Month: February 2008

Texas churches walking newcomers through steps

The Holy Rollers Ministry at First Baptist Church of Euless came about when a new church member had completed “Step Three” in the church’s assimilation process, a six-week class on spiritual gifts and service. But he couldn’t find an area in which he really wanted to serve.

“We asked him, ‘What do you like to do? What do you enjoy?'”

“I like working with my hands. I like to paint,” the member said.

And from that came the Holy Rollers, a volunteer painting ministry.

“They do a tremendous job. They’ve restriped our parking lot, painted and touched up walls in the buildings, and painted some set decorations for our pastor’s new sermon series,” Bradley Thomas said. “That’s a perfect example of what we hope people get out of this process.”

The “process” to which Thomas referred is four six-week classes offered to new members to help them first of all become devoted followers of Christ, and second, to involve themselves in meaningful service in the life of the church. Topics of the four classes include: the vision and purpose of the church, keys to growing as a Christian, spiritual gifts and service, and how to share your faith.

FBC Euless has designed its assimilation program to fit its own needs and priorities, but, like many churches, it might borrow elements of other proven programs such as Willow Creek’s NETWORK and Saddleback’s C.L.A.S.S.

Willow Creek’s NETWORK course guides participants to discover their spiritual gifts, passions and ministry styles.

“Just as the human body cannot function unless the eyes, the hands, and ears do their part, your church cannot function effectively unless each believer does his or her part. NETWORK can help you get the right people in the right places for the right reasons,” an ad for the program at willowcreek.com says.

Willow Creek also offers a new four-week total church experience called “Living Beyond Myself: Launching a Volunteer Revolution,” “designed to raise the value of servanthood and volunteerism in the local church.” The Living Beyond Myself kit provides four weeks of sermon transcripts, drama scripts, video segments, an implementation guide, a participant’s guide, and Bill Hybel’s book “The Volunteer Revolution: Unleashing the Power of Everybody.”

Saddleback’s C.L.A.S.S. (Christian Life and Service Seminars) is a four-step process “for moving people from unchurched and uncommitted to becoming mature believers who fulfill their ministry in your church and their life mission in the world,” states the web page at saddlebackresources.com.

C.L.A.S.S. 101 covers basic doctrines of the faith: salvation, baptism and communion, and provides the venue for sharing the purpose, structure, and affiliation of one’s own church. C.L.A.S.S. 201 teaches tools for spiritual growth: time in the Word, prayer, giving, and fellowship. C.L.A.S.S. 301 helps members discover how their S.H.A.P.E.?their unique blend of spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality and experiences?can be used in ministry. C.L.A.S.S. 401 helps members to share their faith openly, discover their life mission and serve in their own community and in the world.

Thomas of FBC Euless said, “We actually use a version of Saddleback’s S.H.A.P.E. material in our step 3, the “First Purpose” class, which is our spiritual gifts class. We use it as a launch point to teach about finding your spiritual gifts, which in turn, helps you find your area of service.”

The First Purpose class also includes a tour of ministries. New members receive clipboards with a list of ministry areas and the opportunities to serve in each. They spend 5-10 minutes with leaders of each ministry, and check off areas of interest as they go. They then have the opportunity to try those ministry areas until they’ve found a place that matches their spiritual gifts, abilities and passions.

Thomas reports that 50-60 percent of the new members there are completing the four-step new member process.

Cottonwood Creek Baptist Church in Allen has made strides to keep the message and the processes simple. New members and prospects are invited to a Membership Workshop that takes place every other Saturday evening and Sunday morning during their Adult Bible Fellowship (Sunday School) hours. In the PowerPoint Presentation, they hear about the church and about the “3 D’s”?Develop, Disciple, and Deploy.

The workshop strongly emphasizes connection in one of the Adult Bible Fellowship (ABF) groups, and gives new members an overview of the various ministries in which they can become involved.

Following the workshop, attendees may make the decision whether or not to join. Later, at a new member fellowship in the home of the pastor, the priorities of the church will be communicated again and re-emphasized.

Part of the workshop includes writing one’s own testimony?what the person was like before they met Christ, how the person came to know Christ, and what it has been like since. The testimonies are read by Assimilation Pastor Scott Erwin, who then passes them along to the appropriate adult ministers. The Married Adult ministers are held accountable for following up, and they meet weekly with Erwin to give a report.

Plans are in place to add an emphasis concerning understanding your spiritual gifts. This will be for all new members and existing membership. They are also developing tools to help each member discover his or her unique leadership style and personality make- up.

Erwin stated, “My passion is for it to not only lead people toward membership, but also to equip them with a deeper understanding of how God has created them to serve others through their gifts and talents.”

Currently, a periodic “Focus” magazine highlights different ministries and different things being offered. A volunteer center in the foyer provides the information needed to connect and serve in any area of ministry in the church.

Associate Pastor Joe Patton said: “Having recently gone through “The Simple Church” [by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger], what we’ve done is distilled the essence of what we need to say. Instead of 500 choices we give them ‘the priority of the week.’ That goes for our worship service, our bulletin, everything. The simple process gives them the message ‘I need to go to church, I need to go to ABF, and I go to the Volunteer Center to get involved.'”

Who’s slipping out the back?
A formal strategy such as that at FBC Euless can address several issues that cause many new members to slip out the back door. An article at LifeWayresearch.com, “Why They Flee,” noted two types of people who slip out through the back door of the church: the formerly churched who might be gone permanently, and the church switchers who leave to find a new church for reasons other than a move.

LifeWay Research’s 2006 study on the formerly churched reported that 37 percent of those who completely stop attending church do so because of “disenchantment.”

Yearning for a relationship with God was the number one reason former members would consider returning to church?a finding implying that during their former church experience they were unable to develop an enduring relationship with God.

Brad Waggoner, who most recently was LifeWay’s vice president of research and ministry development before being named vice president of Broadman & Holman Publishers, noted: “Many members are vulnerable to attrition because of either a nonexistent or immature faith. When individuals begin to seek out membership, they should be guided through a process whereby they are clearly taught the gospel, and then following salvation, grounded in strong biblical truth. Far fewer people would drop out of church if their spiritual foundation w

IMB to appoint 92 at Texas church

SUNNYVALE?Ninety-two new International Mission Board appointees will be commissioned April 9 at Sunnyvale First Baptist Church, just east of Dallas.

“Come and hear testimonies of the appointees; learn about the urgent needs around the world; touch the lives of the missionaries by assuring them of your prayers and support, as well as participating in the worship, praise, and inspiration of this unique service,” First Baptist Church Pastor Charles L. Wilson wrote in a letter to area pastors.

“We encourage you to bring your congregation to what may be for some a ‘once in a lifetime experience,'” he wrote. “Many have noted that attending an appointment service has been one of the most exciting aspects of their Christian life.”

The IMB appointment service will begin at 7 p.m. at the church, 3018 N. Belt Line Road in Sunnyvale.
For more information or promotional materials for your church or association, call Jill Rawls at 972-226-7105, ext. 107, or visit the IMB website?imb.org?and go to the “Events” link to download a promotional poster or clip art.

Experts: remedies for volunteer burnout

It’s an all-too-common problem.

Church members volunteer for a ministry with the best intentions, but the demands of the job overwhelm them. After just a few months they burn out and quit.

Nearly every church faces burnout, and recently a group of Baptist experts suggested how congregations can avoid it.

“One mistake that a pastor can make very easily with his laypeople is if he finds a guy that is a doer and will do things, the pastor will work him to death and then not understand what happens when he just kind of disappears,” James Bryant, senior professor of pastoral theology at Criswell College in Dallas, said.

Often burnout occurs because volunteer workers “never got burned in properly,” said David Francis, director of Sunday School at LifeWay Christian Resources.

“Enlistment should be done personally, with expectations clearly explained in two categories: what is expected of the worker and what the worker can expect of the leader,” Francis said.

Randy Fields, pastor at New Covenant Baptist Church in Grass Valley, Calif., helped youth ministry volunteers know what was expected of them by giving every new worker a printed handbook with a philosophy for ministry, a description of the ministry and job descriptions for every volunteer position.
After reading the handbook, each prospective volunteer met with Fields to decide which job best suited him or her.

“I enlist a volunteer only after she understands the philosophy and agrees with it,” Fields wrote in a LifeWay article titled “How to Train and Retain Youth Workers.” “She then serves for a six-week probationary time with a mentoring youth worker, during which she is empowered to do ministry.

“Following the six-week probation, the volunteer is asked to sign a one-year commitment to work in youth ministry. This provides a definite end to her term of service if she feels that God is leading her to another place of service in the church.”

Bryant agreed that proper placement of workers is vital to avoiding burnout. Churches must take care to place volunteers is positions that utilize their spiritual gifts, he said.

“People burn out when they are functioning in ministries outside of their basic spiritual gift,” Bryant said. “I think that a lot of laypeople never discover their spiritual gift because most pastors don’t ever talk about it. A lot of pastors don’t know their basic spiritual gift.”

Bryant recommended LifeWay materials on spiritual gifts as well as Bill Gothard’s “Advanced Seminar.” Such studies can help church members realize which gifts God has given them, Bryant said.

In addition to improper enlistment, inadequate resources and inadequate training can also be causes of worker burnout, Francis said. Regularly, Sunday School workers become frustrated because they lack even basic materials such as chalk, pencils, crayons and construction paper, he said.

“A frustrated children’s teacher called our office just last week,” Francis said. “We discovered the source of her frustration: her church has asked her to teach children but had purchased only a leader’s guide. No learner guides with essential activities. No leader pack. No teaching pictures.”

Burnout can also be caused by an insufficient team supporting a worker, Francis said. If churches fail to organize workers in teams, isolation leads to stress and eventual giving up, he said.

Francis said volunteers will not feel isolated if adult Sunday School classes stay connected with and celebrate the members they have released to serve in other ministries. Often people serving in other ministries during Sunday School time can be classified as associate members of their adult departments.

“They should assign them the best care-group leader,” he said of associate members. “Make a poster with the names of all their associate members. Perhaps even take and post digital photographs of the associate members in their class. Adult classes should treat the members they’ve released for service like celebrities and honor them as missionaries for the class.”

Another remedy for burnout is to provide training for volunteers, Francis said. Training for a wide variety of workers is available through state conventions and associations as well as conferences at LifeWay’s Glorieta and Ridgecrest Conference Centers, he said.

After workers have served in their jobs for a period of time, giving them a break often prevents burnout, Francis said.

“I was the speaker for a training session for all Sunday School workers on a Sunday morning during Sunday School,” he said. “Subs had been enlisted for every class. The workers were treated to a full-blown country breakfast. Each received a special gift.

Rick Yount, professor of foundations of education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said churches must take particular care to place senior adults in appropriate ministry positions. Many times seniors burn out in ministry because pastors give up on them and view them as impediments to change, he said.

“Quite frankly, it is a sin to give up on older members,” Yount said. “Repent! Church members do not exist to make the pastor a success. Pastors exist to ‘equip the saints for works of service,’ helping them to ‘speak the truth in love,’ pleasing God in every way (Ephesians 4). It is a life-long task, one that seniors gladly embrace.

“The evolution of ministry approaches will go more smoothly when we include seniors in the discussion of changes which may be made. It is a sad situation when leaders force changes which require rejecting the very people who have been working faithfully for years.”

If a church must cancel ministries in which seniors are serving, every effort should be made to help each senior find a new place of service, he added.

“When ailments hinder members from doing their work, they are aware of the problems,” he said. “We can work with them to find less demanding, yet important, areas of ministry. Can they no longer go visiting?
They can make phone calls. Can they no longer visit the hospitals? They can write notes. Can they no longer teach a class? They can help other teachers by doing various kinds of research (commentaries, word studies, map studies). Can they no longer teach children? They can advise younger workers.”

In his book “The Volunteer Revolution,” Bill Hybels writes that a great volunteer culture never happens by accident, but always requires a major investment by church staff. He reminds:

?A new volunteer is a fragile volunteer. Vulnerable to discouragement and disillusionment, Hybels said, “That first volunteer experience may well determine that person’s attitude toward ministry for the rest of his or her life.” He warns, “A serving experience that feels consistently defeating can push people to the point where they’ll accept the guilt of quitting, climb back up on the spectator’s stand, cross their arms, and dare another church leader to get them onto the serving field.”

Instead, he advises, check in with volunteers and ask a few basic assessment questions to see how the experience went, learning whether adjustments need to be made.

?The easiest way to defeat a volunteer is to waste his or her time. Hybels describes the volunteer who leaves work early, gets a babysitter, drives 45 minutes, and shows up ready to serve, only to discover he isn’t even needed, it’s all busy work, or the project isn’t ready on time. In other cases too much is piled on one volunteer. “Remember that you’re not just filling a serving slot to meet a need; you’re guiding a willing-hearted Christ-follower along a pathway toward a fulfilling, fruitful lifestyle of servanthood.”

?Servants need to be reminded?constantly?that what they’re doing is not in vain. Citing Matthew 6:4 and 1 Corin

Criswell ‘share-a-thon’: $50,000 for Union

JACKSON, Tenn.?More than $50,000 has been raised for Union University’s tornado recovery through fundraising efforts initiated by Criswell College in Dallas.

The college joined a growing list of more than 600 donors who have given about $1.5 million in the past two weeks to Union’s rebuilding efforts from the devastating Feb. 5 tornado. Belmont University in Nashville provided $100,000 Feb. 14 and the six Southern Baptist seminaries together have pledged nearly $50,000.

During a visit to the Jackson, Tenn., campus, Jerry Johnson, president of Criswell College, presented a check and a greeting card signed by Criswell students to Union President David Dockery.

Students and faculty at Criswell took an offering during a Feb. 7 chapel service that raised about $500.
The college’s KCBI radio station continued the fundraising campaign Feb. 8 via a live broadcast.

“The gift from our wonderful friends at KCBI/Criswell College in Dallas is a marker of God’s providential provision for Union University at this hour of need,” Dockery said.

Union graduate Kristen Ulmer Cole was asked to say a few words about Union during the first day of the live “share-a-thon” broadcast on KCBI.

“To be in the studio and hear people call in to give their money and hear their response was really touching,” Cole said.

The outpouring of financial contributions from a community so far removed from the Union campus in Tennessee surprised both Johnson and Cole.

“I was [surprised] but I should not have been, because God has limitless resources,” Johnson said.
“That is what you all believe, that is what we believe, that is what we teach and that is what we pray.”

During her visit to the KCBI studio, Cole was able to see firsthand the type of response the station received. “It was exciting to know that half of the donors didn’t even know what Union was but they were still calling in,” Cole said.

She said more than $25,000 was raised by the end of the first day and phone lines remained open another two days.

“The people at Criswell remember Dr. Dockery?he was one of the shining stars of Criswell College,” Johnson said. Dockery previously served as professor of theology and New Testament at Criswell and edited the Criswell Theological Review. “We just wanted to come alongside him and do what we could to make a difference.”

Donations to Union through KCBI radio have not concluded. Johnson received a phone call on his way to Jackson, asking where a check could be sent. He said this additional check will be mailed as soon as it is received.

“We thank God for Jerry Johnson and for the generous support provided for Union by our KCBI friends,” Dockery said.

And Johnson noted, “God is going to do something great in the midst of the mess you all are dealing with, and I hope this is a little sign of God’s faithfulness.”

Belmont President Robert Fisher sent that institution’s donation to Dockery Feb. 14, along with a personal letter, according to Union spokesman Tim Ellsworth.

“Please accept the enclosed check as an expression of care and concern from Belmont University students to Union University students during this time of incredible challenge,” Fisher wrote. “Belmont faculty, staff, students and trustees are continuing to seek opportunities to show their support for Union, and as funds from these efforts are available they will be forwarded. However, we know that there are urgent needs and did not want to delay sending this gift.

“Please know that your students, faculty and staff remain in our prayers.”

“We are so thankful for the generosity of Belmont President Robert Fisher and the Belmont board of trustees for helping us in this way during our time of need,” Dockery said. “We continue to give thanks to God for the outpouring of support from our friends at places like Belmont.”

Among the other sizeable donations received by Union: LifeWay Christian Resources, $350,000; First Bank, $110,000; SBC Executive Committee, $100,000; Tennessee Baptist Convention executive board, $50,000; Tennessee Baptist Convention Children’s Home, $50,000; and Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, $20,000.

All faculty and staff returned to campus Feb. 18 to prepare for students to return the next day. Classes are scheduled to resume Feb. 20.

2,000th church a phenomenal milestone

We passed another milestone in this 10th year of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s existence. Over 2,000 churches have affiliated with us. The SBTC has grown dramatically since starting with only 120 congregations. This is quite phenomenal.

Some organizations use “funny” math to count their numbers. One such group is the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. They will list churches as members when one person designates money through the church’s office. The SBTC is careful to recognize only local congregations that have sought affiliation. There are several steps required of churches to be a part of the convention. Monetary contributions alone are not sufficient for affiliation.

The process begins with the local church taking official action to affirm the doctrinal position of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. This makes the SBTC a confessional fellowship. Churches affiliate because they want to be part of a group of churches that stand unashamedly for historic Baptist beliefs.

An initial mission gift accompanies the affiliation form to the SBTC office. Once the affiliation form is recorded, the Credentials Committee of the SBTC reviews the requests and passes it along to the Executive Board. The Executive Board votes to receive the congregation into the convention.

Doctrinal fidelity has been the hallmark of the SBTC. Boldly, churches stand together on the inerrant Word of God. Belief in the exclusivity of salvation in Jesus Christ, eternal security of the believer, believer’s baptism by immersion and the primacy of the local church are just some of the common bonds that hold us together.

Because of a belief in a totally true and trustworthy Bible, social and moral issues are addressed. The sanctity of human life, which values life from conception, is clearly expressed in our faith statement. The sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman is underscored in our beliefs. What we believe is who we are and should be how we live!

We can never say we have arrived, however. The battle for the Bible will never be over until Jesus comes again. But I think it is time in our 10th year to acknowledge that the SBTC has come of age. We are no longer “the other” convention. We are no longer the “new” convention. The SBTC is a viable ministry partner as churches come together to “Reach Texas and Touch the World.”

In a stronger and more determined way we can turn our attention in this 10th year to a kingdom focus. We have the opportunity as a group of churches to plant new churches and do missions in Texas as never before. Through prayer and work we can also see struggling churches turn around and experience a fresh breath from God.

As a group of churches, the SBTC is positioned to minister to one another in a new approach. Your staff is reassessing in order to do a better of job of ministering to your church. I have never been more optimistic about a move of God than I am today. The SBTC is poised to make a difference for the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us seize the moment.

Pray with me that God will unleash a powerful display of his grace upon us as we seek to bring glory to his name.

Speaking of tourism

Have you noticed that many of the most popular places people go in the U.S. are in areas where Southern Baptist, even truly evangelical churches, are small and few? We go there in large numbers but spend little time considering the people for whom the hot spots are their year-round homes.

The entire Rocky Mountain range is within what we used to call pioneer areas of missions. The same is true of California and the Pacific Northwest. If you go on autumn leaf tours in Vermont or Maine, you’re way off the beaten path for the SBC. The largest cities of our nation are in New York, Illinois, and California?not strongholds for the gospel. Do you ride a Harley? The largest bike rally in the U.S. takes place in South Dakota each summer. You can ride through a lot of high plains towns without seeing a Southern Baptist church, but people live there after you’ve gone home to Athens or Lubbock.

One great task of our North American Mission Board is to look at the entire map of our continent and strategize church planting and evangelism for the places where the need is greatest and the resources least. It appears to me that the need for gospel ministry and paucity of resources coincide in the same parts of the North American map. That’s why we in Texas emphasize the Annie Armstrong Offering for North American Missions each March.

This offering has a goal of $61 million this year and goes to missionary support, church planting, and evangelism. This year’s theme is “Live with Urgency,” a message sometimes difficult to convey to those who live in the most unevangelized places in the U.S.

Our churches, with their relative wealth, have the obligation to assist with ministry elsewhere without expecting anything in return. In fact, one of the motivating factors in the founding of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention was the conviction that we as churches have a commission to give and go to ministry beyond our communities and beyond our state. Our continued partnership with NAMB is one evidence of this. The sacrificial involvement of our churches in ministry in new work areas is another. I truly think we should increase this focus.

Churches in the Bible Belt are funded, furnished, and staffed in ways unheard of 20 or 30 years ago. We have orchestras while some Northern and Western mission starts use a boom box or sing acappella. We gripe if we have to wear a sweater to church while in some corners of our nation, new churches use space heaters and wear their coats all through worship. Music programs are fine and so is central air, but you get my point. Missions is something we all do, by some definition, but we take pretty good care of ourselves first.

Surely we can do more than we do. I believe in Southern Baptist missions because this strategic look at needs seems more rational than just an anecdotal one whereby I send to places where I know people.
Southern Baptist missions will send help to places I’ve never heard of to people worshipping in a language I couldn’t identify. It depends less on what I know and care about than a homemade missions scheme does. I think it’s worth supporting in all ways. We who read this have the money to help.

If your church doesn’t do a special promotion for North American missions, go to AnnieArmstrong.com to find out more about the need and ways to help. The stories are heartening and the need is great. There are videos of missionaries from Hawaii, Montana, Oklahoma, Virginia, and other places across the continent. We ought to care without being “heartened,” though. The Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong offering provide a way to do this that will make a difference in the place that needs it most right now. It’s like a smart bomb for supporting missions.

And a clime for every purpose under Heaven

As I write this, I’m just coming off my jet lag from a meeting in Hawaii. No, I don’t expect sympathy and yes, it was awesome. Tammi and I wandered about for a few days like the tourists we were, commenting endlessly about how pretty and nice everything was. It was perfect weather, a consistently lovely environment, and a totally laid-back culture. All three of these traits dull in their charm over a longer period of time than I’ve experienced them, I suspect.

That’s one reason (or three) that I looked forward to returning to wintery Texas. A conversation with a local Hawaiian pastor clarified the matter for me. There are some good reasons why every place is not so idyllic as a tropical island.

My pastor friend shared some of his concerns about the way the Polynesian culture tends to affect Christians and harden non-Christians to the gospel. People go to Hawaii or move to Hawaii because they like the easy-going nature of the place. It translates into much more than the use of time. Urgency about temporal and spiritual matters is hard to translate into a culture where seasons don’t change much, where food grows wild, and where the sun always shines. I’m sure there are 100 such places around the world that have similar appeal.

The cultural inertia in paradise tempts people into an easy attitude of tolerance and torpor. The delightful relaxation of the tourist can become the careless malaise of the resident. French expressionist painter Paul Gauguin is an extreme example of how what seems like paradise is found to be less so over time. His distaste for European sensibilities led him to move to the South Pacific region in search of the more perfect primitive life. His best known painting of that era was titled “Whence? What? Whither?” and implied that the answers were: we come from nowhere, we’re nothing, and we’re going to nowhere when we die. Paul Gauguin found the same despair in Polynesia he left behind in Europe. He tried to kill himself but instead died of syphilis and alcoholism at 54 years.

My point is not that the tropics killed Gauguin but that the glory of paradise initially masked to him universal aspects of the human experience. Some, living in a glorious locale, are less sensitive and remain focused on the mask. So these lotus eaters worship the waves or the ski slopes instead of the God who made seas and mountains.

Desert places also show the wonder of God, but in a different way. Anyone who just lies down there will eventually perish from the heat or be killed by the local fauna. The desert inspires more ambition than do tropical islands. In fact most places will make a person very uncomfortable if he does nothing to improve his situation. Heat, cold, fresh water, food, and safety are only rarely balanced for comfort and survival in the places people live. It is easier for us to see the need for spiritual change because we must daily change something physical to provide for ourselves and our families. Reality, to casual observers, is closer to the surface in Texas (or Ohio or Pennsylvania) than it is in Hawaii.

God reveals himself in creation, all of it?even in the physical laws that govern the construction of human designs. That means created things tell the truth about their creator. Hawaii speaks of a God who loves beauty and who has purpose and who sustains lovely created things even as sin eats away at them. Paradise is a place more temporary than the eternal God, though; it is an expression of his but not God itself. I’ve seen places in Iowa and Russia and Africa that bear the same message in their own unique voices.

The temptation of each place is different. In a challenging environment, we may tend to take pride in our accomplishments without regard to the God who blesses us. In a big city we might be cynical toward God’s power or goodness because of the poverty and crime that concentrates in large populations. Some place we consider marvelous will tempt us to worship its sensory glory without worshipping the God of all things. In each place, God speaks to those who have ears.

Some places are God’s art galleries, others grocery stores, lumberyards, storehouses, and so on. I’ve visited a few of those art galleries and each one has a culture that is challenging to Christian ministry in a unique way. People love the art too much. Southern Baptists should do more to export prayer and money and energy and people to those who minister among the art gallery residents, and to millions of tourists each year. These missionaries need more than our respect.

Women’s speakers exhort women not to lose wonder of walking with God

EULESS?”Don’t Lose the Wonder,” warned former Texan Barbara O’Chester, noting the tendency to practice “treadmill Christianity” whereby “we walk but don’t go anywhere” in the Christian life.

The wonder of salvation should cause believers to recognize a miracle has occurred, whether the recipient is a 6-year-old child as O’Chester was when she became a Christian or a 100 year old. And the wonder of sanctification should remind believers of the importance of maturing, controlled and filled with God’s spirit, she said.

As a lifelong Baptist, O’Chester said she was the mother of three daughters before she realized what sanctification meant.

“It’s a great big word that we have let the Pentecostals take,” said O’Chester, encouraging those listening to give God control of their lives so that they might live victoriously.

Furthermore, O’Chester said God will be glorified as believers recognize the wonder of his sovereignty.

She recounted the various circumstances of her life that she still did not understand?spending 82 nights under police protection when her husband stood against the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi, taking a 45 percent pay cut when their Austin church faced financial difficulty, the pain of a child wandering in the world for 15 years before returning to full deliverance.

“God is good. Remember what he’s done in your life and how he has protected you,” she reminded.
Christians also need to rediscover the wonder of service, recognizing the privilege of serving the King of kings, as well as the wonder of Scripture, realizing the sacrifice of those who bled and died to preserve it through the ages.

“The book is still relevant and a lot more truthful than your morning newspaper which many of you devour.”

O’Chester turned to Proverbs 30 to remind women not to lose “the wonder of your spouse,” as God brings two different people of different backgrounds and personalities together for good, and the importance of treasuring their children at all times whether they create joy or pain, fun or frustration.

“Those of you who know me didn’t really think you were going to get out of here without hearing the wonder of submission,” she quipped. “Submission to the Lord puts order in our lives. Submission to your husband puts order in the home,” she said, further noting the need for submission to leaders and authorities as part of God’s plan.

Finally, the wonder of spiritual warfare causes the Christian to recognize there is a target on the believer after receiving Jesus as Savior.

“You get to fight for your king. It’s a privilege,” she said.

Speaker Lilliana Lewis of Austin shared how the parable of the lost sheep took on new meaning when one of her daughters escaped her notice during a playground visit while a preschooler. Drawing from Matthew 18:10, she encouraged women to be about their heavenly father’s business in seeking souls to be saved.

The incident involving her daughter rallied members of their church to pray for the child’s safety as police and firefighters sped into action during the search. As she knelt to pray for her daughter, Lewis said she was reminded of David Livingstone’s request that God would walk with him on the road he was walking following his wife’s death.

“We must pray as though everything depended upon our prayers,” she urged, quoting the advice of Salvation Army founder William Booth.

“Then work as if everything depended on our work,” she added. In the midst of such anxiety, God gave her a peace and calmness of spirit that allowed her to comfort other members of her family, Lewis said.

Just as the rescue workers had a strategy for finding her daughter, Lewis encouraged women to take advantage of the many and varied methods of sharing their faith in order to find lost souls.

“If you aim at nothing you hit it every time. Let’s not aim at nothing. Have a plan.

“God gave us this parable so we’d know how he felt searching for the lost. His heart breaks as he cares for those who are lost.”

Ultimately, believers who sow in tears are able to reap in joy, she said. When her daughter was found the police chief told them to go home and rejoice.

“‘This is the way we want every story to end,'” she recalled him saying.

Katie Dyke-Kinsey shared her testimony of losing a husband to cancer, then marrying again, only to find that her husband had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.

“God is still in the miracle business and he has the plan for each of your lives from beginning to end.”

June Hunt of Dallas dealt with a common problem many Christians face in failing to forgive offenses. Pointing to Luke 6:27, she defined forgiveness as “dismissing the demand that others owe you something.”

Not only are Christians to “dismiss the debt,” they are also to “release resentment” that often remains. “It was a choice we made of whether we’re going to forgive people. We choose to release our resentment toward the offender.”

Hunt said forgiveness involves releasing rights to hear “I’m sorry,” and to not dwell on the offense or keep bringing it up.

“Let’s understand, forgiveness is not circumventing God’s justice,” Hunt added. “It is allowing God to execute his justice in his way and in his time. Forgiveness is not letting the guilty off the hook, it’s moving the guilty from your hook to God’s hook.”

She contrasted forgiveness, which can take place with only one person, and reconciliation, which is reciprocal.

“Forgiveness is extended even if it’s never ever earned. Reconciliation is offered to the offender because it has been earned.”

Refusing to forgive can be a block to salvation, added Hunt, relating accounts of several individuals who would not let go of an offense, ultimately refusing to trust in God. And yet, once forgiveness was extended, she saw others respond with joy over having been converted. She encouraged women attending the evangelism conference to extend forgiveness and share with others how Christ can change lives.

Criswell College establishes counseling chair

DALLAS?During the Feb. 5 chapel service at Criswell College, school President Jerry Johnson announced the establishment of the “Hope for the Heart Chair for Biblical Counseling” to be led by Steve Hunter, an associate professor of psychology and counseling and dean of students at Criswell.

Johnson also recognized June Hunt, founder of Dallas-based Hope for the Heart, as initiating the establishment of the chair in August 2007. The college continued moving forward on Nov. 12, when the executive committee of the trustees authorized the endowment. On Dec. 7, the board trustees formalized the establishment.

“I’m really thankful to June Hunt and Dr. Hunter,” Johnson said. “This is an exciting partnership.”

Hunter is also on staff at First Baptist Church of Dallas as a licensed professional counselor and is a former missionary and pastor. He earned his bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Texas A&M University, as well as a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and his doctor of ministry from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.

Hope for the Heart is a biblical counseling ministry and June Hunt hosts the nationally syndicated radio program “Hope for the Heart,” which airs daily for 30 minutes, and “Hope In The Night,” a two-hour call-in broadcast. Both are designed to help listeners work through issues and problems with biblical answers and practical help.

At the chapel service, Johnson brought both Hunter and Hunt to the stage, expressing his hope that the endowment of the Hope for the Heart Chair will allow more Christians to be trained in biblical counseling.

The “Hope for the Heart” radio programs are broadcast in 25 countries and Hunt is also the author of more than 30 books, most recently “How to Forgive When You Don’t Feel Like It.” Hunt earned a master of arts degree in counseling at Criswell. She also has been a guest professor at colleges and seminaries, and teaches courses nationally and internationally on topics such as crisis counseling, child abuse, spousal abuse, homosexuality, forgiveness, singleness and self-worth.

After years of teaching and research, Hunt developed “Counseling Through The Bible,” a scripturally based counseling course addressing 100 topics, such as depression and parenting, anger and abuse, guilt and grief. From this course, Hunt also authored and produced the “Biblical Counseling Keys “?all designed to move people from wrong thinking to right thinking … from wrong living to right living,” Hunt’s website states.

“There’s nothing more important than instilling in students truth, teaching them how to think about people and how to apply the Word of God to their lives,” Hunt said. “Biblical counseling gives people the tools to help others while knowing the counsel has its foundation in God’s Word. You can be sincere, and sincerely wrong, but the Word of God is never wrong.”

Johnson reiterated the unique place the endowed chair will have at Criswell.

“There are a lot of hurting people out there who are needy and are not hearing the right messages. They may go to a psychologist or psychiatrist, but this is the Hope for the Heart Chair of Biblical Counseling, really emphasizing that God’s Word has the answers.”

Hunt expressed her support for Hunter’s leadership in biblical counseling.

“No one would be a better representative of this school than Steve Hunter. He is solid, has heart and he truly has ‘Hope for the Heart’ that he gives.”

Speaking of his vision for the chair, Hunter said during chapel that he and June Hunt have “the same heartbeat, and that is to train Christians in how to effectively minister to the hurting through God’s Word ? that’s my desire and the purpose of Hope for the Heart.”

Hunt later stated that one of the keys to biblical counseling is to have the Word of God indwell the person who is counseling.

“We have a world of people who want help and hope, and they need to know how to think biblically so that truly they will have joy and the peace of God. There’s no substitute than having the peace of God and the only way to do that is to be in the will of God.”

Johnson emphasized that the counseling courses at Criswell span a broad spectrum. Students may earn a bachelor of arts in counseling and a master of arts in counseling at Criswell College.

“We want to encourage people who have an interest in helping others that they don’t have to be a professional counselor (to take courses in biblical counseling),” Johnson said. “This is also for laymen,
Sunday School teachers who really want to have the tools. We are excited. We think it will just grow.”
Criswell student Laura Kreisher praised the school for offering the course of study.

“My passion and commitment is for the Lord’s truth and how that applies to life. Criswell is where God was calling me so this is where I’m at, just to be used by God in whatever way he would have me. I’m majoring in biblical counseling.”

SBTC marks 2,000 affiliated churches

Four churches whose affiliations were received by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention the week of Jan. 28 pushed the convention past 2,000 congregations in its 10th year.

The congregations are Luz de Betel Baptist Church in Austin, Gateway Baptist Church of Big Spring, Calvary Baptist Church of Snyder, and Denton Chinese Church of Denton.

“On average, a church every other day affiliates with the SBTC,” said Troy Brooks, director of Minister-Church Relations. “We are thankful that so many churches are choosing to partner with us as we reach Texas and touch the world. Since we are a confessional fellowship, churches wishing to affiliate with the SBTC complete an affiliation application indicating their agreement with the doctrinal position of the SBTC [Baptist Faith and Message] and make an initial contribution to the Cooperative Program. Frequently we are contacted by churches that have already voted to affiliate but for one reason or another, they have not completed and sent in the affiliation form. For that church to be counted, the SBTC needs the affiliation form.”

“The SBTC is blessed to have reached this milestone in the affiliation of these churches,” Brooks added.

The SBTC will mark 10 years this November when it meets for its annual meeting at Houston’s First Baptist Church. It constituted in Houston in 1998.