Month: May 2011

CP: 1.92% below previous year’s pace

 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Year-to-date contributions to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries received by the SBC Executive Committee are 1.92 percent below the same time frame last year, according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee President and Chief Executive Officer Frank Page. The total includes receipts from state conventions and fellowships, churches and individuals for distribution according to the 2010-11 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.



As of May 31, gifts received by the Executive Committee for distribution through the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget totaled $130,314,404.44, or $2,545,288.04 behind the $132,859,692.48 received at the end of May 2010.



Designated giving of $147,289,329.48 for the same year-to-date period is 6.78 percent, or $10,719,812.29, below gifts of $158,009,141.77 received at this point last year.



Monthly CP allocation receipts for SBC work totaled $15,936,344.95 while designated gifts received last month amounted to $16,315,629.58.



Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the timing of receipts from state conventions. The end-of-month total represents money received by close of business on the last business day of each month.



For the SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget, the year-to-date total of $130,314,404.44 is 97.82 percent of the $133,214,726.79 budgeted to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America. The SBC operates on an Oct. 1-Sept. 30 fiscal year.



The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists' method of supporting missions and ministry efforts of state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention.



Designated contributions include the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund and other special gifts.



State and regional conventions retain a portion of church contributions to the Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program to support work in their respective areas and forward a percentage to Southern Baptist national and international causes. The percentage of distribution is at the discretion of each state or regional convention.

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Compiled by Baptist Press staff.

RETROACTIVE GIVING: ‘I just wept’ for years of indifference

 

LONGVIEW, Texas (BP)–Ten minutes. That's all it took for God to thaw a 10-year freeze that left LeRoy Williamson with a stone-cold heart for the lost.

The 59-year-old Texas banker hadn't given a penny to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions — or any other missions endeavor — in nine years. It wasn't that he didn't have the money. Williamson's 5,000-square-foot home on Lake Cherokee in Longview, Texas, complete with a pool and a boathouse, made that excuse hard to sell.

But as Williamson slipped into his usual seat one Sunday morning last December at Longview's Macedonia Baptist Church, he had no idea the Holy Spirit was about to break open his heart — and his wallet. 

International Mission Board missionary Mick Greenbrier* had been invited to speak as part of the church's Lottie Moon emphasis. He and his family served for more than 15 years in West Africa, sharing the Gospel with the Songhai, a Muslim people group.

Before the pastor's sermon, Greenbrier spoke for just 10 minutes, contrasting the Songhais' desperate need for Christ with an offering shortfall. It was all Williamson needed to hear. 

During the invitation, Steve Cochran, Macedonia Baptist's pastor, was shocked to see Williamson come forward with tears streaming down his face.

“I couldn't speak; I just wept,” Williamson said. 

He finally managed to tell the pastor he had something to say to the church. Cochran didn't know exactly what was on Williamson's heart, but the man's brokenness was unmistakable. He took a risk and handed him the microphone.

“In a nutshell, I became burdened for the lost,” Williamson recounted. “The Holy Spirit immediately convicted me that my heart was cold, I was being willfully blind and willfully deaf, and that I hadn't done my part to carry out the Great Commission in Matthew 28.

“For the first time I was bothered … by how many people die every day,” Williamson said. “To know that there are many billions of [lost] people that I don't know at all — but God knows ….”

On the ride home from church, Williamson surprised his wife Dee by explaining exactly what he believed that meant: retroactive giving. In addition to a Lottie Moon gift for 2010, Williamson wanted to make up for each of the nine previous years he'd skipped. In all, he had in mind 10 years' worth of missions giving in one big check.

Dee did not share her husband's enthusiasm at first. Though they have a beautiful home, Williamson had been unemployed and was in the process of starting his own commercial insurance business, but it hadn't yet generated any income. What's more, Williamson said God placed a specific dollar amount on his heart, and the couple simply didn't have that much cash. But he wasn't deterred.

A few days later, an unexpected call came from a man who owed Williamson money. The debt had gone unpaid for years, and the man said he needed to make things right. When the check arrived, it was $46 more than the amount Williamson believed God was asking him to give. 

“Do I think I would have ever gotten that money [for the offering]? No,” he said. “I think God knew it was a big number for me, but He provided.”

But Dee still wasn't convinced, so Williamson offered her a deal. They'd split the money. He'd give his half to missions, and she could do whatever she wanted with hers. 

Within a month, both had given their portion to the Lottie Moon offering through the church.

“I think what happened for Dee more than anything was that she saw what God did in my life,” Williamson said. “She said it changed me as a person and as a husband…. And it was easy for her to say, 'I'm going to follow the leader of my home.'”

And that's just the beginning. Williamson believes God is calling him to become an advocate for international missions. He's actively seeking opportunities to engage other believers with the urgency of sharing the Gospel and the need to support those who carry it to the spiritually lost.

“Until one is convicted that the loss of a soul is the most horrible thing that can happen, you've not fully bought into the Great Commission,” Williamson said. 

Williamson's passion for missions is so contagious it's already infecting others, including his Sunday School class at Macedonia Baptist. After hearing about Williamson's Lottie Moon resolution, their teacher suggested they raise enough money to support an IMB missionary for a year. That's roughly $44,000 from a class of about 40 people. They decided that each would need to give $3.16 per day (a reference to John 3:16), about $1,150 annually to achieve that goal.

“Now [Dee and I] are giving a little money every week — $44.24,” Williamson said. “That's a little bit of sacrificial giving right now, but God's already shown me He's going to take care of me. So we're going to make it work.” 

But Williamson isn't content only to give. He's never been on a short-term mission trip, but he's making plans to go. 

And that 5,000-square-foot house? Williamson and his wife plan to sell it and use the equity to pay cash for a more modest home, freeing them from a mortgage and making more money available for God's work.

“If tomorrow I started writing insurance and made money hand over fist, I'd still sell this house,” Williamson said. “Yeah, God's got a hold of me pretty good…. It's taken me a lot of decades to get there, but I know [He's] the only thing that really matters.”
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*Name changed. Don Graham writes for the International Mission Board.

Porn’s destruction is infiltrating the church

 

LINTHICUM HEIGHTS, Md. (BP)–Foes of pornography are losing, and an onslaught of sexual attacks likely will result, Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land believes.



“We're losing this war. We haven't lost it, but we're losing it,” Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said at a conference on porn and sex exploitation. “And if you don't think we're losing it, you spend time with college-age young people, and you'll find out we're losing.”



He described hardcore, online pornography as “the greatest danger this country faces.”



“[I]t is destroying our culture. It is destroying our families. It is destroying our children,” Land said.



Sexually graphic material online is destroying men's lives especially, he said. “Their ability to be the husbands and the fathers God intended them to be is being shriveled and shrunk and stifled and twisted and distorted by exposure to ever more hardcore, Internet pornography,” Land told conference participants.



The fall-out in the next decade from the problem could be devastating to women, he said



“I believe that we are looking at in the next 10 years truly an avalanche, a tsunami of sex crimes against women and girls, because we've got a generation of boys that have been exposed at an earlier and earlier age to hardcore pornography,” Land said. “And the mathematics are a certain number who view it will become addicted to it, a certain number who become addicted to it will eventually act out what they've seen on screen.”



Land gave his warning at the Convergence Summit, an April 13-14 meeting in suburban Baltimore focusing on the battle against sexual exploitation in a digital age. Government, business, education and religious leaders from across the United States gathered to address solutions to pornography via new technology such as mobile devices, as well as the related problems of prostitution and sex trafficking.



Christians and the Gospel ministry have not escaped the reach of porn, Land said.



“Internet pornography is in your church. If your church has got more than 50 members, it's in your church,” he told the audience. “I can tell you hardcore pornography is on the seminary campus. It's on the Christian college campus. It's in the pastorate. It's on the staff.”



Its prevalence among staff members has been disclosed when some churches have decided to begin daycare centers to reach out to their communities, Land said. In preparing to provide coverage for churches, insurance companies typically research what is being viewed online in the church's buildings.



“I can't tell you the number of broken-hearted pastors who have called me when they have discovered what some of their trusted church staff have been looking at on church computers,” he said.



His wife, Rebekah, and fellow psychologists focusing on marriage and family counseling say pornography is the leading cause of divorce in the United States, Land said: “They just routinely now ask the question, 'What have you been watching? What have you been looking at?' And the men are so surprised: 'How did you know?'”



Statistics support Land's concern:



— A 2008 study of undergraduate and graduate students ages 18-26 showed that 69 percent of the men and 10 percent of the women viewed pornography more than once a month. The study was published in the Journal of Adolescent Research.



— A Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Project survey released in December 2009 showed that 15 percent of those ages 12-17 who own cell phones had received a “sext” message.



— In 2009, the fourth-most searched word on the Internet for kids ages 7 and under was “porn,” according to data by OnlineFamily.Norton.com. For all kids — those up to age 18 — sex was No. 4, porn No. 5.



— A Time magazine story about a 2003 meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers showed that, of the 350 attendees, 62 percent said the “Internet played a significant role in divorces in the past year, with excessive interest in online porn contributing to more than half of such cases.”



There is no debate about pornography's addictive nature, Land said.



“We know it's addictive,” he said. “We know how it's addictive. We know how it rewires the brain. It requires [viewers'] sexual response, so that they become focused on self-gratification as opposed to the gratification of their partner. It reduces their sexual partner to the level of an appliance.”



Churches need to address the issue, and a grass-roots effort must take hold to persuade the government to act effectively to address the problem, Land told the audience.



“Our pastors need to talk about it from the pulpit,” he said. “We need to talk about it in men's groups and in boys' groups. And we need to talk turkey.”



Resources on pornography and sexual exploitation recommended through the Convergence Summit website may be accessed at http://www.convergencesummit.net/pdf/Recommended_Resources.pdf.



The Religious Coalition Against Pornography and the Christian organization Pure Hope sponsored the summit.

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Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.

Joplin church just ‘helping people like Jesus would’

 

JOPLIN, Mo. (BP)–Pastor John Swadley was still huddled in the crawl space under his house when he began forming the plan for Forest Park Baptist Church's response to the tornado.



Swadley and his family carried a radio with them as they took cover the night of May 22. The local station soon began feeding live reports of the tornado's destruction. They were spared. Joplin was not. 



“I knew at that time we were dealing with a disaster of major proportions,” he said.



Forest Park is now at the heart of the national relief effort for Joplin. The church is coordinating food, volunteer assignments and donations in the aftermath of an EF-5 tornado (winds of more than 200 miles per hour) that killed at least 125 and injured 750, with 9 rescued and an unknown number of people still missing.



The National Weather Service reported it was the eighth deadliest tornado in U.S. history. President Barack Obama is planning on visiting Joplin Sunday.



“We are just helping people like Jesus would,” Swadley said. “We are being the church and offering help, hope and healing.”



Forest Park's main campus, which runs about 1,000 in Sunday worship, is just a few blocks north of the storm-damaged area in Joplin. The unharmed church building is perfectly situated to serve as a base of operations for relief efforts.



Response began just minutes after the storm as Swadley used his Facebook page to help family and church members find each other. Church leaders determined Monday morning the most urgent need was for food. Hot meals are being prepared in the church kitchen. Forest Park members are also loading sandwiches in the church van and delivering them to people in the city.



The church's “bus barn” storage facility has been designated the receiving and staging area for donated items and where supplies such as diapers, toothpaste and soap are distributed. Offers of help have been pouring in from throughout the country.



“I'm really proud of my Heavenly Father and how He is using us for His work,” Swadley said.



Forest Park is the flagship church for the Missouri Baptist Convention in the Joplin area, said John Marshall, convention president and pastor of Second Baptist Church in Springfield. 



“They will be in the thick of it until the end,” Marshall said. “They are very community minded. They have three campuses, so they are well-positioned all the way around.”



Forest Park members have also experienced great loss. Thirty-one members have uninhabitable homes. Nearly all of them have been taken into homes of fellow members. Many members share stories of how God protected them through the storm.



“When it says in the Bible to show hospitality, our people have stepped up and done that beautifully to help each other and their friends and Sunday School classes,” Swadley said.



One of the most urgent needs has been helping members get salvageable belongings collected and out of the rain. (Wednesday's forecast called for a 60 percent chance of rain and scattered thunderstorms.) In addition, grief counseling sessions have been set up at the church and more support groups will be forming. Swadley's message on Sunday will be titled, “Where do we go from here?”



“We're going to try to construct a worship service where everyone can experience God's presence in a way so that they leave stronger than they came,” he said.



Most debris clearing is on hold while the search and rescue operation is under way, but volunteers are expected in large numbers soon. Samaritan's Purse will use Forest Park as its base of operations, providing expertise and direction while the church supplies workers and resources for the relief effort.



“God sets the agenda for His church. When something like this happens, we have to set aside our plans and goals in the short term and adjust to what God would have us do,” Swadley said.



The recovery and Forest Park's efforts are not short term, Swadley said, but will take many months. 



“We're going to have dozens and dozens of people who will be unemployed because the place where they work no longer exists,” he said. “We want to be able to help provide financial support so they're not further hurt in their already wounded heart. We want to do our best to cushion the blow as much as we can.” 

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Susan Mires is a contributing writer for The Pathway, the official newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. To donate and learn how to help with relief in Joplin, visit www.mobaptist.org/modr.

SBTC’s Smith elected Jacksonville College president

 

JACKSONVILLE—The Jacksonville College Board of Trustees unanimously elected Mike Smith  president of the two-year Baptist school during a meeting on May 23 in Jacksonville, according to the website of the Baptist Progress, newsjournal of the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas.

Smith serves as the director of minister/church relations for the SBTC. He served as director of missions for the Dogwood Trails Baptist Area in Jacksonville from 1995-2008. Smith is a graduate of Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., where he earned doctor of education and doctor of philosophy degrees.

Jacksonville College is owned by the Baptist Missionary Association and, as an affiliated ministry of the SBTC, receives budgeted funding. 

Smith will begin his work at the college on Aug. 1, spending the fall semester in transition as president-elect alongside the current president, Edwin Crank. Smith would assume the duties of president the day after the BMA of Texas Annual Meeting is adjourned in Waxahachie next November. Crank would assist Smith through Dec. 31, the Progress reported.

Smith said in a statement: “I was humbled and honored when the trustees of Jacksonville College extended to me a call a serve as their next president. I have always considered it a joy and privilege to serve as a staff member of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. I thank Dr. Jim Richards for this time of service and look forward to the continued relationship of Jacksonville College and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.” 

Smith is a Butler, Ala., native. He and his wife Susan have two grown children and five grandchildren. Their son, Lance Smith, is a Jacksonville College alumnus.

Criswell College announces full-tuition scholarships for children of IMB missionaries

 

DALLAS—Full-tuition scholarships are being offered by Criswell College to children of career missionaries employed by the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, according to an announcement May 20 by Jerry A. Johnson, president of the Dallas-based school.

“We want to partner with our missionaries by continuing the training they have given their children, providing them with a solid college education that emphasizes Scripture, theology, missions, evangelism and the Christian worldview,” Johnson stated at the Richmond, Va., meeting where IMB trustees had gathered.

“We had been praying about a way that we might thank and encourage those who daily give so much to the Lord and his work,” Johnson said, adding that the “Great Commission initiative” will begin with the fall 2011 semester. Any children of career missionaries employed by the IMB will receive a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to enroll in an undergraduate degree program at Criswell College. “It is also our hope that we might demonstrate to those belonging to the SBC that we are committed to the Great Commission Resurgence and will do what we can to advance this vision,” Johnson emphasized.

In addition to applying and being accepted to Criswell College, any student who wishes to receive this scholarship must provide the Criswell College business office with a letter signifying their parents’ involvement with IMB. “They will then have free reign to benefit from all Criswell College has to offer,” said Joe Thomas, director of admissions.

IMB trustee chairman Jimmy Pritchard, who also chairs the Criswell College board and pastors First Baptist Church of Forney, Texas, said he expects the offer of a tuition-free education will benefit more than just the “missionary kids.”

“This is such a positive opportunity for everyone involved. It is positive for our missionaries in that it provides great financial relief in their kids’ education, and it is an education that is of the highest quality available anywhere. It is positive for Criswell College in that it is a service to our Lord and these MKs who come to Criswell will enhance and bless the school. I am excited about this development.”

IMB President Tom Elliff expressed gratitude for the new initiative, stating, “It is always such an encouragement when one of our excellent Baptist institutions affirms their love and support for missions in this manner. Thank God for this decision.”

Offering bread for life renders ‘Bread of Life’

 

FORT WORTH—The book of James instructs Christians not to merely tell naked and hungry people to be warm and well fed; instead, true faith is demonstrated by clothing and feeding them.

Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth has done that over the years as it has ministered to the needy through its benevolence ministry. That’s how Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispana de Travis began.

“Travis Avenue’s benevolence ministry reaches about 1,200 people each month, and that’s what wrought vision for the church plant,” said Homer Hawthorne, Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispana de Travis’ pastor. “A number of people came to Christ through that ministry, and the need for a church was born.” 

Launched in June 2010, the church is supported by Travis Avenue, the Tarrant Baptist Association and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

Travis Avenue “chose to stay and minister to this community that was predominantly Anglo but has now transitioned to 70 percent Hispanic,” Hawthorne said. “There is a great need for Christ in the Hispanic neighborhoods all around us here at Travis. There are so many Hispanics that, for Sharon, my wife, and I, it is almost like living again in a Hispanic country.”

Reaching the unreached

 “Our goal is to reach the unchurched,” Hawthorne said. “If someone is already involved in another evangelical church, we don’t invite them to our church. Our goal and desire is to reach those who don’t know Christ so the church will grow from conversions and not transfer growth.”

To reach unchurched Spanish-speaking Hispanics, the Hawthornes asked the first few believers of the church plant to list several people they knew who were not Christians, and to pray daily for their salvation as they expressed “Christ’s love to them,” said Hawthorne, who also led church members to pray corporately for the unbelievers every Wednesday night.

As the prayers proved effective and others became Christians, Hawthorne repeated the process to reach more unbelievers.

Not only is the prayer ministry teaching the new believers “to be sensitive to the Lord’s working in those lives but also how to share the gospel. We now have 45 baptized believers and an average of 50 attendees every week, and we continue to see conversions to Christ every month.” Hawthorne said.

A Hispanic woman volunteering in the benevolence ministry had previously committed her life to Christ, but had never been baptized, Hawthorne related. After her baptism, the church prayed for her husband. He soon allowed Hawthorne to make a home visit, but the man wasn’t yet ready to respond to the gospel. He began attending some church meetings, after one of which he invited Hawthorne back to his home.

“I went over there and asked him if he was ready to receive Christ. ‘Yes, I’m ready,’ he said. And he got on his knees and gave his life to Christ,” Hawthorne recounted. “Out of that the daughter of the family, who is 20, was converted and baptized, and so was the 19-year-old son. It’s really something to see how the Lord works through the Hispanic culture, where relationships are everything.”

Citing a “great victory,” Hawthorne recounted the conversion of an unmarried couple and their 9-year-old daughter: “I was on the verge of sharing with this couple that, now being Christians, they needed to be married. But they came to me first and said, ‘We need to be married. This is not right that we are living together.’ This was truly a work of the Holy Spirit,” Hawthorne said. “The couple’s wedding drew almost 150 guests, many of whom were not Christians.”

Hawthorne said that such converts to Christ “face a lot of peer pressure and persecution” because Hispanics have an intensely cultural Catholic background.

“Many Hispanics aren’t active Catholics, but when peers and parents hear that they attend an evangelical church, the pressure mounts,” he added. “But the great thing is to see these converts live for the Lord.”

“The Lord didn’t command us to make decisions,” Hawthorne said. “He commanded us to make disciples. It’s not enough to lead someone to Christ. We must baptize them, teach them how to walk with the Lord, how to share Christ with others and how to grow in Christ’s likeness. It’s so exciting to see God change people’s lives.”

Practical and financial support

“The SBTC’s church planting process—the training, equipping and follow-up—it’s the best I’ve seen anywhere,” said Hawthorne, citing quarterly church planter evaluation sessions. The meetings are “very encouraging. The guys help you see what’s working and what’s not, and they are very constructive in suggesting any changes that would help. We feel a great deal of support.”

The advice and the support network “is essential in ministry, especially for first-time church planters,” he added. “You’re out there working hard. You’re challenged emotionally, spiritually, financially. You really need someone to support and encourage you.”

Also encouraged by Cooperative Program support, Hawthorne said the CP “made it possible for Sharon and me to fulfill our call through the IMB for 29 years in Brazil, Belize and Mexico. Now, after retirement, we continue to be blessed by it as well as the Reach Texas Offering. This support is vital to church planters, and to the SBTC’s church planting ministry.

“I’m amazed at the initiative the convention is taking, the amount of churches they are planting. I especially applaud the SBTC’s missions department—the motivation and emphasis on training Hispanic church planters—it’s tremendously important since more than half the Texas population is Hispanic.”

“Our heart’s desire and the DNA of Primera Iglesia Bautista de Travis,” Hawthorne said, “is to be a reproducing, multiplying church of disciples—a Hispanic church that will start other reproducing, multiplying Hispanic churches.”

SBTC church planting process much more than dollars

 

Judging by the dollars, planting churches is No. 1 on the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s to-do list.

It’s the largest line item in the SBTC’s annual in-state budget—that portion of Cooperative Program giving kept for Texas ministry. In 2011, that amount is $1.4 million, plus an additional $400,000 from the Reach Texas Offering to supplement CP funding. 

Yet the convention’s church planting philosophy is only partly about being a funding source, crucial as it is. More significant, says Terry Coy, the SBTC’s director of missions, is its partnership—monetarily and otherwise—with local churches, associations and networks in developing sustainable, healthy, doctrinally sound and evangelistically growing congregations.

Texas continues to attract international immigrants and transplants from other states, creating a diverse and missiologically challenging landscape, Coy explained. Church planting remains the optimal strategy for advancing the gospel, he said. 

CHURCHES PLANT CHURCHES
In a collaboration of church planting partners, a sponsoring church is the essential piece and the leading partner, Coy said.

“We believe, biblically, that churches plant other churches. That is primary in our church planting philosophy. The stronger the involvement of a local church and association, generally speaking, the stronger the church plant. We want the local church to be the first line of doctrinal, moral and ethical accountability.”

Last year, the state convention had its hand in 25 new church starts; the number will approach 40 in 2011. Meanwhile, about 70 prospective planters have submitted applications with the SBTC; the convention will likely end up working with about 25 of those.

Coy said his team struggles with the tension of how much to fund a given planter, and with balancing the temptation to plant more churches at the expense of quality. 

“By 2020, our goal is 100 church plants a year,” Coy said. “But we want 100 healthy, growing church plants a year.”
In years past, the five-year success rate for SBTC plants was more than 70 percent, which was above the national average. In the last few years, with a honing of the process, the rate has increased to around 85 percent, Coy said.

“The reason the percentage has gone up is better coaching and better assessment of prospective planters,” Coy added.

On average, the SBTC provides church plants about $1,500 monthly over a three-year cycle, with the amount decreasing each year. A few churches receive a little more, some less. Coy said it is a “prayerful, strategic, case-by-case” process with multiple considerations, including how many other planting partners are involved.

“The idea is we build a budget alongside all of the other partners—churches, associations, etc. We want a budget the church will be able to grow into and sustain down the road,” Coy explained.

Provide too little or too much funding and “you are setting that planter up for failure.”

About 14 percent of SBTC congregations have been involved in any recent church planting. Coy said he wants to see more churches catch the vision for reproducing.

Church planting involves much more than dollars, and some churches participate through prayer, mentoring, and doctrinal or methodological accountability, Coy said.

“Bottom line, we may be putting in the most money in a given situation, but the boss is the local church.” 

“You need not be a megachurch to be a church planting church. Even if a congregation is giving $50 a month, they are the planter’s best friend.”

WHAT KIND OF CHURCH?
Whenever someone asks Coy what kind of churches the SBTC plants, his answer is often “All kinds” or “Whatever kind it takes,” provided it is sufficiently biblical and baptistic. Besides some basic ecclesiological standards, Coy said, matters of taste and method are up to the sponsoring local church.

“What we are going to say is, ‘Local church, you determine those questions.’ Of course, we stand ready to say ‘no’ on something that is unhealthy or unbiblical.”

“We want the right church planter doing the right thing in the right place at the right time,” Coy explained. 

Barry Calhoun, SBTC church planting team leader, said the types of churches the SBTC has helped plant range from cowboy churches to traditional to contemporary to multihousing. They reach groups indicative of the cultural diversity of Texas, among them Russian, Burmese, Asian-Indian, Egyptian and African in addition to more traditional Anglo, African-American and Hispanic congregations.

SELECTING PLANTERS
The vetting process for prospective SBTC planters includes doctrinal and lifestyle questions, personality and skills assessments, an interview and assessment with the planter’s wife, reference and background checks, and a willingness to be coached through the planting process.

For example, “If the wife is not on board, the process doesn’t go forward,” Coy said. 

The SBTC isn’t seeking perfect candidates, Coy insisted, but rather God-called candidates who have the maturity, gifts, and vision to plant a viable New Testament church.

Once a prospective planter is identified and he agrees to the process, an orientation is required to ensure he understands the place of the local church in the cooperative endeavors that form the basis of the SBTC. He also agrees to be coached and mentored through the three-year process.

The orientation includes a good dose of history explaining the convention’s core values and the shared missions funding strategy of Southern Baptists—the Cooperative Program.

“Barry (Calhoun) and David (Alexander) on our staff have worked very hard to develop an awareness of who the SBTC is and why it’s important and healthy to stay connected once their funding process ends,” Coy said.

“The heart of our strategy is we want to do the right thing and we want to work hard at doing it the right way. It’s not perfect. But it has to be done prayerfully. It has to be in partnership. And it has to be purposeful.”

RA missions education transferred to WMU

 

Beginning in September 2012, Texas Southern Baptist churches offering Royal Ambassador (RA) and Challenger programs will no longer be able to order their missions materials through the North American Mission Board. 
Responsibility for the historic missions education program created for boys in grades 1-12 has been shifted to the Woman’s Missionary Union, the SBC auxiliary group credited with developing the program in 1908. 

According to an April press release, the WMU will “assume responsibility for resourcing for RA and Challengers with mission education” as part of NAMB’s organizational overhaul. Previous responsibility for RAs rested with the missions education area of NAMB’s communications group, which has developed the missions curriculum since 1997. Prior to that the former Brotherhood Commission had the task.

Former pastor Steve Heartsill has been tapped as managing editor for the resource as well as liaison between WMU and NAMB. Heartsill serves as WMU design editor of the missions leader resource team. 

In the April release, national WMU Executive Director Wanda S. Lee said she is excited about the coming changes and what they will mean for local churches. 

“With WMU producing these materials, it will be so much easier for churches to order all their missions education resources from just one place—WMU,” Lee said. 

In a written response to the TEXAN, Mike Ebert, vice president for communications at NAMB, said the entity looks forward to working with the national WMU to bring RAs to new churches while continuing to serve churches that have faithfully offered RA programs throughout the years. 

“National WMU has assured us that they will work with any church that wants to bring RAs to its congregation,” Ebert said. 

However, the re-organization might prove difficult for churches uniquely affiliated with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, one of two state conventions lacking a working relationship with the long-time women’s missions auxiliary. 

Because current WMU bylaws restrict the SBC auxiliary from having more than one relationship with conventions in any given state, it does not recognize the SBTC as a working partner in missions. Consequently, Texas WMU materials exclusively feature Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) missions. 

Housed in offices of the BGCT, Texas WMU promotes and hosts web content for BGCT mission projects and the BGCT’s state offering (Mary Hill Davis) on its new website. In-state training opportunities and mission camp opportunities typically focus on these same priorities.

Despite the lack of partnership between the SBTC and WMU, Tiffany Smith, SBTC missions mobilization associate, said that dually or uniquely aligned SBTC churches may still order missions education materials by contacting both SBTC and national WMU offices.

“Although the SBTC is not recognized by the WMU, this should not in any way hinder the church’s ability to have a WMU program,” Smith told the TEXAN after WMU released news of the re-organization. 

And although the reorganization of responsibility over RA material compounds the long-standing problem of no relationship between WMU and the SBTC, Jim Richards, SBTC executive director, said he would still like to see a relationship established.

“My goal for the WMU-SBTC relationship is for the WMU to recognize the SBTC as a state convention. In doing so, I would want the WMU to allow the women of the SBTC churches to elect a WMU president and have a place on their board,” Richards said. “In essence I simply want the SBTC to be afforded the rights and privileges that any other state convention has in their relationship with the WMU.”

After news of the shift of RA responsibility was released, the TEXAN contacted the national WMU for clarification regarding its position toward SBTC churches. In an e-mailed response to the TEXAN, Julie Walters, corporate communications team leader of the national WMU, maintained that WMU focuses on resourcing churches with missions materials. 

“While we resource the churches, we also partner with all Baptist state conventions equally for the purpose of resourcing churches with Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offering materials,” Walters said. “As Wanda [Lee] has communicated in the past, we relate on a state level with state WMU organizations. To say that we don’t ‘recognize’ the SBTC sounds like we ‘recognize’ all conventions and are singling the SBTC out. That is not true. Again, we desire to resource any church—regardless of their affiliation—with missions education resources.”

The WMU has also withheld a relationship with the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV). 

NAMB’s Ebert told the TEXAN he understood the shift in responsibility could intensify tensions arising from the lack of relationship between the WMU and dual-convention states. 

“We can’t anticipate every scenario, so we look forward to helping resolve any specific challenges a church might have as we enter this new partnership,” he said.

Yet despite no formal relationship between the WMU and the SBTC, Ebert said NAMB would like “to see more churches and more boys participating in RAs.”

“NAMB has a long history of working well in dual-convention states,” he said. “In Texas, we helped coordinate efforts last year with GPS: God’s Plan for Sharing, the evangelism emphasis in which both state conventions participated. The same was true in 2007 for Crossover San Antonio. And we work with both state conventions to help coordinate national disaster relief responses.”

The SBTC’s Smith emphasized that additional resources for missions education are available for churches that opt for other missions education programs. 

“We have vision trips throughout the year to mobilize churches in missions and we work with Paula Hemphill and ‘Kingdom Women’ at the IMB.” Smith said. “In addition, we have created materials and lessons to be dropped into ongoing missions curriculum or AWANA.”

For more information regarding SBTC missions education resources, call Tiffany Smith toll-free at 877-953-7282 (SBTC) or e-mail her at tsmith@sbtexas.com.

Church planting by the numbers

When it comes to counting church plants, one person’s dozen may be a “baker’s dozen” to the next guy counting.


Although most evangelistic and church planting strategies lead to new converts, not all can rightly be called churches, said Terry Coy, SBTC missions director. 

Unfortunately for those who track such things at the North American Mission Board (NAMB)—Southern Baptists’ domestic missions agency in suburban Atlanta—the 43 Baptist state conventions it cooperates with use varied criteria for determining what a church plant is.

“Nationally, it’s been apple to oranges,” Coy said. “What we’ve discovered is the need for a more standardized definition of a church.”

NAMB’s new president, Kevin Ezell, has said NAMB will implement such a standard.

At the SBTC, a church plant is regarded as a new work planted with some SBTC funding and accountability—in partnership with local churches and associations—that practices the New Testament functions of a church. A church plant practices the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, has a pastor, and is intentional in its formation and identity as a local church.

The convention doesn’t take credit for churches planted without the church planting team’s involvement or new congregations formed from church splits. Organic strategies that involve Bible studies, multi-housing outreaches, or other similar ministries are also not counted as church plants until, and only if, they grow into intentional congregations.  

“That is, there are many ministries that might be church planting strategies, but they do not always nor necessarily lead to a new church. All should be encouraged and celebrated, but we’re calling it a church after the fact, not before,” Coy explained. 

Last year, the SBTC helped plant 25 new churches, with about 40 expected this year.

Ezell, speaking to state Baptist paper editors in February, said that in his assessment of NAMB’s work with the various state conventions, a plethora of accounting formulas led to “a lot of smoke and mirrors” to make numbers look better than they were.

For example, Ezell said, “One time I got five different answers to the same question because I asked five different people on purpose. … It’s very hard to solve a problem when you don’t have the right components to add or subtract.” He wants uniform counting standards that don’t tempt people “with skin in the game” to pad numbers.

In annual reports to NAMB, some state conventions counted as new church plants those that had “been alive maybe 30 to 40 years but on a church plant list.” Others have included Bible studies held at campgrounds, Ezell said, or recounted the same newly planted churches two or three years consecutively. 

“Southern Baptists, when they hear that number, assume those are new church plants,” Ezell said.

Coy said the SBTC would rather undercount the number of church starts than overcount. 

Organic strategies that involve multi-housing and people group strategists may be supported with church planting funds and are considered planting strategies but not considered church plants on the front end.

“Let’s plant the seeds, let’s start it, and let’s see what it grows into,” Coy said. “If and when it has the New Testament functions of a church, then we’ll call it a church.” 

Some of the catalytic approaches to church planting “will become New Testament churches; others will become feeder ministries for existing churches,” he said.

“I am willing to call all of these methods church planting strategies and they all need to be celebrated, but they are not necessarily church plants.”