007 SBC approaches, visit sbtexas.com for Crossover San Antonio information.
GREENSBORO, N.C.–Saying they hope to serve as models for the rest of the Southern Baptist Convention, seminary presidents R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Paige Patterson June 12 discussed their differences over the doctrine of election, stressing that believers can disagree on the topic while remaining friends and unified in the goal of evangelism and missions.
“I do hope … we will provide at least an example on that point, if on no other,” Patterson said.
Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and Patterson, president of Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, discussed Calvinism during two one-hour-long breakout sessions of the SBC Pastors’ Conference.
Mohler affirms all five points of Calvinism, while Patterson affirms at least one–eternal security. The sessions, titled, “Reaching Today’s World Through Differing Views of Election,” drew standing room only crowds.
Each man spoke for 20 minutes before fielding questions submitted prior to the session. Saying that Patterson is a “friend in the gospel,” Mohler pointed to former great men of faith–such as John Wesley and George Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon and D.L. Moody–who had disagreements over election but nonetheless considered one another Christian brothers and “cooperated together in evangelism.”
“This is a conversation among close friends,” Mohler said.
Patterson began his segment by saying, to laughter, “The real question we are here to discuss today is whether or not you are here on your own free will.”
He listed six areas in which he and Calvinists agree–areas for which he said he has great appreciation. Calvinists, Patterson said: “usually lead very pious lives”; believe theology is important; generally are “very clear about the dangers involved in the charismatic movement; “understand the purpose of everything is to glorify God”; “never question the inerrancy of Scripture or the substitutionary atonement of Christ”; and “are crystal clear about the fact that salvation is by grace alone.”
But Patterson also said there are several areas of concern he has with “some Calvinists,” including:
> the notion that if “you are not a Calvinist then you must be an Arminian.” He said he is neither.
> the argument that “if you are not a Calvinist then you do not accept the doctrines of grace.” Patterson said, “I believe that salvation is by grace alone, and I’m not a Calvinist.”
> the assertion that those who are not Calvinists don’t believe in the sovereignty of God. “I just happen to believe that God is sovereign enough that he can make a man totally free if he wishes to do so,” Patterson said.
Patterson said he views the doctrine of election through the “foreknowledge of God.” He also said he sees no biblical evidence for “irresistible grace”–one of the tenets of Calvinism.
During his segment Mohler said it was “good and healthy” for Southern Baptists to discuss theology.
“It’s a sign of a mature denomination,” said Mohler, who was speaking one day after undergoing eye cornea surgery, and obviously was bothered by the bright lights. “? We may be the last people alive who can have an honest disagreement.”
Southern Baptists, Mohler said, affirm God’s sovereignty in salvation even if they don’t call themselves Calvinists.
“In your local church, when you send out an evangelism team, you don’t say, ‘Good luck,’” he said. “You pray that God will open hearts and open minds. When we listen to ourselves pray, we really do hear a strong confidence in the sovereignty of God.
“ … The doctrine of election explains why we go with confidence to share the gospel—because God does call sinners to himself, through the blood of Jesus Christ.
“As the parable of the sower of the soil makes clear, we cannot read the human heart. We do not know who is the fertile heart and who is the resistant heart. … We just know there are sinners who need to hear the gospel, and thus we preach the gospel to all persons, knowing that God does save.”
All Christians, Mohler said, are called to spread the gospel.
“Why do we go?” he asked. “We go because we honestly believe that whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. … God always blesses the preaching of the gospel. And he does so because he is not a spectator, but he is the God who saves through the means of the gospel.”
Answering a point posed by Patterson—that if Calvinism is true then a person could be drawn against his will, Mohler said, “I do not believe that such a person exists.
“Rather, I believe the doctrine of effectual calling, that Scripture says once that work is begun, and that person is drawn unto Christ, then that person will come to faith in Christ and will be authentically saved,” he said. “I do not believe in the fictitious person who is drawn to faith in Christ against his will. I do not believe that that is possible.”
Human will, Mohler said, is not “contravened by God.”
“The Lord’s will—as the initiating will—wills the human will to will what the Father sills,” he said. “…When Dr. Patterson shares the gospel and when I share the gospel, we do so honestly and urgently believing that if that person to whom we shared the gospel of Christ responds in faith, she or he will be saved.”
“Whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved—I believe that emphatically,” he said.
Order forms for CDs and tapes of the Mohler-Patterson discussion and other breakout sessions during the SBC Pastors’ Conference can be downloaded at www.SBCTapes.com. SBC Tapes can be reached at 817-65 6-1258.
GREENSBORO, N.C.–Thirty-one motions offered by SBC messengers were either referred to convention entities or ruled out of order with a well-publicized proposal to investigate alleged improprieties at the International Mission Board prompting the greatest attention. SBC President Bobby Welch called for the IMB issue to be handled respectfully in a “kindhearted manner” as Oklahoma IMB trustee Wade Burleson yielded to the decision to refer his proposal to the IMB.
SBC bylaws require that motions affecting convention entities first be considered by the respective trustee body instead of messengers, who typically number in the thousands. Many of the motions sought help from the SBC Executive Committee in settling concerns–an avenue Burleson initially advocated by seeking an ad hoc committee to determine “the sources of controversies” and to offer findings and recommendations toward reconciling the trustee board.
The board has limited Burleson’s IMB service due to alleged inappropriate Internet blogging on board business or about board members. Burleson has denied he violated board policy.
Burleson’s motion alleged:
> “manipulation” of the nominating process for appointing trustees;
> claimed one or more SBC entity leaders had attempted to “influence and/or coerce” a particular course of action by trustees, staff and administration;
> called for conducting business in open session without exclusion of any trustee;
> contended that new doctrinal requisites for missionary appointment went “beyond” the Baptist Faith and Message;
> alleged suppression of dissent of board actions by trustees.
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary missions professor Robin Hadaway of Kansas City opposed the motion, stating that IMB trustees “don’t need an investigation” but rather “commendation” for their handling of candidate qualifications. Consideration of the referred motion could come as early as July when IMB trustees meet in Richmond, Va.
Messengers upheld the recommendations of the Committee on Order of Business regarding the disposition of all of the motions, including ruling out of order a motion from Clif Cummings of Duncan, Okla., seeking reinstatement of all trustee duties and responsibilities for Burleson. Cummings’ appeal for reconsideration of his motion failed.
A call to debate moving the 2008 annual meeting to New Orleans appeared to gain sympathy from messengers until an Executive Committee representative noted that the SBC would waste half a million dollars upon canceling contracts in the current host city of Indianapolis. Referral of the proposal to the Executive Committee passed.
Another effort to debate a referred motion failed despite a California director of missions’ appeal to have the SBC affiliation of New Life Community Church retracted because he believed their SBC affiliation was invalid. His effort to challenge the church’s credentials was considered inappropriate since the church had registered no messengers.
Welch told the messenger, “I personally sat in on that meeting [of the Committee on Order of Business] and they did carefully move through this.” He urged the messenger to avoid making accusations or drawing personal conclusions about the church whose affiliation he opposed.
Messengers refused a motion from Bill Fowler of Pleasanton, to debate a proposed amendment to the SBC constitution and bylaws so that officers represent churches that give at least 10 percent to the Cooperative Program. He quoted from Paul Pressler’s “A Hill on Which to Die,” describing the author’s characterization of “convention leadership of 30 years ago that would not listen to grassroots voices and refused to take before the convention issues it did not agree with.”
Fowler said, “I urge we be allowed to vote on this issue to show the convention leadership in 2006 has a different heart.”
In response, SBC counsel and vice president for convention policy, Augie Boto, encouraged giving the Executive Committee an opportunity to analyze the motion, so that “82 Southern Baptists from across the convention can deliberate over this and make sure exactly what would fit best.”
Both IMB and the North American Mission Board will be asked to consider ways in which the two entities can work together for greater efficiency and maximum use of Cooperative Program funds. NAMB was also asked to consider employing a person with a disability to heighten disability awareness.
Also referred to IMB was a call for an external audit of funds handled by IMB’s Central Asia region between 1999 and 2005.
The bulk of referred motions were assigned to the Executive Committee with many seeking changes at annual meetings. In the coming year the Executive Committee will consider calls to:
>elect convention officers from church that give 10 percent through the Cooperative Program;
>allow greater latitude in considering referred or rejected motions and resolutions at subsequent sessions;
> allow resolutions to be submitted on the first day;
> require messenger approval of any doctrinal position or practical policy by an SBC entity that “goes beyond or seeks to explain” the BF&M;
> schedule time for confession and cleansing before SBC business; and
> provide greater access for disabled messengers and guests.
Other motions referred to the Executive Committee asked the group to:
> consider a call for the Committee on Nominations to appoint at least one person under the age of 40 to each committee and board;
> change service on SBC entities to a single seven-year term;
> analysis of reimbursable expense accounts an housing for entity leaders;
> include every legitimate contribution to Southern Baptist mission efforts (such as mission trips, church planting, disaster relief, and designated offerings) as well as CP contributions as a part of recognized giving to Southern Baptist causes;
Several motions referred to the Executive Committee sought the study of particular concerns, including:
> the makeup and function of SBC entity boards;
> the impact of Calvinism on the SBC with proposals for necessary actions;
> the emerging church movement;
> the potential need for a backup plan should a pandemic or some other disaster interfere with the annual meeting;
Sent to LifeWay was a call to study research regarding the tendency of children of evangelicals to abandon church involvement upon entering adulthood, lack of a defined biblical worldview and growing carnality among evangelicals, as well as the percentage of unregenerate church members. LifeWay was also asked to consider placing a store in Phoenix.
Sent to GuideStone Financial Resources was a call to study the feasibility of allowing members of SBC churches to participate in GuiedeStone’s financial and insurance products.
Ruled out of order were calls for the SBC to:
> retract the approval of a California church’s statement of affiliation;
> expect candidates for SBC offices to demonstrate “verbally and financially” strong CP support;
> ask SBC officers to thank a particular court for allowing churches to offer shelter to the homeless without compromising their gospel message;
> adopt a new U.S. Christian flag in order to encourage unity in accomplishing the Great Commission;
> refrain form using the word “gay” in references to homosexuals;
> reinstate IMB trustee Wade Burleson to full duties and responsibilities; and
> entertain a report by a newly formed missional network.
Messengers to the annual meeting in San Antonio scheduled June 12-13, 2007, will hear reports from the various SBC entities to which 2006 motions were referred.
GREENVILLE?SEEDS church is not your typical church?in fact it’s not a church in the traditional sense.
A ministry for college students led by college students, SEEDS church stands in the gap left by most congregations today. The name summarizes the purpose and vision of the ministry in the acronym: Students Equipped to Evangelize and Disciple Students.
Led by Abe & Haylee Rose, SEEDS began in 2004 as an outreach effort of Crosspoint Fellowship in Greenville and acts as a loose fellowship of discipleship groups. When first presented with the possibility of beginning a college-based ministry, Abe Rose discovered an entire demographic of unreached people.
“I found out that there were over 10,000 college-age adults in our county who did not attend church anywhere,” Rose said. “They felt that the modern church was irrelevant and had nothing to offer them.”
With his target group identified as the “skeptical, indifferent, and spiritually seeking” students in their community,Rose and his wife asked God to reveal a strategy to them for reaching students left behind by the modern church.
“Through a variety of sources, God showed us that the problem we faced was finding a way to take the gospel to these young people, instead of asking them to come into our church buildings to find truth. If the majority of them were going to hear the truth, we would have to get out of the church building and into the community to become salt and light in their dorms, apartments, and anywhere else they hung out.”
Today, SEEDS church is comprised of five discipleship groups across the Greenville/Commerce area. The groups meet weekly for dinner and a Bible study and observe certain rules. First, there is an equal number of Christians and non-Christians. Second, a leader facilitates an interactive discussion. Third, religious jargon or “churchy words” are kept to a minimum to avoid confusion. Fourth, the group should be warm and inviting. And fifth, the group duplicates itself as more people are saved and discipled.
In cutting out the “trappings of modern religion,” SEEDS operates similarly to a church planting movement in New Testament style. Discipleship and evangelism are key components to the ministry’s structure. Group leaders are identified and trained within the small groups. As the central SEEDS leader,Rose conducts the leadership application and interview process and is responsible for mentoring potential leaders.
“We are always looking for new leaders and ways to multiply. If we are not growing then we will have nothing to share with others,”Rose said.
Although day-to-day ministry takes place on weekdays, SEEDS small groups come together once a month for a corporate worship service. The group also offers Life Transformation Groups (LTG), based on the concept from Neil Cole’s book, “Cultivating a Life for God.”
“As Neil advocates in his book, these groups are made up of two or three people of the same gender who meet once a week. They do three things: confess sins to each other, read volumes of Scripture, and pray for lost people they know,”Rose said. “These groups have been the backbone of SEEDS and provide much encouragement and support for our leaders and members.”
Like most new church starts, SEEDS encounters similar obstacles to church planting movements.
“We told [potential leaders] early on that spiritual battles in their lives would intensify as they took on this new role. We have seen this happen regularly,”Rose said. “Marriages have been tested, commitments have been tried, and strongholds of sin have been revealed. God has been faithful to use all of this for our good and purify us to be more like Christ. Our leaders are not perfect, but we challenge them to stay in the Word daily, pray daily, and walk in the Spirit.”
Sticking to the rules established for the reproduction of small groups has also been challenging.
“Our groups do not all function according to the guidelines,”Rose said. “One of them became a ‘holy huddle’ with a great group of Christian girls. They were functioning more like a church Bible study instead of an outreach to lost friends. They are now in the process of making changes so that they can be more salt and light to those around them.”
FORT WORTH?Two-and-a-half years ago Adam Clay and his wife, Diana, were working at Wal-Mart while Adam attended Southwestern Seminary. He was taking a church planting class with professor Daniel Sanchez then, and thinking of ways to minister to his co-workers.
“One of the questions we asked was, ‘Why don’t you go to church?’ One of the biggest responses that came back was because Wal-Mart is a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week store. Everybody works on Sundays. So we asked, ‘What would happen if we started a church that met on Mondays. That’s kind of how my wife and I jumped in and started?with a couple of lost people from Wal-Mart who accepted Christ that first month. That was how we stumbled out of the gate.”
Since then, Clay has helped start two more churches. Clay is pastor of The Hill, a house church in south Fort Worth. He also helps as a planter coach for The Way, also meeting in Fort Worth and led by William Butler, and Awakening Church in Cedar Hill, led by Joseph Cartwright.
“I come alongside and help the planters develop a core group,” Clay said.
Clay said many house churches begin as evangelistic Bible studies.
“We have a couple of those going on as well that are meeting with lost people who are serious about studying the Bible and stuff like that. Our prayer is that as people accept Christ through that, that too will become a house church.”
Clay said one goal of his is to see a “community of Christ” within walking distance of everybody in North America.
“But within the next five years [our goal is] to see leaders raised up out of the harvest, and that’s kind of what our focus is. We’re not trying to take people from other churches. We’re trying to birth leaders straight out of the harvest who will be raised up to lead the community of Christ and transform the city and state,” Clay said.
“Really, it’s people who are adults [who come] who have never been involved in church before. That’s what we find. Also, people who are hesitant to walk into a church building, people who work weekends.”
For more information on house church planting, call the SBTC missions office at 817-552-2500 or toll free 877-953-7282.
CORPUS CHRISTI?Carolyn Gallman is a testament to the value of showing up. Seventeen years ago Gallman volunteered?with 50 other people?to begin weekly ministry at an apartment complex near her church, Annaville Baptist in Corpus Christi. When the first training session came, not everyone who volunteered showed. As the weeks past, the faithful number became a handful, including Gallman and her children.
“After about a year, everybody who was actually working in it moved away. It was just me and my children,” Gallman recalled of the Sundays at the low-income apartment complex where the Gallmans conducted a mobile Sunday School. “God showed me that he didn’t want me to leave.
For a while I thought, ‘I’m just a helper. Maybe I should leave.’ We were meeting outside. ? We went through mosquitoes, the wind blowing, rain. And then in the wintertime we would make it through. At least a couple of years, we didn’t miss a Sunday.
“I told my children that when it’s cold and rainy you’d think no kids would be out. But I told them we would at least go by the apartments and see if the kids were out. You know, [the kids] would be huddled over there where the mailboxes were. So we would stand there and have our lesson like that.”
Discouraged, Gallman almost quit, she said. She didn’t consider herself a very good Bible teacher or storyteller. But then she heard someone singing “Candle in the Dark” after returning to her church one Sunday and it seemed clear to her that God was telling her to continue, she said.
“I never questioned it after that that he wanted me there,” she recalled. “I truly believe in multi-housing or apartment ministry. We’re out there with the people and it’s so dark out there. And we’re a candle in the dark.”
Today, Gallman is the multi-housing ministry consultant to Corpus Christi Baptist Association, helping others see the potential of ministering to the reported 50 percent of Texans who dwell in multi-housing structures. Of those, 96 percent are reportedly unchurched.
The week the TEXAN interviewed Gallman, seven people prayed to accept Christ on Sunday at an apartment complex where Annaville Baptist Church ministers, and another 11 were saved at a Thursday night meeting Gallman helps lead at a trailer park.
At the trailer park, volunteers help with cooking classes, crafts and devotionals for adults in addition to children’s activities.
“When they walk in the room they just sit down and start at the craft ? and after everybody gets there we start our singing with sign language and after that we have a Bible story. Sometimes it’s on flannel board, and sometimes we have illustrations of Bible verses.”
Gallman said she uses the bridge illustration to show the children that Jesus bridges the wide separation between God and man caused by sin. “I think that helps kids understand it very well,” Gallman said. “Sometimes we pray the sinner’s prayer after that.”
If nothing else it plants seeds and gets kids in the habit of attending church, Gallman said.
“I have kids who come and they consider themselves churchgoers. When they grow up they do go to church.”
Six people are involved in multi-housing ministry at Annaville Baptist, and several other churches in the Corpus Christi area are starting such ministries.
“It’s my idea that every church should have an apartment ministry as one of the basis mission structures of the church. Then they can go out and practice what they’ve learned. Also, I believe it helps prepare foreign missionaries.”
For more information on multi-housing ministry, call the SBTC missions office at 817-552-2500 or toll free 877-953-7282.
|The most colorful Southern Baptist Convention meeting in years has come and gone, with appropriate hoopla, semi-accurate reporting, and wild guess predictions for the future. “Interesting” is too tired a word for this watershed meeting. Whatever the tone and protocols for next year’s meeting in San Antonio, it will be different than this year’s or last year’s or the year before. Let’s look at a few of the more prominent features of the 2006 convention.
The presidential race–Here’s the event that attracted the most attention. To hear some outside press, and some Baptist journalists, talk, the outcome of this race was to overturn the Conservative Resurgence and rebuke the movement’s leaders. Nonsense. The convention did not elect Dan Vestal or Cecil Sherman president; they elected an avowed inerrantist who affirmed the Resurgence. If Frank Page had been elected in 1990, moderate Baptists would have disliked him as much as any conservative. That’s not what this was about.
It was about CP giving. Talk about drive-in vote (Frank Page pastors in South Carolina) or nominators or when another candidate announced. All these factors mattered but the big difference was Frank Page’s church’s Cooperative Program giving. This happened in a year when state conventions and denominational agencies uplifted the Cooperative Program to an extent not seen in 30 years. Frank Page’s church regularly gives, without designation, three to five times as much as those of his competitors, by percentage, through their state or national convention budgets. That is not to say that Ronnie Floyd or Jerry Sutton pastor non-missionary churches, that is emphatically not true. It is to say that when we imagine having to withdraw missionaries or close seminaries because CP giving is declining, Dr. Page’s church is an exemplar in supporting the Southern Baptist way of providing for those enterprises.
A part of this outcome was also a desire for a more “open” convention. More about that later.
A record number of motions–Messengers, at least a group of them, came to suggest changes to the SBC. A record 31 motions ranging from restoring full privileges to an International Mission Board trustee to changing the way motions are handled by the Committee on Order of Business were introduced to the messengers.
A few of the motions seemed based on the mistaken notion that the SBC Executive Committee serves as arbiter or policeman between SBC agencies. Thus we heard a suggestion that the EC appoint a committee to investigate problems at the IMB and another that they look into the partnership between IMB and the North American Mission Board. Either a few messengers do not understand the role of trustees or they do not trust them to do their jobs. In any case, the Executive Committee is powerless to intervene in this way.
A motion alleging “manipulation” on the part of some agency leaders in the appointment process as well as in the affairs of other agencies, specifically the IMB, strongly indicates mistrust by some messengers of what they consider the status quo. Yet the referral of that motion to the IMB indicates the convention as a whole has not lost confidence in the trustee process.
It is healthy that we heard and debated some of these questions. It is healthy that everything did not pass unanimously during our two days together. It is not healthy if we forget how to lose, or win, a vote without being mean or giving up. A little controversy will remind us of this. This year friends, even husbands and wives, found themselves voting different ways on one issue or another. Not everything is a no-brainer or of ultimate importance.
Those pesky resolutions–The outside press really loves our resolutions. They don’t understand their non-binding but instructive nature but they understand the subjects more easily than when we talk about polity or doctrine. The issue that once again attracted attention before the convention, Christians in public schools, was a non issue when the Resolutions Committee made its report. Resolutions on immigration and the persecution of Christians in other countries likewise passed without debate.
The surprise was a resolution on the use of beverage alcohol. Our annual meeting, like most of our churches, had not addressed the issue in a while. A clash of generations and cultures arose briefly when the committee submitted a resolution discouraging any use of alcoholic beverages by Southern Baptist Christians. A few, led by Arlington pastor Benjamin Cole, spoke against the resolution, arguing instead for a prohibition of alcohol abuse–drunkenness. One messenger from New England spoke of drinking champagne at a wedding to avoid being rude. This was a sort of comment I have not heard in 24 years of convention attendance but it was not a solitary opinion.
The resolution passed, after gaining an amendment offered by our own Jim Richards encouraging all trustees appointed to our agency boards to be teetotalers. It was not unanimous but it was overwhelming. This issue will come up in a lot of churches this year. It should. Alcohol use and abuse is ravaging our communities, even our churches. What do you teach your church about alcohol use? How would you answer the earnest questions of a convert or young adult regarding a glass of wine with dinner?
Our best president—Bobby Welch was the favorite of our crowd of messengers. His plain but gentle way of conducting sometimes tense business items kept things from getting out of control. His prophetic messages (one extemporaneous when we got ahead on time) were delivered to people who needed to hear them from one who obviously lived them.
Dr. Welch’s gift to the convention was also hi time. He took two years, his last two years of pastoring, off to be our president. Not many could do that, or would think it important enough to pay the price. He went into every state and listened to everyone he could meet. He stuck to his message off evangelism regardless of what issue or question he was asked. He witnessed to all he met, trying to teach us that “everyone can.” A motion to elect him for a third term, though he certainly would declare it out of order, would have been enthusiastically received by the messengers.
Bobby Welch also gets the lifetime achievement award for the most creative use of amphibians, living and dead, in a sermon. Last year’s squashed and dried frogs and this year’s “deep water doer,” offered live at the SBC podium, will be remembered for years. How do you top that?
An open convention—Some deliberative bodies would have considered it a snooze because no one cursed or got punched. By our (higher) standards it was invigorating. The past few years have been a bit dull, and disquieting. We’ve had too little disagreement and too much control of the convention’s business in the past decade. Why attend when the outcome of most business seems predetermined?
It’s hard to imagine a deliberative body of 10,000, but if you give them all ballots and access to a mike you’d better be prepared for them to say what they think and then for them to change things from time to time. This is a unique trait of our denomination. We should safeguard it.
I expect some aspects of the Greensboro convention will be present in coming years. Expect more motions, resolutions, caucuses, and presidential candidates in the future years than we have had for the last 15 or so. This will be messy—democracy is messier than anything except anarchy—but it could also broaden ownership of the denomination to a new generation, maybe in time to give our future ministry together the significance it’s had in previous decades.
GREENSBORO, N.C.–Many of the 540 Texas messengers to the annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C., describe this year’s convention as unlike any they’ve attended in years, with a three-man presidential race and vigorous but civil floor debate on numerous and sometimes surprising issues.
Especially notable was the selection as president of South Carolinian Frank Page, a relatively unknown pastor from a small town church that champions the Cooperative Program and who pledged to uphold hard-won theological victories of past years.
With what one Texas pastor described as “both an undercurrent of discontent and an influx of enthusiasm,” the Greensboro meeting addressed familiar themes with new outcomes.
Two-time president Bobby Welch, in his final convention sermon, implored younger and older Southern Baptists to not abandon the missions network that Southern Baptists have built. Preaching from John 6 about the feeding of the 5,000 from a young boy’s five loaves and two fish, Welch said Jesus sees the multitude and their needs and he wants more converts.
“You look at the Lord and he wants more. You look at the lad and he had more,” Welch said, alluding to the lad’s meager offering in the hands of a faithful God.
The final evening included the unveiling of a larger-than-life sculpture of perhaps the best-known Southern Baptist–evangelist Billy Graham–created by sculptor Terrell O’Brien, a West Texas native and bi-vocational pastor in Wyoming.
The 7-foot-tall depiction of Graham shows his arms outstretched, holding a large Bible in one hand. The other hand is open, as if to signify an invitation to come to Jesus. A 17-foot cross towers over him.
Paid for with private funds, a Lubbock foundry, House Bronze, cast the mold into bronze and assembled the statue, which will be placed in downtown Nashville on the property of LifeWay Christian Resources.
“This represents a passion for the Word of God,” stated Cliff Barrows, longtime Graham crusade song director who later led the assembly in the familiar hymn “How Great Thou Art.”
The 2006 meeting had many similarities to a convention held 14 years ago in Indianapolis, the last time messengers chose between three presidential candidates.
This year messengers elected a candidate who serves a church with a long track record of giving more than 10 percent of undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ 81-year-old missions funding channel.
Unlike in 1992 when Houston pastor Ed Young was elected despite his church giving only a single digit percentage through CP and sounding a call to personalize missions through direct participation, this year a megachurch candidate whose church emphasizes direct missions participation, Ronnie Floyd of Arkansas, came in second with a fourth of the vote. Even the entry of a third candidate, Nashville pastor Jerry Sutton, the week prior to voting did not deny Page a first-ballot victory with 50.48 percent of the vote.
Like the annual meetings during the theological battles of the 1970s and ’80s, issues arising from trustee boards often dominated messenger motions.
For example, in 1992 contention at the Foreign Mission Board spilled over into convention business. The outcome was different in 2006 when a motion to investigate alleged trustee improprieties at the International Mission Board was referred–to the satisfaction of messengers, the motion maker and the Committee on Order of Business.
While several hundred messengers to the 1992 Indy meeting walked out in protest of FMB President Keith Parks’ disparaging characterization of conservative leadership, a similarly sized crowd of 11,639 messengers at Greensboro welcomed strides toward peace among disagreeing members.
Welch, who presided over business, provided opportunities for messengers to vent disagreement with a few of his rulings, while early on sounding a call for civility after someone in the arena stands shouted tauntingly toward former SBC president and retired Florida pastor Jerry Vines.
Collegial disagreement was exemplified in the breakout sessions of the pre-convention Pastors’ Conference, which included a debate on “Reaching Today’s World Through Differing Views of Election” between seminary presidents Al Mohler of Southern and Paige Patterson or Southwestern.
The debate—which more closely resembled a dialogue—drew standing room-only crowds of several thousand to repeated sessions at the convention hotel.
The first sign of a split vote during convention business came as some messengers loudly cheered Oklahoma IMB trustee Wade Burleson when he offered his well-publicized motion on IMB controversy. Messenger laughter followed the appearance of convention veteran Wiley Drake of Buena Park, Calif., as he offered “Wiley Drake motion number one.” Drake has been notable at past meetings, offering numerous business items from the floor.
Boisterous calls were voiced randomly from the crowd during the extended debate on the Executive Committee recommendation that messengers receive an amended version of a Cooperative Program Ad Hoc Committee report that was three years in the making. Some messengers took strong exception to the decision of EC officers to remove references to a 10 percent minimal goal for CP giving from local churches, urging reinstatement of language to encourage what a Georgia messenger called “an exemplary and sacrificial level.”
Bart Barber, a messenger from First Baptist Church of Farmersville, north of Dallas, took the debate a step further, noting his own church gives 10 percent of offerings through CP.
“The thing that bothers me is it specifies a percentage down to the dollar amount for individual believers of local churches, but acts so felicitously toward state conventions. We’ve got an 81-year-old standard of a 50-50 split from state conventions that’s not been met.
Barber speculated that churches are following the example of those state conventions that have continued to reduce the portion of local church receipts they send on the SBC endeavors. He proposed, “Nobody can serve in office unless they come from a state convention that gives at least 50 percent to Southern Baptist causes,” an approach that would allow representation from only two conventions.
Louisiana Baptist Convention Executive Director David Hankins followed with his conventions’ pledge to move toward the 50-50 target.
Vines and former SBC president Jack Graham of Plano joined EC chairman Rob Zion to defend the report as recommended, concerned that any reference to a percentage might be misconstrued as a mandate to churches. Vines reminded messengers of the dual concerns for methodology and theology issued by the Peace Committee on which he served in 1987, allowing for “deeply held convictions without intimidation or criticism.”
When vines called for the question of voting in order to end debate, a messenger reminded Welch of a ruling at the 2005 meeting that a person offering an opinion on a motion could not end by calling for the question.
“Just because his name is Jerry Vines doesn’t mean he gets special privileges,” hollered one messenger from what appeared to be an upper deck of the arena.
“That is going to be a point of order,” Welch quickly responded. Looking around the coliseum, he stated, “I’d like you to demonstrate something here. We’re here to do the Lord’s business,” he said, interrupted by overwhelming applause. “We’re going to do it the right way. We want to do it in the spirit of Christ. You heard that, whoever you are, and somebody else will, too. Let’s just move along and take time to get where we’re going.”
Messengers to the annual meeting seemed eager to camp out among familiar points of unity—evangelistic zeal, Cooperative Program support, and inerrancy of Scripture—while adding the flavor of a “sweet spirit” to the mix. All four are conditions Page, the new SBC president, established as criteria for future appointments.
Back in 1992, it was then-SBC President Morris Chapman who appealed for the Woman’s Missionary Union to “not falter now” in support of Southern Baptist missions. This year trustees of the Executive Committee where he serves as president were refused their recommendation to ask the WMU to reaffirm its loyalty to the SBC and consider becoming an SBC entity.
“Churches that have WMU are far stronger supporters [of Southern Baptist missions and the Cooperative Program] than churches without WMU,” reminded Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania South Jersey Executive Director David Waltz. He said the recommendation seemed to cast a cloud over WMU, asking, “Don’t distract a great organization for Southern Baptist missions.”
Numerous motions were referred to particular SBC entities from messengers who appealed for studies as varied as the emergent church movement to unregenerate church members.
In 1992, newly elected president Ed Young asked Southern Baptists to “put down the guns and go fishing again.” In 2006, SBC President Bobby Welch offered a unified purpose, proclaiming, “Everyone Can! I’m It!” as an evangelistic mandate reiterated by the newly elected Page.
The pre-convention Crossover evangelistic effort, field tested in Indianapolis in 1992, this year yielded over 830 professions of faith and 26 new church starts in the Triad Crossover outreach on June 10-11 near Greesboro.
“We will baptize a million in a year,” Welch predicted. “I don’t know if it will be this year. [But] we could baptize a million this year if you’d get up and get out of here and go to work,” he said to affirming applause on the final night of the annual meeting.
The 2006 body applauded the mandate Welch gave to the Committee on Nominations to “reach down into the body life of this convention and find more folks to fill more places at a time like this.”
Of the 105 new trustees of SBC entities only three have ever served on an SBC board, messengers were told in approving the slate.
The average age of nominees is 48; the churches they represent give an average of 9 percent of their budgets to the cooperative Program; and baptisms average 48 per church. “If we all did that, we’d baptize 2 million a year,” chairman Guy Sanders of New Port Richey, Fla. Said.
Average attendance in trustees’ churches ranges from 43 in a newly planted church to congregations with thousands of members. The youngest nominees are two pastors, both 29, and the oldest is a 75-year-old woman.
“Our committee has worked very diligently to present to this convention a slate of nominees full of diversity, free of personal agenda and faithful the Great Commission through Southern Baptist cooperation,” Sanders said. “It follows the full gamut of who we are as Southern Baptists.”
Rising to question the Committee on Nominations report, Arlington pastor Ben Cole of Parkview Baptist Church quizzed Sanders to reveal the repeated service of Bill Sutton of McAllen, Texas, who was recommended for a traditional second term as an IMB trustee after having earlier served two terms on what was then called the Foreign Mission Board.
Cole then turned his attention to the nomination of a father and son from Texas to two different boards, referring to Northeast Houston Baptist pastor Nathan Lino of Humble, who was nominated to the IMB, and David Lino of Kingswood, who was nominated to LifeWay Christian Resources board.
“I understand that does not speak exactly to the nepotism amendment,” Cole argued, referring to a host of changes messengers approved to reduce the likelihood of repeated service by family members.
“Unless there has been some ethical or moral failure or unless that person is no longer eligible or qualified to serve,” Sanders explained, the committee has “always allowed a person to serve out terms they would be eligible for.”
Referring to Sutton’s term renewal, Sanders said, “We felt like that was the right thing to do in this case and saw no reason not to extend another term.”
With no challenge to the recommended trustees, messengers affirmed the slate of nominees.
While messengers applauded Welch’s insistence on a broader base of involvement in this year’s trustees, he insisted that experience counts in particular assignments. He bragged on his appointment of Louisianan T.C. French to chair this year’s Resolutions Committee.
“He’s been around and served on a couple of things,” Welch said in a reference to the chairman’s service on the Baptist Sunday School Board and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where controversial issues arose during his tenure.
“Exactly! That’s why I asked him to do this,” Welch explained. “We don’t need a novice,” he added, noting that French had “enough backup to keep him straight,” referring to the diverse composition of the committee that included the SBC president.
Gratitude for the contributions of those who paved the way for agreeable debate was expressed during a tribute to the late Adrian Rogers, the first in a series of conservative candidates endorsing the resurgence effort begun in 1979.
Forer SBC presidents yielded their time on the program to videotaped expressions of thanks to Rogers. Earlier in the week, his widow, Joyce, drew applause at the Pastors’ Conference after encouraging Southern Baptists to “graciously work for unity in the body of Christ” and criticizing alleged movement in the convention toward “getting narrower and narrower about very highly interpretive issues.”
Chapman sounded a similar call in his Executive Committee president’s report.
“It is time to cease narrowing the parameters of our collective convictions and widen the parameters of our vision for world missions.”
He called for an end to politicization of the SBC to avoid “turning conservative brother against conservative brother.”
During reports from SBC entities, those who take the gospel internationally attempted to inspire messengers with their testimonies of service. In his report to this year’s convention, IMB President Jerry Rankin encouraged Southern Baptists to “stay focused” on missions, thanking them for the largest Lottie Moon Christmas Offering in history in the amount of $137.0 million.
“This reflects your heart for reaching a lost world, your passion for our mission task and your obedience to our Lord,” Rankin said.
IMB Vice President Tom Elliff, before a corporate prayer time for the IMB’s work, told the crowd, “It’s a sin to send people and not go with our hearts.”
Fielding a question from messenger Boyd Luter of First Baptist Church of Fairfield about what he charged was a continuous string of IMB trustee “executive sessions” during board meetings, trustee chairman John Floyd replied that at its most recent meeting in Albuquerque, N.M., no executive session was called.
Floyd called on messengers to “trust the 87 men and women that represent a cross setion of our convention to do what needs to be done.”
Retired Southwestern Seminary evangelism professor Roy Fish was introduced as interim president of the North American Mission Board while board chairman Bill Curtis celebrated missionaries and mission partners who “have made a tremendous kingdom impact on the lives of countless millions of people.”
LifeWay Christian Resources President Thom S. Rainer pledged “more evangelistic opportunities” through its products. Earlier in the meeting, messengers approved moving responsibility for stewardship education within the SBC to the Executive Committee from LifeWay Christian Resources.
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land said that underneath a “camouflage net” of pagan and irresponsible behavior, a “genuine, heaven-sent, Spirit-led revival” is taking place. Noting researcher George Barna’s evidence that some 20 million believers are “sold out to lives of radical obedience to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” Land said most of those people are in their 20s and 30s.
“They are going to revolutionize America. It is up to us to grab that spiritual energy and harness it within our churches.”
Reports from the six SBC seminaries included:
> Golden Gate’s new partnership with Korean Baptist Theological University and Seminary in South Korea;
> news of three straight years of record-breaking student headcounts at Midwestern;
> the hand of God’s providence was clearly evident through increased Cooperative Program gifts to New Orleans in the midst of the “unspeakable tragedy” of Hurricane Katrina;
> ”tangible acts of service” like disaster relief and a “2 2 missions program at Southeastern that reveal a passion for souls;
> an emphasis on the centrality of congregationalism and regenerate church membership at Southern, where students are taught to preach the Word and shepherd their church members;
> an accounting of the importance of seminary education at Southwestern, where expository preaching and engaging the culture are encouraged;
GuideStone Financial Resources President O.S. Hawkins noted more that 557 percent of personal plan medical participants received a decrease in rates for 2006.
“The second step is your responsibility to improve your overall health through proper diet and exercise,” he said.
In contrast to an earlier messenger’s contention that Southern Baptists aren’t addressing sins like gluttony, Hawkins said 70 percent of pastors have a medium-to-high risk for cardiovascular disease, calling for more “work to be done” in helping ministers improve their health. Through reports gleaned from a free wellness center offered in SBC exhibit hall, Hawkins praised the news that “total cholesterol count is down, blood pressure is dropping and blood sugar numbers are dropping” in comparison to earlier years.
In other actions recommended by the Executive Committee, messengers:
> approved the proposed 2006-07 SBC Operating Budget in the amount of $9.02 million;
> approved the 2006-2007 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget of nearly $196 million;
> amended SBC Bylaw 26 so that no person may serve on an entity board while his or her spouse is serving on another entity board, and added a stipulation to ensure that any person elected as a trustee must have been continuously a resident member for at least the preceding three years of a church or churches which were in those years in friendly cooperation with the convention.
Messenger turned back a proposal that “no person who has served as an employee of an entity would be eligible to serve as a trustee of that entity” after a messenger offered the examples of a seminary student working at the campus bookstore being prevented from service as a LifeWay trustee or a missionary appointed short-term serving as an IMB trustee.
Other approved actions called for posting the Organization Manual of the SBC be posted online, collaborating among entities to provide consistent ministry reports, and updating articles of incorporation for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.
Messengers heard President George W. Bush speak via video message and secretary of State Condolezza Rice in person. Both thanked Southern Baptist for the “acts of compassion” in southern Asia following an earthquake and tsunami; in Africa where they are drilling wells and caring for AIDS patients; and in recent disaster relief efforts at home.
“Here in our own country, few have done more than Southern Baptists to ease the suffering of those who lost everything in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita,” Rice said. “Whenever tragedy brings people to their knees, Southern Baptists have been there to help them get back on their feet.”
One of Southern Baptists’ own, however, reminded members of the denomination they have “some serious confessing and forgiving to do.” South Carolina pastor Don Wilton of First Baptist, Spartanburg, delivered the convention sermon and called for Southern Baptists to “wake up” and “stop the nonsense.”
Wilton declared, “It is time to roll up our sleeves and go to work and become the soul-winners that we claim to be. If we do not obey what God teaches us to do….God will no longer bless this denomination.”
GREENSBORO, N.C.–Frank Page, the Southern Baptist Convention’s new president, declared in his first news conference a commitment to broadening the involvement of Southern Baptists in decision-making opportunities while clearly affirming the Conservative Resurgence that resulted in leadership changes throughout the SBC.
“I do not believe the convention elected me to somehow undo the Conservative Resurgence. That is not who I am, not what they’ve asked for, not what they want,” Page said. Instead, the soft-spoken pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., said he believes the vote for him was a wakeup call from grassroots Southern Baptists to focus on the Cooperative Program channel of missions support and to broaden the base of involvement in the convention.
Garnering more than twice as many votes as either of the other candidates, Page admitted his surprise at being elected.
“I am a little taken aback by this,” Page told reporters, noting his lack of national prominence.
“One of the things this says is the Southern Baptist Convention belongs to his people and to him–and by that I mean people have spoken a powerful message,” Page said. “It’s a clear call from the people of the Southern Baptist Convention that we want to strengthen our work together through the Cooperative Program as we expand involvement to reach out to godly, conservative men and women who perhaps have not been utilized in the past.”
Declaring his commitment to tap “a reservoir of strong wisdom and ability,” Page said he will draw from younger and older leaders who serve small, medium and large churches “who perhaps have just simply been overlooked.” Page said he believes messengers are calling on him to place an emphasis “not on a personality, but a cause of evangelism and missions that we do together.”
CRITERIA FOR INVOLVEMENT
In responding to a question by Kentucky Western Recorder Editor Trennis Henderson, Page clarified the criteria he will use in making appointments to the SBC committees over which he has influence. Page reiterated the three conditions he offered prior to the election.
“One of the criteria for involvement is to have a sweet spirit,” Page said, chuckling. “I don’t have time to deal with grouchy people anymore.” Secondly, he would seek men and women who believe in winning the world to Jesus, an attitude Page described as “an evangelist’s heart.”
Page’s third condition addressed a commitment to biblical inerrancy, the doctrine most often identified with the Conservative Resurgence. “I believe in the integrity of the Word of God. I want that very, very clear,” Page said, alluding to a statement by the Florida pastor who nominated him.
Forrest Pollock of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., in his speech nominating Page, affirmed Page’s conviction on inerrancy and said the Carolina pastor would simply look for men and women who had not previously been involved.
“I’m not trying to undo a conservative movement that I have supported all of these years,” Page told reporters.
A New York Times reporter asked Page about the role bloggers played in his election. Page said he was not certain of their influence but suspected it was “perhaps an inordinate amount of influence given the number” of weblogs devoted to SBC life. He predicted it would be a growing force or phenomenon in SBC life.
While “a small amount of people” write on the blogs, Page pointed out that “leaders in the SBC do read those blogs to try to get a barometer of what certain subgroups are thinking or saying.”
Florida Baptist Witness Executive Editor James A. Smith Sr. asked Page about his future relationship with SBC entity leaders who had endorsed another candidate. Page said it is worth noting those leaders had indicated their support for another candidate before he announced he would allow his nomination. “So I have no doubt they all would have endorsed me if they had had that opportunity,” Page quipped.
“To this point [they have] been nothing but Christian gentlemen to me and I expect them to continue,” Page added.
When pressed as to whether endorsements are appropriate by entity leaders, Page said there is the potential of hurting an institution if a substantial number of the constituents disagreed. “You can’t tell people what to do. You can advise or encourage. I do think it would be best for entity heads not to endorse specific candidates,” Page said.
Page added he supports presidential candidate Ronnie Floyd’s call for an emphasis on spiritual renewal. Such revival will lead to support for missions, the Cooperative Program and “a spike in evangelism,” Page said.
When Southern Baptist Texan Managing Editor Jerry Pierce asked what issue he would uphold in a fashion similar to current SBC President Bobby Welch’s promotion of increased baptisms, Page said he really had not thought about it.
“Since I did not think I would win, I have not got all this together at this point,” Page said, commending Welch’s attention to the Great Commission, adding, “I wouldn’t ever want to demean or pull away from that.”
South Carolina Biblical Recorder editor Don Kirkland noted that Page had not insisted on “a strict ten percent rule” regarding Cooperative Program giving, then asked for his position on a study report messengers approved regarding the need for increased CP contributions from churches. “I would rather not use a specific percentage amount because my entire point has been to broaden involvement, not to restrict involvement. At the same time, I do believe a church’s giving to the Cooperative Program is a serious and an obvious expression of its support for doing joint missions.”
Page spoke of a friend he described as “a five-point Calvinist” who led his church to move from giving two to eight percent of undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program. “Would I support appointment of such a person? Yes. Does he reach that wonderful ten percent mark? No. But it shows a serious sacrificial, missional mindset of giving to the Cooperative Program.”
He added, “I do not advocate a specific amount, but heard both sides of that this morning and understand some people wanted teeth in that,” Page added, referring to a discussion of a motion to suggest that convention leaders come from churches that give at least 10 percent through the Cooperative Program. “Whether people believe in a specific amount, they have said the Cooperative Program is important. I think that’s the reason I’m here.”
Page acknowledged his election could represent a turning point in the SBC when asked by a Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter if a different tone might result. “I do think it is a defining moment,” he stated, insisting he will “indeed echo a deep appreciation of the past—the sacrifices men and women have made.”
And yet, Page said his election reveals “the landscape has changed” and highlights a need to involve a much larger constituency. Referring to younger pastors, he adds, “I know there is an emerging group of leaders who are seeking involvement.” When speaking to them, Page said he communicated, “Just because you demand it does not mean you deserve it. If you have a sweet spirit, evangelistic heart and commitment to the Word of God, there’s a place at the table. But remember that first point—a sweet spirit.
Predicting “a great and glorious future for the convention as younger guys are brought in,” Page called that “a wonderful day for Southern Baptists.”
A Religion News Service reporter asked Page if his church could be described as a “mega-church.”
Noting the church had plateaued in 1993 and then began to decline in 1997, Page said worship attendance had more than doubled since 2001 to an average of more than 2,500, but he doesn’t consider it a mega-church in comparison with other Southern Baptist churches.
“Baptisms are still pitifully low,” Page conceded, although he said they have doubled in the past five years. The experience of turning around a plateaued church is one he hopes to encourage as president of the SBC.
Citing a statistic that between 75 and 80 percent of Southern Baptist churches are in decline, Page said, “they need to know there’s help and hope for declining, plateaued churches.”
Texas Baptist Standard Editor Marv Knox asked Page what role he would seek in the midst of “conflict at the International Mission Board and difficulty at the North American Mission Board.” Page said he had no idea. Telling reporters his role would be limited, he said each of the SBC entities is “controlled by and under the authority of” trustees elected by SBC messengers.
“The president of the Southern Baptist Convention does not have a direct role in the running of or correction of various entities,” Page said. While expressing respect for the trustee system, Page said he would encourage “godly resolution of any difficulties.”
Refusing to be drawn into evaluating comments offered at the Pastors’ Conference by Joyce Rogers of Cordova, Tenn., regarding concern about narrowing of who can cooperate with the SBC, Page noted he couldn’t be sure of Rogers’ reference.
A Dallas Morning News reporter sought clarification as to whether Page would appoint an inerrantist with charismatic practices.
“I want to state clearly my belief in the inerrancy of God’s Word. I was an inerrantist before I knew what that meant,” Page said. Later, he specified his belief in the historicity of the first 11 chapters of Genesis “without any equivocation at all.”
Noting that his own congregation includes some Calvinists as well as a few charismatics, Page said he would be careful in going beyond the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 in narrowing doctrinal parameters.
“People with varying degrees of belief in certain theologies go further than others,” Page said. Potential committee nominees who hold to charismatic beliefs would be considered “on a case by case basis,” he said.
Page restated the three conditions involving a person’s attitude, evangelistic fervor and belief in inerrancy, adding a fourth priority related to Cooperative Program support. “They’ve got to be great at giving to CP,” he insisted.
“Southern Baptists are extremely conservative and I think those issues are pretty well nailed down and I would urge people to major on the majors and make sure, as we’ve heard several speakers state, there are some areas about which we can disagree,” Page said. “As long as we major on the fundamentals of the faith, there are some areas we can disagree on.”
Page said he wouldn’t back away from his opposition to what he called “hyper-Calvinism.” “Anyone who knows me knows that’s not going to happen.”
In reference to remarks he made about being inclusive in his appointments, Page said he is not “against” people in current positions of leadership, but believes a wider variety of Southern Baptist should be included.
“I am not talking about a revolution, a cleaning of the house,” Page said. “I’m just saying, instead of using the same people year after year, let’s make a clear effort to involve some wonderful people.”
Page said he owed no allegiance to anyone and recognized there were many who may not support him. “I’m just a normal pastor of a somewhat normal church,” he said. “I believe we can do together some great things for the Lord.”
An Associated Press reporter asked Page if his election should be regarded as a “moderating” of the SBC, and Page said he would not use such a term, preferring “a broadening of the base of support, and we pray, of involvement.” As for the reporter’s speculation of “the SBC showing a kinder, gentler face” through Page’s election, the new president said he hoped that would occur.
Page said he is an inerrantist, believing the Word of God. “I’m just not mad about it,” he said.
Adding that he will attempt to speak the truth clearly, Page said he tries to be “kind” and to reach out to both believers and unbelievers.
“Too long Baptist have been known for what we’re against,” Page said. “It’s time to say, ‘Please let us tell you what we’re for.’”
A London Guardian reporter asked Page how he viewed the distancing of the SBC from some Baptists around the world. Page said he knows of Baptists across Europe and other areas with whom Southern Baptists share common ideology, noting that some operate within official Baptist structures, while others do not.
Georgia Christian Index Editor Gerald Harris asked Page for additional information on his background and experiences. The 53-year-old pastor said he first professed faith in Christ not far from the hotel where he was staying while in Greensboro. He described his childhood church, Southside Baptist, as a congregation some might call fundamentalist. “A lady and her husband invited my sister and me to Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. They spoke about the love of Jesus and reached my heart.”
Born in Robbins, N.C., Page later lived half a block from the Greensboro Coliseum where he was elected SBC president. “This is home to me. It’s hard to imagine all this happened here in my home state.”
Page graduated from Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, N.C., and then earned his M.Div. and Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, a school he chose because of its emphasis on evangelism and missions. After briefly serving in youth and music ministry, he was called to pastor First Baptist Church of Possum Kingdom.
In addition to serving several other congregations in Texas, North Carolina and Georgia, Page will soon celebrate 30 years in the ministry as he leads Taylors (S.C.) First Baptist Church.