Month: October 2011

Special Report: Homosexuality

Texan special report on homosexuality:

The following links are stories included in the special report on homosexuality published in the Oct. 31, 2011 edition of the Southern Baptist Texan.

http://texanonline.net/news/sbc-gender-issues-expert-says-grace-diligence-key/

http://texanonline.net/news/christian-parents-must-fast-pray-love/

http://texanonline.net/news/a-biblical-response-to-i-was-born-this-way/

http://texanonline.net/news/can-the-homosexual-condition-be-prevented-author-says-yes-1/

http://texanonline.net/news/grounded-in-scripture-pastors-can-help-those-struggling-with-homosexuality-1/

http://texanonline.net/news/prof-jesus-redemptive-power-can-change-homosexuals/

http://texanonline.net/news/with-grace-speak-truth-ignore-intimidation/

SBC name change task force holds inaugural meeting

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — The task force appointed to study the prospect of changing the Southern Baptist Convention’s name held its first meeting Oct. 26 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

Convention President Bryant Wright announced the 20-member task force during the opening session of the SBC Executive Committee’s Sept. 19-20 meeting in Nashville, Tenn. The announcement prompted a lively debate across the convention about the pros and cons of making such a change.

The 16 task force members attending the Oct. 26 meeting spent “a great deal” of time in prayer, aware of the far-reaching implications a name change would have, task force chairman Jimmy Draper said in an Oct. 26 statement.

“We spent a great deal of time in prayer, believing that we need God’s guidance and divine wisdom as we seek to serve Southern Baptists in this consideration,” Draper said. “We received a review of the history of the SBC name issue and are aware of the weighty matters that have been brought to light by previous studies and considerations.”

The committee’s work centers on whether the Southern Baptist mission would be advanced by a name change, Draper added.

“We are driven by only one great question — how can Southern Baptists be most faithful in reaching people for Jesus. Our concern is not public relations, politics, positioning or personal agendas,” Draper said. “We must ask ourselves constantly if there is anything that would help us to reach more people, plant more churches, and penetrate lostness here in the United States and around the world as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission.”

Draper’s statement said he appreciated “the responsible quality” of the group’s first discussion and affirmed the need for input from both rank-and-file Southern Baptists and those in positions of leadership. He said he would be contacting leaders for their input and that others can interact with the task force through a website, www.pray4sbc.com. Name change suggestions can be entered in a box that accepts up to 50 characters, while the form for submitting comments has been expanded beyond the 140-character limit originally in place.

LifeWay Christian Resources also has been asked to research the potential impact of a name change among unchurched people, Draper said.

The task force understands its charge is limited to reporting back to Wright and that no one believed the word “Baptist” should be removed from the name, Draper added.

“We also want to let Southern Baptists know that we do understand our task. We are a body appointed by the SBC president, and to him we will submit our report. We are not authorized to change the name of the convention, nor are we certain that such a change is right. We do know that it is right to ask the question, and to consider our name in light of our mission,” Draper said. “We also want Southern Baptists to know that we, as a task force, are unified in affirming that we are and will ever remain Baptist — and that name is more than a label, it is a testimony. We cannot envision a name change that would not include ‘Baptist’ in the name.”

The full text of the task force statement follows:

STATEMENT FROM Jimmy Draper

CHAIRMAN, SBC TASK FORCE TO STUDY POSSIBILITY OF NAME CHANGE FOR OUR CONVENTION

October 26, 2011

The Task Force appointed by Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright to study the possibility of changing the name of our convention met for our first meeting October 26, 2011 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Sixteen of the twenty members of the task force were in attendance, and the meeting was graciously hosted by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

We spent a great deal of time in prayer, believing that we need God’s guidance and divine wisdom as we seek to serve Southern Baptists in this consideration. We spent time in prayer, together and in small groups, and then turned to the matters at hand.

We received a review of the history of the SBC name issue and are aware of the weighty matters that have been brought to light by previous studies and considerations.

We are driven by only one great question — how can Southern Baptists be most faithful in reaching people for Jesus. Our concern is not public relations, politics, positioning or personal agendas. We must ask ourselves constantly if there is anything that would help us to reach more people, plant more churches, and penetrate lostness here in the United States and around the world as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission.

I am thankful for the responsible quality of our first discussion. The committee is representative of the Southern Baptist Convention, ranging from pastors of some of our oldest churches to those who are planting new churches far outside of the southern states. The task force is diverse in composition, but united in our singular purpose to serve all Southern Baptists in this work.

We know that we need more information. I will be writing Southern Baptist leaders ranging from the heads of our entities to the leaders of our state conventions. We will be asking all Southern Baptists to let their concerns and convictions be known. We have asked LifeWay Research (a ministry of LifeWay Christian Resources) to research the issue of our name among the very people we are trying to reach — the unreached.

We also want to let Southern Baptists know that we do understand our task. We are a body appointed by the SBC president, and to him we will submit our report. We are not authorized to change the name of the convention, nor are we certain that such a change is right. We do know that it is right to ask the question, and to consider our name in light of our mission.

We also want Southern Baptists to know that we, as a task force, are unified in affirming that we are and will ever remain Baptist — and that name is more than a label, it is a testimony. We cannot envision a name change that would not include “Baptist” in the name.

We will meet again to continue our conversation and we are eager to hear from Southern Baptists. We want to thank the hundreds of Southern Baptists who have sent us letters, emails, and other communications. Please communicate with us at pray4sbc.com.

We know that Southern Baptists are very interested in this conversation and passionate about our mission and identity. That is a sign of our health and vitality. We will report once the task force has met again.

Task Force members are:

— Michael Allen, senior pastor of Uptown Baptist Church in Chicago;

— Marshall Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C.;

— David Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn.;

— Tom Elliff, president of the International Mission Board;

— Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board;

— Ken Fentress, senior pastor of Montrose Baptist Church in Rockville, Md.;

— Micah Fries, lead pastor of Frederick Boulevard Baptist Church in St. Joseph, Mo.;

— Aaron Harvie, lead pastor of Riverside Community Church in Horsham, Penn.;

— Susie Hawkins, speaker, Bible study teacher and missions volunteer from Dallas;

— Fred Hewett, executive director of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention;

— Cathy Horner, Bible teacher and pastor’s wife from Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C.;

— Benny Jo, pastor of HANA Korean Baptist Church in Las Vegas, Nev.;

— Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.;

— Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas;

— Bobby Sena, retired director of Hispanic resource development and equipping in the North American Mission Board’s church planting group;

— Roger Spradlin, co-senior pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif., and chairman of the SBC Executive Committee;

— John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention;

— Jay Wolf, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.

Jimmy Draper, Chairman

President Emeritus LifeWay

Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor and senior writer Mark Kelly.

FIRST-PERSON: Total capitulation & the evangelical surrender of truth

 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This column references an Oct. 17 op-ed in The New York Times, “The Evangelical Rejection of Reason,” by Karl W. Giberson and Randall J. Stephens.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — Evangelical Christians are not surprised to find themselves analyzed and criticized within the pages of the secular press. After all, the truth claims that characterize authentic evangelicalism are increasingly seen as unusual (and perhaps even dangerous) by the secular mind. Nevertheless, evangelical readers of The New York Times recently found themselves taken to task by writers presenting themselves as fellow evangelicals. Their essay reveals the central question that evangelicals musty now answer: Do we really believe that the Bible is the Word of God?

In their opinion essay, Karl W. Giberson and Randall J. Stephens accuse evangelicals of “simplistic theology, cultural isolation, and stubborn anti-intellectualism,” among other things. They point specifically to the rejection of evolution, which they call “the rejection of science,” and then refer to this as “textbook evidence of unyielding ignorance on the part of the religious.”

At times, the writers use the words “fundamentalist” and “evangelical” almost interchangeably. Following a line of argument popular among secular observers of conservative Protestantism, they explain that fundamentalism “appeals to evangelicals who have become convinced that their country has been overrun by a vast secular conspiracy.” In other words, they explain evangelical conviction in terms of psychology, not theology. Evangelicals, they argue, “have been scarred by the elimination of prayer in schools; the removal of nativity scenes from public places; the increasing legitimacy of abortion and homosexuality; the persistence of pornography and drug abuse; and acceptance of other religions and of atheism.”

In response to these developments, Giberson and Stephens argue that evangelicals created a “parallel culture” which includes everything from church programs to summer camps, colleges, publishing houses, media networks, and more. There is truth in the description of an evangelical subculture, of course, but these authors surely know that this “parallel culture” emerged early in the 20th century — long before prayer was removed from public schools or any of the other developments they list had taken place. But, then again, that honest admission would ruin the story they are trying to tell.

Giberson is well known as a leading proponent of evolution, and he has launched several lines of attack against evangelicals who reject evolution. A former professor of physics at Eastern Nazarene College, Giberson has argued that evangelical theology will simply have to give way to evolutionary theory, going so far as to admit: “I am happy to concede that science does indeed trump religious truth about the natural world.”

Stephens is an associate professor of history at Eastern Nazarene College. Together, Stephens and Giberson have also written a new book, “The Anointed; Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age.” The main thesis of the book is that evangelicals are following the wrong set of leaders, especially when it comes to intellectual matters. They level their attack on figures like James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, and Kan Ham, founder of the Answers in Genesis ministry. Their main accusation is that these leaders, along with others, simply embarrass evangelicalism before the watching world by refusing to accept what Giberson and Stephens call “secular knowledge.”

Dobson, for example, is lambasted for arguing on behalf of reparative therapy for homosexuals seeking to change their sexual orientation. Giberson and Stephens simply reject reparative therapy because the American Psychological Association disavowed it in 2000. Dobson, they accuse, charged that the APA did so under pressure from homosexual activists. Giberson and Stephens fail to concede that the APA discussion was well known at the time to have indeed been driven by homosexual activists, who claimed the decision as a victory for their activism.

So far as they are concerned, rejecting a position statement of a group like the American Psychological Association is tantamount to an irrational rejection of “secular knowledge.” What they fail to see, evidently, is that their own intellectual posture represents a total capitulation to whatever any secular authority may demand.

Something deeper is going on here, of course. Appearing on the Oct. 20 edition of National Public Radio's “Talk of the Nation” program, Giberson argued that homosexuality should not be much of a concern at all. He revealed even more of his own approach to the Bible by asserting that “there's just a handful of proof text[s] scattered throughout the Bible about homosexuality,” adding: “Jesus said absolutely nothing about it.”

That hardly represents an honest or respectful approach to dealing with the Bible's comprehensive and consistent revelation concerning human sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular. Is Romans 1, for example, just a scattered proof text? Is not all of the Bible God's Word? Well, Giberson has already made his view of the Bible clear — it is simply “trumped” by science when describing the natural world.

Again and again, Giberson and Stephens point to the Bible as the issue. Evangelicals follow the wrong leaders, they assert, because they tend to trust those who “first and foremost have an unquestioning belief in the literal truth of the Bible.” Who would have known?

Giberson and Stephens reject those who believe the Bible's clear teachings on the sinfulness of homosexuality and prefer a figure like David Myers who “believes that Christians can be faithful to God, the Bible, and their tradition and still believe that homosexuality is morally acceptable.” On what authority? Once again, the norms of secular science trump everything else. Myers, they say, earned the Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. He has “won several prestigious National Science Foundation grants” and has edited respected scientific journals.

They use language intended to both impress and scare a secular readership. James Dobson, they sneer, believes in the use of corporal punishment by parents. This “defender of spanking children” is dismissed as an authority on rearing children, even though they have to admit that he also holds a Ph.D. from a respected institution (the University of Southern California), taught on its faculty of pediatrics, and has been published in respected scientific journals. They reject Dobson on homosexuality and prefer the approach of Evangelicals Concerned, an activist group which argues that God “does not judge men and women on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation.”

Oddly, Giberson and Stephens criticize evangelical leaders who, for example, “pepper their presentations with so many Bible verses that their messages appear to be straight out of Scripture.” Do they seriously believe that evangelical Christians should prefer leaders who would let the Bible be silent and base their arguments on some other authority? Clearly, this is exactly what they suggest.

In “The Anointed,” Giberson and Stephens reveal more of their understanding of the Bible. Consider this passage:

“Christians have long been called 'People of the Book.' The label is especially appropriate for evangelicals. But the Book is thousands of years old, written in obscure languages, from a mysterious and incomprehensible time and place.”

That just about says it all. In a very important paragraph in their essay for The New York Times, Giberson and Stephens write:

“Like other evangelicals, we accept the centrality of faith in Jesus Christ and look to the Bible as our sacred book, though we find it hard to recognize our religious tradition in the mainstream evangelical conversation. Evangelicalism at its best seeks a biblically grounded expression of Christianity that is intellectually engaged, humble and forward-looking. In contrast, fundamentalism is literalistic, overconfident and reactionary.”

We now know that when Giberson and Stephens speak of the Bible “as our sacred book,” they mean something far less than what evangelicals have historically believed — that the Bible is the very Word of God. The most honest part of that paragraph is found where the writers admit that they “find it hard to recognize our religious tradition in the mainstream evangelical conversation.”

That is a huge admission — and one that is especially telling. Giberson and Stephens are far outside of the evangelical mainstream, and they know it. Even on the issue of evolution, Giberson affirmed Talk of the Nation host Neal Conan's assertion that the rejection of evolutionary theory “is the mainstream of evangelical thought.”

So, what are we to make of their essay in The New York Times? Did Giberson and Stephens hope to shift the evangelical mainstream by means of their essay? Not likely. They have made their preference for “secular knowledge” and secular affirmation clear enough. They could rest assured that the readership of The New York Times would overwhelmingly agree with their worldview and with their assessment of evangelical Christianity. That, we must assume, is their reward.

They have, however, set the central issue before us. Evangelical Christians will either stand upon the authority and total truthfulness of the Bible, or we will inevitably capitulate to the secular worldview. Giberson and Stephens force us to see, and to acknowledge, the consequences of the evangelical surrender of truth.
–30–
R. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. This article first appeared on Mohler's blog, albertmohler.com.

Christian parents must fast, pray, love

By Kate Taylor | TEXAN Correspondent

“Mom, I’m gay.”

These three words can unleash a firestorm in the heart of a parent and the life of a family, shaking foundations to their core. Parents expect to guide their children through many stages of growth and change, hoping to instill basic Christian principles. But when a child adopts a homosexual life, parents are often unprepared emotionally and spiritually.

Although many people might assume that homosexuality only occurs outside the church, it happens in Christian families and can bring shame, embarrassment and frustration to Christian parents who desire a God-honoring life for their children.

However, there is hope for parents and families of those in homosexuality, according to Susan Holt and her daughter, Patricia, who lived through Patricia’s 15-year battle with lesbianism, despite the fact that Patricia’s parents are in the ministry and raised her in a Christian home in Texas.

Patricia first got involved in homosexuality when she was 20, but she said her choices began years earlier. “I will tell you, flat out, that I do believe that it was part of the wiles and schemes of the enemy,” she said. “I believe that when I was very young, he began to set me up for this particular sin.”

Looking back, Patricia realizes the struggle her life had become during this time.  

“God allowed me to go through 15 years of literal hell,” Patricia recounted. “Back and forth, back and forth. In the lifestyle, out of the lifestyle. It was very difficult for my family and me.”

That difficulty drove Patricia’s mother to her knees and taught her that even in such a challenging situation, the Lord is still at work—in the life of the parents and the child.
After learning that her daughter was living a lesbian life, Susan found herself in the stages of grief. The first stage she faced was denial.

“We absolutely refused to believe it.” Then Susan said she made a mistake and read her daughter’s journal. “There I saw in black and white what I had been denying. I had to face the reality of what I had been denying.”

Second, Susan moved into the anger phase.

“I was angry at Patricia that she could do such a thing—that she could embarrass us in this way. It was the kind of thing that is shame. You don’t want to share it with anybody else.”

But Susan began to believe that her anger was misplaced and she advises parents to remember where homosexuality originates.

“Turn that anger toward the one who deserves it and that is Satan, your enemy, and don’t turn that anger toward your child,” she said. “I was angry with Patricia. I wasn’t turning my anger toward the devil though he was the one who had brought all of this into her life. So the Lord had to deal in my heart and in my husband’s heart to get rid of that anger toward our precious child so that we would be able to deal with the whole situation.”

Susan said parents often enter the guilt phase next.

“If you’ve been a parent one day, you have made a mistake,” Susan said. “Face it. There is not a perfect parent. The enemy is going to come to you immediately and bring up everything that you have done wrong. If he can’t bring up something specific, he will just bring this cloud of guilt over you to where you feel like it is your fault that your child has made poor choices. Turn your anger toward the enemy who is putting this guilt on you and do not receive it.”

Parents experience grief when a child makes poor choices. “There is a grieving that takes place in your life,” Susan emphasized. “It is not a thing that we need to stuff down. We need to go on and grieve and let God come in and bring healing in that grieving.”

Finally, acceptance of the situation begins to be a part of life.

“Do not accept the sin,” Susan said. “Accept the fact that this is reality and you’re going to have to learn to deal with it. I would encourage you to seek from the Lord—what he wants to teach you in this situation.”

Once the initial shock and grief begin to subside, Susan suggests parents take a few practical steps toward helping their child break the chains of homosexuality:

1) Learn and practice the discipline of fasting, as described in Isaiah 58. “Set aside a day, a week, or a meal,” she noted. “Fast for this child who is out in the world.”   

2) Find a prayer partner to come alongside them in this difficult struggle. “You don’t have to announce that your child is out in the world,” she said. “People in this situation are embarrassed and ashamed. You need to have some people that will pray for you. If your child is not walking with God, there are going to be difficult days for you and you are going to need somebody you can call on to pray for you.”

3) Learn how to pray for your wayward child. First, pray for the salvation of your child and for the Lord to deliver him from bondage.

“Pray for their eyes to be opened. The enemy blinds our eyes to the truth. Even if your child is a Christian, their eyes can be blinded to the truth of who they are and what their situation is,” Patricia said. “The enemy convinced me that I was a lesbian. Even after God delivered me, two or three years after that, the Lord showed me God didn’t make me ‘not a lesbian any more.’ I never was a lesbian. The devil told me I was and I believed that I was, but I never was. It was all a lie. You need to pray and ask God to open your child’s eyes to the truth.”

Parents should also pray for brokenness and healing in the life of their child.  

“Don’t ever pray for brokenness without praying for healing. You don’t ever want your loved one to be broken without God coming through immediately with healing. It has to be a twofold thing.”

Patricia warned that when parents pray for brokenness, they might be tempted to rescue their child from the situations that bring brokenness, thus interfering with the Lord’s plan.  “If you are praying for brokenness and healing, before you rescue, go to the Lord,” Patricia said. “If we run in and rescue and God doesn’t want us to, then God has to bring other situations about to bring that person to the point of brokenness.”

In addition to praying for brokenness, parents should also ask the Lord to change the child’s heart toward himself, as well as praying that the Lord will bring people into the child’s life and Scripture into his mind that will remind him of God. Patricia cited several examples during her struggle when the Lord placed people and situations into her life to remind her of him. These were powerful reminders of his continued presence in her life, despite her rejection of him.

After praying all these things on their child’s behalf, Patricia encourages parents to begin to thank the Lord for what he is going to do. “Hold on to the promises of Scripture,” Patricia urged. “God is always at work in your child’s life even when it looks like he isn’t.”

Also, Patricia suggests parents begin to seek what the Lord might want them to learn through their child’s situation. “God allows things to happen for all sorts of reasons,” she added. “There’s never just one little thing. He has this huge big picture plan. If we will seek him during those times when we are being so hurt and confused, you are going to find him in a way you’ve never found him before.”

Citing the examples of the crossing of the Red Sea and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Patricia noted that God worked in these situations in ways that were probably surprising to those involved. “God knew what he was doing.”

Expressing unconditional love is another challenge parents face in dealing with a homosexual child.

“This is very difficult, especially during periods of anger,” Patricia said. “To love them unconditionally does not mean you have to accept who they are. Stand true to the Word of God. If you think that if you compromise the Word of God it will keep a relationship with your child so maybe you can minister truth to them—that’s a lie. Once you compromise the Word of God, and when you try to go back and tell them the truth, it’s not going to fly. You might be the only Christian who loves your child that he or she sees.”

Patricia also contends that while parents do not have to accept the lifestyle their children are living, they do have to let their children know that they love them, no matter what. “They have to know that no matter what they do, no matter where they go, no matter who finds out and how embarrassed you may get, they’re yours. You’re never letting go of them and you’re going to love them forever.  They have to know that. When you love your child unconditionally, they know that when they come back, you will be there. They need to know that when they come back you are ready to welcome them in.”

She also challenges parents to correct their children with humility and without being judgmental. “Respond to them in love like Jesus would.”

Susan also encourages parents to hold the line with their homosexual children in their homes. “Am I saying this is easy? Heavens no,” Susan said. “Anytime there is a hurting child, there is a hurting parent and vice versa. You have the right in your home to set the boundaries.”

As parents continue to fast, pray, and love their children unconditionally, Susan challenges them to continue to move on in their own faith journey. “Rely on the Word of God. Get into God’s Word and find your own personal ‘rhema’ that he will speak to your heart so you can go back and claim those promises.”

No matter how the situation ultimately turns out, trusting the Lord is also essential. “If Patricia had never come back to the Lord, God is still faithful. It does not always end happy, I hate to tell you, but that is reality. God gave us grace through those years to wait and trust and believe him.”

When and if a child comes out of homosexuality, the battle is not over. “Staying away is harder than taking the first step,” Patricia admitted. “Pray more, pray harder, be more specific. Stand against the enemy. Pray a hedge of protection around your child.”

Despite the 15-year battle the Holt family waged, Susan and Patricia both see how the Lord used their struggle not only to change them, but also as a way to minister to others.  “Tenderizing comes through situations like this, like nothing I know of,” Susan said. God comforts us so we can comfort others.”

Susan said parents must stay focused on the Lord during the trial.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, despite what is going on. He is always worthy of our praise, no matter what’s happening in life.”

The names of the individuals interviewed have been changed due to the circumstances of their current work. To contact Patricia or Susan, email sbtexas@sbtexas.com.

Christian resources on homosexuality

Recommended by Bob Stith, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission gender issues strategist
When Homosexuality Hits Home
by Joe Dallas  
Someone I Love is Gay
by Anita Worthen and Bob Davies
“These two books are excellent resources for anyone who has a loved one struggling with homosexuality. If you suspect someone is dealing with this issue, it would be most helpful to read these works before having a discussion. How you respond initially is huge.”

The Complete Christian Guide to Understanding Homosexuality
by Joe Dallas and Dr. Nancy Heche
“This is a book that should be on every pastor’s desk. I know of nothing that matches it. It covers the basics about homosexuality as well as equipping the reader to deal with gay apologetics, genetic arguments, psychiatric arguments and cultural developments.”

Leaving Homosexuality
by Alan Chambers
“This is an excellent resource. Written as a guide for strugglers, it would be very helpful in giving insight and understanding to pastors and others who may have the opportunity to walk alongside someone in this struggle.”

Online forums for parents, men, women, husbands, wives and youth that are well-moderated and very secure in protecting the privacy of participants can be accessed at Living Hope Ministries, livinghope.org, or by calling Bob Stith at 817-424-9121.
Information on the SBC Task Force on Ministry to Homosexuals can be found at sbcthewayout.com, including testimonies of the freedom that former homosexuals have found in Christ. Stith, who leads this effort, will also be available in a booth at the Nov. 14-15 annual meeting of the SBTC at the Irving Convention Center.

Recommended by Frank Catanzaro, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary counseling professor
Cross Ministry led by Tim Wilkins as a biblical approach to homosexuality, referring readers to the website at crossministry.org.
Eternally Grateful Ministries led by Eric Garner also provides resources for individuals dealing with homosexuality at ericgarnersetfree.com.

Recommended by Tammi Ledbetter, TEXAN news editor
The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today by Alan Sears and Craig Osten.
“If you’re going to read one book to get up-to-speed on how seriously homosexual activists are pursuing an agenda that tramples the rights of people of faith, this book provides that information in a factual, well-documented approach based on cases the authors have analyzed for the Alliance Defense Fund, and in some cases fought firsthand. It is written from a compassionate perspective, offering hope that only Jesus Christ can provide to homosexuals, their friends and family, and equips the local church to stand strong.”
For more information about Christian alternatives to the Day of Silence, including the Day of Truth, visit DayofTruth.org, and goldenrulepledge.com.

Recommended by Jerry Pierce, TEXAN managing editor
An Ounce of Prevention: Preventing the Homosexual Condition in Today’s Youth by Dan Schmierer.

 

Grounded in Scripture, pastors can help those struggling with homosexuality

Most youth and college pastors may be striving against the cultural grain to equip their students to stand on biblical truth. And in some cases, especially when dealing with homosexuality, they might need to call a Christian counselor for help.

Frank Catanzaro, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor of education and Christian counseling, said most aspiring student pastors working toward their master of divinity do not take a course where a detailed discussion of counseling homosexuals is likely to be offered. Counseling courses are not required, he explained. For the master of Christian education degree, one course on Principles of Godly Character addresses aspects of all types of sin, he noted, adding that homosexuality would definitely be discussed in the introductory class.

Still, Catanzaro explained his support for the content offered in the two most popular degrees by stating, “We believe general biblical knowledge and careful exegesis and application by the power of the Spirit are what’s most needed” in equipping future pastors. Catanzaro said his reading of 2 Peter leads him to believe Scripture is sufficient for such tasks.

Grounded in biblical truth, ministers must engage the culture in which students live, he emphasized. One of the tests pastors face is familiarizing themselves with a new lexicon as it relates to homosexuality, including references to gays, lesbians, transgender, gender identity, homophobia and transphobia. Gone are the days of a simple same-sex attraction.

As barriers to self-expression fall, teens and young adults are losing their inhibition and publicly expressing their sexual identity. Organizations that support and affirm these students are establishing themselves on school campuses.

More Accepted
Harlie Raethel, high school associate at Houston’s First Baptist Church, has noticed homosexuality is becoming more accepted. He said his students are dealing with the issue in their own ways, or avoiding it altogether. Students have confessed their struggles with same-sex attraction to him or student minister Doug Bischoff in private conversations or blurted it out in a very public place, he recalled.

Raethel began serving the church during a 2005 internship. He said students are counseled by either pastor but both men understand when a student needs help beyond the student pastors’ capabilities. Furthermore, accredited counselors on staff at FBC Houston are available to students. If that occurs, Raethel and Bischoff remain connected, letting students struggling in this area know they care about their progress.

George Jacobus, college minister at Central Baptist Church in College Station, said he has not had to counsel any student about same-sex struggles, but he does not hesitate to help troubled students turn to more in-depth support if necessary. A 2009 master of divinity graduate of Southwestern Seminary, Jacobus said training in biblical counseling is useful.

The fact that youth ministers reported few or no counseling sessions with homosexuals does not surprise Catanzaro.

“The truth of the matter is that I’ve been in ministry over 30 years and I don’t know that I can count on two hands the number of people I’ve counseled who confessed to sin in this area.”

The issue more often is revealed in the midst of counseling a couple whose marriage is being destroyed by a partner deciding to pursue a homosexual relationship, he added.
Just because teenagers aren’t talking to ministers about sexual identity concerns doesn’t mean they are timid about publicly sharing their curiosity or experimentation with homosexuality, Catanzaro said. Some may even test the waters by announcing their identification with homosexuality on social networking sites or other venues, he explained.

According to a survey commissioned by LifeWay Research, only 26 percent of Southern Baptist pastors polled said they had received any training for helping struggling homosexuals. Only 8 percent of church staff members and laity had any such training.

Many ministers who were interviewed said students dealing with same-sex attraction and gender identity often have deep-seated emotional problems. Although advocates argue that individuals are born homosexual, there is no scientific evidence of that. Research does indicate that many of those who identify themselves as homosexual suffered some form of abuse, relational dysfunction or had an absentee parent.

Catanzaro, however, argues that it is biblical Christian counseling, grounded in Scripture, which most effectively meets the needs of students struggling with same-sex attractions. The Bible succinctly outlines the path to sin in James 1:14-16 and the road to recovery and glorification of God, he explained.

Such a solution seems too simple but that is the deception of Satan, Catanzaro said. Finding answers and healing from Scripture does not require an advanced degree and pastors well equipped in the Word can have significant results, he stated.

Ministers should equip students to shun temptation, he added. Furthermore, they should be aware of the spiritual maturity of their students and should value Scripture over perceived cultural relevance.

“The reason we don’t get more out of our students is because we don’t expect much of them,” Catanzaro said.

“Nothing can substitute for the truth and power of Scripture,” added Bob Stith, strategist for gender issues at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. “But it is so important to really listen to people, empathize with them, and then begin gently guiding. They are so used to feeling rejected, judged, etc., that if you start off quoting Scripture, they will usually just shut down.”

Stith said one of the ironies he has found in ministering to homosexuals is that anyone can come alongside and help someone walk out of this lifestyle. “But on the other hand, leaders really need to have some background to better understand how to counsel.” From his 37 years of pastoral ministry, Stith discovered the same advice will not always work the same with a different person. “It was really important to listen prayerfully before beginning to offer counsel,” he added.

He also cautions ministers and friends to exercise great care in who they recommend to do further counseling. Some counselors might endorse the idea that a homosexual must learn to live that way since that’s the way he was born, he added, effectively encouraging the individual to walk back into the lifestyle he was trying to escape.

Equipping Students
Barna research cited in the book “unChristian” by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons found the vast majority of church-going young adults believe their churches have not prepared them to minister to their homosexual friends and co-workers.

“I’ve had several people tell me that when youth are polled this is almost always one of the top two issues they want to study,” added Stith. “I think every youth retreat, encampment, retreat center and SBC conference center should offer something on this,” Stith said. “It’s hugely important.”

At Houston’s First Baptist Church, Raethel said the subject of homosexuality is often discussed from the pulpit and in small groups.

“We challenge the kids to walk in a balance. Wide is the path, but don’t fall into the ditches,” he said. Like the pilgrim in “Pilgrim’s Progress,” students are encouraged to walk down the middle of the road and avoid falling into the ditches. In one ditch students never warn their friends and peers of the dangers ahead. From the other ditch, students voice agreement with homosexuality, he explained.

Fifteen years ago the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network sponsored a Day of Silence at the University of Virginia, passing out cards explaining their protest of bullying, name-calling and harassment of homosexual students. The effort was spread to public school campuses by “Gay-Straight Alliances” that are often the source of controversy in some school districts.

Day of Truth events followed a decade later as “an opportunity for students to respectfully present a different viewpoint,” according to one spokesman for the Alliance Defense Fund.

In 2008, a second alternative tagged the Golden Rule Pledge was held on the same day as the Day of Silence. Christian students responded to the distribution of pro-homosexual material with a different card, stating: “This is what I’m doing: I pledge to treat others the way I want to be treated. Will you join me in this pledge? ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you,’” a charge from Luke 6:31.

Stith commended the newer approach as both “proactive” and “redemptive.”

Jacobus said he urges students not to live up to the stereotype of being homophobic. According to the 2007 Barna study related in Unchurched, 91 percent of unchurched young adults describe the church as anti-homosexual. Among churched young adults, 80 percent agree with the characterization.

Urging the students not to be homophobic does not imply accepting homosexual acts as moral, Stith said. He makes a similar distinction in regard to the Barna stats noting, “The respondents aren’t saying the church believes homosexual acts are sinful. They believe we are ‘anti-people-who-are-homosexual.’”

“It is not an unpardonable sin,” Jacobus reminded. “Don’t shun them or isolate them. Speak the truth in love just as you would with any other sin.” Students can befriend gays and lesbians without affirming their homosexual acts, he added. By doing so Christian students can make gospel inroads.

“The goal is restoration,” he emphasized. “We see Jesus bringing truth to their lives. By not shunning them, we can be in relationship with them with the goal of God bringing restoration into their lives,” Jacobus said.

Testimonials printed in literature produced by Exodus International, a ministry to people wanting to leave homosexuality, indicate there is a factor in the healing of homosexuals that goes beyond counseling. Those struggling with same-sex attractions and gender identity have found a relationship with Christ and self-acceptance through healthy, godly relationships within the church. The love of Christ poured into the lives of those suffering spoke volumes.

In addition to showing genuine concern for those dealing with homosexuality, First Baptist Church of Dallas, like many other Texas congregations, refers individuals to ministries like Exodus International or Living Hope Ministries. (See resources box on page 10.)

Jacobus and Raethel understand their role as counselor to their students, no matter what the issue, has its limits. But neither has felt overwhelmed by the task, they said.
Raethel said his ability to give any counsel comes from God. It is in his prayers and “leaning to the side of grace” that he finds the answers.

“They are already convicted. They don’t need me to tell them about Sodom and Gomorrah.”
 

With grace, speak truth, ignore intimidation

Widely applied no-bullying rules in public schools coupled with advocacy from gay and lesbian organizations have made some public schools a hostile environment for those who criticize homosexuality, even in a non-threatening manner.

One example in Texas: In September, a Fort Worth high school student stated in German class that his Christian convictions led him to believe homosexuality was wrong. The teacher chided him for his comment and sent him to the office, where he was given three days in-school suspension by an assistant principal. The school principal later overturned the suspension, but the case brought media attention and questions about the First Amendment rights of students.

Whether by direct intimidation by peers or school districts or the desire of students to get along, Christian students may shy away from discussing the issue. To complicate matters, some Christian teens and young adults do not have a firm conviction on the issue, which youth pastor Harlie Raethel of Houston’s First Baptist Church said amounts to tacit approval.

“They are scared. They don’t want to be politically incorrect,” said Michael Newman, founder and director of Christian Coalition for Reconciliation in Houston, a ministry created to help individuals leave the homosexual life through the power of Jesus Christ.

Newman, who lived as a homosexual until God intervened, said there is intense pressure on young people to affirm homosexuality. Those born since 1990 have been told through many outlets that homosexuals “are born that way” despite the lack of empirical evidence for such a claim. They have seen the entertainment industry portray homosexuality as normal and prevalent. For this generation homosexuality is not a moral but a civil rights issue.

Claiming homosexuality as a matter of civil rights shifts the responsibility from the individual to society, said Elizabeth Svetlik, an Exodus International representative for a Houston-area church. And students who would proclaim biblical truth about homosexuality are hard pressed to do so without being accused of promoting “hate speech.”

Svetlik, 36, struggled with same-sex attraction from her teenage years through her mid-20s and understands the turmoil students face—some as young as intermediate school age. But she also knows there is a message of redemption those students need to hear and the Christians on campus can make or break the relationships in which the message is proclaimed.

What made Svetlik’s personal experience especially untenable was the fact that she was a Christian raised in a Christian home.

She said, “Part of what messed me up…. I knew this was not right. I knew.”

No one had to tell her that homosexuality was wrong. But what she wanted to hear was that all humans—not just homosexuals—are fallen and in need of redemption.

Svetlik knew 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “…homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God,” she recited. But in all of her years of struggles she does not recall anyone continuing through verse 11.

“Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
Svetlik pointed out, “God has been healing homosexuals forever.”

And it is her hope to be a part of that process. Svetlik is married and teaches grade school music. She will receive her master of arts in professional counseling from Liberty University upon completion of her practicum and internship.

She said Christians get too caught up in trying to win an argument instead of letting the Holy Spirit’s power work in the lives of others. She said, “What I’ve come up with is that the Holy Spirit does a better job of convicting than we do.”

When students are asked what they think about homosexuality, Svetlik suggested they respond with truth and grace by saying, “I do not believe that is God’s best. I want to strive for what is best for me.”

But organizations dedicated to the affirmation and promotion of homosexuality are being established on intermediate and high school campuses across the country. In these student clubs teenagers struggling to come to terms with their sexual identities are being encouraged to embrace homosexuality.

Svetlik said that if she had been told to accept “the fact” that she was a lesbian she would have been devastated.

Students who identify themselves as homosexual and those who champion their cause need to know there is another option. Most students who have same-sex attractions have deep-rooted issues that also need to be addressed. They need to know that giving up and giving in is not the answer.

But these students, like all teenagers, want desperately to belong, to be accepted. If the only voice they hear is the one affirming a perceived bent toward homosexuality, then often that is the direction they turn.

In too many cases, said one pastor, the students are not only running toward the voices of acceptance, but from voices of condemnation.

George Jacobus, college minister at Central Baptist Church in College Station, said, “I think so often, especially with evangelicals, we are quick to call out a sin and then shun them. It isn’t what God would have us do.”

Being a friend to those struggling is the simplest way to share the truth about redemption. Students should not be ashamed to associate with homosexuals as they seek opportunities to witness to them, he said, recalling that Jesus was not embarrassed to be seen speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well.

He emphasized that the goal must remain to offer God’s restoration to homosexuals and others questioning their sexual identity.

Christian students will avoid the monikers of “hater” and “bully” as they live out the love of Christ in the lives of others. Svetlik urged students to understand that same-sex attraction is not a choice. It is a very real feeling. The sin is not in the temptation but in the choice to act upon the temptation, she said. And instead of striving to make their homosexual peers heterosexual, students can emulate the goal of Exodus International by striving to help those with same-sex urges walk holy before God.

Newman said Christian students can befriend their homosexual peers on campus without condoning their actions. He said students can walk through their struggles with them.
“God can use that to touch their hearts,” he said.

He urged Christian students to be bold in their faith and not be intimidated by those who would call them “bullies.”

“Don’t be in fear. Fear doesn’t come from God,” he said.

Blessings await at SBTC Bible Conference

In my last column I encouraged you to put Tuesday night, Nov. 15 on your calendar for the “Praying & Going Around the World” celebration. You will want to be present to experience the effort to embrace the unengaged. With so many demands on your time, I know you have a limited number of events you can attend.

If you can possibly make the three days of the SBTC Bible Conference and Annual Meeting, you will be blessed during all of it. Let me say a word about the Bible Conference.

Bible Conference President Terry Turner set the theme of “Impacting the Next Generation.” There is no topic closer to my heart than the home. I have shared with you many times about my family. It is crucial that we have Christian homes, not just homes with Christians as family members.

My wife June and I prayed and read Scripture on our honeymoon night. With only about a half dozen exceptions we have never pillowed our heads at night without having a time of worship in these 38 years. When the Bible says, “Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath,” I believe it could very well be addressing the marital relationship. It is extremely difficult to stay upset with your spouse if you are praying and reading Scripture daily.

When June and I receive a wedding invitation we often send a family Bible to the couple. It may be more symbolic than practical. However, we pray it will be a reminder to keep the Word of God and prayer in the center of the home. The one constant that should be found in the home of Christians is a worship altar. I want to challenge everyone reading this article to find a time where you can have family worship daily. It does not have to be long. Whether it is with squirming preschoolers or as empty-nesters, every home should have a daily worship time. It could be in the morning at breakfast or in the evening just before bedtime. The family altar is no magic bullet or panacea but it does provide an avenue for God to work in the hearts of all the family members.

People point to prayer and Bible reading being removed from schools as the beginning of the decline of our American Christian culture. Some want prayer in the school house but don’t have it in their house. Some people campaign for godly leaders in the White House but fail to provide godly leadership in their houses. Discipleship begins at home. If we want to see our culture changed, it will be one family at a time.

The SBTC Bible Conference could be a life changer for you. It begins Sunday night, Nov. 13, at 6 p.m. with Kurt Bruner from Lake Pointe Church teaching and Pastor John Meador of FBC Euless bringing the message. Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church and FBC Euless will provide worship music. Monday morning, Nov. 14, Pastor Steve Stroope from Lake Pointe Church provides the teaching and I will bring the message. Bryant Jones from MacArthur Boulevard will lead music worship.

The Monday afternoon session begins at 1:15. Pastor H.B. Charles from Jacksonville, Fla., is teaching and Alistair Begg from Ohio is preaching. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary provides music. There is a Ministry Café during the lunch hour featuring John Trent and Gina Cooper. You need tickets for the Café.

It is worth your time investment to enrich your home for Jesus by attending the SBTC Bible Conference. You will be blessed. Plan to attend and pray for God to move mightily in the hearts of his leaders.

A biblical response to ‘I was born this way’

By Mike Goeke

Recently, I was talking with my young son about his behavior with a babysitter. He had done some things clearly against “babysitter protocol,” and rather than own his error, he said: “Dad, I’m not perfect.”  

He was using his innate imperfection as some form of justification for his poor behavior. The next day, I met with a young man dealing with difficult issues in his life and making questionable decisions. His primary defense to his behavior was his belief that he was only acting in concert with how he had been born. He, too, was using his innate imperfection as a form of justification for his poor behavior. Another friend claimed that his “personality” somehow invalidated God’s commands to us to love each other, forgive each other and live in community with each other. His response to challenge was: “That is just not how God made me.” Somehow, we seem to think that God’s Word only applies to us when it is easy, or when it feels natural. In our self-absorbed culture, we rationalize our behavior by blaming our biology.  

As a Christian, I believe that through original sin, we all enter the world with a sin nature and a propensity to do things that God calls sin. Sinning comes naturally. Few are taught to lie or to manipulate or to be selfish. Most people, and not just Christians, see “natural” parts of themselves that have the potential to be destructive in society or in relationships and they act to curb those tendencies. We see few people claiming the identity of “liar” even though many people are tempted on a daily basis to lie about something. We see few people claiming the identity of “adulterer” even though many people deal with lust, at some level, on a daily basis. We see few people claiming the identity of “gossiper” even though many people are tempted to gossip on a daily basis. Certainly no one would seek to justify stealing or murder based on some innate desire to steal or to murder.

Those of us who are Christians see biblical guidelines as being about more than just the betterment of society or personal relationships. As Christ followers, we see God’s Word as written for us and for a purpose that goes beyond the surface of our lives. But many times God’s Word calls us to something that seems unnatural. I know that I have struggled with many things for most of my life. I don’t know which of those things were part of me at my birth, and which were acquired by me as a result of the sinful world in which I grew up. But, in reality, I’m not sure it matters.

Years ago I left my wife to pursue homosexuality. I made this decision for several reasons, but one major reason was that I had come to believe that I had always been gay and I would always be gay. The feelings seemed to go way back, and nothing in my childhood seemed identifiable as the “cause” of the intense feelings with which I had struggled for so long. Without an intervening cause, I decided that I must have been born gay and, thus, I had a loophole in God’s instruction for behavior and sexuality (sexual identity and sexual expression).  

Even though I eventually returned home to my wife repentant and committed to allowing God to work in my life and sexuality, I continued to struggle with fears that some day there might actually be proof of a gay gene (a fear which has, as of today, not been realized). As I sought God’s Word, though, I realized that even if my same-sex attraction was somehow genetic, God’s Word still applied to me. And God’s Word did not give an “out” for genetic predispositions. I wasn’t told not to steal unless I just couldn’t help myself, or not to lie unless it felt really natural, or not to lust unless I had always felt the urge to lust. I was told simply to follow Christ no matter how I felt and no matter the depth of my struggles.

I also discovered that the call to follow Christ carried with it amazing promises. As a Christian, I was told that I was a new creation. I was promised abundant life. I was promised peace and joy and fulfillment. I was told that I would gain much more than I gave up. I saw in Paul that his lifelong struggles were allowed by God so that Paul would experience the sufficiency of God’s grace and the strength that comes in weakness.

I saw in the man born blind (John 9) that the man’s blindness was allowed so that God’s power might be displayed in him. I realized that to legitimize sinful feelings and behavior was to deny the reason Christ came in the first place. He came not to give me comfort in how I was, but to transform me and make me new. I may have been born one way, but he came to give me new life and new purpose and a new identity. Today, I am reborn completely new. My struggles may remain, but I am no longer a slave to them and am no longer controlled by them. More than anything, I am no longer defined by them.

I was born with lots of things, good and bad. And I was raised in a world full of other sinners and broken people. While sin came naturally to me, so did creativity and humor and friendship and many other things. Christ redeemed all of me, the good and the bad. He did not take away my positive traits or my negative traits, but he made them new. Today, I can see that my whole life is for one purpose—to bring him glory. No matter how I was born, I was reborn for so much more. To settle with what we were is to miss out on the magnitude of what God empowers us to become. Claim your new identity, and prepare to receive much more than you give up.

Mike Goeke is an associate pastor  at Stonegate Fellowship Church in Midland. He leads Cross Power Ministries, a work of Stonegate that ministers to people struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction. Learn more at stonegatefellowship.com/www2011/cpm.html. He can be reached at mikegoeke@stonegatefellowship.com.

 

Congregation of 120 going for God here and abroad

ACADEMY—At First Baptist Church of Academy, it might be easy to believe that a small church in a small town in rural Texas can’t be involved in missions or have an impact on the world. But Pastor Brent Boatwright and his congregation of 120 isn’t letting its size or location interfere with the mission of spreading the gospel at home and abroad.
Growing up in a traditional Southern Baptist church, Boatwright recalled the lack of personal involvement in missions in his local church.  

“We had missionaries come in every year.  In all my 19 years growing up there, I never saw anyone leave, go do missions and then come back. It always seemed like you had to go to Africa and stay.”

As a result, Boatwright developed the belief that short-term missions could and should be done by every church—big or small.

“I always read articles about big churches doing missions,” Boatwright said. “Even though you don’t have a million dollar budget, you can still do missions. We can’t depend on missionaries to do it all.”

To help fill the gap, FBC Academy is doing ongoing mission projects with an unreached people group in Mali, West Africa, as well as ministering to Navajo Indians in New Mexico.

“Since 2004, we’ve sent at least one team each year to Mali, West Africa,” Boatwright said. In Mali, the church works with an IMB missionary from FBC Academy to evangelize the Samogho, an unreached people group.  

The Samogho people have no written language, so Boatwright and his team use storytelling to share the gospel. They’ve seen a few come to Christ and recently were able to extend their ministry into a neighboring Samogho village.

“He (the chief) is a new believer and he wants to see his village come to know Christ,” Boatwright said. The FBC Academy group was the first group of believers to ever spend a few days and nights in the village.

The work in Mali is challenging, Boatwright noted. The people practice animism and also have a Muslim influence. “It is hard for them to give up their sacrifices.” In addition, the villages are located in the bush and transporting teams there limits the mission teams to a maximum of six members.  

However, they continue to go. “We’ve got several who’ve been multiple times,” Boatwright said. “I’ve tried to encourage people to go multiple times to build relationships.”
Boatwright is excited about developing relationships with the Samogho men. The missionary is a woman so outreach to the men of the village is more challenging for her. “January is a good time to relate to the men,” Boatwright explained.  

In January, the villages are recovering from the rainy season and men are rebuilding their mud brick homes. Taking a group of men to the village in January opened doors to relate to the men as they worked together making bricks and rebuilding homes.

“Reaching the men is doable for our missionary, but it’s important for us as a team to go to encourage the men,” Boatwright said.  

In addition to its work in Mali, FBC Academy is also involved with ministry to the Navajo people in New Mexico. Working with North American Mission Board missionary Jim Turnbo, they have taken two mission trips to Nahodishgish Baptist Church, a new church start in the poorest community on the Navajo Reservation.  

In 2010, Boatwright took a group of 10 men and boys to work with Turnbo and his church. They built wood sheds and a wheelchair ramp and while they were there, the Lord gave them the desire to do more. “God burdened our hearts further to look toward other needs.”

That burden turned into a recent trip to the reservation to hold a diabetes foot care clinic and do roof repairs in the community.

“God did some awesome things.”

Boatwright said the church saw God’s provision in amazing ways as they prepared to work with the Navajo. Nurses from FBC Academy contacted pharmaceutical companies and these businesses donated medical supplies. When a local building supply company learned why the church wanted to buy tar paper for roofing, the company donated a pallet of roll roofing and a pallet of tar paper, enough to supply FBC Academy’s project and the next group coming to help at the reservation. “God really opened doors up.”

In addition to local businesses helping the church prepare for their Navajo ministry, the people of the church also stepped up. Boatwright divided the items needed by Sunday school class and each class collected their assigned items. For example, the third- and fourth-graders collected cotton balls and other classes collected bleach, alcohol, swabs, and other needed materials. “Every Sunday school class gave something,” Boatwright said.

Making missions a church-wide project has impacted FBC Academy in multiple ways.

From gathering missions supplies to sponsoring missions nights at the church in which scenes from the mission trips are recreated to help church members better understand life on the mission field, everyone has a stake in missions trips.

“I think to some extent it shows people that missions are doable,” said Boatwright, who added that these events help people who are contemplating a trip to Mali or New Mexico by showing them what it might be like.

In addition to raising awareness of the needs around the world, FBC Academy’s mission involvement has led to new ministries in the church as well.

“For sure, more people see the reality that they can do ministry,” Boatwright said. “We’ve seen new ministry opportunities come out of our mission trips. One lady came back from a mission trip and said, ‘I believe God is burdening my heart to do a jail ministry.’”

While she didn’t see herself as a teacher, within a few months she began working in a jail ministry. Now every Tuesday, six women from FBC Academy work at the Bell County jail, ministering to female inmates.

Another woman in the church discovered a new point of view on ministry after going on a mission trip. She came to Boatwright with a question, asking, “Why don’t we just adopt the youth of the community like we do the Samogho. Why not look at the youth as a mission field?

“People have discovered that God can use them in ministry,” Boatwright stated.  “God wants them hands-on in ministry. It doesn’t have to be Africa. It can be New Mexico or in the local community.”

As FBC Academy continues to reach out in Africa, in New Mexico and in their community, Boatwright challenges churches, especially small ones, to get involved in missions. “Time and time again, God has provided,” he said. “It’s a lie from the enemy to say a small church can’t go.”