Month: November 2009

Lineup runs the spectrum at annual SBTC event

The speakers and musicians at the SBTC Empower Evangelism Conference Feb. 15-17 at the Arlington Convention Center will cover the spectrum from comedian Tim Hawkins to the sobering inspiration of missionary Carrie McDonnall, who survived brutal captivity in Iraq while serving as a missionary with her late husband, who died from injuries sustained in an ambush by Iraqi militants.

The annual conference will feature two days of preaching, speakers, and music from recording artists such as David Phelps and Charles Billingsley, dramatist Clyde Annandale and preachers such as Mac Brunson and Junior Hill, among others.

This year’s theme is “Awakened by His Glory,” based on Exodus 33:18: “Then Moses said, ‘Now show me your glory.'”


Hawkins has been accused of being equally gifted and twisted. His parodies, musical and otherwise, are making him a household name as they receive thousands of hits on the online video site

His arsenal is unique: high-energy stand up, physical comedy, slick guitar skills, myriad impersonations, improvisational chops, and a singing voice that adapts from hair band shrieking to country songster to a parody of the generic music minister.

“People think I live a rock-star life,” quipped Hawkins. “Believe me, Mick Jagger never gets lost in a Hertz parking lot looking for his Ford Focus.”

A former college All-American baseball player, he traded the sports stage for the comedy stage and never looked back. The St. Louis native taught himself to play guitar and tested the waters at area comedy clubs, launching a full-time comedic career in 2002.

His art form was honed primarily in churches, with a brief 6-month stint performing in prisons as part of Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship. Since his audience ranged from small children to married adults, he developed material to hit a wide age range.

Hawkins even pokes fun at himself, his four kids and his wife in a video called “A Homeschool Family” set to the theme music for the 1960s TV series “The Munsters.”

“Clean comedy is easy,” Hawkins said. “Funny comedy is hard.”


Carrie McDonnall and her husband David served together as missionaries in Iraq. In 2004, the couple, along with three coworkers, was ambushed in the northern city of Mosul. The attackers killed her three friends instantly.

The McDonnalls were able to get to medical help, but David eventually succumbed to his injuries. Due to the physical trauma of the attack, Carrie McDonnall would not find out about her husband’s death until many days later. Once awakened from her coma, she began a journey she never dreamed she would have to endure.

Her testimony expands beyond the events of that day and beyond the boundaries of missions to remind believers to live out their faith intentionally in every area of life.

In her book “Facing Terror,” Carrie tells her story in detail.

She lives in Rowlett and is the founder

Southern Baptist DR volunteers brought hope to Philippines disaster amid mud and disorder

Editor’s note: The following is an account by SBTC Disaster Relief task force leader Larry Shine, pastor of Pine Forest Baptist Church in Onalaska and a veteran responder to international disasters, including the 2008 effort following the deadly Cyclone Nargis in Burma.

Beyond the devastating mudslides, rancid floodwaters, the thousands displaced in shelters, and the mountains of wet, muddy debris that filled the air with a lingering stench, a higher motive stirred in the hearts of Southern Baptist volunteers. Thirty of them, including a team from the SBTC that led the way, made a 22-hour flight to the Philippines capital city of Manila early last month to share the hope of Jesus Christ after the worst flooding there in 40 years.

Mobilizing on short notice, Southern Baptists from the Kentucky and Oklahoma disaster relief ministries, Texas Baptist Men and the SBTC teamed with Baptist Global Response to assess damage and locate and purchase equipment while training Filipino Baptists to continue the work long term.
The advance team, led by this writer, was comprised of veteran DR volunteers and leaders from various churches in Texas. SBTC volunteers Jim Howard, Doug Scott, Bill Jones, Paul Easter and Jim Fuller landed in Manila only two weeks after Typhoon Ketsana parked her massive vortex on central Luzon Island and dumped torrential showers.

Panic-stricken engineers released water from a major dam so quickly that earthen dams, levees and dikes were swept downstream. Hours after arrival the team learned that Typhoon Peping was unleashing her fury on the northern part of the same island. The International Mission Board compound provided a safe haven for the team who quickly began gathering information and equipment for mud-out teams soon to arrive.

A conference was held with the leadership of the Luzon Baptist Convention to build a network of communication between affected churches. Several pastors attending the meeting expressed a need for the mud-out teams but said it would be several weeks or months before the water was expected to recede from their churches. The decision was made by the convention leadership, local pastors and the lead team to try to develop local DR teams within non-affected churches to minister to those who were going to have long-term needs.

“It is best to train Philippines Baptists to minister to Filipinos in need,” one member of the DR team remarked.


The teams began work in a section of Manila where a 25-foot wall of water washed through a residential district. The work focused on the Love Community Church so that subsequent ministry could be launched from that site. Pastor Richo of the church, and his wife, shared the testimony of the 23 individuals, many of whom came to the church during the storm for shelter, who found themselves climbing a nylon rope to access the second-story ladder while the raging water continued to rise. Those same 23 eventually made their way to the roof of the church where they remained for a day until the floodwaters receded.

When asked what they did while on the roof, the pastor’s wife did not hesitate to declare, “We had church!” Similar stories were heard as the team began to minister in the garbage- and mud-filled streets.

“One thing that stands out in this disaster is the resilience of the people,” said Pastor Jim Howard of First Baptist Church of Atlanta, Texas. “Everyone is busy cleaning and doing what they can to restore their life to some degree of normalcy. They are not waiting for the government to come and take care of their needs.”

Another team member, Doug Scott, added, “They are certainly upbeat for having such devastation brought upon them. It is easy to solicit a smile when a kind word is offered.”

As the team completed its work with the Love Community Church, their activity was redirected to another area of greater damage. Between projects each volunteer was directed to a local church on Sunday. The 30 volunteers separated to 10 different churches to preach, share testimonies and bring special music. Many decisions were made to accept Christ as Savior or to renew commitments to walk with Christ daily.

Amid several instances of illness from the dirty conditions surrounding the mudout work, the DR team endured.

As each day began at 5 a.m. with a devotion, information update and prayer, the members found themselves praying in small groups throughout the day. While walking through crowded streets where the team was working, the local citizens would come out of their homes and shops and shout thanks and expressions of appreciation.

Associate Pastor Matt of the International Baptist Church of Manila, while working with the DR team, said a 70-year-old woman asked if he was a pastor. When he responded that he was a Southern Baptist pastor, she replied, “I knew you were a group of born-again believers by the way you work!”

When the roads cleared in the north, some members of the team traveled to meet with other Filipino pastors, including Pastor Arnold of the Awesome God Baptist Church, as well as a local mayor, school administrator and the medical director of the local hospital. When asked what his greatest concern was, the doctor didn’t hesitate: “Cholera. The floodwaters have polluted our wells and we have a very limited supply of purified water. I am not sure the information is getting to the people in our rural areas not to drink well water but seek the purified water in town.”

That statement led to an immediate recommendation to BGR to get water-testing equipment into the rural communities and train church members to test their local water supplies.

Since the October visit by Southern Baptist DR teams, the Filipinos have taken over the relief work.

Lottie Moon: 2009 ‘Who’s Missing? Whose Mission?’

RICHMOND, Va.?The International Mission Board’s 2009 theme for its annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO) is “Who’s Missing? Whose Mission?” focusing on those still missing from God’s family and Jesus’ Great Commission call to reach them.

Who’s Missing?

Even after 2,000 years of Christian influence, more than 1.5 billion people don’t have a gospel witness among them. They are hidden behind cultural, physical, political and language barriers.

Many of the world’s people missing from God’s family live in concentrated pockets of lostness. The pockets Southern Baptists are focusing on in 2009 comprise:

?About 40 nations and 700 languages

?34 percent Muslim

?32 percent Hindu

?13.5 percent Animist

?6 percent Buddhist

?6 percent unknown religion

?4 percent nonreligious/other

Although there is a small percentage of Christians, the rest are a mix of ancestor worshippers, shamanists, and Jewish, Taoist and Sikhist adherents. About 80 unreached people groups still have no contact with the outside world.

The LMCO Week of Prayer, Nov. 29-Dec. 6, will feature people groups who represent these pockets of lostness.

Every penny given to Lottie Moon is used to support Southern Baptist missionaries as they share the gospel overseas. The offering represents 54 percent of the International Mission Board’s total income, with another 35 percent of the IMB’s income is received from the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program.

Pastor reaches out to Killeen mosque members with hope

KILLEEN?Jerry Jewell had visited there before, conveying a heartfelt message: “Jesus Christ loves you and he desires to save you, and that is why I am here.” Most of the Muslims at the Islamic Community Center of Greater Killeen had been friendly, even eager, for dialogue, said Jewell, pastor of Living Hope: The Church in the Field in the nearby town of Copperas Cove.

It had been a year since Jewell last visited the mosque, but he said he felt the Holy Spirit nudge him the day following the shooting massacre Nov. 5 on nearby Fort Hood: “You should go visit.”

Then a phone call?from a Christian friend who had accompanied the Southern Baptist pastor to the mosque to engage his Muslim neighbors?confirmed it. “You might want to check in to see how they are doing,” the friend told Jewell in an unsolicited call.

News reports said alleged Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan had visited the mosque the morning of the attack. “I figure the best way to keep someone from going out and doing other people harm is to bring them to Christ,” Jewell said. “If we hate them, then we are denying Christ.”

So a day after Hasan allegedly gunned down 12 of his fellow American soldiers and one civilian, caused the death of an unborn baby and wounded dozens of others, Jewell said he somewhat reluctantly drove to the Muslim mosque housed in a red one-story building in Killeen. Once there, he saw that news reporters had filled the lawn and a police officer was screening those wishing to enter the building.

“Are you a member?” the policeman inquired as Jewell approached the mosque entrance. “No,” Jewell answered. “I am a Baptist pastor. But I visit with these guys and wanted to come in and see how they are doing.”

The policeman opened the door and Jewell discovered even more press inside. Shoe-shod journalists, male and female, apparently unfamiliar with Muslim worship practices, roamed freely inside, with some of the women in areas reserved for men.

Jewell said he gave his regards to several mosque members he had previously talked with.

“I met one young man who was new there and he asked as we were talking if I was a member of the mosque. I told him, ‘I am not a Muslim; I am a Baptist pastor.’ He asked for my card and said, ‘I want to come and visit your church.'”

Jewell said the man called that weekend and told him he wouldn’t be able to attend church services that evening but said he still planned to come. “It will be interesting to see if he shows up.”

Jewell said he witnessed the mosque president reading a press statement condemning the shootings at Fort Hood while the imam spoke about “how God likes people who do right, not people who do evil.”

Even though most of the people he has met there have been polite and even charitable, Jewell said he knows such bold outreach has some risk. Yet many more people die in traffic accidents than are killed by Muslim terrorists, he noted.

“None of them has shown up at Living Hope thus far,” the pastor said. “My major concern is not whether they show up at Living Hope, but whether they show up in heaven.”

Inner-city VBS raises funds for suburban church plant

SAN ANTONIO?It was last July when Pastor Edward Beltran of Genesis Hot Wells Baptist Church, a south San Antonio church plant of the Bluebonnet Baptist Association (BBA) and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, convinced his church to earmark 2.5 percent of their undesignated receipts to an account designated for local missions through BBA.

“This is an amazing story of God’s providence and his perfect timing, and we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose,” Beltran said, quoting from Romans 8:28.

Last month Genesis Hot Wells celebrated their two-year anniversary. In the process of searching for a local ministry to designate the 2.5 percent toward, Beltran ran across the blog of Pastor Zak White, who was in the process of planting Revolution Church in the northeast San Antonio suburb of Schertz.

“It was the latter part of this past spring that I heard of Zak White and the possibility of Genesis joining other partners in an effort to support the calling and vision of this new church plant,” Beltran said. “By the grace of God we began along with other partners to contribute financially to support Revolution Church’s vision.”

It was toward the end of July when Genesis Hot Wells conducted their Vacation Bible School (VBS). The children were encouraged by the leaders to contribute to missions. Revolution Church was the recipient of the gifts collected from the VBS children, plus the church’s 2.5 percent of undesignated receipted given through the local Baptist association.

With many other expenses that came with the planting of Revolution Church, it still lacked the funding for the design of a logo?an important facet of distinguishing itself in a media-saturated culture. “We didn’t have the money for a logo design and in our area, a slick logo is pretty important,” White said, “so we came up with a logo design contest.”

Waiting on God to provide, White posted on his blog: “We have some absolutely incredible and dedicated churches from our area partnering with us as we launch Revolution Church. A few days ago I got a phone call that the kiddos from the Genesis Church Vacation Bible School had raised $171 to go towards our logo (which we had no money for.) INCREDIBLE! And yes, I said the VBS kiddos are the ones who raised the money. Crazy! It FLOORED me! I cried after I got off of the phone.”

It was only after their conversation that Beltran sent White some pictures of the kids who gave the money, which left White more blown away than he was initially. “No doubt, God at Work!” he wrote. “We could all learn a lot from the children in our lives if we would just stop and watch them. I know God has taught me more through Couper (my 2-year-old son) than just about anybody on this Earth.”

“The kids raised $170 of the $250 we needed. But realize this … these kids are on the southside of San Antonio. They are FAR FROM being kids with money to spare for something like this. As far as I’m concerned, they raised $170,000,” White wrote.

Revolution Church is now in the launch phase. They held their first preview service on Oct. 4.

After Fort Hood massacre, Killeen churches, chaplains consoled community

KILLEEN?A couple of Southern Baptist congregations near Fort Hood served as rallying places for the community and offered messages of hope the Sunday following the shooting Nov. 5 that left 12 soldiers and one civilian and an unborn child dead. In the days following, Army chaplains, Southern Baptists among them, consoled the grieving and the injured.

“[W]e just tried to present a message of hope. We are people of hope because of the resurrection of Christ,” said Ken Cavey, pastor of Memorial Baptist Church, located just three miles from the main gate of Fort Hood in Killeen.

“I approached it (during services Nov. 8) as this being a storm. When Jesus sent the disciples across the lake in Matthew 14, the storm came up suddenly. Not only did we address the storm of the Fort Hood situation, but there were some folks there that have storms in their marriage, storms in their finances. The storms will never end, but God has given us provision for how to operate within the storm,” Cavey said.

Memorial Baptist was one of the first churches to respond to the tragedy, hosting a prayer vigil and a session addressing spiritual questions just a few hours after the shooting. The question people have asked most, Cavey said, is “Why would God let this happen?”

Cavey said about 75 percent of Memorial Baptist’s active members are connected in some way to the military, and he estimated that 2 or 3 percent of those who attended the church on Sunday were first-time visitors who came because of the Fort Hood shooting.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry spoke at a community memorial service at First Baptist Church in Killeen, exhorting mourners to embrace their faith community during the trial. He reminded them that the tendency during tragedy is to recoil from fellowship with others, but the author of the book of Hebrews says not to give up meeting together.

After the service, Cavey said, a Southern Baptist chaplain approached him to express gratitude for the support he and his colleagues are receiving from pastors and church members as the chaplains minister to soldiers and their families.

As of Nov. 13, the alleged gunman, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, was stable after being shot four times in the abdomen, according to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. He was charged with 13 counts of murder with a decision pending on further charges related to the unborn baby of a slain soldier three months pregnant.

The tragedy began Nov. 5 when Hasan, an Army psychiatrist scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan, walked into a Soldier Readiness Center and opened fire, killing 14 people, including the unborn baby of a pregnant soldier, and injuring dozens more.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I.-Conn., said on Nov. 8 he would begin an investigation into what the Army should have known about Hasan before the shooting, the Associated Press reported. Among other reports, former classmates of Hasan complained to faculty about what they considered to be Hasan’s anti-American views, including a presentation that justified suicide bombings as well as his remarks that Islamic law trumped the U.S. Constitution.

Hasan reportedly cried out “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest!”) as he fired rounds from two semi-automatic pistols.

Meanwhile, Army Chief of Staff George Case

Chaplains meet wide-ranging needs on Fort Hood

FORT HOOD?Army chaplains working on Fort Hood have been in near perpetual motion since Thursday’s deadly shootings, providing immediate support to the wounded at area hospitals and to first responders, to emergency medical teams, to victims’ families and to teams charged with notifying the families of the dead, Army Chaplain (Col.) Frank Jackson said.

“We support the notification officer and then support the families through pastoral care once the notification is made,” Jackson, a Southern Baptist-endorsed chaplain who as the garrison chaplain oversees all religious services and programs on the Army base, told the Southern Baptist TEXAN.

Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasanis the alleged gunmaninThursday’s killings,which claimed 14 lives, including the unborn baby of a pregnant soldier, and wounded 29 others.

Jackson said 55 chaplains, some from other bases, are on Fort Hood but are spread thin as families of victims arrive and as chaplains partner with behavioral health teams to help those who witnessed the tragedy in what Jackson termed “psychological first-aid meetings.”

“The chaplains are there to support those involved and to provide pastoral care as those persons require it,” Jackson explained. “We have great chaplains who have done an amazing amount of work in the last four days in making sure that families and soldiers and support personnel and those involved in the incident are treated with dignity and respect and encouraged and bring some healing and reconciliation. That’s what we do.”

The chaplains are also heavily involved in the planning of a base memorial service planned for 1 p.m. Tuesday, with reports that the president and first lady plan to attend.

Jackson said there was a mood of anticipation on the base Monday about Tuesday’s memorial service, which he said would hopefully “give those involved a point of reference to look back to as a transition time in the grieving process. It should be very, very powerful.

“And then, the people who have been the caregivers at this point have gotten a little tired. And so we’re trying to adjust schedules to make sure they are getting the rest cycle they need so that they can provide care when it needs to be provided later on down the road.”

Jackson said Southern Baptists can pray that God would grant the chaplains the grace to continue the mission long term, and to identify people who need encouragement or who didn’t process their grief adequately.

“This obviously has been a pretty traumatic experience,” Jackson said. “You don’t have this happen every day. The old adage is true that you don’t want to deal with feelings dead; deal with them alive.”

Jackson said the motto of his office is found in the Apostle Paul’s exhortations to “remain steadfast” and to “not grow weary on well doing.”

“We have to take care of one another so that we may take care of others,” he said.

From Russian orphanage to Texas family, Weatherford teen has come full circle

Thinking back on her life as a child in a Russian orphanage, Oksana Nelson has no point of reference for remembering when the missionaries came to visit. On more than one occasion they came to the orphanage, but the day in question–the bitterly cold day when she received her first gift–she can’t recall if it was before Christmas or after. There had never been a Christmas observance for the children and thus it wasn’t a time they marked each year.

That was more than 10 years ago and now 19-year-old Oksana is the oldest of four children adopted from Russia and Uzbekistan by parents David and Becky Nelson. The family lives in Weatherford where they are active members of Greenwood Baptist Church. It wasn’t long after the family moved from California to Texas three years ago that Oksana arrived at Greenwood to discover people packing Christmas gifts into shoeboxes.

She made the connection. That shoebox of gifts she received that cold winter day in Russia was from Operation Christmas Child, a ministry of North Carolina-based Samaritan’s Purse. The church was preparing shoebox gifts to be shipped to children around the world. Oksana’s mom encouraged her to tell their pastor, Brian Bond, about her experience. He, in turn, insisted she share her testimony with the rest of the congregation.

This is what she told her church family.

She was 7 years old when she was taken from her parents by local authorities on grounds of neglect. Oksana remembers having to fend for herself as a child, even searching the streets for food.

“The orphanage wasn’t the best place but it was better than before,” she said in a telephone interview with the TEXAN.

There were three “very strict” meals a day, mainly soup and bread. No meat. Candy was something only dreamed of. Such treats, she said, were for rich children. The orphans bathed once every two weeks and their standard issue clothes–which set them apart as outcasts at the local school–were washed once a week.

She shared a bedroom with three other girls and a bathroom with 19 other children. The 20 of them shared a single tube of toothpaste.

Winters were frigid in the community two hours north of Moscow. The bare-boned facility was hardly livable. The windows leaked and the radiators often gave up trying.

There were bright moments, though. Missionaries would visit the children, giving out much-needed hugs and individual attention. Vacation Bible School was presented and one time some of the children, including Oksana, were treated to a week-long camp during the summer.

But it was one visit in particular that had such a significant impact on her. One winter day the missionaries came to the orphanage bearing gifts–something she had never before received.

“I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it because it was my first gift,” Nelson recalled. She opened the package slowly. Everything inside the box belonged to her. That was a concept she could not quite comprehend.

“These were my very own items that no one else had.”

Her favorite gift was a tube of toothpaste. Also in the box were a much-appreciated pair of socks and a game of dominos that she looked forward to sharing with the other children.

And there was candy.

She said: “Out of all those items the two most important things were the pictures of the boy and girl who packed the box. I actually saw faces of people who cared. Some strangers decided to send this to me.”

That was a defining moment for the young girl. She knew someone outside her small world cared.

Following her testimony at Greenwood Baptist, “There wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” her pastor said.

Oksana’s story had given the members a glimpse of what God could do through their work with Operation Christmas child. For them and Oksana the ministry had come full circle.

Bond said Oksana’s testimony gave a very personal touch to the OCC ministry.

“We’re inundated with pictures but [Oksana] kind of changes the whole perspective. She puts a face on it. Before we knew it she was gone every Sunday speaking at other churches.”

For three years Oksana has been representing OCC in Texas, Louisiana, and across the nation. In November she will speak with OCC founder and Samaritan Purse President Franklin Graham at three national OCC distribution site press conferences.

“What she is a powerful communicator,” said Mark Cooper, OCC regional director for Texas and Louisiana. “She can communicate very well the impact that box had on her life. What it meant to her.”

And, Cooper added, “The other thing that is impressive is that she has no Russian accent.”

Oksana speaks with almost a southern drawl, a result, her mother said, of her daughter’s drive to excel. She picked up English quickly all the while maintaining her Russian. Language is one of her gifts, her mother said.

When Oksana isn’t participating in an OCC promotional event she works at a veterinary clinic and attends Tarleton State University, working toward a degree in agricultural economics.

Greenwood Baptist member Linda Tingle testified to Oksana’s hard work and gracious spirit. Tingle, the Nelson’s neighbor, took time to visit the family when she saw them moving in.

“That was truly, truly a God-send,” Nelson said. The Nelsons knew no one and had left their extended families and church family behind in California.

“The fact that she did that made all the difference in the world.”

The family, she said, was committed to visiting several area churches, not just the closest one, which happened to be Greenwood Baptist. But after following through on that commitment, Nelson said, “Everyone in my family asked, ‘Can we please go back to Greenwood?’”

Tingle said, “The whole family has been a blessing to the church and to me personally.”

And of Oksana specifically, Tingle added, “She is just an overachiever and it’s just so neat. She is just letting God lead her life.”

Even when she was in the orphanage, Oksana exhibited a maturity and faith beyond her years. Her life to that point could have bred in her a fundamental distrust of others and an attitude of self-preservation at any price.

Her mother explained: “Oksana made a conscience decision to make the most of what she has been given. She always had a mature understanding of Christ’s love for her. From the beginning she has understood that sacrifice.”

Oksana said the missionary visits to the orphanage included presentations of the gospel, but it wasn’t until her camp experience that “it really hit” her. While stringing beads that tell the gospel story by color representations, Oksana said she finally understood.

When Becky and David arrived at the Russian orphanage in May 2001, it was the first time they met Oksana. In their hearts, Becky said, the little girl had been their daughter for several months. But they were keenly aware that the 10-year-old would be understandably apprehensive about leaving all she knew and going to live with strangers.

But Becky Nelson said God had already been at work. When the couple was introduced to Oksana, Becky said, “She was just this pleasant, self-aware little girl who took her daddy’s hand.”

A few months later, settled into their California home, Oksana had learned enough English to have a heart-to-heart talk. Becky asked her daughter what had gone through her mind at the moment they met. Was she nervous? Scared?

Oksana said the missionaries told the orphaned children that God is might and taught them how to pray to him. Ever since that moment Oksana said she had been praying for a mom and dad. When they finally arrived at the orphanage, “Why,” she asked her mom, “would I be afraid. God sent you.”

Our best meeting yet

It’s time to use superlatives; the 2009 SBTC annual meeting was the best of the 10 I’ve attended. I missed the first two and might be inclined to discount the first one because of the unique nature of an inaugural meeting. All that aside, I’ve never been to a more upbeat, enthusiastic Baptist meeting. Even the mood of folks clustered in the hallways was exuberant. In one sense it was puzzling. The occasion was not as unique as last year’s 10-year anniversary celebration. It wasn’t the largest meeting we’ve had, though our attendance was well within the average range for our meetings.

It wasn’t until we saw hundreds of people Tuesday night walking down the hall toward the decision counseling room that it became clear. The atmosphere, the unity, the harmony, and the harvest signaled a movement of the Lord during our convention meeting. Something was in the air. Something was in our hearts.

I know several editors will say something similar about their own meeting this year. They’ll be sincere and I’d be happy for them to be right about an unusual blessing of God on their meeting. I’ve come back from our own meetings happy and grateful for what went on. I truly think this is different, though. Consider a few happy aspects of our meeting.

We didn’t have a fight. Some conventions will either have an open disagreement or use the bully pulpit to brush aside disagreement during these important two days. Some messengers will go home believing that they were abused by the majority or chair. Except for one amendment to a resolution related to the Cooperative Program, we had no closely contested question. And that one wasn’t the cause of hard feelings. I saw state staff members vote on both sides of that question. Both sides were trying to say, “We’re fans of CP and this is a good way to express it.” Those who lost the vote moved on and enjoyed the rest of the day. Some conventions will address or ignore significant fellowship questions within their bodies. We didn’t have such a question before us.

We didn’t cut our budget. I don’t brag about the mercy and provision of God. It’s not something we can earn or arrange. The fact is, some of our sister conventions have been roughly handled by the economy. Some have cut staff positions; some have reduced their budget plans by double digits for consecutive years. An awareness of God’s provision for our cooperative work in Texas buoyed the spirits of messengers and convention workers alike. Our financial report was neither dull nor discouraging?quite the opposite.

We didn’t come to a fork in the road. Some conventions are being driven by financial hardships or multiple visions for the future to reconsider the future of the work of their state conventions. Our convention has moved pretty successfully from rapid growth in ministries to constant reconsideration of how we’re organized for ministry. I don’t think a single annual meeting has passed without noting new ministries, reorganized ministries, or reconfigured resources. It may be a blessing of being only 11 years old but it lends a constant aspect of freshness to what happens within our fellowship.

We didn’t just talk about evangelism. Our own state version of Crossover has been a good idea. It has encouraged some churches and each year presents the gospel to someone who’s not heard it before. Like the SBC’s Crossover event, ours varies from place to place depending on the churches and associations that partner with us. This year was unique. It was a different kind of event. Working with Lubbock area churches, our evangelism staff hit the sweet spot with the Team Impact and Johnny Hunt evangelism rallies Tuesday night. The preparation and choice of evangelists drew thousands of people to the civic center during the last session of a business meeting of conservative Baptists. There are a lot of unexpected blessings in that fact. Those scores of our messengers who prayed with the hundreds who responded to the gospel invitation were jubilant to be so used of God. That kind of experience will bring unity and excitement to a Baptist meeting.

This blessing was, I think, based on earlier ones. Our 2009 meeting was the 12th story of a foundation that was laid in 1998. God gave the increase this year by his provision of people and resources in previous years.

Our unity is based largely on the fact that we are a confessional fellowship. We don’t have widely divergent views of biblical authority, local church practice, or our relationship with other Southern Baptists, because the essential aspects of those questions are answered in the statement of faith affiliated churches affirm. Churches also make a commitment to cooperative missions when they decide to be part of our convention. That question is settled from the start. I still believe that other state conventions, our national SBC for that matter, would benefit greatly from making their fellowships confessional in nature. Until that happens, they’ll be divided from time to time regarding things about which Southern Baptists broadly agree.

Our financial stability is greatly aided by the convention’s early commitment to adopt only those ministries requested by affiliated churches. This decision allows us to keep our staff numbers, thus our administrative costs, smaller relative to conventions of comparable size. Some of our insulation from the fi

Glory to God for souls saved, lives touched

“To God be the glory, great things He has done!” was sung by the SBTC Executive Board when the Crossover report was given during our meeting on Oct. 28. Over 500 people prayed to receive Christ on Tuesday night, Oct. 27 at a special outreach session of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention annual meeting. These precious souls filled out decision cards, allowing them to be discipled by local churches. God’s grace was on display. God used many to make this possible. Southern Baptist churches in the Lubbock area, messengers and guests from all over Texas, the SBTC staff and thousands who were not present but prayed, were the human instruments.

I sensed the presence of the Spirit of God even before my plane landed. Throughout the entire time, a spirit of anticipation was in the air. The small amount of business was conducted in a Christ-honoring way. Great preaching, inspiring singing and heart-touching testimonies were abundant. Attendance was phenomenal.

I simply say, “Thank you.” Thank you to the Lord. Thank you to His fine people who serve Him. May God continue to smile upon the SBTC.