Month: October 2009

AM ’09: Team Impact leaves spiritual mark in Lubbock

LUBBOCK?They came to see the bending of steel bars into pretzel shapes, the breaking of baseball bats into scrap wood and aluminum with raw muscle and torque, and other strength feats involving rows of ice blocks and 400-pound wooden poles, loudspeakers blasting out pulsating music fit for warriors to set the mood.

They also heard that real men?and real women?are not self-sufficient and certainly not able to earn God’s favor; they need the salvation offered to every sinner through faith in the God-man, Jesus Christ.

At the end of life, Neal told the crowd of nearly 2,500 that packed the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center exhibit hall, each person will spend eternity with God in a place called Heaven, or eternity separated from God in a place called Hell that is characterized by darkness, despair and torment.

The Good News: God has made a way for sinners to find salvation by sending his only son, Jesus Christ. As Neal led in a prayer of repentance and salvation, hundreds called out to God for the first time in saving faith, evidenced by 726 people who after the event recorded spiritual decisions?512 of them salvation decisions?in a large banquet hall manned by Southern Baptist volunteers.

Jack Harris, the SBTC senior ministry associate for personal and event evangelism, said God moved through Team Impact at the Lubbock meeting and in area churches where they appeared the weekend prior to the meeting, including First Baptist Church of Littlefield, which witnessed 73 people, many of them students, respond to an invitation.

Team Impact presented their strength demonstrations and non-sectarian lectures on positive behavior in Lubbock-area public schools prior to the Oct. 27 event, to which they offered free tickets, Harris said.

Harris said he received a call that was forwarded from the SBTC office in Grapevine from a parent inquiring about how to get additional tickets to see Team Impact. “I told him to come on,” Harris told the SBTC Executive Board following the annual meeting. “I ran into that same man at the event. When I introduced myself in the counseling area, he said, ‘I called you yesterday. You said to come on. Tonight, I gave my life to Christ. And so did my two daughters.'”

After hearing Harris’ report, board chairman Dale Perry asked Longview pastor Steve Cochran to give thanks for the souls saved at the annual meeting. Praising God for the harvest, Cochran thanked him “that our business is about winning souls. That is Baptist business: winning souls.”

Continuing his prayer, Cochran prayed that God would grant Lubbock-area churches patience as new believers are cultivated from an old way of living to a new way in Christ.

During the Crossover outreach on Oct. 24, volunteers and SBTC staff members distributed thousands of free tickets to the Team Impact event to tailgaters before the Texas Tech-Texas A&M football game on the Tech campus in Lubbock.

Harris said area Southern Baptist churches were following up on each person who registered a decision on Oct. 27. Organizing for the event began in April with Harris and Lubbock-area pastors meeting monthly to pray and plan.

AM ’09: SBTC meeting ends with evangelistic success; West Texans elected officers






LUBBOCK?From the start to the finish of the annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, messengers and guests witnessed the results of inviting people to faith in Christ. The Oct. 26-27 gathering opened with the testimony of a teenager saved after a friend invited him to an SBTC-sponsored Student Evangelism Conference last summer, and closed with over 512 people professing faith in Christ and 68 others rededicating their lives during the gospel preaching and strength feats of Team Impact.

Lubbock-area pastors and churches joined with the SBTC’s evangelism department to focus the convention meeting on a citywide crusade event on Oct. 27, inviting Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt to speak in the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center theater while Team Impact?a group of weightlifters who perform strength feats and preach Jesus?amazed teenagers and children in the exhibit hall.

While Hunt preached the gospel to a crowd of 1,200 adults, Team Impact told the 2,417 teenagers, children and youth leaders how to receive God-given power to change the direction of their lives for eternity.

Adults leaving the theater after hearing Hunt challenge Southern Baptists “to get back on track in evangelism” began to spontaneously applaud as they grasped the magnitude of hundreds of lives changed by the power of the gospel in the hall opposite theirs. At the last minute, more Southern Baptists joined those who stood ready to guide new converts, distributing Bibles to new believers and connecting them with local churches for further discipleship.

Additional professions of faith were reported where Team Impact members spoke during related events at First Baptist Church in Littlefield and Victory Life Baptist Church in Lubbock.

Prayers for the event began in April; a day in early October was devoted to prayer and fasting for the annual meeting. Team Impact’s presentations on character to 26 Lubbock-area schools and the distribution of free tickets to Texas Tech tailgaters during the week prior to the crusade attracted students and their families to the longer performance where their feats of strength were punctuated by testimonies of how God changes lives.

Meeting for the second time in West Texas since the formation of a new state Baptist convention in 1998, the headcount of 889 messengers and 423 registered guests was only a few hundred shy of last year’s attendance in Houston. The crusade crowd expanded to nearly 3,700 as local residents responded to the invitations from area Southern Baptists.

In his address to the convention, SBTC President Bob Pearle told the audience, “By standing firm and holding on to those distinctives that make Baptists who they are, we will continue to reach this world and not go the way of every other denomination.” The SBTC has grown from the 128 churches that formed the new state convention in 1998 to a current total of 2,197.

West Texans were elected to every SBTC office, including President Byron McWilliams, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Odessa. Recording secretary Pat Anderson, a member of Keeler Baptist Church in Borger, was elected by a vote of 132-108 over Becky Illingworth, a member of Community Baptist Church in Royse City. Vice President Kevin Ueckert, pastor of South Side Baptist Church in Abilene, was

AM ’09: Bible Conference speakers urge refreshment, renewal, elect officers

LUBBOCK?A handful of pastors and a best-selling author drew from different scriptural texts to encourage and challenge those gathered for the annual Bible Conference of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention as they addressed the theme “Renew, Refresh, and Recharge.”

During the Monday session of the Bible Conference at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center, officers for the 2010-11 session were elected by acclamation and unopposed. Elected as president was Heath Peloquin, pastor, Brighton Park Baptist Church, Corpus Christi; as first vice president Nathan Lorick, pastor, First Baptist Church, Malakoff; and second vice president Bart Barber, pastor, First Baptist Church, Farmersville.

Tim LaHaye

The conference opened Oct. 25 at Southcrest Baptist Church with LaHaye, a popular author and speaker. Known for his books on end-time prophecies, LaHaye read from 2 Timothy, chapters 3 and 4. Making note of the passage 4:3-4, he said “itching ears” is a hallmark of the end times.

Believing the time of Jesus’ return is imminent, LaHaye said, “If there was ever a time when we need to teach the Word of God it is in this day and age. That is the one thing that will help people understand the true from the false.”

He added that when people leave church “they should go with some of the Word of God in their heart.”

It was put upon his heart many years ago the power of three words?message, morals and money. He said it is important how pastors perceive those three spheres of influence in their own lives and how they interject them into their messages to the local church.

He urged pastors to stay true to the written Word void of any insertion of secularism. The message of Christ crucified and resurrected should never be compromised.

Regarding morals LaHaye said the most damaging act to a Christian witness is marital infidelity. He said the legalization of pornography by the Supreme Court in 1973 has done the greatest damage to the fabric of American culture than any other court decision.

A person’s attitude toward money is vital. But staying focused on the end game is most encouraging. It’s all about the reward to come.

“You know what I want is to look into the eyes of Jesus and hear him say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.'”

Fred Luter

Speaking from personal experience, Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, told the conference to hold on to their faith in the face of difficulties.

“If the storms of life show up so does the Savior,” he said.

And Luter knows about storms.

As Franklin Avenue Baptist Church had outgrown its facilities, the members, with the enthusiastic blessing of their pastor, had plans to build new facilities on nine acres of land not far from their current location.

Then, Luter said, “A woman named Katrina came calling.”

The congregation, like the rest of New Orleans, was dispersed. The vision Luter had for his church was gone with the surge o

AM ’09: SBTC president offers remedy for decline by standing firm and faithful to Baptist distinctives







LUBBOCK–Standing firm and staying faithful to Baptist distinctives provides the key to growth in the denomination and local churches, according to Bob Pearle, pastor of Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth and president of Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

“There are voices today within our own Baptist Zion that are advocating the way that we are to reverse decline in the Southern Baptist Convention is to be less Baptist and more evangelical,” Pearle told the opening session of the annual meeting Oct. 26. “We need to go back to who we are in our distinctives.”

Persecution, false teaching and temptation threaten the stability of individual Christians, local churches and ultimately denominations, Pearle warned. Just as Paul advised in I Thes. 1:4-6 and 3:2 that Christians not to be shaken by the threat of persecution and affliction, Pearle said some churches fail to stand strong today and succumb to political correctness in order to gain applause and approval of the world.

From 2 Thes. 2:2-3 he warned that false teaching undermines the gospel. Though liberal teaching has impacted most denominations, Pearle said the more common threat today is from syncretism as churches “take a little bit of this and a little bit of that,” instead of staying true to the gospel message. Temptation lures people away from the truth of the gospel and their love and devotion to Christ, he added, citing I Cor. 10:12-13.

“The difficulties you and I will experience before the coming of the Lord may cause some to stand away from Christ and even deny the truth,” he said. Southern Baptists must stand firm in their confidence in Christ’s return

The first part of the remedy for such decline is found in 2 Thes. 2:13-15, Pearle said, reminding Southern Baptists to stand firm in their confidence in Christ’s return and the truth of salvation. “We have those who explain it away or deny it, but the Bible teaches us this blessed hope we have in the imminent return of Christ,” he reminded, compelling believers to be redeem the time they have left, sharing the gospel with the nations.

Further instructed to stand firm in the truth of salvation, Pearle said, “Paul makes it very clear that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation, not just a good way or one way, but the only way.” Denominations that have backed off of the exclusivity of Jesus Christ in salvation and allowed universalism to creep in are experiencing decline and instability, he said. “Don’t think we are exempt from that,” he added.

Secondly, believers are to stay faithful, holding to the traditions they were taught, he explained. Truth must be faithfully handed down from one generation to the next, he said. “The Word of God will never be accepted by our culture and society. We who believe the Bible will always be swimming upstream within our culture.”

By standing firm and holding on to those distinctives that make Baptists who they are, Pearle said, “We will continue to reach this world and not go the way of every other denomination.”

“I believe that’s why we’re seeing a rise in networks,” Pearle said, noting that many churches associated with denominations that have lost their distinctives still have “a heart for the Lord” and desire for planting churches, finding more in common with such fellowships.

“So understand that what has made us great and made us strong is not standing away from who we are, but standing firm in who we are and taking the gospel to the entire world,” Pearle said. “God help us to stand firm and to stay faithful.”

AM ’09: Good preaching, doable by every preacher, requires foundations, preaching prof says





LUBBOCK?”What we are after is life transformation; we’re not just giving information,” David Allen told those attending one of several “Ministry Café” luncheon sessions during the SBTC Bible Conference Oct. 26 in Lubbock.

Allen’s breakout session on expository preaching offered seven foundations for effective sermons and a list of steps for sermon preparation.

Dean of the theology school and professor of preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Allen told the gathering he believes every preacher is capable of doing great preaching. Noting that believers will not know who the truly great preachers are until eternity reveals it, preachers should be intent on delivering “great content wedded to passion.”

Effective sermons, he said, are built on seven foundations: interpretation; translation; organization; communication; passion; persuasion; and transformation.

First, the preacher must properly grasp the passage he is preaching. “A mist in the mind of the preacher will mean a fog in the pew,” Allen noted. “You can’t communicate a meaning you don’t know.”

Second, translation means transferring the meaning to the audience in terms and contexts they understand.

Third, organization should include exposition, illustration, application, imagination, argumentation, motivation and exhortation. “Good preaching makes use of good illustrations,” but don’t over-illustrate, Allen pleaded. “Good preaching turns the ear into an eye.”

Good preaching must also communicate using substantive content and also style, Allen said, citing a definition from Phillips Brooks that biblical preaching is “truth communicated through personality.”

Further, passion is necessary but cannot be manufactured; it must well up from a well-prepared, prayer-bathed sermon. “Let me put it this way: People can tell when your heart’s not in it,” Allen said. “People have a built-in bunk meter.”

Preaching with persuasion involves preaching as if arguing a case before a jury because “we are still the means God uses to draw people to Christ.”

And finally, preach for life transformation?the end to which preaching is aimed, Allen said.

In a question-and-answer time, Allen said the verbal delivery of preaching must be primary and the use of visual media must always be subservient to the preaching of the text. Emphasizing that he is not against props or video to aid the preacher, “if you allow the visual to overpower the verbal, that is contrary to the Word of God.”

“If you can’t preach without all the visual media and props, you will never be able to preach with them,” Allen said.

Tulsa area pastors welcome GCR priorities during session






Hess Hester, senior pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Tulsa asked the task force to encourage the kind of unity that Jesus soughtfor his disciples as a witness to the world of God’s love.

BROKEN ARROW–The appeal for a Great Commission Resurgence found a warm reception among the 100 or more Oklahoma pastors and laymen gathering at First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow for a GCR Task Force listening session Oct. 22. “The bottom line is that we need a Great Commission resurgence that begins in our hearts, our churches and in North America that will extend to the ends of the earth,” insisted GCRTF chairman Ronnie Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church of Springdale, Ark., and the Church at Pinnacle Hills in Rogers, Ark.

“It is time for us to take a step back and look at our denomination–not just the structures and organizations and things of that nature–but look at ourselves, and where we are and have a call, once again, to spiritual renewal,” said Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Director Jim Richards, one of 22 members tapped by Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt to discover ways the SBC can more effectively and faithfully fulfill the Great Commission.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler joined the discussion via SKYPE, an internet videoconferencing service, as the three task force members fielded questions for over an hour. Hosted by Tulsa Metro Baptist Association as part of their annual meeting, the men heard from a crowd that expressed a high level of agreement with the task force’s stated goal, sharing a desire to take a missions mandate seriously.

With 80 percent of churches plateaued or declining and only 10 percent experiencing growth through conversions, Richards expressed hope that the resurgence of interest in the Great Commission will stir the hearts of individuals, churches and the SBC to seek a spiritual awakening.

“God has used Southern Baptists up to this point in tremendous ways,” he added, noting that the tools and resources are still available and many of the methods and modes used in the past can advance the Great Commission.






“Our denomination is experiencing a spiritual crisis,” SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards told a Tulsa gathering during a listening session for the Great Commission Resurgence task force. He and GCRTF chairman Ronnie Floyd of Springdale, Ark., answered questions at First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow, Okla., Oct. 22. “It’s timefor God’s people tocome back and see the Great Commission as a personal assignment from the Lord Jesus and wake from the lethargy and apathy we have had.”

As the newest state Baptist convention, Richards said the SBTC sends 55% of undesignated Cooperative Program receipts from the nearly 2,200 affiliated churches to the SBC for worldwide missions and ministry. The remaining 45 percent is prioritized for missions and evangelism and supports ministries such as colleges and children’s homes as “a contributing partner rather than a sustainer,” he explained.

Richards said the SBTC had “the luxury and the challenge of starting from scratch,” launching a confessional fellowship with a Great Commission focus “in our DNA and core values.”

He added, “We made some pledges in the beginning–that we would not have a large-numbered staff. Our commitment was that we would seek to send more [CP dollars] on and do more [in-state] with less.”

As the task force envisions how the SBC can more effectively accomplish the Great Commission, Richards said, “There are new models and new ways for us to do ministry together,” urging Southern Baptists to stay on task together, allowing for disagreement on finer points.

Oklahoma pastor Doyle Pryor of First Baptist, Sapulpa, who serves as a trustee of the International Mission Board, remarked, “There seems to be so many definitions of the Cooperative Program right now depending on who you talk to.” He asked task force representatives for their working definition and “any foreshadowing” of “an effort to redefine that for Southern Baptists at large.”

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Criswell College enrollment official linking with churches

DALLAS?In the four decades since W.A. Criswell founded the school, Criswell College has pursued its mission of “serving the churches of Jesus Christ by developing God-called men and women for ministry leadership.” Andrew Hebert is traveling Texas, making sure the churches of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention are aware of the benefits of a Criswell College education.

As the newly named director of enrollment services, Hebert serves as a liaison between the college and the SBTC. He said he plans to deliver a two-fold message?challenging those God-called servants to commit their lives to ministry and encouraging them to prepare at the Dallas-based school.

“For those who are interested in either full-time ministry or just want to be better prepared as a believer, I will be encouraging them to take a class or start a degree at Criswell College.”

He said SBTC churches will enjoy the benefit of Criswell graduates, who prove to be conservative pastors, missionaries and Christian leaders who will serve Southern Baptist churches with doctrinal clarity, missionary fervor and moral integrity.

“I will be working to build relationships with pastors and churches so that we can explore new and creative opportunities to partner together for ministry in the future” and build a stronger connection between SBTC churches and Criswell College, raising awareness for the school and preaching messages that will challenge people to a stronger commitment to Christ, he said.

Hebert earned his bachelor of arts in biblical studies from Criswell and is currently working on the master of arts in theological and biblical studies with an emphasis in New Testament. Last year he received the Paige Patterson Preaching Award. He has pastored two churches in North Texas, encouraging evangelistic outreach that led to contacting every house within a 10-mile radius of the last congregation he led in Sumner.

“Although young, Andrew Hebert has become a seasoned pastor of a Southern Baptists of Texas Convention church,” noted SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards. “He is a Criswell grad who can represent the values that the college and SBTC share. Andrew models what other young ministers can do by going to Criswell,” Richards added.

Whether a church needs a preacher for a revival, regular church service or an event like DiscipleNow, Hebert is glad to travel to Texas churches at the school’s expense. “Criswell College is the best place in the state of Texas to prepare for ministry and I want to get that message to the churches,” Hebert said.

“We have a servant-hearted and scholarly faculty. We require more classes in biblical studies and theology than any other undergraduate program in the state and more than many graduate programs.”

With convenient class schedules and low tuition rates, Criswell College remains well below the national average for private Christian education, he said.

“We offer the kind of specialized training that is hard to find anywhere else.”

SBTC team leads way in Philippine disaster







MANILLA, Philippines?A Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief team that led the way for SBC volunteers responding to severe flooding in the Philippines returned after nearly two weeks of service there, with another SBTC team heading back in late October.

Typhoon Ketsana dumped a month’s worth of rain in 12 hours, Baptist Global Response reported, wreaking havoc in Manilla, a city of 12 million that sits below sea level.

In all, typhoons Ketsana and Parma affected 6 million Filipinos.

Twenty-nine Southern Baptist volunteers from the SBTC, Texas Baptist Men, Oklahoma and Kentucky traveled to Manilla.

“The SBTC team set up logistics for the other teams,” explained Jim Richardson, SBTC DR director. “Once again, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers were on the front lines in quick fashion, aiding in practical and desperately-needed human needs amid crisis, sharing the love of Christ in deed and word.”

Beyond mud-out and clean-up work in homes and churches, Richardson said the SBTC team helped identify additional needs, assisted their Baptist field partners and trained native volunteers and churches in DR ministry.

Flooding often is followed by severe medical concerns and that is the case in Manila, noted Jim Brown, U.S. director for Baptist Global Response.

“News reports indicate the water is still waist-deep, even chest-deep in places,” Brown said in a BGR news release. “It has been standing for three weeks now. The longer water stagnates, the greater the risk of diseases like malaria, dengue fever, diarrhea?even typhoid.”

In addition to the Philippines disaster, the SBTC is also preparing to aid in flooding response to India, where the worst rains in 100 years forced 1.5 million people into relief camps.

As of Oct. 13, Southern Baptist DR teams during the year had served more than 260,000 meals, performed 596 mudout jobs, more than 6,000 chainsaw jobs, presented the gospel 698 times and seen 101 people profess saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Members of the SBTC team included Larry Shine of Onalaska; Paul Easter of Mount Pleasant; Billy Joe Jones of Lufkin; James Fuller of Lufkin; Jim Howard of Atlanta; and Doug Scott of Atlanta.

Churches reconcile after 60 years

CUERO?The members of First Baptist Church of Cuero had a disagreement in 1947, leading a few years later to the forming of Calvary Baptist Church. Sixty-two years later, the two Baptist churches in Cuero?about 100 miles southeast of San Antonio?are reconciled and working together to take the gospel to city residents.

Glenn Robertson, now pastor of the First Baptist Church, and Bill Gleason, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, weren’t around when the split occurred. But they sought closure to past errors.

Two years ago, Gleason began to meet weekly with another pastor for the purpose of praying for Cuero churches. The group quickly began to grow and developed into a ministers’ alliance of over 20 pastors that reach across denominational and racial lines.

“We were praying about some strongholds in the city?things that were keeping people from coming to Christ,” said Gleason of one of their weekly meetings. “We had a map of the city on the floor, and in that prayer time God revealed to me there was something wrong. There was rebellion in [our] church.”

Gleason said Calvary Baptist Church became the recipient of a stained-glass window that was originally owned by First Baptist Church. After First Baptist split, the woman who donated money for the window left the church and asked to take the window as well.

“The pastor [at the time] gave her the window back and boarded up the space,” Gleason said, explaining that the window was later given to Calvary. “What had happened was our church had accepted the gift that was given to God at another church. That [window] was taken in rebellion. I felt we needed to do something about it according to Scripture.”

Gleason approached Robertson, who was also a member of the ministerial alliance. Robertson, who has led FBC for 16 years, said he was initially uncertain of what to do.

“I had to pray about it, think it through, and talk to Bill to get his heart about it. Once I sensed that Bill really felt like God has spoken to him about that, I felt I needed to honor that no matter what,” Robertson said. “He felt the stained-glass window represented a rebellious act against God and left a spirit of rebellion that had sowed through the seeds of generations. He felt like God was saying, ‘You need to address this publicly, because this was done in the public.'”

Robertson said the members of FBC were also uncertain in the beginning. “When we first began to talk to the churches, no one understood because none of our members had anything to do with [the incident],” he said. “That happened about 60 years ago, so no one could understand why we would take action on something that happened so long ago.”

But as Robertson began to pray about the relationship between the churches, he said God began to work.

“About the same time, in my office we’d been doing cleaning and renovating, and we came across the records of the split. I began to sense there was something that my church needed to address related to that split and the cause. And something that wasn’t handled properly here. If Bill’s church was going to make some public acknowledgement, then I needed to make the same acknowledgement for our church, both in the public.”

On Aug. 16, the two churches came together for a unity service held at First Baptist. Gleason preached from Joshua 7 and the sin of Achan, emphasizing that devoted things of God should remain in God’s house. At the close of his sermon, Gleason asked FBC members to forgive members of Calvary Baptist Church for taking and accepting a “devoted thing” that was given to God.

Robertson preached out of Daniel on repentance, asking for forgiveness for its role in the church split and the removal of the window.

Partnership in New York ripe with opportunity, planters say

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ARLINGTON, N.Y.–“We are literally in the center of the biggest mission field in the United States,” explained Sean Pierce, director of missions in the Hudson Baptist Association of New York, citing statistics that show 2 percent of people in upstate New York and New England profess a recognizable Christian testimony.

“That means we would be as likely to run into another believer in most of China and almost all of Russia as we are here in New York,” Pierce said. “Church planting and making disciples is the very best way to reach the area with the gospel.”

The irony: it was once the American Bible Belt.

Within the 12-county area of the Hudson Baptist Association, a million and a half people populate the medium-sized cities and quaint villages that string their way along the Hudson River Valley from Dutchess County, about an hour north of New York City, up to the northern half of eastern New York state. In the Hudson Baptist Association, 30 Southern Baptist churches exist and other churches with a biblical gospel witness are rare.

There are a few Evangelical Free churches and Christian Missionary Alliance congregations, but the area is overwhelmingly irreligious despite generational Catholicism and tepid mainline churches that are often near empty.
Where religiosity is most fervent, it is likely to be rooted in occult practices or New Age mysticism. The largest New Age training center in America is in the area.

“We have Woodstock right up the road,” church planter Pete Shults said on a stop in Hurley, about an hour and a half north of New York City. “Of course the concert was held in nearby Bethel, but Woodstock became a New Age haven.”

Within 15 minutes is the town of New Paltz, home to a State University of New York (SUNY) campus of 8,000-plus students and a city where the mayor made news in 2004 by presiding over an illegal marriage ceremony for 30 homosexual couples.

Despite these factors, the people in New Paltz, Woodstock and other cities in New York state are receptive to the gospel, Pierce said, and we need more church planters to reach them.

As with large segments of the northeast region of the U.S., “the landscape is littered with old, mainline churches where the gospel is absent,” Pierce lamented. “There is more gospel to be found on the gravestones of some of the cemeteries than there is in the pulpits.”

Shults, a former businessman who grew up in Ulster County and was saved as an adult after attending a Bible study for three years and realizing he’d never personally acted upon the gospel message, has a heart for reaching his hometown friends and neighbors with the gospel and planting new congregations in cities along the Hudson Valley.

The church he planted three years ago, Cross Point Fellowship in the Hurley-Kingston area, rents an abandoned convent on the third floor of a Catholic High School. They are reaching people by faithfully teaching from the Bible and sharing the love of Jesus. Cross Point’s community service ministry has knocked down barriers, built bridges and is yielding increasing fruit.

Through Bible studies called “Discovery Groups,” the church started winning some converts. About 30 students show up for a weeknight Bible study; more than half are without a saving knowledge of Christ, and Shults told of one high school student who was surprised upon learning that the Bible was printed in English after thinking it was in Latin his entire life.

Shults described the church’s evangelism plan as “mining existing relationships” and building new ones. He also hopes to purchase a scanning device that would allow the church provide a service to homeowners by detecting heat loss areas in their homes, free of charge, that would cost homeowners several hundred dollars otherwise.

Heating costs are very high there, Pierce said, and the ministry idea of Shults’ could advance Southern Baptists’ outreach in the Northeast.
Shults noted that Cross Point has benefited from mission teams and financial support from Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jasper, Texas, as well as several other Texas churches in the Sabine Neches Baptist Area.

Cross Point is averaging 100 attenders in its worship services but is sacrificing one-third of its giving receipts to help start Lighthouse Community church in nearby Tillson with Rich and Melinda Wright, who were commuting to Cross Point, 20 minutes away. The Wrights live in Tillson and are holding services in a community fire house where Rich Wright had served as a volunteer firefighter.

Though not officially launched—they began holding weekly worship services in May—Rich teared up as he told of reaching some of his lifetime friends with the gospel after resisting it and even ridiculing it himself after his wife was converted. Frequent partiers then, Rich didn’t like his wife’s lifestyle changes.

“I was very critical; my heart was hard,” he said. Years later with three children in the house, Wright decided church might be useful. He started attending a Bible study and reading through Proverbs, discovering “His Word makes sense.”

“That encouraged me to read the rest of the Bible,” he said.

Wright told how God is orchestrating his leaving IBM earlier than he planned through a workforce reduction. He initially hoped to wait at least a year to 18 months while getting the church off the ground, but the workforce reduction may result in a severance package, which would expedite the process. The Wrights don’t know where the long-term income will come from except for a belief that they are in God’s will.

Another church planter Shults is partnering with, along with Hudson Baptist Association, is Derek Duncan, who came to the Poughkeepsie area, about an hour north of New York City, in August from Memphis, Tenn.

He and his wife, Dana, are in the initial stages of planting a church there. Dana Duncan has a music background and is volunteering with the marching band at a large high school where the Duncans’ daughter, who is a band member, attends. In desperately seeking a home to rent after a lease opportunity fell through, family in tow and living in a motel, Derek reluctantly called a realtor, who asked what the Southerner was doing relocating to the Poughkeepsie area.

“Not knowing what his response would be, I told him I was here to plant a church. He said, ‘I’ve been praying that someone would come and plant a good church here.”

Norm, the realtor, has become a great friend and supporter of the Duncans, Derek said.

Stopping at a pizza restaurant to meet a group of Texas Baptist pastors who were visiting with Shults and Duncan to learn of partnership opportunities in the Hudson Baptist Association, Norm paused briefly when asked what the greatest need in the area was, answering, “They need hope. There is just an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. And they don’t know why they are hopeless.”

The Duncans hope to present a passion play at Easter in 2011 as a community outreach; Norm serves on the board of a theater in the Poughkeepsie area that is the oldest theater in New York state, Derek said.

One obstacle in the Poughkeepsie area is a strong occult presence, said Derek, emphasizing his desire that Southern Baptists pray on their behalf as the church plant looks for meeting space and divine appointments.

Outlining his vision for helping plant more churches, Shults said Cross Point seeks to be “an engine and an incubator” for church planting in these surrounding cities and towns.

The association, with the blessing of the New England Baptist Convention, even helped plant a church, New Life Community Fellowhship, in the far western Massachusetts city of Pittsfield.

Pastored by Jeff Black, who came to the area 12 years ago from North Carolina, the church is attempting to plant a sister church 30 minutes north in North Adams, Mass.

Another missionary planter in the network of Hudson Association, Lyndrell Randall, is working to establish a new church, One Body in Christ Baptist Church, in an ethnically diverse area near downtown Albany. Currently meeting in the chapel of a newly built rescue mission, Randall was already a familiar face with passersby on downtown streets the day the Texas team of pastors visited him in late September.

Opportunities for Texas church to send short-term mission teams for service projects, Backyard Bible Clubs, prayer walking, sports camps and to provide financial help are ample and much needed, Pierce said.

For more information on the SBTC’s partnership with Hudson Baptist Association, e-mail Tiffany Smith at tsmith@sbtexas.com or call her toll-free at 877-953-7282 (SBTC). Sean Pierce at Hudson Baptist Association may be contacted at seanpierce@hbany.net.

Texans on the September vision Tour to Hudson Baptist Association included Terry Stockman, pastor of First Baptist, Colmesneil; David Miller, associate director of missions in Sabine Neches Area; David Nugent, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist, Jasper; Jeff Griffith, youth minister at Hillcrest Baptist, Jasper; and Drifty Cates, pastor of Pineridge Baptist, Sour Lake.