Month: October 2007

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.

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

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.”

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, 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

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.

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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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 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.”

Former atheist reporter: Evidence for biblical Jesus stands legal tests

FLOWER MOUND  Despite recent novel attempts to recast Jesus as one who never claimed to be God, “people understood it in his day” that his response to the religious leaders meant he believed he was the incarnate Lord, former atheist and bestselling author Lee Strobel told a Flower Mound audience Oct. 6.

Strobel, a former legal affairs editor at the Chicago Tribune whose books include “The Case for Christ” and “The Case for Faith,” told those gathered at RockPointe Church the vital question following Jesus’ confession is, “Is there any evidence to back it up?”

Strobel was in the Dallas area Oct. 6 and 7, speaking at RockPointe and Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano while promoting his newest book, “The Case for the Real Jesus.”

Strobel recounted how his wife became a Christian several years before he did, and he spent two years researching the claims of Scripture, finally concluding that the evidence weighed by procedures he learned at Yale Law School pointed to the biblical Christ.

Using alliteration, Strobel said the Jesus of Scripture is objectively attested to based on the historical fact of his execution, early accounts of his life, death and resurrection, the empty tomb, eyewitnesses, and the emergence of the early church.

Strobel said that Jesus was crucified and declared dead is “one of the most solid facts of ancient history.”

While some have argued that perhaps Jesus had a fortuitous resuscitation to somehow survive his ordeal, history describes Roman flogging alone as often fatal, with one historian noting the veins and muscles “were laid bare.”

Strobel’s interview with an expert on Roman execution said Jesus would have been in critical condition in what is termed “hypovolemic shock,” with eventual death on the cross likely stemming from asphyxiation.

“Friends, Jesus was dead when he was taken down from the cross,” said Strobel, noting that at least five extra-biblical sources from antiquity?including Jewish historian Josephus and the Jewish Talmud?referred to his crucifixion as an historical event.

In recent times, even liberal scholar John Dominic Crossan of The Jesus Seminar doesn’t deny Jesus’ crucifixion.

“When I began my investigation ? I didn’t accept Scripture to be the inspired Word of God,” said Strobel, noting he once believed the resurrection was legend that developed over time.

“But legend takes a long period of time to develop”?at least two generations according to a noted historian on Rome, A.N. Sherwin-White, Strobel said.

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, Strobel said Paul pens an early creed of the church recited in public worship?dating back “as early as two to three years after Jesus.”

Strobel said the otherwise inexplicable rise of the early church is consistent only with a risen Jesus who proved his deity to his earliest followers.

The Gospel accounts say Pilate released the body of Jesus for burial to Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin and a follower of Jesus. The burial cave was sealed and under heavy guard, “only to be discovered empty by a band of women.”

Because a writer doesn’t invent things to hurt his own cause?a test of validity sometimes called the “criterion of embarrassment”?the biblical writers would not have included that women were the first ones to discover the empty grave unless it were true, Strobel explained.

In first-century Judaism, women were not considered reliable witnesses, so “the only explanation is that’s what happened,” Strobel argued.

The strongest evidence for the empty grave, however, is that “no one in the first century ever claimed the tomb was not empty,” Strobel said.

“The authorities said someone stole the body?. The Romans wanted Jesus dead; the Jews wanted Jesus to stay dead,” Strobel said, and Jesus’ followers were not going to “risk their lives for something they knew to be a lie.”

The New Testament reports Jesus appeared to 515 people after his resurrection, “to tough-minded people and tender-hearted people,” Strobel asserted. Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15 is that he appeared to more than 500 believers at one time, many of whom remained alive at the time Paul penned the epistle.

Strobel said as a legal reporter he covered dozens of trials in which people were sentenced to death on a relatively short trail of evidence. Yet Paul boldly claimed Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance to more than 500 people?an overwhelming number of witnesses?plus the apostles, and lastly to Paul.

Some skeptics have offered that perhaps eyewitness accounts of the resurrected Jesus were simply hallucinations or groupthink produced by hyper-suggestion.

But people don’t ask their friends, “How did you like my dream last night?” Dreams are individual events, he argued.

Quoting a psychiatrist he interviewed, Stobel said: “For 515 people to have a hallucination at the same time, it would be a bigger miracle than the resurrection.”

If groupthink had produced a belief in the resurrection, Strobel said the unlikeliest of converts would have necessarily succumbed to such a phenomenon; Saul of Tarsus hated Christians and was advancing in Judaism, and James, the brother of Jesus, did not follow him during Jesus’ lifetime?a shameful thing for a rabbi in ancient Judaism.

The emergence of the early church in the same city where Jesus was crucified is confounding if Jesus was not raised, said Strobel, noting the suggestion of some that Christianity grew up from legend.

Peter, cowardly in his betrayal of Christ during Jesus’ flogging, stood strong days later at Pentecost to remind the crowd that Jesus did miracles among them including his resurrection from the dead.

“[The crowd asked Peter], ‘What do we do?’ and the church exploded on the scene with 3,000 souls added that day, Strobel said.

“Suddenly the once cowardly men are men filled with courage.”

Strobel said the 9/11 terrorists died for what they hoped was true?that they would see Heaven for their martyrdom.

“People will die for what they are convinced is true, but not if they know their beliefs are false,” said Strobel, attempting to dispel the notion that Jesus’ followers may have invented a resurrection tale.

“They were there; they witnessed it!” Strobel said of the disciples. They did not simply believe it was true, “they knew it and were willing to die for it.”

During a question-and-answer session, Strobel explained how he spent two years examining Christianity as a skeptic before he came to a place where “I believed it based on data.”

“Now what?” he recounted asking himself.

“I realized it would take more faith to maintain my atheism” than to succumb to the prayers of his wife and the evidence before him.

Strobel said he remembered John 1:12?”But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name.”

“Believe” plus “receive” equals “become,” Strobel said, “and I received complete forgiveness through Jesus Christ.”

Strobel’s website? numerous print and multimedia apologetics resources.

THE FAMILY: Family-integrated churches a visible but uncommon approach to doing church

The service was surprisingly free of distractions considering how many children were seated in the congregation.

Babies, toddlers, grade-schoolers, and teenagers sat with their parents. Some were listening, some doodling, but all being politely quiet and relatively still. And their parents, members of Providence Baptist Church, wouldn’t have it any other way. Providence, an SBTC-affiliated church, is just one of at least 600 congregations nationwide identified by Vision Forum Ministries as a family-integrated church.

There is no hard-and-fast definition for a family-integrated church, but similarities in the structure are what bind them together as well as the families that make up their membership.

As the preaching pastor of Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, a flagship FIC congregation, Voddie Baucham identified four distinctives in his book “Family-Driven Faith:
1) Families worship together,
2) there is no systematic segregation of ages,
3) evangelism and discipleship are accomplished in and through homes, and
4) education is emphasized as a key component of discipleship often through homeschooling.

Another valued element common to any self-respecting Southern Baptist church, is a pot-luck dinner, most often held following Sunday morning services in FIC churches. Members of Providence Baptist Church meet in the gym/fellowship hall of Trinity Church in Pasadena. Roll-away partitions divide the kitchen and dining area from the worship center. Families gathered around the tables to enjoy homemade offerings and talk about why a FIC is important to them.

The Hardcastle family had been members of another Southern Baptist church but found they were being divided as a family on the very day they believed most important to be together.

“We felt like when we went to church we put one child here, one there. There was no worship together,” said Kelli Hardcastle. She and her husband, Lance, have eight children with number nine due in May. Kelli said her complaint was not directed at the church itself, recognizing the organization of many SBC churches results in family separation each Sunday morning, at least during the Bible study hour. But the Hardcastles began to long for something different and their search led them to Providence Baptist Church along with other like-minded families.

“We just wanted to get back to worshipping the Lord. And the fact that the kids are with us in the service, that was a big bonus,” said Raul Galvan, father of eight with his wife, Petra, expecting their ninth in March. The Galvan family had also been members of an SBTC church–a large congregation with a wide variety of ministries and Bible studies. The worship services were contemporary and professionally presented but the Galvans began desiring a simpler form of worship for themselves and their children.

Christina Haarhoff believes it is important for children to be in the worship services with their parents.

“I like the fact that they are learning to worship. Our children know the hymns,” she said. Her brother, Jeremy, also a Providence member, said his 4-year-old niece, Anneka, knows 40 hymns. Christina and Damian Haarhoff are the parents of four children ages five months through 6 years old.

Christina said she and Damian were looking for a Reformed church when they moved to the area from Dallas. The theology of Providence Baptist Church brought the couple in, but the family-oriented nature of the church is what made them stay.

“There is a strong sense of family. We hardly have a church gathering that isn’t family welcoming.”
She harkens back to references in the Old Testament to support the idea for families being in worship together. Men, women, children, and nursing babies, Christina said, Were all gathered to hear the word of God proclaimed. When did it become strange, she asked, for parents to bring their children into the worship service?

In an effort to honor the scriptural mandate for parents, in particular the fathers, to be the spiritual leaders in the home, Christina and Damian choose to keep their children with them during Pastor Tommy Dahn’s Bible study following the worship service while other parents send their children off to age-graded Bible study. Such choices are a hallmark of a family-integrated church.

The Galvan and Hardcastle families choose to have their children attend the graded Sunday School after they have spent the worship service together. Having those classes, Petra Galvan said, is just “a bonus,” a supplemental tool she and her husband can use in their role as spiritual leaders for their children.

The role a church can or should play in the lives of its members’ children is central to the discussion of family-integrated churches. The influence–for better or worse–of youth ministries and “systematic age-segregated” Bible study, as Baucham labels traditional Sunday School, is a point of debate for some.

Jim Hamilton, an assistant professor of biblical studies at the Houston campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, explains: “Different people are going to come to different conclusions on this, and I think this is an area of Christian freedom–as long as the fact that parents are responsible for their children is recognized and embraced.” Having previously served as a youth minister, Hamilton acknowledged, “Youth ministries can be a huge blessing, but even youth ministers will tell you that the kids most likely to keep the faith are those whose parents are training them in the faith. For these kids, the youth ministry is a supplemental help, not the whole show.”

Hamilton is the preaching elder at Baptist Church of the Redeemer, an FIC in Stafford.

“I would define family-integrated church as a church that is committed to keeping families together and not breaking them up at an institutional level. Within this broad definition, there is, of course a spectrum,” Hamilton said. “At the strictest end of the spectrum would be a church whose mission statement would be along the lines of ‘discipling dads to disciple families.’ Such a church might not have Sunday School classes divided by ages. So the children and the teens and the adults might all be in the same Sunday School class together. Churches on this stricter end might lean toward having fathers leading their own families in taking communion as families.”

What is foundational to all the family-integrated churches contacted by the Texan is the member’s emphasis on the role of fathers as spiritual leaders in the home. Doug Helms, pastor of Rock Creek Baptist Church, Crowley, said the goal of a family-integrated church is to make the parents the primary instrument for instruction and in doing so override the influences of the world that would draw children away from God once they leave home.

Although they offer age-graded Bible study, Helms said it is in no way a means by which parents can abdicate that role.

Hamilton explained further: “At the looser end of the spectrum (of FICs) are those who would say that the mission of the church is not simply to ‘disciple dads’ but to “make disciples.” These churches would probably have ‘age-appropriate’ instruction, and they would probably take communion as a whole church and avoid breaking the church up into family units at communion. Those who are much more family integrated might not regard these “looser” groups as being family integrated at all, but what would put them on the spectrum would be that they are much more intentional about encouraging fathers to lead their families in family worship and disciple their children, much more intentional about protecting and cultivating biblical gender roles and there will be a more ‘family-friendly’ culture at such churches.”

Many of the families involved in FICs homeschool their children. Asked if a family with children enrolled in public schools would feel uncomfortable in such a setting, Helms said he is aware of that possibility and works to make all visitors feel welcome.

Christina Haarhoff said she believes anyone would feel welcome in their church which has one-half to three-fourths of its members involved in homeschooling. Again, she added, it comes back to what a family is looking for in a church and if they share the same ideals with regard to children and their spiritual upbringing. Petra Galvan added, Pastor Dahn has had his children in home school, public and private school and does not preach one over the other from the pulpit.

The families of Providence Baptist Church, like many others who have joined family-integrated churches, are wondering when it became vogue to segregate according to age. Baucham explained in the book why the now-common approach has become so attractive.

“One day you visit a church, your teen goes off to the youth service, your little one goes off to children’s church, the baby goes to the nursery, and you and your spouse get a great seat, in a plush auditorium with first-class music, professional drama, a relevant, encouraging, application-oriented, non-threatening talk, and you get it all in just under an hour,” he wrote.

“While I believe the vast majority of those who shepherd segregated portions of congregations are well meaning and would never presume to replace parents in their biblical role, I believe the modern American practice of systematic age segregation goes beyond the biblical mandate. I believe it is a product of the American educational system, and in some instances it actually works against families as opposed to helping them pursue multigenerational faithfulness. I believe the church’s emphasis ought to be on equipping parents to disciple their children instead of doing it on their behalf.”

“A family will drive to church and never see each other again until they get back in the car,” said Brad Bunting, SBTC associate director of student evangelism. He thinks SBC youth ministers are becoming more aware to the role they must play in the lives of the teenagers they lead. That role, Bunting said, is becoming more family friendly.

Once they decided to leave their former church, Lance and Kelli Hardcastle drove around searching for a new congregation, not quite sure where God was leading. Then they found Providence—a church home where large families are not given a second glance, children and babies are not discouraged from attending the Sunday morning services but instead parents spending worship time with their children is encouraged.
A two-day conference to equip family-integrated churches will be held Oct. 26-27 in Houston with details available at