HORSESHOE BAY, Texas ? Nothing catalyzes Americans to action more than the violation of personal, physical freedom, said WORLD magazine founder Joel Belz, speaking during the 2009 Association of State Baptist Papers fellowship in Horseshoe Bay, Feb. 10-13. Describing Western culture’s captivation with civil liberties, Belz warned against a grosser perversion of the God-given gift of physical freedom that occurs not at gunpoint, but in a “quiet embezzlement while no one is watching.”
“We do not have to fear atomic bombs; we do need to fear godless men and their ideas,” said Belz, quoting the late Fulton J. Sheen, an American bishop of the Roman Catholic Church who conducted a weekly television program in the 1950s.”
Liberty a gift, not a right
Admitting that it may sound “overly cheap and almost obscene” to assert that civil liberties are not at the core of the true meaning of freedom, Belz argued that physical freedom and freedom of religion are not the ultimate issues of liberty.
Noting he could easily set the stage for a discussion on freedom with warnings of Muslim extremists, or North Korea and Iran’s nuclear capabilities, Belz instead called attention to Matthew 10:28, which states: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
“There is a strange tendency among us all when we take up the issue of liberty in general and religious liberty in particular to reduce the discussion to somehow its most tangible and visible aspects,” he said. “So, we measure liberty’s progress overly much in terms of the absence of literal chains ? the absence of literal jail cells, the absence of literal guns, or the absence, in Muslim terms, of literal gallows.”
Americans think of themselves as free people primarily because the country has been mostly spared from physical restraint in the forms of totalitarian governments or repressive religious regimes, he said.
Careful not to minimize God’s gracious dealings toward the American nation, Belz said the global persecution of the church is the subject of four to five pages in WORLD magazine.
“Nonetheless, I hope we still always see such reports in their right perspective. That perspective is that throughout the long history of God’s people from Old Testament times until this very moment, persecution and the loss of civil liberty and the reduction of personal freedom have been among the very best gifts that God ever gives to his children,” he said. “Just like the blood of martyrs throughout the history of the church wonderfully watered the church as thousands of able young people committed their lives to the preaching of the gospel around the world.”
As such, Belz said, liberty is neither an end itself, nor is it a personal right. Instead, liberty should be viewed as a gift.
“Freedom and liberty of this sort are gifts God graciously extends to some of his servants, just as to some he gives good health, or financial prosperity, or beautiful children. But we should never fall into the trap of supposing that the state of political liberty or civic freedom is the norm for God’s people ? just as we do not expect that he owes us perfect health or a big bank account or deliverance from Wall Street or beautiful children.”
The fact that the nation has been largely spared from physical enslavement has both spoiled and blinded the church, Belz said, noting that “God’s goodness might be even more extravagantly expressed to his people when he sends us to Egypt or to Babylon.”
“The irony in all this may be that in our aversion to physical bondage and to persecution we have such a remarkable tendency to fall into bondage to a very different taskmaster ? our love for freedom. Our love for freedom can become our taskmaster,” he said.
And in a culture built on Patrick Henry’s famous credo, “give me liberty or give me death,” Belz said one only has to look at the annals of history to see the abuse of freedom paves the way for nominalism in the church.
“?I’m going to ask you to ponder the extent to which we, right here in America, have come to overly worship the gift of freedom that God has given us ? more than the giver of that gift himself,” he said, alluding to America’s “love affair” with the Declaration of Independence. “Just as we do with some of his other good gifts, we make freedom a false god, pushing from his rightful place the God that may or may not choose to give us such freedom. We come to the point of insisting this gift is instead our birthright.”
While agreeing that bondage is something from which to ask God’s deliverance, Belz proposed that “loss of liberty” could also serve as part of God’s plan of enrichment for his followers.
HORSESHOE BAY, Texas ? Baptist editors were urged to remain faithful to their calling as truth-tellers for Southern Baptists during the 2009 Association of State Baptist Papers fellowship in Horseshoe Bay, Feb. 10-13. The meeting was hosted by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
Keynote speaker and founder of WORLD magazine, Joel Belz, also called on the editors not to abandon print media, but instead to infuse their work with a Christian worldview.
“Now when we live in a time when the printed page is called an endangered species, I want to say to you don’t believe it,” said Belz, who writes a weekly column for WORLD and is co-author of “Whirled Views,” a collection of columns with WORLD Editor-in-Chief Marvin Olasky. “It is still a powerful, powerful tool once you learn to make it useful.”
WORLD magazine’s roots draw from the Presbyterian Journal, a North Carolina newspaper founded by Nelson Bell, the father-in-law of Billy Graham, and God’s World, a weekly series for children that is still published today. Although WORLD faced a rocky start, the “senior version” of the kids magazine just recently surpassed the circulation of Christianity Today.
But even with a strong subscription list, Belz said he still has difficulty finding qualified writers to evaluate movies, books, music and art for the magazine’s review section. The founder eventually developed three criteria. First, a reporter must “see” accurately what is going on in any piece of art. Second, a reporter must report with interest what they have seen. And third, the reporter must write from a shepherd’s heart.
As he developed his qualifications for the review section, Belz said he realized those qualifications applied to the entire magazine, whether covering the federal stimulus bill or international issues.
“The basic premise of WORLD is from 1 John 1: 3, which states, ‘What we have seen and heard we declare to you.’ We are not there to simply warm over other people’s reports. [We] ask questions and see it for ourselves,” he said, adding that they recently sent a reporter to Baghdad for a week. “I’m not sure how many of you have done reporting in other countries. I like to be where I am safe, but if I am safe will I see what’s true?”
The tension between reporting from a position of safety and truly engaging the truth of a story is felt by every reporter, Belz said. The tension can also be seen in a church setting as editors seek to discern issues in a local church, region, or convention.
“When you talk to people, are you talking from a perspective of safety or are you talking from a perspective of seeing the truth?” he asked. “I discovered right away that what I thought at first for the review section was applicable to the whole magazine.”
But the call to be a truth-teller also applies to a believer’s personal walk with God, Belz said.
“It is incumbent on you as a disciple of Jesus to work harder and harder to see the world the way he sees it. That is what Christian worldview thinking is ? you see the world the way God sees it,” he said. “That is your task, not just as an editor, publisher or church person, but as a disciple of Jesus to see the world in crisper and crisper terms the way God sees it. And then to bear witness to what you’ve seen with interest.”
In the same way a reporter tries to draw a reader into his story, believers should seek to draw the lost into the gospel message.
“You don’t want to be Jesus’ witness with boring language ? you want to put it in sparkling terms [to those] who may have never heard.”
Held in connection with the fellowship of State Convention Executive Directors, editors also received updates from media representatives of LifeWay Christian Resources, the International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board, as well as remarks on the national evangelism initiative known as GPS (God’s Plan for Sharing) by NAMB President Geoff Hammond.
At the invitation of ASBP President Gary Ledbetter, two SBC entities appeared for the first time in decades to give reports t
EULESS?The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Empower Evangelism Conference, held Feb. 16-18 at First Baptist Church of Euless, drew large crowds to hear country/bluegrass musician Ricky Skaggs and his Kentucky Thunder band and preachers such as Jerry Vines, Will Graham, Lee Strobel and Jonathan Falwell.
Actor Clyde Annandale performed between speakers and musicians at the conference with narrative monologues portraying biblical characters such as the Roman centurion who thrust the spear into Jesus’ side at the crucifixion and the Jewish high priest Caiaphas.
During the Grammy-winning Skaggs’ performance Feb. 16, few empty seats were visible as his mountain-style bluegrass music had conference goers clapping and a few visitors even more exuberant.
Charles Billingsley, the Booth Brothers, Dawn Smith Jordan, and the choir of Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth also sang during the conference.
The Hispanic sessions of the conference, held Feb. 15 at First Baptist Church of Colleyville and Feb. 16 at the Campus West facility of First Baptist Euless, were well attended also, with the Feb. 15 rally drawing 1,000 people and resulting in 100 salvation decisions recorded as evangelist Alberto Mottesi preached.
During the conference, SBTC Evangelism Director Don Cass presented the W.A. Criswell Lifetime Achievement Award for Pastoral Evangelism to John Bisagno, longtime pastor, now retired, of Houston’s First Baptist Church. The Oklahoma native led the Houston church for more than 30 years.
Cass presented the Roy Fish Lifetime Achievement Award for Vocational Evangelism to John McKay, a native of Turkey, Texas, who was saved at age 13 at a Southern Baptist church in Fort Worth. McKay, a member of Sagemont Church in Houston, has led revivals and crusades internationally and throughout the United States with evangelist James Robison and many others.
GALVESTON?Hurricane Ike took its toll on Cove Baptist Church in Orange last September, with the church sitting in the epicenter of the storm.
So when the First Baptist Church in the East Texas town of Malakoff saw fit to donate its church pews to Cove Baptist, its gift was well received and much needed.
In what FBC Malakoff Pastor Nathan Lorick said was providential timing, the church was in the midst of a building project late last year and trying to add some needed space in their church auditorium. In the construction phase of the project they were in the process of replacing their church pews with individual sanctuary chairs, and hoped to find a congregation in need of their wooden pews when they came across Cove Baptist Church.
Lorick said his church met in a tent outside its normal facilities while the auditorium was being completed when his church decided to give its pews to Cove Baptist.
“God has blessed First Baptist Church Malakoff by allowing us to be a blessing to another church. It is our desire to see God move in awesome ways through FBC and Cove Baptist Church as we strive to change the world together,” Lorick said. “We consider it a great joy to be able to help another church during a time of need.”
The congregation of Cove Baptist also noted God’s providential blessing amid the crisis as they saw the Lord meet innumerable needs in the weeks following Ike.
John Marshall, a pastor at Cove Baptist Church, said that while the church facilities were still structurally sound in the aftermath of Ike, the pews and interior items were completely destroyed as they were flooded with over five feet of water. Also lost in the hurricane’s wake was the church organ and grand piano.
Marshall remarked that the very week that his church prayed for new pews to replace the ones that were destroyed by the floodwater, FBC Malakoff called with the offer to ship their pews to Orange. Marshall said God’s provision in this period of rebuilding has been nothing less than remarkable and has resulted in a renewed sense of God’s presence and purpose in the day-to-day affairs of his congregation.
Moreover, he said Ike’s destruction has sparked something akin to a revival in his congregation, even resulting in the salvation of a young person in the youth ministry. Marshall said the high school ministry is meeting in the kitchen facilities of Cove Baptist Church due to the enormous flooding the meeting hall endured, but the ministry has gone on.
FORT WORTH?In 1990, a small group of women were invited to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for the first Women’s Leadership Consultation (WLC). Current Southwestern first lady Dorothy Patterson was part of this initial group of women who had a shared commitment to equip women for kingdom ministries.
This one-time event quickly developed into an established conference, rotating annually between the six Southern Baptist seminaries.
The 2009 WLC reconvened on the campus of Southwestern Seminary Feb. 5-7, where the conference began 19 years earlier. Patterson and Terri Stovall, dean of women’s programs at Southwestern, decided the theme for 2009 would be: “Count It All Joy: Living, Serving, Leading in Difficult Times” from James 1:2-4.
“We began to see women who were faithful followers wanting to know how to deal with the trials that come our way in the manner that God wants,” Stovall said.
However, “we never knew that once the time of the conference arrived that our nation would be at a place where few of us are untouched by difficulties.”
Featured speakers included Iris Blue, Jenny Broughton and Florence Littauer, who Patterson said are “some of the women I most admire” for their dedication to God in tough times. Though these women come from diverse backgrounds, each of their testimonies revolves around finding delight in God in the midst of adversity.
Breakout sessions highlighted tracks including the family, the home, serving and leading and were taught by women ranging from lay leaders to women’s studies scholars from across the country.
Southwestern offered several continuing education workshops and courses as optional supplements to the conference. Women could take Ministry in the Home, Introduction to Women’s Ministry or Biblical Counseling for Women for academic credit or attend a pre-conference workshop by Littauer on public speaking.
Katie McCoy, chosen with Sarah Bubar, Gabrielle Pickle and Misti Poulos in Fall 2008 to be WLC seminary student interns, said having a team with “different gifts and strengths plus the same servant-hearted spirit” gave her invaluable hands-on ministry experience.
“I will never again sit at a conference without saying a prayer of thanks for the hard workers behind the scenes,” Pickle said. “This opportunity has taught me that big things can be accomplished for the kingdom with just a handful of dedicated people who use their talents for kingdom work.”
Watching women from various walks of life come together to learn and apply biblical truth provides testimony of the SBC’s commitment to support women in spiritual growth and ministry involvement. In the midst of building friendships, Patterson said each woman was “stretched, encouraged and equipped for future service to Christ.”
Investment managers commonly say “past performance is no guarantee of future returns.” This statement has never been truer than in today’s economic environment. Though investment managers say “past performance is no guarantee of future returns,” ironically they use past performance from normal market conditions to assist in their current investment strategy and portfolio modeling.
However, today’s economic market is far from normal. Therefore, very few historical records of such huge market swings as we are experiencing are available for comparison. As a result, opinions differ as to what will happen next in the economy. Some advisors say that the market has fallen as far as it is going to fall with an upturn in the near future. Other advisors are suggesting that we could be on the verge of the next Great Depression. The bottom line is nobody really knows!
Even though nobody knows exactly what to expect, many of our churches are beginning to feel the effects of a depressed and unstable economy. As you lead your church to make an impact for God’s kingdom in the days ahead, here are 10 tips to help your church not only survive but thrive through the financials challenges it may face in the near future.
?1. Remind your people that God is in control. One of the names used for God in the Old Testament is Jehovah Jireh (“The Lord Provides”). His Word also promises in the New Testament that he will meet all of our needs according to his riches in glory.
?2. Teach biblical stewardship. Many of our church members need to be reminded of the biblical stewardship principles God gives us in his Word. Our congregations need to be instructed in areas of money management, debt reduction, and especially the tithe.
?3. Recommit to a priority of missions and evangelism. Fewer operating resources always force us to reconsider our priorities. Difficult times should not cause us to back away from the Great Commission, but rather to focus and commit to our Lord’s command all the more.
?4. Evaluate practices. Make sure your church is using sound financial practices in how it collects, records, and distributes its funds.
?5. Build-up reserves. Most financial advisors encourage individuals to have a savings reserve of three to six months of expenses. It would be wise for our churches to also strive to have similar reserves.
?6. Have a backup plan. Be prepared for a decline in your receipts by having a secondary budget that is 10- to 15-percent less than your current budget.
?7. Properly manage debt. It may be wise to avoid or pay off debt during these times. However, if you must take on debt, do so wisely. First, try to not borrow more than twice your annual undesignated receipts. Second, make sure that your monthly payments are not higher than 20-25 percent of your monthly expenses. Third, attempt to keep your total loan amount less than $2,500 per giving unit. These recommendations are less than what a typical bank would require in order to give your church additional protection during this particular economic environment.
?8. Encourage estate giving. As giving from annual income goes down, this is a perfect opportunity to encourage your congregation to support your ministry with all of their assets through an estate gift. As you reaffirm biblical stewardship principles, you might challenge your congregation to leave a tithe of their estate to the church.
?9. Offer help to the community. If your church is suffering, then most likely your community is suffering. As a form of outreach use this current situation to offer help to your community through money management classes and benevolent ministries.
?10. Seek personal renewal. Times of difficulty always create opportunities for spiritual growth and renewal. As these economic challenges force your families to reprioritize their lives, help them do so in a way that strengthens their love, faith, and commitment to Jesus Christ our Lord.
For more information, visit sbtexas.com or call toll-free 877-953-7282.
?This column first appeared in iLead, a monthly e-newsletter of the SBTC Church Ministries team. It is adapted for use in the TEXAN. Johnathan Gray is executive director of the SBTC Foundation.
The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Empower Evangelism Conference is a major emphasis each year. The conference is a time of refreshment and refocus?a time to get our hearts prepared to do the work of an evangelist.
Don Cass, your SBTC director of evangelism, and the team that works with him, cover every imaginable area of evangelism. Beyond the staff the SBTC uses consultants who write strategic pieces for churches to use. There is a resource center at the SBTC offices that is available to all churches. Gospel tracts, videos, witness training and other evangelistic material may be accessed by calling 817-552-2500 or visiting sbtexas.com.
One of my favorite witnessing tools is freegiftforlife.com. My testimony is on the website. Cards are available that can be used like a gospel tract. Rarely do I leave a restaurant without placing one of those cards on the table. My site has experienced over 100 hits. You can personalize a witnessing card and have your site too.
The North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention has developed an evangelism initiative called “God’s Plan for Sharing.” The sub-theme is “Every Believer Sharing?Every Person Hearing” by the year 2020. Each state convention decides whether or not to participate. The SBTC has chosen to be a part of this exciting effort. The SBTC is customizing the plan to fit our state’s context. This could be one of the efforts that will spark a spiritual awakening among God’s people.
The Apostle Paul said, “Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice,” (Philippians 1:18b NKJV). There are groups across Texas, in the United States and around the world that I may not agree with on certain doctrines, but when the gospel is preached I rejoice. The SBTC may not join hands with all those groups, but the people of God praise the Lord for every genuine effort put forth.
My encouragement to you is to be intentional in presenting the Good News to those without Christ. The SBTC can help you in everything from “One Verse Evangelism” training to planning a “Big Game Supper.”
Vacation Bible School is arguably the most productive evangelistic ministry of Southern Baptists. Plan now to have an outreach to boys, girls and teenagers through VBS.
As the old story goes, when the soul-winner was criticized about his method he asked, “What is yours?” The critic answered, “I don’t have one.” The soul-winner said, “I like my method better.”
Stay positive. People need to hear about Jesus. Be innovative. Do what you have to do, but do something to get the gospel out.
A six-person missions team from Central Baptist Church in College Station ventured to the AIDS-ravaged country of Uganda late last year to assess needs for future work, with plans to return this summer.
In Uganda, with 31 million people in an area the size of Oregon, medical supplies and educational opportunities are limited, and the needs are great.
“I feel pulled in the direction of helping improve the availability of medical care in Uganda,” said team member Eric Wilke, a physician who has traveled there before, even taking his family on one of the trips.
The team of six traveled there with Wilke, church missions coordinator Kelly Kleinkort, university pastor George Jacobus, and church members Bethany Crutcher, Faith Payne, and Tara Thompson.
Even before they had decided to go on the trip, Wilke, an emergency room physician, said the Holy Spirit had been moving in him to return.
The Ugandan people are not educated on prevention of certain diseases, including the spread of HIV/AIDS, Wilke said. Folklore says Ugandan men may be healed of their disease if they sleep with a virgin. AIDS has killed approximately one million people, and has significantly reduced life expectancy. It has depleted the country’s labor force, reduced agricultural output and food security, and weakened educational and health services. The large number of AIDS-related deaths among young adults has left behind over a million orphaned children.
While living in Phoenix, Wilke became aware of Love Works International and the start of New Hope Primary School and Orphanage through the work of Ugandan pastor Chris Lubega, which has grown in six years from six children to more than 1,000. Upon returning to Texas, Wilke had told Lubega to contact Kleinkort, Central Baptist’s mission coordinator, to see what role Central could play in supporting the ministry there.
“We had arrived at the airport in Entebbe, Uganda at night,” Kleinkort said. “It was just as one might expect a third-world country might be?loud, dirty, unsanitary and crowded,” she said.
Crutcher added, “I was filled with a sense of excitement and anticipation. I was ready to see what work the Lord had for us that week.” Little did she know what an extraordinary impact the people of Uganda would have on her, she recalled.
Each day the orphans would line up for medical treatment, some with extremely painful remedies, but nothing there was taken for granted.
“Children in Uganda are grateful for whatever treatment they receive regardless of any pain they might have to endure. They’re just so brave,” Crutcher said.
Such was the case with one little boy with a large infection in his knee. It started off as a small cut, but due to lack of cleanliness and sterilization of the sore it became infected. In order to help the young boy he had to bear tremendous pain to heal his leg.
“The roles of men, women and children are very different there than here in the United States,” Wilke said, “In Uganda the role of each individual is just seeking basic survival. With there being a dramatic difference in the prosperity of the United States and Uganda, people are the same in a fundamental sense, yet without the extreme noise of American materialism. But it’s funny?without that ‘noise’ many of the Ugandan people seem to have more joy despite having nothing.”
Noting a congregation worshipping in a building with only three walls, Wilke said, “There is a palpable and tangible presence of the Holy Spirit. It is truly amazing.”
Like many African countries, there are many opportunities for gospel ministry and relief work.
“Because of the mandate Christ has put on every believer, we are to go,” Kleinkort said.
HARRISON, Ark.?SBTC Disaster Relief (DR) chainsaw volunteers cleared debris for Arkansas families affected by the ice storm that hit Jan. 27-28 across the mid-South and Midwest.
Paul Morrow, an SBTC chainsaw team supervisor from Forest Home Baptist Church in Kilgore, who along with his wife, Billie Sue, traveled to Harrison, Ark., the week following the storm, said SBTC volunteers were well received while working there Feb. 4-11.
Morrow said one of the jobs they completed was for an 84-year-old woman who was raising her grandsons, ages 5 and 7. The woman’s home was surrounded by large, downed trees that prevented them from safely walking around the property. In a few hours, the SBTC team was able to clear the debris and make the property safe for the boys and their grandmother, Morrow said.
Derek Milstead, a member of Trinity Baptist Church in Bridge City, was on his first DR mobilization after being the recipient of disaster relief ministry last fall as Baptist volunteers removed debris and mud from his property and home in Bridge City after Hurricane Ike.
Milstead said he took the opportunity to give back. He is living in a FEMA trailer in Bridge City; his home is gutted because of flood damage.
“Disaster relief ministry gives us the opportunity to impact the lives of people at a very critical time,” said SBTC DR Director Jim Richardson. “People need physical assistance and we have the opportunity to share the hope of our Lord Jesus as we assist them with their physical needs.”
Arkansas, the second hardest-hit state behind Kentucky, requested shower units and chainsaw teams from other states as 350,000 customers were without power and 48 counties were declared federal disaster areas.
DR TRAINING SCHEDULED
An SBTC Disaster Relief phase two training is scheduled March 16-21 at Highland Lakes Camp and Conference Center in Spicewood for those who have attended phase one training. The training sessions will include specialty schools in DR tasks such as feeding and chainsaw work as well as CPR, chaplaincy or ham radio operations. Also, Baptist Global Response instructors will offer international disaster relief training.
For more information on the phase two training or other DR training events, visit sbtexas.com/DR or contact Amber Nygaard in the SBTC office toll-free at 877-953-7282 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
MEMPHIS, Tenn.?Six people were found shot and stabbed to death in a mass murder in Memphis’ dangerous Binghamton neighborhood. Three children who survived the attack were hospitalized in critical condition.
And before the dead bodies were cold, yet another shooting and robbery took place in the same gang- and drug-plagued Binghamton area, located just six miles from downtown Memphis.
Southern Baptist missionaries Willie and Ozzie Jacobs Jr.?believing it will take no less than Jesus Christ to once and for all change the crime-culture of Memphis and stop such senseless neighborhood violence and bloodshed?have taken on the challenge.
Although now in their early 60s and married for 41 years, the couple is not ready for matching rocking chairs and simply waiting on monthly Social Security checks. They are on a mission from God in one of the perennial “Top Ten” most dangerous cities in the United States.
“Memphis is in the middle of spiritual warfare,” Jacobs remarked when asked about the spiritual climate of Tennessee’s youngest but second-largest metro area. “We’re dealing with murder, crime and drugs throughout the city. There’s a racial divide that has plagued Memphis since the days of Dr. Martin Luther King. It’s never healed. There’s also an economic and a political divide. In the middle of all this, we try to do ministry.”
And as if ministry in Memphis was not challenging enough, Jacobs serves the North American Mission Board?in partnership with the Tennessee Baptist Convention and the Mid-South Baptist Association?as regional coordinator of church planting for the four-state Memphis Delta Region, including parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas and Missouri.
The Jacobses are two of 5,500 missionaries in the United States, Canada and their territories supported by the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions. They are among the NAMB missionaries featured as part of the annual Week of Prayer, March 1-8. This year’s theme is “Live with Urgency: Sowing Together for Harvest.” The 2009 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering’s goal is $65 million, 100 percent of which benefits missionaries like the Jacobses.
Willie and Ozzie (pronounced “O-zie”) didn’t have to transfer to Memphis last July. They were quite happy and content in Columbus, Ohio, where Willie was serving as a church planting strategist for the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio. Before that, he spent 30 years as a full-time pastor?20 years at a single church?in the Dallas area. Both Alabama natives, they now live in nearby Collierville, Tenn., and have three grown daughters and two grandchildren.
“For 40 years, we dreamed of the day when we’d become missionaries going to Africa,” he said. “But God allowed the mission field to come to us, after years of experience as a pastor in Texas.
“We came to Memphis because we sensed the lostness and spiritual climate of Memphis. We felt the Lord wanted us to come here and make an impact in new and innovative ways. This is a God-sized job here in Memphis when you look at the enormous responsibility we’ve been given as national missionaries.” He said sometimes it’s almost overwhelming.
Jacobs has launched a multi-pronged strategy for the Memphis area. He does his best to work along aside other predominantly African-American denominations?strong in Memphis?such as the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) and the National Baptist Convention, although “their concept of missions is quite different from ours as Southern Baptists,” Jacobs admitted.
“One of the biggest challenges we face among Southern Baptist churches is to help people change their mindsets about how ministry is done. The churches need to learn new approaches in order to reach people with the gospel, and do it in such a way that’s non-threatening. You have to build relationships,” Jacobs said.
“There’s a real need for churches to realize that ministry takes place on the outside and that a lot of the needs of people are going unmet because church members and fellowships are not going out.”
The greater Memphis area has a population of 1.2 million, making the city Tennessee’s second-largest metropolitan area behind <st1