Month: August 2006

New Testament culture

Recently I attended a conference where an old-fashioned camp meeting-style preacher brought the keynote sermon. He rattled the rafters with his raised voice. There was no question about his commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture, his sincerity in seeking to bring people to Jesus or his ability to communicate an expositional message. I must admit I enjoyed his message and reminisced about some of the good ole’ days.

On the way to the conference, I read a book about church planting that calls for contextualized missions. I am a firm believer in contexualized missions. In recent years my mind has been stretched a little to use terms like “missional” and “incarnational” but those are good terms, if they mean what I think they mean. We must reach people where they are and seek to bring them to a love relationship with Jesus that results in eternal life. With our postmodern culture, Christianity has become less “come and see” and more “go and live.” Some are saying that the culture is now beyond postmodern. There are calls for radical restructuring of our forms and ministries in the church.

These two experiences converged on me as a clash within our Baptist work. One example was when the preacher said, “God called me to preach. Not to sit on a stool in flip-flops and give a talk.” Ten years ago I might have amen-ed him; instead I cringed. It wasn’t long ago I visited a church where the guy sat on a stool in hip attire. I must admit he did modulate his voice so it was more than a talk. He gave a faithful exposition of the Word of God. His church is ministering to 20-somethings that the camp-meeting preacher probably would never reach.

Which approach is right? They both are. Obviously, the unfortunate criticism by the camp-meeting preacher was out of line. Sometimes the unkind remarks come from the other direction. It is time for us to realize that contexualized missions means reaching people in their culture to bring them to a New Testament culture. Perhaps the real debate is what is a New Testament culture?

“I have become all things to all men that I might by all means save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22, NKJV) Does this mean I have to mutilate myself, wear make-up and girl clothes in order to witness to the “emo” crowd? Where does “identifying” end and immersion with the culture begin?

New Testament culture ought to be a spiritual journey. We are being conformed to the image of Jesus. When we meet people where they are we should not leave them there. We should seek to help new Christians transition to a positive lifestyle. It does not mean they have to wear a suit and tie to worship, but it does mean that lifestyle choices ought to be based on Scripture.

If we are too specific about a certain code of conduct it could become legalism. Even a simple little test I used 30 years ago about activities seems restrictive.

The Five Point Test of Spiritual Conduct.

1. What kind of company do I keep? (1 Corinthians 15:33)

2. What type of environment am I in? (1 Thessalonians 5:22)

3. Will it bring more glory to God if I engage in it? (1 Corinthians 10:31)

4. Could it have power over me? (1 Corinthians 6:12)

5. Can I cause others to stumble by my involvement? (Romans 14:21)

Perhaps this is a separatist position. Pulling away from the culture causes us to lose some ability to witness effectively. Immersing ourselves in the culture causes us to lose our witness altogether, though. There are no hard-and-fast answers. On a personal level we need to be as non-controversial as possible. When we share Jesus, it ought to be Jesus first, Jesus only and Jesus always. Lost people need to hear about Jesus. On a congregational level we need to teach Jesus first, but also follow what Paul said about “declaring the whole counsel of God.” New Testament culture runs contrary to 21st-century American culture. This is true whether we are snuff-dipping Cowboy Church members or too cool metrosexuals in the Happening Church.

When it comes to living holy and believing rightly, there are plenty of warnings about identifying with the world, John 17: 15, 16; 1 John 2:15. I am going to err on the side of caution. It has everything to do with a New Testament culture. We are to help people move from being “worldly” to being spiritual.

Armageddon on your X box?

Every few years some cultural event comes along that should remind us that we are different and American culture does not understand much of what we say. I remember the 1970s noise about Jesus Christ, Superstar, a Broadway musical that gave us catchy tunes and a tragic, martyred Christ who remained in the tomb. Some Christians really appreciated the attention and others were troubled by the false, at least incomplete, gospel the musical presented.

In the 1980s director Martin Scorsese offered us a brooding, wavering Christ who dreamed while hanging on the cross of having a family with Mary Magdalene in The Last Temptation of Christ. Some Christians considered the dream sequence blasphemous; others really hoped it would be a “discussion starter.”

Maybe a similar event for the 2000s is the release of a video game based loosely on the Left Behind book series. Left Behind is a fictionalized interpretation of events during the Great Tribulation of Revelation 6 and following. The video game obtained rights from Tyndale House Publishers and goes a bit beyond what Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins were willing to suggest in their novels.

In Left Behind: Eternal Forces the kingdom of God seems to go forward by the sword. The game allows a player to do battle in New York City as either a player/strategist for the Antichrist or for the forces of righteousness, the “Tribulation Force.” The promo promises that the players can use main battle tanks and a whole selection of modern weapons in play. We’re told that the violence will be on a level similar to Star Wars?not explicitly gruesome but obviously lethal. Prayer and angelic interventions are secret weapons to restore demoralized soldiers and turn the tide of battle.

One reporter says part of their marketing plan will be to mail games to pastors and church leaders, obviously hoping to get their support in encouraging Christian parents to buy it for their kids. I can hear the familiar dithering again, “Of course it’s unbiblical but it might get people thinking about God and the Bible.”

I don’t hate video games. There have been some that hooked me for a time. My favorite was a Civil War game that allowed army-sized groups to re-fight major battles of that war. The game gave no play to the moral and political realities of the war. It made no representation of the personal righteousness of generals or common soldiers. It was about field position, morale, technology, and numbers. I spent too much time at it but did play occasionally.

This game sounds different. There are three groups left after the Rapture in the game scheme as I understand it: the Tribulation Force (devout converts since the Rapture), the neutral (lost people?), and the forces of Antichrist. The strategy is to send the righteous into battle, convert the neutral, and kill the forces of Antichrist. Those who don’t convert to one side must be killed by the other.

It gives me chills. As serious as something like the Civil War was and as discussable as eschatology might be, this game sounds like far more than a fantasy game and far less than a theological conversation starter. It treats ultimate things in some fairly absurd ways.

I think there are some good reasons we might want to be more discerning this time around.

First, it teaches falsehood. I don’t mean fantasy or speculation but it teaches things about the nature of God and reality that are not true. A game has to have some tension?there must be the possibility that you can lose. If the two main forces are the wholly righteous and the wholly evil, the final outcome is not really in doubt. That is the confidence of a Christian. There is also no example of a battle or war lost by God. In 2 Kings 19, God killed 185,000 Assyrians without a human army. The 300 men of Gideon (Judges 8) defeated Midian, apparently without fighting. Gideon only had 300 guys because God didn’t want anyone to mistakenly think that Gideon’s army won the battle. The truth would make a poor video game — you line your forces up against the computer-generated Philistines, hit “play” and they all surrender.

New Orleans Seminary president Kelley reveals Katrina lessons, thanks SBTC

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A year after Katrina, the new ‘normal’ is challenging, but opportunity knocks, prof says

Post-Rita circumstances confirmed Texan’s call to Ph.D. seminary work

NEW ORLEANS—Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, offered his thoughts to the TEXAN on lessons learned after Katrina, and the return of on-campus students this fall.

After the flooding on campus, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention helped fund and provide workers to refurbish three family housing apartments: Texas Manor, Wood Manor and Providence Manor.

Texas Manor is so named because of a $150,000 gift the SBTC gave to New Orleans Seminary in 2001 as part of the “Great Commission Partners in the Harvest” campaign that benefited the six SBC seminaries, the Ethics & Religious Liberty commission and SBC Executive Committee.

The plaque attached to the apartment building reads: “Texas Manor. Built through the Generosity of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.”

TEXAN: What has the Lord been teaching you over the last 12 months?

KELLEY: More than anything, I have learned that the grace of God will always be sufficient. I have had the worst days of my life, the greatest stress of my life, the greatest weariness of my life, and on and on. But towering above it all is the Mount Everest of God’s grace. He will not give us more than we can bear. He will provide what is needed in his time and in his way. Like the jeweler who displays his diamonds against a black velvet cloth, Gog gives us the deepest experiences of his grace in our darkest moments.

A second lesson has been how proud and grateful I am to be a Southern Baptist. The genius of the Cooperative Program and commitment of Southern Baptists to voluntary, organized cooperation in ministry has been revealed in all of its glory. Our largest gift by far came from the Cooperative Program. After contributing to their united gift, many Southern Baptist churches and individuals dug deep and gave a little more. Added to the financial gifts were the extremely crucial gifts of volunteer labor and the ministry to evacuees.

The partnerships between churches in the hurricane zone and churches outside have been more crucial than outsiders can imagine. This has been our finest hour. It has made a deep impression on the people of New Orleans. It is the reason we were the only educational institution in New Orleans to go through this year without laying off faculty or cutting programs. To quote an ancient Hebrew expression: Wow!

A related third lesson is the necessity of relationships. You will not navigate through an unspeakable tragedy like this alone. You will discover in a time of crisis that time you spend cultivating relationships is time well spent.

TEXAN: How did SBTC churches help the seminary prepare to welcome the students back?

KELLEY: The volunteer labor has been crucial. The SBTC sent us some of the best workers we have had on the campus. They were particularly helpful in getting our manor apartments for families with multiple children back on line. This has been so crucial. Some of the first housing units we opened were these manor apartments, and it has given parents time to come in, get their kids settled, explore all the school options and so forth.

Our biggest question mark was whether or not families would come back to our school. Thanks to the SBTC, we got family facilities back on line first, and that has made a great impact. The financial gifts were very important, but what really stands out in my mind is what SBTC workers accomplished to restore the campus.

 

SBTC board approves proposed budget, plans to honor retired Ft. Worth pastor

 

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Executive Board will recommend to SBTC messengers in November a proposed 2007 budget of $20.07 million, an increase of 4.4 percent over 2006. It approved the proposal at its quarterly meeting Aug. 15 in Grapevine.

The budget would include an increase in the percentage of undesignated receipts the SBTC passes on to Southern Baptist Convention causes from the current 53 percent to 54 percent in 2007. The remaining 46 percent would support ministries in Texas.

The board also voted unanimously to honor retired Fort Worth pastor and former missionary Miles Seaborn Jr. with the H. Paul Pressler Distinguished Service Award during the SBTC annual meeting Nov. 13-14 in Austin. The award is given to a native Texan or Texas resident who has sacrificially served the Southern Baptist Convention or the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

Other actions included:

Changing the title and job description of Hispanic Initiative director Mike Gonzales to director of Hispanic Initiative and Ethnic Ministries.

Approved $10,000 in surplus funds to be sent to the Lebanese Society for Educational & Social Development, the organization that runs the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut. The relief comes as Arab Baptists minister to Muslims in Beirut who were displaced because of recent fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, a terrorist group based in Beirut. A missions team from First Baptist Church of Forney was in Beirut when fighting began in July and was evacuated after taking shelter at the seminary.

Approved a personnel policy change that restricts retirement contributions from the convention to full-time convention employees on base pay only.

Approved the affiliation requests of 39 churches.

Approved extending affiliation agreements with East Texas Baptist Family Ministry (through Dec. 31, 2008); Texas Baptist Home for Children (through Dec. 31, 2008); and with Jacksonville College (through Dec. 31, 2009). The affiliate agreement with Criswell College was not scheduled for review this year.

The recommended 2007 budget of $20,079,043 estimates $10.5 million going to the SBC allocation budget, which supports six seminaries, the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, the SBC Executive Committee and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. The other SBC entities, LifeWay Christian Resources and GuideStone Financial Resources, receive no Cooperative Program funding. The CP is Southern Baptists’ missions funding method.

The 1 percent hike going to SBC causes would be an estimated $607,377 more dollars from SBTC churches, according to a budget summary from the SBTC financial office.

The 2007 budget for Texas ministry, though a smaller percentage of undesignated receipts, would be an estimated increase of $170,611.

The SBTC operating budget designation of 54 percent to SBC causes remains the highest of Baptist state conventions.

Cooperative Program receipts year to date are $458,842 above budget, reported Randall Jenkins, financial services ministry associate. The convention had a net operating income of $987,052 through July.

SBTC ups feeding ability, improves training and deployment strategies.

Last fall, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s disaster relief ministry shifted into high gear following Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in August after flood levees broke, and then in September Hurricane Rita, which battered the Texas Gulf Coast and deep East Texas many miles inland.

Since then, former SBTC Disaster Relief Director Gibbie McMillan left for a similar position with the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Jim Richardson, who spent 10 years in disaster relief ministry at the Georgia Baptist Convention, joined the SBTC staff last spring.

The Southern Baptist TEXAN interviewed Richardson and Robby Partain, SBTC missions director, about the state of SBTC disaster relief ministry.

TEXAN: What has changed in the SBTC’s disaster relief ministry since last fall?

RICHARDSON: The very first thing we did was develop a leadership team. We have two people, Scottie Stice and Larry Shine, leading our clean-up and recovery units. Scottie is leading the mud-out portion, and Larry is leading the chainsaw crews. And they have developed a training school for those who volunteer in that area. John Hooser is our task force director in the feeding ministry. The first order for that is to develop a feeding unit that will be able to produce up to 40,000 meals a day. There is special equipment that we have to do this and can easily be divided when we have two smaller disasters working at the same time.

Across the state we have conducted practice runs at First Baptist Church, Pampa and at First Baptist, Pflugerville, demonstrating to volunteers how the equipment works and feeding people with Mike Northen of First Baptist Church Pflugerville helping, with public safety and government officials present.

We are now working to produce some smaller feeding units with churches across the state. We’d like to see five small units that are capable of doing about 5,000 meals able to work smaller disasters such as tornadoes or flooding. We don’t need a mega-unit but a smaller, quick-response unit for these types of situations. So we’ll be working to identify those churches that wish to partner with us in that.

Darryl Cason is our director of chaplaincy. We are working with Mike Northen to purposely enlist bilingual pastors and SBTC church members so we can have bilingual chaplains in the field.

PARTAIN: From a management perspective, I think the two most important things that Jim has done has been to provide a systematic approach to when we do training–especially in the first half of the year because the second half is often deployment intensive–and how we do training. Plus, up to this point there’s basically been two levels of DR management. There’s been the SBTC office and there’s been volunteers in the field. What Jim has done is develop this task force with these key DR leaders who are over segments of our DR ministry. He’s created a new level of management with key volunteers who are leaders of leaders out there in the field. We have a much better ability to train people in a consistent, systematic way and we have a much better way to manage units and deployment of units and training of different types of units because of the leadership task force. That gives greater capacity to train people and to deploy various types of units.

TEXAN: How many trained SBTC disaster relief volunteers are available?

RICHARDSON: About 1,800.

TEXAN: Is there a stereotypical disaster relief volunteer?

RICHARDSON: You’d be hard pressed [to find one]. They range from pastors to the guy who sits in the pew every Sunday, And not just men. Men and women. The way to describe our typical volunteer would be a Southern Baptist church member between the ages of 18 and 75, male and female, willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.

PARTAIN: Some of the volunteers we’ve trained in the past have come from churches not affiliated with the SBTC. But if they are Southern Baptists, they are welcome to serve alongside us. In fact, some who are from churches not affiliated with us have chosen to work with us in DR.

TEXAN: What is planned for involving the SBTC in Project NOAH (New Orleans Area Hope), a Southern Baptist effort to help rebuild New Orleans.

RICHARDSON: We are working with the North American Mission Board and the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans (BAGNO) in partnership to develop a one of New Orleans where SBTC will work with local pastors and NAMB to do three things: disaster relief, including clean-up/recovery and rebuild; and also church planting and re-planting; and personal and event evangelism. This process will take place over two to three years.

PARTAIN: We’re looking at working in one of the major inner city zones there adjacent to New Orleans Seminary. Our focus will be to work with the Southern Baptist churches in that sector. It won’t be that we are responsible for everything that needs doing in that sector of New Orleans, but we are going to work with those churches to make sure that the main ministry outcomes that those churches need, in working with NAMB and the association, are accomplished. Our main role will be to connect teams rom SBTC churches with the work project in those zones.

TEXAN: The SBTC has worked with the Red Cross and Salvation Army in feeding. Will that still be the case even though the convention has its own feeding capability?

RICHARDSON: We have written statement of understanding with the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross, basically a working relationship. What this equipment does is it gives us an added opportunity for ministry when we respond to a disaster when Salvation Army or Red Cross aren’t going to be there.

PARTAIN: And we can get there faster now. We did have some issues where we had to wait on Salvation Army to get equipment there. We no longer have to wait on equipment.

RICHARDSON: Our goal is to be able to respond to any disaster in Texas within 12 hours.

TEXAN: How would you characterize the gospel aspect of disaster relief ministry?

RICHARDSON: My philosophy of ministry is to be local-church driven. And I think from the very outset to realize that we depend on local churches for volunteers and support. And we want this ministry to relate back to a local church. Our goal, very simply put, is to assist the local church in being successful in disaster relief ministry and doing whatever it takes for that. In doing that, we want to deploy to a local church where people will come to a local Southern Baptist church to be ministered to. Then they’ll know they went there and got help. When we leave, we want to be able to refer people we’ve made contact with to that local church for follow-up and to go in after the disaster is over and help the local church with evangelistic outreach.

PARTAIN: From the standpoint of the missions team overall, our mission is to help churches plant new churches and mobilize for missions in Texas and beyond. So I view disaster relief as a specialized type of missions mobilization. We want churches that sense a call to DR to embrace it as part of their missionary. Acts 1:8 strategy for their church. When they deploy disaster relief volunteers, they’re deploying missionaries who are going not just to cut up trees or clean out structures or serve meals. Those are all a means to carry out the missional commission that all churches have to make followers of Jesus Christ.

A year after Katrina, the new ‘normal’ is challenging, but opportunity knocks, prof says

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New Orleans Seminary president Kelley reveals Katrina lessons, thanks SBTC

Post-Rita circumstances confirmed Texan’s call to Ph.D. seminary work

NEW ORLEANS–Jack Allen leaned back in his chair in the coffee shop at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, explaining that life has changed some for the seminary’s students and staff.

For example, it took Allen four hours recently to drive a dozen miles to the grocery store, meander through crowds, stand in long checkout lines and then drive home. Pre-Katrina, there were two grocers within easy driving distance. Seeing a doctor or getting a prescription filled is time intensive too, he said.

The campus newsletter, The Gatekeeper, announced that a bank would reopen soon not far the campus. That’s huge news for a seminary wife with kids in tow.

“Doing some of the routine things of life is a tedious, slow, hard process that people across the country don’t understand,” said Allen, an Austin native and church planting professor who spent the last part of 2005 and seven months of this year in Austin.

Housing is expensive because of a shortage. But most of the student housing is open again, and seminary President Chuck Kelley is pleasantly surprised with the enrollment numbers, even if they are less than before the hurricane, seminary spokesman Gary Myers told the TEXAN.

Allen’s home, which he and his family evacuated the weekend before Katrina, suffered flood damage and saltwater evaporation rot, which claimed about 80 percent of the family’s belongings, he said.

Some of the students suffered similar losses, Allen said.

“About all they have is their calling. A lot of them lost what they had,” he stated.

Allen’s wife and his daughter, a senior in high school, are staying in Austin with relatives through the school year, a situation for which Allen got a special exemption from Kelley to avoid moving his daughter in her senior year. Also, the Allens’ house isn’t habitable yet.

He plans to travel to Austin twice a month while his wife travels to New Orleans in off weeks. It’s not an ideal situation, not normal, he said.

“Normal happens when you go to Heaven. Normal is what happened before the fall.”

Allen’s eyes glistened a bit, however, when he began talking about the ministry opportunities the seminary has. Before Katrina, talking to New Orleans residents about spiritual things was sometimes difficult.

“The blessing of Katrina has yet to be realized,” Allen said, noting that as news of the levees breaking last Aug. 29 unfolded, a group of seminary staffers were praying “we’d be able to rebuild the churches and rebuild the city evangelistically.”

“People are very open to the gospel. They want to understand.”

Allen said the seminary has an opportunity to demonstrate physically and verbally the truth of the gospel to a city that is willing to hear it. In the Uptown community, which is dominated by what Allen calls a “Bohemian culture,” the people will discuss spirituality even if they struggle with the exclusive claims of Jesus. They are open, he reiterated.

On Aug. 29, the anniversary of Katrina that led to catastrophe in the city’s lowest regions, the seminary canceled classes and students and staff spent the afternoon doing recovery work and evangelistic outreach in the city’s neighborhoods, where much clean-up remains to be done.

The city had imposed an Aug. 29 deadline for damaged homes to be gutted.

A sense of anticipation characterizes the student body, which has been eager, Allen said, to offer itself to aid local churches in nearly all ministry areas, “and we haven’t even announced our plans in chapel yet” to “re-plant” many churches that have lost members. Allen said the re-planting process will look very much like a church start.

“We’ve got to be a missionary-minded, purposeful about telling people about Jesus. In some cases we have to connect the dots for them. Right now people don’t have trouble seeing the bad side. They remember seeing their neighbors walk off with big=screen television sets. But talking about the remedy for our sin is a little more difficult.”

Allen said the Lord has taught him that “when God calls you, he lets you know your security is in him.”

A former homebuilder, Allen said he was offered jobs paying twice his salary this year.

The circumstances after Katrina “reiterated that a calling from God is a very sacred thing and you never know when you’re going to need [a reminder] or where you’re going to need it.”

 

Late summer grab bag

While I can’t say that nothing is happening this week, I’ll admit nothing has caught my eye on which I have 1,200 words to expend. Here are a few things that are worthy of at least brief notice.

Mel Gibson?I join those few who are amazed that only one small part of Mr. Gibson’s insane behavior a couple of weeks ago is worthy of note. He was reportedly out with women other than his wife, drunk (50 percent over the legal definition), driving very recklessly, resisting arrest, and being generally abusive. The guy seems to have big problems; the details of his drunken, abusive language don’t stand out as the most newsworthy events of the evening. And yet that was the headline, “Mel Gibson makes anti-Semitic comments,” and not, “Mel Gibson parties with other women, gets drunk, drives fast and curses at everyone he can think of.” Two reasons for this, I think.

First, adultery and drunk driving are so common in some communities that they can’t be noted without embarrassing many. Entertainment media that refer to actors by their first names only think unwed couples and parents are cute and that drunken excess is racy. So “Mel’s” big night is all about his hateful anti-Semitic tirade. Nothing else, apparently in the whole world, happened that week.

Second, Hollywood’s liberal elite hated “The Passion of the Christ.” They’ve never forgiven Mel Gibson for making the movie, and especially for making money on it. Now he’s caught in a hypocritical episode and it’s party time. He shouldn’t have gotten drunk and gone crazy, but most of the outrage is itself hypocritical.

Kinky for governor??Musician Kinky Friedman is running for governor of Texas. Funny guys have done this for years to jump start their name recognition. Comedian Pat Paulson (you are old if you remember him) ran for president more than once as I recall. It was a goof.

Kinky will not win but he is a stronger candidate than the Democrat (most couldn’t call his name) and fellow Independent Carol “Mad Grandma” Strayhorn. The why of this is interesting. It looks like cynicism or anarchy to me.

Kinky’s campaign slogans, “Why the ____ not?,” “How hard can it be?,” and the like appeal to those too lazy to see the importance of political leadership. Instead they follow the line that everyone is crooked, no one is competent, and it doesn’t really matter.

So, many will vote for Kinky as a way of backhanding the status quo. I think candidacies like this are mildly amusing. I think the possibility that some people take them seriously enough so that goof candidates can affect the outcome of an election is not amusing at all.

Tyranny by exception?The Senate passed the Child Custody Protection act the last week of July. This act would prohibit non-parental adults from transporting minor across state lines for an abortion. It was intended to support what Americans support by a four to one margin?parental consent for a medical procedure done on their own child. Fourteen Senate Democrats, immediately after voting for the act, joined their party caucus in a procedural scheme to block the act from becoming law.

Here’s the deal. Those who object paint a picture of young girls pregnant by abusive fathers. Parental consent is thus not reasonable. How many girls are pregnant by abusive fathers? Very few, actually. Pregnant teenagers usually are either victims of sexual predators or of their own hormones?not their own fathers, or even their mom’s boyfriends. This exceptional occurrence is supposed to drive the debate, though.

It’s similar to the need for a pregnant woman to have a partial-birth abortion to save her own life. It’s hard to imagine the scenario where birthing the last half of a baby’s head will be the difference between life and death (for the mother, that is) but that’s what looms large in the minds of those who would protect this grisly procedure.

To others, the exception of rape or incest or the life of the mother is used to justify open laws regarding earlier-term abortion. These things happen, though rarely. Yet they form a loophole through which our nation, encouraged by some religious people, has driven tens of millions of abortions in the past 30 years.

Are their objections sincere? Maybe it’s like Rush Limbaugh once said in referring to a political group that “never met an abortion they didn’t like.” If Rush is wrong, show me even the mildest control on abor

SBTC meeting draws Hispanic women from 64 Texas cities

FORT WORTH?Twenty-five-year-old Rosario Sandoval anticipated the fellowship that the Hispanic Christian Conference for Today’s Woman would provide, but she made the journey from Tyler to Fort Worth with a deeper purpose in mind.

“I know it’s going to help me a lot,” she said of the spiritual enrichment she hoped to gain from the conference, including help in strengthening her marriage.

Sandoval was one of 650 women who traveled from 64 cities around the state to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth for the second Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Hispanic Women’s Conference. SBTC Hispanic Initiative Director Mike Gonzales said there were approximately 400 women at the inaugural conference in 2005. This year, it didn’t take long for the conference to reach capacity.

“[Hispanic women] want to be together,” Gonzales said, noting that the conference is bilingual. “They bond well when they come with a group of Hispanic ladies.”

Gonzales said Texas women are struggling with family problems, personal problems, lack of self-identity and lack of self-worth.

“A lot of the ladies have a poor self-image. We’re trying to touch on that, and then at the same time, we want to bring them some spiritual enrichment,” he said.

A new addition to the conference this year was the offering of breakout sessions in a range of topics that centered on Proverbs 14:1, which speaks about the “wise woman” who “builds her house.”

Breakout sessions had such titles as “Administering the Home’s Finances Wisely,” “Submission of the Married Woman,” and “The Wise Woman Edifies her Children.”

Sue Bohlin, who serves as associate speaker and Web site manager for Probe Ministries in Richardson, spoke during one of the breakout sessions about “The Woman and Her Identity in Christ.”

Bohlin, who was diagnosed at an early age with polio, told the women they were precious because Christ is in them. She related how when she was a little girl, she had a “desperate desire” to be a princess. In college, she was introduced to Jesus and soon found the verse, John 1:12, that says, “But as many as have received Christ, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in his name.” She realized she was indeed a princess?a daughter of the king.

“I used to see myself as the ugly one, the crippled girl, damaged goods, not good enough, because of the whole polio thing, and suddenly when God made me realize I’m a princess, nobody can take that away from me,” she said.

Bohlin further noted that women often put on “nametags” such as dirty, ugly, damaged goods, worthless, mistake, stupid, unwanted and not good enough. She challenged the women to take off those “nametags” and instead put on the “nametags” of beautiful, gifted, princess, valuable, precious, blessed, belonging, beloved child of God, bride of Christ and new creature.

“These are our real nametags,” she said. “These are the ones that will take us on into the future.”

Blanca Garza, 28, a first-time attender, sat in on Bohlin’s session. She said she came to the conference for the camaraderie it offered with other Hispanic women, and also for spiritual renewal.

“Within two years, I’ll probably bring my daughter, even though she’ll be a teenager,” Garza said of her now 11-year-old daughter.

Becki Gonzales, 39, brought six women from the church where her husband serves as pastor, Calvary Baptist Church</st

Reach Texas offering re-aims at $1 million




Last year, hurricanes Katrina and Rita required the best of Texas Southern Baptists’ time, talents and money to help sustain thousands of displaced evacuees from Louisiana and Southeast Texas.

So it isn’t a surprise to Robby Partain that the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s state missions offering, Reach Texas, fell short of its $1 million goal.

Partain, SBTC missions director, said that through July, Texas churches had given about $810,000?about 9 percent less than 2004-05.

“We are impacted most in our church planting efforts,” Partain said.

The SBTC has helped fund?with other churches, associations and church planting networks?about 370 church starts, of which about “70 to 80 percent are still going,” Partain said.

“Reach Texas is the way we fund most of the growth in church planting. It’s the booster that takes us to the next level.”

Of the Reach Texas receipts, roughly 50 percent go directly into church planting, 25 percent support evangelism and 25 percent fund missions, Partain explained.

“We’re having to delay some church planting until later” because funds are already committed through the end of the year, he said.

In a given month, the SBTC is helping 120-130 new churches in financial partnerships that last 24-36 months.

“We certainly have a great need right now in planting churches among Hispanics. Asian ethnic groups are growing as well. The cowboy church planting movement is growing rapidly also.”

Also, Partain said funding is needed for a new category: missionary church planters. These missionaries attempt to reach unreached people groups within the United States by living near them as an international missionary would.

“We have an international mission field here in Texas,” Partain said, “especially in the urban areas.”

Reach Texas also helps fund events such as the SBTC Evangelism Conference and the Student Evangelism Conference, and helps provide evangelism training materials and resources to churches.

In missions, Reach Texas aids disaster relief ministry and mobilization for missions partnerships in such places as Ohio, New York, Beirut, Lebanon, and Reno, Nev.

For more information on the Reach Texas Offering, view or download the PowerPoint presentation on Reach Texas at sbtexas.com/reachtexas.

The Almighty & the dollar




Suppose $100 is given to your church. Chances are that someone age 55 or older gave $80 of it.

Take the total offering on any given Sunday. Chances are that somewhere between 12 and 15 percent of the congregants gave about 80 percent of it.

Those are the numbers?more or less?retired Texas pastor Bobby L. Eklund has lived with for 16 years in preaching about money.

Although pastors in Eklund’s youth never taught about money this way, he said their teaching often came across as “when you tithe, you’ve done what God expects you to do with money. Now, you can go do what you want to with the rest of it, as long as you’re honest.”

“Stewardship is much more than that,” Eklund said. “God owns it all, so we’re responsible for how we spend it all. And that includes giving, and that’s the first step in how we handle money. But it’s really just a small part of how we handle money.”

Eklund, now an SBTC consultant who served in evangelism, church growth and stewardship for 18 years on the Baptist General Convention of Texas staff, has poured much of his financial stewardship teaching into a new book published by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention?”Children of Privilege: Managing Money God’s Way.”

“Children of Privilege” has an accompanying workbook and sermon book and is designed for use in Sunday School classes or any small group study, Eklund said.

The supplemental book of sermons titled “Scripture Isn’t Silent; Why Are We?” will be mailed to SBTC pastors in September. The sermon book includes contributions from well-known Southern Baptists such as Jimmy Draper (former LifeWay president) and O.S. Hawkins (GuideStone president), as well as pastors who are well respected in Texas, Eklund said.

Eklund began writing “Children of Privilege” at SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards’ request.

“We both discussed the fact that if we didn’t turn stewardship education and the commitment to give around in our churches, we were going to be in serious trouble in a few years. And I’ve been saying that since 1990,” Eklund said.

“For almost 40 years there’s been very little teaching in Baptist churches or evangelical churches on the issue of money and giving, and we’re paying the price for it today” as local church receipts falter, Eklund said.

The phenomenon of older laypeople bearing the financial weight of local churches is nothing new, Eklund said, but the financial burden is being carried by fewer and fewer people.

“We have found that when we can get the teaching into the churches, the Baby Boomers, Generation X and all of them, they will respond in a very positive way. But they have to understand what God’s asking them to do and why,” Eklund said.

“If you try to teach a Baby Boomer and those younger than Baby Boomers to tithe to pay for the institution, you can forget it, because they’re not going to do that. But Baby Boomers did not rebel against the Bible; they rebelled against the church. And when they understand what God’s Word is teaching and why, and that they are really the recipient of what God is trying to do, they will respond, and we have seen it over and over again the last 16 years.”

Eklund said the greatest obstacle to sound Christian stewardship is biblical ignorance.

“The subject that is dealt with in both (“Children of Privilege” and the workbook) is the second-most prolific subject in the Bible. Most people don’t have any idea of that. And yet, it’s the least-taught subject probably in the average church. I’m 73. I grew up just believing that a committed Christian tithed, because I was taught that. There wasn’t any question about it. If you didn’t tithe, you weren’t committed.