Month: August 2008

Ad hoc committee will study Criswell’s future

DALLAS–A five-member ad hoc committee of the Criswell College board of trustees will study the school’s current condition and report by Oct. 1 on a possible change in governance that could pave the way for independence from First Baptist Church of Dallas.

Although the church launched the college in 1969 when founder W.A. Criswell announced his vision for an institution that would provide biblical training for Sunday School teachers, other laymen and pastors who had not completed college-level ministerial training, the school’s relationship with the church Criswell pastored for 50 years has been questioned in recent months.

As recently as May 22, the board resolved “not to take any action to separate the College and KCBI from the Church at this time,” while not prohibiting designated representatives from further discussions.

“There’s really no newsworthy action taken other than really just a desire to continue the relationship that we’re enjoying right now,” Pastor Robert Jefress told the TEXAN in describing that last meeting. The Board’s executive committee was called together on three occasions over the summer and two trustees resigned for undisclosed reasons. Replacing Brian Hermes and Ted Raines are Ed Rawls and Ken Sibley, elected by the board at the Aug. 21 meeting.

At least 40 alumni gathered prior to the most recent meeting and discussed their concern for the school’s future in light of the recent resignation of Jerry Johnson as president. While declaring support for interim president Lamar Cooper, the alumni association’s resolution encouraged the board to promote and advance the school’s independence, describing their support of the trustees as contingent on having “at the forefront the best interests of the Criswell College.”

“The Criswell College Alumni Association will support the First Baptist Church of Dallas in their cooperation with/and support of the Board of Trustees in the separation of the College from the Church to be associated and accountable to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention for the purposes of continued doctrinal integrity.”

The notion of the SBTC having a more prominent role was introduced by the state convention’s executive board on Aug. 12 with the passage of a resolution expressing a desire to be part of the solution to ongoing discussion about the school’s future. First Baptist Dallas is one of 2,060 SBTC-affiliated congregations while Criswell College is the only affiliated four-year college.

Trustee chairman Michael Deahl will chair the study committee, joined by Curtis Baker, Jack Brady, Mack Roller and Cooper. Deahl told the TEXAN that the board action initiated “a process designed to resolve the questions concerning the relationship between the College and First Baptist Church of Dallas.”

“The Ad Hoc Committee has been charged with the task of prayerfully conducting a thorough study of the College and the preparation of a written report for the Board setting forth the Committee’s findings and conclusions, including a clear definition of the purpose of the College and the options available if there is a change in the governance structure of the College,” Deahl explained.

Once the board has reviewed and approved their report, Deahl said it will be submitted to the church.

“It is anticipated that a joint team will be formed at that time for the purpose of developing a
recommended course of action,” he added. “It is the hope and prayer of the Board of Trustees that this process will be completed in a calm, orderly and Christ-honoring manner.”

Board members received the SBTC resolution which expressed a willingness to consider increasing the percentage of in-state Cooperative Program budget receipts allocated to Criswell College as well as a one-time grant for transition with the understanding that such steps would allow the school to attain independent status.

Trustees worked behind closed doors for an hour and a half in what was described by Deahl as a
discussion of the relationship between the school and the church. However, the issue surfaced again during the remaining portion of the meeting as the board considered and later approved the $8.5 million budget for 2009, reduced from $9.1 million in the current year.

Board member Bo Sexton probed Chief Financial Officer Ken Ensley about the school’s assets, first asking him to “rate the biggest contributor to Criswell College,” and later seeking clarification of any restrictions on assets such as those provided by the Criswell Foundation.

Trustee Jack Pogue interjected his thoughts, stating, “The endowments at the Criswell Foundation are created by contracts between that donor and the Foundation Board. Those contracts spell out how that money is to be used,” he stated.

Annual allocations to the college vary from year to year with the amount given in 2008 set at about a third of a million dollars.

“What I’m trying to get after is how much money do we have to operate the school,” Sexton stated. “I look at these numbers and it looks like, man, we’re doing fantastic. Can we meet payroll, do the pensions, pay the bills–can we do that?” he asked.

“We are doing all of that,” Ensley replied, while also noting the difficulty in establishing the largest source of funding since gifts from outside sources vary each year. Year-to-date private gifts for 2008 were reported at $8.4 million, drastically higher than the anticipated $842,403 that was budgeted.

“All of our contributions are not reflected,” added SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards who serves as an ex-officio member of the trustee board. Noting that the school receives 3.25 percent of the in-state budgeting of Cooperative Program receipts from SBTC churches, Richards said the convention also scholarships students from those congregations and helps fund mission trips, providing funds in addition to the $312,977 allocated for 2008.

In answer to trustee Calvin Wittman’s inquiry as to the amount provided by First Baptist Church of Dallas, Ensley said $56,000 was given to academic programs and $12,000 to the communications division in 2008.

Trustee Jim Skinner noted the difference in how an accrediting agency asks for income to be reported and how the Board benefits from distinguishing between restricted, temporarily restricted and unrestricted funds.

Trustee Allen Dodgen recalled that the same question arose several years earlier when the board audited the school’s accounts and verified the extent of control over assets.

Cooper affirmed his confidence in the proposed budget when asked for his opinion by Wittman. After receiving signals that most educational institutions should expect a 30 percent reduction in enrollment due to economic factors such as the cost of gasoline, Cooper said he reworked the schedule to allow for concentrated studies on Mondays.

“It looks like we’ll be somewhere near 400 for which I’m really thankful given all that’s happened,” Cooper added.

Pressing the point of Sexton’s earlier question, Wittman asked Ensley, “But we’re in good shape financially and we can pay our bills, pay our staff, and have a positive cash flow?”

“Yes,” Ensley assured.

After approving the budget, Cooper responded to trustee Steve Washburn’s question about the morale on campus. Describing the attitude of students at the first chapel as “upbeat and enthusiastic,” Cooper said he preached from Isaiah 41 to encourage them with the 14 “I will” promises of God.

“Sometimes we just have to step back from the circumstances and say that God is bigger than the circumstances. I’ve been around the sun sixty-six and a half times and I could tell them, ‘I’m not telling you what I think, I’m not giving you theory, but out of my experience that God can step in and overrule circumstances.’”

“I’ve got a grandson who plays Upward Basketball who we were told would be a vegetable, but we said we were going to give God time,” Cooper recalled. “I lost my wife two years ago this Saturday and I wasn’t sure I was gonna make it and a lot of my friends thought I wasn’t gonna make it and yet God brought someone else into my life and gave me a new lease on life. So instead of thinking about retirement, I really don’t have any plans to retire. Somebody may retire me, but as long as God keeps giving me these opportunities I’m going to try to do my best to fulfill them.”

Cooper shared a similar exhortation with faculty, he said, reminding them they were twice-called—first to salvation and then to the ministry, and reminded them of the essential nature of their work.

“None of us is here by accident,” he told trustees, further encouraging the Board to “stand fast, affirming one another, asking God to bless and prosper us in every good work.”

“This isn’t spiritual rocket science—it’s just living by faith. That’s who we are and what we do. As long as we communicate that we’re OK.”

Deahl closed the meeting by telling trustees they had been engaged in spiritual warfare, asking them not to lose sight of the spiritual dimension.

“This is kingdom work and kingdom ministry,” he said, asking them to pray for God’s intervention and guidance for the ad hoc committee.

Richards offered the benediction, expressing appreciation for God’s sovereignty whereby “anything that would seek to disrupt God’s plan would always be an utter failure.” In addition to requesting “peace, direction and resolution” that would honor God, he asked for blessing on First Baptist Church of Dallas, its pastor and leaders, as well as Criswell College and its leaders and Board, “that we will all submit our will to your will, that you might accomplish that which pleases you for the kingdom.”

Church Leadership Conference equips pastors, laymen on many ministry facets

CONROE?Billed as “training for the entire church,” the SBTC’s Church Leadership Conference drew more than 400 ministers and laymen to Mims Baptist Church in Conroe Aug. 23 for a variety of classroom sessions on the many facets of local church ministry.

The session topics, ranging from apologetics to deacon ministry to marriage and family, featured 21 different speakers from churches and denominational ministries.

“Among the myriad of leadership books and conferences available today, there is often a shortage of practical training for leaders,” said Lance Crowell, SBTC church ministries associate who led a session on ministry to young adults. “What the Church Leadership Conference does is it provides leaders with a multitude of ideas and practical takeaways?the nuts and bolts?to adapt to their local church context.”

For example, Crowell’s session drew about 50 people?pastors and laymen alike?who were interested in learning more about how to keep young adults, whom studies say drift from church involvement in their 20s, active in the local church.

“It’s a genuine problem in our churches right now?how to help young adults navigate their way without separating themselves from the fellowship of local churches?and several important books touch on the subject, including one from Thom Rainer of LifeWay called “Essential Church.”

Pastor Ray Hyden of three-year-old New Covenant Baptist Church in Conroe said the conference was valuable to him and two members of his church.

“The most important thing to us is that the classes were well done, but there is also follow-up we can do by connecting with speakers who are often willing to come and share their wisdom and knowledge with the local church,” said Hyden, who said he attended last year and plans to attend again.

Hyden said he went to a financial management class led by SBTC church ministries consultant Bob Ecklund because his church is seeking land to build a worship center. New Covenant meets in a Conroe public school, he said, and land in that area north of Houston sometimes sells for $1 million per acre.

“Our church has done very well,” Hyden said. “It’s slow growth; we’re running around 60 now on a good Sunday but we do really well for a church our size in supporting missions and outside mission work. The Lord has been good to help us save quite a bit of money, but we need to build a building.

“One of our men went to the men’s ministry session and to the deacon training. The deacon session talked about how men could support the pastor in their church. These are things we can take back and apply in our setting.”

Longtime Houston pastor John Morgan encouraged those in the plenary session of the conference to focus on the gospel work of the church and to avoid unnecessary focus on differences of opinion on issues of style and taste.

Morgan, who for more than 40 years has led Sagemont Church in Houston, reminded the audience that God not only called us out to save us but to commission us for service.

“He called us out to use our spiritual gifts. He called us out to do together things that we can’t do separately?things like Sunday School and Vacation Bible Schools and associations and state and national conventions. That’s all part of the overall plan of God. But along the way we need to remember that we’re all one of a kind. Everybody has their own DNA, physically and spiritually.”

When it comes to preferences in the church, Christians need to yield to one another, he said.

“Everywhere I go I want to say, ‘Stop that nonsense. That’s a matter of choice regarding what kind of music you like, as long as it honors God and the Word and it lifts up Jesus. But every generation is different. We to need to wake up to a real world.”

Instead, Morgan said, we need to do what Jesus likes, and “Jesus likes to see people saved. He likes to see people working in one accord. Did you hear that churches? In one accord.”

Jim Wolfe, church ministries director, said he received very positive responses about the conference.
“Our host church not only provided great facilities, their choir and orchestra set the mood for the day,” Wolfe said. “Dr. John Morgan gave us a word of challenge and throughout the day in our breakout sessions leaders not only gave practical help for various areas of ministries but gave encouragement and a joy for their respective ministries as church leaders returned home.”

The next Church Leadership Conference will be at First Baptist Church of Forney on Aug. 15, 2009. The theme for next year is “Lifestyle Leadership” and the keynote speaker will be Chuck Kelly, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

For more information on SBTC church ministries resources, visit

Church to share program to equip preteens to minister

As a child growing up in a Southern Baptist church in Irving, Clint May knew Jesus as his savior. That’s about all he knew.

“No one taught me about the relationship I could have with Christ,” said May, minister to children at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth. “From the point I got saved I attended church faithfully through high school.”

It was 27 years later that May began to understand that there is more to the Christian faith than the fact that he would one day spend eternity in Heaven in the presence of the Lord.

May hopes a conference on Sept. 20 at Wedgwood called “Leaders-In-Training (L.I.T.),” co-sponsored by the SBTC, will help churches equip preteens with a fuller understanding of Christian discipleship and the tools to minister to others.

“Jesus tells us that he gives us life ? and life to the full,” May said. “John 10:10 says, ‘?I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.'”

After the Lord convicted May of this truth, he said he became committed to sharing Christ with others.
It was in spring 1989 that May was called to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where he later received a master of Christian education degree.

“It became clear while attending my third month of seminary that the Lord was calling me to children’s ministry,” a ministry May has had for the past 18 years.

Taking a different approach to Baptist ministry, May attended a non-denominational conference to see what other ministry leaders were doing.

“I was amazed to see that they were taking children on mission trips, training them to be leaders in the church, as well as teaching them to share their faith ? many questions have run through my mind.
Over the years I had struggled with the idea of what God could do through a child,” May said.

On May 8, 2002, May was called as children’s pastor at Wedgwood. “Through my experiences I felt led to do something new at Wedgwood,” he said. “The summer was three weeks away when I decided to start a new program called Leaders In Training. We wanted to teach our preteens certain skills for ministry so we offered puppet, tech (power-point, and sound) and praise team opportunities,” he said.

“We allowed them to use their skills and to lead throughout the summer.”

Having taken the steps in the book “The Master Life” written by Bill Bright and Avery Willis and bringing it to the level of a child, May wrote a devotional book for children called “The Journey.” The study focused on five key steps: lordship, Bible study, prayer, evangelism and fellowship.

“My goal the third week after we started was to take our preteens?fifth and sixth graders, on a retreat and train them how to share their faith,” May said.

It was only two weeks after the retreat when they did a backyard Bible Club at a local apartment complex. The L.I.T. group counseled at the invitation time and they led three children to Christ.

“I talked with each child after they were counseled by our L.I.T. and they knew exactly what they had done. I was amazed at what the Lord did through our L.I.T. It began an adventure for me.”

Salvations are not the only blessing of this ministry, May said. “I also witnessed something even greater as our kids were spending time daily in the Word of God, sharing their faith, and doing ministry. There was a transformation that occurred in their lives very quickly,” he said.

Two years after they began L.I.T. at Wedgwood, the preteens were set for their first mission trip. The L.I.T.s headed for Corpus Christi to present the gospel to children in apartment complexes and government housing.

“We trained them well, and they were ready to be released to minister,” May said.

Adults were told that the L.I.T. children would be doing everything?from teaching to leading worship to counseling to feeding the children who attend Bible studies. Adults would help if needed.

“On the first day of the trip, one of our fifth-grade boys taught and gave an invitation. Four children and three teenagers accepted Christ as their savior,” May recalled. “The leaders were all stunned by what the Lord did. By the end of our trip 27 children, youth and adults accepted Christ as their savior.
Recently, about 55 L.I.T. went on a trip to San Marcos; the result was 92 people led to Christ.”

The San Marcos trip included kids from Wedgwood and from Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth.

“It’s been a God thing,” May said, “and it’s a real blessing to me when I see kids who come in here rough around the edges and they leave children whose lives have been transformed for the glory of God.”

“Our goal has become to equip children for ministry,” May said.

Another endeavor they have at Wedgwood is helping preteens find their spiritual gift. This is where Ephesians 4:11-12 plays an important role in the children’s ministry there, May said. Those verses read: “And he gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers for equipping the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.”

One of May’s favorite quotes is from Ken Hemphill: “I know this may sound radical, but we are suggesting that all young people should be raised with the conviction that they are to be missionaries, and their primary goals are to use their gifts and resources to advance God’s kingdom so that every tribe, nation, and people group have the opportunity to respond to their rightful King.”

May added: “It is my conviction to do just that?to raise up a generation that will rock their world and make a difference for Christ. Many parents have shared with me through the years of how their children’s lives have been deeply impacted by what they learned in L.I.T.”

The L.I.T. conference on Sept. 20 is aimed at children’s ministers, Sunday school teachers and anyone who wants to learn how to effectively disciple and equip preteens for ministry.

The conference is from 9 a.m.?4 p.m. at Wedgwood Baptist Church, 5522 Whitman Ave., Fort Worth 76133. Pre-registration is $25 per person, $35 at the door and $15 for seminary students. For more information, visit or call 817-292-1400.

Texas churches advocate convictional participation in local, national politics

Although some churches shy away from the political arena, a slew of Texas churches are showing
how Christian congregations can legally and effectively engage their culture through politics.

“As you’re going, be a witness,” Ben Smith, retired pastor of Lakeland Baptist Church in Lewisville, said. “And that includes the political arena. It’s not exempt from that.”

Smith, who pastored Lakeland for 32 years beginning in 1974, led the congregation to adopt a Global Impact Strategy that encouraged members to vote, run for office and push for public policy advocating righteousness and justice.

Lakeland and likeminded congregations across Texas pose significant counter evidence to a 2007 New York Times article that suggested conservative evangelicals were decreasing in political influence. The article argued that easily identifiable conservative leaders like James Dobson and the late Jerry Falwell were passing from the scene and leaving a generation of younger and less politically predictable evangelicals in the spotlight–personalities like Bill Hybels and Rick Warren.

(Warren, a Southern Baptist who once preached at Falwell’s church, described himself on FOX News’ “Hannity & Colmes” in August after his televised forum with presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama as “a conservative” who believes life begins at conception.)

“The result is a new interest in public policies that address problems of peace, health and poverty–problems, unlike abortion and same-sex marriage, where left and right compete to present the best answers,” the Times wrote.

The newspaper contended that the election of Frank Page as Southern Baptist Convention president in 2006 signaled that America’s largest Protestant denomination was also moving in a more moderate direction politically.

“Page said he considered his election ‘a clear sign’ that rank-and-file Southern Baptists felt the ‘conservative ascendancy has gone far enough,'” the Times wrote, adding that Page met with leading presidential candidates in both parties during the primary season.

If indeed Page was referring to secular politics in the context in which the Times quoted him and not SBC politics, many churches took no notice of it.

Recent years have brought no decline in fending for traditional evangelical morality in the public square at Lakeland Baptist Church. The church fought the sale of liquor by the drink in Denton County and drove sexually oriented businesses out of its city. It also fought back a plan to build a concert venue that it believed would have attracted immorality and reveling to Lewisville.

In addition to its victories on specific issues, the church implemented a training strategy showing members how they could run for office. As a result, two church members have been elected mayor, and several others have been elected to various positions including city councilor, judge, school board member and county commissioner.

“It’s just amazing what God did when we made ourselves available to encourage people to be salt and to be light,” Smith said.

Speaking to specific issues in a church is valuable, Smith said, but for maximum impact in the culture Christians need to be elected to office. He cited the defeat of liquor by the drink as one example of a victory resulting from Christians being elected to political office.

“If you get key people in key places, you have fewer wars to fight,” he said.

Scripture is replete with encouragement for God’s people to involve themselves in politics, Smith said. In addition to Romans 13 and God’s decision to use ordinary men as kings and prophets in the Old Testament, all the Bible’s stories of men speaking to culture call Christians to political activism, he said.

In Scripture the call to political involvement “is just everywhere to me,” Smith said. “If you look for it, you’ll see it. If you’re hiding from it, you can’t find it.”

Lakeland’s current pastor, Ron Osborne, said the congregation will continue to stand for civic righteousness under his leadership. Abortion, homosexual marriage, casino-style gambling and Intelligent Design have all been subjects of Texas political debates in recent years, and Lakeland will inform its members on all those issues, he said.

“There are so many issues that are coming to head right now,” Osborne said.

He added that pastors have a special responsibility to make people aware of issues where Christians must speak up.

“This church can be a center of righteousness for the city, and God can use a church that is willing to make bold stands,” Osborne said, “not telling people what to believe but giving them the information they need to make informed choices and to show them the spiritual implications in all those areas.”

El Paso’s Exciting Immanuel Baptist Church is another congregation where members view political activism as an integral part of Christian faithfulness.

Pastor Rix Tillman has set up a series of discipleship classes through which all members progress. The fifth class in the series deals entirely with being a Christian citizen, using videos and live instruction to teach about Christian responsibility in the public arena.

The class includes instruction on such topics as how to lobby legislators from home, how to write a congressman, the rights of a Christian in the United States and the relationship between church and state.

Tillman estimated that between 30 and 45 percent of his congregation has completed the class and said the church cares deeply about influencing the public square for Christ.

“We’ve had several city councilmen, and we’ve got a current county commissioner and a current city councilman right now,” he said of the church’s membership. “In the 14 years I’ve been here, we’ve had quite a few people involved in politics.”

While political activity in the congregation did not all come as a result of the class, Tillman said the class has definitely improved the percentage of church members who vote. In an effort to increase church member voting even more, Tillman recently took staff members to a training session for registering voters.

At Exciting Immanuel, the pro-life cause is among the most emphasized political issues, and the church makes a point to take positive action in addition merely to speaking against unrighteousness.

“We put our money where our mouth is,” Tillman said. “We support our local El Paso Crisis Help Center. They do ultrasounds and provide quiet a range of services.”

Tillman said he has long felt personally concerned about a lack of righteousness in the culture, but only more recently did he become convinced that a discipleship class on Christian citizenship was necessary.

“I read several books that pointed me in that direction, to get politically active–especially as the liberal element of the politicians got more aggressive and active,” he said. “There has been a transition over the last 10 or 15 years, and I’ve decided that we really need to get active.”

Exciting Immanuel even had former U.N. Ambassador Alan Keyes speak on a weeknight “to show we are supportive of people who support Christian values,” the pastor said.

For other churches interested in starting programs of political activism, Tillman advised beginning with biblical preaching on the subject. He added that resources are available from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission to that end. The National Write Your Congressman Campaign is one of the best avenues for Christians to begin expressing their voices to elected officials, he said.

On a personal level, Tillman is a part of El Paso Pastors for Jesus, a nondenominational group of pastors working to impact politics, schools and government for Christ.

“We have been striving to make a cultural impact on the community,” Tillman said.

One resource for Texas churches wanting to practice Christian citizenship is the SBTC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Committee. The organization’s website offers study tools, lessons and sermons on Christian citizenship, a voter registration form and a “Culture Impact Manual” to show congregations how they can form cultural impact committees that keep members abreast of important political developments.

A DVD is also available through the SBTC that provides information about America’s biblical heritage as related to Christian citizenship.

Gary Ledbetter, SBTC communications director, noted that when the Texas state legislature reconvenes in January, expanded gambling, life issues and marriage issues will likely arise. He encouraged churches to be prepared to take action.

“Because of the money and political pressure from anti-family groups, we expect to see these subjects constantly addressed in bill proposals,” Ledbetter said. “Some of the proposals will be very positive, in keeping with the tradition of conservatism in our state, but an increasing number will challenge our biblical values.”

The SBC’s ERLC provides additional resources for congregations and individuals. On the ERLC website, Christians can view action alerts informing them of issues before Congress where biblical morality is at stake. By entering their zip code, visitors to the website can generate e-mails to send their senators and congressman on specific issues. The ERLC, funded by Cooperative Program dollars, regularly communicates to national legislators the SBC’s positions on key issues. In Texas, the SBTC performs a similar function on the state-government level.

At First Baptist Church in Porter, nonpartisan voter guides help attendees know during election seasons where candidates for various offices stand. Troy Cates, the church’s minister of music and senior adults and chairman of the SBTC’s ERLC, said churches cannot support specific candidates by should educate their members about key issues.

“By providing the voting guides, we educate our church members to be good voters and to make good decisions,” Cates said. “We can’t tell them who to vote for, but we can tell them what issues should be important to them as Christians. And we can show them how the candidates will be voting on those issues.”

Cates advised other churches not to fear legal repercussions for distributing fair and balanced voter guides.

“That is their legal right to distribute those voter guides,” he said. “They don’t have to be afraid of the legal or tax ramifications of that. It’s perfectly legal to distribute voter guides as long as those voter guides are fair and balanced and just present the facts.

“One of the tings they cannot do is promote one candidate over another candidate from the pulpit. But they certainly have the right to be informed, responsible voters. As a matter of fact, I believe that’s our biblical mandate.”

Donald Myers, pastor of First Baptist Church in Wills Point, also distributes voter guides to his congregation and encourages members to stand against threats in the culture to God’s standards.

“I talk about from the pulpit the responsibility to vote and stewardship of your vote and voting your values,” Meyers said.

On moral issues like homosexual marriage and gambling, First Baptist speaks boldly and specifically, with its pastor taking the lead. Myers worked recently with a local pastors’ group to keep bars out of their county. The effort, which included prayer and vocal opposition, was so successful that a law enforcement official in a neighboring community asked Myers to call the pastors’ group to action again to oppose a biker bar planning to move into the area.

“The impact for us has been local,” Myers said of the church’s political efforts.

Gambling is another issue against which the ministerial alliance fought vocally and successfully. When eight-liners (a form of video gambling) moved into the community, local pastors fought to get them removed.

Eight-liners are illegal in Texas, but county attorneys must decide whether they will enforce the ban on such gambling, Myers said. He noted that eight-liners have started to appear in the community once again and Christians may have to fight again to have them removed.

Myers said e-mail has proved to be a valuable resource for getting word to church members when a political issue arises that has moral ramifications. Along with the congregation’s regular prayer request e-mail, the pastor inserts issue alerts at appropriate times.

At Teri Road Baptist Church in Austin, voter registration is the main avenue for promoting Christian citizenship.

Pastor Gerald Dickerson said that by using a packet of resources produced by Focus on the Family, he registers members to vote, explains why voting is important and teaches what issues are most relevant for Christians.

The Focus on the Family packet, titled the “Voter Impact Tool Kit,” includes DVDs Teri Road will show in worship services and handouts that will be distributed to members. Dickerson recommended the packet to any congregation seeking to be biblical, legal and active in the civic realm.

“We don’t get involved in a particular party,” Dickerson said. “But we do voter registration and things of that nature. In fact, I’m meeting this Sunday with the group that’s going to be ramrodding it for the November election.”

Voter registration requires an organized effort and advanced planning, the pastor noted.

“We send someone—usually myself but sometimes somebody else—down to the county clerk’s office to be certified,” he said. “You have to have someone on the premises who’s certified to enroll voters.

“So we set up a little desk in the foyer and have someone work that desk to try to sign people up. The county give you posters to put up to encourage voter registration.”

Though Teri Road is not a large congregation, Dickerson said several people register to vote each year. Sharing the congregation’s building are a Hispanic church and a Japanese church, and members of both ethnic congregations typically register as well.

When election season arrives, the church distributes voter guides produced by separate organizations in order to educate members before they step into the voting booth, Dickerson said.

“We do a little bit of everything, but we try to stay legal in the sense that we don’t promote any candidate,” he said. “We do promote morality. I do preach on what’s right and wrong. I do write articles in the newsletter encouraging people to use Christian standards and a Christian worldview when they vote. I do not encourage any candidate.”

Charles Lee, pastor of Acts Fellowship Church in Austin, said his church does not have any organized political action plan beyond encouraging members to vote. But even a small encouragement to vote can make a difference, he noted.

“We encourage people to vote by word of mouth, and periodically from behind the pulpit we encourage them to vote,” Lee said.

Smith, the former Lewisville pastor, stressed that involvement in politics is essential as part of a well-rounded program of evangelism. He cited Christians in office as some of the most visible witnesses for Christ.

“I totally believe in the separation of church and state,” he said. “But I totally believe in the involvement of citizens in the process.”

A great temptation exists for Christians to avoid political activism because of the character assassination faced by people in politics, he said, but solid Christian people must avoid that temptation and serve God when he calls them to run for office or speak to a hot-button issue.

“Now the good, Christian, upright gentleman doesn’t want to get out there in politics because they are going to ruin him, they are going to malign him, they are going to destroy him,” Smith said. “So you have got to have a strong faith in Christ and be a person without blame in order to live in that arena.”

In the end, the kingdom impact of a Christ-centered politician can change lives and reform society, he said.

“If you have people who have profile in the community, leadership flows down and not up. And people look to these people and they say, ‘Why are you doing this?’ and ‘How are you being successful?’ Just by virtue of their position they are a silent witness,” Smith said.

Board elects staff, honors outgoing members, hears 10th-year reflections

The SBTC Executive Board, meeting Aug. 12 at the SBTC offices in Grapevine, elected three ministry staff members to fill positions vacated recently, heard reflections from the executive director on 10 years of serving the convention, and honored outgoing board members for their decade-long service.

The board elected Mike Smith, currently director of missions in Dogwood Trails Baptist Area, to be director of the SBTC’s Minister-Church Relations department; Kenneth Priest, project manager at Christian publisher Auxano Press in Nashville, Tenn., as a associate in the Church Ministries department; and David Alexander, church planting strategist with the Mississippi Baptist Convention, as missions associate in church planting.

Also, Tom Campbell, currently associate in Minister-Church Relations, on Jan. 1 will become director of Facilitating Ministries, a newly created position overseeing field ministry strategists and relating to affiliated ministries. The role is one Executive Director Jim Richards filled through the first 10 years of the convention.

Richards told the board that Campbell’s new responsibilities would allow him to serve the staff and convention churches more effectively.

Smith replaces Troy Brooks, now pastor at First Baptist Church, Madisonville, as MCR director. An Alabama native who grew up in Texas, Smith holds three doctorates: a doctor of education from Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky., a doctor of philosophy from Southern, and a doctor of ministry from Luther Rice Seminary. He also holds degrees from Baylor University and Southwestern Seminary, where he earned a master of divinity.

He has served five churches as a pastor and two associations as a director of missions. He has been a trustee of the International Mission Board since 2001.

Smith said he is “happy at Dogwood Trails, really,” but after talking with Richards about the vacancy a few months ago, he said he sensed God was in it.

“I’ve come here today with a peace that this is where I’m supposed to be,” Smith told the board.

Priest said he first felt the calling to ministry in 1985, but wandered off that path with little encouragement from his church and family. Because of that experience, “I have a heart for helping churches know how to help young people called into ministry,” Priest said.

Priest was licensed to the ministry at First Baptist Church, Douglasville, Ga., in 1995, and ordained at Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth in 2002. Before serving in an editorial capacity at Auxano Press, Priest served in staff roles at Lakeside Baptist Church in Granbury, Travis Avenue, and First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, N.C.

He holds a master of arts in Christian education from Southwestern Seminary.

Alexander is a Texas native who grew up on the mission field and is fluent in Spanish. He has served as a church-planting strategist in Mississippi since 2002.

A graduate of Texas Tech who thought he wanted to be a broadcast engineer, Alexander told how a summer stint in a broadcast booth changed his course. Later realizing God was leading him to be a third-generation missionary, Alexander pursued a seminary degree, graduating with a master of divinity with biblical languages from Southwestern.

Missions Director Terry Coy told the board in presenting Alexander, “It is amazing how God brings the right people together at the right time.” Coy said he’s known Alexander for about 15 years, and “when the time came for somebody to come in, he fit the skills and we needed, particularly in Hispanic church planting and cross-cultural church planting.”

Campbell, who came to the convention two years ago, is a native of Irving and a former pastor with a PhD. in New Testament and preaching.

Richards said of Campbell, “He is easily approachable and most importantly, he has an awareness of Southern Baptists of Texas Convention life in leading two churches he pastored to affiliate with us while serving them” and he is a detail person who “crosses all the T’s and dots the I’s.”

Richards said part of Campbell’s work will be supervising the field ministry strategists?SBTC staff who will “be on the ground relating to about 150 churches” as liaison between the churches, associations and the convention to help the SBTC serve Texas Southern Baptists more effectively.

Executive report
In his report to the board, Richards expressed appreciation for the privilege of serving the convention as its first executive director after its founding in 1998.

Richards remarked, “It does not seem possible that it has been 10 years since this convention was founded. God has blessed us in an incredible fashion.”

As an example of ministry made possible by SBTC churches, Richards held up a commemorative Chinese-language Bible that was distributed during the Olympics in Beijing in part because the convention gave $200,000 in surplus funds to LifeWay’s “A Defining Moment” campaign to translate and print the Bibles for the Chinese people.

Also, “over 400 churches that were not in existence in 1998 are ministering to people today,” he said.
“The list goes on and on” of ways the convention has contributed to gospel work in Texas and beyond.

“He is able to do it through us, and we are just privileged to be an instrument and see that happen,” Richards said.

“We need to get in on what God’s doing, ” Richards said, noting the convention staff’s renewed commitment to be personal witnesses in the everyday course of life.

Richards encouraged the board to be ambassadors for the Cooperative Program missions funding channel, which makes Southern Baptist work possible locally and around the world.

“For our ministry to expand here in Texas, it is crucial for us to receive the Cooperative Program funds that will enable us to do it.”

Richards also encouraged to board to promote the upcoming SBTC Bible Conference and annual meeting at First Baptist Church of Houston, Nov. 9-11.

Monday night will include a celebration of 10 years of SBTC ministry, and Tuesday night will include an International Mission Board commissioning service for about 90 missionary couples.

Richards closed by saying that “if Jesus does tarry his coming, I believe the next 10 years of SBTC ministry will be even more fruitful than the first 10 years. “

Outgoing board members
Four outgoing board members were honored with framed art bearing Scripture verses. Kenneth Winkles of Pecos, Bill Sutton of McAllen, Euless Ready of Arlington, and Stan Coffey of Amarillo rotated off the board.

“These are the last of the original board members rotating off this year that set the course for this convention,” Richards said in presenting each with his plaque.

Richards quipped that Winkles “is one of our best trustees in Pecos; the other is Ron Garcia.” Winkles began his term as a layman and now is preaching, Richards noted.

Sutton, recently retired as pastor of First Baptist Church of McAllen, “has been a stalwart of the faith,” Richards said. “He has been a strength to the convention.”

Ready was a member of the laymen’s organization that led to the SBTC’s founding. Ready, in an emotional farewell address to the board, said, “It fills my heart with joy [to see the convention flourish]. We didn’t have any idea that this many pastors would come with us like they did.”

Richards said of Coffey, longtime pastor of The Church at Quail Creek, “There is no one person more responsible for what God has done here than Stan Coffey.” In the convention’s founding, “there are many others we could name, but Stan Coffey stands in the forefront” with those who founded the SBTC at great personal cost, Richards said.

Financial report
Chief Financial Officer Joe Davis said the convention’s Cooperative Program receipts were $1.2 million a

SEC sets record attendance

ARLINGTON?”God has abundantly exceeded all of our expectations for the Student Evangelism Conference,” said Matt Hubbard, interim student evangelism associate and coordinator of the Engage student revival ministry. A record number of students from across Texas came to the two-day SEC Aug. 1-2 to hear speakers, musicians and other acts.

Registration and attendance at this year’s event at the Arlington Convention Center nearly doubled from last year, Hubbard said, with 2,540 people registered compared to 1,383 in 2007. The number of youth groups attending was also up by almost a third with more than 150 groups attending this year.

In addition to nearly doubling the attendance, SEC also resulted in 329 decisions for Christ, including 141 professions of faith; 126 were rededication/assurance of salvation decisions; 22 signified calls to Christian service; and 41 were other decisions.

“It was amazing to be a part of God’s work at SEC,” Hubbard said. “The decisions and changes that were made in the lives of students and churches across the state, however, are just now being put into effect.”

Speakers for SEC included Jay Lowder of Wichita Falls, on Friday night, and Jose Zayas of Portland, Ore., on Saturday.

Zayas rallied the teenagers who packed into the auditorium Saturday morning, challenging them to practice sharing their faith in order to become proficient in the discipline.

“The only difference in you and an Olympic athlete is that they’ve done the same thing again and again and again.”

Encouraging that same commitment level when witnessing, Zayas referred to 1 Peter 3:13-18, stating, “The only way to learn to share your faith is to share your faith. Like a good athlete, always be ready. They didn’t just show up and try?they got ready to do something.”

Working through an acrostic of GOSPEL, Zayas explained how teenagers could tell the story of the entire Bible in 10 minutes or less, using this guide.

“If we don’t practice now, we’re gonna be scared to death,” Zayas reminded. “The only way for you to be more effective is to practice again and again.”

The worship band for SEC was Spur58 of Nashville, Tenn. Other bands included Leeland, of Baytown, and Hawk Nelson of Ontario, Canada.

The conference also included a testimony by Iris Blue of Lucas, a former strip club owner, and the humor and illusions of Jared Hall of Baytown.

In addition to those ministering on the stage, “over 50 volunteers from across the state gave up their weekend to help make SEC what it was,” Hubbard said.

“We were blessed this year by the impact and the power of the preaching,” said J.R. Regalado, youth pastor at Rosanky Baptist Church in Rosanky. “SEC gives us the opportunity to come together and unite before we get back to school. It gets kids in the mindset of authentic Christian living.”

Regalado shared his concern about a student who had been in church for many years, though Regalado didn’t know if he had truly made a profession of faith. During SEC, the young man accepted Christ.

Jason Taylor, youth pastor at Salem Sayers Baptist Church in Adkins, commented: “Our students enjoyed the opportunity to come together in corporate worship with their peers. I think SEC is a good tool to use. We trust the Lord to use it to encourage them and inspire them to grow deeper in their walk with Christ.”

Orality Network offers training in DFW Sept. 15-18

Hundreds of educators, executives and Christian leaders regard the art of storytelling as one of the most effective ways to reach a world of people and cultures that rely heavily on oral communication. Many of these proponents of an evangelization method known as storying will gather in the Dallas-Fort Worth area Sept. 15-18 for the 2008 conference of the International Orality Network (ION).

As director of a 27-member network that includes the International Mission Board of the SBC, Campus Crusade for Christ, Navigators, Trans World Radio and Wycliffe International, Avery Willis brings to the table a lifelong association with Southern Baptists as both a missionary and discipleship leader. Since retiring from the IMB in 2004, Willis has focused his attention on encouraging orality studies through the collaboration dedicated to helping individuals, churches, denominations and mission agencies effectively communicate the story of Jesus to all people, including oral learners.

“Oral learners not only learn differently, they think differently?stories are their primary way of communicating and retaining information, as well as the way their worldview is shaped and transformed,” Willis said. “Jesus himself spoke and taught through stories. Using storytelling to share about God is just smart communicating.”

The ION 2008 Conference will provide resources and training to help Christian men and women more effectively influence the lives of oral learners.

“We desire to encourage and equip thousands of storytellers to tell life-transforming stories of God to those within their spheres of influence,” stated Willis, who began his ministry pastoring Texas churches in Fort Worth and Grand Prairie.

The sixth-annual ION Conference is appropriate for anyone interested in learning successful oral communication tools and strategies. The ION 2008 Conference offers training tracks specialized for primary oral learners, secondary oral learners, executives, women, and other specific circumstances.
Further information on the meeting at the Dallas Solana Marriott Hotel in Westlake is available at

Power of influence on the gridiron and off

It’s Friday Night Lights time in Texas. For those of us who are football fans there is an allure to the stadiums during the fall of the year. Because I have a son who plays football, you know where I will be on game night.

Nathan is our late-in-life blessing. Our daughters were 15 and 11 when he was born. We were young and foolish when we raised our first two, but grew old enough to know how to savor the moments with Nathan. My wife, June, and I almost dote on him like he was a grandchild. It has been an awesome 18 years.

He plans to play football in college. He has told us that he has never had any indication that God was calling him to vocational ministry. Although his mother and I tried to raise him right, he wants to be a lawyer.

All parents like to brag on their kids when they do something significant. June and I have been blessed in many ways by all three of our children. Having three grandchildren, the bragging has only just begun.

If you will indulge me, I would like to share something that happened at the beginning of football practice this season. Nathan is a senior. There are some kids on his team that have received national attention in recruiting. Others are on the varsity for the first time. There is a decent talent mix that could enable the team to surprise a few folks and go to the playoffs. It will take everything falling in place just right.

On the weekend before the first practice, Nathan called a team meeting. This meeting was not prompted by the coaches. All but about a half dozen of the varsity players were present. Nathan began his speech indicating his desire to win and go to the playoffs. He wanted to challenge his teammates to a higher standard. He offered a covenant that spelled out abstinence from alcohol and drugs. He pointed out that if some were out of shape physically or not focused mentally because of the use of these substances their chances of winning diminished. The team discussed punishment for violations. With a first offense the whole team would have to do some self-imposed disciplinary activities with the offender doing even more. With the second offense the perpetrator would be kicked off the team.

Amazingly, all of those present walked forward and signed the covenant. Nathan spoke with several guys individually, encouraging them to be leaders. The next day at practice it was apparent that the team was unified and focused. I don’t know if Nathan’s team will win and go to the playoffs, but if these young men will keep the covenant their lives will be better because of it.

Nathan may not be called to vocational ministry. Yet, God has given him a platform to share his faith and encourage others to do the right thing. His mom and I are eternally grateful to the Lord Jesus.

You can influence someone. People are looking for leadership. People want to have a positive challenge placed before them. Have the courage to present Christ and take a stand for what is right. You may not always win, but you will be blessed.

KCBI announces new general manager

DALLAS?Following a unanimous vote by the Criswell College trustee executive committee, Mike Tirone has been elected as the new general manager and senior vice president of radio station KCBI (90.9 FM) and Criswell Comminications.

Tirone has 17 years of broadcasting experience. He is a graduate of William Paterson University.
Tirone’s experience includes 12 years at NBC News (including CNBC and MSNBC). During this time, he was senior producer of MSNBC’s ” Scarborough Country” and was the NBC executive producer for special coverage of “Tsunami: Relief and Recovery.” He also served as producer of “Hardball with Chris Matthews” and traveled throughout the U.S. producing the “Hardball College Tour” at various university and college campuses.

He was awarded the NBC Ovation Award for coverage of Ronald Reagan’s funeral and was recognized by the National Academy of Television Arts and Science for excellence during coverage of 9/11.

Tirone came to Dallas in 2006 as vice president of KCBI and the Criswell Radio Network.

Criswell students minister across the pond

For most college students, the dog days of summer mean lakeside fun, long evenings with friends and time at that pesky part-time job. But for one group of students from Dallas’ Criswell College, summer took on a new meaning.

Nine students and two professors embarked on Criswell’s first mission trip to England last month, bringing the hope of Christ and a healthy appetite for tea with them. The team left July 18 for eight days filled with street evangelism, discipleship and personal interaction with residents of the rural towns and villages in northern England.

“For most students this was their first opportunity to reach people without the Christian dialect we have here in the Bible Belt,” said Criswell professor Joel Wilson. “Our mandate is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the world. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. Jesus is the answer. This is one way we do it.”

Criswell students have answered that mandate. For Ginger McFadden from Criswell’s class of 2008 the trip made the top of the list of things to do with her summer after graduation.

“I’ve had a passion for about seven or eight years now for missions over seas,” McFadden said. “This trip continued that passion. I had been to several countries on mission, but never to Europe.”

To another student, senior R.J Nanny, the self-proclaimed last minute fill in, the trip offered an unusually diverse mission experience.

“This was a buffet mission trip,” said Nanny, who was with the college’s Oxford scholarship study group shortly before the trip. “I love the English people? We did outreach to an elementary school, in a city that is a stronghold of Islam, in a town that is known for its gay community, as well as door-to-door evangelism in regular English neighborhoods.”

Regardless of the individual reasons for going, the team was reminded of their common purpose.

Once in the town of Inskip, the students and professors stayed in the homes of other believers from a local evangelical church called Inskip Baptist Chapel. Each morning the team joined several deacons and pastors from the church for prayer and devotion before departing to their location for the day.

“Every day was different but they always started with breakfast and Bible study and ended with prayer,” McFadden said. “Whatever the Lord led us to do we were able to do. The people at the church were really hospitable, demonstrating Christ’s love towards us and welcoming us into their homes.”

But despite the welcome they received within the church, the students also met their fair share of resistance to the gospel among some of the people they interacted with outside the church.

“Really the whole area surprised me,” Nanny said. “If you do evangelism [in the U.S.] people are fairly open, but [in England] you don’t talk to people you don’t know. People think you’re weird for talking to them. They’re like, ‘Get away from me.’ Culturally speaking some people call this British reserve versus American openness through friendly conversation.'”

Despite setbacks, the team also saw the fruit of some of their labors. During their stay, they were able to offer significant help promoting a community barbecue held at the church. The event drew two-thirds of Baptist Chapel’s 80 or so members and more than 120 people from the local community, many of whom were not Christians.

“This church is nearing its 200th-year anniversary. It is very encouraging to receive so many non-Christian people from our community to our annual outreach barbecue. The Criswell students certainly made a significant contribution to help achieve that result,” said Baptist Chapel Pastor Daniel Ralph.

For the students involved, the energy around the barbecue was contagious.

“It was good to see the village come together,” McFadden said. “People who were not used to coming to a church interacted with Christians. It was my favorite part of the trip.”

Interaction with local believers and non-believers wasn’t all social, however.

Later, after meeting with local missionaries to the Muslim community, the team attended a faculty Bible study at the university in Prescott.

“The leader announced to us that he was a Christian Anarchist,” Wilson said. “The next faculty member referred to himself as a ‘liberal’ from the Church of England. We also met a Pentecostal,as well as an East German lady who confessed to loving God yet hating the established church.”

The study was from John 5 about the man needing to get into the pool. As an Old Testament instructor, Brooks offered some insights from Jesus’ use of Moses. Wilson said he prayed during the Bible study that those attending would have as transformational an encounter with Jesus as the man with the infirmity in John 5 did.

Criswell College requires each of its students to participate in a mission trip before graduation. One of its core values is the development of “God-called men and women in the Word and by the Word.”

The team brought this value to England by teaching adults, youth, and children in services not only at Inskip Baptist Chapel, but also in other churches and in a public school. After delivering a sermon on living out the resurrection power of Christ, Wilson was approached by members of the congregation.

“They very gratefully received the message, and were encouraged by the way they felt I had made the Scriptures very personal to some of them,” Wilson said. “We’ve just got to believe that the Bible is inerrant, and let the Holy Spirit guide us as we open up the scriptures. He opens our minds and hearts to God’s truth.”

Overall, the American and English believers said they were encouraged by the time they spent together spreading the gospel.

“When the Spirit unifies God’s people around the cross, we see love for one another through Christ. This spans countries and cultures. It was wonderful for us to see how the members of Inskip Baptist Chapel are able to bring a glimpse of biblical truth to their dark region. It was our privilege to bring them encouragement and support,” Wilson said.

For students like Nanny, the lessons they learned from their English brothers and sisters sink far deeper than a cross-cultural experience or a typical college summer experience.

“Even when it seems like sin abounds, God’s people are still there,” Nanny said. “I just thought Europe was dead, but God does have an open door. Those people are very healthy. They aren’t like the big Southern Baptist churches; they are in small pockets. A remnant? It’s not over yet.”