Month: December 2010

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 sbtexas.com/evangelism.

The conclusion of another busy news year

This issue marks the end of this volume of the Southern Baptist TEXAN. What a year! I’ve often remarked that I don’t remember a slow news cycle since Hurricane Katrina. Whether we’re talking about world news, SBC news, or stories of ministry in Texas, 2010 has been full of more than we can tell.

One of our most popular issues this year dealt with Bible translations and versions. Understandably, this is a complex issue for many people. Different kinds of Bibles abound. Our effort to explain a bit about how we got our Bible and the different intents and philosophies behind the versions was popular with many of our readers. Of course our issue focusing on health-related topics was not as popular. None of us enjoys having someone else poke a finger in our pudgy bellies. I found it convicting, and inconvenient, as we move into the season of the year when we are bound by honor and appetite to eat five times a day.

In a category some would call “boring but maybe important” resides many stories surrounding the idea of a Great Commission Resurgence. Since a task force appointed to investigate how Southern Baptists can do Great Commission ministry more effectively made their report last spring, their suggestions have launched a career or two and impacted more than a couple of state conventions. No doubt we’ll continue to hear of how churches are responding to this initiative as 2011 calendars and budgets kick in.

A related subject involves the financial struggles of churches and parachurch ministries. Some of the energy directed at reforming the mission we share comes from the fact that families, churches, and those ministries further down the funding stream, are receiving less money. Nothing focuses a ministry’s attention like not being able to meet payroll. Perhaps in ministries large and small, God will use challenging financial times to put our attention back on first things. In working through the budget process at my own church, I was surprised to find how (almost) inextricably the nice things and necessary ones are woven together in a ministry that has plenty of money. Unwinding those distinct budget priorities is difficult and painful. We won’t do it until we’re forced. Maybe it takes a shortfall to put our attention on good stewardship.

The nation largely rejected President Obama’s political agenda this November. The turnover of the most unpopular of all public institutions is big news because of the magnitude of the change. It will be a test of the president’s character as he sorts out how he will respond to a Congress newly committed to checks and balances. Moral conservatives will face no less a test as our new legislators begin to reveal their own commitments to matters more timeless than the economy. A Republican party willing to reject biblical morality in favor of winning is of no use to us. Many of our new reps seem genuinely conservative but we must be diligent as they start putting action to their words. Issues like the proposed repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” continue to roil. On this day, we stand on the verge of wrecking the U.S. military for the sake of trendy sentimentality. Few people intend to wreck our nation’s armed forces. At the same time, it is apparent that few of us, including few of our national leaders, understand the armed forces. It’s a disastrous idea in a year of more than one foolish notion.

The independence of Criswell College was a big story this year. We’ve said a lot about that so I’ll let it suffice to bless First Baptist Dallas for their generosity to my alma mater, and to thank God for a positive outcome to the complex discussions that took place over the course of two years.
Our SBTC Disaster Relief ministry got off to a hectic start in January when an earthquake wrecked the already poor country of Haiti. Southern Baptists in Texas prayed, sent, went, and gave. Our collection of “buckets of hope” provided food to thousands of those who had nothing. Our volunteers helped with chaplaincy, medical services, and rebuilding alongside Southern Baptist volunteers from all around the country. Flooding in the Rio Grande Valley and in Mexico also mobilized hundreds of us to provide clean water, clean up, food, and comfort to our neighbors. As often happens, many of us also took DR training this year so that we might be deployable the next time something comes up.

It’s just a sampling but you can see that important things are going on all around us. I pray that your family and your church will find ways to make good news during 2011.

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

Page: Baptist Press won’t be micromanaged

This story first appeared in the Florida Baptist Witness & The Illinois Baptist

NASHVILLE, Tenn.?The news operation of the Southern Baptist Convention will be left in the “capable” hands of veteran journalist Art Toalston, SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page said in an interview about changes at the convention’s administrative agency.

Now in his 18th year as Baptist Press editor, Toalston served three newspapers in Ohio before becoming religion editor of the Jackson (Miss.) Daily News, now the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. He was a staff writer for the International Mission Board for seven years before being hired by former Convention News Vice President Herb Hollinger in 1992. Will Hall served as vice president for convention news for the past decade until his position was eliminated last month.

On Nov. 30, Page announced structural changes that combine the functions of news and public relations under an office of convention communications and relations, merging two vice presidential-level positions. While Roger S. (Sing) Oldham’s duties expanded to include oversight of communications, Page said the new arrangement is in no way an attempt to change the nature of Baptist Press into a public relations vehicle.

“We will continue to do what our bylaws call for?to both interpret and publicize the overall Southern Baptist ministry and program,” Page said in a Dec. 3 interview.

While declining to comment specifically on a motion at the 2010 SBC annual meeting to grant BP greater independence by moving it out from under EC supervision, Page made it clear that neither he nor Oldham will have a hands-on role in the newsgathering process.

“I want to be very clear to say that no one, either the vice president or president, will be micromanaging the work of the editor or Baptist Press,” Page stated. “It’s important to say that the day-to-day operation will be run by Art and I have great confidence in his ability,” he added, calling the BP editor a well-respected, Christ-like journalist.

“For many years the two functions were operated out of one office, then separated in 1992, but still under the Executive Committee,” Oldham said. He anticipates no substantive changes in the news operation. “I think BP has maintained and proven to be a news service of integrity.”

Martin King, editor of The Illinois Baptist who offered the motion about BP, expressed disappointment with the new structure, while affirming Toalston.

“I’m disappointed the structural changes at the SBC Executive Committee move Baptist Press further away from more direct accountability to the convention, and place it under what is essentially the public relations function of the EC. This is a structure the new conservative leadership abandoned nearly 20 years ago,” King said in a statement.

King said he understands the “economic pressures that precipitated the change” and is “encouraged at Dr. Page’s assurances the day-to-day operations of BP will be left to Art Toalston and his staff of talented, committed Christian journalists, and that the new structure is ‘for the immediate future,’ leaving open the possibility of re-considering the change.”

Toalston, who holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has well-established relationships with the network of state Baptist papers and communications offices of SBC entities. “I’m relying on good journalism as my first measure of things being published,” he said. “It’s a great network and I feel mutual respect toward them and what we’re trying to do at Baptist Press.”

With the likelihood of continued budgetary shortfalls, Page said serious decisions had to be made. “This was an immediate, perhaps an intermediate, stage due to serious economic issues and perhaps we will review this in the future. All options will be on the table at that time,” he said.

The Executive Committee is operating with half million dollars less than it had in the previous year’s budget and stands to take a more severe hit with a recommendation that nearly one-third of the 3.4 percent of Cooperative Program funds that SBC operations currently receive be transferred to the International Mission Board.

SBC messengers endorsing the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force proposals expected part of that cost savings to come by shifting primary responsibility for CP promotion to state conventions. The Cooperative Program vice presidential-level position begun in 2006 was also eliminated in the structural changes announced by Page.

Page said he will take far more responsibility for CP promotion and expects the three remaining vice presidents to do likewise, including Oldham, D. August (Augie) Boto in the renamed office of convention policy and operations, and the newly appointed William (Bill) Townes in the office of convention finance.

“Our goal is to really follow the advice and recommendation of our messengers to work more with our state partners in promotion and development of CP materials,” Page said. He is meeting regularly with state partners to enhance that relationship and take personal responsibility for the assignment.

Any further cuts will be announced by the next Executive Committee meeting in February, said Page, explaining his determination to do everything he can to remake the EC staff into a “historically appropriate level” while also honoring the convention’s recommendation to maximize CP funding for international ministry.

Asked about two EC-funded strategist positions occupied by Kenneth Hemphill (Empowering Kingdom Growth) and Bobby Welch (Global Evangelical Relations), Page expressed confidence in both men, stating, “I’m working with both of them and we are being deliberate in how we deal with those important ministries. I expect we’ll hear some news in Dr. Hemphill’s area soon.”

Page said the subsidy for the Southern Baptist Foundation would be phased out over the course of three to five years, a plan begun under his predecessor’s administration. The foundation is a subsidiary of the Executive Committee.

Minister equips Christians to defend pro-life view

Twenty years ago Scott Klusendorf was serving as an associate pastor in southern California when he was invited to attend a pro-life breakfast.
What he heard there changed his life forever.

“The speaker gave what I thought was one of the most persuasive and cogent defenses of the pro-life view I’d ever heard,” Klusendorf told the TEXAN. “And that was persuasive enough. But then he showed images of what abortion is. And I’m telling you, when I saw those images, I knew that ? I needed to change fundamentally who and what I was.”

So he resigned from his position on the church staff and launched a ministry of equipping pro-lifers to make a persuasive case for their position.
After serving on the staffs of two other ministries, he founded the Life Training Institute in 2004. As president of the Colorado-based organization, Klusendorf produces resources and travels the country to make rational arguments against abortion.

His book “The Case for Life” along with articles and other resources are available on the Life Training Institute’s website, prolifetraining.com. The site also provides information on the organization’s speaking team, which is available to address churches and youth groups.

To date Klusendorf’s instruction has taught thousands of believers how to defend the pro-life view in two minutes or less.

“First of all, we teach pro-life Christians how to make a scientific case for the humanity of the unborn, using science to demonstrate that from the earliest stages of development, each of us was a distinct, living and whole human being,” Klusendorf said. “We use philosophy to demonstrate that there’s no essential difference between the embryo we once were and the adults we are today that would justify killing us at that earlier stage of development.”

Among the forums where he has made pro-life presentations are Christian camps, crisis pregnancy center events, high schools and university campuses. Klusendorf also participates regularly in debates with abortion defenders, including a former president of the ACLU.

These events have made a tangible difference in the lives of Christian youth, according to Klusendorf.

“It’s staggering to listen to the response from Christian kids,” he said. “They say, ‘No one has ever talked to us about this. We have heard people say abortion’s wrong, but they don’t give us the tools of thought we need to defend a pro-life view.'”

For some teens, the effect of Klusendorf’s presentations has been very personal. After he spoke at a Christian summer camp, three girls in one youth group confessed having abortions and resolved to warn their friends against making the same mistake.

But the impact went much further than one youth group. Klusendorf made weekly presentations at the same camp throughout the summer, training thousands of teens how to combat relativism and answer pro-choice rhetoric.

“At the end of that summer, we had trained 10,000 kids, and the e-mails we got back from parents and from students were unbelievable,” he said. “Some of them read things like this: We’ve been going to Christian camps for years and have never gotten the content we needed to make a difference in the real world where we live, and this is doing that.”

Following a presentation at a Catholic high school in Baltimore, Klusendorf received an e-mail from a 15-year-old girl. Though she determined in advance to sleep through the event, she told him that it captivated her and completely changed her views on abortion.

According to Klusendorf, similar pro-life success stories can happen in any local church that is willing to address the issue in a bold, intelligent and compassionate manner. He emphasizes, though, that merely identifying abortion as an evil often is not enough to stimulate life transformation.

“Many churches do a fair job at least identifying the issue, saying, ‘You know, human beings are made in God’s image, and because we bear God’s image, we shouldn’t shed innocent blood.’ That message needs to get out, but we’ve got to go a step further. We’ve got to equip our people to engage those around them,” he said.

Such equipping must include presenting the gospel as a source of healing and forgiveness for men and women who have experienced the trauma of abortion, he said. Klusendorf added that to be truly pro-life, a congregation must hear preaching on the value of human beings and receive practical training on how to confront abortion in the culture.

“We don’t have a lot of pro-life churches,” he said. “We have a lot of churches who claim to be pro-life.”

Though the task may seem daunting, Klusendorf said pastors can fight successfully against abortion and save lives. Gospel-saturated preaching and simple training to defend the truth are the keys, he said.

“Pastors need to realize they can win on the abortion issue if they deal with it the right way,” he said. “It does not have to be a losing issue for them. If they will preach with conviction on it and at the same time present the gospel as the antidote that people need if they’ve sinned on this issue, it can be a win-win.”