Month: December 2010

Criswell College receives mild caution from accrediting agency

DALLAS?Despite a warning over problems with “institutional effectiveness” cited by its accrediting agency, Criswell College President Jerry Johnson said he expects the deficiencies to be resolved over the next year.

The Dallas school, which reconstituted last August with a new board of trustees and new bylaws after its separation from First Baptist Church of Dallas became legal,received the “warning” by the Southern Association of Colleges and
Schools after its December review. A warning is the least severe of SACS’ cautionary

Johnson said in a statement: “Criswell College is pleased to read in the SACS report that ‘The commission continued the accreditation of the following institutions after conducting a visit to review their substantive changes: Criswell College, Dallas, Texas.’ This is quite an accomplishment given our recent transition of new governance, new bylaws, and a new board. The reception of a ‘warning’ in the area of ‘institutional effectiveness’ means that Criswell needs to be more aggressive in the areas of planning and assessment during the next year. The administration is already planning improvements in these areas and expects the ‘warning’ to be lifted within the next year. We enjoy the status of being accredited by SACS and will continue to do so.”

A special SACS committee will conduct an on-site compliance evaluation next fall, with a report expected in December 2011. Johnson said he expects the school’s warning to be lifted then.

The school, begun in 1970 by the late W.A. Criswell, then pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, as a Bible institute, offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Criswell reported 365 students in the fall semester.

Johnson, who led the college from 2004-08, was rehired as president in November. In the interim, he served Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., as vice president for academic development, dean of the faculty and professor of ethics and theology.

Styrofoam pictures

I went up into the attic a couple of weeks ago to bring down the Christmas decorations. My attic is never very well organized, but this year things were in an unusual state of disarray because of some air-conditioning work done last spring. Before the AC technicians came they asked me to empty my attic. After they left I hurriedly put things back in no particular order and the Christmas decorations wound up behind everything else. As I began the task of moving aside our accumulation of family treasures, I started losing interest in the decorations and I found myself being transported back in time. So many familiar things from the past. Military uniforms, letters I wrote to Linda from Vietnam, bell bottomed jeans, baby clothes, favorite record albums, worn out toys too precious to discard, little league trophies, jerseys, footballs and baseball gloves. Everything I touched changed my age. I was 35 again. Then 20. Then 44. Then 28. Wearing my peace necklace, Marine Corps hat and booster club vest I felt like Chevy Chase in the attic scene from “Christmas Vacation.”

And then I saw those two Styrofoam pictures. Wow! I couldn’t believe we still had them. Linda put them away and kept them all these years. When was it? Must have been Christmas of ’79. God had called Linda and me into the ministry out of a career in the corporate world. We liquidated our assets, paid off all our debts and moved to Ft. Worth. We got a couple of hourly jobs for minimum wage, rented a small house and enrolled in the seminary. When Christmas rolled around, we had almost no money and agreed to spend every spare dime on our two small sons. But the boys wanted to get something for Linda. “Something BIG!” they said. I had an idea. That Saturday I took them to an expensive gift shop. After looking around at several costly gifts, I began to carry on over two small refrigerator magnets on a rack by the cash register. “Wow! Mom’s been looking for some of these, but hasn’t been able to find any. And these are really nice!” One had a drawing of a little boy with his arms outstretched; the caption read, “I love you THIS much.” The other was a drawing of a smaller boy playing; the caption read, “Be patient! God’s not finished with me yet.” Anyway, it worked. And we bought them. They cost less than a dollar each. But when we got home my plan began to crumble. The boys said, “We want to give Mom something BIG, Dad. These are too little!” In desperation, I came up with another idea. I found two pieces of Styrofoam about 18 inches tall, 12 inches wide and half an inch thick. I got a magic marker and sat down at the kitchen table with the boys on either side of me and began to draw the pictures off the refrigerator magnets onto the sheets of styrofoam. My idea was a hit! “Boy! Mom’s going to love this!” they said. “This is really BIG! Is that my leg you’re drawing now? Hurry Dad! Do mine next.” We had a ball that afternoon, laughing and squealing and making the little pictures big. Each printed his name on the back of his gift. We wrapped the BIG gifts along with their matching refrigerator magnets and put them under the tree. On Christmas morning the boys wanted Linda to open their BIG gifts first. As she opened them she carried on about how beautiful they were, and how BIG they were. The boys were so proud. She hung those things on our bedroom wall and they stayed there until we graduated from seminary and moved. I haven’t seen them since. Until now.

Well, my sons are both grown men now. One is 27 and the other is 32. They’re both married. The oldest has given me two little grandsons. When it comes to buying Christmas gifts for their mom, they’ve been on their own for some time. Over the years, they’ve certainly given Linda nicer, more expensive, and BIGGER gifts. But to tell you the truth, I don’t know where any of them are. Certainly none have been as treasured as these two signed styrofoam pictures.

I took off my necklace and hat and vest and brought only the two styrofoam pictures down from the attic. Linda’s eyes filled with tears when she saw them. She took them, held them close and walked away. Isn’t Christmas a wonderful time of year?

You know what? God’s gift to us wasn’t very big either. But, oh, what a Treasure! Have you forgotten? After all these years, He’s still there. Maybe this would be a good time for you to hold Him close and appreciate Him all over again.

Have a Merry Christmas.

?Steve Washburn is pastor of FBC Pflugerville

Texas church arsonists plead guilty

TYLER, Texas ? Two men who attended a Southern Baptist church as teenagers pled guilty Dec. 14 in a string of East Texas church arsons.

Jason Robert Bourque, 19, of Lindale, Texas and Daniel George McAllister, 21, of Ben Wheeler, Texas, pled guilty Dec. 14 in connection with the 10 church arsons in January and February.

Five of the burned churches were Baptist and four of them were Southern Baptist: Lake Athens Baptist Church in Athens, Little Hope Baptist Church in Canton, Tyland Baptist Church in Tyler and Dover Baptist Church in rural Smith County.

As teens, both attended First Baptist Church of Ben Wheeler, according to news reports.

The fires occurred in Henderson, Smith and Van Zandt counties. The pair was arrested in mid-February on a tip to agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

The Dallas Morning News described Borque’s courtroom demeanor as “grim-faced” as he stood to hear his charges before media members and church ministers.

Bourque’s grandmother was heard to say, “keep us in your prayers,” according to the Tyler Morning Telegraph.

The two could face multiple life sentences and possible restitution for their crimes. Judge Christi Kennedy will sentence the men on Jan. 10.

More states promise larger CP gifts

NASHVILLE, Tenn.?More state conventions are committed to sending a larger share of Cooperative Program dollars to Southern Baptist causes worldwide by reducing the portion they keep for ministry within the state.

Kentucky Baptists set the pace for next year when messengers to their annual meeting approved a 5.54 percent increase to the national Southern Baptist Convention. Sixteen of the 41 state conventions and fellowships will increase the percentage of CP dollars sent beyond their states in 2011, most of them making the change at a time when their own in-state budgets were cut.

Only eight state bodies increased their own budgets for next year, a half-dozen kept them flat, and the majority made cuts as extreme as 13.6 percent for the Baptist General Convention of Texas and nearly 10 percent for Kansas-Nebraska. Of the 24 state conventions and fellowships that passed lower budgets, seven did so while increasing the share of dollars sent to national and international causes, including Indiana, Colorado, Mississippi, Minnesota-Wisconsin, Dakotas, Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, and North Carolina.

Summaries of officer elections and budgets from surrounding states and conventions follow:

ARKANSAS?Clay Hallmark, pastor of First Baptist Church in Marion, was re-elected president and Kim Bridges, pastor of First Baptist Church in Marmaduke was elected first vice president. Messengers approved a flat budget of nearly $21.5 million for 2011, with a 0.2 percent increase for SBC causes to 42.57 percent.

LOUISIANA?Rod Masteller, pastor of Summer Grove Baptist Church in Shreveport, was re-elected president, and Rick Byargeon, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Ruston, was elected first vice president. Louisiana Baptists approved a 2011 budget of $21,284,217, down $1.2 million from the current year, while continuing to send 36.49 percent to SBC causes.

NEW MEXICO?Messengers elected R. Maurice Hollingsworth, pastor of First Baptist Church in Las Cruces, as president and Gary Wolfe, pastor of First Baptist Church in Otis, as first vice president. A 2011 Cooperative Program budget of $4.01 million was approved, representing a reduction of 10.36 percent from 2010, with the portion of CP gifts sent to SBC causes remaining at 30.5 percent.

OKLAHOMA?Douglas Melton, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, was elected president, with Griff Henderson, pastor of Waterloo Road Baptist Church in Edmond, elected first vice president. Messengers approved a $24.2 million budget which represents a 7 percent decrease from the current budget, continuing to allocate 40 percent to the SBC national and international missions and ministries.

TEXAS (BGCT)?Victor Rodriguez, pastor of South San Filadelfia Baptist Church in San Antonio, was elected president, with Jerry Carlisle, pastor of First Baptist Church in Plano, elected first vice president. Messengers adopted a $38 million budget for 2011, a 13.6 percent decrease from the 2010 budget, while continuing to forward 21 percent to SBC causes in the preferred adopted budget.

A detailed report of the SBTC annual meeting is accessible at Byron McWilliams, pastor of First Baptist Church in Odessa, was re-elected president, with Loui Canchola, pastor of Cornerstone Church in McAllen, as vice president. A $25.4 million budget was approved for 2011, a 2.55 percent increase over the current year. The amount forwarded to SBC causes remains at 55 percent.

State meetings call for revival, respond to GCR

NASHVILLE, Tenn.  Widespread calls for spiritual awakening were voiced in resolutions and sermons at many Southern Baptist state convention meetings this fall. The urgency of prayer and repentance was repeated, from a testimony by Scott Brewer, president of the Northwest Baptist Convention, to an appeal by Baptist Convention of New York Executive Director Terry Robertson for churches to set aside a specific time to pray every week for God to send revival.

Ohio and Mississippi Baptists affirmed plans in their states to focus on prayer for spiritual awakening during the month of January, while Nevada Baptists endorsed the priority as part of task force recommendations. Kentucky Baptists were called to prayer and dependence upon God for spiritual awakening, while Arkansas, New Mexico and Ohio Baptists pledged to penetrate the lostness of their states. Illinois Baptists renewed their focus on evangelism and missions.

Several annual meetings were preceded by evangelistic outreach in the host region, including Tampa, Fla., where 689 professions of faith were reported, and an outreach effort in Albany, Ga., where food and Bibles were distributed and 27 people professed faith in Christ.

Crossover Central Nebraska resulted in 38 professions of faith, and the Valley Reach campaign of the Baptist General Convention of Texas featured 48 projects and 82 congregations with 766 professions of faith reported. Crossover Corpus Christi, hosted by Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, reported 696 professions of faith at a single outreach event.

Messengers at several state convention meetings endorsed proposals to apply the concepts of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force recommendations adopted by Southern Baptist Convention messengers in Orlando this past June. Florida, Kentucky, Nevada and Tennessee Baptists called for moving to a 50/50 distribution of Cooperative Program funds so resources for ministry could be increased worldwide.

Similar studies will get underway in Alabama, California, Minnesota-Wisconsin, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee next year as these state conventions evaluate how to prioritize their own mission strategies. Alabama Baptists will rely on their executive board to study “how to focus resources and conduct Great Commission ministries through the coming decade.” California’s 12-member Focus 21 task force will study how best to focus efforts on fulfilling the Great Commission.

Arizona, Minnesota-Wisconsin, South Carolina and New England Baptists approved the creation of task forces or committees for developing plans to respond to the SBC-endorsed Great Commission Resurgence Task Force recommendations, particularly in light of anticipated funding changes. Arizona Baptists also heard from a 10-member team that affirmed their current structure while proposing churches be “rewarded” for strategic planning. Oklahoma Baptists endorsed forming a 23-member Mission Advance Team to analyze the work of the convention and recommend strategic priorities. Tennessee Baptists approved a Vision 2021 strategic planning team to evaluate their effectiveness.

Ohio and Northwest Baptists appealed for prayer for new leaders Kevin Ezell at the North American Mission Board and Frank Page at the SBC Executive Committee at a time of change, while Ohio and New England Baptists specifically referred to the need for prayer as changes are implemented as part of the Great Commission Resurgence.

Colorado Baptists will have a chance to provide input in 2011 to a task force that has been examining the strategy and structure of their state convention during the past year. Utah-Idaho messengers affirmed that their churches are “on mission with the Great Commission.”

Nevada Southern Baptists endorsed a proposal to merge their state convention and four associations into one entity, affirmed the value of churches starting churches and encouraged new pastor/church partnerships. Baptist General Association of Virginia messengers affirmed a proposal to expand their local, national and international relationships based on a two-year review of the growing number of congregations from outside Virginia joining BGAV.

Expressions of support and encouragement of the Cooperative Program as a means of mission partnership and disciple-making were passed by Southern Baptists in New Mexico, the Northwest, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Southern Baptists Conservatives of Virginia and West Virginia, with Illinois Baptists resolving to strengthen cooperation. Illinois, Northwest, Oklahoma and South Carolina Baptists addressed the need for biblical stewardship.

As Kentucky Baptists move toward an equal division of Cooperative Program receipts for in-state and global use, churches were asked to increase their CP allocations incrementally by 3 percent over the next 12 years. Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia encouraged churches to give at least 10 percent to CP and further challenged them to increase giving by a quarter-percent annually until 2020.

Louisiana and Oklahoma Baptists expressed support for the institution of marriage, while Louisianans also encouraged family worship in a separate resolution. Northwest Baptists pledged prayer and ministry to orphans worldwide, while SBTC messengers encouraged pastors and church leaders to continue emphasizing God’s concern for orphans and attention to ministries that provide financial resources to families desiring to adopt. Oklahoma Baptists also affirmed the ministry of foster care and adoption.

New Mexico Baptists voiced support for legislation that would prohibit late-term abortions in the state, while West Virginia Baptists expressed concern that the newly crafted health care bill “will mandate federal funding of abortion.” SBTC messengers encouraged elected officials to promote adult stem cell research and defund embryo-destructive research.

Both Alabama and Louisiana Baptists expressed concern that proposed legislation for the “Employment Nondiscrimination Act” would add protections for sexual orientation to current anti-discrimination laws, impeding the free speech rights of pastors and ministers opposed to homosexuality. South Carolina Baptists encouraged believers to love and show compassion toward homosexuals, while advising Baptist leaders to deal honestly with the Word of God, teaching the subject of homosexuality in its intended context of sin.

SBTC messengers acknowledged the “nearly 400 ethno-linguistic groups” in the state and commended efforts to reflect diversity through leadership.

Baptist General Association of Virginia messengers urged the U.S. Congress to resolve the country’s immigration crisis while Oklahoma Baptists called for citizens and immigrants to obey the laws of the land and committed to taking the message and love of Christ to people of all races and nationalities.

Citing statistics on obesity in the state, Alabama Baptists were urged to repent of overeating and become good stewards of their bodies by practicing moderation as they eat. Both Alabama and Louisiana Baptists encouraged non-smoking policy efforts.

Baptist General Association of Virginia messengers rejected proposals by their state government to privatize its Alcohol Beverage Control commission. In North Carolina, a motion passed to study the use of alcohol in relation to funding church plants, people in leadership and hiring of personnel. Alabama Baptists condemned all forms of gambling and urged increased enforcement of gambling laws while South Carolina and Southern Baptists of Texas Convention messengers opposed the spread of gambling. New Mexico Baptists prayed for an end to gambling in the state.

Northwest and Oklahoma Baptists condemned hum

They give to missions, ‘no matter what’

DENISON?Aggressive missions giving doesn’t just happen, said Chet Haney, pastor of Parkside Baptist Church.

It takes a congregation with a heart for missions and a pastor with a focus and willingness “to really challenge people to stretch their vision and their concept of what they can do,” said Haney, who has been Parkside’s pastor for 15 years.

Located in the bustling city of Denison, 75 miles north of Dallas and one of 65 congregations in the Grayson Baptist Association, Parkside has grown exponentially in its missions fervor.

In 2009, members gave $14,563 to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, or $22.61 per capita. Across the Southern Baptist Convention, the average member’s overall per capita gift to the offering is $14.78.

“It’s been a blessing over the years to see families, perhaps formerly satisfied with giving $50 or $100, now looking to do much more,” Haney said. “If you’re going to go from giving, for example, $30 to $3,000, it really affects your family budget for the year. You have to think, ‘How are we going to make this happen?’

“It is important to get people thinking in terms of giving larger amounts, in the upper hundreds or low thousands per family,” Haney said. “That has been a key part of the promotion strategy. It hasn’t caught on with everybody, but it has with most, and that’s been the difference. It’s widespread sacrifice, not the super large gifts of just a few. On the spiritual side, you have to really trust God to provide. That’s the beautiful part of this.”

Parkside’s support of missions through the North American Mission Board is because NAMB’s focus is the area of the world’s greatest need?the raising up of a missionary people who will multiply ministry as they spread out throughout the world, Haney said.

“You boil missions down to its core essence, and you’ve got a sovereign God who chooses to do what he does through people who humble themselves and obey him so they can join him?as [Henry] Blackaby taught us?in what he is doing,” the pastor said. “A truly successful mission trip will almost always leave the participants in awe. They won’t brag. They won’t show off. They won’t say, ‘Look what we did!’ They’ll say, ‘What a mighty God we served.’ They’ll say, ‘Look how God blessed me by letting me be part of his work.’

“That’s what missions really accomplishes,” Haney said. “That leads to revival. If we humble ourselves before God, then he will lift us up, and he will allow us to hear that Macedonian call that echoes from the Scriptures: ‘Come over here and help us. We need a construction team. We need an evangelism team.’ That call can only be heard by a humble heart.”

Parkside’s one-day ingathering of money for three seasonal missions offerings?international, North American and the SBTC Reach Texas Offering?takes place the first Sunday in December.

“We can raise a lot more money that way,” Haney said. “But to have a successful world missions offering you have to prepare for it well in advance, to encourage people to give sacrificially.”

Two things are essential for a successful world missions offering, the pastor said. First, members have to ask God what he wants them to give. Second, they have to commit to give that amount no matter what.

Members do not make pledges, and the church’s goal is an independent amount.

“We have found, in my experience, that after you do this a year or two, it’s hard to keep up with the enthusiasm,” Haney said. “Our goals have a tendency to swell almost to the point of ridiculous for our size congregation. This year it’s a hugely challenging $130,000.”

But when people listen to what God wants them to give and then commit to give it, “God grants miraculous provision in order to honor our commitment,” Haney said. “It takes initiative and desire and faith, and it’s a huge challenge, but when you put it out there, God blesses.”

As one example, the pastor said Parkside member Betty Cabaniss told him how God two years in a row provided a bonus check for the precise amount she and her husband Wayne had set as their family goal for Parkside’s annual world missions offering.

Parkside responds generously to missions needs for two reasons, Haney said. He takes responsibility for making missions personal, and the congregation takes mission trips.

“I’ve always liked making missions personal,” Haney said. “[Missionaries] are real people who used to sit in pews like us and God called them and they said ‘yes.'”

He tells of the first missionary he met, a former band leader who was teaching trumpet in Liberia to build relationships to help start churches. He tells of a pastor in Brazil who requested new tires for his four-wheel-drive vehicle so he could drive into the Amazon and reach people for Christ.

The same week in August that 45 Parkside teenagers and their leaders were evangelistically knocking on doors in New Orleans and helping in Southern Baptists’ continuing recovery of that city from the effects of Hurricane Katrina, 85 members of the church’s construction team were in Kansas City, Mo., helping in the construction of a new chapel for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary?this out of a congregation where about 650 people participate in Sunday morning worship.

And for the third year in a row, in December a multifaceted missions team will journey to rural Nicaragua.

“When our people go on a missions trip, they see things God can use them to do in our own local mission field, which is right here where we live,” Haney said. “Our students were so excited about what they did in New Orleans that they said, ‘Hey, we want to do this here,’ and went out knocking on doors before prayer meeting their first Wednesday back, and led seven people to the Lord that night.

“It really affected our whole church,” the pastor said. “Thanks to our teenagers … we have a more serious and sober sense of the urgency of our own personal mission. We’re all on mission for Christ.”

That mission has to start in Denison and across the United States, Haney said.

“Our nation, which has historically been the great sending body for missions throughout the world, has gradually but steadily become a mission field. There’s no denying it,” the pastor said. “The lostness in our country, the depreciation of cultural morality?it’s heartbreaking to see what our country has become spiritually.

“We’re in great need of revival, and we don’t even know how desperate we are,” Haney added. “We are asleep, and I don’t know what it will take to awaken this nation to its spiritual despondency. For that reason, missions at home has become equally if not more urgent than missions around the world?because if we don’t have revival, then there won’t be anything left to give to the world, perhaps in a short time.

“I don’t think it’s too late,” the pastor said. “I think there’s an opportunity for us to see revival, but we’re going to have to really pray. It’s going to have to start in a church somewhere.”

A group of men at Parkside has been praying seven days a week for the past 18 months for God to send revival to America.

Even more personally, 18 months ago the church distributed pieces of chalk to members during a Sunday service?hundreds of pieces. They were asked to draw symbolic circles around themselves and “pray for God to revive what’s inside that circle to show revival has to be personal,” Haney said. “It’s not likely for revival to start in Hollywood or among politicians. God’s blueprint for revival starts in the church.”

Criswell College student draws biblical parallels from grueling Ironman race

DALLAS?Matt Edwards, 43, is a sergeant on the Dallas police force and is pursuing a master’s degree at Criswell College. He’s a husband, and father of four?one of whom is “severely autistic,” he said. So where did he find the time every week to swim five miles, bike 150 miles and run 40 to 50 miles training for an Ironman competition?

That’s what a producer at ESPN Films wanted to know when he called Edwards in November.

The rest of the story precedes that phone call, going back to last July, when Edwards took a tumble on his bicycle and smashed his collarbone. His doctor said the severe break would require surgery.

“I’ve got the Ironman race in November,” Edwards told his doctor.

“It’ll take a miracle for you to do that,” the doctor replied.

The surgery included nine screws and a small piece of supportive metal, and was followed by six weeks of bed rest. That’s hardly what an athlete wants to experience when training for a race that entails a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride, and a standard marathon of 26.2 miles. That’s 140 miles, and the race must be completed in 17 hours.

“Before my accident, I was relying on my own training,” Edwards told the TEXAN. “But after the surgery, I left it all up to God. No matter my training, only a miracle would get me through. I told the Lord, ‘I’ll put in the miles, but you will have to get me across the finish line.'”

Edwards asked God to use the race as an opportunity to be a Christian witness.

“But people in the race are exhausted,” Edwards said, noting they have little time to chat. So Edwards planned to don his Criswell College T-shirt at race time because “Criswell College is one of the most important things in my life,” he said.

Shocked by the call from ESPN, Edwards wondered why the popular sports network took an inkling of interest in him. That’s when Rachael, his wife, reminded Edwards that he prayed for the race to foster a witnessing opportunity.

Edwards said ESPN’s inquiry stemmed from an interest in how his schedule and many responsibilities allowed time for such intensive training. Edwards explained that while he was riding, swimming and running, he was also memorizing Greek vocabulary words, declining the nouns, and conjugating the verbs.

Though he’s not sure how much of his interview will appear on the ESPN Films DVD of the race, Edwards said the producer gave him extensive freedom to share an overtly Christian testimony.

November 21 was race day in Tempe, Ariz. Edwards jumped into the water at 7 a.m. and crossed the finish line at 10:30 p.m. Completing the race provided personal reward for Edwards, but he was also pleased to win the “Ford Ironman Everyday Hero Award.”

Edwards said the award is usually given to a competitor who had overcome cancer or lost a significant amount of weight, or had made important contributions to their community, or had conquered seemingly insurmountable obstacles other than the race itself.

Accolades aside, Edwards values the spiritual lessons most of all.

A Scripture passage topmost in his heart and mind is 1 Corinthians 9:24-27: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

“You want to quit so badly,” Edwards said of the training. “There are mornings that are too cold and windy to swim or run or bike.”

Noting the parallel between physical and spiritual training, Edwards said, “There are also countless hours of training in the faith,” he added, saying he sometimes doesn’t want to “get up early to study the Bible or go to church. But I know that Bible study and Christian fellowship are some of the most important things in my life.

“In running the race for Christ, you can’t give up, you can’t give in. You’ve got to keep your eye on the prize,” he said. “You may stumble, you may fall, you might even break your collarbone and be embarrassed, but you just keep going.”

Defending your pro-life views in 5 minutes or less

In just five minutes, a Christian can argue against elective abortion in a way that is both convincing and gracious.

That is the contention of Scott Klusendorf, president of the Life Training Institute in Colorado Springs, Colo., as he summarizes how to do it in an article entitled “How to Defend Your Pro-Life Views in 5 Minutes or Less.”

The first step to arguing against abortion is to clarify the issue, according to Klusendorf.

“Pro-life advocates contend that elective abortion takes the life of a defenseless human being,” he writes. “This simplifies the abortion controversy by focusing public attention on just one question: Is the unborn a member of the human family? If so, killing him or her to benefit others is a serious moral wrong. ? Conversely, if the unborn are not human, killing them for any reason requires no more justification than having a tooth pulled.”

Arguments based on “choice” or “privacy” are irrelevant when the issue is framed correctly, he argues, because such excuses would never count as justifications for killing people that are universally agreed to be humans.

After clarifying the issue, a Christian should defend the pro-life position with science and philosophy, Klusendorf writes.

Scientifically, leading embryology textbooks confirm that from the earliest stages of development, “the unborn are distinct, living, and whole human beings,” he writes, adding that even former Planned Parenthood President Alan Guttmacher, prior to his abortion advocacy, was perplexed that anyone would consider an unborn child less than fully human.

Philosophically, there is no morally significant difference between an embryo and a person outside the womb, Klusendorf argues. He uses the acronym SLED to note the differences between an embryo and an adult: Size, Level of development, Environment and Degree of dependency.

None of those differences, Klusendorf says, justify killing an unborn child.

He concludes that pro-lifers must challenge their opponents to be intellectually honest.

“Remind your critics that if we care about truth, we will courageously follow the facts wherever they lead, no matter what the cost to our own self-interests.”

The text of the article is available at

Babbie Mason scheduled for Evangelism Conference

FRISCO?Renowned vocalist Babbie Mason will be among the musicians and speakers at the annual SBTC Empower Evangelism Conference, Feb. 28-March 2 at the Dr. Pepper Arena in Frisco.

“Jesus Christ is Lord!” taken from Philippians 2:9-11, is the theme of the 2011 Empower Evangelism Conference.

The daughter of a Baptist pastor, she often accompanied her father, the late George W. Wade, as he preached at home and at churches across the Great Lakes states. She has sung at Billy Graham Crusades worldwide, Carnegie Hall, for Presidents Carter, Ford and Bush, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, comedian Bill Cosby, and NBA great Michael Jordan.

Her songs have been featured in major motion pictures and television shows such as “Showtime at The Apollo” and Denzel Washington’s movie “Déją vu.” Besides being a household name in the music industry, she is also the author of two books, “Treasures of Heaven in the Stuff of Earth” and “Faithlift.” She is a sought after speaker and hosts the television show “Babbie’s House,” seen all over North America, Africa, the British Isles and the Caribbean Islands.
Mason’s most recent endeavor is a worship event for women called Embrace.

The parents of two adult sons, Babbie and Charles Mason live on a farm in West Georgia.

The annual conference of preaching, teaching and music will feature a wide array of speakers, including pastors such as Jack Graham, Kie Bowman and Bryant Jones, best-selling author and apologist Lee Strobel, “Total Church Life” author Darrell Robinson, and women such as Pam Tebow (mother of the Denver Broncos’ Tim Tebow) and Dorothy Patterson. In addition to Mason, other musical guests include Charles Billingsley of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va.

The Cooperative Program Luncheon, held in conjunction with the conference, will feature guest speaker Richard Land of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and musical guest will be Mary Jane Schwartz. Tickets for the CP lunch are $10 and will be available online in January.

For additional information on the conference, visit

Sojourn took unlikely turns for Criswell prof

DALLAS?The first person to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with Alan Streett was a psychology professor at the University of Baltimore, where Streett earned his bachelor of arts degree in 1969.It was the last class of Streett’s first semester, and the professor had announced that he was leaving for another job and had taught the class all he could about abnormal psychology.“He said that he wanted to tell us about the most important thing he knew. He shared the gospel,” Streett said. “It was an awkward moment, but my heart was cut to the quick.”That was the beginning of Streett’s spiritual sojourn, and what ultimately brought him to Criswell College, where he was hired by Paige Patterson in 1983 to become the school’s professor of evangelism.The Road to JesusAfter hearing the gospel, Streett began attending evening classes at the Baltimore School of the Bible. “I knew intuitively that the Bible was God’s Word, and I wanted to know what it said. I took classes on Romans, John, apologetics and prophecy,” he said.“I spoke with the dean of students at Baltimore School of the Bible, who was a former Methodist minister, about my spiritual journey. He suggested I apply to his alma mater, Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. , for a master of divinity degree.“I told the dean that I would likely not be accepted into a graduate program; but he replied, ‘The Methodist Church needs pastors so badly that they will accept anyone.’ I applied and was accepted,” Streett said.Streett thought seminary life would be “like a monastery, with monks in long robes, heads bowed in prayer, and Gregorian chants playing in the background. I was hoping to find strong Christians who could influence me,” he said. “Instead, I discovered that I was the more conservative person on campus, which was disconcerting.”Although he was a seminary student, Streett was not yet a born-again Christian. But while attending Wesley Seminary, “I came under the conviction of sin and cried out for Christ to save me,” he recalled. “It was the beginning of my third year. I came to the end of myself and I was radically converted.”“Through personal Bible study, I later became convinced that I needed to submit to believer’s baptism,” Streett added.The Road to DallasThe road to Dallas had numerous ministry points along the way. After graduating from Wesley Seminary, Streett served as executive director of a local Youth for Christ chapter. He and Lynn, his wife, founded Streett Meetings Inc., a faith-based ministry which enabled Streett to conduct evangelistic crusades, organize a community Bible class, host a radio program, and write several books on evangelistic and apologetical subjects.He was also the associate director of the Baltimore Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, an evangelistic outreach to business and political leaders.Streett was instrumental in bringing a Billy Graham crusade to Baltimore, and he served on two local committees in that effort.After earning his doctor of philosophy from the California Graduate School of Theology in 1982, it was Streett’s dissertation that caught Patterson’s attention.The dissertation was published in 1984 under the title “The Effective Invitation,” and has become a standard textbook in Bible colleges and seminaries.“I chose the invitation as my dissertation topic because I had been reading books on Reformed theology that spoke against the invitation,” Streett told the TEXAN. “I began to doubt its validity. And as a full-time evangelist I needed to settle this issue. So I went into my research with no preconceived ideas and a willingness to simply write on my findings. I concluded that the invitation is biblically, theologically, and psychologically sound. Effective invitations address the mind, the will and the heart; or the rationale, volition and emotions.”Patterson was one of many who completed a questionnaire as research for Streett’s dissertation, and that’s how the two met.“Dr. Patterson invited me to speak in chapel, and during lunch he offered me the professor of evangelism position?one he held at that time,” Streett said. “I saw this as an open door. I knew very little about the college, except that it was at the forefront of the inerrancy struggle within the SBC.”Streett remains a favorite professor among the student body, having previously twice won “Professor of the Year” accolades upon their votes. “I was delighted with the honor. But win or lose, I have always sought to be the best classroom teacher possible. I love teaching and interacting with students. Criswell College is an exciting place. We believe we’re on a divine mission,” he said.In 2007, Streett also was awarded an endowed chair and appointed to be the W.A. Criswell Professor of Expository Preaching.“I was highly honored by this,” he said. “When I accepted the title, I was determined to train our stu