Month: June 2010

Southwestern journal promotes reading in an electronic age

FORT WORTH?A newly released edition of the Southwestern Journal of Theology encourages Christians from an electronic age to read broadly, not only from Scripture, but also from theological, biographical and literary volumes.

“Since the Reformation, Protestants of different stripes have championed the clarion call, ‘sola Scriptura,’ ” Mark Leeds, assistant professor of systematic theology, writes in his article, “The Virtue of Reading.” Introducing his article, he affirms the doctrine of sola Scriptura and the necessity and benefit of reading the Bible frequently.

“Over time, this dedication to the Scriptures,” he adds, “became for some an abandonment of everything except the Scriptures and a distinction between sola Scriptura and nuda Scriptura became necessary.”

Southwestern Seminary promotes “sola Scriptura over nuda Scriptura,” valuing the work of Christian theologians and authors of the past, while also placing Scripture as the supreme authority in faith and doctrine. After clarifying this distinction, Leeds explains why Christians should read broadly outside of Scripture and what they should read.

By reading widely, Christians can gain a better understanding of Scripture, of their own culture, and of the way that believers throughout history have struggled to interpret the Bible correctly. They should also recognize that “all truth is God’s truth,” without forgetting that Scripture alone is inerrant.

“The great writings of the Western world are worthy of critical consumption by the Christian mind for the many places where they contain philosophical, historical, mathematical, scientific, and other truths,” Leeds writes.

By reading broadly, Christians also improve their ability to communicate and defend the gospel in “a diverse and rapidly changing world.” Finally, Leeds notes that Scripture “esteems education.”

Leeds then encourages Christians to interact with authors with whom they disagree, as well as those with whom they agree. They should also read from various genres, including autobiographies or biographies like Augustine’s Confessions and fiction works like John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.

“It is hoped,” Leeds writes, “that some who read this article will be encouraged not only to read in these different genres but also to write in them. … Perhaps some who read this article will take up the mantle left behind by Aquinas the academician, Augustine the autobiographer, and Bunyan the storyteller, and join those who through reading and writing become all things to all men so that they may by all means save some.”

In another article, titled “Finding Friends,” seminary President Paige Patterson explains why he insists that all students build a library of 1,500 volumes before graduation. While he believes the number of volumes in a student’s library is important, he underscores more the need for students to build a library of their own, even though they live in an electronic age.

The volumes in a minister’s library, Patterson writes, “constitute, in fact, the invaluable tools of the prophet of God who wants to satiate himself with every understanding of God and the world that he created.”

Patterson, who owns and uses a Kindle as well as a physical library with nearly 22,000 volumes, admits, “Even those who continue to be critics of the coming e-book age must face the fact that eventually most of the problems with digital books will be resolved.” He argues, however, that owning and reading printed books still has advantages for believers despite technological advances in recent years.


Bible teacher offers suggested tools

Bible study teacher Barbara McKinney of MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church in Irving suggested these resources for personal Bible study:

The Apologetics Study

Bible (HCSB), B&H Publishing

This is the one I use when I am looking for information on dealing with folks who want to argue the validity of the Christian faith. Read the preface to this Bible and it will let you know about how to use it and what to use it for. A newly released student edition is also available.

Hebrew-Greek Key

Study Bible (NASB), AMG

It is the New American Standard Bible (considered the best translation by many biblical scholars) compiled and edited by Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D. It has been my favorite for a long time. All my notes are in this Bible.

English Standard Version (ESV)

Study Bible, Crossway

I purchased this Bible in the fall of last year. It is the most comprehensive study Bible ever published. It was created by a team of 95 evangelical Christian scholars and teachers and contains more than 2 million words of Bible text, explanation and teaching; equivalent to a 20-volume Bible resource library. It is awesome. This is the Bible I study to prepare talks I do for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention as I travel with them. It is for the serious Bible student. I would not start with this one, but I would plan on graduation to it eventually. I can’t carry it to church because it is too heavy!

The New Living

Translation, Tyndale

Redone in 2004, it combines the latest biblical scholarship with a clear, dynamic writing style?which communicates God’s Word powerfully to me. It is the one I pick up to read when I am sitting in my easy chair for the sheer joy of fellowship with God. I also have the Williams New Testament, the Phillips Translation of the New Testament, the Amplified Study Bible and many more.

Greek and English Interlinear

New Testament (NIV), Zondervan

It is fun to see the Greek and under it the English translation. It is good to have to compare when you have a question about a particular verse. For study only; it is too confusing to read for just your quiet time. [The same resource is available for other translations.]

New Westminster

Dictionary of the Bible

Eventually, you will need a Bible dictionary and this is the one I recommend. [This edition may still be available from used book sources, and has been replaced by New Bible Dictionary, IVP. Holman offers the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary which includes all major translations.]

The Bible Knowledge

Commentary, David C. Cook

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NIV losing ground as new translations gain popularity among Southern Baptists

The high volume of sales of an inexpensive Outreach New Testament and the introduction of the ESV Study Bible has kept the English Standard Version (ESV) among the best-selling Bibles for several years, according to the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA). Data from Christian Booksellers Association show ESV in fifth place for unit sales with the Holman Christian Standard Bible following in sixth place.

Several leading theologians say Southern Baptists contributed to those sales by using the ESV in increasing numbers since its release in 2001.

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, said the surge of ESV sales likely reflects a dissatisfaction with the long-popular New International Version (NIV) and its most recent revision entitled Today’s New International Version (TNIV).

“I think people are being attracted to the ESV, because when the TNIV came out, many people realized that even the NIV had made some very grave errors in translation and approach to translation,” Patterson told the TEXAN. “I, myself, began to urge people publicly, as I had done privately already, to no longer use either the TNIV or the NIV, and I believe that many other evangelicals did the same thing. The ESV offered a ready alternative and, for that reason, has been very successful.”

He added that the ESV is his second favorite translation, with the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and King James Version (KJV) being tied for first.

KJV and NKJV rank second and third behind NIV in the two publisher lists, with NASB consistently remaining in the top 10. While Southwestern Seminary encourages its students to rely on the Greek and Hebrew texts as much as possible, Patterson said the ESV is among the most commonly used English translations on campus.

In translation philosophy, the ESV descends from the KJV and the Revised Standard Version (RSV). Though weighed against the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts, the ESV translation committee took the 1971 RSV text as its starting point, updating that text for accuracy and readability.

The ESV is a word-for-word translation like the KJV, RSV and NASB. In contrast, versions like the NIV and New Living Translation adopt a thought-for-thought translation philosophy that focuses on the original author’s meaning rather than individual words. LifeWay’s Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) offers a middle way between word-for-word and thought-for-thought translations.

“When the ESV project was first inaugurated, I did have the privilege of working closely with Wayne Grudem, some other evangelicals, and the publisher to secure and see to the revision of the text at the point that it needed to take place,” Paige Patterson said, referring to his role on the ESV advisory council which also included his wife Dorothy, professor of theology in women’s studies at Southwestern. “In that sense of the word, I have endorsed it. I do think it is a good translation and that it has a thousand assets over the more popular NIV.”

Numerous Southern Baptists contributed to the ESV Study Bible, including several from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. endorsed the study Bible, calling it a treasure–“a beautiful volume, filled with a wealth of resources.”

The ECPA awarded the ESV Study Bible its 2009 Book of the Year, the first time a study Bible has received that distinction. Along with notes on the biblical text, the ESV Study Bible features charts, maps, illustrations and more than 50 articles on various topics. Plus, each hard copy comes with access to an online version of all its content.

Tom Schreiner, professor of New Testament interpretation at Southern, served as New Testament editor for the ESV Study Bible.

He said the study Bible has sold well because of “its focus on explaining the text first of all. But the ESV (Study Bible) also has a theological, apologetic, and practical slant. So, it is very useful for study and teaching.”

Denny Autrey, dean of Southwestern’s Havard School for Theological Studies in Houston, agreed that both the ESV translation and Study Bible have many positive features.

“Both the ESV and ESV Study Bible have produced a more accurate record of translating the text and have cleaned up many areas that were questionable in the RSV,” Autrey said. “Thus it has been well received in the academic field and has been recommended by some prominent pastors who have endorsed and are using it regularly in their preaching and study.”

Some, however, worry that the eSV Study Bible is too Calvinistic in its interpretation of the biblical text. David allen, dean of Southwestern’s School of Theology, gives the study Bible’s notes that address the issue of the extent of atonement as one example of his concern. “The notes on these passages [Romans 5:19, 2 Corinthians 5:14-21, 1 Timothy 2:4-6, Hebrews 2:9, and 1 John 2:2] argue the case of limited atonement and make no reference whatsoever to the majority position of unlimited atonement,” Allen said. Under the heading “Salvation,” Allen asserted, “The notes promulgate the Calvinistic error that regeneration precedes faith.”

He also observed that “virtually all articles that deal with aspects of theology are written by Calvinists.”

Schreiner readily acknowledged the Study Bible’s Reformed viewpoint.

“The ESV (Study Bible) isn’t explicitly Reformed, but many Reformed scholars worked on it,” he said, “and hence it does have a Reformed flavor soteriologically.”

The ESV translation, too, is often recommended by Reformed theologians, but Christians of all stripes use and endorse it. Patterson represents one of the many examples.

“I do think Reformed Christians have gravitated more than others to the ESV,” Patterson said. “Though, I certainly do not think there is any exclusivity there. Many of those who were involved in securing this Bible to begin with were of the Reformed persuasion, but my own involvement shows you that was not entirely the case.”

Allen echoed what appears to be the consensus view of the ESV among Southern Baptists.

“As an evangelical revision of the RSV, it generally succeeds quite well in its attempt to split the difference between the more idiomatic NIV and the more literal NASB,” Allen said. “I predict the popularity of this translation will continue to grow in the years to come.”

Malcolm Yarnell, associate professor of systematic theology at Southwestern, also like the ESV because it is readable and lacks what he sees as theological compromises in the TNIV, though sharing Allen’s concern regarding portions of the Study Bible.

“I would encourage people to add new translations like the ESV and HCSB to their collections,” Yarnell said, though he finds the New King James Version (NKJV) and NASB remaining popular among both younger and older readers. However, he shares Allen’s concern about some of the ESV Study Bible’s notes favoring a Calvinistic viewpoint.

Criswell College Old Testament and Hebrew Professor David Brooks also finds the NKJV and NASB to be the most frequent choices of students at the Dallas-based school. “From what I have seen, the KJV is popular particularly among those who grew up reading the version and those who tend to take the Majority Text or KJV-only position. Younger people who are not in those camps find the language difficult or obscure.”

LifeWay does not release sales figures for their stores or curriculum, but spokesman Brooklyn Lowery said, “Traditional translations such as the King James Version remain popular with our customers, but newer translations, like the Holman Christian Standard Bible, are also popular choices among LifeWay Christian Stores’ shoppers. We really see a blending of people who prefer older translations with those who prefer more modern language translations.”

A 2004 survey by Ellison Research for LifeWay’s Facts & Trends magazine, showed Southern Baptist pastors evenly split between the NIV (26 percent), NKJV (25 percent, KJV (23 percent) and NASB (22 percent) in their translation preference.

NIV remains the preference of nearly half of the participants in Bible drill competition sponsored by the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention, according to Lucian Stohler, but he is noticing more churches preferring the Holman Christian Standard Bible. “That’s probably because of problems some leaders have with NIV translation and because their Sunday School curriculum utilized Holman so they want the children using the same one for Bible drill.”

Bible drill competitors from First Baptist Church of Lavon still favor NIV with leader Carol High explaining, “In memorizing Scripture I would think that the purpose is to have God’s Word in our hearts and mouths so we can use it in our every day walk. We do not talk like the King James, so it only makes sense to use a version that is spoken in our own language.

Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, which has a consistent record of seeing their students rank high in statewide competition, uses the King James Version in Bible drills, according to Bible drill leader Edna Penny, who said she also sees many families using NKJV when reading to their children.

With the 400th anniversary of the KJV translation coming up in 2011, the director of leadership and adult publishing at LifeWay Christian Resources said, “We’re going to make a bit to do about that, highlighting its history and how it was developed.”

While the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation is utilized throughout LifeWay’s curricula at every age level, the King James Version is the basis for Life Words, Bible Studies for Life.” LifeWay promotes the adult curriculum as “an accurate translation that is unsurpassed in literary beauty and in the contributions it has made to Western culture and to America’s rich Christian Heritage.”

“We use HCSB for everything, but we still have many churches that are very comfortable with KJV,” Robb said. He described sales of the KJV-based study as “very healthy,” along with the Herschel Hobbs Commentary offered since 1968 which utilized the KJV text.



Bible tools for families offered

At a young age children love listening to stories and turning through pages in books. They excitedly point at pictures even before they can put words together to describe what they are thinking and seeing. But where should a parent who loves Jesus begin exposing children to the life-changing stories and truths found in the Bible?

Christian parents desire for the curiosity and interest of their children to be directed toward God and the book he has written to young and old alike.

Two recently released titles provide parents tools to teach their children about the Bible. Crossway offers “A Family Guide to the Bible” by Christin Ditchfield as a family-friendly look at Scripture to help parents make teaching it a part of everyday family life.

According to Ditchfield, the book is not intended as an exhaustively-detailed resource, but is written to be user-friendly for families. “‘A Family Guide to the Bible’ was written to help busy parents, grandparents, and teachers with the basics: what’s in the Bible, where to find it, and how it all fits together,” Ditchfield said. “It’s intended to be simple, family friendly and easy to understand and follow.”

The book begins with three short chapters, each detailing an important aspect of studying Scripture. Chapter one addresses the history of the Bible and explains how Scripture was canonized. Chapter two examines the authority of the Bible and looks at the unity, accuracy, history and prophecy of the Bible and how these elements serve to prove the inerrancy of Scripture. Chapter three discusses the message of the Bible and how that message runs from Genesis to Revelation in a cohesive theme.

Following the opening chapters, Ditchfield lays out a book-by-book overview of the Old and New Testaments. These overviews include the book name, author, audience and setting, as well as key verses or passages and vocabulary words to know. Other sections include: “Where to Find More on the Story in the Bible,” which details how the story continues in other passages; “Did You Know?” which highlights important facts; and “Making the Connection,” which shows the link between the Bible and modern-day events.

Following the book-by-book overview, Ditchfield includes a chapter on how to study the Bible, including how to choose a translation and how to use other biblical resources, such as a Bible dictionary, encyclopedia and concordance. She also includes study tips for personal Bible study and family devotions, as well as Bible reading plans.

The final chapters of the book are reference guides with a chapter titled “Where in the Scripture to Find Everything,” which includes references for finding stories from the Old and New Testaments that everyone should know, Bible heroes, the miracles and teachings of Jesus, as well as where to find verses for specific life events. Ditchfield also includes a chapter of biblical maps and a chapter listing additional Bible study resources, such as books, maps and charts, software, movies, and online resources.

“I Want to Know About the Bible” by Christina Goodings exposes readers to many of the treasured stories of the Bible beginning in Genesis and continuing all the way through to Revelation. The book, published by Lion UK, gives a simple overview of stories, characters and themes that provide parents with an easy way to share with their children about the Bible.

Informative insights on how the Bible was written are included throughout the book in feature boxes. In one example, Goodings describes how thousands of years ago some of the first stories in the Bible were told by grown-ups to their children. She writes, “In this way, they were treasured long before they were written down.” The feature boxes also cover topics like languages used for original writings and information on biblical writers. The beautiful illustrations by Jan Lewis depict everything from the Ark of the Covenant to a map showing the Apostle Paul’s journeys and the destinations of some of the letters he wrote.

Goodings’ approach in writing “I Want to Know

SBTC joins others in regional children’s ministry conference

BROKEN ARROW, Okla.?More than 900 preschool and children’s leaders from six states met at First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow, Okla., for a two-day conference called “Heart of the Child.” The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention joined state convention leaders from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas-Nebraska in planning the bi-annual conference, which covered areas such as music, missions, Bible skills, weekday ministry, camps, and numerous related topics.

LifeWay Christian Resources, International Mission Board, North American Mission Board and WMU also participated.

“For a regional training, I think it is one of the most beneficial conferences to attend,” said Karen McNeece of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano. “The keynote speakers are relevant and fresh and it’s a weekend of recharging and renewing yourself to better share the gospel with boys and girls. It’s also a fabulous time to be with your teaching team?to connect to one another, to make a plan and share a vision on how to be the most effective teachers.”

The next Heart of the Child Conference is scheduled for April 20-21, 2012, at First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow in suburban Tulsa.

Seminal events occurring in Orlando

Greetings from Orlando! Actually, I am still in Grapevine while writing this column but I wanted you to know that your prayers are needed for the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Orlando, Fla., June 15-16. There are several seminal events about to transpire:

?A new SBC president will be elected. There are currently four announced candidates. We have the luxury of knowing that all of them believe in the inerrancy of the Word of God. We have come a long way in 20 years. You can cast your ballot without being concerned that Southern Baptists will be taken down the wrong path as far as the nature of Scripture is concerned. The candidates differ on their vision for the SBC’s future. Carefully study their comments and prayerfully vote for the one of your convictions.

?The SBC Executive Committee search committee has announced Frank Page as their selection. While the SBC messengers do not vote on his election (only the Executive Committee), a new day will begin after the vote. Morris Chapman has served for 17 years. There will be a new person at the helm in the fall. Pray for God’s direction.

?With vacancies in the executive offices of the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board, the boards’ search committees have not announced any candidates. It is very unlikely this will happen in Orlando. This could be the gathering when the persons who will direct our missions efforts surface in the hearts of the search committees. Pray for God’s leadership in the search.

?Finally, the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report is on the program for Tuesday afternoon (June 15). It is unfortunate that some have made the report more about personalities and style than the facts. Individual Southern Baptists and the churches of the SBC are in desperate need of spiritual renewal. This has to be done in the heart. The report challenges all of us toward a deeper devotion to the Lord Jesus.

Structural recommendations of the GCRTF are not criticisms of good plans and godly leaders. The desire of the Task Force is to show the difference between good and better. It is better to penetrate lostness in the underserved regions of North America and the unreached peoples of the world than to concentrate our resources in the more served areas. Southern Baptists are being called to sacrifice for the gospel. We must prioritize our limited resources in such a way as to have the greatest impact in penetrating lostness. More personnel and funding must go to the least reached places. This will result in a Great Commission Resurgence.

My prayer is that we will pay any price, go any place, and do any service to accomplish the Great Commission as a convention of churches. By the grace of God this is my personal pledge to you.

That Bible you carry

What’s behind the Bible you use every Sunday? You know that others in your congregation, maybe in your own family, use Bibles with different wording in many verses. Are those Bibles all equally reliable? The path between the pens of Moses or Luke and the Bible you use most often is complex. While I say at the beginning and at the end that your Bible (assuming you’re using a mainstream version) is reliable, it’s worth understanding some of what has gone into making that statement true.

First, the raw material behind your own version of the Bible is voluminous and intimidating. The work of textual criticism (criticism here meaning “evaluation”) is to work through the biblical and even extra-biblical material so that we have the text of Scripture in a reliable form, as close to the original writings of God’s messengers as possible. Textual critics are theologians, archeologists, experts in ancient languages and history, and tedious analysts. They further utilize such tools as carbon dating and chemical analysis of ink and writing media.

Old Testament translations are primarily based on a text from about 1000 AD called the Masoretic Text. This was the Old Testament in Hebrew. Some other materials were available?a significant additional resource was the Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. The Septuagint (seventy), often abbreviated “LXX,” is named for the 72 scholars who, in about 200 BC, translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek over the course of 72 days in Alexandria, or so the story goes. This Greek translation is the Bible the apostles and Jesus used most often, it is the Bible Paul quoted when he quoted an OT passage. One significant feature of the Septuagint is that it was translated earlier than our existing Hebrew text. This difference in age brings us closer to the original authors and thus gives us greater confidence that copy errors or other factors have not changed the text. This older text also bears strong witness to the reliability of the Masoretic Hebrew Bible of later centuries.

The way we understood Old Testament translation changed in 1948 when a shepherd boy found clay tablets containing biblical material in a cave near the Dead Sea. By the time several area caves had been excavated we had copies or portions of every OT book except Esther. These copies were more than a thousand years older than the Masoretic Text. One of the most amazing things we discovered was how little the language had changed during that long period. Another was how few differences there were between the older copies and the later ones. It was a great testimony to the reliability of the Hebrew text upon which modern versions were based. Bible versions translated or revised in the past 50 years have worked with an awareness of these Dead Sea scrolls and the insights we gained from their discovery.

For the New Testament we have thousands of manuscripts and fragments, one dating to within 20 or 30 years from the original. The examination of these resources allow biblical scholars to make informed decisions on the authenticity of a book, the most reliable manuscripts, and ultimately the best reading of the text. The work of these scholars is an art based on a great number of facts. They factor in archeological evidence that helps them understand the locales and language of the Bible. The type of ink used to write, as well as the material written upon, allows scholars to determine the era in which biblical material was penned. Even the style of writing?is it capital or lower case, are there breaks between words or not, is it uncial (a kind of cursive style) or printed?testifies to the era and authenticity of a Scripture portion. Their analysis of the vocabulary, writing style, historical references and so forth, in a book that claims to be written by one of the apostles or during that time often allows us to know if such material is what it claims. That kind of criticism has ruled out many of the so called “hidden” or “suppressed” books of the early church?a fact Da Vinci Code conspiracy theorists find inconvenient.

Less so than in the examination of Old Testament materials, New Testament scholars must also sort through well-meant (or agenda-driven) efforts to “fix” the grammar or theology of the biblical books. They therefore have to be versed in church history so that they can know when a controversy arose so that they can distinguish between verses written by first-century apostles and third-century debaters. I suppose it’s similar to those who would change biblical words to better fit the sensibilities of our time related to gender-specific references to God the Father or Jesus the Son. Scribes that handled the Old Testament reverenced the text to such a degree that far less of that kind of editing took place.

As rules of thumb, our Scripture CSI team developed some principles that allow them to spot the best reading of biblical material. First, older material is generally preferred over later material. This makes sense because every generation that passes from the original results in untold numbers of copies and with those, the possibility of errors or edits in the copy process. Second, readings more difficult (for the scribe) and/or shorter are preferred over easier or lengthier writing. Again, an edit would likely be intended to smooth out a tough passage and may also require greater length to clarify. Third, readings that are most broadly (geographically) accepted are preferred over those that could more easily derive from one source. I include this description to give you an insight as to how deliberate and serious these researchers are. They are trying to get us as close as possible to the source?the originals.

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Texas pastors assess GCRTF final report

The TEXAN invited the opinions of four Texas pastors who were among the 6,594 people who committed to pray for the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. The men were asked to analyze the seven components of the final task force report to be offered June 15 at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Orlando. Their comments follow:


BRAD JURKOVICH, pastor, Victory Life Baptist Church, Lubbock

>VOTE: I pray that the efforts of the GCRTF will be received, prayerfully considered and courageously implemented. We must do whatever it takes for advancing the hope of Jesus in America and the world.

>COMPONENT 1 (Vision): I appreciate the recommendation for our convention to adopt a biblically clear and compelling mission statement. It speaks to the passion and priority of the Lord Jesus and the clear testimony of the early church. The more we hear this mission and the more our churches and convention filter every priority and budget item through this mission, then I believe we will see greater impact and we will see more pastors and churches inspired to give and go for God.

>COMPONENT 2 (Core Values): The recommended eight core values are strong and valuable for the greater impact of our convention. We all need to know what is expected of each other going forward. These core values are being implemented in our church in various ways already, but it is nice to see them enumerated on a convention level.

>COMPONENT 3 (GC Giving): I don’t believe this new designated option will impact CP giving negatively. Already, my church staff and leadership team have been evaluating our Great Commission strategy. What I see happening is that when our dialogue in our local church is seen through the lens of our Great Commission strategy, giving towards CP and other avenues increases across the board.

>COMPONENT 4 (NAMB): I believe this recommendation will yield greater impact in the coming years. Our church has grown from a handful of families to hundreds of families. We have to evaluate all the time how our individual ministries are being implemented. If we need to reinvent, realign, or reassess leadership and resources then we do it. Why? Because the passion and commitment to accomplishing the Great Commission needs to drive everything we do. NAMB is a dynamic ministry front. But America is changing and how we partner, how we plant churches and how we penetrate America’s lostness needs to be constantly evaluated.

>COMPONENT 5 (IMB): This recommendation is valid in that it sees how America has changed. The world is different. Why not use the expertise and missional punch of the IMB in a greater way. I think this recommendation will wake up many local churches to the reality that America needs serious attention.

>COMPONENT 6 (CP): The state convention relationship is very valuable and makes the most marked impact on my local church. I know the staff. I hear from that leadership the most. And if they continually encourage and communicate the missional vision of our convention and build relationships with our local church then there will be tremendous benefits. I am grateful for the national convention’s efforts to promote CP and the greater vision, but my relationship with the state convention will be more beneficial in the long run.

>COMPONENT 7 (EC Funding): Does this recommendation go far enough? Well, do we all want to reach every person possible? Absolutely. Every local church and every ministry has to balance where the majority of money is going. One percent is a strong statement in that it is breaking a barrier. I think because of our size as a denomination it doesn’t seem like much, but it is, and it sets in motion the track of expansion in that area.

>SUMMARY VIEW: The implementation of these recommendations will produce change. But if we all will humble ourselves and ask God to guide our steps, I believe the living God will honor these efforts even if these recommendations are the start of further work down the road. Until Jesus comes, we will always need to be willing to change and do whatever it takes to penetrate our world with the hope of Jesus.


NATHAN LORICK, pastor, First Baptist Church, Malakoff

>VOTE: My hope is that the GCRTF report will be embraced and passed overwhelmingly. As a young pastor who care deeply for the SBC, I believe it is imperative for us to continue to press forward with changes and improvements to this great denomination. If we continue to do what we are now doing, we will continue to get the results we are now getting. We desperately need to wake up and embrace necessary changes for the furtherance of the kingdom and the future of the SBC.

>COMPONENT 1 (Vision): I believe that a new and fresh mission statement is needed and I believe this is a great statement of the renewed direction of the convention. This is not the same convention as 30, 20, or even 10 years ago.

>COMPONENT 2 (Core Values): It seems that there are so many different faces of people in the SBC. There are the mega-church pastors, small-town pastors, bi-vocational pastors, evangelists, and lay people. There is not really anything that helps us to rally around the values that make our convention such a great convention. I believe these eight concise, yet clear values will help guide us to a renewed sense of purpose and devotion to win the world to Christ.

>COMPONENT 3 (GC Giving): It is my hope that Great Commission giving will spark a fire in people and churches to give sacrificially to reach the world for Christ. If we ever lose sight of the benefits of the CP, then we have lost sight of the greatest mission funding effort ever known to mankind. We must keep giving to and supporting the work of the CP. I believe that the Great Commission giving will spur people on to a fresh view of the CP.

>COMPONENT 4 (NAMB): I believe this recommendation lays the groundwork for the church planters in my generation to be fully equipped to make a dent in the lostness of our nation. I fully support unleashing NAMB to become focused on planting healthy churches in the most needed areas. As a board member of my state convention, I wholeheartedly support phasing out cooperative agreements to give NAMB the freedom to be reinvented and revitalized. The ultimate goal is not money, but reaching people with the message of Jesus Christ. We should do whatever it takes to get ourselves in position to make the message most available.

>COMPONENT 5 (IMB): This will allow people and churches to focus on a people group here in the U.S. and not have to travel abroad to reach a people group.

>COMPONENT 6 (CP): While the promotion of the CP ultimately falls upon the pastor, I do believe that state conventions are better equipped to assist churches in education and promotion of the CP than any other agency.

>COMPONENT 7 (EC funding): I believe where we spend the majority of our money is where our heart and interests lie. Therefore, I believe that increasing the percentage to the IMB is great. I personally would like to have seen it increased more so that we could send more men and women across the world with the gospel.

>SUMMARY VIEW: I believe the GCRTF did a wonderful job of assessing the needs of the SBC. I believe there are more aspects of the SBC that could be improved or reinvented. However, for the short amount of time that they had to work together, I believe the task force did a great job.

PATRICK PAYTON, pastor, Stonegate Fellowship, Midland
>VOTE: I sincerely hope this final report is adopted as a bare minimum starting point of monumental change and adjustment within the SBC and its churches. This report does not even begin to challenge the SBC as an organization to enough radical change….I hope we are headed in a direction where we will push even harder for greater and more effective goals.

>COMPONENT 1 (Vision): I am in favor of trying to gather together a unifying statement for all to rally around. My concern in this matter is that we have become so caught up in mission/vision statements and forgotten that a mission/vision statement is nothing more than a lofty set of words that will mean nothing if lofty and courageous actions are not taken [as well].

>COMPONENT 2 (Core Values): The statement that we need a set of unifying core values seems very odd to me this late in the game as a convention. When I read over the proposed core values they seem rather obvious. It would seem to me that if we need to be reminded of these eight core values, then our problems are much deeper and damaging than we might imagine.

>COMPONENT 3 (Great Commission Giving): Personally, I have no idea what this element will accomplish or not accomplish. It is my opinion that the Cooperative Program (the SBC’s shared funding method) is neither the problem nor the issue for Southern Baptists. For us, as a local church, the matter pure and simple is effectiveness; and for us, the institution of the SBC is in desperate need of a total overhaul. Focusing on the CP is the wrong place to focus.

>COMPONENT 4 & 5 (NAMB & IMB): I believe the recommendations for the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the International Mission Board (IMB) fall woefully short. I see no justifiable reason why we should not, as Southern Baptists, reorganize our missions agencies into one centralized Global Missions Agency. I personally believe that any “tweaking” of NAMB and IMB responsibilities is little more than shifting the furniture when in actuality walls need to be torn down and some remodeling done. We continue to hear and read from current Executive Committee leaders and longtime denominational employees that we have the best system and we must not do anything that might move our churches back to a societal method of missions. So comical in the warnings related to societal missions is that we are already back to a societal methodology. Many churches are moving towards mission agencies and groups that are tuned in to the local church; they do not want to only support missions through agencies, they want to be on the field and in partnership on the field.

>COMPONENT 6 (CP Promotion): The promotion and funding of the CP boils down to addressing a symptom and not a root issue. In a day and time when “Doing missions” is so much more direct and opportunistic that it once was, the SBC still operates much like a GM or IBM rather that an Apple. Every size church can find an effective way to get engaged in open and closed countries without the SBC; finances are not the issue.

>COMPONENT 7 (EC funding): Money always flows to that which is perceived to hold the greatest value and return; the funding of SBC work and CP is not a percentage issue or a challenge issue, it is a vision and effectiveness issue. As long as a new generation of church leaders and planters of the 21st century perceives the work of the SBC to be “non-effective,” “behind the curve,” or woefully naïve” about the changes in culture and methodology, the money needed for ministry in and among SBC entities will continue to dry up and go elsewhere. It is not a matter of churches giving or doing less; it is a matter of churches giving and doing more in more effective and diverse ways outside of the SBC.

>SUMMARY VIEW: I believe the task force went for a field goal when they should have gone for the touchdown. I had sincerely hoped to see a greater call for change and reorganization on all levels—from the missions agencies becoming one new agency to a more church-based methodology and focus in the seminaries that pushes towards regional availability and shorter preparation time. My hope is that this report is a the very least a door to major change.

JARRETT STEPHENS, Teaching Pastor, Prestonwood Baptist, Plano
>VOTE: My prayer is that we will overwhelmingly approve the recommendations and signal to the world that we are a cooperative body of believers with a lase-focus to reach the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that we refuse to let anything, even our own preferences and systems, stand in the way of accomplishing our mission.

>COMPONENT 1 (Vision): I do think that the SBC needs a new, unified mission statement—having a stated goal of what an organization is attempting to establish is both critically important and wise. It keeps before us a “big picture” of where we intend to go, allows us to monitor progress, and hopefully keeps us from getting off mission and doing something of lesser value. Also the SBC currently has no written mission statement that I am aware of and this is essentially “the Great Commission” reworded—certainly we can rally around this.

>COMPONENT 2 (Core Values): The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message gave us the parameters, the non-negotiables, that we hold to doctrinally. It serves as the fence, if you will, that we are to all play ball in. I see Component 2 as the actual rules of the game. They reinforce the idea that we are all on the same team. In a convention where our churches and seminaries all “play different positions,” keeping these core values before us reminds us that the team is most important.

>COMPONENT 3 (GC Giving): The CP is already being impacted negatively. Will designating “Great Commission giving” add to its two-decade decline? I don’t think anyone can fully know that answer. If we plant more strategic churches in North America, I would hop the CP would increase simply because more churches are giving towards it. If the CP does continue to decline, it won’t be because fo Component 3. More than three-quarters of the component is directed toward an affirmation and plea to CP giving.

>COMPONENT 4 (NAMB): I thought one of the strongest aspects of the report was the task force call for part of the “reinvention” of NAMB to be about a focus on leadership development, contextual evangelism, and church planting. We must do anything and everything as a convention to maximize our resources in order to have the greatest impact in reaching the lost within North America. Phasing out cooperative agreements will exhibit within the convention our cooperation in fulfilling our missional vision. Dissolving these agreements will allow more resources to go directly to unreached people groups in our most unreached places within our own country.

>COMPONENT 5 (IMB): Practically, this will only help the mission ventures of our church because it will serve to complement them. We already have church plants that we work with in many of the metropolitan cities that would be targeted for these unreached people groups. Removing the geographic limitations would allow us to broaden our scope of work in those partner cities with an organization that is already established and one that we trust.

>COMPONENT 6 (CP): This component was warranted because the state conventions are the ones on the ground working with the associations and individual churches. I firmly believe that CP giving will increase when championed, supported and promoted within a context of relational trust. It makes sense that those who work with these churches on a regular basis take the lead in the education and promotion of it.

>COMPONENT 7 (EC funding): Personally, I would have like to see even more taken from the facilitating ministries budget. We have people waiting to be assigned to the mission field right now and it’s not because we don’t have the funds to send them; it is because the funds are going elsewhere. Giving over half of our CP monies directly to the IMB signals that we are a denomination with a focused priority to fulfill the Great Commission. I am for cutting from the Executive Committee and any other ministry budget for that matter, to ensure “reaching the world” remains a priority in word and in action.

>SUMMARY VIEW: With an organization as large as the SBC, small change over time is significant change. I think the recommendations the GCRTF has given will help in creating significant change. Time will only tell if they went “far enough” but certainly this is a very needed start.




South Texas church spreads its FAITH south of the border

ROBSTOWN?When River Hills Baptist Church in Robstown, near Corpus Christi, offered to host a FAITH Sunday School evangelism training clinic in Monterrey, Mexico, they were wishing to help equip a church to share the gospel in its neighborhood. What resulted was the beginning of “something bigger.”

It doesn’t take long to recognize the passion Bill Simmons, pastor of River Hills Baptist Church, has for reaching the lost. Using FAITH as their primary evangelism strategy has helped make sharing the gospel a part of the culture of the church.

“The church has been doing FAITH for several years now and has 100-150 participants each semester,” Simmons said. “We try to be intentional about reaching the lost and very intentional about being evangelistic.”

Their intentionality has shown positive results?with FAITH the number of baptisms has significantly increased.

“Last year 70 were baptized, the year before that 100. I baptized three people last Sunday as a result of FAITH,” Simmons said.

The FAITH strategy, he said, is part of the follow-up in Sunday School classes as well as hospital or other ministry visits.

Church member Kenny Myers got involved in FAITH four years ago?shortly after recovering from a stroke. That experience helped him realize that sharing his faith is an crucial step to help people come to know Christ.

“I see it like this: one day I will stand before the Lord and I want him to say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You shared me with people,” Myers said.


For Elizabeth Younkers, FAITH training “has given me the ability to tell and spread what the Bible says.”

Younkers’ involvement in the FAITH program at River Hills served as the start of the now thriving ministry taking place in Monterrey, Mexico. Having grown up in Mexico, she asked Simmons if the church could take FAITH to Mexico and help train a church in Monterrey.

Pastors from River Hills and New Life Baptist Church set up a meeting with a Monterrey pastor, and traveled to Mexico to discuss how they could partner together and help train the church in FAITH.

“It’s a long story, but a story in which only God could work out the details. God led, the American pastors were introduced to Bro. Rolando Guzman, a leading pastor in Monterrey, and things began to happen,” Simmons said.

Plans to have several churches in Monterrey trained in FAITH started to come together. Guzman invited the Texas pastors to a Christmas party to discuss details of the upcoming FAITH clinic. While fellowshipping together a phone call was made to Bobby Welch, the co-founder of the FAITH curriculum and the SBC’s strategist for global evangelical relations.

“Welch immediately wanted to be a part of it,” Simmons said. Welch suggested including Doug Williams, co-founder of FAITH and Mike Smith of LifeWay Christian Resources.

Funding for the clinic stretched beyond the means of the church, and fac

Eight years out, SBTC Disaster Relief having global impact

Disasters have their own schedules, striking anytime, anywhere, anyone. Recognizing the history of hurricanes along the Texas Gulf Coast as a continuing pattern, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention leadership prepared for future calamities by tapping in 2002 Gibbie McMillan as missions services associate to develop, among other assignments, a disaster response system and volunteer network.

Disaster relief for the SBTC was born.

The foundation laid by McMillan is now a full-fledged structure under the leadership of Jim Richardson, who succeeded McMillan in 2006 as the SBTC’s first-ever Disaster Relief ministry associate.

“What we tried to do when I got here,” McMillan said, “was to serve churches interested in disaster relief, and to discover the areas of greatest need. So we developed a disaster relief program that included chaplaincy and construction teams we called Baptist Builders.”

McMillan soon began organizing chainsaw crews, and their popularity and success was not long in coming as several deployed to Florida in September of 2004, responding to Hurricane Charley’s devastation.

After careful research and thoughtful dialogue, the SBTC and Texas Baptist Men, a longstanding disaster ministry, entered into a relationship in 2003 intended to bolster the capabilities of both ministries, McMillan said.


By the time Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, SBTC Disaster Relief was up and running. An army of SBTC volunteers, many of them rookie DR workers, prepared and served more than 300,000 meals in Louisiana in the week after the storm hit. Chainsaw crews were there, too, along with mud-out workers. In all, nearly 1.1 million meals were served to survivors, rescue workers, soldiers and police at shelters, food stamp lines, neighborhoods and military posts from Baton Rouge to New Orleans.

During the three weeks of Hurricane Katrina-related ministry, dozens of salvations were recorded, hundreds of gospel tracts and Bibles were distributed and thousands of prayers were offered for victims by SBTC volunteers.

The experience of SBTC DR workers in Louisiana proved invaluable as training for their response to Hurricane Ike three years later. In less than a month after that storm, the SBTC-led disaster relief kitchen had served more than a half-million meals on Galveston Island.

Upon his departure in 2006, McMillan had formed an agreement that allowed SBTC Disaster Relief volunteers to operate one of the Salvation Army’s feeding units. He also garnered the SBTC’s first water purification unit; “even though it was only as big as a suitcase?it was cutting-edge, then,” he said. The water purification unit was part of the equipment McMillan had begun to acquire for SBTC DR efforts.

As part of the SBTC’s DR program, McMillan coordinated chaplaincy ministry in cooperation with the North American Mission Board.

He said the most significant part of his ministry was when he trained 32,000 people for mass-feeding so they’d be qualified to serve Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Meeting at Second Baptist, Houston, the project “took three days. We had Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, atheists, and more. It wasn’t easy, but we got the job done,” he said.

When McMillan accepted a position with the Louisiana Baptist Convention in 2006, Richardson came on board, having previously served the Georgia Baptist Convention in disaster relief.

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