Month: May 2009

Criswell grads told to emulate Ezra

DALLAS? Addressing Criswell College’s 34th commencement, former Criswell professor Richard D. Land turned to Ezra 7:6-9 to describe the goals and aspirations of God’s servants, encouraging the 47 graduates to know and do the Word of God as they teach it wherever God directs them.

“Ezra knew his Bible,” said Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, comparing that quality to the expectation of a Criswell College graduate. “When we have the good hand of our God upon us it means God’s power is being applied in and through our lives.”

Ezra first prepared his heart, Land explained. “This is a man who had an enviable reputation as a Bible scholar and yet he made it the settled goal and purpose of his life to seek the law of the Lord.”

Land warned graduates of a subtle temptation to treat God’s Word with familiarity. “You’ve had more time to study in the last three or four years than you’re ever going to have again,” he said, urging them to handle the Word with reverence.

“In ministry, integrity is everything,” Land reminded. “To really know it you have to do it. Practice what you preach. The closer we draw to the Lord, the more aware we are of our sinfulness and things that need to be changed.”

Land told graduates to follow Ezra’s example as they teach the statutes and the judgments. “A man of God is not a title that is conferred; it is an aura that comes from one who seeks to know the Word of God, do the Word of God and teach the statutes and the judgments.”

Thirty-six students were awarded the bachelor of arts degree and one student received an associate of arts degree. Eight students earned the master of arts degree and two received master of divinity degrees.

Honorary doctor of divinity degrees were awarded by the school’s board of trustees, recognizing distinguished service in the cause of Jesus Christ by both Land and longtime New Testament and Greek Professor H. Leroy Metts. Land was honored for his exemplary leadership in pastoral ministry, visionary leadership for ministry education and administrative leadership as president of ERLC.

In presenting the honorary degree, Criswell College Interim President Lamar E. Cooper Sr. commended Land’s service as a professor of theology and church history in the early years of Criswell College, and later serving as vice-president of academic affairs. Land led in designing the biblical studies curriculum and the graduate program during his 13 years at the school.

Since 1988 Land has led the ERLC to form biblically-based resources on moral and social issues and stand for biblical principles and family values before local, state and federal legislators, Cooper said. He commended Land’s willingness to “take a public stand for biblically correct social and moral issues” and his innovative use of the media to educate and inform the public on crucial issues facing the world.

Land is a native Houstonian and sixth-generation Texan. He and his wife, Rebekah, have three grown children.

Metts was commended for his “unswerving commitment and dedication” to Criswell College since joining the faculty in 1976.

“Throughout his tenure, Dr. Metts has impacted the lives of hundreds of students he has faithfully mentored,” Cooper said. “He not only meets with students during the early morning hours before classes begin, but he is a genuine friend to them outside the classroom in their personal and ministry endeavors,” he added.

In 2001 a Greek Language Award was introduced in honor of Metts and the alumni association honored him by inaugurating a scholarship awarded annually in his honor. While serving at the college, Metts also chaired the New Testament department for many years. He pastored churches in South Carolina and Texas and taught adjunctively for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Metts and his wife, Jeanie, have two grown children and three grandsons.

Texas-based chaplain ministers after Iraq shooting

BAGHDAD, Iraq?It wasn’t by chance that Chaplain (Capt.) Kent Coffey arrived at the Combat Stress Center on Camp Liberty in Baghdad, Iraq, just moments after a U.S. soldier opened fire, killing five soldiers and wounding three others May 11.

“It was the providence of God that I was even aware of what had happened,” Coffey said. He and his assistant (Pvt.) Russ Glover were walking back to the division chapel after lunch, 30 minutes later than normal, when they noticed emergency vehicle lights at the Combat Stress Center. Having served closely with combat stress team members, Coffey and Glover stopped to see if they could be of help.

They were the first chaplain team to arrive on the scene. Coffey sent Glover to the chapel to call for chaplain reinforcements while he talked to the soldiers on site to sort out what had happened.

Once the division chaplain arrived to take over at the scene of the incident, Coffey and Glover headed to the Troop Medical Clinic where the wounded soldiers were being treated. They arrived just as the medical staff had “called” the death of one of the victims.

“The staff was still lingering in the treatment room, so I gathered them all, and we said a prayer for the soldier’s family,” Coffey recounted. The commander of the medical unit asked Coffey to stay and help with an After Action Review. “I said a prayer and spoke some words of encouragement, offering my praise for the work they do in times like these.”

In the meantime, the division chapel where Coffey serves had been turned into the center of operations for evaluating the soldiers who had been in the Combat Stress Center at the time of the shootings. Coffey soon learned that one of his battalion’s soldiers had witnessed the deadly incident.

“I was only able to speak to her briefly, but I told her that if she wanted to talk I was available day or night.”

Later that evening, Coffey and Glover went back to the clinic to offer further support. Again, God’s timing was evident. The team of first responders who had given life-saving measures to one of the soldiers had gathered for a gut check. They asked Coffey to join them.

The next day, Coffey and Glover attended the ramp ceremony at the Air Force base as the fallen soldiers were placed on an angel flight en route to their homes in the U.S.

“There were tons of people out there, paying tribute to these men,” Coffey said. “I was glad we went if for nothing else than to just lay my hand on the back of those who were openly weeping.”

Coffey, a member of the Division Special Troops Battalion, 1 Calvary Division from Fort Hood, is one of 1,200 Southern Baptist chaplains serving in the U.S. military? more than a third of the 3,078 chaplains endorsed by the North American Mission Board.

On Wednesday following the incident, Chaplain Coffey was finally able to debrief with the private in his unit who was present during the shootings.

“My heart broke as she shared with me what had happened,” Coffey said. “I was glad I already had a relationship built with her, so she felt comfortable enough to talk.”

“That is why chaplains run PT every day, why they are on the battlefield, leaving the green zone to go with soldiers, so that they can build a relationship that will offer them the right to lead them to the cross.”

Coffey is no stranger to tragedy, death and sorrow. During his first deployment to Iraq in 2006, he lost 13 men within 24 hours. He heard over a radio cries of distress as the enemy ambushed an American unit.

Then and now, Coffey leaned on the support of the one who provides hope and everlasting life. And he relied on the training he has received as a military chaplain.

“I always ask myself the question, ‘What would I want said to me if I were in this situation?’ If the answer is nothing, then I just shut my mouth and am just there,” Coffey said. “The essence of a good chaplain is being where the need is the greatest, assessing where you can best be used and then moving out of the way and allowing God to use you as he sees fit.”

Balancing Scripture and culture

How far is too far? This question is on the minds and hearts of many pastors today. The rapid success of a few prominent pastors draws others to adopt their methodology without proper consideration. The lure of immediate success can tempt pastors to disregard the priority of theology in the pursuit of overnight growth. This tragic reality in our convention needs to be addressed.

While the convention tries to reignite itself with a new and fresh vision for the future, the pragmatic pursuit of success has the potential to harm the work of the kingdom. In fact, over-the-top accommodation to the culture is potentially more divisive than other theological issues such as Calvinism. We might call it “Hyper-Culturalism,” and it places Southern Baptists at the crossroads of progression or digression.

This issue has the power to divide my generation of pastors. As I use the term, Hyper-Culturalism is the belief that one must go to the very edge of culture to reach people for Christ. The issue we face is both a theological and methodological issue. It poses the question of how far should we go toward being like the world in order to share the message of the gospel.

To be clear, I am not saying that churches and pastors should not be creative. I believe creativity is a great tool that the church can use to impact the world.
However, we must draw the line between creativity and immersing ourselves into modern-day culture.

There is a major difference between a church that engages culture and one that embraces culture. A church that engages culture with the necessary tools can be effective while holding to the priority of holiness. We see this example in a church in Louisiana. The church meets on Sundays in a bar. The pastor and church built a relationship with the bar so that the pastor can come into the bar on Saturday night, stop the music and invite those at the bar to the worship service the next morning.

This pastor is engaging the people where they are, yet he is not pulling up a barstool ordering a beer in his efforts to reach them for Christ. We need to engage culture where it is with the gospel, not embrace it by compromising biblical values and standards. People are looking for an alternative to the world from the church. We do not have to own “sexual websites” or have “in-depth sex talk series and dialogue” to engage culture with God’s message for marital intimacy.

We do not have to have to look like a nightclub in order to reach people. We do not have to speak like those who do not know Christ in order to get on their level. The bottom line is that we must engage, not embrace, culture and in doing so stand out in holiness.

The problem with Hyper-Culturalism is that Scripture clearly teaches that we are to be different. Jesus himself says that we are to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16). Paul says we are to come out and be separate (2 Corinthians 6:17). God says we are to be holy as he is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). The letter of James says to stay unstained by the world (James 1:27).

For some reason, we have the idea that we must become like a lost world to reach a lost world. When we come to the place where we feel that we have to act like or live like lost people to reach them, we have essentially diluted the power of the gospel to change lives. This notion stands in contrast to the methodology of Jesus. Being different and separate while maintaining relevance can go hand in hand. Jesus was absolutely different from most people that he encountered yet more relevant than any human in history.

In fact, the life of Jesus was nothing like culture or society, it was absolutely contrary. Jesus’ life was marked by truth and holiness. This truth was as relevant as it needed to be. It was sufficient to the woman at the well, Nicodemus, the adulterous woman, the thief on the cross, and is as relevant today as ever.

Our generation needs to awaken to the fact that God has no superstars in ministry. God’s Word is as true, relevant, and active in my life as it is in the next person’s. While methodology is significant, the gospel is what changes people. We cannot exchange biblical truth for a chance at overnight stardom. We are called to build churches, not crowds. We are commissioned to create followers, not fans. This is done by living as Jesus lived and going as Jesus went, not by adapting our lifestyle as culture goes.

If we are going to see people come to Christ and our convention truly unified with the common goal of changing this world, not becoming like it, I believe this generation needs to rally around four things:

?Biblical Fidelity: We must allow Scripture to shape our view of culture, not culture to shape our view of Scripture.

?Scriptural Methodology: We must look at the models God has provided in Scripture and apply them in our context.

?Personal Holiness: We must make sure our lives are above reproach so that lost people can distinguish the difference. If there is no difference between us and the world, why should they embrace Christ?

?Radical Love: We must love those who are in the world, yet we share with them a message that is not of this world.

So how far is too far? I b

LoveLoud’ theme of 2009 SBC annual meeting

LOUISVILLE, Ky.?Actions do speak louder than words?and Johnny Hunt believes it’s time a lost world sees Southern Baptists match their words with love in action.

That’s the conviction behind the theme of the 152nd session of the Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, Ky., June 23-24?”LoveLoud: Actions Speak Louder Than Words.”

“Across America, people are thinking less and less of Christian groups,” said Hunt, pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Woodstock and president of the Southern Baptist Convention. “I think it’s because we always talk about what we believe and don’t spend near as much time demonstrating it. If it’s really all about the glory of God, we ought to be doing things that cause people to see our good works and glorify our God in heaven.”

With that in mind, Hunt said, the watchword for the annual meeting is Matthew 5:16?”In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (HCSB).

The “Conservative Resurgence” in Southern Baptist life made it clear that Southern Baptists are “a people of the Book,” Hunt said. “But ever since, it seems like we have done less with what we believe than we were doing before. The numbers all substantiate that.

“We can stand, week to week and in our annual meeting, and talk about what we believe or we can begin to love loud and let people see a demonstration of our declaration,” Hunt added. “We have declared that we are a people of the Book, but it’s time to demonstrate what that means. The world is still waiting and watching.”


The annual meeting program has been designed as a call to action for a “Great Commission Resurgence,” Hunt noted. Just as the Conservative Resurgence was driven by a plan to elect presidents who would make conservative appointments, a Great Commission resurgence also requires a specific plan of action.

“My presidential message will be a ‘State of the Convention’ address,” Hunt said. “I will focus on what, from where I sit, we must change if we are to see a Great Commission resurgence among Southern Baptists.”

Hunt’s address will be reinforced by a message from Daniel L. Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., who laid out what he sees as “12 axioms” of a Great Commission resurgence. Akin’s call to action will be followed by messages on three critical issues:

?Vance Pitman, senior pastor of Hope Baptist Church in Las Vegas, will speak on the vision of the Kingdom of God.

?David Platt, senior pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., will talk about connecting with the culture.

?Jeff W. Crook, pastor of Blackshear Place Baptist Church in Flowery Branch, Ga., will address the issue of evangelism.


Among the highlights of the annual meeting:

?The North American Mission Board will cast special attention on God’s Plan for Sharing (GPS), the denomination-wide evangelism emphasis that launches nationally in 2010.

?Crossover ’09 will mobilize as many as 1,000 volunteers throughout Louisville and its surrounding communities June 19-20. Teams will survey and witness door-to-door through assigned neighborhoods, with priority given to areas where new church starts are planned. Some 40 SBC churches in the Long Run Baptist
Association will participate in 32 block parties in Louisville neighborhoods. Prayer journeys and Compassion in Action projects also are planned. About 1,000 Southern Baptist volunteers from around the nation are expected to come to Louisville to support Crossover events, with the goal of generating 2,000 salvation decisions. For details, visit

?John Marshall, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo., will deliver the convention sermon on Wednesday morning.

?The International Mission Board report and presentation is scheduled for Tuesday evening, June 23. The North American Mission Board report and presentation is set for Wednesday evening, June 24.

?Tourist attractions are highlighted o

Frisco school district upholds Bible distribution

FRISCO?A few parents in a suburban Dallas school district are angry that volunteers with Gideons International were permitted to leave Bibles on school office counters for middle and high school students to take at their choosing and, in one case, allegedly handed the Bibles to students.

The Frisco Independent School District allowed the Bibles to be placed at its 13 secondary schools next to other non-school-related literature promoting such things as local scout troops, soccer leagues and summer camps. The district has what it calls a “viewpoint neutral” policy on such material, provided it meets strict guidelines for decency and civility. District policy prohibits solicitors from distributing materials or engaging students.

District spokeswoman Shana Wortham said the incident involving a Gideon allegedly handing the Bibles to students was resolved immediately.

In past years the Gideons have distributed Bibles on sidewalks near Frisco secondary schools, causing public safety issues and concern from parents, the district said. This year, the Gideons submitted a formal request to offer the Bibles with other non-school materials, which was approved because the Bibles met district criteria.

“Based upon the legal guidelines, the District was required to handle this request in the same manners as other requests to distribute non-school literature?in a viewpoint neutral manner,” a statement from the school district said.

But parents like Debbie Lutz, who told Dallas television station WFAA that she has two children in Frisco schools, said she was angry upon learning the Gideons were allowed to bring the Bibles onto the campuses.

“That is unbelievable,” Lutz said. “No one has ever sent a letter home from the school district telling me that.

“I just think religion should be out of schools,” Lutz told the station.

Another parent, Michael Baier, told that such things as Bibles should be available where families worship, not at school. “School is a place to learn, not to worship,” Baier said.

Responding to critics, the school district said in its statement: “Those opposing the recent distribution of the Bibles must understand that if the District prohibits the Bibles from being placed in the distribution area, it must also prohibit all groups such as those identified above, from utilizing the distribution area as well. The law requires the District to permit all or none, there is no middle ground.”

The Frisco schools’ policy for non-school materials states, “Activities such as distributing literature, displaying signs, petitioning for change, and disseminating information concerning issues of public concern are protected by the First Amendment.”

Some parents, meanwhile, didn’t mind the Bible distribution.

Holly McCall, a PTA president at Roach Middle School in Frisco, told the Gideons didn’t disturb anyone.

“I didn’t feel like [the Bible] was being pushed upon” students, McCall said.

Wortham said the school district communications office received 12 phone calls and e-mails voicing concern about the Bibles. The 13 secondary schools where the Bibles were left serve several thousand students, and several reported contact from a few parents.

Asked by the TEXAN if any students were coerced or pressured to take the Bibles, Wortham said, “Not to our knowledge. No school personnel would have been involved in any such activity.”

A phone call to a spokesman at the national office of Gideons International in Nashville, Tenn., was not returned.

Ed Nalley, a Gideons representative from nearby Plano, told the TEXAN he could not comment on media coverage of the Bible distribution except to say that “we had a positive experience in Frisco.”

?Compiled by Jerry Pierce

Economy causes IMB to trim missionary appointments

DENVER–In response to reduced giving during the current economic downturn, International Mission Board trustees approved suspending new appointments to the International Service Corps and Masters programs during their May 19-20 meeting in Denver.

The IMB also will reduce the number of new appointments to its career, apprentice and associate programs. New appointments will continue on a more selective basis, involving the most strategic assignments.

Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt, who spoke at the meeting, said,
“It is not acceptable in my heart that we can have missionaries in the pipeline and need to tell them we can’t send them.

“I believe that the people of God will rise to the occasion,” said Hunt, pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Woodstock.

But Hunt also noted: “We will have a significant reduction [of missionary appointments] in 2010 … unless Southern Baptists respond.”

This comes after a year when Southern Baptists sent out 1,088 new missionaries in all categories combined through the IMB. This year, long-term appointments will be capped at 300. With 220 already appointed to date, only 80 more appointments will be made for the fiscal year. In any given year, the IMB typically appoints 700 missionaries in all categories to replace attrition through end of term, retirement, resignation and other reasons. In 2008, 5,495 personnel were serving in the field, and 4,286 of these were long-term missionaries.

“Today, we have more candidates knocking on our door and downloading our applications than ever before,” said Paul Chitwood, IMB trustee chairman.

“Yet on this day when God has answered our prayers for workers for his harvest, lack of funding has forced us to temporarily suspend categories for service.”

A number of trustees had tears in their eyes as they approved the recommendations to suspend and reduce missionary sending.

The suspension of new assignments to the International Service Corps (ISC) and Masters programs will take effect immediately and continue until further review in early 2010. The ISC program is designed for Southern Baptists age 21 and over who wish to serve two- or three-year terms abroad; the Masters program is for people age 50 and over.

More than 800 ISC and Masters missionaries currently working overseas will continue their service.

Other short-term programs–the Journeyman program and “2-plus-2”–will continue, but new appointments will be limited to the most strategic assignments.
The Journeyman program sends 20-something, single college graduates overseas for two years. The “2-plus-2” program involves two years of seminary study and two years of missionary service abroad.

These adjustments are vital since 70 percent of the organization’s budget and financial resources go toward the support of missionary personnel, IMB officials said.

This past fall, IMB trustees adopted a $319.8 million budget for 2009–$10 million of which was earmarked to offset the rising cost of support for the missionaries already on the field. The 2009 budget made no provision for an increase in the number of missionaries.

Suspensions in short-term appointments could bode poorly for future long-term appointments. In 2007, the IMB appointed 845 new missionaries, including 504 short-term personnel. Of the 341 long-term appointments, 30 percent had previously served two years or longer with the IMB through one of the short-term programs.

The results for the 2008 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions still are being collected and will be released in a few weeks. However, early projections show that the offering is expected to fall short of the $150 million received in 2007. So far, from Oct. 31 through April 30, giving is nearly $8 million below the $121.5 million contributed through state conventions during the same time frame a year ago. The IMB also receives LMCO contributions directly.

Investment losses, a slight downturn in Southern Baptist Cooperative Program giving and harsh economic conditions also have taken a toll on IMB funding.

“The economic recession has had an impact on every facet of our nation, including Southern Baptists and our churches, and our overall income is not unaffected,” IMB treasurer David Steverson told the trustees. “The overall economy contributed to a decrease in nearly every income category.”

Though significant adjustments will be necessary to meet future needs, Steverson said he remains optimistic.

“The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and Cooperative Program have held up dramatically well when you consider everything happening in our economy,” he said.

“We must be about our Father’s business,” Steverson added. “[God] has given us a task, a mission and we must remain faithful to what he has called us to do.”

Trustees recognized 11 regional leaders who have guided the work of the organization across the globe in recent years. Most will move into new roles under a reorganization taking effect in July.

“These field leaders have been a major factor in getting us to where we are today,” IMB President Jerry Rankin said.

“Their vision and passion for the peoples of their region, their strategic thinking, influence and relationship skills … enabled them to serve the IMB and Southern Baptists effectively and advance God’s kingdom.”

In other business, trustees:
>voted to cancel their July 10-11 meeting in light of the economic situation. An official decision will be made in the coming days. The July 12 appointment service still will be held in Lebanon, Ohio.
>appointed 101 new missionaries at Riverside Baptist Church in Denver.
>received a report that $2,110,310.96 in Hunger and General Relief Funds had been used for 82 projects. A total of $1,673,163.10 was released to support world hunger needs, $381,726.86 to support general relief needs and $55,421 to support four 2004 tsunami relief projects. Of these 82 projects, 50 supported community development ministries and 32 supported disaster relief efforts.
>elected officers for 2009-10: Chairman, Paul Chitwood, Mount Washington, Ky.; first vice chairman, Simon Tsoi, Phoenix; second vice chairman, Steve Swofford, Rockwall; and secretary, Debbie Brunson, Jacksonville, Fla.

The next board meeting is planned for Sept. 15-16 in Jacksonville, Fla., where an appointment service is scheduled at First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Sept. 16.

Church to give away additional 5% of income

KATY?On May 3, First Baptist Church of Katy unanimously authorized a recommendation to give away 5 percent of all undesignated gifts the church receives. With an annual budget of $3 million, this is a potential $150,000 to help those struggling in the bad economy.

As unemployment hit its highest levels in a generation, many families are suffering. The church will provide aid to members of the church and to residents of the community for help with utility bills, mortgage and rent payments, automobile payments, and more.

Randy White, senior pastor of the church since 2003, said the ministry is needed because most local relief organizations or state-funded assistance plans are only equipped to provide food and clothing, not financial assistance with utilities or other pressing financial obligations.

The church’s program, called “FirstTouch,” is designed to complement current local relief organizations’ efforts with the focus of assistance for financial needs that are outside the guidelines of other area ministries and organizations.

White told his congregation that it had an opportunity to “put our money where our mouth is,” telling them that many times churches are criticized for using their money for posh facilities and elaborate programs for their own members while hungry people are all around them.

The FirstTouch program is being led by a team of church members.

Clint Terrell serves as the chairman of the FirstTouch team. Terrell commented, “I am encouraged that First Baptist Katy has committed its resources to helping the Katy community during this time of need. It confirms the role of the church as a family.”

Terrell said he feels compelled to participate in this ministry personally because of the words of Proverbs 21:13, “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.”

To be eligible for aid an individual must reside in one of three zip codes surrounding First Baptist Church, or be a member of the congregation. More information is available at

The approval of the FirstTouch Ministry brings the church to a position of giving away 17.5 percent of all undesignated funds it receives.

White said: “God has blessed us spiritually and financially, and we want to respond to his grace through generosity with spiritual and financial blessings at home and around the world.”

State Senate rejects school board chair

AUSTIN?After weeks of struggle between liberal and conservative groups over the confirmation for a second term of Don McLeroy as chairman of the State Board of Education, the state Senate on May 28 rejected McLeroy in a 19-11 vote, just shy of the needed two-thirds majority.

McLeroy and other conservatives on the elected board charged with curriculum standards for state public schools were maligned by those opposed to science standards approved in March that call for “evaluation and critique” of key tenets of evolution, drawing national news coverage and criticism from the science establishment.

Some of the opposition cited statements McLeroy made at the Bible church he attends in College Station as reasons to reject Republican Gov. Rick Perry’s nominee to serve as chairman a second term.

“Some Senators have made it clear that the New York Times, religious beliefs, and party affiliation are in control of deciding who serves as SBOE chairman,” wrote Jonathan Saenz, director of legislative affairs for the Plano-based Free Market Foundation, on the foundation’s blog. “The message has been sent?if you have sincere religious beliefs, you need not apply to be chair of the State Board of Education.”

The foundation’s president, attorney Kelly Shackelford wrote “the comments about
McLeroy’s religion and the Senate vote” were “very disturbing?. We expect the Governor to nominate an SBOE Chair who is just as conservative as McLeroy, and therefore, representative of the people of Texas.”

Meanwhile, a group opposing McLeroy, the Texas Freedom Network, which bills itself as “a mainstream voice to counter the religious right,” released a statement through its director, Kathy Miller, stating: “Watching the state board the last two years has been like watching one train wreck after another. We had hoped that the Legislature would take more action to put this train back on the tracks, but clearly new leadership on the board was a needed first step. The governor should know that parents will be watching closely to see whether he chooses a new chairman who puts the education of their children ahead of personal and political agendas.”

McLeroy told the TEXAN he was very optimistic about the next chairman, yet to be nominated, and the future of the board, which he continues serve on as an elected member.

“The battle really arose because the opposition lost on the science curriculum,” McLeroy said of his being voted down. “I think it’s because we were able to get those things accomplished. They were doing it because of the success we had. I have no regrets.”

What is a godly man and how is he made?

Lance Crowell has seen Promise Keepers and other such events come and go like the men they draw. Baptists have Baptist Men and church breakfasts and even a few events of their own, yet rare are the church ministries that are helping men conform to the image of the Savior with long-term success.

“I’m not against men’s breakfasts or other events,” said Crowell of the SBTC’s Church Ministries department, “but I think we can see the churches changed if we see men changed.”

He envisions a bottom-up transformation of men’s ministry without the flash-in-the-pan movements that have been initially useful but haven’t affected lasting change.

The problem, he admitted, is finding many exemplar men’s ministries where men are consistently being made into disciples, not to mention a working definition of a godly man.

“Unfortunately,” Crowell said, “for some churches, if men are coming it’s a win. But I think that is a low bar. If you were to ask, ‘What does a godly man look like?’ and were to answer it, then what is the process for getting men to that point? I am afraid that process is not in place in a lot of places.”

So this summer, instead of the SBTC’s “Real Men of Impact” rallies for a general audience, the convention has planned two men’s leadership conferences for pastors and lay leaders?one in Houston, another in Euless?aimed at tackling the challenge of long-term transformation of men.

Crowell said hoping men in the church are transformed is insufficient; churches must be intentional about making disciples.

Crowell asked: “Is the godly man merely a faithful attender? Is he a good tither?”

A godly man, Crowell said, “loves the Lord. He’s committed to his family more than a few hours a week. He’s leading his family spiritually. What does that look like, and have we helped men do that?”

Those are the issues Crowell hopes the leadership conferences will help clarify.

Both conferences will begin at 6 p.m. on a Friday and end at 2:30 Saturday with plenary and breakout sessions. Dinner on Friday and lunch Saturday are included with the $15 early registration.

The Houston conference is planned for July 10-11 at Sagemont Church in Houston with keynote speaker Ken Hemphill of Nashville, Tenn., a former president of Southwestern Seminary now with the SBC Executive Committee.

The Euless conference is planned for July 24-25 at First Baptist Church of Euless featuring Bobby Welch, retired Florida pastor and the Southern Baptist Convention’s strategist for global evangelical relations.

For more information on the conferences or to register, visit

Give the Great Commission Resurgence a chance

Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt, of Georgia, has put his finger on a need and a sore spot for the churches of our denomination. For a variety of reasons, most unrelated to associational, state convention, or SBC agency work, we don’t witness to our neighbors and our churches are not making disciples at the rate they did decades ago. Energy, bright ideas, strategies, and cleverly named emphases have rolled through for the past 30 years with little effect on the decline. What next? President Hunt hopes he knows the answer to that.

At the SBC annual meeting later this month, Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., has confirmed a motion will be made directing him to appoint a likely 12-member task force to study his “Great Commission Resurgence” declaration calling the SBC to greater commitment to our Lord’s missionary mandate. There is little doubt that the convention will approve such a motion during its annual meeting in Louisville. For many convention observers, the work of that task force will be the place where the debate over the future of the SBC will ensue. I believe that we can affect the nature of that important debate before the names of group members are even revealed.

No one can disagree that American Christianity has generally gone tepid. Southern Baptists, who took comfort in less-bad numbers than mainline churches, have awakened to the fact that we are also in decline in spite of good work, good theology, and the finest of institutional support. Many have said that this is a spiritual problem that permeates every corner of our convention where there is a Baptist soul. I believe the facts of our denominational decline and spiritual torpor have implications for every aspect of local church work. They also provide some challenges for the churches’ denominational helpers. Obviously, offering resources and five-year plans has not been the answer to the needs of churches. Our critics seem to think it sufficient to declare denominations dead and irrelevant. This wise-sounding mantra hasn’t helped much either.

Article IX of the GCR declaration would commit the SBC “to evaluate our Convention structures and priorities so that we can maximize our energy and resources for the health of our local churches and the fulfillment of the Great Commission.” If I can define the terms for myself, I agree. Our denominational structure is big, slow, and resistant to organizational reform. Presumably, it is also inefficient but that charge is only useful if someone comes up with something that actually meets critical needs in a more efficient way. No criticism necessarily of the individuals involved, organizations have personalities of their own that don’t always reflect the intent or heart of those within. Restructuring of denominational work is the point where the GCR task force will likely make its most actionable and controversial suggestions. The convention messengers in Louisville have the responsibility to ensure that the proposals of the task force are useful and have a chance of passing in some future day. I offer some ideas that will make those two things more likely.

First, the makeup of the task force must be broadly representative of those who will actually attend the SBC annual meeting and participate in the convention’s business more than once or twice. Specifically, the task force should include people from groups and regions most likely to be affected by denominational streamlining. One member should be an executive director from a state convention that did not sign the GCR declaration (so far, only two have). This inclusion acknowledges that these leaders have influence and an important role within their respective states. Unless these men are brought on board, changes will be hobbled at the first step.

The committee should include at least two people who will be affected by any drastic change in the ministry of the North American Mission Board, a widely discussed possibility. I suggest a new state church planter and an effective pastor from the northern or western United States.

A Baptist college president or executive staff member would provide a view from those who depend on support from state conventions. Some of the rhetoric aimed at state convention ministry will be personal to these folks.

Include a state convention president, perhaps one who did not sign the GCR declaration. Again, since a majority did not sign on, those folks (like the state executives) must be won over rather than dismissed as obstructionist.

Add a director of missions to the task force. The association is the most local manifestation of denominationalism. This leader will have a different perspective than most other members of the group. It’s a perspective that matters.

Second, I suggest that the members of the task force commit that they will not, for at least two years, accept any vocational ministry position (job) or be paid for writing a book related to or growing out of the work of the task force. This commitment will help keep the motives of members pure. It will also give any implementation of task force recommendations increased credibility. If some Southern Baptists are going to face difficult changes in their ministries, it might go down better if no task force members find themselves with shiny new jobs in the process.

Third, the committee must find a way to do its work in the sunlight. Johnny Hunt has been pretty candid with his thought processes and intent. This sort of candor can only benefit the nuts and bolts work to come. I realize that executive sessions facilitate committee brainstorming and discussion but the practice also erodes trust. Executive sessions are efficient in the same way that martial law is most efficient in extraordinary situations. Unless this tool is used rarely, the process will become closed to all but insiders. I challenge the committee to keep the doors open. Work with at least the same accountability and transparency as our political lawmakers. Make it so that task force members only speak those things they are willing to see in print. Discussions will be more thoughtful, speech will be more circumspect, and feedback will be constant. More Baptists will trust the committee because the committee has demonstrated its trustworthiness. Presenting the convention messengers with a fait accompli next spring will be less effective than keeping us all in the loop. Surprise us and we may still endorse it, but many of us will not support it. Also remember, two Southern Baptists can only keep a secret if one of them is deceased.

Fourth, it would be timely and responsible to put a cap on what this task force can cost the SBC. They could meet in cities with easy air access; most committee members could pay their own meeting expenses; agencies that send staff members could pay that out of travel budgets, etc. If efficiency is part of our goal, the GCR task force can set a good example in this way. Convention messengers should set a ceiling on task force expenses.

These suggestions do not abrogate the president’s righ