Month: October 2007

The God who divides

PAN class=060182217-29102007 style=”FONT-SIZE: 12pt; FONT-FAMILY: Times New Roman”>Abusy street in Honolulu displayed signs in five different languages that we could see from the corner where we stood. Between the tourists and the natives we could hear more languages than those five being spoken as we walked the length of two blocks. Tammi commented that this was what all America would look like in a few years. I allowed she was probably right but wasn’t sure how I felt about it. That was 15 years ago. Tammi was right and Americans are still conflicted about what that cultural diversity really means.

Some look at our increasingly diverse population and cry joyfully that it looks like Heaven will look, with people from every tribe and nation. Others see the culture clash and wonder how those who worship the God of Israel can harmonize with those who worship the baals. And that is the American puzzle for our time.

It was easy “in the beginning.” Everything God had made was in a kind of egalitarian mass the Bible calls formless and empty. Then he started to define things: light and dark, the heavens and the earth, dry ground and water, plants and animals?each after their own kind, and finally two people who were themselves easy to tell apart.

All this was before the Fall, and good. After the expulsion from Eden, God scattered people all over the Earth?each after their own culture and language?guaranteeing both astounding diversity and confounding cultural divisions.

The specifying, dividing, the distinguishing between things didn’t stop there, though. Moses offered his specific nation the choice between life and death, blessing and cursing. Elijah said “How long will you waver between two opinions?” Jesus described the narrow and wide gates, emphasizing that anyone who was not for him was against him. Clearly, the work of God has been to keep sharp the difference between “this” and “that.”

And we’ve always resisted this defining work of God. Eve wanted to be the same as God. Israel, at various times, wanted to be like other nations (with a king, with multiple gods, relying on military alliances, etc.). The Romans promiscuously added gods to their own pantheon as they absorbed cultures and sought to overwhelm the distinctions by appointing one highest of gods, the emperor, for all people of all the conquered world.

How is it then that modern men claim diversity as their own secular holy word? To hear us talk, you’d think traditionalists, the fundamentalists of all religions, and the unenlightened are just aching to take us all back to that freshly created lump of everything. That perspective is backwards. The pull toward calling all things the same is not traditional, fundamental to Judeo-Christian religion, or enlightened, even though it’s as old as Lucifer’s rebellion.

The nature worshippers of our era downplay the differences between living things. Dolphins may be smarter than people, apes are very close. Who are we, they say, to build cities where owls and minnows live? Don’t they have as much right to life as people? Perhaps Princeton ethicist Peter Singer is their prophet. Professor Singer claims that there is not an inherent difference in worth between an ape and a human child. He might, he says, choose a normally functioning dog over a mentally handicapped child. I’m pretty sure he wants to be on the board of arbiters who make such decisions, though. Maybe all things are not exactly the same in this viewpoint, but the differences are mere morphology, not value.

We look at what makes mankind distinct and seem to long for the old formlessness, or at least purposelessness. In modern academic circles, few ideas are as scorned as the notion of purpose or intent in history and biology. The things that exist do scream out those traits but we won’t listen for fear of acknowledging a purposeful intender.

Secular schools despise those who doubt the random, mechanistic nature of existence and some nominally Baptist schools follow suit by exiling scholars who see intelligent design in creation. In both realms the academy desperately maintains that all things are equally without meaning.

So it also is in modern man’s system of morality. Today’s ethical debate seems to be between relativists, who acknowledge the concepts of right and wrong but claim that anyone can define them for himself, and postmoderns who doubt that the difference between right and wrong is even discoverable. While the two sides have a real philosophical debate, their moral behavior is not so distinct. They embrace or resign themselves to a world of the not quite righteous and hope that judgment in Heaven will be passé, as it is on Earth.

If creation is all the same and morality an outdated concept, what do we say about religion? The whole discussion is religious, of course. What we say about our origins, our nature and our behavior certainly implies a religious system. And yet, some religions say the forbidden thing by claiming a distinctive trait. Those voices must be silenced if the myth of sameness is to prevail.
Thus, when conservative provocateur Ann Coulter stated that the world would be a better place if all people converted to Christianity, the priests of blandness flew around the chicken coup squawking in terror. Her comments were anti-Semitic, they were exclusivist, they were intolerant. Who is she to state an opinion about religion anyway?

Southern Seminary’s Albert Mohler has better theological credentials and is consistently more thoughtful in his statements than Miss Coulter. When he, speaking on Larry King Live, referred to the Roman Catholic Church as teaching “false doctrine” recently, his training and temperate expression got him no slack from the religious or anti-religious.

In context, Dr. Mohler was responding to the Catholic Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith statement that a church which has a claim to apostolic authority (the Catholic and Orthodox churches) is the only true church. It’s an open secret, though surprising to some highly trained observers, that Al Mohler is a Baptist because he doesn’t believe the Catholic Church to be in the New Testament pattern for church. I suppose the cardinals who drafted this document are Catholic, and not Baptist, for similarly convictional reasons.

So when SBC President Frank Page recounted sharing the gospel with presidential candidate Rudy Guiliani the same people hopped around the room decrying the arrogance of supposing that a Roman Catholic, any Roman Catholic, would need to accept Jesus as Savior. One Protestant Sadducee compared Dr. Page’s shameful behavior with the anti-Catholic panic that arose before John Kennedy was elected president of the U.S. After all, aren’t we all the same?
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Mark it down: Nov. 12-13 in Arlington

Nov. 12-13 are the dates for the annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. We are completing nine years of service to our Lord and the churches. Occasionally, we have people ask questions about the SBTC. Let me respond to three of the most common.

Why does the SBTC exist? We need to review some recent church history. In the 1800s liberalism arose in the churches of Europe. The empty cathedrals witness the sterility of liberalism. Liberalism and neo-orthodoxy infiltrated the northern denominations at the turn of the 20th century. Consequently, the mainline denominations became the sideline denominations. Only a few incidences of liberalism arose among Southern Baptists prior to World War II.

In the 1960s, however, liberalism and neo-orthodoxy began to surface in Southern Baptist life. The SBC messengers approved a resolution in 1971 that essentially called for abortion on demand. There were seminary presidents and professors who wrote openly denying the miraculous events of the Scriptures. By 1979, the SBC had started down a slippery slope.

That year the Conservative Resurgence began and continued until 1994. During those 15 years the common Baptists went to the annual meetings in unprecedented numbers. They elected presidents who shared their convictions about the Word of God.

The presidents used their appointive powers that ultimately impacted the boards of our agencies. Now, all seminary presidents and professors affirm a high view of Scripture. Both North American and international missionaries affirm the SBC faith statement. It is important that those who represent us believe as we do on the major doctrines of the faith.

In light of the SBC resurgence each state convention had decisions to make. What would be their relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention and their stance on the nature of Scripture?

I am happy to say that almost all state conventions affirm a high view of Scripture and support the SBC. Unfortunately, two did not make those choices.

Consequently, in Virginia loyal, conservative Southern Baptists felt they needed to start a new convention. God has blessed their efforts and today they are a strong contributing ministry in SBC life.

Beginning in 1991 some Southern Baptists in Texas saw their own state convention drifting from the SBC. Unsuccessfully, they attempted to get public clarification on some important doctrinal positions. Every year messengers sought to make changes, but would lose by ever-increasing margins. By 1998 it was evident that a new state convention would be necessary.

There are two major reasons for the existence of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. The churches wanted a confessional fellowship for missions and ministry. They also wanted a close working relationship with the SBC. These two values have been constant through the nine years of our existence.

What is the difference between the SBTC and other state conventions? There are some distinctive positions held by the SBTC. We have the word “inerrancy” in our constitution. The Executive Board has affirmed inerrancy and defined a high view of Scripture.

The definition states that all the miracles happened as they are recorded, all the narratives are historical and true, and that the authors of the books are the authors to whom they are ascribed. Because we are a confessional fellowship, affiliating churches affirm their agreement with the faith statement of the convention, which is the Baptist Faith and Message (2000). Churches need not adopt the BF&M as their statement of faith but simply agree that the BF&M 2000 is the acceptable document for common ministry as the SBTC.

Flowing from a high view of Scripture are more clearly defined positions on social issues. The SBTC is on record by resolution almost annually honoring the sanctity of human life. A provision in the constitution prohibits continued affiliation for any church that would affirm homosexuality as an acceptable practice.

Women are recognized for their valuable contributions to the kingdom but males are recognized as the scripturally acceptable candidates for the role of senior pastor. The SBTC does not partner with groups such as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship because they will not take clearly biblical positions on these crucial issues.

Also, we are different structurally. A recent survey showed the SBTC has the smallest staff-to-church ratio of any state convention in the SBC. This enables the cash flow to go where people want their money.

Forty percent of our in-state budget is allocated for missions and evangelism. Church planting is the largest line item, receiving almost $2 million annually. We use a series of checks and balances to get the mission dollars to legitimate new churches. It takes all of us to get the job done. No one church can enable a statewide mission strategy. This is a major reason for the existence of any state convention.

The SBTC services over 100 different local church ministries. By using generalists instead of specialists on our staff, we are able to do more with less in Texas. Whatever a church or association has need of we will network to find the resources. We relate to institutions and ministries but it is on a theological basis and in a contributor role.

Where do we go from here? We have grown from 120 congregations to almost 2,000. The churches gave over $31 million to missions and ministry during the past year. Our end game is to give 55 percent of the operating budget to SBC ministry. We are currently at 54 percent. We should reach the goal by 2009. No other state convention gives away more than it retains in operating budget funds.

We believe that churches all across Texas will join in the effort of “Reaching Texas and Touching the World.” Our core values reinforce our past but guide in the future. We are biblically faithful, kingdom-focused, and missionally funded. Our desire is to be a good partner to Southern Baptist churches and associations in Texas.

Pray for God to move upon us at the Arlington Convention Center Nov. 12-13 as the churches of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention meet.

Fort Worth-based ministry helps truckers nationwide in Jesus’ name

At a Wyoming truck stop 1,600 miles from his family or any support system, Louisiana truck driver Charles Worcester had to be rushed to a local hospital, and within hours underwent surgery for colon cancer, beginning a three-month, long-distance ordeal for Worcester and his wife, Charlene.

When Worcester nearly died because of complications, he was relocated to Salt Lake City. This lengthy crisis could have been very lonely for Worcester, and very worrisome for Charlene. But Christians in Wyoming and Utah were called to aid the Worcesters with practical physical and spiritual support, thanks to the networking of Bob Hataway’s TransAlive ministry.

Hataway is a chaplain for the North American Mission Board, and a member of First Baptist Church in Fort Worth with a lifelong passion for the trucking industry. Since he started TransAlive in 1984, he has been the hub for ministry to about 200 distressed truckers per year.

His call to this ministry began one day in 1975 when he stopped at the scene of a traffic accident on Interstate 35 in Hillsboro. He went to the hospital to check on the Indianapolis truck driver injured in that accident. Hataway and his wife, Carol, ministered to the driver and his wife for more than eight weeks, helping them cope with the trauma and manage the life change they would undergo because of the accident.

Hataway began to be burdened by the plight of truckers, who, by the nature of their work, are isolated from their support system. Who comes to their aid if they become seriously ill or injured while in transit? Who cares for a family in the tragic event of the driver’s death while away from home?

“I was moved by what had been done for that [Indianapolis] truck driver,” Hataway said. “Many people became involved with that man. I began to visualize the needs of drivers like him who needed help across the country. I was not some superhero for that driver, but I knew that people have an innate desire to help their fellow man. In many cases the only reason people do not help is that they are not aware of the problem in the first place. Setting up a plan to notify the right people became my goal in the industry.”

Through the partnerships he has made with many major trucking companies, Bob is one of the first individuals notified when a trucker has passed away, or experiences serious illness or injury while on a run. Services provided to drivers and their families through TransAlive are free to the drivers.
Hataway said, “We need only to hear that a driver and/or family members are in distress anywhere in the continental United States and we move quickly to remove the uncertainty and replace it with warm, caring friends willing to assist whatever the task.”

The 43,000 Southern Baptist Churches nationwide are his first resource to find the “warm, caring friends” to whom Hataway refers. Using the SBC Church Search on www.SBC.net, Hataway immediately seeks out a Southern Baptist minister to be “God’s representative” to that trucker or his family.

But his ministry isn’t merely networking with churches to meet truckers’ needs in their communities. In addition to writing articles on trucking safety for various websites, the Hataways often hit the roads themselves. Driving TransAlive’s AmCoach, a bus equipped with a special adjustable bed, couches, bathroom facilities and a kitchenette, they drive across the states to carry recovering truck drivers back to their homes.

“The AmCoach provides an alternative to air charter for drivers who cannot travel in a sitting up position. Neither commercial flights nor standard buses will allow the driver to lay down in all cases during transit,” Hataway said.

Charles Worcester was one of about 20 drivers each year that Hataway tranports because the costs of chartering special transportation were unaffordable. The Hataways drove from Texas through a snow storm in Utah to carry Charles back home to Louisiana in the AmCoach.

Charlene Worcester recounted: “Charles had not been with the company long enough to be covered by insurance, and the VA hospital did not have a resource for transporting him home.The ride home could not have been more comfortable for Charles. I cannot say too much about the AmCoach or the Hataways in what they did in helping us get home.They were truly a Godsend for us.”

The time the Hataways spend with the drivers on the AmCoach gives them an opportunity to meet needs and share Christ. Hataway said,

“On the coach itself, three have come to Christ,” Hataway said. “We have shared with many on the coach who have said that it was the first time they’ve seen Christianity with a new understanding?they become less critical. We share Christ with a cup of cold water in their time of thirst.”

Hataway explained the dilemma of the group of truckers to whom he most often ministers: the owner/operators.

He said: “They own their own truck and lease to a company for the purposes of moving their freight. That affects the driver benefits. For example, right now we are dealing with a case of an owner/operator driver who passed away in Seattle, Washington, and the company that contracted him won’t do anything to transport the body back to his home.

“There are insurances available to owner/operators that are a supplement, like workers’ comp for employees, but it doesn’t cover everything as it should. And many cannot afford adequate coverage?they live paycheck to paycheck.”

J.B. Hunt Trucking Company has called on Bob since 1987 and is one of several trucking companies supporting TransAlive financially. One of the largest companies in the industry, Hunt employs about 16,000 drivers, many of whom are owner/operators.

Mark Whitehead, Hunt’s vice president of claims and litigation management, said that after making certain a sick or injured driver receives proper medical attention, the next call they make is to Hataway. To his knowledge, TransAlive is a one-of-a-kind ministry.

Whitehead explained: “What we use Bob for more than anything else is to notify families of catastrophic injuries or occasionally the death of a family member. He has a network of pastoral people that can be called on who will make the notification to the family and wait with them until they have the support they need in the initial crisis. We feel it’s better for Bob to do the contact rather than a police officer who will go and then leave.”<

SWBTS honors evangelism prof Roy Fish

FORT WORTH?One name is synonymous with evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary: Roy Fish, distinguished professor emeritus. The seminary designated Oct. 10 as “Roy Fish Day” and celebrated the occasion during its chapel service and at a reception in his honor.
“Every single professor who has taught at this seminary has left an indelible print upon this school,” said Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Seminary. “But there are only a handful who have left a print that you just cannot get away from no matter where you turn, including Roy Fish. He is one of the major contributors to the success of this institution.”

Fish, who has served Southwestern Seminary for more than 40 years, preached during the chapel service on the value of focus in ministry, especially in evangelism. Using 1 Corinthians 9:19-27, he illustrated how the apostle Paul was obsessed with his commission to the gospel.
Lamenting that some churches spend most of their time and effort on superficial, irrelevant issues, Fish said, “Effective evangelism doesn’t come with a marked-down price tag.”

Being focused demands an absence of prejudices, he said. One of the most prevalent prejudices Christians must abandon is towards “moral lepers,” individuals who are proud of their sinful lifestyle.

In conjunction with freedom from preconceptions, Fish also mentioned that churches must be culturally relevant and willing to pay the price to accomplish the goal of evangelism. Paul used illustrations from the athletic arena to emphasize the need for discipline in order to win people to Christ. “Focusing means winning!” Fish said, adding, “Will you become one to be a winner for (Christ)?”

Patterson concluded the service by allowing the near-capacity audience to honor Fish and his family through a standing ovation, which lasted several minutes. Patterson also announced that in celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the seminary in 2008, the school of evangelism has issued a challenge for 100 days of personal evangelism. Seminary professors will commit to 50 consecutive days of personal evangelism, which will be followed by 50 consecutive days of student evangelism in the community.

As a gift to recognize his service, Southwestern gave Fish a custom-bound set of the books he has written and a book containing photos and personal letters from his former students and colleagues. The letters praised him for being a consistent role model and expressed gratitude for the life-changing impact he has had throughout the years.

Fish’s legacy of integrity, character and a passion for evangelism echoes through the halls of the seminary. He served as distinguished professor of evangelism and held the L.R. Scarborough Chair of Evangelism prior to his retirement. Fish was further honored in 2005, when Southwestern’s division of evangelism and missions in the School of Theology was reorganized as the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions.

In addition to serving Southwestern, Fish has held several prominent denominational leadership positions, including interim president of the North American Mission Board and second vice-president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He has served as pastor or interim pastor at more than 20 churches, and his speaking opportunities include numerous conventions and conferences as well as preaching on every continent except Antarctica.

He has also received various awards, including the W.A. Criswell Lifetime Award in Evangelism from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), the Charles G. Finney Award for Evangelism in Theological Education, and an honorary doctorate from Southwest Baptist University. In 2006, the SBTC established the Roy Fish Evangelism Award.

Fish earned his master’s and doctorate degrees from Southwestern Seminary and has authored several books and contributed to numerous articles on evangelism. He and his wife, Jean, have four children and 11 (soon to be 13) grandchildren.

Recordings of Southwestern’s chapel services may be viewed or listened to at swbts.edu.

Trustees release conclusions

Responding to questions by some on Internet blogs about the leadership of Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson, trustees released a statement at their fall meeting that including the following:

“To date, no audit has indicated any financial mismanagement or impropriety.” With annual, independent audits and diligence to ensure financial integrity, Southern Baptists can be assured contributions are “a wise investment in God’s kingdom work,” spent according to the leadership of the Lord and donor requests

The work of administration, faculty, and staff is evaluated at least annually, including the president in the process. “The president has welcomed these opportunities of evaluation, and he hears and respects the counsel of the trustees.”

“We cannot conceive how anyone can be any more open and honest than is Dr. Patterson! Dr. Patterson understands the trustee process and recognizes that he provides leadership to the seminary under the Lordship of Christ by the authority granted to the trustees by the convention.” Trustees serve the SBC under the Lordship of Christ.

“Our Baptist forbearers were wise to set up the trustee system that Southern Baptists have in place. It works extremely well! The relentless attacks on Dr. Patterson are also a subtle attack on the trustee system of oversight that the convention employs.”

With a trustee system available to provide a means of constructive criticism, “We join with other Southern Baptists in urging that public attacks against Dr. Patterson and other leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention that hurt the spread of the gospel to an unbelieving world cease for the sake of those who are headed to utter destruction.” Scripture encourages speaking the truth while advising that it be done in love and gentleness with a redemptive purpose. “Above all, there is a watching world that needs to see Christ’s love in all of our words and deeds.”

Finding Dr. Patterson to be “a man of exemplary integrity,” trustees said they were thankful for his leadership and commended his work as president. “We also look forward to many years of his continued leadership.”

Christian School 101

DALLAS?You know those 16,000 hours a child will spend in a government-run school from kindergarten through 12th grade? If you’re a church leader or a parent, Ed Gamble has a simple request for you.

“I want the 16,000 hours back.”

Gamble, executive director of the Southern Baptist Association of Christian Schools (SBACS), was in Dallas Oct. 15 for a “Christian School 101” workshop for laymen and church leaders interested in starting Christian schools aimed at training coming generations in Christian discipleship and a full-orbed biblical worldview.

Gamble was talking between bites at lunch in a Sunday School classroom at First Baptist Church of Dallas, explaining his history of helping launch and administer First Baptist Academy, a school begun in his hometown of Orlando, Fla., through First Baptist Church under now-retired pastor Jim Henry.

Gamble is quick to emphasize that his organization is not focused on denigrating public schools or calling for their boycott by Baptist parents. Nonetheless, a recent headline in a North Carolina newspaper proclaimed after a reporter attended a Christian School 101 workshop: “Baptists turning away from public schools.”

“We’re not trying to fan flames. We’re building lifeboats,” Gamble countered.

The goal of SBACS, he said, is promoting a model of Christian education centered on what Gamble calls a three-legged stool of “uniting home, church and school in Jesus Christ.”
“We need a different paradigm,” Gamble said, because the existing one isn’t helping Christian parents make disciples.

Baptism rates among teenagers in Baptist churches are less than half of what they were 35 years ago and the rate of formerly church-going kids who don’t connect with a church upon leaving home is more than 80 percent.

Gamble said K-12 Christian education can be to the 21st century what the Sunday School movement was to the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries.

“To turn the tide for the next generations, it must begin in the homes and the churches,” Gamble said.

TRONG>EDUCATION FOR ETERNITY
Christian School 101 is a two-day workshop facilitated by SBACS to teach pastors and laymen how to start a school. S.L. Sherrill, superintendent of a Christian school in Raleigh, N.C., told those attending the meeting the essence of Christian education is “explaining the process of life to the next generation ? and that Christ is preeminent in all things.”

“In Christian education,” Sherrill said, “we are educating for eternity.”

In his presentation on the philosophy of a Christian education, Sherrill said a kingdom education is a “lifelong, Bible-based, Christ-centered process of leading a child to Christ, building a child up in Christ, and equipping a child to serve Christ.”

Such a model, Sherrill explained, involves the home, church and school in the spiritual growth of the student by integrating a biblical worldview into every academic sphere.

“The Christian school makes an honest, concentrated effort to bring every class, activity, and administrative procedure under the control of biblical principles,” the SBACS definition states.
The school where Sherrill serves, North Raleigh Christian Academy, graduated 96 students who collectively earned more than $1.6 million in college scholarships last spring, he said.

Sherrill was the founding headmaster at North Raleigh, which started on only a few months notice and with no students or staff?only a dream of a group of Christian laymen and several churches combining their resources.

Unsuccessful at holding the group off a year before starting classes, Sherrill dove into his duties with the goal of attracting 150 students in only a few weeks before the first semester began.

After the inaugural meeting of interested parents, Sherrill said 279 students were enrolled and by the time classes started, the school had 401 students.

“You just don’t know what God can do,” Sherrill said. “He is able and he is willing.”
Today the school has more than 1,300 students.

“We had no idea what God was going to do. And we had no idea what the perceived need was.”

Sherrill admitted that some church-based schools are little more than a school with a weekly chapel thrown in, but the goal should be to integrate a biblical worldview into every subject and activity, he said.

“If your staff is well-trained in biblical integration, your school will be successful,” Sherrill said. “If teachers do that well, the kids begin to see the practicality of that?they begin to see God in science, in English, in math, in every sphere.”

Denny Gorena, pastor of First Baptist Church of Leonard, said he attended the workshop as part of preparing his church for a school it will begin in the fall of 2008. The church averages about 200 people on Sundays and will pre-enroll students beginning in January.

“It was something God laid on my heart and something I think we need to do,” Gorena said.
Since the first Christian School 101 workshop in January 2006, more than 15 schools have started in Southern Baptist churches that Gamble knows of.

Gamble said if pastors are expecting that church attendance?and perhaps discipleship at home if the parents are themselves mature believers?is enough to sustain a vibrant Christianity amid a post-Christian culture, they are naive.

More than 90 percent of Christian students attend public schools, he said, “and on any given Sunday, half those kids don’t even show up (at church). Ask any youth pastor,” Gamble stated.

As for costs, Gamble said the issue isn’t money; there’s enough of that. Instead, he said, “it’s a faith issue.”

If Christian education were a priority for churches interested in making disciples of the next generation, they would fund it just like everything else?though tithes and offerings?and charge tuition based on a family’s ability to pay.

This approach, Gamble said, would make it feasible for the children o

Baptists help displaced woman find eternal help amid personal woes

NEW ORLEANS – Experiencing tremendous loss is a common theme to many New Orleans residents, but for Doris Cousin the string of tragedy started long before the storm ravaged the city. Within a year she lost family members, then her home and hope.

The bleak situation surrounding her intensified her downward emotional spiral into depression.

A foot and a half of water stood in her home for two weeks after the flooding of Hurricane Katrina. Few items escaped the mold that filled her house.

“Everything had to be taken out; it was heartbreaking,” Cousin said.

And then, things started to change.

Cousin applied to have her home rebuilt by Southern Baptist volunteers involved in the SBC’s Operation NOAH Rebuild.

Last April, Don Snipes, a NOAH zone coordinator for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, arrived at Cousins’ FEMA trailer with plans to begin the process of helping her return to her home.

As the zone two area manager for NOAH, Snipes is committed to seeing this section of the city spiritually and visually transformed.

“I’m in a position where I can share and touch people’s lives. I want to make sure they know where they?re going to be for eternity,” Snipes said.

Shortly after Snipes entered Cousin’s home to assess it, he noticed her need for prayer. He listened as she shared her series of losses, and offered to pray for her grief. As her tears flowed he shared the gospel with her.

Returning for the second assessment Snipes shared the gospel, prayed with Cousin and encouraged her to pray through her grief. Through their conversations Snipes discovered she was raised as a Catholic, and she mentioned that the prayers were helping her.

“God began to break down barriers,” Snipes said.

About two weeks after Snipes witnessed to Cousin, a team of Canadian volunteers finished the gutting in her home. Cousin soon became friends with one woman from the team.

“She told me to go directly to Jesus,” Cousin said. The woman walked her through the process of receiving Christ, and “I prayed that prayer and began to see things differently,” she said.

“I noticed the change that took place in Doris,” Snipes said.

“In trusting in God we learn to forgive and learn to let go. I’m trusting in God,” Cousin said.

Soon, her family would follow her lead as she shared with them the hope she received. Her daughter and granddaughter both made professions of faith. The home that once held grief and despair is now a beacon of hope to the community.

“I felt like I had been given so much by the Lord, I wanted to give back,” Cousin said. So she did. As a grandparent of children and youth in the neighborhood she wanted to reach out to the young generation. “[There is] so much out there that they could get into,” Cousin said.

Snipes initiated a meeting between himself, Cousin, and David Rhymes, to discuss how the local Baptist association, NOAH volunteers and Cousin could work together to reach her neighborhood. Rhymes is a North American Mission Board missionary serving as the evangelism strategist for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans (BAGNO).

Rhymes tapped into the network of volunteers to find a team who could help start the evangelism work at her home. A team already scheduled to arrive June 18-22 “jumped at the opportunity to help,” Rhymes said.

The team prayer-walked the neighborhood, making contacts with 15 individuals and families, and provided a free lunch of hot dogs and burgers for about 50 neighbors.

“The events allowed us to begin building relationships in the neighborhood and connect Doris’ home to the evangelical work in her community,” Rhymes said.

The week ended with a two-day backyard Bible club at Doris’ property. A tent was set up, games were played and Bible stories were taught to the 12 children who attended.

“God clearly has a plan for Doris and her home. We look forward to moving forward with a Bible study at her residence once repairs to her home are complete,” Rhymes said.

Not far from her home is the property where Elysian Fields Baptist Church once stood. The building was bulldozed after receiving substantial damage from the storm. The church is merging with Gentilly Baptist Church.

Ken Taylor, pastor of the two merging congregations, said, “It is a positive experience seeing two congregations come together; seeing new people at our church.” As residents gradually come back to their homes, BAGNO research indicates 40-50 percent of the residents in the Elysian Fields neighborhood have returned.

“Within 10 blocks of Doris’ home 10-15 homes are being worked on in some way,” Snipes said.

“We wanted to make sure ministry continued on that property,” Taylor said.

Research and the recent profession of faith indicate a potential for church planting initiatives to take place in the neighborhood.

“There is a potential for the work there to be established before the community is back,” Rhymes said.

“[People in the neighborhood] have seen the work and the impact it’s had in the area; ?they are very open and friendly – a lot of this neighborhood has been touched,” Snipes said.

Nine people are reported to have made professions of faith in zone two, thanks to additional NOAH evangelism efforts in the area.

Cousin’s home is nearing completion. As volunteers are placing the finishing touches on her home, “I have brighter days now,” she said. “Thank you, NOAH, and to everyone who came through NOAH. You will always have a special place in my heart,” Cousin said.

Snipes added: “We need everybody to realize that here we are, two years have passed and there are still 140,000-150,000 homes still unoccupied. There is still a need for evangelism in the area.” Ms. Cousin’s story can be replicated all across New Orleans. “What is needed are soldiers of the cross volunteering their time and talents to touch the lives of people in the name of Jesus,” said John L. Yeats, communications director at the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

To volunteer with Operation NOAH Rebuild, call 504-362-4604. To learn more about evangelism efforts in New Orleans, contact Keith Manuel, LBC evangelism associate at Keith.Manuel@LBC.org or call 318-448-3402.

SBTC disaster relief on alert for Calif. fires

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s disaster relief director will be in Southern California Oct. 29-Nov. 2 at the request of the SBC’s North American Mission Board to assess needs relating to the wildfires there.

Jim Richardson said the SBTC disaster relief volunteers would be supporting feeding operations if needed and are on alert for duty.

California Southern Baptists are beginning feeding operations this week and have placed a shower unit for relief workers in several places. Arizona and Nevada Baptists will also be involved, a NAMB representative said in an e-mail sent to relief organizations.

“The response will require a 10-day commitment due to the 1,500-mile travel distance, and we will be requested to send 12 volunteers at a time. Travel will take two days in each direction with one night on the road each way,” Richardson said.

NAMB is putting together an Incident Command Team to assist in California. Volunteers who have been trained in the NAMB Incident Command System have been asked to help as they can, he added.

As of Wednesday, eighteen wildfires in San Diego County had caused an estimated $1 billion in damage to about 1,500 houses and led to the largest evacuation in California history.

“Please join me in prayer for the people affected by the fires, the firefighters and their families, local churches, leadership, and the volunteers responding,” Richardson said. “Pray that even during this time of disaster the gospel will be spread and volunteers will provide a positive witness of our Lord Jesus as they serve to share the hope of Jesus.”

Outdoor expo leads to soul harvest

AMARILLO?During their first-ever Wild Game Expo and Dinner on Sept. 29, The Church at Quail Creek in Amarillo found out what happens when you combine Texans’ love of the outdoors with focused prayer, advance planning and an appealing purpose.

Executive Pastor Michael Pinkston said more than 5,000 people from the Panhandle region turned out for the expo during the day, and more than 420 men, most unchurched, attended a wild game dinner that evening to hear the gospel presented by evangelist Jay Lowder of Harvest Ministries based in Wichita Falls. Pinkston, following the vision cast by Senior Pastor Stan Coffey, oversaw and directed the events.

Best of all, Pinkston said, 176 people accepted Christ that weekend; 95 of them were saved at the dinner.

“We had the Wild Game Expo from 10 to 4 on Saturday,” Pinkston said. “Then what we did was we sold and/or gave away tickets to the steak and wild game dinner that night … It was the largest number of individuals at a men’s event in the church’s history.”

Prayer was a key part of the planning process. Church members had a seven-day prayer guide that led them to pray every week for different aspects. There was a church-wide prayer gathering the week
before the event.

“Prayer was huge,” Pinkston said.

The event also launched Care 4 Kids, a new foundation established by The Church at Quail Creek.
Care 4 Kids will minister to underprivileged children in the Amarillo area by providing school supplies, college scholarships, and other financial assistance administered by the church through the foundation.

The expo took more than a year in planning. The church sponsored ads in the local newspaper, distributed flyers, hung posters, put out signage, and generally talked up the event whenever they could.

But Pinkston said the Care 4 Kids foundation really appealed to local merchants, the media and civic officials and generated free publicity. He said the local newspaper ran advance stories promoting the expo, local television network affiliates featured it on their news shows, and the school district distributed flyers announcing the expo to every child in the public schools.

“We had great community support,” Pinkston said. “We just had incredible people in the church working on public relations and the promotional parts of it ? Church members were serving their hearts out.”

At the expo, Quail Creek church members manned 15 food booths, 15 Kids’ Zone games, and organized up to 12 kids fishing at any one time in a catfish tank sponsored by Mel Phillips’ Southwest Outdoors talk radio show. Their volunteer efforts helped the new Care 4 Kids foundation benefit from the sale of souvenirs and tickets purchased for door prizes awarded at the dinner.

A 240-item silent auction included a pair of custom-made boots in a choice of elephant or ostrich leather; a gun safe that retailed for $1,500; a new fishing boat; and four signed prints contributed by artist Larry Dyke of Friendswood. All the funds raised went to the Care 4 Kids foundation.

The expo also had a live stage. Throughout the day there was music, an Old West fast-draw demonstration, a Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission show called “Bob and the Texas Critters,” a Wildcat Bluff animal show, cowboy poets, Bunkhouse Boys, bluegrass music, and an alligator ranch show.

“From 9:30 in the morning to 4:15 in the afternoon that live stage was just hopping, beating out music,” Pinkston said.

Child Evangelism Fellowship had a tent for children in the Kids’ Zone.

“We saw the gospel presented in that tent to 132 people that day and 11 kids and parents got saved in that tent that day,” Pinkston said.

Hank Hough’s Kingdom Dog Ministries set up in the church auditorium and an estimated 150-200 people at a time watched him present the gospel using his trained dogs. Based out of Spring, near Houston, Kingdom Dog Ministries uses prize-winning, obedience-trained Labrador retrievers to teach biblical truths to unbelievers about the gospel of salvation and to demonstrate to believers their need to submit their lives to God’s will.

“It was awesome,” Pinkston said of Hough’s birddog show. “It really set the stage for people getting saved that night. So many people got the gospel really clearly explained.”

As much as possible, Pinkston said they wanted to get men to come to the wild game banquet after the expo on Saturday evening. Church members who bought tickets to the dinner had to buy a ticket to bring at least one unchurched friend. Tickets were given to the expo exhibitors as a value-added bonus for buying booth space.

The dinner was designed for men, but some brought their wives. The church planned to seat 420 for dinner; every seat was taken and some church members ate standing up in the back of the banquet room. Evangelist Lowder presented the dinner message.

“Out of the 95 that were saved at the dinner there were eight ladies saved that night,” Pinkston said. On Sunday, Pinkston said there were 26 families enrolled in the church’s four-week discipleship course titled “Fast Track to Success in Life,” all as a result of the wild game outreach.

He said the church built many positive relationships in the community in promoting and planning the event. The excitement of the outdoors theme combined with the good works of the Care 4 Kids foundation made for “healthy, constructive relationships within the community,” Pinkston said.

Pinkston said the whole church is particularly excited about the lives changed and the great number of men won to faith in Christ.

“Their first introduction to the church was masculine,” he said about the men who attended the expo and dinner. “It was a great introduction for a guy who might think, ‘Hey, I might want to go to church here.’ It was hugely effective towards men.”

Pinkston said the church has already started planning toward a second wild game expo and dinner next year. He thinks other churches around the state could successfully do this kind of outreach. His advice is simple: “Pray hard, work hard, and you can’t start planning and organizing too early.”

THE FAMILY: Christian families troubled on several fronts, observers say

For the post-“Father Knows Best” and “Leave it to Beaver” generations, the traditional concepts of family and marriage have broken apart, been redefined, and, ultimately, minimized.

The causes are myriad and the church and home are not without culpability, some Southern Baptists contend. That is why Southern Baptist leaders addressing recent gatherings in Texas hope to stem the tide of cultural trends by engaging the denomination in a discussion of how to fix the family problem.

Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, LifeWay Research and a long-term University of California study highlight what many Southern Baptists see as worrisome trends: married families are now in the minority, and most students involved in youth ministries during high school will drop out of church for a period of time upon leaving home; some of those students will become avowed atheists.

The SBTC, two affiliated schools and local churches hosted three forums over the past four months to address the concerns of the family unit in Southern Baptist churches. For many, the diagnosis may be difficult to hear. Just as lack of exercise and poor eating habits can lead to a host of medical problems, spiritual lethargy and insufficient scriptural intake within the home has left the Christian family in America languishing on the margins of society as other spiritual forces work to redefine the very meaning of “family,” observers say.

“Taking Back the Family” was the theme of a June forum hosted by Lamar Baptist Church in Arlington and KCBI-FM, a ministry of Criswell College. Moderator Jerry Johnson, president of the Dallas-based school and host of a weekday talk show, said the impetus for the live-radio discussion was a report of the 2005 U.S. Census indicating married families are now a minority.

Compared to 1950 when 80 percent of the American population was married, the number slipped to 49 percent in recent years with a large percentage of women living without a spouse, climbing to 70 percent among African- American women.

Gathered for the panel discussion were co-host Penna Dexter; author Voddie Baucham, pastor of Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring; Gary Randle, executive director and founder of H.O.P.E. Farm for inner-city boys in southeast Fort Worth; and Bruce Schmidt, pastor of Lamar Baptist Church.
The forum included pre-recorded audio addresses in addition to a telephone interview with Dennis Rainey of Family Life Today and Jim Daily of Focus on the Family.

The premise of the discussion asserted “the family is under attack.” But none of the speakers absolved individual Christians, their families, or the church from contributing to the current problem. In a later interview, Johnson said the problems can be traced to a spiritual attack on the family combined with a failure to maintain spiritual integrity in the home.

“Look at the Old Testament and fast-forward through all the patriarchal families. There is a spiritual attack on the family,” Johnson said, noting Satan’s attempts to dismantle society have always targeted the family, the foundation of a healthy culture.

Richard Ross, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor of student ministry and assistant dean, said, “It is a Baptist [value] to believe the family is central, but it is not a Baptist practice for that to be happening. Most of our leaders give lip service to this concept, but it is not normative.”

Ross was one of several guest speakers at Southwestern’s recent Baptist Distinctives Conference on the family in September. The church is only as healthy as the families on its rosters, Ross said.

Baucham said the problems facing American society today result from the breakdown of the family. Divorce is not the quintessential representative of that breakdown, he said. It is manifested in a more subtle, yet equally destructive, manner–the lack of spiritual communication and interaction within the family.

Ross used the language of Malachi, stating, “It is a heart connection–the turning of the hearts of the fathers to the children–as their hearts turn toward each other, there is a connection across those hearts.”

For parents who have lost the connection, restoration of the parent-child relationship is essential if matters of faith are to be passed on.

Ross said, “The first order of business needs to be to get the heart of the son or daughter back. It is the turning of the hearts of the fathers to the children and children to their parents–that is the scriptural principle–it is realistic, research-based, how you re-establish spiritual impact.”

But establishing and maintaining those lines of communication is difficult as families scurry about their lives. With the self-imposed busyness of life, Dexter said, “Parents’ influence gets squeezed out of the equation. Other things outside parental influence become the priority.”

Bruce Schmidt, pastor of Lamar Baptist, said, “There should not be a secular segment of a Christian’s life.” All things, he added, should be devoted to God, interjecting Christ in all we do.

With God left out of the formula, parents have incrementally lost their role as primary caregivers and influencers, Dexter said. Feminism, “keeping up with the Joneses,” and families “farming out” their kids to daycare and extracurricular activities have resulted in the reduction of parental influence, a factor she said is causing the exodus of young people from the church once they leave home.

Confirming Dexter’s assertion is a 2007 study released by LifeWay Research in August revealing that 70 percent of young adults ages 23 to 30 stopped attending church regularly for at least a year between the ages of 18 and 22. The survey was conducted in April and May of this year, polling more than 1,000 adults ages 18-30. Each indicated they attended a Protestant church regularly for at least a year in high school.

Contributing to the problem of waning parental influence is a cultural redefinition of the roles of men and women, dads and moms.

“Culture wants to homogenize the roles so there’s no difference,” Johnson said. Many sons and daughters, he added, don’t know a “real man” or the “essence of woman.”

Referring to Nehemiah 4:14, Schmidt said, “He is speaking to men and dads. It’s time for men to be men and fight for what’s worth fighting for in your home.”

In many homes there is no father to lead the family. The legacy of divorce has manifested itself in society and the church. The lack of parental influence is magnified in most one-parent households. And that reality is more common, statistics show, in African-American households. Panelists at the June forum referenced statistics indicating black women have the highest percentage of out-of-wedlock births and fathers in those homes are often absent.

An extreme example of such abandonment is Denver Broncos running back Travis Henry, who in early September was ordered by a judge to create a trust fund for one of his children. Henry has nine children by nine different women. The mothers of some of his other children are also considering legal action.

Speaking to the issue of single-parenthood in the black community was Gary Randle, founder and executive director of H.O.P.E. Farm, a program in Fort Worth designed to help African-American boys and teens develop healthy ideals of manhood and devotion to God.

“We have a common enemy,” Randle said. “We allowed Satan to get a toe-hold in the African-American community and once he gets a toe-hold, his appetite is not going to be quenched.”

The social ills that commonly afflict single mothers–poor education, poverty–are problems Christians in white and African-American churches must address, he insisted.

Satan has momentum in the black community that will spill over into the greater community if proactive measures are not taken, Randle added. He said churches must “band together to assault this enemy.”

The speakers agreed the church has been part of the problem by allowing secular reasoning to influence biblical doctrine.

In a pre-recorded audio message, Tony Evans, pastor of Oak cliff Bible Fellowship said: “We have sold out the biblical ideal. The evil one and society are dictating the grounds for divorce. People are getting divorced for non-biblical reasons,” he said, adding, “The church has facilitated this change.”

Baucham, the pastor from spring, called on local churches to raise the bar. Growing up in Southe Central Los Angeles, he recalled the first time he met another boy who had a father at home. It was significant. In his own family his marriage of 18 years is a milestone on both sides of the relationship. Of the 25 marriages on his and his wife’s side of the family, 22 have ended in divorce.

The cycle is repeated, Baucham said, when young people are not given a standard by which they should live and resources to aid in living up to those standards. He argued that young people are more prepared to take a college entrance exam than they are for the life-long commitment of marriage.

Not only is individual preparation essential but accountability within the body of Christ, a concept that has gone by the way, is paramount, Baucham contended.

At Grace Family Baptist Church, Baucham said, “We practice church discipline. If {a married person] even breathed a word about walking away from his spouse, he would get a visit from us.”

Ross said the root of the problem is a lack of fundamental biblical teaching in churches and, primarily, an abdication by parents of the biblical mandates regarding the spiritual upbringing of their children.

“The great majority of Baptist parents do not know there is a direct relationship between the spiritual lives of their children and their own sense of relationship with those kids,” Ross said.

Baucham added, “We’ve farmed everything out, including the spiritual nurture and discipleship of the children.”

“There has to be a sense of ‘Enough already!’ Enough fluff. Enough cotton candy. Give me some meat,” Baucham said of churches where preaching is little more than talks offering advice. “As long as people are running to the cotton candy, there’s going to continue to be cotton candy factories.”

Even intact families active in church can still lose their children to the world, Baucham added. Only when fathers reclaim their God-given role as spiritual leaders in their homes and live out the mandate of Deuteronomy 6:4-7 will families have the fortitude to stand in the counter-currents of the world. Baucham said parents, particularly fathers, must evangelize and disciple their children at all times.

“[Discipleship] is a constant process,” Baucham said. “Not just passing on facts. It is teaching and patterning.”

Ross tald the seminary conference: “too many parents take the approach that through their tithes they are paying someone to teach the Bible to their children. Faithfully taxiing those children to the church is what most parents see as their piece of the puzzle.”

Despite the rise in youth ministries since the late 1970s, fewer and fewer teenagers are baptized each year and those who appeared committed to God during high school show a decided turn once leaving home.

“I’m talking about the kids who did what we asked them to do—went to all the Disciple Nows, camps, and they’re sleeping in dorms on Sunday morning.”

A frequently quoted study indicated students are not only leaving church but leaving their faith. Published in 1994, the study was written by George Fox University professor Gary Railsback, chairman of the Educational Foundations and Leadership Department. Railsback followed students from the point they entered college in 1995 to graduation in 1989. A follow-up study, polling the class of 1997-2001 and published in 2006, showed little deviance from the original research.

The most cited figure—one of concern to parents and youth pastors—showed anywhere from 27-56 percent of students who refer to themselves as “born-again Christians” upon entering college no longer claimed that title upon graduation. (These figures are from the 1997-2001 study but show little variance from the earlier sampling.)

In a telephone interview, Railsback said he sought to determine the college influences on religious beliefs. He compared seven types of college campuses with schools affiliated with the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. Students at schools that CCCU describes as intentionally Christ-centered institutions showed only a 7 percent dropout rate.

“This consistently lower dropout rate for CCCU campuses is understandable considering their overt efforts to integrate faith and learning and have a college faculty that adheres to religious beliefs,” Railsback said in his report.

Such a perspective creates a biblical worldview, an essential tool parents must give their children, Southeastern Seminary’s Reid said while speaking at Sagemont Church in Houston. Parents should never assume their children will just pick up scriptural truths, he said, but should systematically teach and reiterate those concepts.

In his book “Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know—and Doesn’t,” Stephen Prothero, chairman of the Religion Department at the University of Boston, argues that the lack of biblical knowledge in America creates a civic problem. When so many domestic and international policy discussions are couched in religious verbiage, it is apparent, through his studies, that many within the American population are not completely understanding the conversation.

In a March 14 column posted in the Los Angeles Times, Prothero noted: “In a religious literacy quiz I have administered to undergraduates for the last two years, students tell me that Moses was blinded on the road to Damascus and that Paul led the Israelites on their exodus out of Egypt. Surveys that are more scientific have found that only one out of three U.S. citizens is able to name the four Gospels, and one out of 10 think that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. No wonder pollster George Gallup has concluded that the United States is “a nation of biblical illiterates.”

In the column Prothero went on to argue for Bible literacy courses to be taught in every high school in America. Understanding “the most influential book in world history.” Not proselytizing, would only be to the benefit of upcoming generations and society as a whole, he concluded.

Ross explained, “A God-centered worldview and understanding of absolute truth is central to children—[and] can’t be wishy washy.”

He said youth pastors can play role in codifying that worldview but the primary teachers must be Christian parents.

“[Teenagers’] view of the world determines their beliefs and beliefs shape their values and that’s what drives their behavior,” Reid said.

How best to instill that worldview is up for debate among Southern Baptist pastors and seminarians, but all agree it begins in the home.

Reid joined SBTC evangelism associate Brad Bunting at Sagemont for the Sept. 14 taping of “Inheritance: Passing on a Legacy of Faith to Your Children.” The DVD and accompanying workbood will be available from the SBTC by the end of the year.

Reid’s lecture focused on the Deuteronomy 6 passage, emphasizing how parents can implement each of the commands to teach their children.

Ross said when parents “walk along the way”—to soccer practice or to school—they should be constantly looking for opportunities to teach. The “when you sit” exhortation implies a purposeful activity in which the father gathers the family for a time of worship at home, he added.

Until about 130 years ago, this was the main form of worship for families. But today the practice is almost exclusively relegated to functions of the local church, Baucham and others said.

Ross continued, “When you rise up and when you lie down do something spiritual that causes a child at beginning of day and end of day to bookend that day in terms of a focus on Christ.” To the audience gathered for the seminary forum, Ross said, “I bet every one of you at the end of the day prayed with that little toddler every night. Are parents of 16-year-olds doing that? Who needs prayer at bedtime more, a 2-year-old or a 16-year-old? Why on earth does that practice stop in Christian homes?”

Baucham’s 2006 message to the SBTC evangelism conference on the centrality of the home “literally traveled around the world,” he said, leading to “a firestorm of conversation and a revolution in the way many view the role of the home and the church in evangelism and discipleship. He wrote “Family-Driven Faith” as an instruction manual for those who have asked, “How do we do it?”

He calls on parents to take up the mantle of discipleship by homeschooling their children and recommends family-integrated churches where adults and children study the Word together.

Jerry Johnson said the “simple church” idea needs to be revived. “We need to come back to doing things together and have a higher expectation of the children. They can understand more than we give them credit for,” he said.

Ross said: “We need a home-centered, church-supported approach to the spiritual transformation of children and teenagers. That is a dramatic paradigm shift in how we view the church today. It is not going to be easy and it will not be quick, but the change can come.”

The church is to be a support system for the family, not the primary instrument of instruction for children and youth, added Bunting. He admitted that, to date, some youth ministries have not been parent-friendly. But that is changing. More youth ministers, Bunting said, are working to incorporate parents into the youth programs. By doing so they no longer usurp—albeit unintentionally—the parents’ authority but step up beside them in their challenges of raising godly children.

When a youth minister is freed up from being expected to disciple the teenagers of Christian parents, Reid said they are then able to focus their energies on kids whose parents are not Christians and work to draw lost kids and their families into the church.

Churches often add to the frantic pace of life for their members by offering too many programs and ministries which faithful church members feel obligated to support with their presence. Until parents reclaim their God-ordained status as primary spiritual counsel for their children, the church will continue to falter, not meeting its God-ordained potential, asserted Ross.

To pastors at the Southwestern conference, Ross said: “You might say, ‘I’m trying to build a great children’s ministry over here and it’s not working out so well.’ Could the reason be that you’re trying to build something great out of bad materials—troubled families, biblically illiterate parents, families in broken relationships?”

He said it was analogous to trying to construct a building with warped 2×4’s.

“It just never dawned on them that that was the lumber they were trying to build a church out of. Doesn’t it make sense to take a step back and when the families are strong and the 2x4s are straight—out of that we will build a grand church to the glory of God?” Ross said.

Though their strategies may vary, the Southern Baptist pastors and professors agree that unless the family stands firm on the truths of Scripture, there can be no building up of God’s church in America. Children must be disciple in the home. Parents should not expect it to happen anywhere else and churches should equip parents to that end.

Last year, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary announced changes to prepare future leaders to integrate local church ministries in a way that builds healthier families and churches.

“When everything is segregated by age or gender or in some other way, it inadvertently ends up fragmenting the way that the family should operate. We are going to seek to reinforce spiritual growth as it occurs as a family,” explained Randy Stinson, dean of the School of Leadership and Church Ministry at SWBTS. That includes:

New training that will encourage integration of women’s ministries with children and youth to follow a Titus 2 model of mentoring younger women, coordinating men’s ministries to provide male leadership for families, widows and orphans in keeping with James 1:27, unifying views of marriage and parenting as well as gender roles in the home and church, equipping husbands and fathers to serve as spiritual leaders in their homes, while aiming all local church ministries toward evangelism.

At Southwestern Seminary Ross asked parents attending the conference, “How long has it been since you said [to your child], ‘I want to show you something God showed me this morning.’ Are your children hearing out of your mouth the wonder of your own growth in Christ? Are they hearing from you that this is an alive faith, not just a Baptists something or other?”

In order to claim or, in some cases, reclaim the hearts of their children, parents must put their own self-interests aside and concentrate on what is most important.

Ross concluded: “My first step in getting there is going to be to warm up relationships in my home. Quit running around so much furthering my own goals. Look at the eyes of my own children—not over the newspaper or with one eye on Sports Central. Listen to my children. Focus on them. Turn off that box, sit and enjoy each other, study the things of God.”