Month: July 2010

Denominational leader Avery Willis remembered for missionary heart

BELLA VISTA, Ark.?”Feed the sheep, guide them through the rough places and lead the lost ones to Christ.” That was the commitment Avery Willis shared in 1960 with the second Texas church he pastored. It remained his legacy through those early years of ministry while a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, a 14-year tenure as a Southern Baptist missionary to Indonesia, 15 years leading adult discipleship for the Baptist Sunday School Board, and 10 years as vice president for overseas operations at the International Mission Board.

Willis died July 30 in Bella Vista, Ark., at the age of 76, following a year-long treatment for leukemia that had been in remission.

While attending Southwestern, Willis pastored Sunset Hills Baptist Church in Fort Worth (later renamed Hulen Street Baptist). The church planter who oversaw construction of Sunset Hills later church recommended Willis to take over his pastoral duties at Inglewood Baptist Church in Grand Prairie in 1960.

In accepting his second pastorate, Willis explained that he was not certain how long he would be able to stay, knowing he had been called to serve as a missionary. And yet he accepted, recalling in a 2007 interview with the TEXAN that he knew the Lord was providing the opportunity as a means of gaining more experience pastoring before becoming an overseas missionary. “God blessed and the church grew,” he shared. Within a year the debt was erased, the church experienced revival and world mission giving grew threefold.

He quickly implemented stringent standards for the teachers who would disciple members, with expectations of training, tithing, visitation prayer and soul-winning?elements he would later outline in his popular MasterLife discipleship material that would be translated into over 50 languages for use in over 100 countries.

Returning from the 1962 Southern Baptist Convention in San Francisco where he learned of “liberal teaching” at one of the seminaries, he devoted a series of sermons to Baptists beliefs and later guided members through an understanding of church covenant.

Willis joined with the New Life Movement conceived by Texan Dub Jackson to utilize laymen paired with pastors as a means of preaching throughout Japan and Hong Kong, China, and saw tens of thousands in attendance and hundreds of decisions for Christ.

Soon after, Willis was headed to Indonesia following appointment by the Foreign Mission Board in the summer of 1964, having completed his doctor of theology degree.

“Southwestern Seminary has lost a dear friend and certainly a worldwide figure in missions and discipleship with the homegoing of Avery Willis,” commented Southwestern President Paige Patterson. “Because of his discipleship materials Avery would be as close to a household name among Southern Baptists as any other figure. A loss of a man like this would leave a crater in Southern Baptist life were it not for the fact that he has so effectively filled his own crater with the thousands that he has discipled,” Patterson shared. “God bless you, Avery Willis. Enjoy heaven ’til we join you.”

A former pastor to Willis described him as “innovative, energetic and committed to the cause of Christ and missions.” Ron Boswell of Keller was a fellow seminary student with Willis, later standing in the same appointment service when Boswell and his wife, Marlene, were commissioned along with Willis and his wife, Shirley.

“Avery Willis was one of the most gifted men I have ever known. We were reacquainted when Avery and Shirley moved to Richmond to serve on staff of the IMB and joined Grove Avenue Baptist Church where I pastored.”

“During those seven years I found Avery to be a powerful preacher, faithful church member and generous in sharing his spiritual gifts and resources with the church,” Boswell said, adding that he often turned to him to “preach for me at a moment’s notice.”

Willis served for 14 years as a Southern Baptist missionary in Indonesia, working in evangelism and church development, then teaching at Indonesia Baptist Theological Seminary and later becoming the school’s president. He directed the discipleship and family adult department of the Baptist Sunday School Board, and played a major role in developing the MasterLife discipleship training program used worldwide by Southern Baptists and others.

Earlier this year, former LifeWay Christian Resources president Jimmy Draper of Euless, shared, “As is always true in Avery’s life, he had the world in his eyes and in his heart.”

He became senior overseas vice president at the International Mission Board in 1993, where he served until his retirement in 2003. Former IMB president Jerry Rankin said Willis possessed a vision that was unsurpassed as he visualized an entire world worshiping Jesus Christ, a focus that kept the IMB from being diverted by trivial pursuits, and a passion that enabled Willis to motivate and inspire others, according to an Oklahoma Baptist news release.

He continued to be involved in mission work, leading the International Orality Network, which encourages sharing the gospel through the creative telling of Bible stories to the four billion people who are primarily oral learners?two-thirds of the world’s population. Even in retirement, he traveled internationally half the year and most recently consulted with the SBC’s Great Commission Resurgen

Our man in Richmond

If our convention’s continued existence can be justified, our mission boards must be exemplars of efficiency, vision, and effectiveness. Sure, we have 10 other agencies but denominationally, they undergird our Great Commission work or we don’t need them to the degree we have them. Our North American and International mission boards will either be the sharp end of what work we do beyond our own state or our churches will find another, sharper missions partner.

No doom and gloom here. Both our boards are without presidents currently and both their search processes are several months old. Since I don’t expect we’ll have a name announced before this issue of the TEXAN is out, I’ll weigh in on what kind of person should hold the most strategic role in our cooperative ministry.

First, I thank God for the decades of service that Jerry and Bobbye Rankin gave to international missions. Jerry capped his service with a 17-year tenure as IMB president. During that time, millions were baptized overseas and our missionary force became more unified around the doctrinal priorities that define our reasons for sending missionaries. Dr. Rankin’s service was generous and earnest, and deserves the respect of all Southern Baptists as he transitions to retirement ministries.

Looking to Jerry Rankin’s successor, I see some challenges to which his responses will deeply affect the future of our convention. Here are some traits that will serve him well as he represents us in this crucial role:

A deep understanding of how missiology and theology work together–Among those who even believe in evangelism, the world tends to divide between pragmatists (the practitioners) and theologians (the philosophers). Perhaps you’ve noticed the occasional sniping by pragmatists toward “ivory tower” Christians. I’ve certainly heard criticism from the other, more philosophical, direction. Great leaders are the rare ones who can weave those things together. Those great leaders are few but we simply must find one for this job.

A proven commitment to the Cooperative Program–Without a doubt, smart people have and will again come up with new ways to organize the SBC. We’ve expanded and contracted the number of agencies we support during the past few decades. Perhaps we’ll do that again. Maybe we’ll shift our budget priorities in favor of one emphasis or another. All that’s fine but no one has yet come up with a plan better than the CP for funding the entire span of our missionary work–whatever structure that span requires. That means that all our denominational leaders must acknowledge how all the parts of our structure serve our complete mission. To paraphrase Paul, if all the body is a seminary, where is the missions sending? If all the body is a mission board, where is the training? And our leader will have credibility with more Southern Baptists if he is a cheerleader for percentage giving. Those who prefer to designate much of their giving are not usually offended by those who don’t, unless they are attacked for doing so. Those who commit to support the entire SBC budget are suspicious of those who would lead us but prefer one cause to the exclusion of others.

And, as SBC Executive Committee President-elect Frank Page indicated in his press conference, all our agency heads must honor the business and financial plan of the SBC if there is to be trust and fair play among our convention entities. That plan defines the way that agencies of the convention are funded and when they can directly solicit churches for funding in addition to the Cooperative Program. A team player will highlight CP as the way to fund the entire mission of our denomination.

A proven commitment to biblical evangelism–The difference between harvesting souls and making disciples is definable but they are still inseparable within the definition of missions or evangelism. A leader who is a practitioner-theologian will understand this. The urgency of world evangelism is not neglected when the evangelist devotes enough time so the convert grows in his understanding of his faith. Urgency implies importance more than haste. The man born blind had a simple and compelling testimony, “I was blind and now I see.” He wasn’t ready to lead a church planting movement, though. Apollos, Paul, John Mark, the 12, and those converted under Paul’s ministry were clear examples of time-intensive disciple making in an era when they too believed Jesus’ return to be imminent. The testimony of a new believer is powerful and lovely. That testimony is not less lovely if it is more complete a week or a year later. Biblical evangelism places a high value on well-grounded believers.

Our evangelism must be theologically sound to be biblical also. Contextualization can be tricky if our focus is more on what’s easy or what works than on what is biblically true. Our testimonies must be true, our gimmicks must be above reproach, and our answers must be honest in the plain sense of the word.

A denominational statesman–Actually, all of our agency leaders must be winsome, humble, and dignified if they are to be effective in their respective roles. The head of the International Mission Board is even more influential, though. Our convention has reflected the significance of this one board by giving it as much of the Cooperative Program budget as nine others combined (realizing that neither GuideStone nor LifeWay receive any CP money). Our churches reflect this influence in the fact that they collect more by far for the IMB’s special offering than for NAMB’s. Our IMB president represents our most important denominational priority to a degree that no other man does. Our president must be one who wears this notoriety circumspectly. A pugnacious or narcissistic leader at IMB would harm more than just one of our SBC agencies.

A genuine cheerleader for Southern Baptist churches, great and small–Pragmatism can have an aspect that more genuinely affirms those churches that can further one’s cause with more dollars. It’s pretty clear to churches of normal size when this is happening. The agenda can be evident in elements of an agency’s strategy, what ministries are more prominently praised, and so on. Now, I don’t really have a lot of sympathy for jealousy among churches or pastors who need the affirmation of famous men. It is unattractive to all, and even disrespectful to most, when our leaders behave as though one sort of ministry is more vital than another, though. A leader who loves the Southern Baptist churches that exist today will rejoice in the ministries of smaller churches as sincerely as he does with larger ones. He will also respect the ministries of our churches that operate in underserved parts of the U.S., some of those in the farthest locations from his Richmond office. These pastors have a mission field also. These small churches love the fact that our convention gives them a chance to say, “we have over 5,000 missionaries all across the world.” Without small churches in less prominent locations-tens of thousands of them—we’d have far fewer missionaries. He must love the world, but he should also openly love the U.S. as part of that world.

Pray for our search committee and for the man, as yet unknown to us, that God will provide to fill this important role. Nothing I’ve said here should be taken to say that our support for missions should be contingent on our approval of the one who eventually fills the IMB presidency. We support missions because God says. We do that in the most responsible way we can find. I still believe that the Southern Baptist International Mission Board is that best, most responsible way to address world missions. The next president will set the course for our convention’s global mission for the next 10-15 years. He will, under God, have more to say than anyone else regarding the board’s continued position as the best, most responsible channel.

This is a crucial era for all aspects of our common work. Our upcoming generation of leaders will oversee significant changes in the SBC. Probably none of them will be as crucial in determining whether that change is for the better or worse as the next president of our IMB.

Independence brings new era at Criswell College

DALLAS–August 1 marked the beginning of a new era at Criswell College, according to the parties involved in navigating the school’s independence from First Baptist Church of Dallas where former pastor W.A. Criswell launched a Bible institute 40 years ago that he said would be “based on conservative evangelical Christianity as practiced in our church” to train leaders for ministry.

“Criswell College operated under the ultimate authority of the members of First Baptist Dallas. This new structure enables the college to expand into new opportunities under an independent board and leadership,” leaders said in a joint release issued at a signing ceremony July 29 in the office of Interim President Lamar Cooper. In 1991, the campus was relocated less than two miles east from the facilities of the church, which remains in downtown Dallas, to 4010 Gaston Avenue.

Emphasizing the shared past and future vision, the release stated, “Both institutions hold steadfastly to the core values on which both were established and built. Both institutions will continue to apply these critical values, the college in the development and training of the next generation of pastors and ministry leaders?the church in sharing the gospel with the city of Dallas.”

The fate of radio station KCBI-FM (90.9) is spelled out in the release, noting the station “has served both the college and the church and will continue to be a dynamic ministry to the Dallas-Fort Worth market.” More specifically, “Management of the radio station will move from the college to a new non-profit organization, First Dallas Media Inc.”

From the school’s perspective, many benefits will derive from the separation without losing the legacy that Criswell established.

“There will be no change in our commitment to the Bible as God’s infallible and inerrant Word, nor to any other doctrinal position,” Cooper told the TEXAN. Calling the separation a historic moment, he said, “We are greatly indebted to the vision of our founder, Dr. W.A. Criswell, and to the members of First Baptist Church Dallas who embraced that vision.”

Cooper said the separation would give the school a new identity?no longer viewed as a church school that is an appendage of the historic downtown church. “It will therefore make it easier to recruit students for on-campus and our new distance education programs.”

He also expects the separation to help development and fund-raising, attracting donors who, prior to the separation, “incorrectly surmised that the college was supported largely by budgeted allocations from First Baptist Church of Dallas.

“As an independent entity, we look forward to our continued cooperation with the church in reaching common goals appropriate to the kingdom’s work,” Cooper said. “As a cooperative affiliate we also look forward to a closer working relationship with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and the churches of our convention.”

Under terms of the separation, the school immediately operates under the authority of a new board that includes members elected from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and the W.A. Criswell Foundation, both of which are affiliated with the college. In addition to eight trustees nominated from each of those entities, the college names five at-large members and the new board is responsible for ratifying all 21 people.

Previously, the bylaws stipulated at least 12 of the 21-member trustee board were to be drawn from among FBC members.

Serving as chairman of that new board is Jimmy Pritchard, pastor of First Baptist Church of Forney. “This is a unique opportunity for Criswell College to build in a significant way upon the foundation of its past,” Pritchard told the TEXAN. “A new day always brings exciting possibilities as well as special challenges.” He expressed hope that the school would “rise to make the most of the new opportunities” and confidence in conquering any challenges in coming days.

Terms of separation were approved by members of the church and the school’s trustees last summer, paving the way for a transition team to draft a Separation and Contribution Agreement. Church and school representatives signed final documents early this year. Legal documents were ratified Feb. 2, awaiting approval by the Federal Communications Commission and Internal Revenue Service for the go-ahead that allowed separation Aug. 1.

Having served as chairman of the prior governing board since 2005 and a board member since 1998, Dallas attorney Michael Deahl described the separation transaction as “undoubtedly the most significant milestone in the history of Criswell College” apart from its initial founding, “and certainly the most challenging transaction I have ever been involved with.”

While the concept had been informally considered for many years, discussions began in earnest in January 2008, he said. He recalled the hurdles that had to be overcome to get to this point, including the satisfactory agreement of terms of separation, particularly the disposition of KCBI and other radio stations, approval of the transaction by college trustees as well as church deacons and members, approval of the change in governance by the school’s accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, as well as approvals from the FCC and IRS.

First Dallas Media Inc. has the college and First Baptist Church as its sole members. FBC will exercise control over the non-profit entity through the election of its trustees. The church will continue operating the radio ministry, utilizing income generated from program support and donors. The college will receive guaranteed annual income from station revenue.

“I realize that many members of the college’s constituency have been waiting and watching to see if the separation was really going to happen,” Deahl conceded. Now that it has occurred, he said the school’s independent status and alignment with the SBTC and W.A. Criswell Foundation “will serve as an impetus for the college to broaden its influence and ministry in the years to come.”

Deahl was eager to recognize the entire Criswell College and KCBI family “who remained focused on the work of the ministry throughout the ups and downs of the past several years, my fellow trustees at the college who took their responsibilities seriously, always held me accountable, and were a privilege to lead, the church staff and deacon leadership who were instrumental in enabling the separation transaction to be completed in a spirit of cooperation and harmony, and college Interim President Lamar Cooper, who has provided solid and stable leadership at the college for the past two years.”

After the separation agreement papers were signed, SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards told the TEXAN, “A new day has dawned at Criswell College. The rich heritage of First Baptist Church, Dallas, will always be a part of the college’s legacy.”

Richards expressed confidence that the future of the school “is as limitless as the promises of God,” and pledged SBTC’s commitment to helping Criswell College transition “to the greatest days of ministry yet.”

FCC law changes affect churches nationwide

Are the wireless microphones in your church legal?

Recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rulings banned the use of wireless microphone systems operating in the 700-megahertz (MHz) band; enforcement of new laws began June 12, when the regulation took effect.

The law applies to all wireless equipment users such as schools and churches, and wireless devices, which may include microphones, in-ear devices, intercoms, wireless instrument transmitters and video transmitters.

Studies estimate the new law affects 10 percent of wireless microphones.

A deeper look at the law

With the expansion of technology and move to HD and 4G networks came the need for the FCC to ensure the protection of certain frequencies; designating their use solely to emergency or public safety operators.

Prior to this regulation wireless devices operated legally in the public safety band. These new regulations are in place to prevent potentially life-threatening interference from taking place, the FCC says.

“The law is adding protection for a certain transmission range for the use of emergency services (police, fire, homeland security, etc.) An explanation of the law is that the FCC controls the use and licensing of the broadcast airwaves and until now has allowed unlicensed use of the range in question. The new restriction, they contend, is simply restricting the licensing of that range for a specific need,” explained Ken Lasater, SBTC church ministries associate.

According to the FCC website, “Interference from wireless microphones can affect the ability of public safety groups to receive information over the air and respond to emergencies. Harmful interference to these communications could put you or public safety personnel in grave danger.”

Organizations that continue to operate in the 700 MHz range face potential fines and penalties.

“The wise decision is to operate legally, abandoning the use of these frequencies,” Lasater said.

Equipment inspection

Churches with concerns about their own wireless equipment can visit the FCC website? lists most (not all) brands and manufacturers of various wireless equipment as well as lists if the device meets the new regulations.”

“Not every unit will need to be replaced. Some units are already in compliance. That is, they already operate outside of the 700 MHz range. Other systems have the ability to be adjusted to work within legal parameters. Check with the manufacturer for details,” Lasater said.

Curtis James, SBTC multimedia consultant, urges churches to inspect their equipment.

“In most cases the frequency your wireless microphone operates on is printed on your wireless receiver. It is normal

LAND ISSUES: A tale of two churches

Location, location, location.

Real estate agents tout it, but for Memorial Baptist Church in Spring and University Baptist Church in San Antonio, their locations presented distinct problems. Memorial was surrounded by a changing neighborhood it wasn’t able to reach and University owned acres of land it could neither use nor sell, and the taxman was coming.

What’s a church to do? Stay and try to reach a changing neighborhood, move and risk destroying the church, pay taxes it can’t afford, or sell it all and relocate?

As both churches faced these issues, the Lord stepped in, they say, led them in completely different directions, and advanced the ministries of both churches.

Memorial Baptist Church had been in the same location in suburban Houston since constituting in 1931. The church had been a successful, growing church with an outreach to its community.

But when Pastor Cliff Mayton began his ministry at Memorial in 1999, the church was witnessing the transition of the neighborhood around it.

“The area was 85 percent Hispanic,” Mayton said.

Most were first-generation Hispanics and the language barrier was nearly impossible to overcome. The church tried to minister to the neighborhood, but with little long-term success.

After about 14 months at Memorial, Mayton sensed the Lord leading him to relocate the church. He shared this belief with his wife, Georgianna, and then continued to pray for several months.

Over time, the Lord brought confirmation, he said, through other staff members that they, too, believed it might be time to relocate the church.

“We began to pray first, then plan,” Mayton recalled. He felt led to have one-on-one talks with 127 church members over six months to get their reactions and begin to build consensus. Of the 127 conversations, 124 also believed relocation was God’s will.

Next Mayton took the relocation idea to the church’s steering committee and then to the deacons. Both groups got on board with the idea and in a business meeting 94 percent of the church voted to relocate.

The steering committee formed subcommittees to handle the details of the relocation. Committees were created to find land, sell existing facilities, coordinate transition, supervise construction, facilitate communication, and oversee decoration.

Then in 2001, the church put its property up for sale.

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Texas student ministers in S. Africa during World Cup

GRAND PRAIRIE  The World Cup of Soccer is over, and the vuvuzelas — those horns some found insufferable — are silent. But for some youngsters in Kayamandi, a township outside of Capetown, South Africa, the ministry of Daniel Thomae will resound for a long time, even for eternity.


Thomae (pronounced Tommy) spent almost three weeks in South Africa helping in a ministry called Kids Games, a sports and arts program designed for pre-K-sixth grade children. The ministry includes compassion projects, Bible story time, life lessons and music. Originating in 2000 in Cairo, Egypt, Kids Games is gaining acceptance worldwide as a ministry effective in reaching children with the gospel.


“Against the backdrop of the World Cup competition, the kids had a chance to feel like they were a part of a sporting event,” said Thomae, a member of Inglewood Baptist Church in Grand Prairie.


Each day of ministry had opening and closing ceremonies, and included a series of games and events as the children went from station to station. The stations had Bible verses related to life skills or lessons like teamwork, friendship, etc., the 26-year-old explained. “It was a good way to teach the kids biblically-based ethics and morals.”


Also included were “Compassion Day” projects, where the children would serve their communities by picking up trash, painting playground equipment?even helping to build a house. “We wanted to teach the kids the value of their own communities, and of serving them,” Thomae said.


The Kids Games ministry included about 300 children and 60 workers from Brazil, Germany, the U.S., and from local churches. Thomae served as an intern for a group called Sport for Christ Action SA (South Africa), the group that sponsored Kids Games.


“There were many local community leaders who helped, too, like teachers, and high school and university students,” Thomae said. “It was an opportune time to minister to them as well.”


But for Thomae, it was all about the kids.


“The kids love soccer, so we offered some soccer camps and organized some pick-up games, and shared the gospel,” he said. Having to leave before the completion of the ministry, Thomae had no final statistics about how many children came to Christ, but was aware while on-site that the gospel took root in many of the children’s hearts.


Despite the comparative economic status of South Africa to the rest of the continent, Thomae says the country still has vestiges of racial Apartheid.


“The relationships among different races there are still difficult. But is was good to see people coming together for ministry,” said Thomae, who noted the World Cup had a unifying power and provided an avenue for Christian ministry and gospel proclamation.


“There is a void in the kids’ lives as far as leadership and those who will invest in the lives of these children,” Thomae said. “There are lots of drugs and violence, but the kids were so hungry for real leadership, and had a real openness for the gospel, too.”


While claiming he’s no expert on such matters, Thomae said his observations of the local culture revealed that children and young teens in the townships “face many of the same problems that children in inner-city America face. In poor communities children and youth are faced with the universal dangers such as sex, drugs, and violence. There are many broken homes, where children don’t have fathers to look up to. In Africa, there is a general problem of men not investing in youth, children and young people, so they ar

SBTC offers facilities consultation

“If you build it, they will come.”

Many churches operate by this motto, believing that once construction is complete, the work is done. However, operating a facility and using it to its fullest potential is an ongoing task, requiring churches to consider multiple factors over the years, such as building efficiency, space usage, renovation and construction.

In addition, many other churches are being faced with the agonizing decision of whether to stay in their current location or relocate.

The SBTC facilities consultation team is available to help churches in any of these areas as they seek to make the maximum use of their facilities or look to relocate.

“The largest issue in relocation has to do with mission and purpose,” said Kenneth Priest, SBTC church ministries associate.

Priest said there are three main reasons that prompt churches to consider relocation: community transition, facilities upkeep, and landlocked property.

“It is unfortunate, but realistic, that churches do not always transition with the community,” Priest said. “The recommendations in this situation would be to look to build in the demographic area where the church is reaching and which will permit growth while simultaneously partnering with the SBTC church planting group to launch a church that would reach the community.”

Sometimes, according to Priest, churches fall into disrepair and starting over seems to be easier and more cost efficient than fixing up the building.

“We need to be good stewards of the campus God has blessed us with and provide an appropriate amount of financial support to maintaining the church’s campus.”

Being landlocked can also be a reason for relocation.

“Being landlocked will dictate how large a church becomes,” Priest said. “In growth, priorities center around preaching, preschool, and parking. In a landlocked scenario, no matter how great the preaching, if adequate preschool space and parking are not provided the church can only grow so far, even with the most creative administrator. So relocation is the solution to provide adequate and necessary space for growth.”

For churches committed to staying in their current location, the SBTC offers help so they can effectively use their facilities. Priest said facility consultations can take many forms.

“The church ministries department of the SBTC provides access through virtual facility assessments; go to to request a login and password,” Priest explained. “On this site you can upload photos of your campus as well as provide specific square footage and current attendance information. An analysis will be provided back with recommendations on the next steps for the church.”

Site visits may also be made by SBTC specialists, including Priest or Buddy Siebenlist, SBTC facilities consultation specialist, depending on the needs of the church. For more information about SBTC facilities consultation or to begin the consultation process, visit

War is better than?

In 1983, the Southern Baptist Convention voted to observe a day of prayer for world peace on the first Sunday of August beginning the next year. That day corresponds to the nearest Sunday to the anniversary of the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan in 1945?the first and next-to-last use of such a weapon. Choosing this date is based on similar reasoning to the choice, for an emphasis on the sanctity of human life, of the nearest Sunday (in January) to the date of the infamous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. Many of those who advocated for the August date opposed the January date. Most convention watchers noted in the choice of the August date a not-so-subtle criticism of America’s decision to use nuclear weapons to end our war with Japan.

To be sure, the devastation brought by a single weapon changed the way the world thought about war for the next 44 years. I’d argue, though, that war was not made more horrible by the introduction of nuclear weapons into the world. Neither were the facile arguments of pacifists made more compelling.

Southern Baptists don’t observe as many emphasis Sundays as we once did and I’ve not heard any mention of the Day of Prayer for World Peace in decades. Still, as we approach the anniversary of this decisive air raid, I think of war and peace. As someone who remembers practicing air raid drills (remember the Soviets?) as an elementary student in the 1960s, August 6 marked a defining day for my generation. It’s a good day to think about the morality of devastating conflict.

Only a person who’s been to war or had it brought to his own doorstep could be more convinced than I that war is horrible. Immeasurable tons of precious, carefully made equipment decays at the bottom of the world’s oceans. One nation sacrificed its resources to innovate weapons and equipment while another sacrificed its own to destroy them. Of course, that equipment is accompanied wherever it lays by the young men trained to operate this marvelous machinery. Farmland and cities around the world rest atop fields where soldiers and civilians suffered in service to one cause or another. In some countries, nearly a whole generation of young men was erased by world conflicts of the 20th century. This century’s loss, as well as that of previous ages was always accompanied by disease, famine, brutality, and lifelong sorrow that magnified the tragedy.

It is not humanistic, merely human, to detest this blight that drags humanity back 2.99 steps for every three we take forward. The destruction of wealth and the loss of human potential is always to be dreaded.

But the pacifist response to human conflict has little to offer. We may uplift Gandhi or one of his disciples as an example of a better way that oppressed people might respond to violence. But this kind of non-violent resistance is often parasitic. Gandhi resisted a British empire with a tradition of justice and law. If he’d taken his protest to Nazi Germany or Stalin’s Soviet Union or the killing fields of Cambodia, or even Tiananmen Square in China, he’d have never been famous. The pacifist believes that anything, everything is better than war.

I still think war is better than enslavement. Notice that it is exceptional that a free nation would go to war with another free nation. There is an aspect of tyranny and conquest on the part of at least one combatant when war breaks out. Our current war on terror is unusual in human history because our enemy is not definable as a particular nation or government. But the goal of our enemy seems to be the establishment of a tyrannical and worldwide Muslim caliphate. The Cold War of the last century involved the attempt by another tyrannical system to establish a worldwide workers’ “paradise.” That Cold War was only cold politically; hundreds of thousands were killed during the 40-year hostilities. Is it a mercy, a series of noble sacrifices, to effectively resist such cruel attempts to coerce even the consciences of men and women?

Any response to the reality of evil in the world and the tendency of evil men to suppress freedom must protect the innocent from the oppressor. Most who believe that non-violent solutions are the only options open to Christians seem willing to accept corporate oppression when push inevitably comes to shove. In God’s rule of Israel he used warriors like Gideon, Samson, and Deborah to protect the nation from its oppressors. During the era of the kings, he used the nation’s army. Pacifists tend to dismiss most Old Testament history, preferring to put words in Jesus’ mouth. In the same way, Romans 13:3-4 becomes a saying of Paul rather than the word of God. Notice even in the Gospels that John the Baptist had no criticism of the career choice of the soldiers who came to him, only demanding that they be just and content with their wages. Neither did Jesus condemn the centurion who came to him on behalf of his sick servant. Peter did not rebuke Cornelius for being a soldier. Perhaps these are arguments from silence to some degree but the more explicit sayings of Scripture are rejected just as easily by those whose hermeneutic is based mostly on a political agenda. </o:

The GCR and the SBTC

The dust has settled from the June annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention held in Orlando. Messengers overwhelmingly approved the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Report. What does this mean for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention?

There are several components that directly impact the ministry of our churches in Texas. Perhaps the most significant are those recommendations directed toward the North American Mission Board. If the NAMB trustees implement the proposed changes, the SBTC will no longer receive $500,000 plus of grants for missions and ministry. While this will be a challenge for the SBTC to make the adjustment, the end result should be more financial resources going to the more unreached areas of North America. I support getting more people and money to the places in America where there is a greater percentage of lostness.

Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches have been strongly supportive of our unified budget. This is the first time as a group of churches we are challenged to do more. In order for the SBTC’s ministries to go on as usual, any NAMB grant reduction would need to be made up by CP receipts. Because we send 55 percent of every CP dollar on to the SBC, we will have to collect $2.22 in CP funds for every dollar no longer coming from NAMB. Churches are asked to affirm the SBTC’s work in Texas and beyond by giving more through the Cooperative Program.

The GCRTF recommendation for the International Mission Board to be allowed to minister without geographic restrictions opens up various possibilities. It is highly unlikely that IMB missionaries will be commissioned to serve on U.S. soil. However, IMB can lend expertise, resources and other personnel to assist NAMB, state conventions and associations in strategy for people/language groups in America. Globalization is here. We must reach the Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and others who now call North America home. I will strongly encourage IMB as well as NAMB to forge agreements with state conventions and associations in order to coordinate missionary efforts. Southern Baptists have the potential of more cooperation rather than less because of the removal of geographic restrictions on the IMB.

Cooperative Program and stewardship promotion are assigned to state conventions in the GCRTF recommendations. The SBTC has used SBC materials over the years.

The shift in responsibility will call for your state convention to be more involved in creation and production of the promotional material. The Cooperative Program is an undesignated giving channel that supports state, national and international efforts. CP is a Southern Baptist Convention and state convention partnership. The SBTC sends on 55 percent of every undesignated dollar received. No other state convention gives away more than it retains. The SBTC is committed to national and international missions and ministry.

Every church giving through the SBTC for Cooperative Program missions has a part in funding thousands of missionaries and seminary students across America and around the world. Your investment in Texas is also vital. Missions and ministry in Texas as a confessional fellowship of churches depend upon your participation through the Cooperative Program. Stewardship promotion is more than missions giving. Through the SBTC Foundation individual stewardship is being addressed.

Designated giving has always been recognized by the SBTC. Churches give through the Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, and Reach Texas offerings. Some churches designate to the colleges, children’s homes, and SBC ministries. There will be no change other than the title “Great Commission Giving” on a report form. “Great Commission Giving” will replace “other mission expenditures” on the Annual Church Profile. The Cooperative Program remains the vital lifeline of Southern Baptists to do our work together.

The SBTC’s philosophy is reflected in the recommendation for reducing the SBC Executive Committee’s budget, and in the Missional Vision and Core Values portions of the GCRTF report. As a group of churches, we share vision and values adopted by the messengers of the SBC in Orlando this summer. On the reduction of the EC budget, the SBTC has set a standard of low bureaucracy and high networking for state conventions. The model of SBTC methodology fits well with the proposals of the GCRTF.

Will the recommendations approved by the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention make a difference in the SBTC? Yes. All of the recommendations have the potential of a positive effect for the Kingdom. Will the GCRTF report produce a Great Commission Resurgence? No, not alone. A Great Commission Resurgence is still a spiritual matter. It will take individual Southern Baptists and SBC churches experiencing a spiritual renewal for a true GCR. Structural change can fine-tune

VBS children collect 150k pennies

ST. AUGUSTINE?Liberty Hill Baptist Church hadn’t had a Vacation Bible School in some time when Frank Holrath came as pastor nine years ago. Since then, the church has taken on VBS with an added twist: Penny wars.

No one gets hurt in this girls vs. boys contest; the respective groups compete to collect the most pennies for a missions cause.

This year the recipient was East Texas Baptist Family Ministry, an affiliated ministry of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. ETBFM accepted approximately $1,500?that’s 150,000 pennies packaged and loaded in a wheel barrow?from the children who attended VBS at Liberty Hill.

Holrath said for a smaller-attendance church, a $1,500 offering from children should be a challenge to churches of every size to encourage giving, especially in light of Southern Baptists’ charge to increase sacrificial missions giving at every level in the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report, he added.

Holrath said VBS has yielded spiritual blessings at his church far beyond the week of VBS, despite what sometimes seems “so little reward” for the laborious event.

“But even if one soul gets saved as a result, it’s all worth it,” he said.