Month: November 2008

SBTC resolutions cover theological, moral issues

HOUSTON?Categorized by their attention to theological and moral issues and expressions of personal appreciation, 10 resolutions were adopted by messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention during the Nov. 11 session.

Resolutions Committee Chairman Malcolm Yarnell of Fort Worth described the SBTC’s concern for “Christ-honoring, Scripture-based, church-focused and mission-minded doctrine” as a historical strength and God-given value.

“In this important year, we believe it is necessary to call ourselves and all Christians back to these fundamental biblical and therefore Baptist doctrines?the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the centrality of Scripture, the primacy of the local church and a fully biblical definition of a new desire for a Great Commission Resurgence.”

Regarding the Lordship of Christ, the first resolution urged churches to proclaim “there is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ,” that “each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes,” recognized the significance of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and urged recognition of the first day of the week as the Lord’s Day.

Furthermore, the resolution noted the responsibility of Christians to make disciples of all nations and make the will of Christ supreme while recognizing “God alone is the Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it.”

The statement also recalls God’s ordination of the family as foundational and encourages the church, the state and the family to implement the will of the Lord Jesus Christ with full integrity, by the Holy Spirit, and for the glory of God, according to the gracious principles and loving precepts He has revealed in His Word.”

The second resolution on the centrality of Scripture encouraged members of affiliated churches to: “live, teach and preach the Word of God;” encourage daily personal Bible study and memorization, family Bible studies and regular Bible studies with their churches; and “consider establishing church schools which keep Scripture central to their curriculum as an additional means of imparting a biblical worldview to our children.”

The “Primacy of the Local Church” resolution encouraged all Christians “to participate actively as members of their local churches, acknowledging and rendering cooperative support to the local church as we move together in service for the Kingdom of God.”

Appreciation was expressed to those who worked to bring about a Conservative Resurgence in the SBC as well as those who began the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. The commitment to carry out the Great Commission by making disciples, teach biblical doctrine, promote and practice “text-driven preaching and teaching of the entire Bible and how it relates to Christ and God’s redemptive plan,” and lead church members to witness at home and abroad, were noted.

“We covenant together earnestly to preach and teach ‘all things’ as Christ commanded in the Great Commission without minimizing or trivializing biblical doctrines such as: the Lordship of Christ; the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture; the exclusivity of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone; believers’ baptism by immersion; regenerate church membership; congregational church polity; the priesthood of the believers; church discipline and religious liberty,” the resolution stated.

“Although our first and fundamental concern is with conservative, biblical doctrine and fervent, warm-hearted evangelism,” Yarnell said, “the gospel’s impact lies upon all of human life.”

In the next three resolutions, he summarized three critical issues that concern not only biblical Christians but all “right-thinking human beings, which have come again into prominence in the most recent election cycle.”

Sloan pursues comprehensive Christian university

HOUSTON? Houston Baptist University President Robert Sloan told messengers to the SBTC annual meeting Nov. 11 that Christian universities in the last century chose one of two paths?either abandoning their Christian identification to pursue “secular, academic greatness” or retaining faithfulness to Christ, albeit marginalized with only “a four-year liberal arts identity.”

“Unfortunately, it’s a long list of universities that had a Christian affiliation and identity in history and subsequently gave it up,” he said, recalling the Christian foundations of Duke, Harvard, Yale, Princeton and University of Chicago.

“Universities that in their history, logos, slogans and bylaws had a clear identity and commitment to Jesus Christ?and now, in some instances still have a tangential relationship to the church,” Sloan said.

Schools that retained their Christian identity typically are located outside of major cities and remained small and regional in their appeal, said Sloan, leader of one of the few Southern Baptist colleges in an urban area.

“Thus you have a remarkable transformation in America,” he said, citing the loss of influence in the arenas of government, finance, journalism and the arts.

Sloan said men like Carl F.H. Henry, Billy Graham and Bill Bright “called for a great Christian university where you could have academic excellence, research, faculty members who care deeply about their students, culture … an affirming moral and spiritual environment where young people get to have all the joys and fun of connecting in an outstanding college experience and a university that is committed to Jesus Christ.”

He contrasted that environment with today’s universities where administrators turn their heads to immoral behavior on campus.

Speaking from his own college experience of having nearly “lost my faith?humanly speaking,” Sloan later decided he would not let that happen to other young men and women. “Through my deep interest in ideas and love of learning, I got the impression that to be a Christian you had to give up your mind,” he said, adding that he was encouraged to view faith as superstition. “As a seminary student I rediscovered the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the historical reliability and theological truthfulness of Scripture.”

Sloan said he realized Christians have nothing to fear in allowing young people to ask questions and be exposed to great fields of endeavor?that “all truth is God’s truth.” Convinced of his calling to see a great, comprehensive, national Christian university emerge somewhere in America, Sloan said, “I tried it once elsewhere and pray by God’s grace, I’ll get to see that here.”

Houston Baptist University suffered $17 million worth of damage from Hurricane Ike, but Sloan said God will use the experience to accomplish good.

“The hurricane will not stop that vision. The Lord has given us tremendous opportunity right here in one of the greatest cities of the world to build a great university.”

“Protestants and evangelicals have almost without exception no universities in big cities,” Sloan said. “We are the exception to that and our intent by God’s grace is to have all those commitments to the truth, research, teaching, undergraduates, a spiritual environment on campus and be committed to Jesus Christ.”

Record 225 professions of faith reported during ‘Crossover Houston’

HOUSTON?”Our people are so pumped that we want to do this again in the spring.”

That thought was expressed repeatedly by pastors reporting their results from “Crossover Houston,” the annual evangelism outreach of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Ten churches as diverse as the population of the greater Houston area welcomed visitors arriving early for the annual convention in order to survey neighborhoods and work at block parties.

Jack Harris, SBTC senior evangelism associate, said he was as excited by the desire of churches to continue outreach as for the record number of responses to the gospel.

With 183 people participating in the effort, 2,545 contacts were made in the neighborhoods spread across Houston and the outlying cities of Galena Park, Katy, Conroe and Tomball. They discovered 1,017 new prospects for future ministry and shared the gospel 507 times. During one day of coordinated outreach, 225 people professed faith in Jesus Christ.

“Attendance by non-church people at our block parties amounted to 3,287,” added Harris, expressing appreciation to the large number of out-of-town participants who joined with local church members to host the events.

While churches like Needham Road Baptist on the north side of Conroe attracted families to a harvest festival promoted as Gobblefest, kids of all ages flocked to the lawn of Asian American Church of Houston for the games, food and concerts during the afternoon block party.

Other participating congregations included Antioch Community Church, Clay Road Baptist Church, Rose of Sharon, Farrington Mission Center, FBC Galena Park, FBC Katy, FBC Rose Hill in Tomball and Northridge Baptist in Conroe.

The mostly young crowd that gathered on Houston’s southwest side for the Asian American Church event provided a multi-ethnic mix with Fountain of Faith Church and College Park Baptist, which share the same building with Asian American Church, also participating.

Oswald Vinueza has been a part of the Asian-American congregation for eight years and manned a table where evangelistic materials were distributed during the block party.

“It’s been a blessing to grow up here and have fellowship with other ethnicities and get to know their culture,” Vinueza said. “There are no limits to worship with people and this place is a testament to that.”

A newly discovered people group to whom the Asian-American congregation is extending its ministry involves Nepalese refugees, many of whom attended the Nov. 8 block party. Five homes have opened their doors for Bible studies under the direction of a 24-year-old college student who has come to Asian American Church from Nepal.

Like all of the other Crossover host churches, Pastor Brad Smith said he looks forward to following up on the contacts developed through the block party. While neighborhood surveys continue to serve as an effective outreach tool for many churches, Smith said he knew the outdoor party would attract more folks in his neighborhood.

Why we give

In these austere economic times (Wow, don’t you wish people would stop beginning sentences and lectures with that phrase?), a lot of religious organizations are making plans for curtailed ministry. That’s wisdom, I guess. People are pretty nervous about money right now and “extra” things like giving for missions, church ministries, hunger relief, and so on will be cut early in many households. I read a quote from a lady-on-the-street interview wherein she spoke of feeling guilty because her family just didn’t have any money left over for giving to her church. Hmm, most of us would have never admitted even a year ago to having extra or leftover money, but I do know what she means. She, like many of us, wants to donate to good causes but isn’t willing to cut spending in other places to make that happen. The question is one of priority.

Do churches and para-church institutions depend on our giving? The “holy” answer is “of course not, our God owns the cattle on a thousand hills and so on,” and this is true. He does own it all. Some of those cattle graze in pastures I manage, though. Some of them graze over at your place. God equips the ministries he’s led us to launch through the resources we hold in trust. So in a way, worthy ministries are dependent on our giving.

But that’s not why we give. Leaders who try to guilt people into giving because of budget needs are missing the point, as are people who give only “extra” money for the support of a ministry. That sentence explains why some ministries will falter or fail in the near future?neither recipients nor givers understand the dynamics of stewardship.

Two types of people are prone to love money too much?those who have it and those who don’t. Both types will either hoard or covet wealth when times get tough. If God is not sovereign, they’re right?we’d better watch out for ourselves. If God is sovereign over even the cattle stored in my freezer, then my temptation to hoard demonstrates my lack of faith in and obedience to my Lord.

My temptation to greediness is a temptation to idolatry. Security is a deceitful but attractive god. So also comfort, luxury, the affirmation of neighbors, or a host of other things that cause us to keep what we were intended to give.

We also miss worshiping the God we claim when we keep what is his for our own wish list. We’ve all seen the families that pull out a couple of ones or maybe a 10 to put in the offering plate when it passes. Perhaps they’ll give the bills to a child to put in the plate so she can feel part of the service. Great, we’ve gave our kids money for the plate when they were little. But it was clear to all from the founding of our family that this tip was not the total of our giving. I also noticed that those same children gave with more zeal and joy when the dime or the dollar came from their own allowances. We don’t worship God with pocket change or “extra money.” Our worship costs us something, whether time or service or concentration or sleep or leisure, or money that we could have used for something else. Isn’t that what David was saying when he bought the threshing floor of Araunah to build an altar to the Lord? “I will not offer to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost [me] nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24).

That’s why we give. God has commanded that we give out of gratitude and in acknowledgement of his ownership of everything. The “leftover” money or “give because we need the money” mentalities diminish that acknowledgement. They reduce it to a purely mercenary exchange rather than a spiritual discipline or divine provision. A gift made in that spirit, large or small, is a gift that pays off no joy or spiritual growth.

The fact that some of us have less money now than we did yesterday is no hindrance to the kingdom of God. Eighty percent or more of us were already holding out on God. We call ourselves Christians, say we pray and read our Bible once a week, claim to believe in a limitless person who made us, but consider it all to mean little when compared to our personal financial schemes. If all those who call themselves Christian gave back to the Lord first and by percentage, the amount would rise and fall but it would provide amazing wealth for our churches and institutions and hunger relief and orphaned children and a hundred other very good things. If only those who actually are Christians did that, the gifts would still rise to a total beyond our imaginations. Money is not tight but the faith of most of us is too scarce.

Can we trust God to add all these “other things” to our lives as he promises in Matthew 6:33? What if what he provides is merely adequate and not as nice as what I gave up to trust him? The questions of greed get pretty absurd but we do ask them in our wavering hearts. But we also have the testimony of millions, many of whom we know, who say that they’ve never missed what they traded for peace with God. We have Jesus’ own promise in Matthew 19:29. Is that enough?

It’s intimidating, the possibility that American Christians may face some kind of gut check in our personal prosperity. I don’t take lightly the reality that some of us will lose jobs, homes, health insurance?things that we now take for granted. Part of the test is whether we will trust God amidst fearsome threats. Another part is whether we have the heart to share with our brothers and sisters and thus become part of God’s provision for those who suffer the worst losses.

My point is that, for Christians, this is not about money. It’s about our relationship with God. Can we trust him enough to obey his commandments about money? Is our relationship with God based on more than the things we often consider temporal “blessings?” If it is not, we are pitiable in the midst of any wind that blows. If our view of blessings is more eternal we will have a resilient joy and generous hearts that will pass any test the economy can bring our way.

Agency leaders help SBTC mark 10 years

HOUSTON?Seven Southern Baptist Convention leaders joined in the celebration of the SBTC’s 10th anniversary during its annual meeting in Houston, expressing appreciation for the SBTC’s commitment to share with SBC ministries a higher portion of its Cooperative Program funds than it keeps for in-state use.

“We were your first partner in ministry,” declared GuideStone Financial Resources President O.S. Hawkins. Referring to the current economic crisis, he told ministers concerned about retirement funds that the SBC-owned entity manages, “We’re going to get you through this. One of the reasons we launched those MyDestination Funds was to help guide you through,” he said, referring to investments in a diversified mix that changes over time to meet a given investment strategy.

New products such as property and casualty as well as long-term care insurance are

now being offered by GuideStone, Hawkins noted. The Mission Dignity program assists retired ministers, employees or their widows whose regular income is insufficient to live on, he added, praising the example of Sagemont Church in Houston for giving over $1 million to assist with those benefits.

North American Mission Board President Geoff Hammond recalled his visit to Houston’s First Baptist Church eight weeks earlier to witness the feeding of thousands of meals each day to people who had suffered through Hurricane Ike.

“Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are some of the most dedicated, hardworking people in all the world. They served over 5.5 million meals in those two disasters,” Hammond said, referring also to Hurricane Gustav, which hit several weeks earlier. At least 237 people professed faith in Christ through the ministry of DR volunteers.

Hammond said 5,600 missionaries are mobilized to North America on behalf of Southern Baptists, in addition to 155,000 volunteers serving on long and short-term assignments. Next year NAMB will partner with the SBTC to pilot an evangelistic strategy that engages believers in prayer and witness.

The International Mission Board report came during an evening devoted to the commissioning of the second-largest group of missionaries in Southern Baptist history?half of them with ties to Texas. IMB representatives, including President Jerry Rankin, praised the SBTC’s commitment to missions giving.

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Phil Roberts recalled the contribution of Southern Baptists in Texas who sent volunteers and building materials in 1957 for the facilities still being used. With renovation of campus facilities underway, Roberts said the school’s vitality is due in part “to Southern Baptists of Texas stepping up to the plate when other state conventions decided to draw back in their support of Southern Baptist seminaries.”

In its third year of surpassing the 1,000-students mark, Midwestern has added fully accredited Ph.D. programs in Old and New Testament and opened Midwestern Baptist College, Roberts said. He expressed gratitude for the SBTC’s provision of furnishings in the chapel and a room in the guest housing of Midwestern, Roberts offered a leather-bound copy of Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s “Morning and Evening,” and a bobblehead likeness of Spurgeon in light of Midwestern’s acquisition of Spurgeon’s personal library.

Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson expressed gratitude for the partnership with “the most unselfish and generous of all the state conventions.” He pledged Southwestern’s faithfulness to acknowledge Jesus Christ as sovereign king, to preach and teach the Word of God, to unapologetically teach Baptist theology” and “keeping the world on our heart.”

Executive Committee President Morris Chapman reported on the third straight y

IMB trustees approve slight budget increase, begin reorganization of mission board

HOUSTON–Trustees of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board, meeting in Houston Nov. 10-11, approved a 2009 budget of $319.8 million–a 1.05 percent increase–while moving further along in the reorganization of the board’s missionary work, approving the reassignment of some IMB leaders with new titles and responsibilities.

The meeting preceded the appointment Nov. 11 of 105 new IMB missionaries–the third-largest group since at least 1980–during a commissioning service that closed the annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention at Houston’s First Baptist Church.

Trustee chairman Paul Chitwood of Kentucky told the board, “We have more people coming to us than ever before, and yet our 2009 budget allows no room to send and support more missionaries than we have on the field.”

Stating his hope that the IMB would not be set back in its work because of a faltering economy, “I think it is urgent for us to sound the alarm,” Chitwood said, “before it is too late.”

He challenged fellow trustees to “dig deep in your pockets as the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering approaches,” and encourage the churches to give generously.

“I pray our generosity would match that of the Macedonian churches who gave as much as they were able, as [the apostle] Paul says, gave even beyond their ability to do so.”

The Lottie Moon goal for 2008 is $170 million, which accounts for 53.16 percent of the IMB budget. Southern Baptists gave $150.4 million through the Lottie Moon Offering in 2007.

David Steverson, IMB treasurer and vice president for finance, told trustees the stateside administrative costs would be reduced by 1 percent in 2009.

“The long-term run rate of the administrative part of the work of the Lord will be reduced,” Steverson explained in talking about the budgetary effect of the reorganization. “The efficiency is something that will be quite marvelous” and “well pleasing to the Lord.”

Despite a dismal stock market, Steverson said the IMB’s losses on investments were less than other organizations because of a diversified portfolio.

Steverson said despite the turbulence, “over the last few years our balance sheet shows a substantial increase in net assets. I believe the Lord has prepared us for this time.

“We have this budget just so those missionaries can tell people about Jesus Christ?. Let’s be faithful in remembering who we place our trust in. It’s not Wall Street.”

Steverson said he often goes to bed late at night so he can see the first reports from the opening of the Asian stock markets. “But when I go to sleep, I sleep like a baby because I know who my confidence is in and that is not going to change.”

IMB President Jerry Rankin told trustees the current group of missionaries in training at the Missionary Learning Center in Richmond, Va., is the largest ever.

Rankin said the reshaping of the board’s work is a “formidable task that must be bathed in prayer.” It is the most significant change in the board’s strategy since 1998.

“Continue to pray with us and for us as we collaborate to find those most qualified and led of God” to assume leadership at the IMB in the future.

Rankin said the current economy requires “radical stewardship” and a focus on “one overarching purpose of reaching a lost world.”

Rankin said a term popular at the IMB is “wigtake,” meaning “Whatever it’s going to take” to complete the mission.

Rankin said he personally has accepted that challenge, and has asked each IMB vice president to “do whatever it takes to fulfill our Great Commission task.”

That commitment was signified by the signing by the signing by IMB staff leaders and trustees of a globe Rankin brought to the meeting.

If the reorganization goes as planned, the IMB’s mission of reaching every people group worldwide with the gospel will be aided by a new, streamlined strategy that reshapes the Southern Baptist agency’s work more by religious and cultural affinity than by geography, and maximizes frontline personnel for gospel proclamation.

IMB staff and trustees approved the ambitious reorganization in September and moved further along in the process Nov. 11 by reassigning some IMB leaders with new titles and responsibilities and appointing affinity group strategists.

A task force of trustees and IMB leaders who studied the issue for more than a year recommended the changes, citing changing global conditions and greater stewardship.

“Let’s not forget as we end this [reorganization] that the focus is on effectiveness,” Chitwood, the trustee chairman, said, “Our focus is on results, and we don’t apologize for that. We want to see more souls saved. We want to see more souls saved. We want to see more churches planted. We want to see more believers disciple. We want to see the gospel taken to the nations.

“We want to be more faithful and see greater results …that’s what we’re after in this process—nothing more, nothing less.”

As part of the reorganization, trustees approved the appointment of Randy Pegues as vice president in the new office of global logistical support and Tom Williams as vice president of the office of global personnel. Both will serve in their positions as regional leaders until spring 2009.

The trustees also approved affinity group strategists to work among the eight major religious and cultural groups by which the board will divide its work. These affinity group strategists will work. These affinity group strategists will work. These affinity group strategists will work within the Northern African and Middle Eastern Peoples, Central Asian Peoples, European Peoples, East Asian Peoples, South Asian Peoples, America’s Peoples, and Sub-Saharan African Peoples.

A significant streamlining of administrative duties will be accomplished through four “continental administrative centers” placed strategically around the world, allowing missionaries and their supervisors to focus more on frontline missions, reorganization task force chairman Chuck McAlister said.

The board also received its annual statistic report, showing that IMB missionaries implemented church planting strategies among 1,194 people groups in 2007, including 909 are that considered unreached, meaning that fewer than 2 percent of the population are Christians.

The 27,000 new churches IMB missionaries planted raises the level of IMB-initiated congregations to 182,000—a record number. Baptisms in these churches exceeded 565,900.

The IMB’s next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 26-28 in Richmond, Va.

SBTC board marks overage for Ike relief, evangelism, missions

HOUSTON?As the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention prepares to enter its second decade with an increased budget and larger contribution to Southern Baptist causes, the SBTC Executive Board devoted most of its Nov. 12 meeting following the annual meeting to the allocation of an anticipated 2008 budget overage.

Hurricane-affected ministries, as well as missions and evangelism endeavors, are the primary beneficiaries of the generosity of SBTC churches.

Administrative Committee Chairman Steve Cochran of Longview told the board: “We’re excited to be able to recommend spending money over and above the budget. We know the economy is suffering, but we also know that our God is blessing and we certainly never want to forget that the Scripture says, Give and it shall be given unto you.'”

While the SBTC business plan calls for a long-term reserve of three months, current receipts $2.2 million ahead of the pro-rated budget prompted the board to allocate just over $1 million to specific needs, including depleted disaster relief funds, Ike-related relief, the SBTC Foundation, information technology, missions mobilization and literature, student and collegiate ministry, supplemental funds for evangelism events, the Hispanic Initiative, and the Asian Family Retreat..

Even with the additional expenditures, the SBTC will have seven months in reserve funds.

SBTC Minister/Church Relations Director Mike Smith told the board of ministerial supplements being given to about 30 pastors affected by Hurricane Ike.

“We agreed with them that we’d go three months and review it again for another three months,” Smith said. With various degrees of damage, Smith said some church buildings are water damaged and need repair, some are completely destroyed and others were situated in towns that are completely gone, referring the board to a list of church needs accessible at

Earlier this fall the board authorized an additional $100,000 in designated disaster relief funds as well as $15,000 each for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and the Louisiana Baptist Convention to address emergency needs following Hurricane Gustav.

The increased allocations will provide new equipment for disaster relief, a retreat for Ike-affected ministers and wives in conjunction with the evangelism conference in February, funds to assist SBTC ministers whose income was severely depleted due to the hurricane and general relief to meet other needs and circumstances.

Following the discussion of allocating additional funds, board member Terry Turner of Mesquite remarked, “Just hearing what this convention is doing to help those in need makes me proud to be a part of SBTC.”

Cochran added: “We’re trying as a convention to create the awareness and help open the eyes of our churches because our churches need to be responding … and say, ‘What can my church do to adopt one of these pastors, one of these churches?'”

An additional request by board member Doug Hixson of Pampa was approved, authorizing the administrative committee to consider a $65,000 allocation to the Dakotas Baptist Convention to assist with church planting leadership development and the Sturgis Bike Rally outreach each summer.

“With our official partnership with Dakotas Baptist Convention, the SBTC has a great opportunity to connect our churches with the great need of the Dakotas,” Hixson said. Like many “frontier conventions,” he noted that there are more opportunities for ministry than resources and personnel to complete the task. “The ability of the SBTC, along with our churches, to come alongside them and offer help opens the door for great kingdom work and opportunities for many to hear the message of the gospel.”

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s request to cons

105 new missionaries commissioned in Texas

HOUSTON  In a historic event, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention closed its 11th meeting with a commissioning service for the third-largest group of missionaries appointed by the International Mission Board since at least 1980.

IMB Office of Overseas Operations Vice President Gordon Fort called the SBTC “a model across this country for what it means to give and support” missions work.

The service saw the commissioning of 105 missionaries, more than half of whom are from Texas, were educated in Texas or lived in Texas at some time, an IMB spokesman told the TEXAN.

“We are so grateful to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention for your support. These are your missionaries,” IMB President Jerry Rankin told the audience of around 2,000 people comprised of SBTC messengers, guests and friends or family of those being commissioned.

SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards reiterated the state convention’s commitment to missions since its inception in 1998. Because the SBTC is committed to connecting its churches to missionaries, Richards said 55 percent of the convention’s budget goes to the Southern Baptist Convention, which sends 50 percent of that amount directly to the IMB.

With the appointment of this latest group of missionaries, the number of active missionaries dispatched worldwide is 5,541–more than at any other time.
In his presentation to the candidates Rankin said, “It’s an auspicious time to go. God is using the chaos to fulfill his mission.”

Despite the violence and political and economic upheaval throughout the world, missionaries choose to go. Rankin said it is in the midst of the violence that people are seeking truth and “we are seeing an unprecedented harvest.”

Fort told of a group of Mexicans, tired of the violence and murder perpetuated by the drug lords in their country, who decided the only way to resist the brutality was through Jesus. As drug-related violence has escalated in recent years, 4,000 people have been killed in its wake. Amid this bloodshed the missionaries, whose lives have been threatened, share the hope of Christ.
Consequently, 70 new believers have been added to the rosters of 10 new churches.
Fort reported that 565,000 people were baptized in 2007–the largest numbers on record–and 27,000 new churches have been planted. “God is moving and God is stirring,” Fort said.

But, he cautioned, the 2009 plenary budget, though it provides support for current missionaries in the field and the latest group of appointees, it does not provide for net growth in the missionary force, which means new missionaries are only replacing those retiring without a net gain in numbers.

“If it sounds like I’m sending an alarm, you heard correctly,” he said.

Fort urged churches to give generously to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and help produce a record contribution.

Each of the 105 appointees–husbands and wives and some singles–gave a brief testimony of their call to the field. Most had served in a short-term mission project or journeyman capacity. For some they felt the call while serving; others just knew, without going anywhere, what God was calling them to do, they testified.

Because 54 percent of the missionary force is now serving in high security regions, the appointees last names were not given at the ceremony. Rankin said one couple present at the ceremony did not participate because they could not risk being associated with the IMB.

Their destinations are as close as Canada where one couple will work to reach the students of Toronto while Heather F. will return to Asia with the gospel.

One man, who had been in the halls of a former KGB office, said he and his wife will go to Bucharest to “tell the oppressed about a freedom that is greater than democracy.”

Mihoko’s father and grandfather were Buddhist monks. She was raised in darkness in Japan until an IMB missionary “led me to the light.” She and her husband, Brad, will return to Asia to share that light.

Larry and Amanda always dreamed of adopting a little boy from Africa and naming him Jack. On a short-term trip to that continent they met a little boy named Jack. “Now,” they said, “Africa will be our adopted Jack.”

One woman, a Spanish teacher, was once assigned a short-term trip to Africa. Why a Spanish teacher was sent there was beyond her, she said. But she grew to love the people. Her new assignment as an IMB missionary will be to Spain to serve North African immigrants.

Another couple who had once served in Africa and wanted desperately to return will be deployed to Europe to reach the African people who have left their homelands for countries to the north.

One husband, while on a short-term mission trip, thought he felt the call to fulltime missionary service. Wanting to be certain, he asked God for an obvious sign. The next day while evangelizing in the village his interpreter turned to him and said, “God told me you were born to do this.”

To those who have committed to going, Rankin said their lives are like those of Paul and his peers as portrayed in 1 Thessalonians. The people of Thessalonica saw in Paul the gospel he preached. The power of the Holy Spirit moved in the community to bring people to salvation and they became imitators of Christ.

In so many cultures, Rankin said, the opportunity for sharing the gospel is created by the way the missionaries lead their lives. He encouraged the appointees to stay in the word and immerse themselves in the lives of those they are sent to serve.

On a somber note, Rankin added, “God hasn’t promised a hedge of protection.”

He said it is in times of suffering that missionaries have the greatest opportunity to testify to their faith. I t gives them the chance to live out their faith and demonstrate the victories of the Savior.

Rankin concluded his charge with a challenge to the audience. All believers, he said, are called to missions. The Great Commission found in Matthew is not a call to just the disciples or an elite few.

“It’s not a matter of who will go and who will stay,” he said. “We say we’re willing to go but we’re planning to stay. Have you put a geographic restriction on your call to missions?”

Even with the record number of IMB missionaries in the field, Rankin pointed out that there is one missionary for every 1.6 million people. How will they all know about Jesus? He asked.

SBTC celebrates 10th anniversary at annual meeting in Houston, raises SBC causes to 55 percent

HOUSTON ? Hosted by Houston’s First Baptist Church, the annual meeting of Southern Baptists of Texas Convention returned, Nov. 10-11, to the city where the convention was launched.

“In 1998, conservative Southern Baptists living in Texas saw the need for a new state convention that would work in cooperation with and not in competition with the Southern Baptist Convention,” recalled SBTC President Bob Pearle, pastor of Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth.

“They saw the need for a convention that subscribed to the inerrant, infallible Scripture without caveat ? heavy on missions and light on bureaucracy,” he added.

The 1,033 registered messengers and 546 guests celebrating the convention’s growth from 120 to 2,079 affiliated churches credited God’s provision in funding budgets that increased from $903,500 in 1999 to $20,935,548 in 2008. Messengers approved a budget of $24,548,566 for 2009 ? an increase of nearly 14 percent.

“We come today to celebrate our heritage with praise to God after a decade of sovereign blessings and divine direction,” Pearle said. “We celebrate God’s goodness to us knowing we stand today not because of human ingenuity but because of the multitudinous blessings of almighty God on our convention.”

Pearle recognized members of the 1998 search committee that “God led to an individual who has done an excellent job in formulating and bringing together this convention to its dynamic state today,” said Pearle, alluding to SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards.

Richards and his wife, June, were honored with a globe for their decade of service, “since Jim has the world on his heart,” Pearle said.

Richards declared in his report, “SBTC does not equivocate or vacillate.We stand firmly on the foundation of a confessional fellowship. Our vision remains unchanged.”

Calif. passes Prop 8, a landmark pro-family win; Ariz. & Fla. also adopt marriage amends

SACRAMENTO, Calif.–California voters Tuesday overruled the state Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing “gay marriage,” and in the process handed the nationwide pro-family movement one of its most significant victories ever.

With 95 percent of results tabulated, Proposition 8 — a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman — led by 52-48 percent and a margin of 400,000 votes out of nearly 10 million cast.

The amendment reverses the high court’s landmark May decision and serves as the biggest setback yet for homosexual activists in their goal of legalizing “gay marriage” nationwide.

It is the first time that voters in a state have overturned a court’s decision on the issue. The amendment reads, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

“When one looks at the demographics of California, if traditional marriage can win in California, it can win in any of the 50 states when it’s put to a vote of the people,” Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist Press.

The victory was but one of four “gay rights” ballot initiatives where conservatives were victorious. Florida adopted a marriage amendment — passing it 62-38 percent and surpassing the necessary 60 percent supermajority — while Arizona passed its own marriage amendment, 56-44 percent, two years after citizens there had become the first state to defeat an amendment.

Three-fifths (30) of the states now have adopted a marriage amendment.

Meanwhile, a ballot initiative in Arkansas prohibiting adoptions by cohabitating heterosexual and homosexual couples passed, 57-43 percent. The only loss of the night for conservatives pertaining to “gay rights” came in Connecticut, where voters by a margin of 59-41 percent rejected a once-every-two-decades question asking whether a constitutional convention should be held. Conservatives had hoped to use the convention to legalize direct initiative in the state and then to gather enough signatures to place a marriage amendment on the ballot.

The win in California easily was the night’s highlight for social conservatives — and a shock to many political observers. The Yes for 8 campaign trailed in the final three pre-election public polls and even trailed in the Election Day exit polling, 53-47 percent. With the amendment’s passage, it is uncertain what will happen to the thousands of licenses already issued.

“Given the Full Faith and Credit Clause found in our [federal] Constitution, if it hadn’t passed, we would have seen a floodgate opened in terms of same-sex marriage. Now, we’ve closed that gate,” Ken Blackwell, former Ohio secretary of state and current senior fellow at the Family Research Council, said during a conference call with reporters. “… We now don’t have the threat of the rapid expansion of same-sex marriage throughout the country.”

Prop 8 supporters had to overcome at least three major obstacles in recent months, the first of which came in early June when the California Supreme Court refused to delay its ruling from going into effect until after the November vote; backers knew it could be much tougher to pass an amendment when licenses already were being issued. A second obstacle came later in June, when California Attorney General Jerry Brown changed the ballot language (the actual language voters see in the voting booth) to say that it “eliminates the right of same-sex couples to marry” — a much more negative description than what it previously read. Thirdly, supporters of Prop 8 had to survive an influx of cash to the opposition; over the final month of the campaign, the main opposition group — boosted by money from big-name Hollywood stars, homosexual interests groups and the California Teachers Association — raised $19 million, significantly more than the $10.3 million brought in by, the lead organization supporting it. Fundraising was critical to purchasing television ads.

Conservatives feared that California — a trend-setter in social issues as the nation’s most populous state — also would lead the way in legalizing “gay marriage” nationwide. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom famously told a cheering crowd after the high court issued its decision, “As California goes, so goes the nation.” In hindsight, conservatives hope he was right.

Prop 8 supporters won by successfully changing the discussion about “marriage rights” to a discussion on the impact of “gay marriage.” They ran television commercials showing how children in public schools would learn about “gay marriage” if the decision was not overturned. They also effectively used Newsom in a TV ad, showing him confidently telling a crowd in reference to “gay marriage” legalization, “It’s gonna happen, whether you like it or not!” Additionally, Prop 8 backers successfully energized churchgoers to vote in droves.

The fact that marriage amendments passed in California and Florida — two states carried by Democrat Barack Obama — is noteworthy, Blackwell said.

“I think it’s important that … folks understand that we don’t put these issues on the ballot because they are wedge issues or issues to be used as political tools,” he said. “We really put them on the ballot because we think it’s important to get public policy that respects the desires of the body politic.”

In California, 35 percent of Democrats voted for the amendment, while in Florida, the number was 47 percent. Blacks also overwhelmingly backed the amendments; in California, 70 percent of African Americans voted for Prop 8, and in Florida, 71 percent of black voters voted for Amendment 2.

Florida’s marriage amendment passed despite being outspent by an estimated margin of 3-to-1 and despite a campaign by opponents to make the debate about anything but “gay marriage.” The victory ended a three-plus-year effort that began with the collecting of signatures to place it on the ballot.

“Once again the people of Florida have spoken,” said John Stemberger, chairman of Florida’s “They have voted for the common sense of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

Gathering election night at Orlando’s First Baptist Church of Central Florida, several hundred supporters of Amendment 2 watched cable news network election results, while carefully monitoring the votes on the marriage amendment coming in from across the state. By the time it was safe to declare victory at around 11 p.m. Eastern, about two dozen supporters sang the Fanny Crosby hymn, “To God be the Glory,” and closed with a time of prayer led by Clayton Cloer, pastor of First Baptist Central Florida and leader of the effort to rally pastors to support the amendment.

The victory in Arizona means that every state that has placed a marriage amendment on the ballot eventually has passed it. The 2006 amendment failed, 52-48 percent, mainly because opponents successfully changed the debate away from “gay marriage.” That was not the case this time, because supporters tweaked the amendment so that it banned “gay marriage” only and left the issue of same-sex civil unions for another day.