Month: September 2010

Reach Texas Offering nears $1.1 million goal

Economic difficulties in the past year did not deter Texas churches from generously giving to the Reach Texas Offering, the SBTC’s annual state missions offering. With final gifts still to be counted, giving looked just shy of the 2009-2010 goal of $1.1 million.

With September marking the start of the 2010-2011 Reach Texas giving year?a Reach Texas prayer emphasis was observed Sept. 19-26?the goal is again $1.1 million. This year’s theme, “Faces & Places,” reflects the diverse faces of the 25 million people who live in Texas.

“One hundred percent of the Reach Texas Offering goes for missions and evangelism ministries?all kinds of training, planter support, disaster relief, conferences, missions strategies. None of it goes to administration,” explained Terry Coy, SBTC missions director. “We are grateful to SBTC churches who, in the midst of economic difficulties, have been very generous in their support of the offering.”

Specifically, 50 percent of the offering funds church planting, 25 percent funds evangelism events and training, and the remaining 25 percent helps support various mission ministries, such as disaster relief and people group engagement.

Church planter Scott Mills said he is thankful for the ways the Reach Texas Offering has helped grow the kingdom within his community. Reach Texas money assists his church, Harvest Community Church in Martindale. Mills estimates they are able to make 100-150 spiritual contacts a month through everyday encounters and special outreach events.

During one such outreach event, Mills relayed how a couple accepted Christ and was baptized.

“God did an amazing work in their lives. Now they are very involved, inviting people to church and sharing Christ.” Mills said. “God used the events. It’s neat to see them grow and what this family is doing for him.”

Texas, with its population bursting, is geographically large and ethnically diverse, a daunting international mission field. Growing diversity is apparent in the larger cities, and with more than 100 languages spoken in Texas, a missions approach to the state is essential.

“We are keenly aware that we are in a very diverse state and are looking at how to be more effective in metropolitan areas, core cities and our borders,’ Coy said. “It’s going to take many methods and approaches to be, think and act like missionaries in our state.”

For example, Reach Texas gifts helped Pau Khup, a native of India, reach the Zomi people in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. The Zomi are from India.

SBTC churches cooperating in Corpus Christi and Robstown are holding FAITH evangelism training clinics in Mexico, which has resulted in hundreds trained in evangelism and implemented in other parts of Mexico.

The SENT Missions Conference, supported by Reach Texas funds, helps equip and connect people to missions opportunities across the state. Attending the SENT conference served as the catalyst for an apartment ministry in their area.

A Reach Texas devotional booklet is a resource available to help communicate how Reach Texas gifts are impacting the state and is a guide for praying for ministry that is taking place. Each page shares an anecdotal story about how Reach Texas funds have spread the hope of Christ in the state.

Reach Texas promotional resources, including a bulletin insert, are downloadable at For additional information, e-mail, or call the SBTC missions office at 877-953-7782.

Texas board to book publishers: Present religion fairly

AUSTIN, Texas ? The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) narrowly passed a resolution on Sept. 24 warning textbook publishers that content “demonizing or lionizing one or more [religions] over others” would be rejected.

The resolution addresses what it says were inequities in Texas social studies textbooks purchased in years past and some still used nationally that present what the resolution charges is a “pro-Islamic/anti-Christian bias” and “pro-Islamic/anti-Christian half-truths, selective disinformation, and false editorial stereotypes?”

The resolution states that “diverse reviewers have repeatedly documented gross pro-Islamic/anti-Christian distortions in Social Studies texts.” In Texas, the resolution says, examples from years past included:

• A textbook that devoted “120 student text lines to Christian beliefs, practices, and holy writings but 248 (more than twice as many) to those of Islam; and dwelling for 27 student text lines on Crusaders’ massacre of Muslims at Jerusalem in 1099 yet censoring Muslims’ massacres of Christians there in 1244 and at Antioch in 1268, implying that Christian brutality and Muslim loss of life are significant but Islamic cruelty and Christian deaths are not?”

• “In another instance, allotting 82 student text lines to Christian beliefs, practices, and holy writings but 159 (almost twice as many) to those of Islam; describing Crusaders’ massacres of European Jews yet ignoring the Muslim Tamerlane’s massacre of perhaps 90,000 co-religionists at Baghdad in 1401, and of perhaps 100,000 Indian POWs at Delhi in 1398; thrice charging medieval Christians with sexism; and saying the Church ‘laid the foundations for anti-Semitism.'”

The resolution also claims that among textbooks still used nationally, readers will find:

• “Patterns of pejoratives towards Christians and superlatives toward Muslims, calling Crusaders aggressors, ‘violent attackers,’ or ‘invaders’ while euphemizing Muslim conquest of Christian lands as ‘migrations’ by ’empire builders.'”

• “Politically-correct whitewashes of Islamic culture and stigmas on Christian civilization, indicting Christianity for the same practices (e.g., sexism, slavery, persecution of out-groups) that they treat non-judgmentally, minimize, sugarcoat, or censor in Islam.”

• “Sanitized definitions of ‘jihad’ that exclude religious intolerance or military aggression against non-Muslims?”

The resolution further says that state curriculum standards are insufficient to address such inequity because they do not cover what a course should avoid, only what it should include, and that the Texas Education Code requires the board to enforce “the basic democratic values of our state and national heritage,” both of which are violated by “animus” of one religion over another.

The 7-6 vote to adopt the resolution came after a motion to postpone the vote failed. Two board members, both Democrats, were absent for the vote. Two Republican board members, Patricia Hardy of Weatherford and Bob Craig of Lubbock, joined the remaining Democrat board members in opposing the resolution.

“Of course it not a binding action,” SBOE Chairman Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas, told the Southern Baptist TEXAN, “but it does send a clear message to publishers what we expect of them: more balanced treatment of major religious groups, that we don’t sugarcoat the history of one religion at the expense of another, that it be fair and historically accurate in the presentation of facts and religious practices and beliefs. It’s a sentiment to publishers of our expectations and maybe also a signal to the board that there have been problems in the past that we need to correct.”

Lowe said the resolution dealt with past textbook recommendations because board rules don’t allow resolutions on current textbook lists, even though some of the problems found in the 1999 books “are still problematic in the 2003 books,” she said.

Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard D. Land commented: “The Texas State Board of Education is to be commended for drawing public attention to these egregious examples of whitewashing the history of one religion (Islam) at the expense of others (including Christianity). Our children should be taught the truth about history, letting the chips fall where they may. All religions’ history should be presented honestly, warts and all.”

The board likely won’t recommend a new list of social studies textbooks for another three or four years, Lowe said, which allows publishers time to make changes. Texas is influential in the textbook market because it buys or distributes about 48 million books annually, affecting textbook content nationally.

Last May, in a 9-5 vote along party lines, the GOP-majority board adopted new social studies standards that will guide instruction in Texas public schools for nearly 5 million students and determine content for future textbooks and standardized tests.

Proponents lauded the new standards as bringing balance to left-leaning subject matter, while critics cried foul over alleged downplaying of church-state separation, among other things.

The Texas board drew wide media attention in 2009 when it ratified new science standards requiring biology students to “analyze, evaluate and critique” scientific theories, “examining all sides of scientific evidence” with “critical thinking.”

Poor health costly financially, physically, spiritually

Americans have more influence over their personal medical decisions than political debates earlier in the year predicted. Discussion of the national health care legislation, signed into law by President Obama in March, has often focused on the loss of individual freedom in selecting a doctor or health care plan. But the choices we make concerning our physical and mental well-being as Americans, and, specifically, Southern Baptists, sometimes begin at the all-you-can-eat buffet or in the life of the mind?not at the doctor’s office.

The harsh reality is that Southern Baptists tilt the scale as the heaviest denomination in the country as revealed in a study published in 2006. And random health assessments administered by GuideStone, the financial services and insurance provider for the Southern Baptist Convention, to a degree, validate that finding. During the SBC’s annual meetings, GuideStone personnel routinely staff the Wellness Center, offering a mini-physical that includes a series of questions about health habits and measurements of weight, height, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood-sugar levels. Of those who had the free screenings at the 2010 convention, 73 percent were considered overweight or obese by U.S. medical standards. That is compared to 68 percent of the general American population as outlined in a study published in the January edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Within Southern Baptist churches the sin of gluttony is simply not addressed with the same conviction and sense of urgency as its six companion vices although medical research continues to reveal the illnesses and diseases brought on by being overweight or obese can make this sin the deadliest of the seven.

“From a sin point of view, from a health point of view?it kills,” said Tom Kennedy, associate professor of psychology at Houston Baptist University and state president of the Christian Counselors of Texas Inc. He has studied the role faith plays as it pertains to a person’s physical and mental well-being. The social and psychological effects of obesity can be devastating, he added, and can even limit a believer’s role in the work of the church as overweight people tend to lack the energy of someone more physically fit and drop out of social and ministry activities due to embarrassment or inability to participate.

From a financial perspective, being overweight or obese costs individuals and, ultimately, society immensely.
“Obese folks spend $179,000 in a lifetime more in health care costs than those who aren’t,” said GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins.

According to the CDC the obesity-related health care costs in 2000 were $117 billion. In addition, medical expenditures for obese workers, depending on severity of obesity and sex, are between 29 percent and 117 percent greater than expenditures for workers with normal weight. Largely preventable diseases like coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, stroke, some forms of cancer and other debilitating and life-threatening illnesses are the price paid for being fat.

“I think it has become a barrier to our ministry. There are some who are in very poor health,” said Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary campus physician Richard Knight. He also noted there are students on campus who take very good care of themselves through exercise and diet, but he has seen his share of patients whose poor lifestyle choices have been a detriment to them and their ministries.

He noted one patient who struggled?successfully?to lose enough weight to meet the International Missions Board’s health qualifications. Knight told another student his ministry would be affected and his life shortened if he did not take control of his health.

Although Knight’s experiences are anecdotal and the Wellness Center health checks are not a scientific indicator of the overall well-being of Southern Baptists, one study by Ken Ferraro, Purdue University researcher and professor of sociology, revealed that religious affiliation did, indeed, play a role in the size of individuals. (A link to the study titled “Does Religion Increase the Prevalence and Incidence of Obesity in Adulthood?” can be found at the GuideStone website: In the course of the study, which surveyed people from a variety of denominations and religious affiliations, Baptists (SBC, North American Baptist, and Fundamentalist Baptist) showed markedly higher rates of obesity?ranging from 24-30 percent?among those surveyed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, obesity is an American epidemic?30 percent of adults and 16 percent of children are obese. The obesity calculation is a ratio of an individual’s weight to height. The resulting number is referred to as the Body Mass Index, or BMI (To calculate your BMI go to A BMI of 30 or greater is defined as obese. Those with a BMI of 25-29.9 are considered overweight.

In a summary of the Ferraro study published in the June 2006 issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Ferraro and co-author Krista Cline stated: “The present research has established that religion is related both to the prevalence and incidence of obesity. Some religious activities and affiliations may reduce the risk of obesity, but Baptist and fundamentalist Protestant leaders may want to consider interventions for the overgrazing of the flock.”

Some within the SBC have suggested?with a wink and a nudge?that Baptists who rail against the ills of smoking, alcohol, and sex outside of marriage have neglected to be as introspective when it comes to the sin of gluttony.

Ferraro and Cline did not hesitate to make the association. After studying reports that addressed the relationship between religion and health, the authors noted, “Many religions in the United States place priority on constraining sins such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and sexual promiscuity. Gluttony does not receive the same level of pastoral or congregational condemnation in most denominations, perhaps creating an “accepted vice.” It is even possible that religion’s success in curtailing smoking may inadvertently lead to a higher rate of obesity. Some people use smoking as an appetite suppressant, and religion decreases the likelihood of smoking.”

But swapping vices only trades one illness for another. Most of the diseases Southern Baptists, like all Americans, deal with are related to choices. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, three-fourths of health care services are related to preventable, chronic, lifestyle-related conditions.

A T-shirt seen on a rotund man read, “If my body is the temple of God, I must be a mega church.” The initial chuckle gives way to a sigh as the truth of the declaration sinks in?the body of the believer is the temple of the Holy Spirit and we are to honor God with our bodies. Eating too much and leading a sedentary life can create a body riddled with illness and disease, hardly a laughing matter.
But how did Southern Baptists and their compatriots become so big in just one generation (CDC statistics indicate the rate of obesity in America doubled between 1970 and 2000 to 30 percent of the population)?

In his book “Fat Land: How Americans became the Fattest People in the World,” author Greg Critser outlined the historical confluence of circumstances from the introduction of palm oil into the American diet in the early 1970s to the reduction of physical education in schools and the exponential rise in and popularity of fast food eateries. There appears to be a correlation between the increasing abundance of cheap, empty calories and the expanding American waistline.

The author does not demonize the fast food industry but merely outlines the marketing strategy

Executive Committee rejects motions on Baptist Press, messenger seating

NASHVILLE, Tenn.–The Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, meeting Sept. 20-21 in Nashville, Tenn., rejected two notable motions from last June’s annual meeting in Orlando: one that would have made Baptist Press news service a separate entity and another that would have disallowed the seating of messengers from churches perceived as racist.

The latter is expected to be addressed in a 2009 motion the committee plans to report on at the 2011 convention in Phoenix, committee members said.

The committee also celebrated the tenure of retiring Executive Committee president and former Texas pastor Morris H. Chapman, who began his service leading the SBC administrative entity in 1991 after serving 12 years as pastor of First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls.


An effort by the editor of the Illinois Baptist to separate Baptist Press from direct supervision by the SBC Executive Committee president was rejected after it was added late to the agenda.

EC members affirmed earlier findings of a 1981 public relations advisory committee study during the tenure of Wilmer C. Fields, who led BP at that time. The earlier study examined a similar proposal by Tennessee messenger Jimmy Stroud, who appealed to the 1981 SBC meeting in Los Angeles to distance the Southern Baptist news agency from “control and intimidation.”

Affirming the reasoning of the 1981 panel, which was comprised of editors, communications professionals and SBC entity employees, the current EC communications workgroup concluded that it is best to keep Baptist Press under the accountability of the Executive Committee through the supervision of the EC president.

While the maker of this year’s motion, Marty King, said he had been assured by EC staff and its chairman that his proposal would not be considered until February 2011, Chapman added it for consideration at the fall meeting about 10 days after the proposed agenda was mailed out, according to numerous sources.

King’s original motion asked the Executive Committee to consider establishing Baptist Press as an entity of the SBC, with a board of directors elected by the SBC, utilizing currently allocated funds. In a subsequent defense, King suggested the foundation model using EC members as overseers who would meet in the same time frame, requiring “a very small financial footprint, overhead and bureaucracy while broadening and strengthening BP’s accountability.”

Workgroup members rejected King’s argument, stating that the cost of any change was prohibitive at a time when the EC is being asked to cut its budget in order to shift more Cooperative Program dollars to missions.

Several EC members praised Chapman’s desire to see the matter handled before Frank Page succeeded him as EC president, calling it “a gracious act.” Another member concluded that the matter had received “a good, thorough and open debate.”

Much of the half-hour discussion by the communications workgroup centered on whether BP had shown bias rather than King’s contention of undue pressure by Chapman, an allegation publicly denied by EC Convention News Vice President Will Hall.

Missouri Baptist Pathway Editor Don Hinkle offered unqualified support of Hall and the entire BP staff and challenged the conclusions of an editorial published in the June 12 Florida Baptist Witness in which King, James A. Smith Sr. of Florida, and Gary Ledbetter of Texas noted concern over “perceived lopsided coverage of the GCR Task Force.”

“Have this debate as to whether Baptist Press ought to be moved,” Hinkle told EC members, “but don’t use bias as the reasoning for having it.” Hinkle told both the workgroup and administrative committee that he had no opinion about whether BP ought to be under Executive Committee supervision or some other board. That decision, he said, was up to EC members who ultimately report their action to Southern Baptists at next year’s annual meeting in Phoenix.

In a letter included in materials prepared by EC staff, Baptist Life Editor Bob Simpson of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware shared a similar concern that tens of thousands of Southern Baptists had been given the impression that Hall and his staff acted with a lack of integrity. His Aug. 17 letter, written with the anticipation that the matter would be considered in September, included an offer by 11 other editors to appear to speak to the workgroup.

The editorial published by the Witness stated, “So long as Baptist Press is under a particular SBC entity, it will not consistently present just and balanced coverage of contentious issues. Its coverage will represent the biases of its own publisher, the EC president.” While noting that Chapman was entitled to his views, the editors stated, “He should not be allowed to use a new service that is supposed to serve all Southern Baptists as a personal megaphone.

In a subsequent June 20 editorial in the Southern Baptist TEXAN, Ledbetter made it clear that BP’s staff is comprised of world-class journalist Christians. “Alterations to their chain of command could very well give them advantages in the conduct of their important work,” he recommended, in support of further study by EC members.

The study conducted 19 years earlier was summarized to workgroup members, citing conclusions that “freedom for responsible reporting depends more on the openness, integrity and skill of the individuals involved in news handling than on whether the news service is sponsored by the SBC through its Executive Committee or through a separate agency.”

Other points noted the tendency of a small board increasing the danger of a special interest group capturing control, the risk of isolation from sources of information and income as well as increased costs at the expense of missions, and a history of objectivity, organizational effectiveness, and freedom since the founding of Baptist Press in 1947.

Workgroup members relied upon an audit by an EC member who consulted with staff to conclude that the proposal would entail a $3 million added cost per year, an assertion that alluded only to a cost of $1,500 per meeting for attendance by each member of a 10-member board. Staff also noted that King’s letter provided an incomplete understanding of how the foundation was governed, noting the inclusion of additional at-large members.

After the workgroup vote, EC member John Yeats of Alexandria, La., cautioned members to maintain the agenda that is mailed out in advance. “Our smaller church and convention people don’t have the luxury of modifying schedules to accommodate late changes,” he later explained to the TEXAN.

In response to Phil Harper of Murfreesboro, Tenn., during plenary session after EC members affirmed the recommendation of the administrative committee, EC chairman Roger Spradlin pledged to keep future motion-makers informed of when deliberation would occur.

The only other issues given lengthy consideration in subcommittees involved the effort to disallow messengers by churches perceived to be racist, and another guaranteeing representation of smaller churches in Southern Baptist board deliberations.

Dwight McKissic Sr., pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, sought last June to add “racial discrimination” as a disqualifier alongside the existing prohibition of churches that act to affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior. He motion to amend Article II of the SBC Constitution was discussed at length by the by-laws workgroup, which voted against it, with the understanding that a related motion from 2009 was being handled simultaneously in a thorough study of “greater SBC involvement for ethnic churches and leaders.”

That effort was advanced by Massachusetts messenger Paul Kim, leading to an EC study that is in its second year involving all SBC entities and state conventions. A report is expected at next year’s meeting in Phoenix, Administrative Committee chairman Darrel P. Orman of Florida later told the TEXAN.

Orman cited 21 pages of staff-prepared materials that identified prior motions and resolutions, including a reference in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, which states, “In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism….” EC members concluded there was no need to add a means of challenging the seating of messengers since that is already possible.

North Carolinian Les Puryear appealed in person to a bylaws workgroup to approve his amendment to the SBC Constitution Article VI to specify that those appointed to boards, institutions and commissions be drawn from churches with three ranges of membership (40 percent from churches with less than 200 attending, 35 percent from churches with attendance ranging from 200 to 1000; and 25 percent from churches with more than 1,000 attending).

The administrative committee rejected Puryear’s motion, drawing on a long history of resisting efforts to impose restrictions on the qualifications for Southern Baptists nominated to serve on SBC entities boards as reflected in the 24 pages of material prepared by EC staff.

EC members offered a tribute to the outgoing Chapman on Sept. 20 and welcomed new EC President Frank Page with a reception on Sept. 21.

Richards lauded Chapman in a letter for his commitment to the Cooperative Program and his dedication as a longtime pastor, adding: “Morris, it was my privilege to hear you for the first time when you preached the convention sermon almost thirty years ago. You staked out an uncompromising position on the Word of God. You never wavered through the years. Thank you for your faithfulness to the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. Your contribution in the early days of the Conservative Resurgence was invaluable.”

In other business, EC members:
>declined a request by Mike Stewart of California for church information about trustees and committee members in the Book of Reports, including giving to the Cooperative Program;
>expressed sympathy for a motion by Mitchell Minson of Louisiana requesting that parking passes be made available for SBC meetings and pledged further effort;
>declined a motion from Harold Phillips of Massachusetts to adopt the U.S. Christian flag for display at meetings.

Resolutions of appreciation were approved for David Baldwin, executive director-treasurer of the Alaska Baptist Convention and Michael R. Collins, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan, both of whom are retiring.

Kevin Ezell elected new NAMB president

ATLANTA ?Kevin Ezell has been elected president of the North American Mission Board. NAMB’s board of trustees approved the nomination in a special called meeting Sept. 14 at an Atlanta-area hotel.

Ezell’s nomination was announced Aug. 31 after NAMB’s seven-member presidential search committee voted unanimously to recommend him as president.

Today’s meeting began at 8 a.m. Eastern time and ended at noon with the announcement of the vote to approve Ezell.

Ezell has pastored Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., since 1996. He served as president of the SBC Pastors’ Conference in June in Orlando, Fla. He and his wife Lynette met with NAMB trustees for about an hour Tuesday morning in a closed session to discuss his nomination.

Bryant Wright, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., attended the meeting. Wright delivered a devotion to NAMB trustees before they entered into executive session to consider the vote.

“Today is an historic day in the life of NAMB,” Wright told trustees. “Today your big decision is to follow God’s will with a man the search committee clearly feels is God’s man for leading our churches as they go about the harvest.”

Multihousing Conference in Euless scheduled for Sept. 25

Multihousing Conference
Sept. 25, 2010
First Baptist Church, Euless

An estimated fifty percent of Texans live in multihousing communities, including apartment communities, manufactured housing communities, and public housing communities. An estimated ninety-six percent of these do not attend church anywhere. Although there are many valid evangelistic and ministry strategies to reach multihousing residents that will lead them to attend existing churches, the reality is that most of them will not leave their communities to attend a church.

The answer, therefore, is to plant new congregations in their midst and take church to them.

The SBTC recognizes this vast and diverse mission field that is ripe for harvest. In partnership with associations and local churches, we are developing strategies and deploying catalytic planter coordinators who will:

1. Lead out in starting numerous ministries, outreach groups, and Bible studies with the goal of making disciples who will gather in newly planted congregations.

2. Identify and train new catalytic persons that can reproduce church planting strategies in other communities.

3. Be at the forefront of a church planting movement among the many ethnic and socioeconomic groups living in multihousing communities.

For more information about multihousing church plants, contact Chad Vandiver

VIEWPOINT: To reach Muslims, trade fear for love

RICHMOND, Va.  It isn’t that Muslims aren’t responsive to the
Gospel, International Mission Board strategist Sam McAlister* says. The
issue, he says, is that most Muslims have never heard it or seen a
committed Christian live it out.

claims nearly one-fourth of the world’s population ? 1.57 billion
Muslims. But fear — felt by both Muslims and Christians — ranks among
the most significant barriers separating the Muslim world from the
Gospel today.

After Sept. 11, 2001, Western culture collectively
branded Muslims as suicidal jihadists bent on the Islamization of the
globe politically as much as religiously by the fear-producing act of
terrorism. Though these stereotypes are softening as Americans’
understanding of Islam grows, strong anti-Muslim sentiment endures as
war with terrorist groups continues in Afghanistan and Iraq.

more, Americans’ phobia toward Islam doesn’t appear to stop at the
church threshold. A survey of more than 1,000 Protestant pastors
released by LifeWay Research in December 2009 showed that 77 percent of
evangelical pastors either somewhat or strongly agreed that Islam is a
“dangerous religion,” though the study did not explore the specific
issues behind their concern.

So what does all this mean in light of Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations?

who leads the IMB’s strategy for spreading the Gospel among Central
Asian peoples, believes Christians must transcend their own prejudices
if they are committed to fulfilling the Great Commission. The real
problem, he says, is a “lack of love” for Muslims that causes believers
to respond with fear and hatred rather than loving them as God does.

stereotypes that you see in the Western media are no more true of the
Muslim world than to say all Americans are New York City gangsters or
Wild West cowboys,” McAlister says.


adds that there are widespread and deeply held misunderstandings among
Muslims about what Christians believe. Unlike Americans, he says,
Muslims don’t separate their religious and ethno-cultural identities —
to cease to be one is to cease to be the other. And, they don’t
understand how Jesus can be part of a divine Trinity if God is One.

differences and misunderstandings help explain why the decision to
follow Jesus as Lord is so difficult for Muslims and why many
mistakenly assume that what they see in Hollywood-perpetuated American
popular culture represents Christian ideals.

“The demonstrable
difference in the lives of believers is a key witnessing tool,
particularly in areas of honesty, morality, kindness and family life.
These are huge adornments to the Good News,” he says. “Without
exception, where we have planted ourselves and gone deep in language
and culture, established relationships and stuck it out, we have seen
fruit for the Gospel.”

It is
particularly frustrating that American believers’ heightened fear of
Islam can halt them from sharing the message of truth with Muslims at a
time of unprecedented Gospel advance in the Muslim world, McAlister

Jim Haney, director of global research for the IMB, says
some of the world’s most responsive people groups to the Gospel are
Muslim. In 2008 alone, Southern Baptist missionaries and their national
partners baptized more than 12,700 believers and started 1,300 new
churches among Muslim people groups. Missionaries also engaged 30
unreached Muslim groups for the first time, totaling more than 35
million people.

But Haney points out that Southern Baptists
don’t have to go to Asia or the Middle East to share Jesus with Muslims
— they can start in their own neighborhoods.

“If you had an
opportunity to see a Muslim in your community come to Christ, would you
want it to happen?” Haney asks. “Or is your hatred for Muslims so great
you don’t see them as someone in need of the Gospel? To us [Americans],
Muslims are kind of like the Samaritans were to the Jews — we want to
[avoid] their territory. But Jesus sought the Samaritans out.

we’re going to effectively engage Muslim people groups, it’s not going
to be because of strategy, it’s going to be because we love them. Maybe
love is the strategy.”

Southern Baptists grieve death of Filipino Luis Pantoja Criswell College professor and evangelical leader in Asia

KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia-Pastor Luis L. Pantoja, Jr., 63, an early professor at Criswell College, died Sept. 6 after suffering a heart attack while attending a spiritual retreat in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Southern Baptist leader Richard Land called Pantoja “one of the most important leaders of Evangelicalism in all of Asia.”

A private service is planned for the family, followed by a memorial service at Greenhills Christian Fellowship in Pasig City, Philippines, where Pantoja served as pastor of the largest evangelical church. Survivors include his wife, Liwayway Pantoja, son Calvin Wesley Pantoja and his wife, Sharon, two granddaughters, and brothers Luis Daniel, Noel, Joshua and Benjamin; and sisters Lucy Pantoja, Linda Talaguit, Edna Pantoja, Beulah Hobson. The elder son Luel preceded his father in death in 1989.

In lieu of flowers, friends and families are asked to contribute to the Luis Pantoja Foundation which will be established to support biblical and theological scholars in various evangelical academic institutions.

Land, who serves as president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and a trustee of Criswell College, grieved the loss of “a truly gifted and dedicated servant of our Savior,” having taught at the same time as Pantoja at the Dallas-based school.

In addition to being born 15 days apart, Land shared many experiences in common with Pantoja. “We were both doctoral students struggling to juggle dissertation writing, teaching, and parenting young children at the same time during those busy years while contemporaries at the fledgling Criswell College in the mid to late ’70s,” he told the TEXAN.

“Luis was a delightful colleague, always full of good humor, and a ready laugh.” Land recalled the manner in which the Pantojas bore the heartache of the death of their eldest son, Luel, from a brain tumor “with grace and faith.”

ERLC Vice President for Public Policy and Research Barrett Duke described Pantoja as “one of my favorite professors and mentors who also quickly became a good friend.”

“A loving husband and father in the home, a spirited competitor on the racquetball court, and a rigorous intellectual in the classroom, Luis showed me what a full and balanced Christian life looked like. His passion for Jesus, godly life, and dedicated mind have deeply impacted me through the ensuing decades,” Duke added. “The power of his life and ministry lives on through each person he has so indelibly touched.”

As senior pastor in retirement of Greenhills Christian Fellowship in Ortigas Center, Pasig City, one of the fastest-growing commercial centers in the Philippines, Pantoja kept missions before the largest Filipino congregation, establishing 15 satellites, then launching a church in Toronto in 2007 and in Vancouver earlier this year. Begun in San Juan in 1978 by leaders of the Conservative Baptist Association, the main campus of the church now meets in Ortigas Center, Pasig City, and has over 7,000 worshippers. Pantoja became pastor there in 1993.

After receiving his B.Th. from Febias College in Manila, Pantoja completed the M.Div. at Denver Conservative Baptist Seminary, and both the S.T.M. and Th.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary. In addition to teaching theology at Criswell College, Pantoja was dean of admissions and records. He served as an adjunct professor of Northwest Baptist Theological Seminary in Vancouver, pastored Grace International Baptist Church in Vancouver, Filipino-American Baptist Church in Dallas and Immanuel Baptist Church in Laguna, Philippines. He served as president of the Conservative Baptist Association of the Philippines from 1997-2005.

He wrote Wisdom for the Whys: Messages on Ecclesiastes, co-edited Scattered: The Filipino Global Presence and We Believe, a collection of sermons on Baptist doctrine published by Criswell College on the Baptist Faith & Message, edited The Church at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century: Essays in Honor of W. A. Criswell, and served as a contributing editor of the Believers’ Study Bible.

Pantoja chaired the Philippine Evangelical Theological Research Association since 1996 and was a member of the International Board of Directors for Wycliffe Bible Translators.


Local congregations go global in engaging unreached groups

Someone has observed, “Why should some hear the gospel twice when others haven’t heard once?”

That sentiment motivated Hillcrest Baptist Church in Cedar Hill and First Baptist Church of Keller to each adopt an unreached people group (UPG).

FBC Keller adopted the Yalunka people of West Africa; the name of the UPG Hillcrest adopted in East Asia is withheld for security reasons.

“The work is difficult,” said Jay Goolsby, Hillcrest’s minister for missions. “Most of the work is accomplished by our young people who use a GPS to trek into the boondocks and find the villages where the people live. I’m amazed at how they can find such remote areas.”

Less than two-tenths of a percent of the people in the region are Christians, Goolsby added.

“The results are slow, but we are building effective relationships,” he said. “And we’re working with new believers, training them to be church planters.”

This practice dovetails into the International Mission Board’s strategy of fostering indigenous church planting movements across the globe.

“We work in concert with the IMB and their missionaries where we can,” said Goolsby, who noted that Hillcrest has an on-site strategy team. “We have a team of four college students on the field right now working with IMB missionaries.”

Other missions entities also welcome Hillcrest’s efforts, as Wycliffe translators have provided translations of the Bible in each of the UPG’s heart languages.

Lawrence Duhon, missions coordinator for FBC Keller, notes that the church’s effort in Mali among the Yalunka people also fills a niche regarding the IMB’s global strategy in that the Yalunka’s population is 100,000, thus not garnering the attention of full-time, career missionaries. So, First’s volunteer trips to Mali, which so far number 12, are allowing career IMB personnel to concentrate on larger people groups.

“Our church became the mission organization to reach the Yalunka,” Duhon said. “If churches like ours didn’t reach out to such people, they may never hear the gospel. How can they hear without someone preaching to them? We all have the obligation to reach those who’ve never heard about Jesus.”

“The people we are working with never heard the gospel before. But we now have more than 100 believers in two embryonic churches,” said Duhon, who noted that “exciting things have happened this year. For the first time, one of the church leaders conducted the baptism of some new believers.” Hoping this is a trend, Duhon said, “We want to see the multiplication of indigenous churches by indigenous churches.”

Getting started
Both Goolsby and Duhon say that any church can adopt a UPG. It starts by contacting the IMB. But the motivation for that?

“The key is for God to implant in every member’s heart a love for the nations,” Goolsby said.

“And if the pastor isn’t behind it, then it won’t fly,” Duhon warned. “Otherwise, the urgency for missions becomes like little trickles of water that finally evaporate. It’s a big deal to have the pastor pushing this thing. Then soon it becomes a core value to the whole congregation.”

“Our pastor loves the lost no matter where they are,” Goolsby said.

Goolsby said contact with the IMB led Hillcrest to their UPG, and the rest of the process included commitments to pray for the UPG and ultimately to travel to their locale and share the gospel.

When Hillcrest adopted its UPG, the church set five goals:
?provide ministries to reach people with the gospel where they are;
?provide focused, specific, and timely prayer support;
?provide strategic financial support;
?provide volunteer mission teams as needed; and
?provide opportunities for personal witness.

Duhon said the IMB provided “personalizers”?a stateside role now called affinity connection strategists, and filled by career missionaries?who provide information, advice and inspiration regarding UPGs, and in some cases travel with the church for a vision trip and its first ministry trip.

The IMB has affinity group strategists for every region of the world.

A strategist speaks
Sandi (not her real name) is the affinity group strategist for the region of the world where Hillcrest ministers, which is also where she served as an IMB missionary for about 20 years.

Historically, not all IMB missionaries have welcomed U.S. volunteers, “and many times for good reason,” said a former IMB employee who requested anonymity. “Some volunteers are missionary tourists, who are more interested in getting stamps in their passports than helping to get names written in Heaven.” Others “simply aren’t committed to missions, or aren’t willing to accept cultural differences, or are often shocked into ineffectiveness or negative criticism by them,” the former employee added.

That’s where an affinity connection strategist can help a church interested in adopting an unreached people group. In fact, Sandi believes that properly educated, sensitive volunteers are a boon to missionaries on the field, and to their work as well.

“Laypeople help to refresh the missionaries’ viewpoint

Engage Teams reignite passion for evangelism

“I read this much of Genesis last night!” a young boy, whose faith in Christ was only one day old, shared with Hailey Christian. The change in his attitude?a stark contrast to the one he had a few days earlier?occurred during the children’s and youth outreach of a weeklong revival.

“It’s great to know we made an impact [in the lives of] the youth,” said Christian, of Orange. She served as a children and youth leader this summer on an Engage Team, a group of college students serving in an SBTC summer revival ministry.

During the day the Engage Teams led Vacation Bible School for children, trained teenagers in evangelism and took them out in their communities to do door-to-door evangelism and outreach. In the evenings the team led a revival service for the entire church.

“We were really blessed by our team. They are quality young people who gave of themselves 100 percent,” Brad Bickham, pastor of First Baptist Church of Deweyville, said. “I’m thankful to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention for putting a program like Engage together.”

At Needham Baptist Church the average attendance has continued to climb. David Parish describes the Engage Team revival as a “catalyst” for the growth. “We have people who are coming now who were not coming before.”

Church membership growth
While Sandflat Baptist Church has experienced a number of transitions this year, what did not waver was the desire within the church to grow.

The number of young people at Sandflat Baptist Church had dwindled over the years, and with a newly constructed sanctuary, the timing of the Engage Team was once again a welcome addition to the church’s ministry.

“It was wonderful to have something that focused on the young people ? [the Engage team] had a positive impact on our church growth,” Jo Stanford, Sandflat Baptist Church member, said. “It’s so much more effective to have a younger person speak to them and hear, ‘this is what God has done in my life’ from them.”

Two adults and seven children made professions of faith that week; eight of the new believers will be baptized at the dedication service for the new sanctuary.

Across the state, 14 Engage Team students saw 80 people make professions of faith and three students register calls to ministry while ministering in about 25 churches, said Engage Team coordinator Garrett Wagoner.

Clark Stricklin is pastor of a rural cowboy church in East Texas. Before the recent woes of the economy the church had more than 100 attending. But due to many members relocating, numbers have dropped to 60.

The number of college and high school students had gradually decreased and Stricklin saw the potential of an Engage revival in his church.

We were “needing a shot of something that would rally that group back. This drew them all back, the team walked alongside them all week.” Stricklin said. “They [college and high school students] responded really well to the team. This got them back and involved in the church.”

One week after the Engage Team left, Stricklin baptized four as a result of the teaching and investment the team had in the students’ lives; two made a commitment to Christ, the other two realized they had never made a serious commitment to following Christ.

“They were taught evangelism and outreach and it has made them more evangelism and outreach oriented,” Stricklin said.

Nick Stricklin served this summer on an Engage Team. His participation in Engage and commitment to helping students grow in their walk with Christ has helped continue the momentum at the church.

“They’re more dedicated and they’re different. They’re trying to stay consistent and involved,” Nick Stricklin said.

Youth equipped to share their faith
Engage Teams train youth in how to share their testimony and the gospel using the “One-Verse Evangelism” technique. This training does not end in the classroom; after teaching and modeling how to share their faith, the trainees do outreach and door-to-door evangelism in their community.

Wagoner, the Engage Team coordinator, described how he shared the gospel at a Taco Bell with a man who told Wagoner he had never heard the gospel before. The man accepted the invitation to attend the revival service that evening and he made a profession of faith that same night.

Wagoner used that example to encourage the youth to share their faith.

“This is what happens when God uses you to share your faith,” Wagoner told the students.

Members of youth groups normally described as quiet by the end of the week were sharing their faith with excitement.

“One kid, who was quiet at the beginning, later was jumping out of the car wanting to talk to people,” Christian said.

Rather than “staying in [the church] and playing games, the youth are out talking to people and sharing the gospel,” Nick Stricklin said. “We want them to be motivated about their relationship with Jesus Christ and show the church that there are young people who want to serve God.”

Lives of church leadership changed
Dalton Estes served as a summer church intern at First Baptist Church of Deweyville. His responsibilities at the church varied, and he spent significant time with the Engage Team.

His experiences going door to door fueled his passion for evangelism and solidified his calling into ministry, he said.

“I think he was supposed to be here to meet the Engage Team and get direction from God on what do to next,” Bickham said. </s