Month: August 2010

Wisdom for technology gift giving

Between kids heading back to school and the Christmas season just around the corner, the wish-lists are sure to include all kinds of media?MP3s, DVDs, PSPs, iPhones, the iPods, iPads, the Wii, XBox, and miscellaneous other gadgets.

Here are some tips parental tech advisor Buddy Knight offers for making those new technology purchases this Christmas:
1. Match the gift to the age and maturity level of child. Ask yourself questions like: “What would I do with a Web-enabled phone at age 13!” Be a parent, not a best friend. Be wise in what you choose to give your kids.

2. If purchasing a new computer, be sure to include parental control software in the budget. The software delivered with the system usually lasts for 90 days, and may not be the best thing.

Links to some recommended monitoring and filtering software products:
• Cybersitter,
• Net Nanny,
• Safe Eyes,
• E-blaster,
• Web Watcher,
• Covenant Eyes,

3. New equipment purchases open up good opportunities to develop household rules. Define the amount of time that can be spent using the devices, what is acceptable, safety rules, and penalties for violating rules. On new computers, give each user their own account and password so if someone violates the rules, you’ll know who.

4. Two good rules for small Web-enabled devices are:
• Do not allow children to use portable Web-enabled devices behind closed doors.
• Do not allow children to keep portable devices in their rooms at night. Knight cautions, “They don’t need to be tempted to do things?the later it gets, the stupider we get.”

5. Set up game systems in public areas in the home, not in kid’s rooms. Parents need to monitor what games are being played. If game systems are Web-enabled, parents should be sure children do not visit inappropriate sites. “Xbox has fewer Web surfing capabilities out of the box, but there are hacks that kids can find online,” said Knight.

6. Beware:
• Viruses can enable hackers to control computers and store files on their hard drive without their knowledge.
• Child pornographers are outsourcing the storage of their material to unsuspecting computers.

7. Understand all the capabilities of the devices you are giving. Look for any controls available to parents to protect kids.

8. “Give non-technology gifts; get kids off the Internet!”

9. Parents should be careful about what DVDs they gift. R-rated DVDs may look OK on the package?but they are often rated for violence or soft-porn.

10. Consider protecting your equipment by buying extended service plans, especially those that cover accidental damage, when purchasing upper-end laptops for gaming. Accidents will happen.

Teaching good Web habits

“Train up a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6) covers every area of a child’s development?emotional, physical, mental, spiritual and social. In the 21st century, technology has the potential to influence children in all of those ways. Here are some tips for guiding children in responsible, God-pleasing use of technology (adapted from Vicki Courtney’s book “Logged-on and Tuned-out”).

1. Set up a secure environment:
?Keep the family computer in an open, high-traffic area.
?Let children know that for their own safety, you will monitor their activities.
?Become a technologically savvy parent. Read articles and take classes. Know the technology your children are using and how to implement safeguards.
?Develop a contract your children must agree to sign and abide by before they may use new technologies. For sample contracts, visit
2. Discuss with kids some good practices for safe and responsible use of technology:

On pictures and videos
4Use good judgment when posting pictures of yourself or friends?never post photos that reveal too much skin or inappropriate clothing.
4Never post photos or videos with the potential to damage anyone’s reputation, or that might solicit unwelcome contact from strangers.

?Only post photos or videos of people you know whose permission you have.
?Don’t engage in crude or inappropriate behaviors that others might video and post.
?Make sure your videos and photos would not dishonor God.
?Know the legal issues. Posting videos and photos of people without their consent could lead to a lawsuit. Get permission, especially from people you do not know well. Serious legal charges might result from circulating pornographic videos. If at least one party in the video is a minor, it is child pornography, a felony.

On instant messaging & social networking
?Never talk to strangers, and inform parents when strangers attempt communication.
?Don’t add friends of friends to your friend list.
?Don’t click through on links you receive.
?Don’t accept invitations to public chat rooms.
?Never list personal info like your last name, your school, your address, or your phone number.

Responsible, God-honoring use:
?Don’t post anything you wouldn’t say to someone in person.
?Don’t gossip or cyber-bully.
?Never pretend to be someone else.
?Block friends who communicate offensively?bad language, inappropriate topics, or bullying.
?Don’t post anything that would dishonor God.

On mobile phones, devices
Good manners:
?Turn off ringers in group settings.
?Turn off power when involved in activities that need your undivided attention (school, driving, or church among others).
?Don’t have phone conversations in public places where you can violate the rights or comfort of others (in restaurants, on airplanes, in offices, and others).
?Don’t allow incoming calls or text messages to rudely distract you from a face-to-face conversation?the messages will wait.

?Never talk to or text strangers.
?Don’t publish your cell phone number on the Internet.
?Don’t drive while talking or texting.
?Don’t take or circulate pictures that might hurt someone’s reputation.
?Report to your parents or other authorities any inappropriate contact or images that you receive on your phone.

Used by permission. Excerpts taken from “Logged On and Tuned Out” by Vicki Courtney (B&H Publishing Group, 2007).

Infinite Playlists’ offers parents guidance in discussing music choices of children

“Whether you wish to comfort the sad, to terrify the happy, to encourage the despairing, to humble the proud, to calm the passionate, or to appease those full of hate?and who could number all these masters of the human heart, namely, the emotions, inclinations, and affections that impel men to evil or good? what more effective means than music could you find?” asked Martin Luther in his preface to Georg Rhau’s Symphoniae Iucundae.

While parents can turn to online filters to control the Internet activity of their children, many will find the task of screening music downloads far too difficult to tackle. The more clever of Christian teenagers might latch onto Luther’s spicier rebuke of those who would banish music altogether, quoting his caution: “A person who gives this some thought and yet does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God, must be a clodhopper indeed and does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs.”

In his book “Infinite Playlists” recently republished by Kregel, Todd Stocker recalls Luther’s conviction that music should be given a place of great honor “next after theology.” Stocker offers parents a guideline in deciding which music is “acceptable and healthy” and which is not, first addressing God’s purpose for music.

“Ultimately, my goal is to help foster healthy conversations between you and your child?conversations about music, honoring God, and the importance of correct decisions when it comes to music and media,” he writes.

Unlike many books and websites that promote specific artists, bands, songs or genres of music, Stocker merely uses these as examples in making his points about the effects of music. The issue became personal to the author when his 13-year-old son wandered into a Virgin Records store while on vacation with Stocker’s parents, and then called to ask for counsel.

“I was expecting him to ask me my preference between Audio Adrenaline and Relient K (two very cool Christian bands) so I said, “Let me guess; you want to know if you can get a CD,” Stocker recalls.

“Yes!” the boy answered. “Which is better? Van Halen or Def Leppard?”

First asking how he could have raised such a rebel, Stocker eventually realized the need for a discussion on music choices, forming the basis for the book.

In making his case for the power of music, Stocker cites a study reported in Pediatrics magazine that found that “teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 who listen to music that contains degrading sexual lyrics were more likely to participate in sexual activity than others whose music lyrics simply talked about love and romance.”

While television, movies, and printed media have their share of objectionable content, the study revealed that sexual content is much more prevalent in popular music lyrics than in any other medium, according to the 2006 report.

“God has designed music to be a spokesperson for our emotions. Phrasing, melody, rhythm, and beat all contribute to the emotional impact of a song,” Stocker writes. He cites from 1 Samuel 16 Saul’s request that David play his harp to soothe his tormented soul after disobeying God.

He also addresses the emotional, physical and spiritual effects of music; genres of music; whether a difference can be found between Christian and secular music; and the impact of lyrics, rhythm and context of a song.

“You would never allow your children to drink gasoline even if it was their choice to do so,” Stocker reminds. “Neither should you let your children drink music that could cripple them forever.”

At the same time, he insists that parents help their children know the reason behind such decisions, offering a series of common-sense and biblically-based questions that go far beyond “because I said so.”

Plenty of books and ministries have tackled this subject from a Christian perspective. Few have offered such practical help in less than a 100 pages. Parents and youth ministers alike will find the resource useful as the accessibility of music continues to increase through online venues.

Who’s minding the cyber-kids?

While working at CompUSA to pay his way through seminary, Buddy Knight learned of a grave danger that led him to his calling?equipping technologically-challenged parents to protect their techno-savvy kids from the dark side of the
World Wide Web.

Knight, a former naval intelligence officer and father of four, recalls selling filtering software to a broken-hearted couple whose 14-year-old son was downloading hard-core Internet pornography. Over the following two weeks, God continued to open Knight’s eyes to that “home front” war, as he served numerous customers searching for protection against online pornography.

When the first couple he’d helped returned 10 days later, angry that the software they’d purchased hadn’t worked, he stumbled on a secondary critical issue.

“Did you change the password?” he asked the clueless couple. He discovered that in their own lack of technological prowess, they had naively trusted the software installation to the teenage son they were trying to protect.

Upon earning his master of divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2001, Knight founded Knight’s Quest Ministries, and developed the “Sex, Kids, and the Internet” seminar and workbook. His materials teach parents how to best protect their children from the torrent of innocence-robbing dangers in cyberspace.

Vicki Courtney, a popular Christian author and speaker on youth culture, calls parents to task on the same issue in her book “Logged On and Tuned Out: A Non-techie’s Guide to Parenting a Tech-savvy Generation.” Courtney, who writes from a parent’s perspective, went from being “tuned out” to “logged-on” when her son, who was playing games on the computer, exclaimed, “I won!”

Courtney asked him if he had defeated the computer, and he responded, “No, I beat some guy in Canada!” Noting the distressed expression that came over his mother’s face, he quickly added, “Don’t worry, Mom. He’s a Christian.”

Courtney advocates tight parental supervision in the use of media. She has been interviewed on Fox News and CNN on how she monitors her children’s activities. Courtney believes she is providing boundaries that her children need, and deep down, want. They have become so accustomed to her reviewing their posts that she occasionally runs across “Hi Mom!” shout-outs in their messages to their friends.

Knight agrees that kids find security in a parent’s close watch, recalling the mom who told him that her 15-year-old asked that the Net Nanny filtering software subscription be renewed to help him resist temptation.

Both authors acknowledge the many benefits of technology for education, communication, and entertainment. But they also admonish parents to:
>learn everything they can about the capabilities of the media products their children use,
>set rules and monitor use,
>teach and train responsible usage,
>lead by example,
>teach and keep on teaching a lifestyle of purity.

If they don’t, parents set their children up for harmful exploitation and risky cyber-behaviors.

Of primary concern to Knight is the overabundance of hard-core pornography and other sexually oriented sites that can flash on a monitor with little effort, or even by a misguided keystroke. Videos, photos, cartoons, and erotic audio books can find their way to a home computer by a simple word search. Slight errors in typing a web address site can take a child (or adult) somewhere they never intended to go. And before it can be stopped, the wall of innocence is breached.

“Kids are being exposed to concepts of ‘fun’ things to do before they are emotionally or spiritually able to handle them. And it doesn’t take a Ph.D. to realize that ‘monkey see, monkey do,'” Knight commented. Cybersex and “sexting” (distributing sexually explicit images of self or others by camera phone or Internet), is a trend among students as young as middle school?a behavior that can damage or destroy reputations.

Johnny Derouen, associate professor of student ministries at Southwestern Seminary, and a former youth pastor for 30 years, echoes Knight’s observation. “When kids hit ages 12-13, there is a 600 percent increase in hormones. That hyper-drive combined with easy access to pornography is almost too much for them. By junior high, 80 percent of teens have looked at hard-core porn. It’s just too easy.”

Derouen added that studies show that it takes three-tenths of a second for an image to become fixed in the mind. “Once it’s there, you can’t delete it,” he said. And pornographers are well aware that age 13 is a “branding age”–if a person starts using something by that time, they have that person for life.

The bad example set by some parents is often part of the problem in Derouen’s experience. “Parents are so hooked themselves, even Christian parents,” he said. He recounted how one teenage boy had been caught purchasing pornography, but his father refused to stop accessing porn himself. When it was discovered that the son had charged about $6,000 on a family account to purchase online pornography, it got the dad’s attention.

“[W]e’ve got to teach kids at a young age to guard their hearts and minds,” Derouen said.

A second cyber-area needing parental involvement is teaching children what they should and should not post on the web. Children do not naturally consider how their posts might damage their character or put them in harm’s way.

In “Logged On” Courtney states, “Trust me when I say that students are ignorant to the fact that any parent, teacher, employer, college admissions office, or anyone for that matter who is not in their immediate circle of online friends would ever view their pictures.”

Courtney describes how, in her research, she repeatedly encountered character-damaging images posted just for fun.

“I can’t tell you how many church kids I have stumbled across who have turned up in the backgrounds of pictures holding beer cans, smoking cigarettes and engaged in other unwholesome acts, unaware that they were leaving a virtual bread crumb trail of their actions.”

“Chat” is another area where children need to be taught to use caution. Kids often innocently share identifying information online, which can lead an online predator to find them. Predators read posts looking for clues, such as school names, colors or mascots; names of teachers; phone numbers or e-mail addresses; or details about weekend plans.

In his material, Knight notes that sexual predators find creative ways to meet children online in chat rooms, or playing against them in on-line gaming such as Xbox LIVE. “They may play against individuals for days, weeks, or months before the predator tries to get more info, but they are there, chatting up our kids,” he states.

On social networking venues like MySpace and Facebook kids post their thoughts, deeds, and misdeeds. Careless posts done just to be cool or funny could haunt them years later when character counts. Knight recounted the story of a young man who was denied a $40,000 scholarship because of posts in the “private” area of his MySpace page.

A third area of concern for parents is the amount of time teens actually spend using technology.

Merritt Johnston is executive director of Sage Ministries, an online and conference ministry for teenage girls and their parents.

She reports, “When surveying the girls who come to our events, it’s not uncommon to find those who are utilizing technology upwards of 18 hours a day. The thought of turning off and tuning out media for even a short period of time is such a foreign concept that I fear most never have the opportunity to hear clearly from God due to the overwhelming noise of media influence in their lives.”

“I didn’t see it coming,” confessed documentary writer Rachel Dretzin regarding the isolating influence of technology on her family’s home-life.

In a web-cam type video format, Dretzin explained how one night she realized that as her family was all together in the same house, they were simultaneously away in other worlds. Her husband and son were working on laptops, and her other children were playing with an iPhone.

Dretzin and Douglas Rushkoff co-wrote and co-hosted the Frontline episode “Digital Nation” that premiered earlier this year. The PBS documentary explored the need to “push the pause button” and evaluate the consequences of life in a digital society—both positive and negative.

Dretzin and Rushkoff’s approach somewhat resembled the age-old illustration of the frog in the slowly heating stewpot.

They showed how people are now customarily conducting major parts of their lives in “virtual” reality—business meetings take place in virtual conference rooms, friendships and romances often begin in online ‘worlds’ between avatars (a digital representation of ‘me’). The information presented begs the question, “Is technology taking us to a place we really want to go?”

In the Digital Nation documentary, Todd Oppenheimer, author of “The Flickering Mind,” said, “My concern with this digital media is it’s such short attention span stud, that they get bored. It’s what I call instant gratification education. A thought comes to you, you pursue it. You see a website, you click on it…. All this bifurcates the brain, keeps it from being able to pursue one linear thought and teaches you that you should be able to have every urge answered the minute the urge occurs.”

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Sherry Turkle noted, “Technology isn’t good or bad, it’s powerful and it’s complicated. Take advantage of what it can do. Learn what it can do. But also ask, ‘What is it doing to us?’ We’re going to slowly, slowly find our balance, but I think it’s going to take time.”

Derouen notes that the more time spent communicating through electronic media, the less time is spent communicating face-to-face. He observes that kids are not getting the practice they need in learning how to discern body language and facial expression. “It’s hurting them at school and in their jobs,” he said.

According to Derouen, though the dangers are serious, parent’s heads are still generally in the sand.

“Most are either ignorant of the issues, or they are busy with their own problems and schedules. They love their kids, but are so pushed by time that they tend to let it slide. When I go to meetings where we’re teaching parents about this, it stuns them. I do see an increase in curiosity about that issue, but I don’t see it carrying over–not many are using Covenant Eyes or Net Nanny.”

Parents wishing to take action to safeguard their family’s media use can find Christian-based help from the following sources:
>Knight’s Quest Ministries, Buddy Knight’s materials include: “Sex, Kids and the Internet: A Workbook for Parents of 21st Century Children,” and “Flameproofing Your Kids,” a biblical workbook for helping your kids understand God’s design for sex and marriage. Net Nanny filtering software is available for purchase in his online store. Knight also conducts seminars on these and other related topics.
>Vicki Courtney’s site,, contains sample contracts for media use that parents can use as models. Also find links to recommended filtering and monitoring software.
>Sage Ministries,, directed by Merritt Johnston: “reaching, teaching and training young women to impact their communities with the love of Christ.” A Family Media Manifesto can be accessed at their site as a model for parents to develop their own family media plan with rules, goals, and boundaries for Internet use.

Southern Baptist pastors among immigration statement signers

HOUSTON?Several Houston-area Southern Baptist pastors are among the signers of a declaration calling for secure borders and a compassionate and just overhaul of the federal immigration system.

The Houston-based U.S. Pastor Council’s “Pastors’ Declaration on Border Security and Immigration Reform” calls for “principled leadership and the laying aside of partisan politics” to address illegal immigration and border security “rapidly, justly and humanely with equal regard” to the law and to the “God-given value of every individual.”

“Holy Scriptures demand that justice and compassion be balanced with neither improperly dominant over the other in our hearts and our laws,” the declaration states on its website at

The declaration calls for the crisis to be addressed in three successive steps?border security, immigration system reform, and a “just process to legal status for specified illegal immigrants.”

It also calls state and national elected officials to end “political posturing and bickering” and begin “genuine dialogue” to find “real solutions to this crisis.”

David Fleming, pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston and one of the declaration’s signers, said his congregation has a “very large Hispanic population” that is likely sympathetic to illegal residents as well those who vocally support Arizona-style enforcement of immigration laws.

In Scripture, Fleming said he finds support for a “just and compassionate solution” that holds the rule of law and compassion for strangers “in tension.”

He told of his heartbreak in learning about a beloved church employee who let his work visa expire and never renewed it, leaving the church in a dilemma.

“Remember that God is concerned with the rule of law, and God is concerned with the alien and stranger among us,” Fleming said.

The declaration is crucial because the outside world assumes conservative Christians will take a hard-line approach because of secular political leanings, said Fleming, citing a Houston Chronicle article that quoted a state senator and a conservative activist as charging that some evangelical conservatives had been “co-opted” by liberals on the immigration issue and faced losing the White House and possibly their congregations if they didn’t wise up.

“We cannot let others speak for us; we have to speak for ourselves. We have to speak for the Lord?. Otherwise, we will be painted with a broad brush with folks we don’t necessarily want to be associated with,” Fleming said.

David Fannin, pastor of Nassau Bay Baptist Church in suburban Houston and a longtime member of the Houston Pastor Council, said the group thought “it was important for us to make a statement regarding where the country is and where we need to go,” with the first step a secure national border.

On reforming the immigration process, Fannin said, “There’s a lot of low quotas on highly skilled workers and very open quotas on lower-skilled workers and we felt that inequity needed to be addressed.”

Also, Fannin said, those who are here illegally but who have worked and otherwise obeyed the laws should be dealt with differently than those illegal immigrants who commit crimes while here.

“We’ve been very clear that those who have been involved in crimes, they needed to be denied any kind of legal status and that non-citizens should not be receiving non-emergency entitlements,” Fannin said. “It’s almost in line with where Richard Land’s statement is.”

Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission in Nashville, Tenn., announced over the summer his support for a border-security first approach that creates a path to legal status for certain illegal immigrants.

Writing in a USA Today newspaper op-ed, Land called for reforms that “respect the God-given dignity of each person,” protects the unity of families, secures borders, and is fair to taxpayers.

“Once agreed upon metrics for a secure border have been met,” Land wrote, “a plan can and should be implemented to bring the 12 million undocumented workers out of the shadows where they are too often exploited and preyed upon by unscrupulous employers and other societal predators.”

Land called it immoral that the government would “ignore its own laws for more than two decades and then one day the government says, ‘Now we are going to enforce the law retroactively.'”

Likening his approach to the term “compassionate conservative,” Fannin said his conservatism notwithstanding, “there’s also some ways in which that means you just can’t be hard-fast.

“If I was in Mexico and the only way I could help my family was to get a job where I could find one, I’m not so sure I wouldn’t do some of the same things, basically, to get food for my family. I understand some of that. But at the same time, I don’t think we can just carte blanche let anybody and everybody come into this country and tap into our resources. I think the statement’s pretty clear that we are not just carte blanche making all the illegal immigrants legal. The statement is pretty strong on how exactly that process ought to be and what should be done.”

As of Aug. 20, more than 350 ministers had signed the declaration.

Board approves slight budget increase, fills ministry vacancy

The Executive Board of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention approved a recommended 2.55 percent budget increase for 2011 and filled a vacancy in its minister-church relations department, hiring Jeremy Roberts of Lenoir City, Tenn., as a ministry associate.

During its summer meeting held Aug. 10 at the SBTC office in Grapevine, the board offered a thanksgiving prayer that Cooperative Program receipts through July were slightly ahead of budget.

The board also approved David Galvan, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida in Garland, as the 2010 recipient of the H. Paul Pressler Award, to be given during the SBTC annual meeting in November. Galvan served as SBTC first vice president in 2004.

The 2.55 percent budget increase to $25,469,987 requires approval by messengers to the SBTC annual meeting, scheduled Nov. 15-16 in Corpus Christi. The 2011 budget reflects the split of 55 percent of Cooperative Program receipts going to Southern Baptist Convention ministry with the remaining 45 percent kept for in-state ministry. Missions remains the largest SBTC budget line item at 23.6 percent of the in-state allocations.

New MCR associate
A Georgia native who spent part of his growing up years in Texas as a music minister’s son, Roberts told the board how he responded to a gospel invitation at a Plano church at age 6 and sensed a ministry calling the day he graduated high school.

“I am thankful to God that he has called me into ministry and he is the Lord and savior of my life,” Roberts told the board. He joins the SBTC staff after serving as pastor of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Lenoir City, Tenn.

As minister-church relations associate, Roberts will serve SBTC churches in congregational and pastoral care, cultivate relationships with younger pastors, and coordinate the convention’s Next Step Resume Service.

Roberts holds the bachelor of science, master of arts, and doctor of ministry degrees from Liberty University and Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Va., and the master of divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. He is pursuing a doctor of philosophy from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.

CP receipts slightly ahead
Chief Financial Officer Joe Davis reported that year-to-date CP receipts through July 30 were $95,445 ahead of budget. Through July the convention had under spent by $881,928. Additionally, counting interest income, designated giving receipts and NAMB funding, the convention had a net operating income through July of $1,173,476.

CP giving receipts have not been a “linear progression,” Davis said, adding, “We’ve been down and then we get back up.”

Noting God’s financial blessing on the convention, board chairman John Meador asked fellow board member Dale Perry to offer a thanksgiving prayer.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you for being such a gracious God. In a time when people are struggling financially, Lord, you have blessed us,” Perry prayed.

Praying and seeking
SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards told the board the staff emphasis in the next year would be on “praying and listening,” which is also the theme of the upcoming annual meeting, taken from 2 Chronicles 7:14, and a ministry template for the staff as its hosts events in 2011.

Richards said the emphasis began in a staff retreat last May.

“We are praying and listening,” Richards said. “If we will listen to God from Scripture and the Holy Spirit, then we will see God move? Of course, that is true for all of us on a daily basis,” he added, and especially for preachers and teachers, “and it is a desire from your staff’s hearts that we would hear from God and honor God more.”

Describing spiritual conditions as a “spiritual dearth,” Richards said part of the praying and listening emphasis would encourage churches to pray for one another.

Richards reiterated the core values of the convention?a biblically based, confessional fellowship, kingdom focused on missions and evangelism, and missionally funded, which “means we pool our resources” through the Cooperative Program missions funding channel.

Noting the CP is the “best available method today” for cooperating in world missions, Richards quipped, “It’s not a sacred cow, but it is a sacred how.”

As part of his report, Richards called to the podium church planter Damon Halliday of Keystone Community Outreach in Fort Worth and Engage Team coordinator Garrett Wagoner.

Halliday thanked the board for its help in turning a declining inner-city church into a “re-start” that has grown from 15 people to about 225 and is committed to intentional evangelism. Halliday told of a recent outreach that drew 400 people with 25 professions of faith.

Wagoner, a master’s student at Criswell College, told the board that 14 Engage Team college students conducted revivals and outreach events in 25 churches this summer, 80 salvation decisions and “countless other things you can’t put words to.”

Wagoner said the teams also saw two young men surrender to ministry callings.

“Giving through the Cooperative Program is an investment in students’ lives, in churches ? You have a part in every person who comes to Christ through the cooperative ministries of the SBTC,” Richards told the board.

Pritchard calls new Criswell trustees to unite on theology, love, purpose

DALLAS?As Criswell College nears the end of its 40th year and begins its first as an independently governed school, “a chance to start afresh and anew” was celebrated at the new board of trustees’ inaugural meeting with chairman Jimmy Pritchard, pastor of First Baptist Church of Forney, calling for “unity and oneness of heart.”

The trustees unanimously approved a motion from Thomas Hatley of Rogers, Ark., expressing “appreciation to Jesus Christ for placing in the heart of Dr. W.A. Criswell the creation of this school.” Furthermore, “We express our gratitude as well to the generations of pastors and people of First Baptist Church Dallas who have given birth and nurturing to our school over the years. We gratefully accept the baton they pass to us today.”

Arvada, Colo., pastor Calvin Wittman further asked the board to acknowledge the “tireless efforts” of trustee Jack Pogue of Dallas in preserving the school and advancing its founder’s vision, prompting applause from the body.

Pritchard said he sought to establish “good precedents today that will last for a long time,” citing Proverbs 16:3 in asking trustees to strive to maintain unity through the school’s scripturally-based theological commitments, love based on trust, and a purpose tied to the school’s mission.

“We count on you to establish this work to your praise and glory and place it in your hands that you do exactly what you desire to do,” Pritchard prayed in opening the meeting.

The board affirmed Pritchard as chairman and elected Curtis Baker of Lindale as vice chairman and Dot Shackelford of Dallas as secretary, with David Galvan of Garland and Jeff Nyberg of McKinney named as at-large members to serve on the executive committee with the officers.

Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Director Jim Richards was approved as an ex-officio member of the board and immediately delivered a $100,000 contribution to the school on behalf of the more than 2,200 affiliated SBTC churches.

Noting the SBTC’s strong relationship and synergy with Criswell College, Richards said, “Our executive board has expressed full confidence in the new direction of the school.”

Pritchard announced the newly selected presidential search committee, naming Steve Washburn of Pflugerville as chairman. Serving with him are Jack Brady of Dallas, John Mann of Springtown, Pogue of Dallas, Pritchard of Forney, Richard Land of Franklin, Tenn., and Richards of Keller.

The board approved current bylaws drafted by a transition team while also appointing a bylaw study team to include Paul Pressler of Houston, Keet Lewis of Dallas, and Randy White of Katy.

Interim President Lamar Cooper Sr. provided a written report emphasizing the significant role new trustees would play, asking them to give careful attention to the bylaws and any conflicts of interest.

“Being a trustee is much more than an honorary position,” Cooper reminded, asking them to help the school fulfill its mission to provide “biblical, theological, professional, and applied education on both the undergraduate and graduate levels, based on an institutional commitment to biblical inerrancy, in order to prepare men and women to serve in Christian ministries.”

While confident that the school’s financial affairs are being competently managed by CFO Mike Rodgers, Cooper said the separation from First Baptist Church of Dallas prompted a $900,000 annual shortfall in available revenue now that the radio station licenses have been transferred to a new entity, First Dallas Media, Inc. Previously, the station provided $1.4 million in annual revenue; an annual payment of $500,000 of unrestricted funds is scheduled in the future.

Cooper summarized advances in recent months that include offering:
?distance education courses this fall with 30 students enrolled thus far,
?courses from the Jewish Studies program to International Mission Board personnel who regularly minister to Jewish people,
?Spanish-language courses taught by Rene Lopez as part of the SBTC Hispanic Initiative,
?a redesigned website with user-friendly guides for current and prospective students, including the ability to register for classes, and
?a documentary about the school by Horizon Media to air twice weekly over Christian cable networks.

With the addition of David Henderson as counseling professor, all full-time faculty positions have been filled, Cooper said. Enrollment Services Director Andrew Hebert anticipates an enrollment increase for the fall with 375 students registered as of Aug. 20.

Cooper acknowledged that SACS cited the college for 13 issues last spring, all of them related to governance involving what they regarded as “an outside entity,” referring to First Baptist Church of Dallas. “All of those were cured when you took the vote to adopt the new bylaws,” he added, expecting those issues to be cleared after reporting the action to the accrediting agency.

Pogue asked what made Criswell College unique from other institutions, to which Cooper replied, “No other college in the country requires a year of Greek and Hebrew for a B.A. in biblical studies. No other college requires this kind of practical application of the work they do here,” said Cooper, calling for the expansion of current expectations addressed in a quality enhancement plan.

“We are trying to merge practical application with the theological information,” Cooper said, “all of it centered around a commitment to the Bible as God’s infallible, inerrant Word.”

On behalf of the academic committee, Hatley recommended and the board approved the reorganization of the M.A. in counseling to unite the current licensure and non-licensure tracks

Who sets our agenda?

A recent news article about immigration set me off a little. The focus was on the diversity of viewpoints within biblical Christianity. Within the article, a Republican lawmaker indicated that religious leaders would lose their churches and the White House if they didn’t get on his side of the question, and at his volume level. Another political operative suggested that temperate voices in the immigration debate were being co-opted by the political left. Again, if we don’t all get in the same place on the same side, we’ll lose elections.

OK, this is the last time I’m going to use the word “immigration” in this column, so don’t write me about that issue until I say something about that issue. Look at the other point, the assumption that our agenda related to the loudest issues of our day should be crafted in a way that helps one side or another win elections. That’s the kind of language that makes biblical Christianity shy away from political discourse.

Let’s look at some of the assumptions present in just the brief description I’ve given of this news article. First, the assumption that “we” can win or lose the White House. Of course I know what he means by that, but think about what actually happens. I’m 5 for 9 regarding presidential elections since 1976. During the years that my candidate was actually president, some things on my agenda improved though not as much as I’d hoped they would. Some things got worse. When the other guy was in the White House, my agenda suffered, though not as much as I feared, and other things got worse than anyone expected. There has been no presidency that fixed America and no presidency that was the end of hope for our country. So I’ve never had the White House and neither have you. For churches, even for individual Christians, to put winning or keeping a political majority too high on their priority list is a roller coaster ride of futility, despair, and misplaced optimism.

The second assumption is that what Christians should do is the same thing that churches should do. I understand the math. If a political advocate can convince the pastor to help his cause, he’s got his foot in the door with a hundred or more people that he’d otherwise have to convince one at a time. That’s what churches are to them, gaggles of voters who will more or less do what their leaders tell them. Few political operatives understand Baptists to any degree. While church members are citizens and should be informed voters, the church they attend is something beyond the sum of its members, the body of Christ. That matters in ways that outsiders can’t imagine. That’s why, IRS regulations aside, a political sign in my yard is a far different thing than a political sign in the front yard of my church, even if every member agrees with the message of the sign. My call to be a good citizen is an extension of our call to be the body of Christ but it is not the reason that we have been called together.

And then there’s the question of why, upon what basis, a church or its pastor might express a conviction regarding a timely issue. Issues are part of but also transcend politics. Those who wish to win elections think in terms of how to advance a cause while keeping the cost as low as possible?compromising a lesser thing to get a little more of a greater thing. Those lesser things might be core values that the politician hopes to go back and renew, after making sure he’ll stay in office long enough and with sufficient influence to do so. I’m not judging hearts here; I’m pointing out that preachers and churches don’t have the prerogative of saying that we’ll let this thing that God has told us to do go by the wayside in order to ensure the strength of our “ministry.” Later, we can apologize and hope God will understand. Check out 1 Chronicles 13:9,10 for a cautionary tale. The way politics works, universally I think, is not the way churches, who live according to the revealed will of God, should work.

To what degree should pastors base the things they say or don’t say on whether or not they’ll lose their churches? This threat is one that all pastors consider at one time or another but none would say that continued employment and climbing numbers should dictate his message. Sometimes it does happen that way, but there is consensus that it shouldn’t. So suggesting that pastors need to toe this political line or that one in order to keep their congregations is insulting. And hard-fought public policy issues are not the places where the battle for a pastor’s integrity or a congregation’s unity will be fought.

Regarding the suggestion that some leaders are unwitting dupes for the left: It’s insulting to suggest that a Christian leader should change his viewpoints in order to keep the other side from benefitting from a misunderstanding of his intent. Clearly one group is hoping to co-opt Christian leaders and yelps when they think the other side might beat them to it. We should base our leadership on a constant effort to discern God’s will. Once we believe that we have heard the voice of the Lord, we are obligated by it. If we have rightly discerned the Lord’s leadership, being called “pawn” or “traitor” by those whose calling is different from ours is often the lightest blow we’ll take for our stand.

We shouldn’t despise the fact that groups of people make decisions, politics. Even anarchy has political dynamics I expect. In fact, I reject the commonly expressed opinion that all those involved in politics are of the same cynical and crooked clan. I think our elected leaders and their supporters represent more idealists than the general population. Some of them are more godly and sincere than most of their Christian brothers and sisters. In fact, I imagine that quite a few politicians would never suggest that pastors or churches should place gaining or retaining the White House anywhere on their agenda. My warning is to those who focus too narrowly on winning what seems to me to be temporal and illusory. My warning is to pastors who might be tempted to trade their God-given influence for flattery or a place at the head table and a plate of chicken cordon-bleu. My warning is to me when I feel vexed and powerless in the face of the absurd knavery sometimes done in my name by my elected leaders. Anything that empowers me to express that frustration is a temptation to leave the battle so I’ll have time to tilt at windmills. I’m tempted to let some expert convince me the real battle is engaged in Austin or Washington. I’m tempted to run toward the sound of pop guns.

Let’s do that less often. We are engaged in a great undertaking already. The agenda that God sets for our churches is one that only the body of Christ is called to do. It is a diversion and dissipation for us to leave what no one else does to dabble in what others do better.

God is the Lord of churches and of Christians; and it’s hard to imagine that a political issue or particular candidate will ever be the reason for his calling out of any church. Hopefully without overstating my case, I maintain that pastors should carefully guard the unique identity of their churches against those who do not understand what a church is or does. One of the things we can bring to every corner of our society is the distinction between those things that are ultimate and those that are merely important. Our churches and their leaders must do that first by example.

An ethic of social media

As a church planter, I’m a big fan of social media. I use it to connect with people, make new friends, learn about people’s struggles so that I can pray for them, reestablish relationships with old friends, and just have a lot of fun. I often encourage people who aren’t engaged in social media to give it a try and see the incredible world that is out there.

But social media is a new phenomenon. Just 10 years ago, e-mail or chat rooms were our greatest exposure to connecting with other people on the Internet. Today, for many people, it’s hard to imagine our lives without Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace or a host of others. “Social media” has become one of the fastest-growing phenomena in American culture. Facebook currently boasts over 400 million users logging 500 billion minutes a month on the site. Twitter now has over 100 million users and adds 300,000 new users every day.

As a church planter, social media has become a tool for ministry. I encourage our people to connect with me, each other, and the ministries of the church through our Facebook and Twitter presences. We may be one of the most social media connected churches out there. I’d guess about 99 percent of our attenders have a Facebook account, and approximately 75 percent are on Twitter.

We use these outlets to communicate about upcoming activities in the church, to remind people of the main points of the message during the week, to distribute information specific to our ministries, to do polls about important topics, and to send out invitations to our friends, just to name a few.

Twitter and Facebook are also good ways to “close the back door of the church.” If someone attends our services for the first time and I connect with them through Twitter or Facebook within a week or two, I can almost guarantee they will become an active part of our church.

Because social media is electronic, it may be easy for us to forget that social media really is just another form of speech. The words may be in text and they may be delivered via the Internet, but it is still speech. So, the same biblical instruction related to how we speak should govern our use of social media.

There are two scriptures that speak to our use of social media. Ephesians 4:29 relates to what we post. It says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Before we post, we need to ask, “Is this beneficial to the people who listen?”

I’m certainly not saying that everything you post has to be serious or teaching something life-changing. However, it does mean that the general tone of our posts should be positive, encouraging, and uplifting. Stay away from negative, mean-spirited, cutting tweets.

Colossians 4:6 relates to how we respond to others: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Ask yourself, “Is my response to this person a demonstration of the grace of Jesus Christ?” I often see people jumping someone else on Twitter. Simply following this scripture should keep us from doing that. Is the way you respond to other people on social media more or less likely to make your pre-Christian followers want to experience the grace of the Christ you profess to follow?

Proverbs 16:28 says, “Gossip separates the best of friends.” Be careful about what you post about other people.
In Proverbs 17:28: “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” Sometimes the best thing to post is nothing at all. It’s a good habit to read back over a post and pause a moment before you hit send.

Social media is like using a megaphone in a large, crowded room. If your user profile is open, millions of people have access to anything you post. If your profile is locked, all of your friends still have access to everything you post. So, to carry through with the analogy, even if you have your profile locked, you are just in a locked room in a crowded building. Any of your friends are free to leave the room and pass along what you have posted.
Here are a few ethical principles based on this analogy:

Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your mother (or anyone you love) to hear. Once you post, you have no control over what happens to your message in this crowded room. There’s a good chance that your mother is in the room. Or, there are plenty of people in the room who know your mother. Social media is not a private conversation. So, think about the things you say. Are you OK with everyone in your life seeing the language you use, your tweets, the way you treat others?

Don’t expect others to respond to everything you post. Social media is a great way of increasing narcissism. Because hundreds of people follow us, we think that everyone should respond to everything we post. Post because you want to express yourself, but no one is obligated to respond. Remember, it is a very crowded room. and there are hundreds, if not thousands of conversations going on every day among the people you follow. If someone needs to get a particular message, send them a direct message or actually text them. But don’t get upset at people for not responding to your generic post.

Don’t be passive-aggressive. I mean, don’t use social media to attack someone. Even if you don’t mention the person by name, there’s a really good chance that some will know who you are talking about. You may be doing damage to your relationship with others and to your reputation. If you have a problem with someone, don’t get on the megaphone to complain about them. Talk to them, but don’t air it out for all of us to hear, because, quite frankly, we don’t want to hear it.

Don’t have arguments on social media. This one is closely connected to the former one and is often a result of it. Nobody in a big crowded room wants to hear you fighting back and forth with someone else on a megaphone. Move the conversation to DMs or actual real world conversations. Here’s the general rule of thumb for life: Praise publicly, criticize privately. People always respond better to that simple standard. Social media is one of the worst places to have an argument. How in the world can you really get to the heart of an issue when you have 140 characters or less? By having an argument on social media, you are demonstrating that you don’t really care about finding any resolution to this issue. You just want to fire shots at the other person. And that is not a Christlike way to handle problems.

Don’t have lengthy Twitter conversations. My rule of thumb is, if you are having a conversation that just involves you and another person, after about three @replies, it’s time to move the conversation to DMs or text messages. Remember, it is a crowded room, and your conversations should be beneficial or engaging to the other people in the room. If the conversation engages more than one other person, it’s probably OK to take it to about five @replies. And if there are a large number of people engaging, it’s OK to keep it going. If your conversation is of a personal nature or the mundane (Can you pick up a gallon of milk on the way home?), keep it off Twitter.

Don’t whine. It’s fine to very occasionally post about something that frustrates you or an issue that you want to champion. Social media is a great avenue to do that and see if other people experience the same things and maybe even get some answers for how to deal with it. But, don’t be a constant complainer.

Don’t overtweet. This one is a pet peeve of mind, but maybe the rest of you are okay with it. In this big, crowded room, if you are constantly on the megaphone, it get’s old. Tweet stuff that has some interest, impact, or bearing on your followers. It’s oka

Give our all to Jesus

You have to be my age having grown up a Southern Baptist to remember filling out a Sunday School envelope and placing money inside. My parents started me out with the practice. Once I earned my own money from cutting grass, working at a summer job or laboring on a farm, my tithe went in the envelope. I was a tither before I was a believer. When Jesus became my Lord, I started to give above the tithe.

June and I have always given above the tithe. It has been our practice through the years. June is so generous I have to answer the phone when the telemarketers call or we would be giving to countless causes. We give to missions offerings, special needs of the church and to individuals. My personal conviction about the tithe is that it belongs to the Lord Jesus and should be given through His bride, the church.

As a pastor I learned how to become a good receiver as well as a giver. There was always a layperson or two who would occasionally press a $100 bill into my hand after a worship service. Pastoring in rural areas had advantages. My family would get a side of beef or all the corn we could pull from a church member’s field. God’s supplies are abundant. God uses people to meet those needs.

During this economically hard time many people are struggling. Some have lost their jobs. Some are over-extended financially and cannot catch up. If you are able to help someone through a material gift, I encourage you to do so. You may not be able to do much, but do something. It will mean much to those on the receiving end. Your compassion could open the door for the gospel. Your expression of giving might salvage a weak believer’s walk.

Thank you, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches. Since the economic downturn of October 2008, the Cooperative Program budget receipts have continued strong. Your gracious giving and faithfulness through tough times make it possible for the SBTC to move forward for the cause of Christ in Texas.

However, some churches have experienced the repercussions of the poor economy by having budget shortfalls. Unfortunately, one of the easiest areas to cut is missions. Taking a percent or two from the Cooperative Program is a choice some will find tempting. It is reasoned that Southern Baptists will never miss their reduction. Let me encourage everyone to remain faithful through difficult days. College and seminary students, church planters, disaster relief workers, missionaries and other servants of the Lord in our Southern Baptist family depend on the strength of the Cooperative Program. Your gifts make it possible for the sun to never set on Southern Baptist missions. Your gifts make it possible for the Son to rise in the hearts of those living in darkness.

Giving is one of the evidences of being a Christian. John 3:16 tells us God loved us so much that He gave His only begotten Son for us. Jesus gave His all. It is the height of ingratitude for us not to reciprocate by giving ourselves totally to the Lord Jesus.