Month: June 2008

SBTC volunteers make difference in Des Moines

DES MOINES, Iowa?Disaster relief (DR) volunteers from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention have made water-damaged homes ready for repair and led three people to faith in Christ through the first 10 days of DR work in the flood-damaged Iowa capital city.

Veteran disaster relief volunteer Billie Sue of Forest Home Baptist Church in Kilgore said the Texas team of 13 volunteers assessed damage on several dozen houses in a section of Des Moines that was flooded on June 14 after heavy Midwest rains forced a levee to break.

Of those homes, about a dozen have been dried out, cleaned and sanitized for mold and bacteria?what the DR teams call “mud-out” work?by June 25. Once cleaned and often stripped down to stud walls, builders can begin refurbishing the inside of the homes, Sue explained.

Other Iowa towns, including Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, were hit hard as well, with Baptists from other states helping recovery there.

“I’ve been doing assessments, going into homes, getting the job orders ready for the teams to do mud-out work. I love doing the mud-out work myself,” Sue said. Some of the homes absorbed five to six feet of water. Another challenge is most of the houses have finished basements with furniture, which requires moving water-logged items up the stairs, Sue said.

“[The homeowners] are pretty distressed because their homes are just ruined,” but seeing the yellow-shirt clad Southern Baptists hard at work “helps their spirits a lot. We do a lot of praying with them if we see them getting distressed,” Sue said. “When we finish up a home, we all sign a Bible and give them the Bible before we leave.”

Sue said this trip was her 10th or 11th as a DR volunteer. She helped last fall after flooding devastated parts of Wisconsin.

A Des Moines city employee worked alongside the team for several days, insisting he stay assigned to the Texas group. On June 24, Sue said the young man named Darrell prayed to receive Christ. The next night he came to the church where the team was staying in inner-city Des Moines, True Bible Baptist Church, where he had dinner with the team and learned more about his newfound faith.

The team led two other people to Christ as well, Sue said.

On the trip to Iowa, “I don’t think we stopped one time that we didn’t have someone who recognized our yellow shirts and thanked us for what we are doing. That makes us feel so good. There are seeds being dropped along the way and hopefully people will understand why we would come up here from Texas to help them.”

On July 1, a second team of SBTC volunteers was to arrive and begin work.

For more information on SBTC disaster relief ministry, visit sbtexas.com/DR or call the SBTC office at 877-953-7282.

SBTC disaster relief volunteers in Iowa


Disaster relief volunteers from Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) churches are assessing needs in flood-ravaged Iowa at the request of the North American Mission Board, convention DR Director Jim Richardson said.

“We will be serving in southeast Iowa in the Wapello area,” Richardson said. “We will be serving several small towns of 700-800 people. The SBTC has assessment teams that arrived [June 17-18], with cleanup and recovery volunteers responding when the water begins to recede. Chaplains will respond with the assessment and cleanup and recovery teams as needed.Feeding, chaplains,and communications are still on standby and will respond as the situation dictates.”

The North American Mission Board has also dispatched Southern Baptists to Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana, which suffered flooding the weekend before the SBC annual meeting.

Criswell students win souls in Indiana

NEW WHITELAND, Ind.–Criswell College students attending the Southern Baptist Convention and pre-convention evangelistic outreach learned firsthand how God redirected their plans to suit his purposes amid dangerous floodwaters surrounding the church they were to help.

Assigned to conduct revival services and evangelistic outreach for New Whiteland Baptist Church south of Indianapolis and later engaged in the kind of street witnessing they’d done in Dallas, the 13 students saw at least a dozen people profess faith in Christ. The annual pre-convention evangelistic thrust known as Crossover saw 759 people saved as 500 volunteers from across the country braved a rain-soaked weekend.

Long before the weekend of June 6-8, God had prepared the heart of an Indiana pastor to accept the call to pastor a small-town church. The students he would meet from Criswell were prepared to minister. It was more than a coincidence that legendary Dallas pastor W.A. Criswell had a hand in influencing the pastor to accept the New Whiteland Baptist Church assignment as well as laying the foundation for the college from where the students learned to be flexible in going where God leads.

GOING WHERE GOD LEADS
In the fall of 1991, Daniel Moore attended a state convention meeting in Indiana where Criswell was preaching. He sought the famous pastor’s counsel regarding an opportunity to serve the New Whiteland church for less pay, a decision Moore’s own pastor had advised against.

“I was upset because I always thought you should go where the Lord wants you to go,” Moore shared with the Criswell College students assigned to conduct evangelistic outreach.

“After W.A. Criswell got done preaching, I told him the story and asked what I should do,” Moore recounted. “He told me, ‘Son, you just do what the Lord’s calling you to do,’ and so I told him I was going to do it,” later resigning the Indianapolis position to begin his ministry in New Whiteland.

Having served the church for the past 16 years, Moore recognized God’s providence in giving him the Criswell students on a weekend that would test their endurance.

“They learned in this experience that we may have our plans but sometimes God interrupts those plans and we have an opportunity to minister in a different way,” explained Bobby Worthington, evangelism professor at Criswell College and director of the Encounter Missions program that trains students to witness in any circumstance. “You need to respond quickly and think about the community,” he advised them. “The church is a lighthouse and we’re to respond to help people in need.”

Though he’d planned to send the students into the surrounding neighborhood to distribute VBS flyers, Moore redirected them to assist residents threatened by the floodwaters, while advising police that the church would serve as a safe haven for displaced neighbors.

“I never heard one of them complain about wading in water or anything else,” Moore told the TEXAN as he reflected on the students’ efforts. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”

At press time, ministry continued following the flooding as Moore served as a disaster relief chaplain, tackling spiritual needs in the wake of the natural disaster.

“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” recalled student Jason Thomas. “While we were going out it was almost waist-high water.”

He and other students checked on elderly residents to tell them of the availability of New Whiteland Baptist church as a shelter.

Criswell student Byron Milligan described his amazement at the opportunities to share their faith as they walked the flooded streets. As the team approached a house with five children, Milligan shared that they warned the mother of the rising waters, urging her to get out quickly. Twenty minutes later her husband arrived, but the water had risen too high for the children to walk to safety.

“We carried them down the street to our truck,” Milligan wrote in his journal. “I was able to get a little boy named Josh to know that Jesus loved him. He was pretty frightened and I know it will be something he will always remember. Hopefully, he will also always remember that Jesus does love him and has a plan for his life.”

College student Ali Khadivi remembered prayerwalking those same neighborhoods the night before the foot of rain fell, planning to go into different neighborhoods to invite people to Vacation Bible School and the weekend revival.

“It was God-ordained and God-organized,” he said of the chaos that ensued. “There were lots of travelers that we didn’t even plan to meet. They came for food and we shared the gospel, fed and ministered to them.”

Khadivi preached at the Saturday evening service after a day of disaster relief ministry. A Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary student had been redirected through New Whiteland when floodwaters overcame the freeway he was traveling. He learned of the ministry opportunities from Worthington and stayed to participate in the services since he could not make it to the site to which he’d been assigned to provide music.

“He sang a song that really touched all of the members there,” Worthington said.

“One gentleman was saved and the whole church was crying because so many had prayed for this young man,” Khadivi related.

Staying into the next week to participate in the convention meeting, students shared their faith on the downtown streets, in Circle Centre Mall, and at a Greyhound bus station.

“People were coming and going and everybody was a divine appointment,” Khadivi said.

Khadivi, a Middle Eastern immigrant, said, “I kind of speak Spanish,” relying on Spanish-language tracts and his limited vocabulary to witness to two Spanish-speaking men who accepted Christ as Savior. “It was just awesome. Professor Worthington organized it in a way to team up with different students every day.”

“We tried to build relationships so that after we left they would turn to the local churches,” Worthington told the TEXAN.

Twenty-three professions of faith were reported during the downtown evangelistic efforts in which Criswell students participated.

Khadivi added, “Criswell College prepares you for every good work—preaching and evangelism, but my heart is on missions. Anywhere I go I can’t keep my mouth shut for Jesus Christ.”
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SBC approves motions, budgets

INDIANAPOLIS–Messengers to the SBC annual meeting accepted a sweeping report on child abuse prevention, approved a $205.7 million Cooperative Program Allocation Budget for the coming year, and approved a resolution on regenerate church membership that incorporated amendments from the floor by a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor and a Florida leader of the Founders Ministry.

Local Southern Baptist churches in Texas sent 416 messengers to Indianapolis–half the number reported at last year’s meeting in San Antonio. This year’s unofficial messenger count was 7,277, down from 8,630 at the 2007 meeting, however heavy rains and flooding were blamed for some of the decrease with some of those who registered in advance declared no-shows.

Twenty-three motions were presented by messengers to this year’s annual meeting in Indianapolis–none of them making it to the floor for debate this year. However, SBC President Frank Page guided the efforts of those seeking to amend the much-discussed resolution, as if moderating a local church business meeting to successfully air all concerns.

Messengers adopted a resolution that incorporated baptistic concepts of believers-only baptism by immersion, the Lord’s Supper and church discipline. It also called for repentance in failing to maintain regenerate church membership and negligence in correcting wayward members. The resolution asked denominational servants to encourage churches implementing church discipline.

Practical recommendations to help local churches prevent sexual abuse were wholeheartedly embraced by messengers during a report from the Executive Committee that was submitted after two years of study. The report in response to a 2007 motion referred to the Executive Committee urges churches to screen prospective volunteers and employees through the Department of Justice’s national database, found at nsopr.gov (A link is available from sbc.net under Resources for “Sex Abuse Prevention.”).

The committee rejected suggestions that it recommend creating a Southern Baptist database of sexual offenders. Such a database, the report said, would have its shortcomings.

While presiding over the referral of various motions, Page told messengers: “Some of you are new to the convention, and we welcome you. We have people coming from other denominations, from independent status. Sometimes people do not realize, for example, that this convention is an autonomous convention and does not hold authority over state conventions that may have colleges or other entities or organizations.”

Baptist associations, state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention are each independent, Page said, adding that “none can direct the work of the other.”

“Also, we have a longstanding practice to elect trustees for those entities that we do support–and we allow those trustees to do the work that they are called to do in those entities,” Page said. “So there’s a clear delineation of responsibility, of accountability and of autonomy.”

A motion submitted by North Carolinian Bill Sanderson that called for a declaration that Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth is not “in friendly cooperation” with the SBC was referred to the Executive Committee.

The church is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, Tarrant Baptist Association and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and recently delayed a decision on whether to include photographs of homosexual couples in its church directory.

“The Broadway Church has not sent messengers to this convention, so this is not a credentials issue [that] must be resolved during the convention,” said Gearl Spicer, chairman of the Committee on Order of Business. “Although the question of a church’s affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention is a very vital issue, there is not sufficient time to deal with this issue appropriately between now and [adjournment].”

Other motions referred to the Executive Committee included those proposals related to the SBC constitution and bylaws:

• that Bylaw 10 be amended to provide that presidents of Southern Baptist Convention entities or the president of the Executive Committee are ineligible to serve as SBC president, submitted by Jack Wilkerson of Tennessee;
• that Bylaw 10 be amended to change rules for runoffs of candidates at SBC annual meetings, submitted by Scott Wilfong of Louisiana;
• that the bylaws be amended to establish additional criteria for denominational service, such as membership in churches supporting the Cooperative Program, abstention from alcohol and support of the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message or other parallel “declarations of faith,” submitted by Jeff Purvis of Missouri;
• that Article III of the SBC Constitution be amended to provide that churches with a female senior pastor are not in cooperation with the SBC, submitted by Chuck Sams of Ohio;
• that Article IV of the SBC Constitution be amended to limit SBC entity trustees to a single seven-year term of service, submitted by Barrett Lampp of Florida; and
• that the Executive Committee study and recommend bylaw changes to accommodate other events during the annual convention week, such as conferences and seminary classes, submitted by Ben Smith of Georgia.

MOTIONS RULED OUT OF ORDER
Six motions were ruled out of order by SBC President Frank Page who accepted the recommendation of the Committee on Order of Business to do so after Spicer explained that motions may “request but not direct” an entity to take an action.

Among the motions ruled out of order were those:

• directing certain Bible translations not be used in convention meetings or “official Convention literature,”
• requiring SBC seminaries to charge students the same fee structure for on-line and on-campus classes, as well as
• an Illinois pastor’s appeal for disaster relief assistance for his church.

In several cases the requested action had already been provided, including a call for recordings of the Pastor’s Conference and convention sessions to be provided “at cost” to messengers. (Complete coverage of all SBC sessions is already provided on-line at no charge, however the SBC cannot direct the Pastors’ Conference regarding the sale of its recordings).

The messenger asking that hearing-impaired equipment be provided on request was told those service are already provided. Messengers later approved a report from the Executive Committee describing additional ministries for people with disabilities as requested the previous year.

An effort to require universities and seminaries that receive Cooperative Program funds to teach creation science was turned down since the convention has no authority to direct trustees not appointed by the SBC or to exercise authority of any entity’s board of trustees.

A motion to take a disaster relief offering designated for recent storm victims in Indiana was withdrawn after messengers were encouraged to contribute online at namb/net/dr.

MOTIONS REFERRED
A motion proposed by Mississippian Jon Kittrell that SBC entities should plan convention events to be more family oriented or to provide childcare was referred to all SBC boards, institutions and commissions. Preschool care as well as day camp for children and Centrifuge for teenagers is already offered at the annual meetings.

Beauford Smith of North Carolina offered a motion that convention meetings should post the American flag with an honor guard representing the five branches of the U.S. military. Smith’s motion was referred to the Committee on the Order of Business.

Other motions referred to the executive committee included:

• that the Executive Committee reconsider affiliation of the SBC with the Baptist World Alliance, submitted by Larry Walker of the First Baptist Church in Dallas;
• that the Executive Committee have the Baptist Faith and Message translated into the top five languages most used within the SBC, submitted by Alan Thompson of California;
• that candidates appear on the platform or their photos be shown to messengers during nomination times at annual conventions, submitted by William Bloch of Florida;
• that the Executive Committee study how Articles 14 and 15 of the Baptist Faith and Message can be better implemented, submitted by Wiley Drake, pastor of California.

No action was taken on a motion by Drake that the “Executive Committee … lead our SBC to repentance and a new emphasis on biblical holiness and godly living.” Even so, Spicer said the committee “commends the high ideals and the actions expressed in the motion, not only to the Executive Committee but to all the entities and churches of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Page said “any call for the Executive Committee to lead this Southern Baptist Convention in emphasizing elements of revival such as repentance, biblical holiness and godly living or purity certainly does transcend any parliamentary procedure and certainly is a call from the heart of God that we honor.”

A single motion was referred to LifeWay Christian Resources asking that churches and associations be provided with video conferencing capability through the LifeWayLink product, submitted by Andy Perryman, director of missions from the Georgia Baptist Association in Washington, Ga., and messenger from the First Baptist Church in Greensboro, Ga.

Three Executive Committee recommendations were approved without objection, including the 2008-2009 proposed Cooperative Program allocation budget in the amount of $205.7 million which represents an increase of 2.5 percent over the current year.

Messengers also approved sites for the three future annual meetings—Nashville in 2013 and 2019 (where attendance was particularly high in 2005) and Baltimore in 2014. Other upcoming meeting sites already approved include Louisville in 2009, Orlando in 2010, Phoenix in 2011, and New Orleans in 2012.

Also during the meeting, David Dykes, pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, was this year’s recipient of the M.E. Dodd Cooperative Program Award for his distinguished support of Southern Baptists’ unified giving plan.

Other SBC Resolutions

INDIANAPOLIS?In addition to the regenerate church membership resolution, messengers to the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention passed statements that:



  • expressed support for a California initiative to repudiate same-sex “marriage” in light of the state’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing the practice;


  • urged government defunding of Planned Parenthood, the country’s leading abortion provider;


  • celebrated the 100th anniversary of Royal Ambassadors, the convention’s missions training program for boys;


  • expressed thanksgiving for the growing ethnic diversity in the SBC and urged “balanced representation” of ethnic groups on the convention’s trustee boards and entity staffs.


  • called for Southern Baptists and other Christians to participate in the political and public policy process, while avoiding the politicization of congregations.


  • urged Southern Baptists and other Christians to “resist the march of secularism” and seek to influence businesses and other institutions to return Christmas to “its proper place in the culture.”


  • celebrated the 60th anniversary of the state of Israel and encouraged prayers on its behalf.


  • offered thanks for the work of Southern Baptists in Indiana and others who assisted with this year’s meeting.

All resolutions express the views of the messengers at an annual meeting but are not binding on churches and the entities of the SBC.

The resolution on Planned Parenthood called for Congress to eliminate funding for a nationwide organization that receives more than $336 million in government grants and contracts. Clinics affiliated with Planned Parenthood performed nearly 290,000 abortions in 2006. While decrying the “immoral actions” of the organization’s clinics, the statement urged President Bush to veto spending bills that include funds for Planned Parenthood.

Though the resolution on Planned Parenthood passed without hesitation, an extended debate on an eventually unsuccessful amendment occurred on the statement about “gay marriage” in California.

Ron Wilson of First Baptist Church in Thousand Oaks, Calif., sought adoption of an amendment that would have encouraged “all Christians in California to remove their children from the public schools, which are the main training ground for the teaching of same-sex marriage.” After messengers debated its merits, the amendment failed by a margin that was estimated by some observers as about four to one.

The failed amendment essentially would have accomplished the goal of a proposed resolution?not reported out by the committee?that dealt with recent events which legally cemented the indoctrination of Califonia’s students into “sexual deviancy.” The rejected resolution was an extension of recent advocacy by some Southern Baptists for a Christian “exit strategy” from the public schools.

At a news conference following the final resolutions report, Darrell Orman, chairman of the Resolutions Committee, said the panel wanted to stay focused on the same-sex “marriage” issue in opposing Wilson’s amendment.

Messengers amend, approve regenerate church member statement

INDIANAPOLIS–For the first time in recent history, Southern Baptist Convention messengers adopted a resolution calling churches to adhere to biblical standards for church membership after adding language about believer’s baptism by immersion, the Lord’s Supper, and church discipline.

In the weeks before the convention, the SBC Resolutions Committee received four resolutions dealing with the issue of a regenerate–or born-again–church membership.

In recent years, resolutions were offered calling churches to purge their rolls of members no longer attending church, to accurately report membership numbers, and to practice church discipline.

This was the first year in recent memory that such a resolution was reported by the committee, which said it had formulated a resolution from multiple DNA strands into one “baby.”

Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville who was the author of one of the submitted resolutions, told the TEXAN: “I thought it was important that some of the core theological and ecclesiastical concepts related to regenerate church membership–the Lord’s Supper, church discipline, baptism–needed to be in there for it to be the most effective.”

Barber said he was confident Southern Baptists were supportive of believer’s baptism, but he didn’t know if they were willing to amend the committee’s report.
“I was surprised that both amendments passed. It is always an uphill climb to modify a report from the Resolutions Committee. The odds of success are difficult and against you. But I had a little bit more confidence than in the average situation because we weren’t trying to undo any of the committee’s wording,” Barber said.

Malcolm Yarnell, associate professor of systematic theology at Southwestern Seminary who helped Barber draft the resolution he submitted, offered from the floor an amendment adding language on “believer’s baptism-only by immersion,” the Lord’s Supper and church discipline.

As first presented by the 10-member committee, the statement titled “On Regenerate Church Membership and Church Member Restoration” urged Southern Baptist churches to “maintain a regenerate membership by acknowledging the necessity of spiritual regeneration and Christ’s lordship for all members, … maintain accurate membership rolls for the purpose of fostering ministry and accountability among all members of the congregation and … implement a plan to minister to, counsel, and restore wayward church members based upon the commands and principles given in Scripture.”

The amended version that passed included that wording plus Yarnell’s amendment and that of Tom Ascol, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Fla.
Ascol’s amendment asked Southern Baptists to repent of failing to maintain regenerate churches and asked denominational servants to encourage churches that practice church discipline.

“Overall, I am encouraged and gratified by what the Lord has done,” Ascol told the TEXAN. “I am thankful to Bart and Malcolm for their work on this and shared desire to see the convention adopt a resolution that could be helpful to our Southern Baptist churches. My prayer now is that pastors and churches will humbly, patiently and boldly begin to study these issues and follow Christ in taking practical steps to promote spiritual health in our congregations.”

Ascol said he, Yarnell and Barber conferred prior to the committee report and planned to offer their amendments after seeing what the proposed resolution omitted.

Committee chairman Darrell Orman, pastor of First Baptist Church in Stuart, Fla., alluding to Solomon’s wisdom is dealing with two women who each claimed a baby belonged to them by offering to cut him in half, told messengers in defending the committee’s version of the resolution: “We took the DNA of those four resolutions and we made one child. We want to present that to you and those who presented those resolutions we’d like to encourage, ‘Would the real mother let the resolution live?'”

After hearing Yarnell’s proposed amendment that placed church discipline in the same sentence with baptism and the Lord’s Supper, Orman said such language might be understood as placing church discipline on the same level as the ordinances, though Orman said the committee regarded the suggestion as a friendly amendment. President Frank Page suggested an alternative way to insert the wording into the resolution and the amendment was adopted on a show of ballots.

Ascol then proposed his amendment that would add “whereas” language noting only 6.1 million of the reported 16.2 million Southern Baptist church members attend the primary worship service of their church in a typical week.

Ascol also suggested adding two “resolved” sections. One called for churches “to repent of any failure among us to live up to our professed commitment to regenerate church membership and any failure to obey Jesus Christ in the practice of lovingly correcting wayward church members.”

The other encouraged “denominational servants to support and encourage churches that seek to recover and implement our Savior’s teachings on church discipline, even if such efforts result in the reduction in the number of members that are reported in those churches.”

Orman responded that the committee felt it was not proper to ask all the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention to repent when many have made conscientious efforts to restore inactive members or remove them from church membership rolls.

Orman noted the committee had deliberated for many hours and prayed over the issue, carefully selecting language from four resolutions to address the matter adequately in one resolution.

“In light of that, we would not like to rewrite the entire resolution on the convention floor,” Orman said.

Another messenger, Bill Ascol, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Owasso, Okla., countered, “Several years ago in this convention, we called for corporate repentance for past racial tension. Not all were guilty of that, but as a convention we recognized that … we have, by and large, failed to practice integrity on the issue of church membership.”
Tom Ascol’s amendments were then adopted by messengers on a show of ballots and then messengers adopted the entire resolution as amended.

Inflating membership numbers raises integrity issues, Yarnell said after the vote.

“We have to restore the integrity of Baptist churches. We have to obey our Lord,” he said. “There’s no options here with regard to believers-only baptism by immersion, with regard to the Lord’s Supper as a place of communion in Christ and with regard to redemptive church discipline. … These are commands of Jesus Christ. If we really believe Jesus is Lord, we have to follow not only personally in our own personal lives but also corporately in our churches’ lives.”

Four Texans preach at Pastors’ Conference

INDIANAPOLIS?Four Texans were among the preachers at the 2008 SBC Pastors’ Conference in Indianapolis June 8-9. The conference theme was “Prepare for Rain,” based on Isaiah 64:1a: “If only you would tear the heavens open and come down.” Sermons focused on prayer, brokenness, revival and evangelism.

The annual conference, which immediately precedes the SBC annual meeting, elected as president Ed Litton, pastor of First Baptist Church of North Mobile in Saraland, Ala.; Bruce Schmidt, pastor of Lamar Baptist Church in Arlington, vice president; and James Peoples, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Keystone Heights, Fla., secretary-treasurer.

In nominating Schmidt, fellow Texas pastor Troy Brooks said of him, “He is a loving pastor. He is a pastor’s friend.”

GEORGE HARRIS
Brokenness is not something that is taught, caught or sought, “but rather it is an experience that one goes through?. It is a process that God takes us through in order to get our ear so that we can hear him,” said George Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church, Kerrville, preaching of Elijah’s experience in 1 Kings, chapters 17-19.

Harris, a former SBTC president, who with jaws wired shut and speechless during months of recovery several years ago from a motorcycle crash, said he identified with Elijah’s despair as he fled from the wrath of Queen Jezebel.

God had already sustained Elijah by ravens bringing him food, the brook Cherith, the poor widow whose flour and oil failed to run out by God’s hand, and God’s wrath against the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Yet Elijah found himself on the run from death threats and praying to die to escape misery.

“Sometimes we find ourselves in depression and wish to die,” Harris noted.

After Harris’ motorcycle accident, “I became sorely depressed. I cannot tell you how depressed I became.” Late one night, “I began to read in my desperation and God led me as he would to Psalm 119 ?Those words were like rhema to me.”

“That night, with blurred vision, it was as though the Lord was in that room,” Harris recalled. “I didn’t see him, but he was there?there in the most real way as I had experienced in 48 years of ministry.”

Harris closed by relating the words of a man who, through desperation, survived a fire inside a B-52 airplane by jumping out, falling two stories and rolling through flames to his rescue. After comparing his recovery story with Harris’, the man told Harris, “Pastor, remember, sometimes the only way out is through the fire.”

“My prayer was this, ‘Lord, as the psalmist said, I will pay my vows ? Praise ye the Lord.’ And my prayer has been?I don’t want a trophy, I just want to be one.”

KERRY SHOOK
Live your life as if you had one month to live. That’s the challenge pastor Kerry Shook of Houston-area Fellowship of The Woodlands gave his congregation.

Shook issued the same challenge to the Pastors’ Conference audience, concluding his message with a video of some of the 831 people the church baptized on June 8.

Shook said neighborhood Bible studies this spring during the one-month campaign involved 9,600 people who had never attended the church’s Bible studies and led to an awakening in the neighborhoods of church members. More than 7,000 of those people are still involved in weekly Bible studies beyond the Sunday morning church service, he said.

“Behind every baptism is a story. Behind every face is a life change,” Shook said.

The “One Month to Live Challenge,” with Psalm 90:12’s exhortation to number the days in mind, helped Shook become “intentional about living God’s purposes in our lives and world,” he said.

Shook said the month-long challenge was rooted in four universal and biblical principles drawn from the life of Christ: Live passionately, love completely, learn humbly, and leave boldly.

In Luke 9:51, Jesus, preparing for Calvary, models how to leave boldly with his physical death immanent. Believers, Shook said, should invest in eternal things, not in the sandcastles his children loved to build on the beach and then were swept away in the surf.

“The problem is so many people are building elaborate sandcastles and one day it’s going to be all washed away, and they’re going to be so disappointed because they thought it would last forever. The things that last forever are the things you cannot see?faith, hope and love. The souls of people last forever.”

JIMMY DRAPER
Once ministers and churches experience brokenness, they can receive revival as a gift from God, yet a nationwide revival hasn’t occurred in our lifetimes, said Jimmy Draper of Colleyville, a former Texas pastor and retired LifeWay Christian Resources president. Consequently, he said, the modern church knows little about it. In many churches, Draper said, the passion for Christ is gone as the world plunges deeper into sin.

“We have reached a place where our forefathers feared,” Draper said. “There’s no fire in the altar.”
Churches have an abundance of resources, yet are ineffective, cold, complacent and unattractive to the world, he said.

“We don’t see the world through the eyes of Jesus ? we’re too self-absorbed and dependent on our own gifts.”

Despite the grim assessment, Draper said he believes the conditions are right for revival, because historically God has sent revival when the situation seemed hopeless, as is the case today. “Desperate” prayer, unity and seeking God’s face can help prepare for revival, he stated, adding that genuine revival impacts the entire culture if the church repents.

CHARLES LOWERY
Evangelism will not happen not by promotion but by attraction, Charles Lowery, president of the Lowery Institute for Excellence in Lindale, told the conference.

The truth of the gospel endures in every generation, he said. Using the acronym LAST, Lowery said believers will live attractive lives before unbelievers if they laugh in the joy of the Lord, are authentic, serve the Lord with gladness, and “tell yourself every day what’s important in life.”

In laughing, “Those who are filled with joy preach without preaching,” Lowery said.

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Grand Prairie church helps Rita victims

PORT ARTHUR?Fewer than a dozen of the 34 mission volunteers from Inglewood Baptist Church of Grand Prairie had experience with the demolition and rebuilding assignments they were handed June 2 by Nehemiah’s Vision, based in southeast Texas.

Over a four-day period they were asked to clear a home site along Highway 69 covered in rubble from a fire and further damaged by a hurricane, and paint a house rebuilt by earlier groups of volunteers.

Observers paused to watch the crew that included a half-dozen gradeschoolers, eight teenagers and several retired women. Some questioned the ability of the multi-generational team to perform tasks more suited to construction workers. And yet their willingness to tackle the job and confidence in God’s provision ultimately surprised the skeptics whom Inglewood’s pastor jokingly dubbed “Sanballet” and “Tobias.”

Nehemiah’s Vision is a non-profit organization formed in 2005 by Southern Baptists in southeast Texas to help rebuild homes and churches that were damaged and destroyed by Hurricane Rita.

“We have been amazed at how God has blessed our efforts,” said Nehemiah’s Vision field foreman Jeffrey Hazleton. “Since the storm, more than 4,000 volunteers have logged over 100,000 hours in the rebuild effort. People of all ages, backgrounds, and skill levels have been the backbone of the work done for so many people who had nowhere else to turn.”

To date, more than $4 million worth of material has been nailed, brushed, and installed in order to repair and rebuild 500-plus homes and churches.

Knowing that Inglewood Baptist had promoted their work as a family mission trip, Hazleton called on Ridgewood Church of Port Arthur to provide the group’s lodging, expecting it would be a good match for a congregation known for its family-integrated ministry. Men and boys spread out in a recreation center while women and girls utilized three classrooms. Ridgewood pastor Dustin Guidry offered Inglewood full use of their kitchen to cook meals and the gym for meetings and recreation.

“We wanted to make this a family mission trip because we believe in doing ministry together,” explained Inglewood pastor Shawn Barnard. “We wanted to teach our children what it means to love God, serve him, and do it together.”

The 39-year-old pastor took his turn at operating a Bobcat front-end loader while his 7- and 11-year-old sons and 16-year-old daughter disposed of debris. Six other families brought children along who pitched in wherever needed. They worked alongside more experienced senior adults and a professional contractor from the church to tackle both ends of relief work?site clearance to pave the way for another house and exterior painting to finish a home makeover.

At the demolition site, Linda Hailey had tried for three years to clear the land by herself, hoping to return her parents to a house that will replace the one where she grew up and later lived with her own children and grandchildren. She was surprised when the Inglewood van drove up Monday morning ready to work.

“They showed up here, out of the blue, and I was so overwhelmed. We said a prayer and they started working, helping me out,” she told a local reporter.

After a news crew from local ABC affiliate KBMT-TV aired a feature on the effort, assistance multiplied with the use of a larger front-end loader, bulldozer and a portable trash unit. One man stopped to offer goggles and gloves, later returning with diesel fuel.

“We came down here not really knowing what to expect,” added Joel Owen, Inglewood’s youth minister. While Nehemiah’s Vision was prepared to offer an assortment of tools, the job could not be completed without provisions that came as a direct answer to prayer, he explained.

“It’s been amazing to watch God work and we’ve been blessed to see how much work has been accomplished,” Owen said.

Repeated complaints about the property prompted concern that it might be seized due to the loss of a homestead exemption. After a county representative saw the progress made by the volunteer team, she planned to report on the improvements.

Hailey’s father is confined to a hospital bed in the home the family rents, but managed to visit the site with his wife while being transported in an ambulance for a doctor’s visit. When he heard about the volunteers, he told KBMT reporter Brian Burns that he was overwhelmed by feelings of gratitude to the strangers. “I thank them…,” Hailey shared as tears began to flow.

An hour away in Fannett another crew painted the home of a single mom who has lived in a FEMA trailer for the two and a half years since Hurricane Rita took the roof off her home. After the storm Rosie Guerra’s brother offered to move in with the family and support them with his income so that his sister could use the time to return to school. But in a matter of months he passed away.

“She never lost hope,” Hazleton told the new group of volunteers. “We’ve gutted the home and rebuilt it from the inside out. Now you’re going to finish the job.”

In addition to painting the exterior walls and trim, volunteer Harry Miller told of building the decking and ceilings for both the front and back porches, as well as making a few adjustments that put the house in shape to be occupied by the Guerra family.

A 25-year veteran of similar construction projects, Miller said, “Our volunteers have enjoyed being here and working with Nehemiah’s Vision.”

Volunteer contractor T.D. Hollingshead praised the efforts of the teenagers who joined in and showed a willingness to help wherever needed.

Several teenagers guided children in baking cookies and designing bookmarks to include in an evangelistic project for Outreach Port Arthur, a ministry of several SBTC-affiliated churches in southeast Texas, led by Brent Sorrels.

After fellowshipping over a meal with Ridgewood members on Wednesday night, the Inglewood team fanned out into a nearby neighborhood to pass out copies of the Gospel of John. Dads, moms, and kids took turns greeting homeowners while the pastor patrolled the area replenishing supplies

Patterson at SBC: God is doing amazing things

INDIANAPOLIS?God is doing amazing things in the lives of Southern Baptists and at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, President Paige Patterson said June 10 during his seminary report at the Southern Baptist Convention.

“Mr. President and fellow messengers, it is my delight to tell you today that while there are a few secular vultures that have landed on the boughs over what they thought was the carcass of the Southern Baptist Convention, they are doomed to disappointment,” Patterson said.

“Our convention is not dead, and as a matter of fact, like the wind that blew through Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones, there is a fresh wind blowing in all of our institutions and in all of our agencies and in all of the churches of our Southern Baptist Zion.”

Patterson told of a recent trip during which he and a seminary professor visited a house church filled with 180 former drug addicts and prostitutes. After preaching the gospel during one of their meetings, 28 people put their faith in Jesus Christ and were baptized at a nearby beach.

“Southwestern Seminary professors and students and graduates are literally all across the globe, repeating that house church situation, as well as many others, wherever the gospel needs to be known,” Patterson said.

“Our students are literally sold out to the task of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth,” he said.

“You’ll find no wimps at Southwestern Seminary. You will find the men and women who come there are taking the Great Commission of our Lord seriously as never before.”

Patterson also noted Southwestern is celebrating its 100th year in 2008, and he invited Southern Baptists to “come on to Fort Worth and see what God is doing at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.”

An open letter for a closed case

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.–Attempting to revive a closed, settled debate, an International Mission Board regional leader has resigned his position to publicly challenge certain doctrinal policies adopted by the IMB. Apart from the substance of his arguments, the fact that he remains a missionary while he engaged in a political campaign shortly before the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting raises serious questions about the propriety of his efforts.

In a nearly 2,000-word “Open Letter to the Southern Baptist Convention,” Rodney Hammer explains his decision to resign as regional leader for Central and Eastern Europe, as well as his objections to doctrinal guidelines adopted by the IMB regarding baptism and tongues/private prayer languages.

Released May 19–only a few weeks before Southern Baptists met in Indianapolis–the letter seemed intended to influence potential actions at the SBC.

Hammer’s open letter is newsworthy. Contrary to his desire, however, I decided against publishing it in full in our print edition.

Hammer revisits the baptism and tongues/private prayer language debate without offering anything new. The arguments against the guidelines are the same ones offered by those who unsuccessfully attempted to repeal the IMB actions, originally adopted in November 2005.

“I am in fundamental disagreement with the current IMB missionary candidates policies concerning baptism and private prayer language, and the unnecessary, extra-biblical narrowing of parameters for Southern Baptist cooperation in the Great Commission they represent,” Hammer says in the open letter. He further argues that the policies are turning away “many” good, otherwise qualified missionary candidates, to the detriment of fulfilling the Great Commission.

The debate about narrowing doctrinal parameters is bewildering to me. I have addressed it several times, most substantially in editorials published in our May 31, 2007, and June 21, 2007, issues. I will not revisit those arguments here, except to note–yet again–the inconsistency of the arguments put forward by critics of the IMB policies, including Hammer.

While Hammer argues that it’s wrong for the IMB to go beyond the Baptist Faith and Message in setting doctrinal policies for missionary candidates, he affirms the IMB’s “robust, sufficient policy” against missionaries advocating tongues or other spiritual gifts as normative or used publicly–even though the BF&M does not address this matter. So, it seems, some policies not addressed in the BF&M are OK.

Therefore, the debate isn’t really about narrowing doctrinal parameters, but about what those policies should be.

I asked Paul Chitwood, newly elected trustee chairman of the International Mission Board and pastor of First Baptist Church in Mt. Washington, Ky., about Hammer’s open letter.

Noting that the policies (technically, called “guidelines”) have been in place for two years and the missionaries had ample opportunity to offer their views, Chitwood cited statistics that suggest the policies have not harmed missionary recruitment or retention. He also noted statistics demonstrating all-time or near all-time highs in overseas baptisms, discipling of new believers, new churches and Southern Baptists’ giving to international missions.

“Dr. Hammer’s letter has not presented any new material that was not already thoroughly considered by the board, so I do not anticipate the board revisiting these issues in response to his open letter,” Chitwood told me.

I admire Hammer and all of our missionaries (here and abroad) for their sacrificial service to our Lord, sometimes in very difficult places. Our missionaries are at the very heart of Southern Baptists’ cooperative efforts and deserve our support, financially and, more importantly, prayerfully.

Further, I admire Hammer for having the courage of his convictions to resign a senior leadership position within the International Mission Board in order to be able to air his conscientious objections to certain IMB policies. Clearly, he has given much prayerful consideration to this course and has counted the cost of leaving a post he loved.

Nevertheless, I do not agree with his objections, and more fundamentally, I question the appropriateness of his actions while still a missionary.

Although Hammer has resigned his leadership position, he remains a missionary with the IMB. It’s troubling to me that as a missionary he would engage in a public relations/political campaign to attempt to get the disputed policies changed.

It’s one thing to resign your leadership position, which in and of itself creates attention (as intended) for the concerns. Hammer’s resignation was reported by Baptist Press, which the Witness ran in our May 22 issue.

It’s a different thing entirely to then write an open letter to the SBC only weeks before the annual meeting and send that letter to all Southern Baptist media outlets, clearly intending to influence potential action at the annual meeting–all while remaining a missionary, an employee, of the board to which you are accountable.

I cannot think of even one organization–business, denominational entity, or church–where such activity would be permitted of an employee. Nor should it.

As a means of analogy, imagine the chaos in the context of a local church in which a senior member of the pastoral staff objected to a church decision and, having failed to convince others of his views, resigned his leadership position but then remained on staff and in the church in order lead a public campaign to convince the membership to change the decision of the church. The conflict would seriously harm the ministry of the church. Clearly, this would be untenable.

It’s no less indefensible for a denominational employee, even including our cherished missionaries.

I asked Chitwood whether Hammer’s open letter was appropriate.

The trustees do not want missionaries to “feel muzzled or unable to express their opinions, disagreement or constructive suggestions,” Chitwood told me. “There are, however, appropriate times and ways to express dissent. Given Dr. Hammer’s conduct, his resignation of his leadership position is appropriate.”

Pressed if it was appropriate for a missionary to engage in such activity, Chitwood declined to comment further.

Several years ago during the controversy over the IMB doctrinal guidelines, Hammer and other IMB employees, including President Jerry Rankin, publicly argued against the policies. While taking those objections into account, the IMB adopted the policies, and a year ago overwhelmingly affirmed refined versions of the policies.

After that action, my May 31, 2007, editorial argued it was time for the IMB and SBC to move on from this debate. The 2007 SBC, in fact, received without controversy notice of the IMB’s action on this matter, although some have attempted to interpret a motion related to the Baptist Faith and Message in a manner that would call into question the IMB’s actions (the subject of my June 21, 2007, editorial).

On June 2, a statement was issued by 37 former IMB trustees and missionaries, as well some pastors opposing the doctrinal guidelines. The statement and list of signatories are available at imbchange.info.

“We are dismayed that one of the results of the implementation of these guidelines is the loss of valuable, faithful IMB personnel,” the statement asserts.

“We call on Southern Baptists to hold the entities of the SBC accountable to the direction of the convention’s churches, not the churches to the sentiments of their entities.”

There is nothing new in Hammer’s open letter or the June 2 statement that would warrant a re-examination of these matters by the trustees of the International Mission Board—and it would certainly be wrong for the Southern Baptist Convention to act on this matter, substituting its judgment for the IMB’s extensive study and action on these matters over the last three years.

Beyond the substance of the debate, however, I believe there is a serious question about the appropriateness of Hammer’s actions as a missionary in current service to the International Mission board. This matter has been closed for more than a year and Hammer’s open letter is wrong, both in substance and process.