Month: August 2008

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.”

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

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.

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.”

Pampa church rides to Sturgis bike rally

When Doug Hixon, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Pampa, mentioned taking the gospel to a group of bikers who gather by the hundreds of thousands by riding in on their hogs every summer to a small town in South Dakota, several members of his church were worried.

But when the worry wore off, two men who had rarely shared their faith were on board to go.

Once there, the two layman who accompanied Hixon to the 68th annual Sturgis Rally Aug. 4-9 shared their conversion testimonies about 100 times each and were part of seeing a recorded 1,365 professions of faith.

“I took the chairman of my deacons and another one of my deacons. We had been told that they were not going to be open to us being there. But what we found was just the opposite.”

Working with the Dakota Baptist Convention, the men were briefed on how to share their testimony in three minutes or less. The convention hosted a tent on the main street in Sturgis where passersby could register their names for a chance to win a new anniversary edition Harley Davidson motorcycle.

The catch: they had to sit and listen to a brief Christian testimony.

“It’s wasn’t some canned evangelism method,” Hixon said. “They were telling the story of ‘what my life was like before Christ, and what my life has been since I met Christ.’

“It’s been an incredible thing just to watch those men catch that vision for sharing the gospel with others. And not just them, but other people from around the country?retired folks, people who had never sat on a motorcycle. But all of them were used by God.”

Hixon said the three-man team was “kind of a beginning for us,” but he said he plans to go again with perhaps more people from Cornerstone.

“Sturgis has kind of a wild reputation and we didn’t want to get up there and think, ‘Wow, we shouldn’t be here.’ I was prepared for hedonism at its worst. And there are some things there that are not good, but most of that was in another part of town.”

“What we saw for the most part were normal people. And many of them had no clue that they were lost; many of them were hearing the gospel for the first time.”

Hixon said about 5,000 went through the tent and heard Baptists share their stories in a environment “where the Holy Spirit was present in a powerful way.”

Across the street was a “What’s Next?” tent where those who were willing were given an opportunity to connect with a church in their home cities.

“They were told, ‘Here are some churches that are biker-friendly. And if you don’t have a biker-friendly church, ‘here are some churches in your town.'”

The SBTC is beginning a missions partnership with the convention there?something Hixon said he is pleased with.

“One of the things I’m excited about is people who are interested in church planting might be willing to say, ‘Hey, here’s a place where I can go.'”

Evangelist Ronnie Hill of Fort Worth and the Dakota Baptist Convention staff led training each morning at Black Hills Baptist Church in Whitewood, S.D., about 18 miles southwest of Sturgis.

“All of this would not be possible without the volunteers and partners who have taken this ministry from the vision of one leader to a group of leaders to a national level,” DBC Executive Director Jim Hamilton told Baptist Press. “Folks who are physically not able to be at the rally are obedient witnesses by praying and by giving to the Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program, which helped fund this through the North American Mission Board.”

“God has called all of us as a family of Southern Baptists to impact the lostness that we see here in Sturgis,” Hamilton said.

Volunteers from 14 states were involved in the effort, including a team of seven chaplains from the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

?Baptist Press contributed to this report.

State missions offering surpasses $1.1 million, seeks sequel in 2009

The annual Reach Texas Offering for state missions marked two milestones this year by surpassing $1 million for the first time and exceeding its goal of $1.1 million.

With the Reach Texas Offering week of prayer scheduled for Sept. 21-28 and a new offering year beginning Sept. 1, SBTC Missions Director Terry Coy said the expectations are high for 2008-09.

“We are very pleased with the Reach Texas giving this year, and we are anticipating another generous year as we seek to reach the unreached in Texas, which each year becomes a larger and more diverse proportion of the state’s population,” Coy said. “The challenge has never been greater in our state.”

In 2008-09, the promotional focus is on the Texas Borderlands, an area north of the Rio Grande and south of a line stretching from El Paso east to San Antonio and Corpus Christi.

Although the SBTC state missions offering supports ministry throughout Texas, the Borderlands focus is strategic, Coy explained.

“The Borderlands region of Texas is the most underevangelized area of the state and has the highest rate of unchurched people,” Coy said. “It also has the highest poverty levels and the highest population percentage of Hispanics.”

More than 4 million people live in the Borderlands, and more than 3 million are Hispanic.

Half of Reach Texas Offering gifts fund church planting, 25 percent goes to various missions endeavors, including disaster relief, missions mobilization, and church planter development, and 25 percent funds evangelism events and training.

For example, the SBTC disaster relief ministry this year mobilized trained “yellow cap” volunteers to the Rio Grande Valley following Hurricane Dolly. Reach Texas funds also bought Arabic Bibles for churches to use in reaching out to Muslims in two Texas cities.

Reach Texas helps fund the annual SENT missions conference, Empower Evangelism Conference, the Student Evangelism Conference, and numerous evangelism training events and resources.

Coy said the Reach Texas Offering’s focus on the Borderlands is motivated by the need to remind Texans of the mission field within the state.

“This is a region where the need for reaching people with the gospel is great,” Coy said. “We also wanted to place some emphasis on Hispanic church planting in general, and this goes hand in hand with that.”

The Reach Texas devotional booklet, available to churches for promoting the offering, covers eight days; each one includes a story of how Texans were touched through the ministry provided by the Reach Texas Offering plus a prayer point for each day. Day one, for instance, tells how SBTC disaster relief volunteers ministered to families in the Rosita Valley area of Eagle Pass near the Mexican border after a tornado struck in April 2007.

Day two tells of Jim and Marsha Wilson, planters of Esperanza del Rio Church in Del Rio. The couple met Ana, who like Lydia in Acts 16:13-15, responded to the gospel and then led her household to Christ.

Day five tells of Yorktown Baptist Church in Corpus Christi and their outreach to Muslims in their area following an SBTC People Groups Champion Project training.

The prayer point for day five states: “Pray that God will use your church to minister to the people groups in your area, and pray that the Lord will empower you to live a missional lifestyle reaching the nations right here in Texas.”

Reach Texas promotional resources, including a bulletin insert, are downloadable at For additional information, e-mail or call the SBTC missions office at 877-953-7282.

DR teams serve in Rio Grande Valley

BROWNSVILLE?Disaster relief volunteers from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention were providing meals and assisting in cleanup in the Rio Grande Valley the week after Hurricane Dolly hit the far south Texas coast July 23.

Baptist volunteers were also working in the Mexican border town of Matamoros, across the Rio
Grande from Brownsville.

SBTC feeding units served in Rio Grande City and McAllen, about 70 miles inland, while assessment and cleanup teams were working in the coastal town of Port Isabel. First Baptist Church of
Brownsville was housing the cleanup and assessment teams, with assistance from First Baptist Church of Port Isabel, said Jim Richardson, SBTC Disaster Relief director.

As of July 29, the work had yielded at least two professions of faith.

Meanwhile, the SBTC’s Operation GO Mexico ministry, First Baptist Church of Brownsville, and Baptist Global Response were collaborating in Matamoros.

“Hurricane Dolly brought torrential rains and devastating winds to the area,” Richardson wrote in an e-mail. “Many of the families in Matamoros have been affected. First Baptist Church, Brownsville, and Operation GO are distributing rice and beans to those affected by Hurricane Dolly and sharing the hope of our Lord Jesus in the process.”

SBTC volunteers were cooking 10,000 meals a day for the Salvation Army canteens in McAllen, Richardson said. At First Baptist Church, Rio Grande City, volunteers prepared meals for the American Red Cross the weekend after the storm.

Churches from the Gulf Coast westward toward McAllen were affected by blackouts, falling trees and wind damage. Initially, 200,000 homes were without electricity, news reports said.

The cleanup and recovery work in Port Isabel, across the bridge from the South Padre Island resort community, yielded professions of faith from a husband and wife, said Julian Moreno, who was leading the assessment work there.

“It was our first work order in Port Isabel,” Moreno said. “The young boy in the home has been attending First Baptist Church, Port Isabel, but the parents have never attended the church, which is bilingual. So now the parents have made professions of faith and they plan to be at the church next Sunday.”

Moreno said the greatest needs in the coastal area around Port Isabel, where Dolly hit hardest, are chainsaws and blue tarps to cover damaged houses and businesses.

Janice Young, a member and bookkeeper at Portway Baptist Church in Brownsville, spent the night before the storm hit and all day July 23 at the church, which sheltered about 60 people who rode out the storm there.

Brownsville is about 20 miles west of South Padre Island.

“We had some damage on the steeple and water damage inside the church,” Young said. “We lost a couple of ceiling tiles and the rug was wet from the entrance to about three pews back. It’s a mess around here.”

The storm also damaged Young’s mobile home and knocked out electricity in her neighborhood.

In McAllen, pastor Luis Canchola of Cornerstone Baptist Church said his city was not as heavily hit as Brownsville to the east, but the damage was notable.

“We meet in a plaza, and there was some damage to the roof. The landscaping around it was damaged, trees uprooted, marquee blown out all in pieces this morning. As far as the interior of the church, thank God, it’s OK.”

Canchola said church members placed 50-pound sandbags around the entrances to the space where the church meets to prevent water damage.

Criswell College students spread gospel in Brownsville area

BROWNSVILLE?For the third consecutive year, Criswell College sent students to the border town of Brownsville to prayer-walk, witness, distribute tracts, and help the city’s First Baptist Church in a weeklong Vacation Bible School, held July 13-18.

The 11-student team shared the gospel on the street more than 300 times, and their efforts during the VBS helped bring 27 children to faith in Christ from the 243 enrolled.

“We were encouraged to know that the students and members of the school’s administration and the alumni association were praying for us even before the team arrived,” said FBC Brownsville Pastor Steve Dorman.

“As a pastor I can tell you that it helps for our church to have a face-to-face relationship with a school that we and our state convention [SBTC] support. Our people can see where their money is going, and that it helps fund a biblically conservative institution,” Dorman added.

The students’ street ministry garnered the attention of the local newspaper, earning them front-page coverage July 15 in a Brownsville Herald article titled: “Spreading the word: Bible students come to Brownsville for missionary work.”

Criswell College senior Halston Potts shared the gospel with the newspaper’s reporter and photographer, both of whom said they were Catholic.

“They had to listen to me,” Potts said. “I had their attention for as long as I wanted because they were doing their jobs.”

Potts said the photographer actually carried the conversation.

“I could see the Lord was dealing with him.”

The photographer continued asking questions about conversion and salvation, Potts said.

The TEXAN asked Potts if he knew how many people accepted Christ through street witnessing, and he said he didn’t know.

“I’m not really into keeping track of those numbers. I’m more interested in planting gospel seeds,” said
Potts, who believes he is called by God to mission work.

Potts explained that if anyone expressed interest in the tracts’ content, or if he sensed God leading him to press gospel claims to their hearts, then he’d do that.

“I think the trip will greatly improve my witness to other people, mainly Hispanics,” Potts said. “I can identify with that culture a bit better and can now be a better witness to Hispanics.”

Led by Baltazar Alvarez, assistant professor of biblical and theological studies at the college, team members also completed a missions practicum as part of their collegiate studies.

Alvarez said the trip held a four-fold emphasis: evangelism, missions, and sociological and cultural education.

“The entire city was our missions laboratory,” said Alvarez, who noted that students would also write an academic paper regarding the trip.

“While it’s nice to see the lights go on in students’ eyes in the classroom, it’s even better in this open, live lab that is Brownsville,” he said, adding that Brownsville, whose populace is about 98 percent Hispanic, provides students a valuable cross-cultural missions experience.

Dorman said the missions endeavor “helps us understand where and how we can best reach our own Jerusalem.”

“We hope they come back every year, and bring more and more students,” Dorman said. “They’re such a huge blessing to our church.”

Potts is of a similar mindset: “I have a sense the trip won’t be my last to Brownsville. I think God will send me back there to help in some way.”

Failing the sobriety test

Western culture has too high a tolerance for silliness. There is a delightful draw to infantile behavior, especially for men. Behaving as children, wearing funny hats, telling stories on one another, and then collapsing in fits of laughter is more a guy thing than something that predictably blesses the hearts of the fairer sex. Either way, there’s a place where doing things to make people laugh becomes counterproductive.

Without roosting here too long, I think graduation ceremonies might be an example. My daughter’s graduation was held in a church. We had prayer, exhortations to godly service, a hymn or two, and we had a couple of dolts in the back with a Freon horn (like you hear at football games). Other people, seemingly impatient with not being the center of attention, had to make do by yelling and whooping. Very few were blessed by the racket and those very few laughed like fiends at their own cleverness.

School teachers, Sunday School teachers?all those who deal with minor children?are tortured all through the day by the tendency of children to have frequent “look at me” moments. I think many television programs have added to this syndrome. All the kids are smart-mouthed, all the adults are witty or stupid, and a laugh track goes wild at every tedious quip. Kids seem to think that the world should come with a laugh track.

And then there’s this item from the news yesterday. A judge in New Zealand has enforced a law there that bans children’s names that would cause offense or embarrassment. Examples of banned names are: Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii, Fish and Chips, and Keenan Got Lucy. Lest you think this censorship has gone too far, Number 16 Bus Shelter was ruled an acceptable name for a child.

Celebrities in the U.S. have a history of embarrassing their children by naming them silly things. Frank Zappa gave us Moon Unit, Dweezil, and Ahmed. Grace Slick, of Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, and Starship, named a child “god.” Good sense overcame her later and she changed the name to China. Gwyneth Paltrow, perhaps in revenge for her own name, named a child Apple. Bruce Willis has children named Rumor and Scout. Perhaps these don’t rise to the glories of Fish and Chips but they’re not different.

I’m fairly sure we will never have a Supreme Court justice named Apple and that New Zealand will never have a Nobel Laureate named Number 16 Bus Shelter. The names alone will ensure the children’s paths will not go that direction.

A dictionary definition of “silly” is “exhibiting a lack of common sense or sound judgment.” A good antonym of silly is “sober.”

The pastoral letters of Paul and 1 Peter use exhortations to be “sober” and “sober-minded” as calls to be clear-headed and sensible. You can see the relationship with the concept of sobriety as a contrast to drunkenness. It does not mean somber or humorless. I interpret this word to additionally include an aspect of knowing and respecting the difference between important and trivial things.

The sober-minded among us can celebrate a child’s graduation without being rude or foolish. Someone who can tell the difference between the significant and the trivial will not answer every question with a smart remark. Sensible people don’t name their kids something that only seems funny when they’re drunk.

I think being silly has its place, albeit a fairly small place. Joking around is conducive to bonding within a family or friendship. Silliness can lighten the mood when that is appropriate. Little kids love it when Grandpa is goofy or Grandma acts like one of the kids. That’s all precious and it’s a bit intimate. Maybe that’s why public foolishness is not so funny to most looking on?it immodestly displays something personal to a general crowd.

And I also see a difference between someone who performs in an intentionally silly way and amateurs who foist their own attempts on an unwilling audience. It is not, by definition, inappropriate to tell a joke or goof in a performance for people who want to experience it. Even so, some comedians become rude, even irreverent, when they make light of things that matter or make innocent people the victims of the joke.

Innocent people are the victims when parents name their kids after fast food. I’m somewhat sympathetic with the idea of a law that protects 9-year-old girls (such as Talula Does The Hula, etc.) from being humiliated by the names inflicted on them by juvenile parents.

This might be a good place for Christians to be countercultural. While we might not be so energized as to initiate laws against silliness, maybe we should work harder to teach our own children what’s appropriate. Maybe Dad (speaking to myself here) shouldn’t fall back on the goofball role quite so often. I think pastors should consider humor to be the cayenne pepper of their sermons and use it very sparingly. Turn off sitcoms and cartoons that teach your kids to be relentlessly mouthy.

When Christians model joy and good sense at the same time, we season a culture that easily loses any understanding of moderation. If we avoid the desire to be the constant center of attention, we just might attract the interest of that one who’s looking for a grownup to help him answer important questions. When that happens, it’s good to be sober.

Bibliolatry’ charge confounding

It’s hard to get a radar on the logic behind accusations that Southern Baptists place the Bible above Jesus. This tired old charge has been flying since at least 2000, when the Southern Baptist Convention firmed up its faith statement. A document I read recently was a reminder that the “bibliolatry” charge is as alive and well as those Internet rumors about Madalyn Murray-O’Hair?she’s dead, by the way?pushing to get Christian broadcasting off the air.

The bibliolatry charge was employed in the last century by opponents of biblical inerrancy. Of late, Baptist moderates have found it useful.

In the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message confessional statement, Jesus was described as the “criterion” by which Scripture should be interpreted and Scripture as “the record of” revelation rather than revelation itself. This language was omitted in the 2000 BFM revision to help clarify the SBC’s stance on biblical inerrancy amid challenges in semantics.

As most Texas Baptists know, the changes are the cause of some perpetual soreness with critics.
What you won’t hear from some quarters is that a problem developed in post-1963 Baptist life that needed solving: Those who held that Scripture, while “containing” God’s Word contained errors also, could easily affirm the Bible as the record of God’s revelation while privately holding neo-orthodox views or so-called limited inerrancy. The latter holds that the biblical writers got it right in the salvation message and things pertaining to it, but erred in historical narratives and “non-revelatory” details.

One could claim to believe in “the authority of Scripture” on the one hand, and dismiss Genesis 1-11 as partially or totally allegorical on the other.

Or if one were a red-letter Christian, he could, for example, question Paul’s insistence about male leadership in the church and home as cultural blindness by appealing to Jesus’ elevation of women during his ministry. In this scenario, the question “What would Jesus do?” is applied in creative new ways.

Thankfully, with the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, the wiggle room was taken out and the hems were sewn back taut to fit a doctrine of inerrancy in the autographs, the original writings, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 and all points in between down to the jot and tittle. The SBC has spoken in the spirit of Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon and other notable saints: What Scripture says, God says.

I recall sitting in on an interview with the late Garth Pybas, who at the time was one of the last living members of the 1963 BFM committee charged with revising the 1925 BFM statement. At the time, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Ralph Elliot’s book “The Message of Genesis,” originally published by the Baptist Sunday School Board’s Broadman Press, had shocked most Southern Baptists for denying the historicity of Genesis 1-11.

Pybas was adamant: “There wasn’t a liberal in the bunch.” His understanding of the Jesus-as-criterion language, he explained, meant that Jesus believed in the full inspiration of the Old Testament, including Genesis, based on his frequent quoting of the Torah and the prophets. In other words, when Jesus spoke of Abel or Noah historically, that settles it for us.

If only everyone was as clear-minded and well-meaning as Pybas was.

Unfortunately, what was intended as a faithful response to Elliott’s book over time became a loophole for some as the WWJD? question was answered by appealing to a Jesus of one’s liking.

The BFM 2000 provided much-needed clarity on several issues, not the least of which was the article on the Bible.

Everything we know about the Trinitarian God (that includes the Son) he has graciously breathed out for us through human writers at particular places in time so that, as Paul told the Athenians, “we might grope for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”

I’m not exactly sure how one would place Scripture above Jesus, save for praying to the pages in the NIV or Holman or KJV and bowing down before them each day in front of the fireplace.

No doubt, some who have repeated this charge likely don’t know what they are saying. They are simply repeating what they have heard without critically thinking. But others, doubting the full inspiration of the Scripture, continue the rumor.

A reader, concerned about our running a story last issue about the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship meeting where a presenter questioned Christ’s deity, wanted to know where we stood on the issue.

I happily explained we did, indeed, believe in the deity of Jesus, and added that “we affirm the verbal, plenary inspiration of Scripture; its inerrant nature is foundational for sound doctrine and a sure-footed faith, and from it flows all that we believe.”

See, it’s hard to hold absolutely to the deity of Jesus while denying the absolute truth of the very revelation that tells you about him. That’s tantamount to building a house on sand, and Jesus had something to say about that.