Month: May 2009

Book: Life’s storms give opportunity to recognize God’s direction, God’s ways

Pastors and church staff members are facing a dynamic shift on the landscape of ministry as many members have lost jobs or felt a financial hit and are looking to the local church for counsel. How can Christians connect the dots when things do not go as planned? Avery T. Willis says nature gives us a strong clue.

Willis and his grandson Matt have co-authored a soon-to-be-released book from NavPress titled “Learning to Soar,” presenting a compelling perspective on how God works through unplanned events and trials.

The Bible uses the metaphor of the eagle 25 times in the Old and New Testaments to help illustrate God’s ways, Willis observed. He cited the first instance when God led the people of Israel out of bondage and told them, “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself,” quoting Exodus 19:4.

Willis’ own life has been a series of transitions through which God redirected his ministry. First as a pastor of two Texas churches, then as a Southern Baptist-appointed missionary and president of an overseas seminary in Indonesia, Willis returned to the U.S. to develop adult discipleship for the next 15 years before serving as senior vice president for overseas operations of the International Mission Board from 1993-2004.

He’s no longer surprised by life’s storms. In fact, he says unplanned trials are inevitable and a vital part of a Christian’s living testimony before others.

“When the storms rage, it is then that you can model the peace of Christ,” Willis writes.

These storms, according to Willis, allow God to propel a ministry into new directions and present an opportunity for growth. An abundant life, he says, is not dependent on circumstances or well-worked plans.

“The eagle’s story is woven throughout the story of Israel and is found most explicitly in Deuteronomy 32:11-12,” he notes. “Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions. The LORD alone guided him, and there was no foreign god with him.”

“There is a reason the writers of the Old Testament used eagles in their metaphors,” Willis says. “Magnificent and fierce, these large birds were a symbol of strength and boldness and an inspiration to the prophets who watched them from below. If you understand and apply the stories of eagles and the Israelites to your own life, you will gain new insight into God’s ways.”

Willis did extensive research on the eagle in order to convey the parallel with God’s ability to teach us?and even bless us?through seasons of personal struggle.

“People may wonder whether their difficulties are caused by unfortunate circumstances, Satan, or even their own incompetence. But have you considered that God often brings difficult circumstances into our lives in order to prompt us away from complacency and a spiritual plateau?”

It is through understanding the ways God works?the underlying principles he has used throughout history?that we can make sense of a job loss, tragic death, economic challenge, or ministry shift, Willis writes.

“God’s ways have not changed since He clarified them in the Bible. And He wants to help you better understand His ways so that you will not only walk with Him but also soar with Him on wings like eagles,” he writes, alluding to Isaiah 40:31.

In order to propel eaglets to try their wings, the mother eagle tears away the comfortable layers of the nest, stirring the nest, exposing sharp sticks and edges of stones, he continued. It is the feeling of discomfort that draws the eaglets to leave the nest. In this same way, Willis explains, God moves us to greater stages of ministry. He refers to this as God “stirring the nest” in the life of a Christian. This “stirring” process is where many people have found themselves in recent days of economic uncertainty.

SBTC board hears CP report, hires church planting missionary for borderlands

NEW BRAUNFELS–Despite the challenging economy, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention continues to fund Texas missions and evangelism while sending 55 percent of Cooperative Program gifts from local churches toward Southern Baptist missions and ministry worldwide.

That was the message the SBTC Executive Board heard during reports at its meeting April 27-28 at T Bar M Retreat Center in New Braunfels.

Faithful giving, a record state missions offering from 2008, and careful spending priorities allowed the convention staff to report a positive financial picture for the first third of 2009.

“There’s a heightened interest in the Cooperative Program among SBTC churches,” reported SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards, adding that loyalty to the missions giving plan is growing. “We had to rebuild confidence in the Cooperative Program over our first 10 years and now churches are beginning to once again see the validity and wisdom of CP.”

NEW MISSIONARY PLANTER
That cooperative effort of the 2,141 affiliated churches made it possible for the executive board to approve a new church planting missionary associate, Chuy Avila, for outreach through “Project Borderlands Reach.” Avila will serve the highly under-evangelized area of Laredo as a missionary church planter.

Avila has served as a church-planting strategist for Hispanic work at the Tennessee Baptist Convention for the last decade. He has prior experience with Midland Baptist Association and served on the Hispanic Task Force of the North American Mission Board. He will begin Aug. 1.

A native of Juarez, Mexico, Avila said he sensed a call to ministry as a child when he watched the transformation of his father’s life after a medical missionary led him to Christ.

“I’m a strong believer in the Cooperative Program. That was one of your missionaries who showed up in my home and changed my father and my family. He managed to buy a tent, Bibles and pay his expenses because people like you prayed and paid for missions.”

Convinced that he is called to equip church planters, Avila said God had burdened him with the spiritual needs in Laredo where over 95 percent of the quarter-million population is Hispanic.

Board member George Levant described the desperate need to plant churches in the region where he has lived for more than 25 years.

“If we reach 1 percent of the Hispanic population [in Laredo] that would be four times more than we’re reaching now,” he said, describing the conditions in which only a dozen Southern Baptist churches minister.

“Voting is not enough and giving is not enough. We need to pray for him,” Levant said in recommending Avila. “It’s a lot of work to do. I feel with all my heart this is the man for this hour.”

Missions Director Terry Coy said Avila would serve as a catalyst for church planting, developing a comprehensive three- to five-year strategy for starting new churches and training planters. The effort will be jointly funded by NAMB and the SBTC.
Responding to a question about the availability of Hispanic pastors and church planters, Coy said the supply is inadequate to meet the need.

“We’re trying to raise those up, sometimes from the harvest and sometimes from the churches,” Coy said.

Others are being cultivated through SBTC’s Hispanic Initiative coordinated with Criswell College, Jacksonville College and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to prepare Hispanic pastors and leaders for the next generation of Hispanic ministry in Texas. Seven students are taking advantage of the training through Criswell College.

58 NEW AFFILIATIONS
The board also approved the affiliation of 58 more churches and heard a report from the credentials committee that shows a pace of two or three additional churches per week. Seventeen churches were removed from convention affiliation, 14 of them having disbanded or merged with another church. Two voted to no longer relate to SBTC and one became a non-denominational congregation.

A request by board member Terry Turner of Mesquite seeking consideration of a supportive relationship with a local pregnancy resource center was referred to the Facilitating Ministries department.

The executive committee also reported they had followed through with a request to allocate from the previous year’s surplus a grant of $65,000 for the Dakotas Baptist Convention. As part of an ongoing partnership with DBC, the funds will assist with church planting leadership development and the Sturgis Bike Rally evangelistic outreach.

OPERATING AT SURPLUS
Messengers to last year’s convention approved a 2009 SBTC budget of $23.9 million, which reflected a 14 percent increase over the prior year. Giving through the cooperative Program by local churches had funded around 99 percent of that ambitious goal as of the board meeting.

At the end of April, two days after the board met, Cooperative Program giving was within a few thousand dollars of the 2009 budget for the first four months of the year. Prudent spending has allowed the convention to operate at a surplus for the year to date.

Vern Hargrave of the accounting firm of Pickens Snodgrass Koch reported a clean audit of SBTC financial statements.

You should be proud of the way business is conducted,” he told the board. “It is done in a very professional and efficient manner.”

Addressing the CP giving report after the meeting, Sookwan Lee, co-pastor of Seoul Baptist Church in Houston, told the TEXAN: “Other denominations have a top to bottom” approach for funding while some churches attempt to fund missions “acting by themselves.”

Recalling that the Southern Baptist Convention was formed to fund missions, Lee added, “The most important thing for a church is missions. If we do not contribute to the Cooperative Program, the convention doesn’t mean anything.”

Board member Terry Turner of Mesquite recalled that his church was planted through the use of CP funds.

“We saw the benefit of church planting and how the SBC poured into our ministry,” he said, explaining why Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church values the Cooperative Program.

In a final item of business, SBTC cousel Shelby Sharpe was honored by the executive board for his service since the convention’s founding with a framed copy of Proverbs 3:5.

A Great Commission Resurgence–Texas style

In November 2008, messengers to the 10th anniversary of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention annual meeting passed a resolution that defines “Great Commission Resurgence” pretty well. Perhaps the document can be a complement to the statement proposed for the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Louisville.

Many will know already that SBC President Johnny Hunt, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel Akin, and others have called for a missionary resurgence as a follow up to the already established Conservative Resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s. The thought being that evangelism and missions have not flourished in the SBC over the past 50 years and this fact indicates a deep problem we should address in some way.

Dr. Akin’s formulation of 10 axioms has become the centerpiece of Johnny Hunt’s presidential agenda. They’ve set up a website and many are speculating on an extensive plan for restructuring the denomination that could grow out of what Hunt hopes will be a groundswell. You’ll find the stories at the bottom of this article.
I believe the SBTC’s resolution is complementary to this emphasis because it has a finer focus. It is more local in its source, was more local in its editorial process, and was adopted by a smaller (compared to the SBC) denominational fellowship. The resolution rose up from the grassroots as an effort to clarify a term that was becoming a buzzword in denominational circles.

There is a “we will” or “we do” aspect to resolutions that makes them personal. Rather than calling for someone else to do something, the resolution begins with the messengers, although there is certainly an implied “ought to” for other believers and churches. One example of this grassroots spirit is the expanding conviction among local pastors that expository preaching has multiplied advantages for teaching the whole counsel of God. Another might be increasing efforts by churches to ensure that church members are regenerate and well-grounded. The SBTC resolution did not cause these positive trends but did encourage them and served as a personal affirmation of these local church virtues for convention messengers.

The resolution also attempted to take the actual wording of the Great Commission and apply it to local church ministry. This is beneficial in keeping the implications of the exhortation grounded in scriptural priorities. Where Jesus says “All power has been given to me,” the resolution recognizes his lordship and authority. In answer to the call to make disciples, the resolution commits the messengers to disciple-making. Jesus also commanded us to teach as a part of disciple-making; the resolution commits those who affirmed it to teach the members of “our churches.” The command to teach was further clarified to indicate “all things” that Jesus’ disciples had been taught. The next “resolved” is to “promote and practice text-driven preaching and teaching of the whole Bible.”

Where our Lord commands us to go to all nations with the gospel, the resolution commits its adherents to be “Christ’s witnesses both at home and abroad.”

There is also an appropriate Baptist flavor to the resolution. The last “resolved” specifies basic Baptist interpretations of doctrine as a crucial part of teaching “all things.” This application is fitting because we are Baptist Christians–believing that the doctrines that define “Baptist” are based on the best understanding of our Lord’s teaching. Why would someone want to be a Baptist if he doesn’t believe in the Lordship of Christ, the inerrancy of Scripture, salvation as exclusively by grace through faith in Christ, believers’ baptism by immersion, regenerate church membership, congregational church polity, the priesthood of believers, church discipline, and religious liberty?

For our state convention, the Great Commission Resurgence is a call to the essentials of local church ministry. That is the complex, though simply stated, answer to all the problems of Southern Baptist churches and denominational bodies made up of Southern Baptist churches. Our convention ministry addresses these priorities by resourcing the teaching, evangelism, doctrinal, missionary, and spiritual work our churches undertake. We can’t fix a church problem, but we earnestly listen, observe, analyze, pray, plan, and implement with a goal of matching appropriate resources to help churches succeed in their God-given ministries. That’s the denominational component we bring to the commitment our convention messengers made in resolution four last November.
Nothing in our resolution is contrary to Danny Akin’s Great Commission Resurgence document. Ours is a local and practical response to the call of our Lord to love him (by obeying) and love others (by sharing).
On the SBC side of the question, many speculate what will come of President Hunt’s plan to form a task force to develop denominational responses to the Great Commission. There are a few things I’d like to see result from Dr. Hunt’s leadership. These are things the national denomination is able to provide for the local/global ministries of Southern Baptist churches:
>A thorough, unapologetic commitment on the part of leaders, spokesmen, and employees to being Baptist. No more, “I’m a Southern Baptist, but?” please. We all understand that our convention is not perfect in detail or in whole. Skip the disclaimer. People generally dismiss the phrase before the “but” as less important than the one after. If Baptist doctrine is simply an earnest effort to discern biblical doctrine, no apology is needed.
>Continued provision of biblically solid resources and training for churches, associations, and state conventions. The span of services provided in states and communities by our seminaries, mission boards, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, GuideStone Financial Resources, LifeWay Christian Resources, and the Executive Committee is pretty broad. Discover the priority services Southern Baptist churches require and ensure that those are sufficiently addressed by some means even as we rethink our convention’s structure.

>Specifics regarding programs and agendas that undermine gospel-centeredness. No one denies that we go off on harmful tangents, although we might not agree on which efforts are tangential. To repeatedly—in sermons, publications, seminars, on blogs, or in tweets—make veiled “prophetic” statements about people and agendas without being willing to speak plainly sows division as much as anything else we do. Tell us what you mean every time you sat it.

>Consistent modeling of the virtues upon which we all agree. Let our meetings, our guest preachers, our programs, our new initiatives all be disciplined to avoid unbiblical preaching, pompousness, shallowness, and waste. If Southern Baptists believe the Cooperative Program is a God-blessed tool for addressing the Great Commission, let off those we exalt be exemplars of this specific kind of missionary support.

>A sacrificial example of denominational streamlining, I agree that organizational reform, like doctrinal reform, never stands still. We are either advancing or retreating. The SBC has only moral influence over other levels of denominationalism. Show us how important reform is by what our convention leaders do in their own ministries.

I agree with the idea of a convention-wide spiritual emphasis to more perfectly follow Jesus’ commands. What could be more basic? I’d love to see a focused and effective commitment to basic Baptist doctrine and action begin with denominational leaders and catch fire in state conventions, associations, and most importantly, in churches. More likely, that wave will start in churches and move outward, though. And that seems like the way it ought to be.

A Great Commission Resurgence is a different sort than the earlier reformation of the Southern Baptist Convention. It was relatively easy to inform grassroots Baptists about theological infidelity within some of our convention institutions. It was real, demonstrable, surprising, and outrageous to their eyes. They changed denominational leadership thoroughly so that the teachings of the churches were reflected in the institutions the churches built. It wasn’t easy but the challenge of plotting and implementing a comparable rework of the way our convention does missions and evangelism looks vastly more complex and harder to explain. It’s a spiritual problem already on the mind of nearly every church leader in our convention. No surprise, no ignorance, no “show up and vote” solution to the problem(s).

Convention leaders, elected and employed, have influence and regularly use it to address one part or another of our cooperative mission. Johnny Hunt and Danny Akin have set out to do that in a more expansive way than we often see. I pray that this effort will bear good fruit within our convention and among our churches. I also pray that more pastors and local leaders will catch a vision for the basic mission of all Baptist Christians and let it begin with their own ministries. When the two visions, from our SBC leaders and from the churches, meet in the middle, then we’ll have the thorough reformation and revival we desire.

Southeastern’s Akin discusses GCR declaration’s history, intent

WAKE FOREST, N.C.?Although the declaration, “Toward a Great Commission Resurgence,” is now the “property” of Southern Baptist Convention president Johnny Hunt, the statement with more than 1400 endorsers after one week is the handiwork of Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

In an exclusive interview with Florida Baptist Witness, Akin talked about how the statement came about and his partnership with Hunt in launching the effort both hope will result in a renewed passion among Southern Baptists for Jesus’ missionary mandate.

In an April 30 telephone interview from his office in Wake Forest, N.C., Akin said he and Hunt?close friends for many years?have spent a great deal of time together since Hunt was elected SBC president last June talking about what can be done to reverse stagnation within the SBC.

The two strategized on the matter during a two-day visit to Hunt’s Atlanta-area home last fall. Hunt is pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga.

Then in March, Akin said he shared with Hunt an idea of a sermon he wanted to preach that would outline the themes and issues of concern being discussed among Southern Baptists and offer a way forward for the denomination.

Encouraged by Hunt, Akin said he worked on the sermon, “Axioms of a Great Commission Resurgence,” which was delivered at the seminary April 16. Reviewed prior to delivery by Hunt, LifeWay Christian Resources President Thom Rainer, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president R. Albert Mohler, Akin said the men “fully and completely” endorsed the 12-point sermon.

Akin told the Witness that he received “overwhelming” support for the message, and Hunt “in essence commissioned me to put together a more refined kind of document that would take the form of a manifesto or declaration” the SBC president could review, revise and then release to seek endorsement from other like-minded Southern Baptists.

“I would basically give it to him and he would take ownership of it to put before the Convention to kind of chart?here’s where many of us think we need to go from here if we’re going to once more capture the zeal and passion for the Great Commission that it seems somehow along the way we’ve lost,” Akin explained the plan.

So was born “Toward a Great Commission Resurgence,” principally written by Akin, based on his sermon and with some “wordsmith” assistance from seminary colleagues.

Akin said the week before the declaration was officially released April 28, Hunt shared the document with a group of “pastors of strategic churches” who were meeting. The statement “received an overwhelming affirmation” from those pastors.

The declaration was unofficially released April 27 via its website (GreatCommissionResurgence.com) and quickly garnered hundreds of endorsers among local, state and national Southern Baptist leaders.

In the day between its unofficial and official release, one significant change was made to the statement, responding to criticism received from state convention leaders who felt Article IX, “A Commitment to a More Effective Convention Structure,” was “a bit too severe and singled them out for criticism,” Akin said.

The language of the offending article was changed in response to a request from Hunt with the input of several other SBC leaders, including Rainer, Akin said.

The Witness confirmed Rainer’s involvement in the revision.

“It was my prayer that the GCR become a statement of unity, and the original statements related to state conventions in Article IX did not help toward that goal,” Rainer told the Witness. “I am very grateful to Dr. Hunt for allowing me the opportunity to revise Article IX, and I am grateful for his concern for the wonderful relationships we have with state conventions.”

Estimating approximately 500 persons signed the statement before the revision to Article IX, Akin said no one has requested removal of their endorsement in light of the change.

Akin said the language was re-worked to have a “more positive affirmation of the good work done by our state conventions, but also to keep in place the concern and the challenge that [Hunt] wanted to put before [Southern Baptists] to move ahead as a more efficient and more effective Great Commission Convention.”

The intent of the controversial article, Akin said, was for every sphere in Southern
Baptist life?churches, associations, state convention and national entities?to be “self-critical in asking the question: Are we maximizing the resources entrusted to us by Southern Baptists for the fulfilling of the Great Commission?”

Akin added that he would be “happy” for that burden to first fall on the national entities, later noting that should a future study of the SBC result in the determination the denomination does not need six seminaries, “I would abide by the wishes of the Convention and gladly

Declaration calls for a ‘Great Commission Resurgence’

NASHVILLE, Tenn.?A declaration released by SBC President Johnny Hunt calling for a “Great Commission Resurgence” among Southern Baptists had drawn 1,696 signatures on its website, greatcommissionresurgence.com, as of May 6.

Jim Law, senior associate pastor and administrator of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Woodstock where Hunt is the senior pastor, told Baptist Press in an e-mail that the declaration is “a collaborative effort of men whom Dr. Hunt respects greatly. It has been in his heart and mind for months and he has discussed it with a number of people.”

Law said Hunt would be releasing a list of the original signatories, those who helped craft the declaration, at a later date.

Hunt “will be presenting this to the [June 23-24] convention in Louisville and asking the messengers to consider appointing a task force to study this document and bring back appropriate recommendations on it,” Law said. “The purpose of this is so that we may be a more effective people to carry the good news of the gospel to the ends of the earth.”

The 10-point declaration calls for:

1) A Commitment to Christ’s Lordship;

2) A Commitment to Gospel-Centeredness;

3) A Commitment to the Great Commandments;

4) A Commitment to Biblical Inerrancy and Sufficiency;

5) A Commitment to a Healthy Confessional Center;

6) A Commitment to Biblically Healthy Churches;

7) A Commitment to Sound Biblical Preaching;

8) A Commitment to a Methodological Diversity that is Biblically Informed;

9) A Commitment to a More Effective Convention Structure; and

10) A Commitment to Distinctively Christian Families.

Mark Bainter, a deacon at Ovilla Road Baptist Church who signed the document, told the TEXAN: “What was most attractive for me was that they’ve put together here a good strong foundation that we can have a lot of people work together on…. We should be focused on the gospel and the overall mission of the SBC?what’s laid out there are things everyone in the convention can agree on.”

Texas pastor Jeremy Green also signed the declaration while noting some were concerned about the details of axioms eight and nine.

“In both cases, I felt that I could wholeheartedly affirm what the document does say, without trying to make assumptions about what it does not say,” Green said, adding that he hoped Hunt would appoint a well-rounded study committee.

Fewer mission teams could be positive

The threat of being caught in the crossfire of drug-related violence just inside the Mexican border is enough to make summer mission teams refocus their efforts in safer climes.

And that, some say, is not a bad thing.

Violence between the drug cartels vying for control of regions throughout Mexico and between the cartels and the Mexican Army compounded with the swine flu scare was enough to make any casual visitor cancel plans to the troubled nation. But for the individual or group who believes they are called by God to go, backing out is tantamount to lacking faith.

Or not.

Pastors along the border and IMB missionaries within the country have said the way missions have been done in Mexico needs to be reworked to equip Mexican believers to carry on.

For years missions teams, predominantly Baptist, have sent buses and van loads of enthusiastic teenagers and their adult chaperones to the border for Vacation Bible School, building projects, clothes and gospel tract dissemination, medical aid, and a host of services intended to meet the perceived physical needs of the residents.

MEET SPIRITUAL NEEDS TOO

Douglas Cantu (a pseudonym), an IMB missionary, urged mission teams to not be so overwhelmed by the physical needs of the people that they lose sight of the spiritual needs.

“We’re going to help those poor people down there,” Cantu said, giving an example of what is often the mind-set of relatively wealthy Americans. American Christians need to partner with their brothers and sisters in Mexico and not patronize them. That, Cantu said, is a foundational element of mission work in Mexico and one that has been forgotten.

“We take all our money down there and we ‘bless’ the people,” said Mike Due, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Port Arthur.

Tiffany Smith, SBTC missions mobilization associate, said, “[Americans] don’t feel like we’ve done missions unless we’ve built something.”

She was quick to add that God can and does bless the efforts of those who work in God’s name for the Mexicans, but what is more profoundly needed are long-term commitments by churches in the U.S. to partner with churches in Mexico to help them be witnesses in their communities with or without a team of Americans.

Otherwise, she said, Mexico ends up with churches that cannot stand the test of time and the gunfire of drug lords.

Scottie Stice, former IMB missionary to El Salvador and an SBTC field ministry strategist, said if American churches weren’t willing to make changes on their own, the situation in Mexico is forcing the issue.

He said, “With the drug violence and now the flu, it doesn’t change what God will do but makes us change the way we do things. And that has been overdue for a while.”

He said missions to Mexico need to be redefined in the simplest of terms?”Go and make disciples.”

&n

Land assesses Obama for board

NEW BRAUNFELS?President Barack Obama earned praised from Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) President Richard Land for the example he brings to the White House as a father who stands up for his family. And yet, Obama’s selection of key cabinet leaders devalues the sanctity of human life, diminishes the importance of the traditional family and threatens religious liberty, Land told members of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Board April 27.

“It says something important that Barack Obama is demonstrably committed to his family,” Land told the board members gathered for dinner prior to their meeting. As Land reviewed the course of actions taken by Obama in his first 100 days in office, he offered a forecast of what might be expected on the home front.

Regarding charitable giving, Obama’s budget plan reduces the deductibility of contributions by high income earners, with one analysis projecting a reduction of nearly $4 billion a year in charitable giving, he said.

Early indications of Obama’s perspective on the sanctity of life were revealed as he lifted restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, reversed the policy that prevents taxpayer dollars from funding international NGOs that perform or promote abortions, and contributed $50 million to the United Nations Population Fund, supporting China’s coercive population-control policy, Land said.

Land said Obama signaled elimination of conscience protections when he began the process of rescinding regulations protecting health-care workers from being discriminated against for refusing to participate in abortions or other medical procedures that would violate their religious convictions.

Reauthorization to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program lays the foundation for a possible “Trojan Horse” to introduce government takeover of healthcare, Land said. Furthermore, the economic stimulus bill opens the door for socialized medicine, he said, mandating $1 billion to “lay the initial building blocks in the foundation of a national healthcare superstructure that will ration medical care to the sick and the elderly, with government bureaucrats?not doctors?making medical decisions.”

A newly established Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research will evaluate medical treatments and drugs using a model from the British socialized medicine system. Land described comparative effectiveness as a euphemism to either grant or deny health care based on whether it is cost effective or not.

Among the nominations Land found troubling were:

?Deputy Attorney General David Ogden who “pushed repeatedly for a loosening of pornography restrictions” while representing Playboy and Penthouse and considers abortion a fundamental right, having represented Planned Parenthood, the National Organization for Women and People for the American Way;

?Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, who represented Terri Schiavo’s husband in seeking to remove his severely brain damaged wife from life support;

?Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who vetoed regulations on abortion while serving as Kansas governor, and;

?Assistant Attorney General Dawn Johnson of the Office of Legal Counsel, who directed a pro-abortion lobbying group and described abortion restrictions as tantamount to “involuntary servitude.”

Repeating a warning he issued to an earlier gathering of the Mega Metro Pastors’ Conference in Denver, Land said: “The changes hostile to traditional values we’ve seen thus far and the additional anti-family changes we can expect to come, make it all the more important for Christians to reach beyond the four walls of our churches to be salt and light for the gospel while at the same time raising our voices in support of God-honoring policies in Washington’s corridors of power.”

Urging Southern Baptists to remain steadfast, Land said, “Whether they succeed is dependent on whether they can discourage us from defending our beliefs and engaging the culture.”

He urged leaders to remain committed to allowing God’s Spirit to work to transform families, churches, communities and the culture.

A detailed account of Land’s analysis of the “First 100 Days” is available at the website for Land’s radio broadcast, richardlandlive.com.

On the Great Commission Resurgence’ (excerpt)

The following is excerpted from the SBTC resolution titled “On the Great Commission Resurgence,” approved by messengers in November 2008.

RESOLVED, that on the tenth anniversary of our convention, that the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention in Houston, Texas, November 10-11, 2008, express our heartfelt appreciation to those who worked diligently to bring about a Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we express our sincere gratitude to those who were led of the Lord to birth the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we recognize the Lordship of Jesus Christ and submit to His authority in every aspect of our lives including His Great Commission; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we hereby commit ourselves and our churches to carrying out the Great Commission of our Lord by making disciples; and be it further

RESOLVED, that as we pursue a Great Commission Resurgence that we intentionally work to teach the members of our churches the precious doctrines from the Word of God that will distinctively preserve our Baptist identity; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we devote ourselves to both promote and practice text-driven preaching and teaching of the entire Bible and how it relates to Christ and God’s redemptive plan; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we lead the members of our churches to participate in the Great Commission by being Christ’s witnesses both at home and abroad and proclaiming the gospel message that everyone must repent of sin and trust in the finished work of Christ alone for salvation; and be it finally

RESOLVED, that 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.

Full text available at sbtexas.com

Career counseling ministries pool resources to help churches minister to job seekers

PLANO?Pastors and lay leaders from four states gathered for a conference at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano on April 25 to get equipped with tools to start ministries to some of the more than 13 million unemployed American workers.

“We haven’t seen this many people experience job loss in 25-30 years,” said Lynn Guillory, founder and executive director of Career Transition Ministries Network (CTMN), which organized the conference. “It’s a tremendous harvest field out there and a tremendous opportunity.

“We use ‘job-seekers’ in a rather generic way to mean those who are underemployed, unemployed, misemployed or even nervously employed,” Guillory said.

Since 2000, CTMN, a nonprofit parachurch ministry based in Dallas, has offered free weekly meetings and weekend workshops that go beyond teaching job skills by ministering from a biblical perspective to those in career transition. But as unemployment numbers hit unprecedented levels, CTMN’s leadership became burdened to do more.

“It was apparent to our ministry that we were uniquely equipped to recruit more workers for the harvest field by providing churches with a ministry model to quickly establish a ministry that addresses the needs of the millions who are unemployed,” Guillory said.

CTMN partnered with the Christian Coach Academy, Crossroads Career Network and Crown Financial Ministries to put on the conference. Leaders were given resources to help them create a Christ-centered, biblically based ministry model, where the gospel is presented, believers are encouraged, and job seekers are taught cutting-edge job search skills.

Guillory, a professional in the human resources industry for more than 35 years, opened the conference with an appeal to church leaders to see career transition ministry as a harvest field for the kingdom of God.

“If you’ve looked at people who have experienced job loss, you know that many times they are harassed?harassed by corporate America, harassed by work and the pressures of this world?and many are dispirited because they have never come to faith in Jesus Christ,” Guillory said.

“While we want everyone to be gainfully employed, I think we must focus on the real opportunity. We believe that it is our job to walk with a job seeker through that trial called ‘job loss.’ We believe it’s a faith journey because we’ve seen many people come to faith in Jesus Christ.”

Not only does Guillory see it as a ministry of evangelism to the unsaved, but he also considers it a ministry of encouragement to believers.

“Christians are losing their jobs, as best as we can determine, at the exact same rate as unbelievers, because while the Bible is full of promises, nowhere in Scripture do we find a promise of employment stability,” Guillory said. He said churches must not overlook the opportunity to minister to church members during such difficult times.

Susan Whitcomb, author of “The Christian Career Journey” and president of the Christian Coach Academy, encouraged conference attendees to create ministries that show love to job seekers and help them see their work as worship.

Using the acronym J.O.B., which stands for Journey Of Becoming, Whitcomb said employment is a “journey of becoming more like Christ. It’s a setting for us to know him and make him known even if we’re in secular environments.”

Jim Symcox, a member of Parkhills Baptist Church in San Antonio, attended the conference to gain knowledge for how his church could start a ministry to job seekers. About six months ago, he sensed the Lord was leading him to help create such a ministry. Having nearly 20 years of recruiting experience, Symcox believes God wants to use difficult economic times for his glory.

“I don’t think our recession or depression is by accident,” Symcox said.

“It may be God’s desire to create such hardship in people’s lives that they are drawn to him. They’re in such pain that they start seeking hope, and they start seeking help, and we know that Jesus Christ is the answer to these things.”

Although pastors and lay leaders came from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, Guillory hopes to provide the training to more than 5,600 churches across the country. A DVD of the conferen

REVIEW: “The Christian’s Career Journey: Finding the Job God Designed for You”

Susan Britton Whitcomb (JIST Works), 308 pages

If there’s but one word to describe Susan Britton Whitcomb’s discourse, it’s detail.
Other reviewers offer apt words of assessment like biblical, inspirational, interesting, invaluable, practical, helpful and a must-read. But the overarching descriptor of “The Christian’s Career Journey” is detailed. Readers will benefit from the insights and expertise that have earned Whitcomb top-rank among her peers, and will have at their fingertips one of the most complete job search guides with a Christian perspective to be found.

Packed comfortably and completely into 14 chapters, the book is divided in three sections:

? “Responding to the Call”;

? “Creating Your Campaign and Creating Your Career Marketing Documents,” and;

?”Executing Your Job Search.”

Each section is punctuated with sub-topics that educate the reader with in-depth information, and with text boxes offering relevant quips and tips. Also included are what Whitcomb dubs “Pocket Prayers,” which relate directly to the text’s and job-seeker’s objectives. For handy review each chapter concludes with “10 Quick Tips” that provide an overview of the chapter.

Whitcomb devotes the first section, “Responding to the Call,” to make the biblical case that God equips and calls people for specific purposes, and bolsters this position by citing Bible passages regarding 10 persons God called upon himself for significant tasks. She also posits, however, that God is initially more interested in one’s availability than ability. Significant to her position is what she notes are God’s four purposes for work, three of which are: a faith-growing experience, training to increase one’s capacity and influence, and the opportunity to reflect God’s image.

The second portion of the book provides workable tools to help determine career choices and craft effective job searches. Whitcomb advises how to formulate “SMART” career goals, with SMART as an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-specific.

Of particular interest in this section is Whitcomb’s counsel about creating a career brand, which for the work-a-day Christian starts with Christlikeness. Branding also includes the abilities, attributes and advantages that comprise the job searcher’s desired reputation to be used in self-marketing, and represent the unique combination of skills and competencies that draw premium salaries. Whether planned or impromptu, readers will learn how to communicate their brand effectively and succinctly on paper or in person.

The book’s final section is replete with information on job search strategies, mistakes and misconceptions to avoid, maximizing active and passive job searches and more. Whitcomb doesn’t treat the requisite resume and interview components with tip of the hat. Rather, her pen bears hard on the paper, inking every detail necessary to encourage and equip readers to make each word?whether written or verbal?carry significant weight and count for all it can.

Whitcomb doesn’t shy away from talking about money, but enables readers to cash-in on her five truths of salary negotiations that will spawn strength, confidence, integrity and optimism.

Concluding the book is an appendix listing the contact information of more than two dozen certified career coaches from across the U.S., and a helpful topical index. Before reading the want-ads, read “The Christian’s Career Journey” by Susan Britton Whitcomb.