Month: September 2007

Engage teams spark revival in Texas churches

During the inaugural summer of the SBTC’s Engage student-led revival ministry, some 170 decisions were made as two student teams traveled to nine churches to lead revival services, evangelism training and outreach.

“Since the revival our attendance and spirit have been more positive. Our youth have been more dedicated to church and to the Lord. We needed this revival,” David Brumbelow said.

Brumbelow serves as pastor at Northside Baptist Church in Highlands, a small church with an average Sunday morning attendance of 50 people. Northside Baptist Church has held revival services before, but prior to the Engage team coming the church had not had a youth-led revival.

Long before Brumbelow heard about Engage, he had thought the church needed to bring in a young preacher to lead a youth-led revival. He began to pray and during the first part of the year he received the mail-out describing the student-led revival teams that would be available to serve in churches across Texas in the summer.

“I’m a big believer in local church revivals, and the Lord confirmed in my heart that this is what we needed and had been looking for,” Brumbelow said.

In the weeks leading up to the revival services Brumbelow publicized the event to the community and to the church. A special time of prayer was held for the revival and a mail-out detailing the events was sent to members and visitors.

“This revival is the most important thing in your life ? and for the entire family [not just the] youth,” he told his congregation. Although students were leading the revival, Brumbelow wanted the entire congregation to participate and be involved?especially in the evangelism efforts in the community.

With as many as 60 people in attendance during the evening revival services, two decisions to receive Christ were made, and two more made decisions to be baptized the Sunday following the revival.

Visitors who came to the revival have continued to attend the church, and decisions for Christ continue to occur in the church?many can be linked back to the heart-stir they received at the revival.

“An army is rising to truly reach Texas and beyond ? I have talked to pastors following their revival who continue to tell me of others who have accepted Christ following the revival,” said Matt Hubbard, the SBTC’s Engage coordinator.

In addition to leading evening revival services the Engage team taught the youth how to share the gospel, and then took them into their community to do it.

“We trained [the youth] how to share the gospel, and how to follow up, [then we] took them to the mall, laundromats, door to door, or wherever they saw a need,” Kody Wetzold said. Wetzold, a Criswell College student, served as the youth and children’s leader on an Engage team.

Using the “One-Verse Evangelism” technique from Romans 6:23, Southwestern Seminary student Chris Teer said he watched the youth transition from having never shared their faith to becoming bold witnesses in their communities.

“They realized how easy it is to share their faith ? and through the experience their relationship with Christ has grown deeper,” he said.

Sharing the renewed passion for evangelism and sharing their faith, “Adults are saying, ‘I’ve never done this before, but now I’m going to,” Hubbard said.

Marcos Ramos, pastor of First Baptist of Galena Park, said the church decided to hold the Engage revival when the church would normally hold VBS. Services were translated into Spanish, allowing the entire congregation to attend. The youth continue to share their faith in the community and eight people have expressed their desire to be baptized, he said.

After the great response to the revival, “People are excited about sharing their faith ? we have applied to have an Engage team come again, next year,” Ramos said.

Ramos gladly shares with other area pastors how Engage impacted his church and encourages them to consider hosting a team next year.

Brumbelow said he also is excited about the potential of Engage: “I would recommend the SBTC Engage revival team to any church. We certainly plan on having another Engage revival in the future,” he said.

Rix Tillman, pastor of Exciting Immanuel Baptist Church in El Paso, said the evangelism training the church received connected well with the existing evangelism strategy in the church. “[Engage] is a great idea. I want to applaud the SBTC and [encourage them to] keep it up,” Tillman said.

Engage team preacher and team leader Lance Wendling of Criswell College said this summer not only confirmed in his heart a calling to be an evangelist, it provided the Engage teams with an opportunity to train and equip people to reach their community for Christ. “Engage teams ? through God’s spirit can come ignite the church [to] to be his hands and feet to a lost world,” Wendling said.

“Our goal is to help re-ignite a passion for evangelism in our state ? even after the teams have left, evangelism efforts are continuing at the churches who held the Engage revivals,” Hubbard said. “We would love to have teams come to your church. We are excited to see what God is going to do through the churches [who host an Engage revival].”

In addition to Wendling, Teer and Wetzold, other teams members were Billy Moore of Southwestern Seminary and Garrett McGraw of Cooper High School.

Hubbard said high school students such as McGraw typically will not be eligible to participate, but because of McGraw’s age?he’s 18?and maturity, he was allowed to participate.

Churches interested in holding an Engage revival or students wanting to be a part of next year’s teams may contact Hubbard at or call him toll free at the SBTC office, 877-953-7282.

Mo Churches

My daughter is my cultural consultant. She works so hard to keep me from being clueless, and thus embarrassing to her.

Recently Maggie schooled me on current music styles. Of course, in my childhood home we had both music styles of that era, Country and Western. That has changed and every style has subsets and tribal affiliates. She tells me that rock music today has a subdivision called “Emo” whose followers are a bit melancholy and dress so that no one can miss it. A subset of Emo music is “Screamo” in which the singers whine as loudly as possible?all volume knobs set at 11.

It occurs to me that churches can also be Emo, Screamo, and other kinds of “mo.” I offer these for your amusement, or perhaps to try your patience. Feel free to play along at home.

Emo churches?Like the music style, Emo churches are a bit pale. They give a lot of attention on brokenness and desperation as though everyone in the congregation is coming off a bad breakup or a job crisis.

Screamo churches?Again, a pop music term but Screamo churches are angry. These churches are often divided over something and share their sincerest feelings with one another at a loud volume.

Bemo churches?In a way they are the opposite of Emo churches. In this case the pastor spends too much time telling congregants of his disappointment with them. They should give more, witness more, visit more, show up more?to generally “be” more than they are.

Seemo churches?have neither a dress code nor a modesty rail in the choir loft.

Dreamo churches?are not so much in the present. They have a vision for growth, building, expansion, and fame but are not currently doing anything that might result in growth. They have dreams, lots of dreams. Dreamo might also refer to nostalgic churches in which former pastors were good looking and the numbers were all above average.

Laymo churches?are big into lay leadership and committee structure. “We were here before the current occupant of the parsonage and we’ll be here after he’s gone.”

Promo churches?Laymen do little because the staff is paid and trained to do everything. Sometimes this is the preference of the “professional” staff; other times it is the expectation of exhausted volunteers who formerly led one ministry or another.

Bethmo churches?have a cadre of really hip and biblically literate young women.

Schemo churches?enjoy a lot of whispering in the hall and semi-official home fellowships. This is the larval form of a Screamo church.

Nomo churches?have just become woebegone. They have no money, no people, no memory of why they exist.

HeyMoe churches?have pastors who enjoy very happy relationships with the staff or lay leadership. They share many inside jokes and puzzling jocularity in front of a general audience.

Slowmo churches?Policies, procedures, calendaring, and caution make it the work of a lifetime to stop, start, or continue any ministry. Might also be a Laymo church or a Nomo church, but not necessarily.

Causemo churches?Good deeds and trendy causes (political, benevolent, etc.) force out other work of the church.

Themo churches?So I dub churches where the hobbies and dress of church members indicate a cultural niche. Cowboys (or Western Heritage People if you’re not a real cowboy), bikers, skateboarders, NASCAR fans, and outdoorsmen offer opportunities for ministry with a distinction.

Getmo churches?Members are encouraged by pastoral example, messages, the example of lay leaders or by cultural influence to become materialistic. It is the more subtle Baptist version of the prosperity gospel.

Gomo churches?Young adults in the church go to Mama’s or to the lake more Sundays than not. This phenomenon can work the same way for empty nesters with grandbabies in another state. This middle-age aspect of the tendency might qualify the church as “Airstreamo.”

Demo churches?are too anxious to abandon a challenging community in favor of a rapidly growing
suburb. They demolish their ministries if not their buildings.

Wemo churches?are highly competitive. The benchmark seems to be the “sister” church across town. If they are larger, more compassionate, more conservative, or in other way superior to the competition, life is good enough.

Esteemo churches?are not quite Emo but certainly related. These churches want everyone to feel good about himself to a degree that gives the wrong idea. Esteemos might not like preaching about sin or the notion of Hell (who does?) so they just don’t bring it up. Everyone goes home happy and holding the pastor’s latest book. Everyone shows up next week because the reality of sin starts to creep back into their awareness.

Memo churches?These fellowships “got the memo” and are related to Wemo and Causemo subspecies (perhaps we could create a taxonomic category called “Supremo”). These churches “get it,” though. Most importantly, other congregations around the country don’t, can’t, and won’t ever see things clearly ? unless they become franchisees.

Sunbeamo?Of course, these churches still conduct a lively missions education program for their young children. They’re called Mission Friends these days but Sunbeamo churches still resist the AWANA tsunami.

And finally, I offer “Upstreamo” churches. These hardy fellowships walk uphill against the temptation to become something more comfortable. They recognize the privileges of being ambassadors and aliens in a world that scoffs at things they know to be very important. Sometimes they may relish being counter-cultural more than they should but they are not wrong to seek the harder, narrower path.

I hope you are not tender to the satire or impatient with the attempt at humor, dear reader. We steer a narrow course between the rocks of trendiness and stubborn adherence to a culture that no longer exists. I believe we can smile humbly at the earnest excess that tempts us all at one time or another.

Where the blessings come out!

This is the 10th meeting of the messengers of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. From the very beginning the SBTC’s annual meetings have been a little different from similar denominational gatherings. While business reports and officers’ elections are on the program of many deliberative bodies, we have a heavy emphasis on worship and fellowship. Each year the desire is to inform, inspire and minister to those present. Here’s what is happening this year.

On Monday night there will a special one-time staff video/testimony time. Hopefully, you will be moved as you see what God has been doing in and through Texas Southern Baptists. We can praise God together for his marvelous grace. President Steve Swofford concludes the evening with a challenging message. Pastor Michael Lewis of Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin will bring the Convention sermon Tuesday morning. Thom Rainer, CEO of LifeWay, will bring the concluding message on Tuesday night. As a prolific author and insightful researcher, Dr. Rainer will encourage us to do our best for the Lord Jesus. Each session will feature a Bible study and prayer time.

Powerful music will lift us to God’s presence each day. Great choirs, praise team bands and gifted soloists will minister to us. Varying styles of music will reflect a diversity of tastes. Speaking of diversity, a wide range of ethnicity is evident on the program. Hispanic, African-American, Asian, Anglo, even cowboys will sing, pray or preach. The SBTC looks a little like Heaven when all God’s children take a part.

Other activities will surround the annual meeting. The SBTC Bible Conference starts on Sunday night hosted by the historic congregation of the First Baptist Church of Fort Worth located on north I-820 Loop. Monday the Conference meets at the Arlington Convention Center. An incredible line-up of preachers such as Earnest Easley, Joe Lightner, Franklin Calloway, Ted Traylor, Gregg Matte and Fred Lowery will bring God’s Word. Dennis Baw and Tommy Oglesby will bring theme interpretations.

The President’s Luncheon features funny man Dennis Swanberg at Tuesday’s lunch. There will be a Ladies’ Luncheon on Monday with Lisa Whelchel sharing a timely word. Other “eat’n meet’ns” will take place in the Baptist tradition.

Of course there will be some business. Every messenger will be given an opportunity to introduce new items. Resolutions will be considered. Officers will be voted on. Thankfully, we have been blessed with a sweet spirit throughout our discussions.

This is a great time for you to attend an SBTC annual meeting. Bring a group from your church. This is our family gathering when we can invite our friends to come along too. We ask that all messengers and guests register. Information about accommodations, times, and other details are available at our website, Or you can call us toll free at 1-877-953-7282. As my old camp meeting preacher friend used to say, “Come get under the spout where the blessings come out!” See you in Arlington.

Court: State can’t regulate seminaries

(Editor’s note: The print version of the Sept. 17 TEXAN incorrectly reports that the court ruling was 8-0. In fact, the court ruled 8-0 only on the question of Tyndale’s use of the term “seminary.” See fifth paragraph below for further explanation.)

AUSTIN  The Texas Supreme Court has capped eight years of litigation in ruling in favor of three seminaries that the state’s higher education code places unconstitutional restrictions on them.

The Texas Education Code required religious and other private degree-granting institutions to be state certified or accredited before granting post-high school degrees. The law, amended in 1998, also required state certification before a religious school could call itself a seminary.

The state’s Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of Tyndale Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Southern Bible Institute in Dallas and Hispanic Bible Institute in San Antonio notes that the state’s requirement “impermissibly intrudes upon religious freedom protected by the United States and Texas Constitutions.”

The court’s Aug. 31 ruling overturned two lower court decisions.

The court ruled 8-0 that the law wrongly restricted the schools’ use of the term “seminary.” But the court split on the question of whether or not the state could regulate the granting of seminary diplomas, with two justices arguing the state may exercise such oversight.

In 1999 the state of Texas fined Tyndale $173,000 for violating the Texas Education Code by calling itself a seminary though not certified by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and for granting post-secondary degrees despite its unaccredited status.

HEB Ministries, which runs Tyndale’s Texas campus, in turn sued the state on religious freedom grounds, joined by the two other schools.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, an accredited institution owned by the Southern Baptist Convention, filed an amicus brief in the case on behalf of the three religious schools.

The court noted the intent of the Texas Education Code is to prevent deception of the public by “degree mills,” which it defines as schools granting “fraudulent or substandard” degrees. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board argued it was neutral toward all post-secondary schools, religious or not, by applying the same standards to all.

Yet, the court wrote, “The State cannot avoid constitutional impediments to setting substantive standards for religious education by making the standards applicable to all education institutions, secular and religious.”

Further, the court opinion stated the state’s requirement of “academic freedom” and “faculty ‘independence'” conflicts with the doctrinal statement of a school such as Tyndale, which the court noted holds to biblical inerrancy and conservative theology. Such requirements unconstitutionally elevate one type of religious instruction over another, the opinion stated.

The court ruled narrowly on the state law, applying its decision only to the section of the law affecting exclusively religious institutions. The ruling does not apply to private secular schools and religious schools offering secular education programs.

The court wrote: “It is one thing for the State to require that English majors in a baccalaureate program take science or math courses, that they be taught by professors with master’s degrees from accredited institutions, and that professors have the freedom to teach that the works sometimes attributed to Shakespeare were really written by Edward de Vere, Christopher Marlowe, Francis Bacon, or Queen Elizabeth I. It is quite another for the State to require that a religious institution’s baccalaureate-level education in religion include psychology courses, or that preaching or evangelism or missions be taught only by professors with master’s degrees instead of practitioners from the field, or that a school’s faculty have the freedom to teach that the Bible was not divinely inspired, contrary to the school’s tenets of faith.”

Kelly Shackelford of Plano, Texas, one of the attorneys who argued the case, said in a statement: “This decision is a huge victory for all seminaries not only in Texas but nationwide. The state has no authority or competence to control the training of pastors and ministers, and the Supreme Court rightly held so.”

I.D. rift hits Baylor again

WACO, Texas (BP)–Baylor University officials ordered the shutdown of a personal website of one of a handful of the school’s distinguished professors because of anonymous concerns that the site, hosted on the university’s server, supported Intelligent Design.

Robert Marks, distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering at Baylor, launched a website called the Evolutionary Informatics Lab in June to examine whether Darwinian processes like random mutation and natural selection can generate new information.

Marks’ conclusions, as explained on the website, placed limits on the scope of Darwinism and offered scientific support for Intelligent Design.

In July, a podcast interview with Marks appeared on a website run by the pro-ID Discovery Institute, and a week later Benjamin Kelley, dean of engineering at Baylor, told Marks to remove the Evolutionary Informatics website immediately.

“This is a big story, perhaps the biggest story yet of academic suppression relating to ID,” William Dembski, a research professor in philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press.

“Robert Marks is a world-class expert in the field of evolutionary computing, and yet the Baylor administration, without any consideration of the actual content of Marks’ work at the Evolutionary Informatics Lab, decided to shut it down simply because there were anonymous complaints linking the lab to Intelligent Design,” Dembski said.

Dembski himself was at the center of a controversy involving Baylor and Intelligent Design in 2000 when he was removed from his post as director of the school’s Michael Polanyi Center for Complexity, Information, and Design after refusing to rescind a statement supporting Intelligent Design as a legitimate form of academic inquiry.

Lori Fogleman, director of media communications at Baylor, told Baptist Press Sept. 5 that the school’s objection to the website involves standards by which something can or cannot attach its name to Baylor.

“This isn’t about the content of the website. Really the issue is related to Baylor’s policies and procedures of approving centers, institutes, products using the university’s name,” Fogleman said. “Baylor reserves the exclusive right to the use of its own name, and we’re pretty jealous in the protection of that name. So it has nothing to do with the content but is all about how one goes about establishing a center, an institute, a product using the university’s name.”

In response to the dean’s order to remove the Evolutionary Informatics website, Marks requested a meeting with Baylor legal counsel to resolve the matter. Six days before the scheduled Aug. 9 meeting, Kelley entered Marks’ Baylor webspace and, without his consent, removed all references to the Evolutionary Informatics Lab, according to a timeline Dembski sent to BP.

The Aug. 9 meeting involved John Gilmore, an attorney who advised Dembski in 2000 and now represents Marks, Baylor Provost Randall O’Brien, Kelley and Baylor attorneys including Charles Beckenhauer, chief counsel for the school. Baylor officials asked that Marks add a disclaimer to his website and remove anything that could imply the lab is a Baylor initiative.

“Randall O’Brien signs off on the EIL site going back up and closes the meeting with prayer,” Dembski’s timeline states.

An Aug. 21 e-mail from Beckenhauer to Gilmore included what the Baylor chief counsel called his “proposed fixes” to the website, which by then existed only as a mirror site, not viewable by the general public. Gilmore responded by saying the matter had been settled at the Aug. 9 meeting with the provost and that Beckenhauer’s recommendations were out of line.

On Aug. 30, Beckenhauer told Gilmore via e-mail that “there is now a long trail of information that inappropriately links independent research to the Baylor name,” and he said the website issue centered on “misleading representations of your client and his collaborator (Dr. Dembski).”

Research papers that Dembski and Marks wrote jointly were on the website, and Dembski said his connection with the lab had been evident from the start.

Beckenhauer said the Aug. 9 meeting was not meant to be a final agreement, and he expressed concerns that Marks and Dembski had created a “trail of inaccuracies” that would lead people to believe Baylor had given direct support for what in reality was an independent project.

“All the circumstantial evidence points to John Lilley, Baylor’s president, as being behind this effort to stamp out ID at Baylor,” Dembski told Baptist Press. “The provost was at the crucial Aug. 9 meeting; the president wasn’t. Lilley is the only one with the authority to overturn what the provost agreed to at that meeting.”

Dembski, in comments to the Southern Baptist Texan newsjournal Sept. 4, underscored the hypersensitivity surrounding Intelligent Design in scholastic institutions these days.

“You have to understand, in the current academic climate, Intelligent Design is like leprosy or heresy in times past,” he said. “To be tagged as an ID supporter is to become an academic pariah, and this holds even at so-called Christian institutions that place a premium on respectability at the expense of truth and the offense of the Gospel.”

Dembski said he knows of several faculty members at Baylor who support Intelligent Design, but they are mostly younger faculty who don’t have tenure and don’t speak up on the topic. An old guard at Baylor, he said, supports secularization.

“John Lilley, in attempting to pacify that old guard, and perhaps because of a sense of foreboding about how Baylor might be perceived in the wider university culture if it were seen as supporting Intelligent Design or as even allowing it merely a presence, has therefore decided to come down hard against it,” Dembski said.

Intelligent Design “in a sense became a poster child” of what immediate past president Robert Sloan tried to accomplish at Baylor, seeking to rescue the Baptist General Convention of Texas-affiliated school from its slide into secularization before he resigned under pressure in 2005, Dembski noted.

Aside from the hot-button issue of Intelligent Design, Dembski said the way the Baylor administration has dealt with Marks in this case is “inexcusable by any standard, certainly Christian but even secular.”

“I’ve been at MIT, Princeton University, Notre Dame, Cornell, Northwestern and the University of Chicago, and at none of these schools have I ever have witnessed the shameful treatment that Baylor has accorded to Robert Marks,” Dembski said.

“… [Marks] was a star in his department at the University of Washington in Seattle for 26 years before Baylor recruited him, and now Baylor is subjecting him to treatment that even so ‘liberal’ and ‘secular’ a place as UW would find unconscionable,” Dembski added. “Yes, there are academic freedom issues here, but at this point the issue is one of plain decency.”

Robert Crowther of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture told Baptist Press the institute is watching the Marks situation from an academic freedom standpoint.

“We’re deeply concerned that the administration at Baylor University has really not shown any support for academic freedom or freedom of scientific inquiry in shutting down a website and a research project of one of their distinguished faculty,” Crowther said. “We find that very troubling. It does show a certain trend at Baylor.”

Crowther said he believes Intelligent Design has become such a controversial issue in academia because of the scientific threat it poses. The Scopes Trial should have settled the issue, he said, but discoveries since then have altered the discussion.

“What has changed is the science. We know things now and there are new discoveries being made all the time that are leading a number of scientists to not just question Darwinian evolution but to actively pursue research into Intelligent Design,” Crowther said. “The thing that is driving this really is the science. We wouldn’t be having the debate if there wasn’t something going on in science that was causing a lot of questions to rise from most of the scientists.”