Month: August 2007

Real Men of Impact Conference impresses

The SBTC’s annual Men of Impact Conference helps churches develop men who will stand up and be who God is calling them to be. Lance Crowell, the SBTC church ministries associate in charge of men’s ministry, said the goal of the new conference is to benefit and aid ministers and churches in their ministry to men.

More than 350 men gathered at Metropolitan Baptist Church in Houston for this year’s conference July 20-21. Pastors and laymen attended, many of whom were in their 20s and 30s.

Topics chosen for this year’s conference sessions challenged men to deepen their walk by working through personal issues that might be holding them back, including their life stories, their marriages, families, communities, jobs and the legacies they will leave.

Popular men’s writer and speaker Steve Farrar delivered two keynote addresses. Books by Farrar include “Point Man,” “Standing Tall: How a Man Can Protect His Family,” “King Me: What Every Son Wants and Needs from His Father,” and “Finishing Strong: Going the Distance for Your Family.”

Farrar brought inspiration and conviction speaking on the topic of God’s divine assignment for Old Testament Joseph, and how after God developed his character through the trials, he raised Joseph to a position of highest influence.

“That [message] resonated with my men,” said Scott Moody, pastor of First Baptist Silsbee, who was a first-time attender of the conference along with 23 men from his church. Moody reported that his men were still talking about the conference in their Sunday School class the next Sunday, and that some had experienced some real heart changes through it.

He said, “One man became convinced that he needed to turn it all over to the Lord?he had never done that before in his life.”

Another man was deeply changed after attending Buddy Griffin’s session on dealing with your past. Griffin shared his own testimony of making peace with his father.

“It was very powerful,” Moody said. “We were touched.”

Watch the SBTC website ( for forthcoming details on the 2008 event to be held in Arlington.

Tapping men’s interests, drawing disciples

By personal experience, teaching golf professional Scott Lehman discovered a principle that many men’s ministries are discovering as well: Where there is a common interest in an activity, there is an inroad to a man’s heart.

About 10 years ago, Lehman for the first time in his life entered a Christian bookstore seeking help for his then-failing marriage. He soon noticed a book with a golf theme because golf was the sport he’d pursued from childhood.

Lehman picked up the devotional book “In His Grip” by Jim Sheard and Wally Armstrong and began to read it.

“In golf, the most important key fundamental is the grip and how your hands are placed on the club. The book started to talk about how the key fundamental in life is living a lifestyle in his grip. God began to open my heart to the message,” Lehman recently told Baptist Press.

Now Lehman’s greatest passion is to reach other golfers through In His Grip Golf Association (, a ministry he founded that uses the golf course as a mission field and golf as an evangelistic tool. In 2006 Lehman focused full time on developing the ministry. He conducts leadership training workshops teaching churches how to organize an In His Grip Invitational and how to implement a year-round golf ministry.

Also, at his Pastor’s Masters Golf Retreats held at LifeWay’s Ridgecrest and Glorietta Conference Centers, pastors do play golf. But, more important, they attend seminars on golf-related ministry and golf-centered life lessons?ideas they can take back and develop in their own settings.

Lehman presents a “reach, teach, and send” message, believing that golfers can grow in the image of Christ “through Scripture passages at every hole, small group Bible studies, [and] golf retreats,” and then be sent out to fulfill the Great Commission. Thus far Lehman has helped about 24 churches host In His Grip invitationals, which average about 100 men per tournament.

The Great Outdoors
Don Hamlin is a Southern Baptist education minister in Kearney, Mo., with a passion for ministry to men and boys. An avid outdoorsman, he has written two men’s devotional books: “Lock, Stock, and Barrel,” and a study guide, “Hook, Line, and Sinker,” both available on his website,

Hamlin has organized regular fishing and hunting events at his church for several years. Some are intended as outreach to unsaved men, and others for fellowship and spiritual growth.

“Our church is very sports and recreation minded,” Hamlin said.

“People have a passion for [different things], and our church is open to reaching people any way we can that is reasonable. Being minister of education and outreach, my philosophy is that when someone mentions they want to start something, I respond like Rick Warren says, ‘Sounds like a good idea. You’re in charge!'”

They have held deer hunting clinics in the fall and turkey hunting clinics in the spring to reach un-churched men. A church member with expertise in hunting a particular type of game will present his own tips and techniques, or possibly a talk on topics like guns or bow-making.

“We’ll also have a local wildlife official who is active in his church come and speak, and try to connect his topic with God’s Word. It’s more of a question-and-answer forum, and we might give away door prizes in that interest area,” Hamlin said.

Wild game feasts and “cowboy/horse-whisperer” events conducted in partnership with the local association are other outreach efforts in which the church participates. Three-day fishing retreats provide an opportunity for about a dozen men to fellowship and study Scripture together after fishing all day.

“And any kind of sports?football and baseball are big here. We don’t have organized leagues, we just kind of meet together and play,” Hamlin said.

SBTC evangelism consultant Joe Simmons can help churches organize creative evangelistic outreach events such as a wild game festival at which sportsmen display their trophies. (For information, contact the SBTC Evangelism Department at 877-953-SBTC or log on to and click the “Contact Us” link.)

Bikers and Such
“Bikers Welcome” is a sign many churches are beginning to post, and Christian motorcycle riding clubs are rapidly forming to reach out to an interest group?many of them men?who often perceive they are not welcome in the traditional church.

F.A.I.T.H. Riders, a ministry that began 5 years ago in Lakeland, Fla., the Christian Motorcyclist Association based in Hatfield, Ark., and the Arkansas Baptist Bikers Association organized through the Arkansas Baptist State Convention are examples of a few of the chapter-based organizations for Christian bikers who want to use their leisure activity of choice to reach others for Christ.

Doug Hixson of Cornerstone Baptist Church, Pampa, said his church is working to birth a club for bikers in his church.

“I probably have 15-20 guys in my church who have motorcycles. And this town is full of men who ride motorcycles, so we want to try to create a fellowship/camaraderie thing among bikers,” he said.

Hixson told of a kind of rough looking man?a biker with a pony tail?who had been out of church for 40 years. The man went to a Sunday School class where the teacher, who is also a deacon and a biker, had a pony tail as well. The idea for beginning the biker ministry was spawned from that event.

Hixson said: “We’re missing a whole society, and we want to blow the idea that they aren’t welcome out of their mind. We don’t care what they look like; we just want them to feel comfortable and come to church.”

Their initial goal for the ministry is to schedule a few 1-2 day rides each year that members can invite their friends to. Another possibility for the club is participating in the evangelistic mission to the annual Harley-Davidson biker rally in Sturgess, S.D.

Reaching tomorrow’s men
Partnering with his 22-year-old son, Kyle, Don Hamlin’s most recent outreach effort has been to teenage boys in the form of a skate club. Each week the church takes about 25 boys to a skateboard park to just go and have fun.

“Boys were coming to our church parking lot to skate board, and we realized God had brought a mission field to us. These kids know I can’t skateboard, but that doesn’t bother them. If I tried to be like them, they would quickly see that I’m disingenuous,” he noted, adding, “Like if I tried to fly fish with a group of fly fishermen. I try to just be open to being a learner of their skills.”

As a result, they were able to take about 20 of the boys to an Extreme Sports event where Luis Palau spoke, and 11 indicated an interest in receiving Christ. They have confirmed three as true decisions thus far.

LakePointe Church in Rockwall offers a “Skate Church” ministry with Bible study on Tuesdays and Saturdays followed by fellowship through skateboarding.

Another opportunity to reach and disciple the men of tomorrow is a recent addition to the Men’s Fraternity curriculum, “Becoming a Man.” Rick Caldwell, director of Men’s Fraternity, recently went through the study with his 18-year-old son and a handful of his best buddies and their fathers.

Caldwell said: “I watched us struggle through it, but it became magical. The videos are the same [as the Men’s Fraternity videos], but slightly abbreviated, and packaged in a way that it applies to a high school son and his father.”

Caldwell said the five-week study is an extremely helpful tool for fathers and sons to dialogue together, and for father’s to impart the lessons they have learned from their own life experiences.

With the hundreds of recreational interests men pursue, points of connection between men are limited only by the number of men who will step up and use their healthy interest as an evangelistic tool.

Churches utilize RAs to teach missions and raise boys to live godly lives

They never just walk into the classroom and often they trip other boys on the way. Using a quiet voice is something they forget. They’d much rather head to the playground than listen to a teacher read out of a magazine.

And yet, many SBTC churches like Austin’s Bannockburn Baptist are committed to turning young boys into godly men who are on mission with God.

“We have a vibrant Royal Ambassador program at Bannockburn and greatly value its place in our overall ministry,” Pastor Ryan Rush explained. “Our principle mission as a church is connecting church and home, so this fits what we’re trying to do,” he told the TEXAN.

“It takes godly Christian men who are willing to share their hearts and their time with these young boys to make such a program work,” explained Carla Dillard, children’s minister at Bannockburn Baptist. “We are blessed to have those men at BBC.”

For 2.16 million boys, RAs has provided an opportunity to discover they are commissioned as Christ’s ambassadors to go into the world and tell the story of Jesus Christ. It’s one of the oldest Southern Baptist organizations, first formed in 1883 when a group of boys in Kentucky met with their pastor to study missions and collect money to support a young girl in famed missionary Lottie Moon’s school in Tengchow, China.

RA groups took off, growing to 4,500 chapters by 1935. In the past 10 years alone, a quarter million young boys have learned to live out the RA pledge: “We are ambassadors for Christ,” based on 2 Corinthians 5:20.

Royal Ambassadors saw its highest enrollment in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, but many churches abandoned RA missions education for children in favor of co-educational missions education that requires fewer male leaders or for other types of curricula.

At Bannockburn, Dillard is convinced it’s worth the effort to recruit adult men to lead a separate group for boys.

“We are huge fans of Royal Ambassadors. Year after year we see young boys and their dads, the RA leaders, spend quality time together learning about missionaries, participating in mission action activities, building cars for the RA racer derby, camping out, learning woodworking, and attending local boys camp together.”

Dillard said today’s boys are desperately looking for positive, godly, Christian male role models from whom they can learn.

“Unfortunately, our society has dropped the ball in this area.”

And yet she’s encouraged that young men at Bannockburn thrive on this time together with the men leading Royal Ambassadors.

“They learn not only about missionaries and other skills, they get to emulate the qualities of their RA leaders. In other words, they have role models?the kind they really crave and need. That’s why we love and are determined to keep RAs at Bannockburn.”

Andy Dodson is one of the church’s layman to whom Dillard turns for leadership in the RA program. “I fell into it accidentally,” the Austin civil engineer told the TEXAN.

Having grown up a Methodist then joining a Southern Baptist church, Dodson attended an information class to learn more about the church’s approach to teaching missions since his own kids were enjoying the children’s activities. Soon he was recruited to help out and three years later he’s sold on the value of Royal Ambassadors in which his own 7- and 9-year-old sons participate.

“The biggest things kids face today are choices. It doesn’t matter if it’s what to eat or what not to do. The magazines that go with the RA curriculum deal a lot with kids who grew up as RAs and then became missionaries. Now they’re faced with choices,” Dodson recalled.

“From a ministry standpoint we’re teaching kids to make the right choices and why they should do that. RAs learn about right and wrong choices,” supplementing the biblical teaching the kids gain from Sunday School and other programs of the church, he said.

Direction of the Royal Ambassador program for Southern Baptists is assigned to the North American Mission Board. Curriculum and training to teach missions to boys is available online at Local Baptist associations typically have leaders who can help a church develop or reignite an RA program.

NAMB has also developed a one-on-one, father-son approach to teaching young boys about missions known as “Sons of Virtue.” The strategy is based on the Royal Ambassador pledge and delivers Christ-centered virtue studies and activities that develop personal relationships, commitments and an on-mission lifestyle. It can be used in a home small-group setting with several fathers and sons or as a program directed by men of the church.

Challengers is the mission organization for teenage boys. Information is available from NAMB at

After nearly a century, Royal Ambassadors is now an international organization with groups in 14 countries reaching the world with the gospel.

Board recommends ’08 budget hike, taps pastor for Paul Pressler Award

The SBTC Executive Board approved a proposed budget increase of 7.2 percent for 2008, chose a longtime Amarillo pastor for the H. Paul Pressler Distinguished Service Award and elected a veteran of church revitalization and planting to the convention staff.

Addressing the board’s summer meeting July 31 at the SBTC offices in Grapevine, Chief Financial Officer Joe Davis said the proposed budget of $21,539,131 represents a “conservative approach” based on 2007 giving. The SBTC has continued its growth to more than 1,900 affiliated churches.

Messengers to the SBTC annual meeting Nov. 12-13 in Arlington will vote on the budget, which will continue the Cooperative Program split of 54 percent of funds sent to SBC missions and 46 percent retained for Texas ministry.

The 54 percent of undesignated giving to SBC causes remains the highest percentage of any state convention in the SBC. The missions and evangelism budgets comprise 39.13 percent of the in-state budget. Missions includes church planting.

Davis reported that through May the convention was $1.1 million above budget in CP receipts and $976,687 above the same period in 2006.

Designated giving for missions offerings was also significantly increased. Special offerings each have their own giving calendar year. Giving to the Annie Armstrong Offering for North American missions was $1.62 million, up $284,713 over the previous giving year to date; giving to the Lottie Moon Offering for international missions was $7.3 million, up nearly $1.5 million over the last giving year to date; and giving to state missions through the Reach Texas Offering was $923,284, an increase of $136,677 over the same giving period last year.

In other business, the board chose longtime Amarillo pastor Stan Coffey to receive the 2007 H. Paul Pressler Distinguished Service Award for his work during the SBC’s Conservative Resurgence and in the formation of the SBTC, for which he served as the first president from 1998-2000.

“Prior to the existence of the SBTC,” wrote SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards in recommending Coffey for the award, “Stan Coffey pastored the largest church in the reformation group pushing for the formation of a new convention. Being a man of conviction, Stan was willing to put his reputation on the line for the cause of biblical inerrancy and cooperative work among Baptists?. He paid a high price for his efforts with challenges to his health and ministry. Through it all he has remained faithful to win people to Jesus.”

A native of Sweetwater, Okla., Coffey was saved at age 6 and took his first pastorate at 20. He earned degrees from Wayland Baptist University (1970), Southwestern Seminary and California Graduate School of Theology, where he received the doctor of divinity.

His pastorates have included: County Line Baptist Church in Morton; Hurlwood Baptist Church in Lubbock; First Baptist Church of Josephine; Trinity Baptist Church of Texarkana, Ark.; First Baptist Church of Albuquerque, N.M., and twice at The Church at Quail Creek in Amarillo (formerly San Jacinto Baptist Church), first from 1975-1979 and then from 1984 until now.

Under Coffey, the church has been a consistent leader among Southern Baptists in baptizing new converts. In 2004 Coffey received the W.A. Criswell Lifetime Achievement Award for Pastoral Evangelism. He is the author of five books, his latest being “The Return.”

He is and his wife, Glenda, have two married children and eight grandchildren.

Also, the board elected Jim Gatliff as a shared strategist, serving the missions, evangelism and church ministries departments. Gatliff has been an SBTC church planting consultant while serving two associations?Kauf-Van and Hunt?in church planting and church revitalization.

Gatliff will also play a role in the SBTC’s “Ezekiel Project” to help plateaued or declining churches regain health.

In introducing Gatliff to the board before his election, Richards said Gatliff is committed to the SBTC’s vision and values and has vital experience in helping struggling churches revitalize.

“I felt like if I were an NFL coach, he is the best man on the draft board,” Richards said.

In addressing the board, Gatliff quipped that though he appreciated the accolades, “I feel more like the player to be named later in the Mark Teixeira (Texas Rangers baseball) trade.”

The Oklahoma native told the board he was saved as a youngster at a crusade sponsored by First Southern Baptist Church of Del City, Okla., and was called to ministry as a teen attending the Falls Creek youth camp in Oklahoma.

In addition to his theology training (MDiv. and Ph.D. from Southwestern Seminary) and work in church planting and revitalization, Gatliff said his greatest passion is “souls,” “particularly a heart for mass evangelism.” Gatliff begins working full-time with the convention Sept. 1.

Also during the meeting, the board honored five board members attending their last meeting after nine years of service dating back to the convention’s founding.

Richards presented each retiring board member a framed Scripture verse, noting the contributions of each. The board members rotating off are: Al Kawamoto of Arlington; Randy Davis and Alan Burkhalter, both of Amarillo; Ted Tedder of San Antonio; and Steve Burns of Aledo.

“These were the founders of the convention?these were the founders of the Executive Board,” Richards remarked. “We are losing our first generation, so this is a very significant transition time. We stand on their shoulders.”

Richards told the board he was honored with his election as SBC first vice president in June, “but it’s also an affirmation of this convention.” Richards said the SBTC staff was exemplary as ambassadors on behalf of the SBTC to Southern Baptists at the San Antonio meeting.

Reflecting on several weeks of physician-ordered silence after throat surgery and several months of rehabilitation, Richards said he has a new appreciation for the stewardship of the tongue and most importantly, the responsibility to witness of the gospel.

“We all struggle with being a strong witness for Jesus, confronting people with the gospel ? but it’s the right thing to do. One day, if Jesus doesn’t come, the tongue will go silent. Between now and then, I want to be a faithful witness.”

Senior Evangelism Associate Jack Harris reported that more than 32,000 “One-Verse Evangelism” packets have been distributed using Romans 6:23 as a simple entr�e to the gospel. Also, the convention has launched an evangelistic website,

In other business the board:
?Moved that churches voting to affiliate on or before Aug. 10 may enter the process to enable them to seat messengers at the SBTC annual meeting in the same calendar year.

?Approved a motion that effective next Jan. 1, “only funds given to the SBTC adopted budget shall be considered Cooperative Program gifts.”

The motion follows a definition of the Cooperative Program missions funding channel that SBC messengers approved in June in San Antonio, which read: “The Cooperative Program (CP) is Southern Baptists’ unified plan of giving through which cooperating Southern Baptist churches give a percentage of their undesignated receipts in support of their respective state convention and the Southern Baptist Convention mission and ministries.”

?Passed a motion, offered by Greg Simmons, pastor of Memorial Baptist Church in Grapevine, stating that Richards’ election as SBC first vice president was an affirmation of not only Richards but also the ministry of the SBTC.

Horrible things

A recent column by L.A. Times reporter William Lobdell chronicles his time as a religion writer for the Times, and his slide from being a “born-again” Christian to agnosticism. As a self-declared serious Christian, Mr. Lobdell was thrilled at the opportunity to match his calling to his vocation. He hoped to be able to report religion stories more seriously and respectfully than he had seen in the past.

And that’s the way it worked out at first. He told stories of forgiveness and faithfulness?stories about earnest and delightful people. During the time when he was converting to his wife’s Catholicism, he also began covering shocking stories of abuse by priests, cover ups, payoffs, and other disillusioning behavior by those who propped up the offenders. He saw what appeared to him to be widespread hypocrisy in religious leaders. Mr. Lobdell abandoned his plans to become Catholic and stopped going to his former church also.

Then he turned his eye toward television preachers as investigations revealed opulent lifestyles, tax fraud, and a list of unsavory behaviors that just couldn’t be told in an uplifting way. By the end of the column, William Lobdell says that he concluded he didn’t have the gift of making that leap of faith across all this sludge. He requested reassignment from the paper.

I find the story very poignant even though my inner apologist was firing comments as I read it: “Don’t equate religion with Christianity!” “Sincere Christians are also scandalized by these things!” “He’s chosen two of the most unbiblical laboratories ever for an evaluation of his faith!” and so on. Admit it, some of you were thinking the same things as you read my brief account of it. You’d be right. Those are important points to consider when someone becomes a poster child for faith that doesn’t take root.

There’s a human element to it also that we should recognize in those around us. Why is it that some pastors hesitate to hire a secretary from their own churches? Why does my Spidey sense start to tingle when a prospective employee rails against the pagans he formerly worked with and then expresses a certainty that God’s people won’t disappoint in the same way? It’s because expectations like this are often devastatingly unrealistic.

Sure, I’d hope that folks who get to know Christian leaders would see that they are in private what they are in public, and this is overwhelmingly true. To some folks this isn’t enough. I remember going to preach for a young pastor who seemed to very much appreciate my writing. I spent the night with his family and preached the morning service the next day. All weekend long I sensed that he was disappointed, especially that I preached from an NIV Bible. I never heard from him again after that weekend. It happens and there’s no way to guard against disappointing someone who expects you to be superhuman.

On the other hand, bad things happen in ministry that we should take more seriously than we often do. I’ve heard young believers berated for voting against a founding member in a church business meeting. It is to my shame that neither I nor my church initiated a Matthew 18 process with that older deacon. I’ve heard iffy jokes and cold-blooded comments made in the presence of young clerical workers with no thought about how this might affect their spiritual walk. I’ve seen leaders storming down the hall for some petty thing or another, all the time assuming that everyone will be more forgiving of them than they are of others. Hey, I’ve been that guy and someone should have jerked a knot in me.

The disillusionment we can inspire in those about us by being hypocrites may not be enough to shake their faith in God but it can surely ruin our ability to be ministers to them or to those they tell of their disappointment. The weaker brothers among us are a stewardship from God.

Our attitudes don’t have to be intentionally wicked and our actions needn’t be illegal for the impact to be horrible. But some of the things that churches and ministers blink at too readily are objectively bad, even to the lost world. These things have fallout way beyond the principals, although, as in the case of clergy abuse, that can be quite bad enough.

Our churches all contain some people who are very tender. Some of these are also a bit judgmental and arrogant. They look for flaws in others and dwell on them until their feelings are hurt irreparably. If these immature ones are offended by the truth of our lives or by the gospel itself, that’s regrettable but not something we can untangle for them. If they are offended because we are too timid to confront open sin or because we are self-absorbed louts, it’s another kettle of fish altogether.

Mr. Lobdell’s case sounds like the seed that fell among thorns (Matthew 13:22). Perhaps this look at the ugly underworld of Christian religiosity was his first experience with hypocrisy of this magnitude. I know that if he was ever born again he still is. All that said, when seed falls on hard ground, take care that we are not the birds that eat them up. And when a tender plant is choked by thorns, woe to us if Christians are counted among the thorns.

Advice for a youngster on godly manhood

Dear Silas,

Just yesterday it seems, you were wound tight in that little “burrito wrap” at the hospital. At 5 pounds, 8 ounces, you were working on your leg strength as you kicked and flexed. Your twin sister, well, she was being a girly girl, her hands drawn to her cheeks and making girly motions. Six years have flown by. At your age, it’s great to be a boy, isn’t it?

Bud, I know we talk a lot about God and how not everybody loves Jesus. Some people just haven’t heard about his love, and others, despite your bewilderment, decide they don’t want him.

You understand a few things, and I’m proud of you for understanding some things that surprise me. You get miffed at bad stuff, like when I explained to you what a casino was after we passed one in the car. Remember, you wanted to turn around on the Interstate and do something very illegal so those poor people wouldn’t lose any more money? Your sister’s proposal was more merciful; she wanted to go inside and tell them about Jesus.

That’s a righteous impulse, son, even if it’s the wrong approach. I’m glad that you love the right and hate the wrong, so long as you realize that you, too, do wrong stuff sometimes. We all do.

You are a kid and your perspective of the world is limited. But that will change soon enough?in this day and age, probably sooner than necessary. So even if what I write here doesn’t make much sense, it will later.

So let me get right to it: This world is a messed-up place ? but God has a plan to redeem it. Too many people despair at the former without comprehending the latter. Meanwhile, you’ll need God and his word to make sense of it all and to navigate your way.

King Solomon (King David’s son) talked a lot about a man’s days “under the sun.” As I’ve told you numerous times?nothing is easy, everything is hard.

Such hardship is a result of Adam and Eve’s sin, and people have been having a hard time ever since. Next time you have trouble tying your shoes or writing your practice words or shooing a fly from your cheeseburger, remember that.

I suppose if everything were easy, we might forget God. As it is, the wise man calls on him for help moment by moment. You’d be wise to do the same, and even more so when things are easy and life is good.

More than anything, I want you to know what a godly man looks like. I’m a distorted picture of that, but Jesus fills up the picture frame perfectly.

Throughout his perfect treasure of instruction called the Bible, he gives us “all things pertaining to life and godliness.”

In that great treasure, I see three of these things (among others) that cover a lot of spiritual ground, and they are inextricably wrapped together.

You would do well to pursue sober-mindedness. This doesn’t mean sad-face syndrome, by the way.

Above all, godly sober-mindedness starts with a sound theology. Know who God is, know his attributes and his ways, and never forget your utterly depraved state apart from his grace. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Surely, the beginning of fear is a biblical theology.

Ephesians 5:15-17 says this: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

To be sober-minded is to walk in a careful and watchful manner, not in endless horseplay or detached apathy. Responsibility has a way of maturing people to sober-mindedness, so embrace it, whether through gainful work or military service or some other righteous burden.

Yes, enjoy yourself, your work and your blessings. Just know that responsibility trumps amusement. Each has its place. But the real man answers when responsibility calls.

You’ll need Ephesians 5:15-17. Write it on the tablet of your heart.

A second indispensable tool for a godly man is self discipline.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:27: “[B]ut I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest when I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.”

Disciplining one’s body pays dividends beyond the physical. And of course, physical discipline involves the mind, will and emotions.

The spiritual disciplines are vital. Regular prayer, Bible study, meditating on Scripture and fasting (I need to do all of these more) will help prepare you to stand under the pressure of temptation. God promises us that. Our part is to be watchful and willing. So discipline yourself in all ways with a godly purpose in mind.

You know how Jesus suffered a brutal beating and then went to the cross in the ultimate act of self denial. “If any man should come after me,” Jesus said, “let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”

The call to discipleship is a radical call to die to self, which has made not a few would-be disciples grab the plowshare only to turn back. It’s the acid test of the true believer that one would relinquish his own lordship for Christ’s.

We live in a self-worshipping culture. Want to blow people away? Deny yourself for God and others. In fact, Scripture says to consider others more important than yourself.

You are never more like Jesus than when you are doing that, especially for your wife and kids when that day comes.

Silas, this is just a small bit of advice. I hope to add more later. In the meantime, enjoy being a kid, because the burdens of manhood will arrive soon enough. Keep looking to Jesus.

Love, Dad

Ezekiel Project needs Holy Spirit’s power

Your Executive Board voted to call Jim Gatliff to serve the churches as a shared strategist. He will be working with virtually all of the ministry areas of the SBTC. Jim is a gifted theologian, passionate evangelist, successful church planter and organizational planner. He is a great addition to our ministry team. One of his main assignments will be to implement the Ezekiel Project.

We have been working on the Ezekiel Project for almost two years. During the SBTC annual meeting in Arlington Nov. 12 and 13, your staff will unveil it. Here is a sneak preview. The Ezekiel Project addresses the problem of declining churches. It is a comprehensive plan from assessment to revitalization and everything in between. It calls for many partners working in concert. Those recruited to help will be Ezekiel Churches that are strong enough to provide guidance, associations that will take oversight, and individuals who will provide leadership to the churches in need. The SBTC cannot staff or administrate the Ezekiel Project. It will take all of us working together. We can see churches reclaim Matthew 28:19-20.

One of our heart beats is the Acts 1:8 effort. Getting people involved in missions connects them with their Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the Ends of the Earth. The SBTC has an Acts 1:8 SENT Conference annually in the spring. Churches are encouraged to sign up as an Acts 1:8 Church. For years churches gave and did not go. Now all churches are encouraged to go and to continue to give faithfully through the Cooperative Program.

Church planting is a priority in Texas for the SBTC. More money and personnel is involved in the effort than in any other area of ministry. The largest in-state budget line item is new church starts at $1.69 million. We must plant churches in places where the gospel is needed.

Here’s the shocker. We will have to stop our Acts 1:8 effort and church planting activities if existing churches do not reclaim Matthew 28:19-20. The majority of SBTC churches, just like Southern Baptist churches everywhere, are on a plateau or they are declining. It is a crisis. We cannot start churches fast enough to replace the ones that are fading away.

It will be a massive undertaking by churches, associations and the SBTC to see a turnaround. I believe God wants to do it. The question is, do we want to? To do Matthew 28:19-20 properly we must be culturally relevant and biblically faithful. The world has changed around us and many churches have not adapted. Hundreds of churches are holy huddles while a lost world goes by. Who is in control is one of the main issues. A pastor, a deacon, a women’s group, a family?somebody wants to be able to call the shots. Sadly, all that is firing in those situations are blanks.

Here’s what we need?a brokenness before God. With all of our affluence, resources, and technology we still need the power of God. He must show himself mighty. Let’s get back to the basics, Matthew 28:19-20. Winning the lost, baptizing them and teaching them to win the lost. Definitely there are mechanics and logistics. That is where the Ezekiel Project comes in. God uses tools to make it happen.

Jim Gatliff can’t do it. The SBTC can’t do it. Holy Spirit-empowered churches reclaiming Matthew 28:19-20 can do it. God wants to show himself mighty. Let’s get in on his plan.


NEW TEXAS MISSIONARIES. Mike Gonzales, left, former missionary to Spain and an IMB trustee who serves as director of the SBTC’s Hispanic Initiative, hugs his son-in-law, Joel Jolley, after presenting him and his wife, Angela, with their appointment certificates. The Jolleys, who will be serving in Spain, were appointed with 82 others last month at Grove Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond, Va. Photo by Bill Bangham.

Pray for ‘safe return’ of hostages, Page & others ask

SILVER SPRINGS, Md.  Korean Baptist leaders across America gave extra time Sunday to prayer for 21 South Korean Christians still held hostage by Taliban militants in Afghanistan.

Korean Baptists are praying for safety and God’s comfort for the hostages, said Tae Hwan Park, who until June was executive director of the Korean Council of Southern Baptist Churches in America. The hostages were on a trip sponsored by Sammul Presbyterian church near Seoul. Two of them have been murdered.

“We need to pray that God will be the solution,” Park said. “We ask all Southern Baptists to continue faithful in prayer for these Koreans in Afghanistan.”

David Ro, president of the Korean Council of Southern Baptist Churches in America and pastor of River Dell Korean Baptist Church in River Edge, N.J., thanked Southern Baptists for their prayers.

“I have been so sad,” Ro said. “Whenever I am reminded of their faces in the TV monitor, which [the] Taliban provided, I cannot stop shedding tears and praying to God to take them back to the Sam Mul church and to Korea. At this moment we need to pray to God that the Holy Spirit move [the] Taliban’s heart and prescribe peaceful ways.”

Other Southern Baptist leaders, including SBC President Frank Page, expressed the need for fervent prayer.

“I call on all Southern Baptists to join in earnest prayer for the release of these mission workers,” Page said. “We all know that there is risk in speaking for the Lord. We are all aware that there is risk when one travels in foreign countries. Though they went against their government’s advice in traveling to Afghanistan, I know they went with a sense of calling from the Lord.

“While the two who have already been martyred are now enjoying the presence of the Lord, we do pray for the release and safe return of the others so that they will not have to suffer and that their work of sharing Christ can go on. Yes, we trust the Lord in this situation. However, as God has given us the privilege of prayer, let us pray that these hostages would be released and that the families of the two already martyred will receive comfort from the Lord’s Holy Spirit.”

Bobby Welch, SBC strategist for global evangelical relations, concurred.

“No one knows all of the details yet concerning this hostage-taking nor legitimate and earnest efforts that might be underway for their safe release,” Welch said in an e-mail. “In spite of the lack of such facts, the Southern Baptist Convention and the larger Christian evangelical world?as well as any and all other people of faith?cannot and must not silently and inactively sit by and watch such horrifying acts against persons of faith, especially when it is reported that these people are on missions of goodwill, help and humanitarian causes.

“Too many have, for too long, said too little in times like these,” Welch continued. “That needs to change right here and right now.”

He acknowledged the international issues and potential ramifications related to involvement with the crisis, but said he believes Christians must respond.

“We must not act as if this is only a passing, unfortunate accident of some sort,” Welch wrote. “All people of faith have the burden to stand with and for all of our Korean friends, brothers and sisters.

“This is especially true for the families of those so horribly murdered, as well as those still held hostage,” Welch continued. “We must deeply and earnestly pray with and for them, and for God Almighty’s divine intervention. We must also register our overwhelming outrage against such horrible acts of abuse, persecution and murder. Such expressions from us all cannot come too soon nor too loudly.”

Page also expressed indignation.

“I am outraged that wonderful people such as this would be used for political purposes by the Taliban,” the SBC president said. “Once again, I call upon God’s people to pray for their release. I also call upon all governments to do what they can to encourage the release of these dear people.”

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was reporting at press time that South Korean officials had talked over the weekend with at least one and perhaps three of the aid workers. It was the first direct contact South Korean officials have had with the workers since they were kidnapped off the bus they were riding on July 20, the CBC reported, adding that the officials were unwilling to say more because of the risk to the hostages.

Afghan doctors delivered medicine on Monday to the 18 women and three men being held hostage, the CBC reported.

Park provided some background into the hostage situation.

“I know our Korean people are very earnest in missions, very strong in mission-mindedness, and not much concern about safety,” Park said.

“God will take care of them” is a foundational belief, he added.

Unlike the International Mission Board, which studies global situations to provide as much safety as possible for IMB workers, Korean mission teams sent out from churches usually do not spend time in surveying a situation, Park said.

“That’s the problem in this case,” Park said. “Not very much concern about their safety. That’s why it happened this time.”

The workers apparently were not aware of the Tailban’s presence nor the danger they were in, he added. They were focused on meeting the physical and spiritual needs of the Afghani people.

Park likened the standoff between the Taliban and South Korea to the standoff between North Korea and the United States.

“It’s my observation that the United States cannot understand the North Korean mind,” Park said. “Same situation: Christianity cannot understand [the] Taliban.”

Chongoh Aum, who in June was named executive director of the Korean Council of Southern Baptist Churches in America, also urged prayer.

“We are really praying for the Koreans in Afghanistan to save their life,” Aum said. “We don’t have any solutions. Just pray.”