Month: September 2007

How is God feeding the world’s people?

Sometimes I wince at the luxury of my life. Scores of commercials accent my commute offering me some new take on the good life or helping me enhance my earning power, as if my option is live on dregs like I do now. It’s not dregs, though. We have a lot of choices and some disposable income. Everybody wants to trade me something for that money.

I live in a metropolitan area that seems to be made of money. Thousands of houses here would be mansions in any other era and in any other culture. I have one vehicle that cost used more than my first house (it was a really cheap house). I own jackets and clothing for weather that Dallas will never experience this side of an ice age. So it goes but I’m done confessing; you get the point. Yet I’m still tempted by more and better and newer.

And I find the fact that millions in the world are hungry pretty uncomfortable to consider. Maybe we’re supposed to weigh that against the purchase of a giant TV or a monster truck. There probably is a connection between all this unease. We have too much, want too much, and keep too much for ourselves as a culture?all this while being the most generous nation on the planet.

For Christians, it’s more than unease. We’re supposed to feed the hungry because it is the command of Christ and not merely to assuage our guilt.

October is the month we highlight hunger relief in the Southern Baptist Convention. You’ll find in this issue of the TEXAN a promo for information that churches can provide to help their members understand the need as well as some ways to help. (see page 13)

While hundreds of organizations will gladly receive your gifts to alleviate hunger, the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund has some advantages. The biggest advantage is efficiency. Exactly 100 percent of all money given through the hunger fund or given directly to one of our mission boards and designated for hunger goes to hunger relief. We already have the staff (missionaries, right?) in place; we already have ministries located in areas of need. One dollar given equals one dollar’s worth of food distributed.
Money sent through the general hunger fund is split 80 percent for international hunger relief and 20 percent for U.S. hunger relief.

A second important advantage is the message. Our convention is not an ecumenical body; we don’t have to have a meeting before deciding to share the gospel with someone we’re feeding. In fact, feeding the spiritual person is unapologetically part of our hunger relief program. Some relief agencies are less direct with the message of the gospel.

A third advantage is accountability. You know where the money is going and it can be accounted for. You also know that the convention will be in place long enough to distribute the food you’ve bought. You can know that the food will not rot on a dock while someone works through the red tape. You can be sure that the money will not be used for bribes. You can be confident that the food will not be used to enrich military gangs.

You can donate online at namb.net/hunger or at imb.org/worldhunger. You can also give through your church by designating a gift to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund. That money, sent with your church’s CP giving will be passed by the state convention to the SBC Executive Committee which will send 80 percent through the IMB and 20 percent through NAMB. It’s something we should all do.

SBC entity heads vow intolerance of personal attacks on colleague

NASHVILLE, Tenn.?The heads of the Southern Baptist Convention’s seminaries and agencies closed ranks in prayer and verbal support around one of their own during the SBC Executive Committee’s fall meeting, defending fellow leader Paige Patterson against what was termed “a level of unprecedented attack ? in the form of innuendo and smear and caricature and character assassinations.”

Speaking before the Executive Committee on Sept. 17, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. cited the unanimous vote of affirmation of Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and his wife, Dorothy, by Patterson’s 11 fellow SBC entity leaders.

Mohler, apparently alluding to the persistent and often sarcastic criticism of Patterson by several Internet bloggers, said the group of entity leaders, known as the Great Commission Council, voted to “make a statement about the fact that we will not tolerate personal attacks upon one of our colleagues.”

Before calling the members of the Great Commission Council to the podium to pray over the Pattersons, Mohler noted such a move was likely unprecedented in Southern Baptist proceedings, “and it’s because we are living in a different day and a day in which there is a level of unprecedented attack among some of our own leaders. This attack is personal.”

“There is no room in Baptist life for teasing, for taunting,” Mohler told the committee. “There is no room for cowardly attacks upon character.”

“There is a right way to raise concerns about those in leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention,” said Mohler, adding that respectful dialogue with trustees is the correct method.

“Two of our own have suffered in particular along these lines, and we want to ask Paige and Dorothy Patterson to join us here on the platform,” Mohler said. “Dorothy, I am going to ask that you join Paige here, and this is a surprise to them, because as the rest of us were meeting in the course of these days, we felt that a statement needed to be made about the vitriol and the malice of character assassination and personal attacks, and they have been particularly directed at our colleague, Paige Patterson and also his wife.

“This is an unprecedented development in modern Baptist history, and it is one that we felt needed to be named for what it is. The entire Great Commission Council voted unanimously, in the absence of Dr. Patterson, to make this statement.”

International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin led in public prayer over the Pattersons, noting their faithfulness, their heart for the convention’s doctrinal integrity, commitment to the Great Commission and “their passionate commitment to train and equip seminary students to serve our churches and to go out as missionaries throughout the world.”

Rankin continued: “I pray that you would give them grace in their response when they are abused and criticized. And I pray that you would keep them faithful and focused on the task to which you have called them because we commit them to you in Jesus’ name as our friend, as our colleague, as a leader and mentor, as a model and example of your love and your grace and obedience to your calling in Jesus’ name, Amen.”

The Great Commission Council’s actions come after months of Internet criticisms, much of it by a former Southwestern employee and a former Arlington pastor, Benjamin S. Cole. Cole is now an associate pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Okla., where IMB trustee Wade Burleson, a critic of Southwestern’s policy of male-only theology faculty and its ban on public advocacy of charismatic practice, is pastor.

Cole’s persistent criticism over Southwestern’s new homemaking program aimed at pastors wives, for example, spurred media interest and led to an appearance in August on the Fox News channel by Patterson, who defended the program as relevant and needed.

The complete transcript of Mohler’s remarks and Rankin’s prayer is available at texanonline.net.

Baptism: Where did you get the authority?

Matthew 21:23-27

This is an interpretation I have held for almost 35 years. For 21 years as a pastor I was fortunate enough to have churches that followed my leadership on this matter. I am shocked that some Southern Baptists debate the need for immersion for church membership. I am disappointed that some Southern Baptists receive members from non-New Testament churches. We are about to lose our identity as Baptists if we abdicate the necessity of New Testament church authority for baptism. We face the threat of evangelical ecumenism.

Jesus was harassed by the religionists of his day. One item that came into question was his authority for ministry. The opposition sought to trap Jesus, but he caught them in their own snare. Jesus used the issue of John’s authority to baptize to rebuke them.

Since Jesus used the issue of baptismal authority as a defense, we cannot minimize its importance. Actually, it is an issue in our churches. During the time of liberal influence in our seminaries, the teaching of historic Baptist ecclesiology was largely abandoned. Since biblical inerrancy was disregarded by many, true Baptist distinctives became expendable.

We have two generations that know little about who they are and what they are. Because of liberalism in the sideline (formerly, “mainline”) denominations, Southern Baptist churches have been flooded with their parishioners seeking membership. Have you ever wondered why SBC total membership continues to go up while baptism numbers continue to decline?

Is one baptism as good as the other? Article 7 in the Baptist Faith and Message confessional statement addresses the issue for Southern Baptists. “Church Ordinance” is the optimum term in this article. In Article 6 we have the definition of a New Testament church. You see, something or someone has the authority to baptize as Jesus said. The way we answer this issue will determine the composition of our convention.

There are three questions we need to ask in order to bring clarification about the doctrine of authority for baptism. The first question is?

Is the authority individual or congregational?

A belief about the doctrine of the church determines much of the approach to baptism. Jesus instituted the ordinance of baptism within the church. Jesus did not baptize but his disciples did (John 4:1-2). Jesus committed the authority of baptism to the church in Matthew 28:18-20.

Listen to what the founder of Union University, T.T. Eaton, had to say about who could baptize: “Baptists affirm that New Testament baptism is the immersion in water in the name of the Trinity of a believer on the profession of his faith by one duly set apart by a church for such service.” There was virtually no debate among Southern Baptists during our early years on who had the authority to baptize.

John the Baptist received a commission from God to baptize (John 1:6). Jesus submitted to his baptism. Jesus was baptized to declare his Messiahship. Baptism is not procurative, but declarative. Jesus did not become the Son of God at baptism?he proclaimed that he was the Son of God. In like manner believers testify that we already are the children of God.

Jesus transferred the authority to baptize to the church in his final remarks before ascending into Heaven. Had he given the authority to the apostles, then we would have to believe in apostolic succession for proper baptism. Had he given the authority to the individual believers, any 6-year-old child who is a believer could baptize any convert anywhere.

Every baptism in the book of Acts can be attributed to a local church or her missionary agents. People who were saved at Pentecost submitted to the church for baptism (Acts 2:41-42). With the exception of the Ethiopian eunuch every convert was baptized and immediately joined or formed a congregation. The Scripture is silent about the end of the Ethiopian’s story, so it is pure conjecture that he started a church or baptized anyone himself.

Mutual accountability and a faith community are tied to congregational authority of baptism. American individualism has clouded our thinking on this basic practice of the New Testament. The authority for baptism is congregational.

The second question we need to ask about the authority of baptism is ?

Is the authority objectiveor subjective?

I have heard pastors say that as long as the person feels satisfied with his baptism, it is acceptable. I have heard others say that even though the church or individual who performed the baptism believed in falling from grace, sprinkling for baptism or baptismal regeneration, that as long the believer did not accept those doctrines his or her baptism is valid. This makes baptismal authority subjective to the individual’s personal opinion rather than biblical objective truth. Acts 19 is an example that just any baptism is sufficient. Paul required those who had been immersed to be “re-baptized.”

Culture has become so self-absorbed that experience is now the final authority. Truth is whatever you want it to be. Forty years of neo-orthodoxy did more than undermine a belief in the nature of Scripture as the inerrant Word of God. By undermining the Bible, doctrinal orthodoxy has suffered correspondingly.
Baptism is for believers only (Acts 8:36-38). Baptism is by immersion only (Colossians 2:12). Baptism gives a testimony of Christ’s resurrection and a believer’s new life (Romans 6:3-4).
In the state where I serve the Alamo stands in San Antonio as a reminder of the 232 Americans who gave their lives on March 6, 1836 so that others might live free. Millions have been martyred through the last 20 centuries for believer’s baptism, which was a testimony of their faith in Christ. They died for a biblical doctrine we treat too cheaply. We must never lose sight of the objective truth that places value on the proper mode (immersion), the proper candidate (believer) and the proper authority (church).

The third question ?

Is the authority temporary or permanent?

The ultimate factor is that scriptural baptism can only be administered by a New Testament church. Hershel Hobbs emphasized this: “All Christian groups which practice baptism hold that it should precede the Lord’s Supper. Baptists say the same thing. The question is, ‘What constitutes New Testament baptism?’ Thus the difference between Baptists and others is at this point, not about the Supper.
Therefore, if Baptists are ‘closed’ anything they are ‘closed baptismists.'” If Hobbs was correct, we need to know the definition of a true New Testament church?

Allow me to submit a few irreducible marks. A true New Testament church has the following identifying marks:

4It consists of baptized believers in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 2:41).
4The Bible is its final rule of faith and practice (Acts 2:42). No extra-biblical revelations can equal the Word of God.
4It preaches salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone? which includes eternal security of the believer (Hebrews 10:39).
4It is an autonomous Theo-democracy (Acts 1:15-26). Local church autonomy is under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Sadly, some Baptist churches are not New Testament churches. And some that have a different name than “Baptist” may well be a church of Jesus Christ. What a church believes and practices is what makes it a New Testament church?not the name over the door.

There are four levels of fellowship and cooperation. Individuals can relate under the blood of Christ. This is a common bond of all believers. Evangelistically, people and groups can work together when in agreement with the gospel message.

Article 15 of the Baptist Faith and Message states: Christians should be ready to work with “all men of good will in any goo

Forum aims at keeping young adults

HOUSTON?The numbers are sobering. Over the past 30 years, the baptism rate of youths in SBC churches has dropped precipitously?from 173,660 in 1972 to approximately 79,000 in 2006. A 2007 Lifeway Research study shows those between the ages of 18 and 22 who regularly attended a Protestant church for at least one year during high school dropped out of church for a year or longer once they left home.

Brad Bunting, SBTC student evangelism associate, said, “We’ve got more churches than ever, more youth than ever. We have a problem.”

Bunting, along with other youth leaders, were in Houston Sept. 15 along with Alvin Reid, professor of evangelism and an associate dean at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, for a forum called “Inheritance: Passing Down a Legacy of Faith.”

Bunting said a recording of the session featuring Reid, along with a workbook, should be available by year’s end.

Hosted by Sagemont Church, Reid began the forum by confessing he is not a “parenting expert.” As a teacher and author, he said he appreciates the need for sharing the gospel and instructs students on how to do it effectively. As a father, Reid said he understands the biblical mandate for expressing the gospel first within the home based on Deuteronomy 6:4?a passage that sometimes is called the “John 3:16” of the Old Testament.

PARENTS, TEACH YOUR KIDS
Deuteronomy 6:7-10, Reid explained, instruct parents, particularly fathers, to hand down the faith to their children. Reid said there is nothing more important than to raise children in such a way as to perpetuate the faith for generations.

Reid and Bunting agreed that many parents have abdicated this responsibility to others incrementally, though both said it has not been intentional. Bunting admitted the role of youth ministry?since its infancy as a specialized program in churches in the late 1970s?has sometimes been part of the problem by creating programs that exclude or minimize parent-led discipleship. The unintended result has been the subjugation of the parents’ influence to that of the church youth department.

Equipping parents to pass on a legacy of the gospel, with its truth, lifestyle, and influence, is the purpose of the “Inheritance: Passing on a Legacy of Faith” forum.

The instruction at home begins with the declaration of Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”

Although that truth is stated clearly and unequivocally, parents should never assume their children will somehow “pick up” that truth for themselves, Reid said.

“They have to be repeatedly told. This is great truth. It is not just for the church. It is for the home,” Reid said.

Parents must intentionally define reality for their kids and base decisions on God’s Word to create in their children a biblical worldview. Such knowledge helps young people ward off what is presented in school and the world, Reid said.

“God is creator. The evolution debate does matter,” he continued. “There is one God. One Savior, Jesus Christ.” In a pluralistic world it is important that children understand that Jesus is not a good way to God but the only way, he said.

Also, knowing God begins with hearing God, Reid said. To that end, children should hear their parents’ salvation stories. Sharing the good news of the gospel is a paramount role of parenting, not something to be left to the Sunday school teachers or youth directors. To pass on a legacy of lifestyle, parents must be spiritually open with their children and living in accord with Matthew 6:5, impressing upon their children the significance of living by faith.

But the greatest hindrance to accomplishing that goal, Reid noted, is hypocrisy.

For example, Reid said, children should never see one parent at church and another at home. The love demanded by God is not a fondness but obedience. Parents who espouse a love for God and yet consistently fall into sin are creating barriers to the faith for their children.

Because the world is dramatically different from the one he grew up in, parents must be diligent in teaching the relevance of Scripture and God’s ordinances, he said. Reid, who came to Christ as a boy, said he had godly parents who took him to church and led moral lives in front of him.

Today, however, Reid said parents must do more than simply model Christianity; they must also teach their children a theology for life.

“Every day we put on our lenses?our worldview,” he explained.

Children always want to know why, he said, and parents should never shy away from that question.
“Truth has no fear,” Reid said. “The Bible is sufficient. It doesn’t tell us everything about God we want to know. But it tells us everything we need to know.

“Challenge kid’s minds. If they can study trigonometry in school, they can study theology in church. You don’t check your mind at the door to follow Christ.”

In summarizing his charge to parents to live out their faith in front of their children, Reid quoted 17th-century pastor and author Richard Baxter: “Your [children] can tell when you have been much with God. That will be on their ears that is most in your heart.”

ROLE OF CHURCH
Creating a legacy of influence is about more than just being the primary educator in a child’s life. Reid said parents should ask themselves, “Am I, as a parent, the greatest influence in my child’s life?”

Debate rages over whether or not Christian families should enroll their children in public school, Christian school or home school. Reid said all parents should strive to protect their children from destructive influence, but they cannot be quarantined from the world. An inoculation of biblical truth is what is needed for kids to endure in a fallen world.

The church, Reid said, should be part of the support system upon which parents can rely in their efforts to influence their children, but it should never be the sole source of theological and doctrinal information for a child.

For instance, Reid told of a woman, prominent within her church, who approached Reid at a prayer conference and began complaining that her church’s youth minister was not discipling her son. Reid pointed out the dictates of Deuteronomy 6:4-10 and told her discipleship was her job, not the church’s.

TALK ABOUT JESUS
The concept of family devotions or worship time has been shelved as families are too busy for a meal together. Making time for reading of the Scripture, singing, and praying is one of the most basic ways parents can emphasize the importance of being in God’s Word.

“It should be as normal to talk about Jesus in the home as it is to talk about football. There is truth to the cliché that the family that prays together stays together.”

The lack of discipleship at home results in ill-equipped teenagers and young adults in society. He said, “That’s why the church in America is in the state it’s in. There is a generation of kids who want to serve God, but they are not being taught and encouraged at home.”

As parents invest their time in the things their children value, the children sense security and belonging in the home. Taking time to be involved with their friends and activities profoundly influences kids, Reid insisted.

Letting children see their parents’ faith example, even in trying times, is also a profoundly positive influencer, Reid said.

Reid told of a time when his son, Josh, and his youth group were canvassing the neighborhood near their church and a woman unleashed a profanity-laden tirade against the students on her front porch.
Reid said he got the woman’s name and address from a neighbor who was a member of his church and then sent her flowers along with a note wishing her well.

Reid said the flowers and card weren’t so

Frank exchanges aired at conference

WAKE FOREST, N.C.?Stretching the full length of Binkley Chapel’s center section, the audience was more casual in dress and contemporary in worship than the usual Southern Baptist gathering. The humor interjected by speakers assumed listeners were comfortable with current technology.

Yet, the priorities outlined by presenters were similar to those declared at most every evangelism conference or pastor gathering across the Southern Baptist Convention: the centrality of the gospel rooted in biblical fidelity, the need to carry that message across cultures, and a reminder to demonstrate the love of Christ.

The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and the Conservative Resurgence that brought it about were affirmed repeatedly and even the lone non-Baptist presenter expressed agreement with its doctrinal tenets.

Observers from near and far who anticipated heretical teaching likely were disappointed, finding instead a fervent appeal to reach the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary entered the emerging church minefield with a “Convergent” conference, the name itself hinted at President Daniel Akin’s call for Southern Baptists to combine the best practices of traditional and emerging churches in order to “minister with truth and urgency.”

That appearance of the lone non-Baptist, Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll of Seattle, as a speaker at the Sept. 21-22 conference at Southeastern’s Wake Forest, N.C., campus, elicited outrage from one Southern Baptist who said the Acts 29 Network, which Driscoll leads as president, encourages lax attitudes toward sinful behavior in order to gain a hearing among unbelievers.

Southeastern evangelism professor Alvin Reid identified “the elephant in the room” during the final plenary message, referring to Driscoll’s endorsement of alcohol consumption in his book “Radical Reformission” as their only area of disagreement.

“That’s not what this conference is about,” said Reid, who added he finds much to gain from Driscoll’s analysis of Emergents. He referred to George Whitfield having owned slaves and Charles Spurgeon smoking cigars “to the glory of God” as actions that did not cause Baptists to disregard their teaching.

“I think we’ve got a lot of ninth commandment issues taking place in Southern Baptist life,” added missiologist Ed Stetzer of LifeWay Research when asked during a panel discussion how Driscoll is perceived. “We ought to act like men and stand up and tell the truth,” he said, calling Driscoll “a solid Bible guy.”

Driscoll surprised the audience not by his candor?a quality which propelled him to YouTube fame?but through his contrition over “bad attitudes” and “wickedness” when reacting to criticism.
“I believe God perhaps providentially put me at the fountainhead of what has become the Emergent movement to know the people, understand the issues, then leaving them to provide [a] clarity I consider more theologically faithful.”

Having led one of the fastest-growing churches in a city with “more dogs than Christians,” Driscoll attracted media attention quickly. As a fairly new convert gaining a national following while in his late 20s, “I didn’t know how to handle that,” he said.

“In times past, being angry and frustrated combined with immaturity and pride affected my tone” and ultimately obscured his message, said Driscoll, who once had the moniker of “the cussing pastor.” He only recently explained his separation six years ago from what became the Emergent Village, noting, “My heart is not one of anger and frustration, but concern and grief.”

Driscoll also noted the position of Rob Bell, a pastor that he does not know personally but whose writings, including “Velvet Elvis,” he has read. Noting that Bell has called into question the virgin birth, Driscoll said, “The question that begs to be answered is, ‘Do we lose anything if we lose the virgin birth of Jesus Christ?’ …

“To the Lord Jesus, [such doubt] is insulting,” Driscoll said. “First of all, Mary said that she was a virgin. If she was really a lying whore, that does change the story. Because if the lying whore raises a young boy who says he is God, why believe the extravagant claims of the child of a lying whore? Following the resurrection, Jesus’ mother, Mary, was with the disciples worshipping him as God as part of the early church. Why would we believe the testimony of the resurrection of Jesus from a lying whore?

“Let me submit to you, if we lose the testimony of the Scripture about Jesus, we lose Jesus,” Driscoll said. “I believe in prima scriptura, that Scripture is our highest authority. I believe that all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable.”

One conference participant challenged Driscoll’s own practice of watching cable television to better understand the world in which he ministers.

“It’s not to watch for entertainment, but view it like [the Apostle] Paul walking in Athens looking at idols for footholds for the gospel,” Driscoll answered, commending an exposition by Southeastern Seminary President Daniel Akin of 1 Corinthians 6-13 about making wise decisions.

J.D. Greear, pastor of Summit Church in Durham, N.C., suggested using research-based resources to analyze cultural happenings without having to watch them personally. “If you have a weakness for candy, don’t hang out in the candy store,” Greear said.

Asked when a staff member should walk away from a church that will not change, Akin said unyielding doctrinal heresy justifies leaving, but a moral hurdle like racism is worth spilling blood over. “Some of us wimp out. We walk away too soon,” he said. “Unless God sets you free to send you somewhere else, try to be a change agent.”

To those who have considered leaving the Southern Baptist Convention especially when misunderstood by older pastors, LifeWay Research director Ed Stetzer advised them to clearly communicate their shared convictions regarding inerrancy, evangelism and missions.

“If we blow this thing up and all leave, we’ll just have to create it again,” Stetzer said. “God has given the Great Commission to the church, but each individual is not able to do it by himself.”

Reminding the predominantly Southern Baptist crowd that they cooperatively support the largest mission force in denominational Christianity, Stetzer said he often hears leaders in other mission-sending agencies say, “You guys are the ones who do it right.”

Greear and other Baptist speakers praised the courage of men like Adrian Rogers, Paige Patterson and Jerry Vines in leading the theological restoration of the SBC.

“When we look at what God did in our convention, being the only denomination in history that has ever turned around from the brink of liberalism and come back, that was an act of God,” Greear said. Referring to God’s promise to Moses and Joshua, he added, “That command to be strong and courageous is to a generation of younger leaders.”

Greear dismissed “the other Baptists” who point to drops in baptisms since conservatives regained control, comparing them to Sanballet and Tobiah critiquing Nehemiah. “They’ve got their rocks, but God has brought us this far and he’s going to take us forward.

“Nobody had to tell me we had a theological problem,” said Alvin Reid, a Southeastern Seminary evangelism professor, recalling years spent in Baptist schools. While visiting with Patterson “and some guy I’d never heard of named Richard Land” as he researched a seminary paper, they gave him a vision for future change.

As recently as six months ago, Stetzer said he considered stepping down from denominational leadership, frustrated by “some people who just want to keep bombing the rubble.” He said he longs for a t

You couldn’t make this up

I’ve read maybe 100 books about World War II. Biographies, battle reports, unit histories, technological development?all these fascinated me as a boy and the human stories still interest me as an adult. Recently, we have been blessed to have filmmakers and historians who are capturing the stories of the veterans of the era for the ages. Some 130 million Americans lived during the war; it seems that all of them have a riveting story to tell.

Still, I’ve been surprised at how breathtaking Ken Burns’ “The War,” shown on PBS, is to me. I knew the timeline already? Guadalcanal, Tunisia, Tarawa, Anzio, and so on?but it’s those 130 million stories that still arrest me.

Actually, I expected that his approach of selecting four American towns for the focus of the 15 hours of film would be sentimental and maybe dull. It’s not. These towns in Alabama, Minnesota, Connecticut, and California experienced everything that typified the era. There were race riots among ship builders in Alabama, casualties and survivors from the major battles in small-town Minnesota, interred Japanese-Americans from California?everything that happened to us represented by these specific places. My grandparents’ and parents’ generations grow larger in my esteem every time I’m reminded of the challenges of their era, and of their response.

Perhaps nothing new here, but here is my takeaway from the interviews and accounts of Americans of the 1940s:

Unity of purpose?Strange to say, but even during this time of staggering racism Americans of all tribes wanted to fight for their country. Some did it overseas, some by factory work, and all by sacrifice. All gave some, as the song says.

Determination?POWs, Marines in Higgins boats, mothers waiting and praying at home, all continued their own missions for the duration. It is hard to fathom for those of us who have never faced mortal danger. Their example shames me in my whininess.

Sacrifice?Mothers, fathers, wives, and warriors of every generation have offered their best, sometimes their all, for their country and for their neighbors. It seems clear in listening to veterans that they have also sacrificed a degree of peace and innocence for the remainder of their days. The things they experienced appear to have changed everything about their lives.

Perspective?Many who served and sacrificed had to overlook huge inequities in order to offer their service. One news story of the era noted that all that American citizens of Japanese heritage had to give up (when moving to interment camps) was their freedom. I admire the perspective of the thousands who left those camps to serve in segregated combat units?fighting for their freedom while their own families lived in barbed-wire compounds.

Adaptability?It’s relative but everyone in our country experienced a hundred changes that affected every day of the war years for them. Soldiers and Marines and Sailors and Airmen of course experienced change to a more severe degree, just as they do now. They griped and they were ingenious in the ways they found to make life a bit more comfortable but they weathered it. That’s the point; they did what they had to do and almost all of them came through. People fear change, and some change is fearsome, but we probably fear it more than we should.

Now and again, someone creates something that has the potential of making those who read it or see it or otherwise experience it more complete people. It’s usually not a television program. This is one of those creations. The photos, the film, the interviews all tell a true story that no fiction can touch for suspense, for nobility, for horror, for amazing characters, and for meaning.

Watch it, make your kids watch it, talk about it while the WWII generation is still with us. See if it doesn’t make you sit up a little taller and want to be a bit more manly in your daily life.

Paradise’ seeks move of God

Come next May 25, thousands of collegians and youth will converge in an open field in the center of the contiguous United States.

They will spend the day singing, praying and reading Scripture around a massive foundation for a throne. These youth will focus on Christ and worship him alone. It’s an unprecedented event called “Paradise.”

Richard Ross, professor of student ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and one of Paradise’s founders, said God gave him a vision during his morning devotions; a crowd of youth gathered around the throne, worshipping Christ and lifting up his name.

“I don’t know how else to say it?’It was from God.'” Ross said.

At first Ross thought that this vision was a snapshot of Heaven, but soon realized God was leading him to make it become much more.

He said he contacted 18 Christian leaders from all over the country and asked them to pray about the idea. All 18 leaders spent two weeks praying. At the conclusion, they all agreed the idea was from God, and Paradise was on.

Paradise, according to its website?paradise08.com?”is a journey to awaken students from every part of the body of Christ to the supremacy of God’s Son” culminating at a one-day gathering of students worshiping Christ the King. Paradise will occur near the center of the U.S. near a town, providentially Ross believes, called Paradise, on the Kansas plains.

The students’ pilgrimage starts at least a month before the gathering, participating in individual Bible studies that bring them to an understanding of the supreme majesty of Christ.

Their private journeys will climax with a pilgrimage to the center of the nation. Here the students will find an empty field with a foundation for a throne, Ross said. All of the students will gather around this foundation and will worship Christ throughout the day.

“In this age of the church, the father’s focus is on the son,” Ross said. “When Jesus rose from the Mount of Olives, he was immediately enthroned in Heaven. We [Christians] have neglected that.”

Paradise will focus solely on Christ and his supreme majesty, nothing else. “Young people today see Jesus as a mascot or a friend,” Ross said, “What young people fail to see is his majesty. If they see that, they will see he is the reigning ruler.”

After awakening students to Christ’s supremacy, Paradise has two other goals: to call students to adore Christ, and to inspire them to arise to join him. Paradise is a unique event, Ross said.

“I don’t know of any gathering like it,” he said. Paradise’s complete focus is on the supreme majesty of Christ, who he is and what his reign is about. “We are focusing on Christ, because God is focusing on Christ.” Ross said.

In the months leading up to the Paradise gathering, collegians, youth, and leaders who are registered will have access to several online Bible studies. These studies will help the student learn about who Christ is and what his supreme majesty entails. After the students complete lessons in the study, they can go online and participate in an online discussion over what they have learned.

“They will know that much they are about to experience was molded directly by members of their generation.”

Paradise has been set up as a non-profit organization that has no denominational sponsors. “We established Paradise so that no group will be able to get bragging rights,” Ross said. “All the glory will go to Christ alone.”

In light of this, Paradise will not focus on any personality, speaker, or band. Nothing will be sold and no ministry will profit from Paradise.

“We needed to remove all distractions that might hinder students and leaders to worship Christ alone,” Ross said. “Nothing will be sold. All attention will be on Christ alone.”

It is written into Paradise’s constitution that all the registration fees gathered are used strictly to pay for this event. Any leftover funds will be returned to the attendees. While no one person or denomination is sponsoring Paradise, there are many leaders throughout collegiate and youth ministry that have signed on in support of Paradise.

“There are about 100 [people] right now on the Paradise advocates page,” Ross said, “and more being added every week. We have received a magnificent response.”

Paradise Advocates are collegiate and youth ministry leaders who having heard about Paradise, have decided to support this event. None of the people on the advocates page will be featured. All of the advocates are saying that they believe in the message of Paradise that Christ and Christ alone should be worshiped supreme.

“We have groups registered from 26 different states.” Ross said. “And it is still months away from the registration deadline.” An early response from leaders, who are not always known for registering early, is very encouraging. “Paradise has caught their attention.” Ross said.

Paradise’s webpage is where interested collegiate and youth leaders can go to register and learn more about Paradise. This website hosts the Bible studies and interactive pages to share what they have learned concerning Christ and his majesty.

Many leaders are being drawn by Paradise’s focus on Christ. “Many events focus on a personality; this walks away from all of that.” Brad Bunting, SBTC youth evangelism associate, said, “In a way, this is a call to revival, to focus on Christ.”

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is one of the sponsoring organizations.

“We have sent out informational letters to all the churches in the SBTC,” Bunting said, “and we have also passed out literature at several of our events.” In the coming months, the SBTC will continue to raise awareness about this event throughout churches in Texas.

Conference examines emerging churches

WAKE FOREST, N.C.?The so-called emerging church movement has arisen to fill a void created by the ineffectiveness of most conventional churches in spreading the gospel, researcher-missiologist Ed Stetzer said at a Sept. 21-22 “Convergent” conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Stetzer and Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle and president of the Acts 29 Network for church planting, were among the conference’s featured speakers at the Wake Forest, N.C., campus.
Before comparing the orthodoxy of conventional churches and emerging churches, Stetzer challenged the crowd of 500-plus pastors, church planters and seminarians to ask what has prompted the need for alternative churches.

As director of LifeWay Research and missiologist-in-residence at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, Stetzer said Southern Baptist churches are not evidencing healthy growth. While many churches note increases, very little of that growth comes from evangelistic conversion, he said.

“If we’re not growing through seeing men and women come to faith in Christ, then something’s wrong,” Stetzer said.

From Luke 24 he identified three things churches must recover to stay on mission: the centrality of the cross, the message of repentance for forgiveness of sins, and the importance of the witness.

Stetzer spoke of some pastors who seem to convey, “This is my Bible and I’ll never refer to it again,” lacking confidence in the gospel’s power to change lives. Without the gospel front and center, Christians give up on the church, he said, challenging such disengagement by declaring, “I know the bride of Christ is not pretty, but you cannot love Jesus and hate his wife.”

A new class has arisen of the formerly churched, Stetzer continued, calling this young crowd “the pajama ‘jehideen [a pun on “mujahideen”], sleeping ’til noon every day, living in Mom’s basement, attacking anything that will try to reach anyone for Jesus Christ.”

Whether in a Louisville gathering of artists with their black T-shirts, holey jeans and blond spiked hair?all “individuals who don’t want to be squeezed into a mold”?or an Oklahoma cowboy church interjecting “yee-haw” between stanzas of “Victory in Jesus,” Stetzer said God is at work in biblically faithful churches transforming lives through repentance and forgiveness.

“If our desire is to create a denomination where everyone looks alike, everyone worships in the same way, everyone does all the cultural, traditional trappings and we call that biblically faithful, we will never reach beyond the narrow, cultural confines that have defined us,” Stetzer warned. “If we are going to reach men and women from every tongue, tribe and nation, it is going to take all kinds of scripturally sound churches to reach all kinds of people.”

Instead of being upset about emerging churches or the influence of “first, second and third John,” referring to three famous Reformed theology preachers named John?Calvin, Piper and MacArthur?Stetzer called on Southern Baptists to affirm their faith statement and share their witness for Christ.

“Whether conventional, traditional, emerging, Calvinist or a little less so, just get on mission and be faithful to the gospel.”

Driscoll previewed some of the research he compiled on the increasingly liberal views of the left-leaning Emergent Village, to be published first in the Christian Research Journal and subsequently as a book by Crossway.

Driscoll said Emergents are rewriting what it means to be a Christian by abandoning substitutionary atonement when they avoid speaking of the cross in reference to sin.

Driscoll said some Emergents like Brian McLaren prefer to “plead the fifth” when asked if homosexual acts are compatible with the Christian faith. Driscoll said when McClaren was asked about his position on homosexual “marriage,” his answer was, “‘You know what? The thing that breaks my heart is that there is no way I can answer it without hurting someone on either side.’ To which I would respond, ‘Now you have hurt God.’ God is in Heaven and he has spoken to this issue with great clarity.”

Driscoll also noted McClaren’s endorsement of the Jesus Seminar, an academic group that denies the historicity of the resurrection. This view diminishes the impact of Jesus’ crucifixion on a sinful society and negates the need for his substitutionary atonement for sin, Driscoll said.

“There is nothing that we have to offer apart from the person of Jesus and his work on the cross,” Driscoll said. “So if the cross is lost, Christianity is lost, and hope is lost and Christ is lost. That means that, ultimately, we are lost. So this issue of the atonement is incredibly important.”

Driscoll said some of those he analyzed also support controversial doctrines such as open theism and process theology; they hold to a “trajectory hermeneutic” that allows doctrine to evolve; they shift from a complementarian to an egalitarian view of male leadership in biblical matters; and some even deny the virgin birth.

Though neither he nor his church are associated with the SBC,Driscoll questioned the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s wisdom in inviting Solomon’s Porch pastor Doug Pagitt of Minneapolis to lecture at their Wired2Go church leaders conference Oct. 16, warning the audience of what he considers heretical views held by Pagitt. (The week after Driscoll’s comments, the North Carolina convention disinvited Pagitt.)

“Might I submit to you if you are thirsty for insight on theology you not drink from the toilet even though there is water there,” he told the conference crowd.

Borrowing from Stetzer’s method of categorizing emerging church leaders, Driscoll placed McLaren, Pagitt and Rob Bell within the “revisionist stream” identified with the Emergent Village, while Dan Kimball and “Blue Like Jazz” author Donald Miller are in a milder “cool church crowd” labeled “relevants” who “are not necessarily trying to rewrite theology, but offer innovative methods of ministry.”

A third stream, the “relevant reformed,” are “confessional, contextual, cool Calvinists,” Driscoll said.
“That’s my team,” encompassing the Acts 29 Network and such leaders as C.J. Mahaney, Josh Nelson and Matt Chandler who engage in expositional Bible preaching and teaching that is theologically motivated. Driscoll said some are slightly charismatic in that they raise their hands “and sing songs that aren’t on the cutting edge of the 18th century.”

Driscoll said this more orthodox group agrees that old ministry methods aren’t working as the world has shifted from the assumptions of modernity. They are concerned that churches are struggling, he said, and that lost people are not coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus in the numbers they would envision.

Alvin Reid, an evangelism professor at Southeastern Seminary, told the conference that too many Southern Baptists think there is a direct correspondence between “how we look and how we believe”?and both are unchanging.

“If the 1950s come back, a lot of our churches will be ready,” predicted Reid, urging contextualization of the gospel without compromising doctrine. “One does not have to sacrifice orthodoxy for orthopraxy or vice versa,” he said.

Once an “agile, mobile and hostile” high school linebacker, the 48-year-old Reid said he blew out both knees and has an artificial hip, making him “fragile, senile and docile” as well as “in denial.” He has gone from the football field to watching it on TV. Though he remains excited and motivated, yelling as if the players could hear him cheering, Reid said he doesn’t change anything sitting on his couch eating pie while watching the game.

“The conventional church has become like that. We still know the plays, how

Judge allows suit against seminary to continue

(Updated Sept. 19)

FORT WORTH  The judge in a federal employment lawsuit against Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and its president has ruled the case may proceed with an amended complaint against the school.

Also, in court documents filed Sept. 14 in U.S. District Court in Fort Worth, Judge John McBryde noted that due to the additional complaint, the Texas seminary’s request for dismissal of the case is moot — a move that drew a different interpretation from each camp.

The plaintiff, former Southwestern theology professor Sheri L. Klouda, claims she was wrongly denied tenure because she is a woman after being hired for a tenure-track position in 2002. The seminary, which has changed leadership since Klouda’s hiring, said her tenure denial is consistent with a policy enacted after her hiring that, for doctrinal reasons, the teaching of men in theology classes should be done by men.

Both sides in the case expressed optimism at the judge’s ruling Sept. 14.

Gary Richardson, a Tulsa, Okla., attorney representing Klouda, told the Southern Baptist TEXAN: “I think [Southwestern] very much thought [the motion to dismiss] would be the end of the case and, of course, we very much believe that we have a legal basis to keep the case alive and keep it moving.”

Richardson said he is “cautiously optimistic.”

But Shelby Sharpe, representing seminary President Paige Patterson in the case, said the decision to go forward under a new pleading has nothing to do with the merits of the suit.

“Judge McBryde, in granting the motion for Dr. Klouda to amend her complaint, made a very pragmatic decision that eliminated the second suit in the most efficient way and placed all of her claims in one suit for final disposition,” Sharpe said.

Sharpe added: “The motions to dismiss were directed at a complaint no longer before the court after the granting of permission to file the new complaint that made those motions moot, which is not a ruling on the merits raised by those motions.”

Furthermore, Sharpe said, the judge’s separate order for a status report is “standard for all litigation in Judge McBryde’s court and is also no indication that the issues raised by the motions to dismiss are not meritorious. The defense still strongly believes these issues raised by the motions to dismiss will ultimately lead to a summary disposition of this suit when they come before him in due season.”

Klouda was hired for a tenure-track position in 2002 when Kenneth Hemphill was Southwestern’s president but later was notified that she would not be tenured, her lawsuit states.

The seminary argued in April that their action was “an ecclesiastical decision, which this Court is bound to accept out of deference for the free exercise of religion, protected by the First Amendment.”

Klouda’s lawsuit, as originally constituted, charged Southwestern and Patterson with breach of contract, fraud and defamation and sought unspecified damages.

Klouda earned a Ph.D. at Southwestern in 2002 and was elected unanimously by the trustees to her tenure-track position teaching Hebrew. A Criswell College graduate, Klouda left the seminary in 2006 and now teaches at Taylor University in Upland, Ind.

In the lawsuit, Klouda charged that Patterson assured her “personally and specifically” that her position was secure. She is the primary provider for her family, the lawsuit stated, and has “relocated her family out of financial necessity, incurring costs and financial hardship.”

Patterson has stated that the seminary’s policy prohibiting women from teaching theology to men springs from its desire to “model the local church.” The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, adopted by a majority of messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, states the role of senior pastor in local churches is limited to men. Patterson, according to the suit, believes the same standard applies to the seminary.

Klouda’s case became widely known after a news story last Jan. 19 appeared in the Dallas Morning News after her denial of tenure. The story stemmed from comments on the Internet blog of Enid, Okla., pastor Wade Burleson decrying Klouda’s tenure denial.

Nearly two months later, Klouda hired Richardson, the Oklahoma attorney, and filed suit against the seminary.

Prior to her lawsuit, Klouda told the Dallas Morning News: “I don’t think it was right to hire me to do this job, put me in the position where I, in good faith, assumed that I was working toward tenure, and then suddenly remove me without any cause other than gender.”

Southwestern trustee chairman Van McClain countered that the school “allowed her to teach a full two years after she was told she would not have tenure” and that “I do not know of any women teaching in any of the SBC seminaries presently in the area of theology or biblical languages.”

Dorothy Patterson, wife of the Southwestern president, teaches theology at the school, but only before female students, the seminary said.

Plano, Texas, attorney Kelly Shackelford, who has argued many religious liberty cases in the federal courts, said issues “that touch in any way on the seminary’s right to follow doctrine in hiring its religious instructors” are constitutionally protected.

Look past urban myths to love your city, urban minister says in book

“Three things are true about our cities. They are growing at an amazing rate; they are fragmenting as fast as they are growing; and they will touch every human being living today in increasingly profound ways,” wrote Randy White, urban projects director for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, in his book “Journey to the Center of the City.”

Despite the inescapable grasp of urbanization, White said few churches are addressing the needs of urban centers. With cities now boasting dozens of ethnic groups, the cultural and economic divide between new suburban communities and urban communities are rife with myths and misconceptions. In short, urban ministry makes many believers uncomfortable.

Burdened with the spiritual and physical results of urban growth, White and his family moved from a stable California suburb to one of the poorest neighborhoods in the heart of Fresno, Calif. Chronicling their transition to urban life, “Journey to the Center of the City” shares the story of the White family as they sought to make a difference for Christ in their own city.

In reviewing his own urban ministry, White purposed his book to serve as “a testimony to God’s love and provision for those who venture out of their comfort zones to practice a lifestyle of love in neighborhoods of need.”

Myth 1: The city is ugly
Shortly after moving his family to a low-income, neglected community and finding himself far removed from his white, middle-class perspective, White said he was forced to face several myths of inner-city ministry. To reach new demographics with the gospel, believers must face the unpleasant realities of the city and move past them, he said.

“The most obvious myth to emerge from [my] experience was my unspoken assumption that this part of town was incapable of beauty. After all, didn’t the bars on windows, cyclone fences, deteriorating paint, lack of landscaping, and graffiti prove that the residents there didn’t care about taking care of things? The place was so ugly,” White said.

But it wasn’t until White began to spend time with his new neighbors that his perspective changed.

“The beauty that exists in the core of the city began to dawn like a hazy sun in my eyes. It was the life of those neighbors that silently taught me to examine with different eyes what I assumed,” he said.
“They have the same appreciation for life and beauty, the same human aspirations, fears and desires for their family that we all know to be universal.”

“As commuters race to get out this neighborhood, they will miss the visual cues that exist just out of view, testifying to the beauty that is resident here ? Because most of those cues are inside the home. To see them one would have to stop and spend time there.”

Because believers are “well tutored by culture” to associate external realities with beauty, White said the first step in urban ministry is to “to retrain our eyes not only to expect beauty in unlikely places ? That means I need to learn the discipline of anchoring my sense of visual appreciation in people rather than in aesthetics alone.”

Myth 2: God dwells in the mountains
There is a second myth that prevents believers from ministering to urban dwellers: dirty, dangerous cities are the last place you’d go to find the presence of God. For example, White noted that most devotional guides have wilderness images on their covers?like a waterfall or mountain?sending the message that “it’s the hills, not the streets, that are alive with the sound of music.”

Conceding there is biblical precedent for going to the wilderness to seek God, White added that the journey of believers to the “calm of cabin retreats” has turned into an evacuation from urban centers.
As a result, the church is missing out on valuable ministry opportunities in their own cities.

“Some have fled not in search of God, but out of fear over what they see happening in the city.
Unfortunately, all too often the church has joined the mass exodus, removing the very salt and light that is needed.”

Quoting Psalm 121:1-2, White noted it is not the countryside that holds the power to calm fears. “It is the presence of God we are after, not merely escape from what we fear. Psalms, so often the book of the Bible that best helps us process our fears, sets a consistently urban context for God’s work,” with 49 of the 150 psalms having an urban focus. “Most deal with Jerusalem, but some deal with other cities. Most are psalms that express God’s creative love for the city.”

White sees the city as central to God’s design for redemption. “Let’s keep going to the mountain. We’ll go there to commune with God, to be renewed and inspired. But let’s go to the city too. There we will observe God at work, carrying out his transforming agenda.”

Love your city
The Great Commission begins with learning to love the city, wrote White, offering two ideas for ministering to urbanities. First, make connections with people. Defining “connections” as “simple chances for paths to cross,” White said even things like buying ice cream at the same time translates into a shared experience. “Then the connections can develop into greater opportunities for involvement with one another.”

The initiative of the Holy Spirit is central to interacting with people, he added.

“For me, the key has been to pray that God will orchestrate and direct this kind of neighbor-love,” White said. “Our journey to the center of our city is ? merely an attempt to cross paths with those who are poor and those who care about the poor, allowing our lives to influence one another, providing new contexts where Jesus Christ can make something happen?something new and redemptive?both in their lives and in ours.”

Second, loving the city means learning to partner with the poor. But, White added, that partnership must be conducted in a manner “that recognizes and maintains their dignity.” White suggests gathering a coalition of people from the neighborhood and from other Christian agencies to paint houses, install alley lights, read to children, and pick up trash. Working side-by-side with people from the neighborhood opens doors to share the gospel, he said.

For more specific ideas on how believers and churches can learn to love their cities, White included a list of 21 practical tips on beginning an inner-city ministry. He offers ideas such as taking a drive through a poor section of town.

“See if you can keep track of a few things and compare them to your neighborhood (for example, the number of boarded up houses, ratio of check-cashing stores to banks, and note the condition of the streets, amount of graffiti, etc).

Other ideas on White’s list include:
?Asking an inner-city church to sponsor an urban tour for some of your church members to learn about the needs of that part of the city.

?Attend an inner-city church that is ethnically different from your own church. Stay after the service to meet people and eat lunch together.

?Sponsor a joint youth group service project like Habitat for Humanity to connect a suburban and inner-city church.

?Prayerwalk through a neglected neighborhood with residents of the area every week for one month.
For more urban ministry ideas or to read excerpts from “Journey to the Center of the City” (ISBN: 0-8308-1129-X), visit ivpress.com.