Month: December 2009

Evangelism Conference includes Brunson, Phelps, and gang member-turned-preacher

ARLINGTON?The annual SBTC Empower Evangelism Conference Feb. 15-17 at the Arlington Convention Center will include a diverse lineup of pastors, evangelists, and musicians with the aim of awakening God’s people for revival.

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


Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Fla., who previously served as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas before succeeding Jerry Vines in Jacksonville, is among the pastors scheduled to preach at the conference.

The South Carolina native is a graduate of Furman University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he earned a master of divinity and a doctor of ministry. He received the SWBTS Distinguished Alumni Award in 2004. He also received an honorary doctor of divinity from Dallas Baptist University. Brunson served at FBC Dallas from 1999-2006.

He is known for his love of history, which he often weaves into his sermons to help illustrate his expounding of the Scripture. He is the author or co-author of four books, including “The God You’ve Been Searching For,” “The Miracle You’ve Been Searching For,” “Why Churches Die,” with Ergun Caner, and “The New Guidebook for Pastors,” with James Bryant.


Denton-based evangelist Rick Ingle brings to the pulpit a rich background of pastoral experience combined with a heart for sharing the gospel. Before his conversion at the First Baptist Church of Victoria, Ingle’s journey included running with youth gangs in the ghettos of Philadelphia before joining the Navy, a hitch that included being court-martialed five times.

Shortly after his conversion Ingle entered college and graduated from Eastern and Immanuel Baptist Colleges and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He holds the doctor of divinity and doctor of literature degrees and has conducted over 1,400 revivals.

His story, “From a Ghetto Gang Leader to the Pulpit,” has been broadcast on every continent and beamed over the former Iron and Bamboo curtains on more than 400 radio stations. He is the author of six books. Since 1996, Ingle has concentrated on revivals in new work areas, paying his own travel and living expenses and not accepting offerings.


Texas-born tenor David Phelps spent eight years with the Gaither Vocal Band before resuming his solo career with Word Records. Known for his three-octave range and the emotional nuance of his vocals, Phelps said realizing that God “is in every part of our lives, in the love we have for each other and our wives and kids and everything” has broadened his outlook on how music can express God’s glory.

That variety is reflected on his newest album “The Voice,” which includes a mixture of pop, gospel and even a rendition of Luciana Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma.” Phelps’ young son, Grant, joins him on the hymn “Angel Band.”

See upcoming issues of the TEXAN for additional stories about the 2010 Empower Evangelism Conference. For more details on the conference, visit

Merry Christmas! More than a greeting

Merry Christmas! Yet, it is more than that. It is the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is the recognition that the infinite God came in the form of a human baby in Bethlehem’s manger. Yes, Merry Christmas is more than a simple greeting at a retail store counter.

This Christmas think about giving something to honor the One whose birthday we observe. You can make a check out to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for Southern Baptist Convention international missions. You can take the time to serve at a food bank or a homeless shelter. You can invite your neighbors over for a brief but meaningful reading of the Christmas story while enjoying refreshments (June and I did this for eight years where we live in Keller).

“Missional” is a familiar buzzword. Touching lives for Jesus is being missional. Anyone can say “Merry Christmas” but showing it in deeds reinforces our joyful greeting. “Merry Christmas” can be transformational for us and for others.

June, Nathan and I pray that you experience the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in your life, home and church this Christmas season. Merry Christmas!

Opportunities abound in right-to-life ministry

GARLAND  When God primes someone’s heart to be involved in the struggle on behalf of unborn babies and their mothers, they have multiple options, says Julie Parton, executive director of Texas Life Connections, a ministry partner of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

Parton said the needs abound in nearly every community for financial and volunteer support. One may visit the website to find a list of pro-life ministries across Texas and nationally. Most pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) are listed there, Parton said.

Also, phone books typically include under “Abortion Alternatives” a list of pro-life ministries.

“Any individual or church can start with that. Once they identify a local PRC, go in to meet the director of that center,” she said. “The same could be said for any abstinence or post-abortion ministry, but oftentimes those same ministries emanate from the PRC.”

A great way to “puts one’s toe in the water,” Parton offered, is to enlist a Sunday School class or home group Bible study to host a baby shower for a local pregnancy resource center, providing diapers, formula and other related items.

Once that occurs, God often lays it on more than one heart the importance of such ministry to expectant mothers and their babies, many of whom don’t have the father in the picture.

“Of course there are prayer groups. Another very practical thing that people can do is to reach out to moms who have already made the decision to give life to their child and many times need help. A single moms’ support group at your church, classes for the moms, parenting classes, classes on budgeting and nutrition?those are all very positive ways churches can minister.”

Men can provide oil changes for single moms, for example, or attorneys in the church might provide free legal advice, Parton said.

“One of the main criticisms of pro-lifers is that we encourage these young women to have these babies and then we leave them on their own, and many times that’s true.”

For additional information on pro-life ministry, e-mail Parton at julie@TexasLifeConnections.orgor call her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 214-215-6361.


College prep requires more than academics

What would cause a young adult who was raised in the church and professed Christ as Savior walk away from his faith? Increasingly, polling indicates young adults, at the least, are compartmentalizing life to such a degree that faith and day-to-day life do not intersect.

Collegiate ministers and others studied in the realities of spiritual life at home and on the university campus lay the responsibility squarely at the feet of the parents and, by extension, the church.

“I get asked this question all the time,” responded Vicki Courtney of Austin, a best-selling author and speaker whose ministry reaches preteen and teenage girls and their mothers across the country. What she has come to find in her conversations with moms is a profound lack of scriptural instruction in the home and efforts to put God’s directives into terms a teenager can assimilate.

Lance Crowell, SBTC church ministries associate, said that lack of spiritual guidance in the home is evident. “Students are not prepared for the next step,” he said.

Parents of teenagers and young adults, he added, have been parenting their children in spiritual matters much in the same way as their parents and their parents before them. He said for the past few generations’ parents often abdicated their role as spiritual leaders in their homes and left that task to “the experts”?the Sunday School teachers and youth pastors.

A generation or two ago, he said, that still produced teens and young adults who were grounded in biblical morality and good citizenship but not necessarily regenerate faith. Sixty years ago and earlier, American society was largely homogeneous?most people went to church, professed a belief in God, and held to a common moral code within society.

Essentially, Crowell said, what was taught in the church was upheld in society. If the neighbors, teachers and other authority figures could be counted on to keep little Johnny in line, there was no sense of urgency in the home to undergird the teachings of the church and Bible; it was Sunday School’s task to do the latter.

But Crowell and his peers in youth and collegiate ministry say such attitudes have created a profound spiritual lethargy and, in some instances, antipathy toward religion and, specifically, Christianity in young adults. As the role of spiritual training has remained practically unchanged in American homes, American society has been convulsing with fundamental social and spiritual shifts that have left a generation of young people with no firm ground on which to stand.

A college freshman may (or may not) be able to recite the story of Jonah. But can he explain to a secular humanist or a relativist why the story matters?


University of Texas at Austin professor J. Budziszewski said most cannot. He said it is all well and good that young children be taught the stories of the Bible, but if they are never taught the deeper spiritual significance of those stories, then they enter adulthood and an ever-increasingly skeptical world armed with little more than the ability to spin a good yarn.

Budziszewski, professor of philosophy and government, has written extensively on the tradition of natural law (“Written on the Heart: The Case for Natural Law”) and books like “How to Stay Christian in College,” a primer Courtney and her husband have studied with two of their children before they left home for college. Their lone high school student, Hayden, will soon begin the study, Courtney said.

Budziszewski said the atmosphere on university campuses is profoundly anti-Christian but with the exception of a few outspoken professors, not confrontational.

“It is usually much, much more subtle.”

He said what new students will find on the college campus is practical atheism as opposed to theoretical atheism. The reasoning goes like this: Because the existence of God cannot be theoretically proved or disproved, God is irrelevant and has nothing to do with the day-to-day lives of people. Students and professors steeped in such thought are then free to compartmentalize their lives, developing a moral code that does not hold them accountable to anything or anyone beyond themselves.

Christians not grounded in their faith, connected with a church, and meeting regularly with fellow believers on campus can fall into the same trap.

An American Christian’s first loyalty

Evangelicals have teamed up with Catholic and Orthodox churches to declare the parameters of their relationship with an increasingly anti-Christian culture. The Manhattan Declaration states what the over 250,000 signers (between Nov. 20 and Dec. 4) consider to be a biblical interpretation of the sanctity of human life, the primacy of traditional marriage, and the inherency of religious liberty in our relationship with God. Most media outlets, including our own Dallas Morning News, totally ignored it. Some who did notice, the Los Angeles Times to name one, freaked out a bit, calling the declaration “dangerous.”

It is dangerous and the declaration’s critics are smart to notice; they are also tipping their hand. The most provocative aspect of the statement is the acknowledgement that our obligation to honor human government ends where it clashes with our obligation to obey God. Although the statement clearly and repeatedly asserts that such civil disobedience would be peaceful, with the disobedient ready to bear the legal consequences for their actions, this “threat” of forcing the state to arrest those whose consciences might be violated by our nation’s laws should be very frightening to those who believe they can pass any law they wish because they won an election. Imagine the picture of arresting 20,000 people, who’ve never before broken a law, for refusal to pay taxes that will be used for publicly funded abortions. Imagine arresting 5,000 preachers for teaching the clear message of Romans 1:26-27. Even MSNBC would have to notice that spectacle.

I say that some tip their hands when they call the declaration dangerous because this charge belies other claims that nothing that truly violates a Christian conscience would ever be forced on any American. If that is so, what is dangerous about a few paranoids saying that if such a thing ever happens, they’ll peacefully disobey? We live in a state where some parents have been handcuffed for homeschooling their children; a nation where some principals have forbidden high schoolers permission to stand around flag poles and pray before classes begin. Some Christian pharmacists, nurses, teachers, landlords, and employers, those who have already been fired, sued, or compelled, will laugh their heads off at the suggestion that it couldn’t happen here.

Those of us who have signed it have taken an intimidating step because we can easily imagine circumstances where we would have to disobey an unjust law. Such a commitment in this day is a foolish bluff. Our current congressional and executive leadership is the most extremely anti-life in the history of our country. That fact makes the clash of law and conviction likely if not also imminent.

Florida Baptist Witness Editor Jim Smith rightly notes the importance of prioritizing our convictions while we have the time to think it through. Referring to the public and theological issues that occasioned the declaration, he wrote, “These are matters eventually that no true Christian will be able to avoid. Therefore, we ought to resolve now how we will live and witness.”

On the other hand, a liberal Christian writer characterized the declaration as just another blast from the Religious Right, one that threatens civil discourse and freedom for those who hold differing opinions. I wonder if he read it or if he noticed that public discourse was never as considered and temperate as the status quo would suggest. The genuinely respectful and careful language of the statement threatens nothing but peaceful disobedience by those who can be physically confined but not spiritually compelled. No worries for those for whom only the New York Times is inerrant. They are at no risk whatever, for their gospel is rarely a stumbling block.

Saying: “Christians confess that God alone is the Lord of the conscience. Immunity from religious coercion is the cornerstone of an unconstrained conscience. No one should be compelled to embrace any religion against his will, nor should persons of faith be forbidden to worship God according to the dictates of conscience or to express freely and publicly their deeply held religious convictions. What is true for individuals applies to religious communities as well,” it is hard to seriously accuse the declaration’s signers of trying to curb the freedom of others. This appeal to religious liberty is the high point of the document.

The threat is that we might not go along quietly. When did unthinking compliance become a virtue in America? It must have happened since the civil rights movement. I’d guess it must have happened since the anti-war protests of the Bush era. Some of those protesters went to jail for what they said were their beliefs and neither the religious left nor the less religious left called them dangerous. And yet the paddy wagons of next year could be filled with church ladies, portly balding pastors in business suits, bespectacled academics, and homeschool moms in blue denim jumpers. These are people who don’t go to jail professionally. If I were a political leader, I’m not sure I’d want that on my resume.

And it’s fair to ask what alternative we who disagree might have. A half-million people, and the declaration will garner that many signatures, can’t elect a president or get the attention of the media, but it’s quite a large number of straight-laced, very solid citizens to say “We’ll go to jail if you accomplish what you’re attempting.” If 10 percent of us actually do keep the commitment we’ve made, it will be an amazing event. I first heard the prophecy of such a day while a