Month: September 2009

New nonprofit law effective Jan. 1

The Texas Business Organizations Code becomes effective Jan. 1. A part of the code, the Texas Non-profit Corporation Law, will control churches that are incorporated. The law affects such things as the rights of the members and how the church conducts business meetings.

The change in the law became effective for all corporations created after Jan. 1, 2006. Corporations created before that date have the choice of becoming controlled by the law at any time or waiting to become controlled by the code on Jan. 1.

Prudence will require incorporated churches to have an attorney review the church’s articles of incorporation, now called “certificates of formation,” and the church’s bylaws, to make certain those documents are synchronized with the new law. Some churches have a “constitution.” The constitution of a nonprofit corporation is considered part of the “bylaws” in the law.

Baptist churches are either nonprofit corporations or unincorporated nonprofit associations. The congregation should consult with an attorney as it determines which of these entity forms is better for a given church.

State law dictates in greater detail how a corporation conducts its business. That has its advantages in that the church is likely to have greater clarity in how it is to go about its business. It may have disadvantages in that the congregation will need to be aware of those statutory rules and not run afoul of them. Well-drafted corporate documents should solve that problem, however. Those documents will reflect the statutory rules. Generally, the larger the church is the more likely it will conclude it should incorporate.

While the law gives churches considerable latitude when it comes to establishing the bylaws and other rules for governing the legal affairs of the church, the law will trump any provision in the church’s articles, bylaws, constitution, or elsewhere that are inconsistent with the law. Therefore, in order for the church to know that it is acting in accordance with the law when it follows its articles and/or bylaws, it must know that those documents are consistent with the law.

If a comparison of a church’s articles and bylaws with the requirements of the new code indicates some amendments are necessary, the church will need legal guidance on how to accomplish those amendments. Amendments to the articles of incorporation must be filed with the Secretary of State.

A lawyer who practices in the area of nonprofit corporations can assist the church in making those decisions and in getting the legal documents in order.

?James P. Guenther is legal counsel for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

Kindled in a brush arbor, East Texas church burns brightly 75 years later

NACOGDOCHES?A brush arbor provided the backdrop for the founding of Fredonia Hill Baptist Church in Nacogdoches in 1934. Seventy-five years later the church has a soaring sanctuary, a Family Life Center accommodating everything from basketball to banquets, and space for Bible study, youth and college gatherings.

An early revival meeting prompted 32 participants to form a church under the leadership of Pastor K.A. Woods. Close to 1,400 members make up the congregation today.

Instead of relying only on word-of-mouth promotion, the church utilizes new technology to spread its message. The sign on the front lawn is digital, the newsletter is delivered online and the church is on Facebook and Twitter, explained member Sherry Williford.

“We’ve come a long way from the days when high tech meant broadcasting Sunday night services on the radio. Yet in every era, the vision to proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ remains the same,” she said.

Williford said the church has asked the question, “How do you tell the old, old story of his love to a new generation, deliver the eternal gospel of salvation to those in the midst of constant change and provide for the present congregation while planning to influence believers of the future?”

In the last 15 years Fredonia Hill has met those challenges locally through construction projects that allow the church to extend its reach to the community, Williford explained. At the same time, they have expanded mission projects to spread the gospel across the globe. That worldwide focus affected the church more than anyone could have imagined.

After 10 years of service, Pastor Johnny Dammon and his wife, Kathy, decided to return to full-time mission work in Thailand, leaving the church with a legacy of mission service and a vision to fulfill the Great Commission.

“His ministry here has moved us forward in recognizing the importance of foreign missions,” noted Mark Clark, chairman of deacons. “Many people have put feet to their new understanding of what it means to ‘go tell the world.'”

The church adopted a new mission statement to take them into the next 75 years: “Fredonia Hill Baptist Church exists to lead our generation and the next to encounter Christ, to be equipped for life, and to engage in life-changing service to Nacogdoches and beyond.”

That vision will be celebrated during an open house on Sunday, Oct. 11 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at 1711 S. Street in Nacogdoches. For more information contact Billy McDaniel, minister of education and administration at or call 936-564-8386.

Houston pro-lifers encouraged to engage abortion issue through prayer & service

HOUSTON–National pro-life events scheduled for late September through the first of November are taking on more significance for right-to-life advocates in Houston as Planned Parenthood continues construction of what could become the largest abortion clinic in North America, some say the world.

“The first time I saw Planned Parenthood in Houston I thought, ‘Oh, my goodness. This is overwhelming,'” said Sonny Foraker, pastor of First Baptist Church Pearland.

The city of Houston, he said, has more abortion clinics than the entire state of South Carolina, where he pastored before coming to Pearland. The newest Planned Parenthood office will replace the main offices of Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas on Fannin Street in downtown Houston. Formerly the home of Sterling Bank at 4600 Gulf Freeway, the seven-story building has one floor reserved for abortions and another wing that will facilitate late-term abortions, Houston pro-life organizers say.

Christine Melchor of Houston’s Coalition for Life said in a January interview she had viewed the blueprints for the facility and said plans include an ambulatory unit as required by state law to perform abortions past 19 weeks of gestation. Melchor said such procedures used to be done at the Fannin address until a 2003 state law required late-term abortions be performed in a facility with an ambulatory unit. The new Planned Parenthood offices will meet that standard, she said.

Foraker, whose efforts helped close nine of 12 abortion clinics in South Carolina, said he is urging pro-lifers to counter the abortion industry’s influence by speaking out and by volunteering at a pregnancy resource center (PRC). At the very least, he urged, people can give money to the PRCs that seek to end abortion and minister to the women dealing with its aftermath.

“They [PRCs] are leading more men and women to Christ than some churches,” he said.

Events such as “40 Days for Life” and “Life Chain” are non-confrontational ways in which the Christian community can educate others about abortion and minister to those who see the life-ending procedure as their only recourse.

“We know we are having a great impact,” said Christine Kasper, programs coordinator for the Houston Coalition for Life.

The organization is directing the efforts for this year’s 40 Days for Life that began on Sept. 23. The prayer vigils will last from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. each day except Sunday outside the main offices of Houston Planned Parenthood, 3601 Fannin (The home page of the Planned Parenthood of Houston website refers to the prayer vigil as “40 Days of Harassment” and calls for volunteer escorts to help clients get past the “protestors” who are “handing out false information and offering free ‘services’ at clinics that don’t believe in birth control or have medical professionals on staff.”)

The services to which the Planned Parenthood website refers is the Pregnancy Resource Center around the corner from the abortion clinic. Kasper said for the last two 40 Days for Life events, the center has kept a tally of the women who come to the facility seeking an alternative to the abortion they were prepared to have before speaking with pro-life volunteers. Kasper said that in fall 2008, 34 women referred to the PRC chose to keep their babies. In the spring 2009, 14 made the same decision.

“That’s 48 living babies … if it hadn’t been for the 40 Days of Life,” she added.

Because they cannot get on Planned Parenthood’s property, those praying and offering counsel must try to draw the women to them with smiles, friendly waves, and letting the women know the group represents caring Christian people.

“We want to be the opposite of what Planned Parenthood is telling them we are,” Kasper said.

Although few Planned Parenthood clients leave the sides of the escorts to the abortion clinic, some will as evidenced by the number of women who visited the PRC around the corner. Most are determined to follow through with the abortion, but not all.

“I think we’re really there for a reason,” Kasper said. “We’re there for those [women] reaching out for help looking for someone to save them.”

Kasper said she is convinced there are women who, though they are walking into an abortion clinic to end the life of their unborn baby, are frantically looking for someone to talk them out of it.

Sharron Albertson with Texas Life Chain said just making a silent public statement of faith about the need to end abortion has spared the lives of unborn children and brought conviction and healing to those who have participated in abortion.

This year’s Life Chain was scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 4.

The influence of such an event is hard to quantify but the stories of lives touched has been witnessed by Albertson or passed on by other prayer partners in the ministry. She said last year she was struck by the reality of the often forgotten casualty of abortion—men.

Albertson, who coordinates the Texas Life Chain as well as the chains in Dallas, recalled an incident relayed to her where a man driving past those praying and lifting up signs reading “Jesus Forgives and Heals,” “Abortion Hurts Women,” pulled over and put his head down on the steering wheel and began sobbing.

More information is available at or in Houston at

Foraker said hitting the wallets of Planned Parenthood and those who do business with the largest abortion provider in the nation is a very effective way to slow if not halt construction on the new Houston facility. Many of the construction workers at the site are not pro-choice, said Foraker who regularly visits the location and speaks with contractors as time and trespassing restrictions allow.

“Many,” he said, “don’t like what they are doing.”

A list of contractors working on the Planned Parenthood facility can be found at

EC President Morris Chapman announces retirement

NASHVILLE, Tenn.–The Southern Baptist leader who pledged from the start to “speak the truth in love” has announced his retirement effective Sept. 30, 2010, when he completes 18 years as president and CEO of the SBC’s Executive Committee. A former Wichita Falls pastor, Morris Chapman, 68, was elected to lead the convention’s administrative arm in 1992, four days after completing his second term as SBC president.

Chapman made his announcement in a letter he read to Executive Committee members, gathered in Nashville on Sept. 20-21 for their fall meeting.

During his tenure, Chapman has presided over the Executive Committee with the added role of chief executive officer. The convention operating budget grew from $4.2 million to $9.4 million. The ministry assignment grew as well to include CP promotion, stewardship and the Southern Baptist Foundation.

Chapman also enlisted the help of prominent Southern Baptists to work under the auspices of the Executive Committee to champion efforts in global evangelical relations and “Empowering Kingdom Growth.”

Veering from a dry statistical account of the year’s activities, Chapman passionately delivered his reports to the annual SBC meetings, leaving no doubt where he stood on theological issues or methodological practices in the denomination. Most recently, he asked whether calls for a “Great Commission Resurgence” offered a clear objective and transparent process for achieving its objective.

Chapman told EC members he had sought to address issues about which Southern Baptists were expressing great concerns. “My reporting was visionary in which I made an urgent and impassioned appeal from God’s holy Word. The pastor and preacher in me seemed never to be far removed from my reports. Most of the time I was able to hold my passion in preaching in check,” Chapman added.

Praising the vision God gave Southern Baptists to launch the Cooperative Program (CP) in 1925, Chapman said the idea saved the convention from financial ruin, kept missionaries on the field and seminary students in the classroom. “If it were ever tossed aside to be replaced by strong promotion of societal giving through designated funds, or if both undesignated and designated funds were counted as CP, we will have abandoned the greatest vehicle for supporting missions in the history of Christendom,” he insisted.

“Morris Chapman has been influential in Southern Baptist life for the last 30 years,” SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards told the TEXAN. “His election as president of the convention in 1990 finalized the effort to redirect the SBC toward a more conservative theological perspective. He deserves our gratitude for his strong stand on the Word of God and his contributions in denominational life.”

Chapman noted in his letter of resignation, “I reserve my greatest thanks to God. His grace has been sufficient and He has supplied all my ‘need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus’ (Phil. 4:19). Every direction I have led and decision I have made, the uppermost question in my mind has been, ‘What is in the best interest of the entire Southern Baptist Convention and its Executive Committee.’ My prayer is that God will bless and lead the Executive Committee in its every deliberation and decision in the coming months and years. I pledge my prayers and encouragement to you and to the one who shall succeed me.”

At the time of Chapman’s election in 1992, the denominational bureaucracy was beginning to feel the impact of the conservative resurgence as trustee boards looked for opportunities to elect entity heads who shared their theological convictions.

“I see myself as carrying out the will of the majority and carrying out genuine healing among Southern Baptists,” Chapman told the trustees who elected him without dissent to succeed Harold C. Bennett.

He left a 13-year pastorate at First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls to become the fifth president of the entity charged with conducting business for the SBC between annual sessions. Other pastoral experiences placed him in the Texas towns of Rogers and Waco, as well as Albuquerque, N.M.

EC Chairman Randall James of Florida waited until the close of the recent meeting to announce the search committee tasked with finding Chapman’s replacement. Joining James are EC members Martha Lawley, a member of First Southern Baptist Church in Worland, Wyo., an author and recent speaker at SBTC women’s ministry retreats, Clarence J. Cooper, pastor of Brandon (Miss.) Baptist Church, David O. Dykes, pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler which is uniquely affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, Doug Melton, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Jay R. Shell, an attorney from Batesville, Ark., and member of West Baptist Church, and Danny S. Sinquefield, pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Bartlett, Tenn.

James said he hopes the committee will be able to present a nominee by next June’s SBC annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. Names submitted to the committee will be held in “the strictest of confidence,” James said, requesting that potential candidates’ names be submitted by Dec. 1.

James said the names of nominees for president of the Executive Committee can be addressed to Presidential Search Committee c/o SBC Executive Committee, 901 Commerce St., Nashville, TN 37203, or to him at First Baptist Church, 3000 S. John Young Pkwy., Orlando, FL 32805.

Noting the coinciding of leadership transitions at three SBC entities, James said, “I think it’s the most important time right now in Southern Baptist life. I’m asking each of you to pray that God will direct our steps, that he will guide and guard our tongues, and that everything we do and say will bring honor to the Lord Jesus Christ.

“The world will be watching us,” James said. “We have an opportunity to let the world see Jesus through how we carry out our business as the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Chapman told EC members he would devote his final year to promoting a prayer initiative to support the Great Commission Resurgence, calling on Baptists to each pray by name for one person to be saved. Identified as an early proponent of the annual Crossover evangelistic outreach in convention cities that began when he served as SBC president, Chapman told Baptist Press that Southern Baptists seemed to have lost their passion for personal evangelism.

Imagine, Chapman said, if every church in the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a commitment to pray, “’Just one more soul, dear Lord. Just one more soul,’ we would see an increase of 45,000 baptisms next year, moving us from 341,000 to almost 400,000.”

ESL teaching techniques seminar offered

GRAPEVINE?The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention will host a training conference on teaching techniques for ESL teachers and coordinators from noon ? 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 10.

The training conference is free of charge but requires preregistration online at It will be held at the SBTC offices, 4500 State Highway 360, Grapevine, Texas 76051.

“This training is designed to help ESL teachers in your church to teach creatively, to impact lives, but most importantly to share the gospel with their students,” said Christina Clark of the SBTC missions team.

Speaker for the event is Carolyn Vincent. The event is made possible through giving to the Cooperative Program.

Ends of the earth may be next door’

As Southern Baptist churches in Texas identify their “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and ends of the earth,” SBTC Missions Director Terry Coy believes all four may be in a church’s neighborhood, workplace or school. “The ends of the earth may be next door?that may even be your connection to go around the world.”

“What changes are we going to have to make in our evangelism, missions, ministries and methods?”

Instead of focusing on all the things we need to change, Coy proposes talking about the unchanging message we have to share in the midst of a constantly changing world.

The SBTC recently launched Texas Missions Initiative (TxMI) to focus on mobilizing churches to reach Texas for Christ through creative ministries and evangelistic strategies that will result in multiplying disciples and new congregations. The missions emphasis is more fully described in the fall 2009 issue of Texas Baptist Crossroads, which arrived in mailboxes earlier this month and is available online at

“We must consider and adopt new methodologies if we are going to reach lost people for Jesus Christ, particularly among those from other countries who are settling in Texas,” Coy told Crossroads. “The majority of Texas is lost, and that majority is not only growing in size, but also growing in complexity, diversity, and lostness.”

Featured on the pages of this special report are examples of how that creative approach is unfolding in Port Arthur and Houston, profiled by reporter Melissa Deming; Norm Miller writes about a new church-planting strategy called Project Borderlands Outreach, being launched in the highly under-evangelized city of Laredo.

Also included are reviews of two recent books that can help mission leaders get a handle on understanding the people groups that remain unreached in Texas, explaining how to reach a diverse culture and the common values they hold.

For more information on TxMI, contact the missions department toll free at 877-953-SBTC (7282) or visit

10 years ago, personal grief, theology carried Wedgwood pastor

Pastor Al Meredith leans against the cross podium inside the worship center of Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth. (photo by Jerry Pierce)

FORT WORTH–Just a day removed from preaching his mother’s funeral after “praying her into Heaven” with his two sisters, Al Meredith sat on a dock near his boyhood home in Michigan, watching a freighter pass by and thinking to himself: “When I get back to Fort Worth, I’m going to need time to process my grief.”

A faithful God, Meredith said, knew what Meredith couldn’t know–later that day, a tragedy awaited that would thrust the pastor and his inconspicuous, working-class church into the international spotlight and would require uncommon composure on his part to console church members, plan funerals, and speak wisdom before a host of news media that converged on the church’s campus tucked away in a transitioning neighborhood of south Fort Worth.

On Sept. 15, 1999, a troubled Larry Ashbrook passed a dozen or so Baptist churches traveling through Fort Worth and inexplicably stopped at Wedgwood, entered the church building on a Wednesday night, and shot dead seven people and injured five others before fatally shooting himself.

Looking back on the experience is partly a blur for Meredith; he marvels at what he said to the media in the dozens, maybe hundreds, of interviews he gave in the weeks following, because amid the shock he couldn’t recall details of his conversations with reporters.

“And people would say, ‘Oh, you blessed me so much on the radio’ or on ‘Larry King Live!’ or Katie Couric. And this is the truth, I said, ‘Well, tell me what I said, because I was brain dead.’ You know, because of my own grief and emotionally being numb, I was out of the picture and so I was literally a vessel that God could speak through. In fact, I’ve gone back and viewed the videotapes of all those interviews and I can’t believe it myself.”

Meredith said the grief of burying his mother earlier that week “was God’s way of anesthetizing my spirit so when all of this hit” he was able to respond.

In addition, Meredith had himself been rooted in and attempted to root Wedgwood through his 12 years of leading the church prior to the shooting in “a healthy theology of grief and tragedy.”

That perspective was evident in the worship of the church prior to the shooting, and has continued afterwards, Meredith said.

“Our services have always been positive and always been upbeat, but there is a place for ‘It Is Well with My Soul?.’ And so the music is true, it’s not phony. We don’t sing ‘Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before,’ because that’s not true. Even Jesus said, ‘Stand against the evil days.’ Some days are more evil than others. Jesus did promise us this?this is one of the promises we don’t think is too precious: ‘As long as you are in the world, you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.'”

It is a necessary part of the gospel message that trials and tribulations accompany authentic discipleship, a truth that Meredith said needs preaching often in contemporary churches where the Bible’s wisdom literature often is taken as a guarantee that God will bless people by protecting them from harm or hurt.

“Those aren’t necessarily guarantees,” he said. “And the ultimate purpose for our life is not a happy and carefree life. The ultimate purpose is God wants to conform us to the image of his son. And the only effective way of doing that, unfortunately, is through trials. It’s through tribulations and heartaches and disappointments that God knocks off the rough edges of our character and conforms us to the image of Christ. And it’s a painful process. It’s not fun. But far more important than what God does for me is that I can know him, the true and the living God and have a living, vital relationship with him.”

Meredith has been able to offer comfort through the church’s experience to others who are hurting. In March, he preached the Sunday following the shooting death of Fred Winters, who was gunned down in the pulpit of First Baptist Church of Maryville, Ill.

The Maryville church’s youth pastor and his wife were two of many seminary students who called Wedgwood home during their days at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth—a group numbering hundreds around the world whom Meredith affectionately calls “Wedgies.”

The brother of the shooter planned to attend a commemorative service on Sept. 13. Wedgwood and a nearby Church of Christ congregation were able to minister to the Ashbrook family following the tragedy.

Several of the victims’ families and many friends were also planning to attend, Meredith said.

According to Old Testament tradition, churchgoers will be invited to set small white “Ebenezer” stones on a memorial to commemorate the life of each victim.

“The question is not ‘why do bad things happen to good people?’ The reality is there are no good people—there is none righteous, no not one. The real huge question is, ‘Why do good things happen to sinners like me?’ That’s the really perplexing thing,” Meredith observed.

“The verse that God gave me that first radio interview, that first morning afterwards, was Habakkuk 3:17-19,” Meredith added. “In fact, that’s the text I’m going to be using on the 10th anniversary: ‘Though the fig tree shall not blossom, though the fruit not be on the vine’—Here’s an agricultural society absolutely going down the tubes—‘yet will I rejoice in the Lord. I will join the God of my salvation.’
“And if the Lord is your source, then no matter what your circumstances you have reason to rejoice. But you have to choose to go on. And so you go on. It’s important you don’t deny your pain. And you don’t tell people you shouldn’t cry or you shouldn’t be angry. Feelings are. And nowhere in the Bible are we commanded to feel. Just don’t let your feelings determine your actions.”

Just the facts

The TEXAN has published more than eight articles on the content of school textbooks in the past few years. For our state, the issue is of special importance because publishers count on Texas to buy 10 percent of the nation’s textbooks and to set the standard for many smaller states. The arguments are familiar in our culture’s war of worldviews; liberal vs. conservative, theist vs. atheist, objective vs. subjective morality, and so on. We’re very interested in who wins but maybe we don’t ask ourselves what winning would look like.

One conservative Texan was characterized, not quoted, in the New York Times as wanting to ensure that “they [textbooks] are stripped of ideology and offer a straightforward, objective statement of facts.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? I don’t believe it’s possible, or even desirable to strip foundational subjects of their ideological baggage. Facts have meaning, after all. Let’s look at how integral ideology is to a few basic subjects.

Literature–This one is pretty easy to see. Prose and poetry, at least the best sort, has a viewpoint. It expresses a view of truth. Actually, it has a theology that can be discerned by a thoughtful reader. We want our kids to be thoughtful readers, don’t we? Whoever chooses Charles Dickens over Kurt Vonnegut has made a choice, maybe based on time limitations or age-appropriateness but a choice that nonetheless has a theology to it. Another school that chooses Maya Angelou over Rudyard Kipling has made a decision ripe with ideology. In fact it is hard to imagine a truly neutral reading of a good story or poem.

Well-told stories put you in another place and let you experience something you might not be able to experience in your lifetime. You begin to understand why characters did a certain thing and what consequences the author projects from those actions. Who’d want a story that did not do these things? And yet, doing so supposes good people and bad people (at least in the actions narrated) and positive or negative consequences to earlier events. The author who does this has a view of how things and people work. He has an opinion about which of his characters are most or least admirable. Likewise a good poem makes you understand something or feel something that words and their arrangement can evoke. I’d not want my children taught by a professor whose viewpoints have nothing to with his choice of reading assignments. But I would want to agree at significant points with his viewpoint. Neither of us should be disinterested.

History–Maybe some people think history is easier to teach objectively. It is, however, anything but an ideology-free zone. Consider the perspective of history, how the story is told. A generation of college students has been taught that the “great men” view of history is a flawed description of “dead white men.” Instead, perhaps we should tell the story of 1776 through the eyes of General Washington’s stable boy. Rather than focus on the positive outcomes of our westward expansion across the U.S. we might think about the people who did not want us to cover the continent or maybe a woman in a wagon train who was not allowed to vote in the family decision (or most recent election). However you view this philosophy of history, it is a philosophy and not dispassionate.

How should we understand our own nation as we read a version of American history? For every action of the majority there was a minority who experienced things differently. A history book or class that focuses on one more than the other will seek to affect the viewpoint of each student. The events we emphasize, facts we choose, people we honor, and correlations we draw in the study of history are the fruit of our opinions. For any side of these interpretations to portray its perspective as “simply the facts” is not credible. It isn’t simple and it shouldn’t be.

History, like other disciplines, also influences how we view the principles of those sister subjects. Does it affect our view of the Scopes trial in Tennessee to know that John Scopes agreed to violate the law against teaching evolution at the urging of publicity-hungry town fathers? You may learn about Scopes in biology class, but you might not hear why he did what he did. Does it matter if a history teacher includes that story or not? In history class you may learn the context of “David Copperfield” or of the real events that inspired “The Last of the Mohicans.” Knowing these contexts makes a difference in how you read the fiction.

Math–Even the steely and cold objectivity of numbers is not so divorced from meaning. In fact, if a person is not careful in his study of mathematics he may get the idea that there is some objectivity or linear direction in the way the universe works. That idea has baggage Math tries to describe symbolically the span of things, the relationship between these and those, even what might happen next. Isaac Newton, a pious man and the inventor of calculus, saw his invention as a revelation of God whereby we might have the key even to predict the future. In fact, Newton’s faith led him to assume that there is an orderly and somewhat predictable relationship between heavenly bodies like the earth and moon and between earthly bodies such as an apple that falls to the earth. If you learn that in history, I’ll be surprised, but if so, someone made a choice. Such an understanding imbues the numbers with life and possibilities you might not see if equations are merely bland tools rather than discoveries.

On we could go; and you’ll notice I restrained myself from mentioning biology at length (you’re welcome). I think we could see this strain of theology in everything a person does, particularly those things that require abstract thought. Meaning is everywhere; that’s how I read Romans 1:19-20.

So, teaching in no context is objective. I’d add that it should not be. And yet we’re not so happy with the confused product of an American institution that has become so focused on diversity that it neuters everything from vocabulary to the rules of dodge ball. Efforts to avoid offending that any imaginable one person truncate the right of the majority to more broadly influence our communities. Gripe about it all you want but that’s the way the wind blows for now. What should we do?

First, I’d insist that efforts to exalt biblical truth in every discipline are worthwhile. Truth is truth after all. A biblical worldview undergirds invention, enterprise, imagination, and philanthropy. We are not doing anything hostile by pointing out that there are two sides to the culture war, and by vigorously engaging the issues. We don’t bless anyone by throwing up our hands and quitting.

That said, there is no shortcut solution to what is ultimately a heart-by-heart problem. Winning a textbook fight will not change everything; it might change nothing. We cannot pick and choose a sanitized bit of what our community’s servants have to offer. If our schools us a fair history text, someone will supplement it with one-world nonsense.

There is then, no way around knowing your kids’ teachers, knowing the subject material they study, and guiding them through it. We don’t send our kids to others for tutelage so we can wash our hands of their education, do we?

Neutrality toward all worldviews in public and private schools sounds good at first. It is contrary to education, though. That’s why parents lead, because the lessons our children learn sprout from a view of truth. If the only way public education is palatable to biblical Christians is if teachers teach only random facts with no discernable context, then we must pull our kids out. There is no easy way that’s also morally acceptable, one that involves no close participation or sacrifice on our part as parents.

The radicals who insist that materialistic Darwinism and substantial human causation of climate change are “settled science” have an agenda based on what looks like the plain truth to them. Those same people who think it necessary to point out every flaw of America’s founders lest students believe them noble do not treat every historical figure that same way. That’s because they also have an agenda on this subject to which they are committed. We should oppose such anti-intellectual viewpoints in the educational system we fund and own. Let’s be honest though, a system based on biblical worldview, as ours should be, is also taking sides. There is no way to avoid taking sides and still produce nominally educated citizens.

Excitement building for Lubbock meeting

Four years ago messengers gathered in Amarillo for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. It was the first time to have the annual meeting in West Texas. We are going back west. This time it is to Lubbock on Oct. 26-27. Excitement is building for one of the most unusual events SBTC has ever had.

On Tuesday night of the annual meeting, Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., and president of the Southern Baptist Convention, will bring an evangelistic message in the theater of the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center. Area churches will provide a combined choir to bring a powerful musical presentation. At the conclusion of worship an invitation will be extended for people to come to Christ. Under the same roof in the exhibit hall, Team Impact will be giving a display of physical strength and spiritual truth. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of young people will be attending. We are asking God to give us the joy of seeing many people come to Jesus. There is no greater way to close out an SBTC annual meeting than seeing people come to know Christ.

If an outpouring of God’s spirit on Lubbock is to happen, there must be intercessory prayer. Even if you are not attending the convention, you can have a part in uplifting the name of Jesus through prayer. October 7 is set as a Day of Fasting and Prayer. Please join us in asking God to show himself mighty. If you can participate in person, be on hand to distribute material at the Texas Tech-Texas A&M football game Saturday, Oct. 24. This is our Crossover Lubbock Day.

The Bible Conference starts on Sunday night at Southcrest Baptist Church. The Monday morning, lunch and afternoon sessions will be at the Civic Center. During the annual meeting, which starts Monday night, Bob Pearle and Byron McWilliams will bring messages. Other preachers, singers and persons sharing testimonies will provide a worshipful atmosphere while we take care of a little business on the side.

Remember, Tuesday night is the highlight with an outreach to those who need to know our Lord and Savior. This could be the greatest annual meeting in the history of state conventions. Plan to be a part of this incredible possibility. Pray that God will be pleased to visit us in a special way. I hope to see you in Lubbock.

Port Arthur couple says missionary thinking needed as world settles in Lone Star state

PORT ARTHUR?Brent and Savannah Sorrels moved to Texas in 2005 to work with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention as strategy coordinators in Port Arthur. Having served as IMB missionaries in Costa Rica, the Sorrels expected to put their Spanish language skills to use with the area’s growing Hispanic population. But as they prayer-walked through area neighborhoods, the couple discovered large communities of unreached Vietnamese immigrants in Port Arthur.

“When we first came we tried to reach everyone,” Brent Sorrels said. “We had big maps of the city blocked off. But we kept running into Vietnamese, and it seemed no one was doing anything to reach them.”


There are 5,000 Vietnamese immigrants in Port Arthur, a city totaling 60,000. “We are not big, but we have a lot of diversity,” Sorrels said, noting that among the 5,000 Vietnamese, about 60-65 percent are Catholic and the remainder are Buddhist. Many practice ancestor worship in addition to their official religion.

“We are still learning about them, but I found that Buddhists are more open to studying the Bible than Catholics,” Sorrels said. “Somewhere in the family history they stopped being Buddhists and became Catholic. They feel like they’ve gone as far as they need to, like they’ve made all the conversion in their family history that is necessary. They are much less open to studying the Bible even if they don’t know the Bible or don’t read it.”

While only 10 percent of the worldwide Vietnamese population is Catholic, Sorrels attributed Port Arthur’s high percentage to several factors.

“A lot of these folks were from the same part of South Vietnam?a heavily Catholic part of Vietnam,” he said. “Another factor is Catholic charities helped settle the Vietnamese here.”

Key to the work of a people group missionary is intimate knowledge of the different subgroups comprising a people group. Blanket missions strategies to one people group often fail. The Catholic/Buddhist divide among the Port Arthur Vietnamese is an example.

“We worked on a translation project to have some Bible studies designed for Catholics,” Sorrels said, noting a partner church in Houston translated the studies into Vietnamese. The studies worked well in reaching Catholics, he said.

“You can assume a lot of things with Catholics regarding the Trinity, sin, and who Jesus was and what he did?coming, living, and dying and paying for sin?that helps us as a common point that we don’t share with our Buddhist friends. We tried to use the same Bible studies with the Buddhists but it wasn’t getting past their worldview issues at all?we were assuming too much.”

“So we are currently using Bible stories, beginning in Genesis, and assuming our folks are literate. And in doing so, we have them read the Scriptures together and then have them ask questions,” he said. “We are teaching them the Bible, but we are also teaching them to obey the Bible and what changes should appear in your life as a result. And we are asking them to share their faith at the end of each lesson.”

Currently, Sorrels leads four storying groups with 16 attendees. The groups are facilitated with the help of a few local men, two of whom Sorrels hopes will become leaders for a movement among the Vietnamese. A new study in English recently began for second-generation Vietnamese. During the summer Sorrels utilizes two Vietnamese-speaking interns conducting English classes

The group recently baptized its first disciple, who was kicked out of her home as a result of her decision. But Sorrels has hopes for more baptisms soon.

“We have a 17-year-old atheist who accepted Christ in the last week or so,” he said. “And my hope is we’ll have a few more accept Christ by the end of summ