Month: October 2011

SWBTS trustees approve leading-edge Ph.D.

FORT WORTH—A new Ph.D. in world Christian studies is being developed at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, after trustees approved it in their Oct. 18-19 meeting. Contingent on accreditors approving it, the innovative program is likely to attract the interest of international missionaries who would be able to remain on the field while completing requirements.

Acting provost Jason Duesing described the 44-hour degree as the school’s first modified residency format offered in their Ph.D. program.

Students come to the Fort Worth campus for several weeks each year, completing the remainder of their work through mentored seminars via online resources.

In addition to attracting missionaries, Duesing said the program would also provide an opportunity to train professors in other seminaries around the world who lack accredited faculty. “They are able to enhance their own schools, but it also allows us to extend our influence by training a generation of faculty who will train generations of pastors and churches all around the world.”

The thesis-driven degree is expected to be more challenging than the traditional Ph.D. that is earned while studying on campus, he added. Through anticipated partnerships with two global seminaries, students will teach classes monitored by a Southwestern mentor and local professor.

“Whether it’s the prospect of a missionary from the IMB or another evangelical group, an aspiring scholar who wants to teach at a seminary overseas or a national pastor, what this does is enhance Southwestern’s ability to extend our conservative theology and evangelical perspective on Scripture all over the world from right here in Fort Worth,” added Anthony George of Orlando, Fla., chairman of the academic administration committee.

In what was the shortest plenary session in memory, the board spent just over an hour hearing reports and also voted to allow access to $3.8 million of the $8.3 million in excess operating reserves to fund completion of the chapel. While donations have covered the full expense of construction, an equal amount given in the form of stock is not available until it is sold. When that occurs, $3.8 million will be repaid to the reserve fund.

The board also approved graduates for fall 2011 commencement, elected recipients for the 2012 B.H. Carroll and L.R. Scarborough awards, accepted audited financial statements for the past year and recommended Russell Freeman of Allen to serve on the board of the Southwestern Seminary Foundation.

Trustee Chairman Hance Dilbeck of Edmond, Okla., reminded the chapel audience of the need to cultivate, articulate and celebrate a call to ministry. Preaching from Ephesians 3:1-7, Dilbeck said Paul’s description of “a calling to be a minister of the gospel” provides needed focus.

“You’ll have any number of different titles. You might be called a pastor, a minister of youth, a minister of children, a missionary or a professor, but no matter what title you’re given, it’s important that day by day in Christian ministry you understand yourself to be primarily a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

As they gain more knowledge and experience, Dilbeck told students people will begin to expect more of them.

“If you’re not careful, you’ll spend your days giving people everything except what they really need—the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Trustee wives participated in a luncheon meeting of the Women’s Auxiliary, hearing testimonies of students who participated in preaching revivals and ministering in churches across the nation during their spring break. The Revive This Nation effort reported over 14,000 people coming to know Christ.

Several students enrolled in women’s programs described their effort in “boldly voicing his wisdom for her world” through their involvement in launching a new website at

Seminary first lady Dorothy Patterson challenged the women present to follow the example of Jehosheba, “a godly woman who decided it was her time to step up to the plate.” Patterson was citing the story from 2 Kings 11 of hiding the young prince Joash from Queen Athaliah’s effort to destroy all of the royal heirs to the throne, including her own grandsons.

“This woman was so committed to God’s purposes that she put it all at risk, hid that baby and then when he was age 7 this young prince was put on the throne.” Though not all of his reign was commendable, Patterson said he revived the nation for a time after being guided by Jehosheba’s husband, Jehoiada the priest.

After hearing testimonies from two students who participated in the Revive the Nation effort, Patterson asked participants to consider their own roles in reviving the nation.

“Sometimes it’s from your own home, sometimes it’s going out to do some special task for which God has anointed you, sometimes it’s giving of your energy or resources, sometimes it’s giving time on your knees to intercede and pray and ask God to bring revival,” she said.

“We all have our various responsibilities, but make it a point to get on your face before the Lord and ask, ‘What can I do? How can I undergird the kingdom?’”

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 He can be reached at


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.”

On Mexico border, churches counter violence with prayer

EL PASO, Texas (BP) — Testimonies from churches along the Mexican border highlight the need for ongoing prayer that God would curb Mexico’s drug violence.

A 40-day, multi-denominational prayer effort in El Paso, Texas, for the neighboring Mexican city of Juarez was followed by a reduction in murders. But increased violence in July reminded participants to persist in their intercession.

“We continue to pray for Juarez,” said Larry Wilkins, missions pastor at Cielo Vista Church, a Southern Baptist congregation that participated in the effort. “When we were going through the 40 days, there was much discussion from the pulpit and encouragement. We still have a prayer time in our services and will often lift up Juarez in our prayers.”

Meanwhile, believers in Texas’ Del Rio Uvalde Baptist Association, two hours west of San Antonio, have seen decreases in violence across the border in Acuña during three years of praying for the region.


During the 40 days leading up to Easter, approximately 20 El Paso congregations participated in a prayer campaign for Juarez, where warring drug cartels have increased the murder rate tenfold over the past several years, topping 3,000 homicides last year and 8,600 since 2008. Some call it the murder capital of the world.

Coordinated by the nondenominational Christian ministry El Paso for Jesus, the effort involved members of a different church each day meeting on a hill overlooking Juarez and praying from noon to 1 p.m. and again from 7 to 8 p.m. that God would decrease the violence, protect commuters and change the hearts of drug cartel members perpetuating the bloodshed.

In June God answered their prayers: murders were down by nearly 200 in the first half of 2011. While there had already been 1,200 homicides after six months in 2010, this year’s six-month total stood at 1,037, according to Fox News.

“I love the fact that we had many people that professed Christ that were collaborating intentionally and intently on praying for our neighbors in Juarez,” Wilkins told Baptist Press. “So in that regard it was good to be a part of the grander body of Christ.”

On Cielo Vista’s day at the Juarez overlook, participants prayed silently using printed guides and then took turns praying aloud. In addition to praying on its assigned day, the church also made a point to pray for Juarez during all its worship services during the 40 days. Those prayers included interceding for members who have relatives in Juarez and for those who risk their lives to share Jesus in Mexico.

“The violence that is happening over there [in Juarez] and has been happening for several years now had gotten to such a point where we knew that only the prayer of God’s people could intercede,” Rod Smith, lead pastor of Cielo Vista Church, told the Southern Baptist TEXAN newsjournal. “It’s gotten to a point where you don’t even go across the border to witness anymore. It’s not safe. The violence is terrible.”

Despite the good news in June, the El Paso Times reported that in July murders in Juarez were at their highest level since February, with 218 dead — a statistic that reminded Cielo Vista members to continue praying for their neighboring city.

“The violence is so engrained in the culture now along the border, and particularly in Juarez,” Wilkins said. “I believe with every fiber in me that [ending the violence] will require a sovereign move of God. God will have to move to break the hold of the drug cartels.”

Coordinated prayer involving multiple congregations is “not organized” and has been “sporadic” since Easter, Wilkins said. But he expressed confidence that God would answer all requests offered according to His will.

“Jesus said, ‘Whatever you ask for in my name,'” Wilkins said. “… Am I praying what God would have me pray? If that’s the case, then God’s going to answer.”


Several churches in the Del Rio Uvalde Association have organized a network with Mexican congregations across the border in Acuña and Piedras Negras to facilitate prayer and financial assistance. God has used that partnership to bring about spiritual victories, said Jeff Janca, pastor of First Baptist Church in Brackettville, Texas.

“Our church, First Baptist Del Rio and a number of other churches have been praying that [violence] would be curbed,” Janca told BP. “And actually one of the prayers I was praying was that the cartels would turn on themselves, and apparently that’s what’s been happening.”

Violence, however, has not been the main focus of the prayers, Janca said. Instead, much of the intercession targets churches in Mexico, asking God to strengthen and use them, which God has answered even amid cartel violence.

In a recent meeting of border ministers, a pastor from Acuña said that before violence escalated several years ago, some Mexican congregations relied almost completely on American mission teams to do ministry in their communities. But because it has become too dangerous for American teams to cross the border, Mexican churches have been forced to mobilize their own members with renewed fervor.

“There were some Baptist churches that had become so dependent on the American churches that they weren’t doing anything for themselves,” Janca said. “They weren’t contributing financially. They weren’t doing the mission work. They weren’t doing the evangelizing. They weren’t doing the work on the buildings because they thought, ‘Well, the Americans will come in, and they’ll do it.’ Now those churches are learning that if it’s going to get done, they themselves are going to have to do it. This pastor said that’s the positive [side of drug violence].”

Janca’s congregation makes a point to pray for Mexico during Wednesday prayer meetings and supports a pastor in Acuña financially. But he cited the need for continued prayer to combat drug cartels, violence and false religion across the border.

“There have been occasions where we have focused, because of the drought, on praying for God to send not only physical rain but spiritual rain and revival upon us,” he said.

David Roach is a writer and pastor in Shelbyville, Ky.

2011 SBTC Annual Meeting Schedule


Praying and Going in Your Community

    Choir and Orchestra,
    First Baptist Church, Odessa
    Curtis Brewer, associate pastor of
    worship and celebration
    Byron McWilliams, president, SBTC

    Jeff Campbell, pastor,
    Bethany Baptist Church, Dallas


    Bart McDonald, executive pastor,
    Walnut Ridge Baptist Church,


    Choir and Orchestra,
    First Baptist Church, Odessa
    Curtis Brewer, associate pastor of
    worship and celebration
    Robert Welch, Jr., senior pastor,
    Rock Hill Baptist Church,



    Bart McDonald, executive pastor,
    Walnut Ridge Baptist Church

    Executive Committee of the SBC

    Richard Land, president,
    Ethics & Religious Liberty

    Choir and Orchestra,
    First Baptist Church, Odessa
    Curtis Brewer, associate pastor of
    worship and celebration


    Wayne Wible, senior pastor,
    Ferguson Road Baptist Church,     


    Choir and Orchestra,     
    First Baptist Church, Odessa
    Curtis Brewer, associate pastor of
    worship and celebration

    Byron McWilliams, senior pastor,
    First Baptist Church, Odessa

8:50    PRAYER
    Selmore Haines, business manager,
    North Garland Baptist Fellowship,

Praying and Going in Texas

    Ensemble, Community Baptist
    Church, Royse City
    Craig Kirby, minister of music

9:10    PRAYER
    Hector Mendez, pastor, Iglesia
    Bautista Central, Fort Worth


    John Meador, pastor, First Baptist
    Church, Euless

    Ensemble, Community Baptist
    Church, Royse City
    Craig Kirby, minister of music

    Juan Sanchez, preaching pastor,
    High Pointe Baptist Church, Austin


    Pat Ford, consultant,
    LifeWay Christian Resources

    O.S. Hawkins, president,
    GuideStone Financial Resources

    Jeremy Stovall, member,
    Metropolitan Baptist Church,

    Terry Turner, pastor, Mesquite
    Friendship Baptist Church, Mesquite

     Ensemble, Community Baptist
    Church, Royse City
    Craig Kirby, minister of music

    Jamie Vance, member, Northeast
    Houston Baptist Church, Humble

    Nathan Lino, senior pastor,     
    Northeast Houston Baptist Church,

11:50    PRAYER
    Kevin Cox, pastor, Vista Church,

Praying and Going in North America

    Combined Asian Baptist
    Churches Choir
    Jongbin Jeong, guest director

    Combined Asian Baptist
    Churches Choir
    Jongbin Jeong, guest director

1:40    PRAYER
    Juan Munoz, pastor, Iglesia Bautista
    Cristo es el Camino, Arlington

    Johnathan Gray, executive director,
    SBTC Foundation

    Combined Asian Baptist
    Churches Choir,
    Jongbin Jeong, guest director

    Glynn Stone, senior pastor,
    Mobberly Baptist Church, Longview


    Mike Lawson, pastor,
    First Baptist Church, Sherman

    Shawn Powers, associate vice
    president, North American
    Mission Board


    Bob Pearle, pastor,
    Birchman Baptist Church, Fort Worth

    Bart McDonald, executive pastor,
    Walnut Ridge Baptist Church,

    Phil Roberts, president, Midwestern
    Baptist Theological Seminary


    Combined Asian Baptist
    Churches Choir
    Jongbin Jeong, guest director

    Jim Richards, executive director,

    Earl Duggins, pastor,
    Forest Home Baptist Church, Kilgore


4:20    PRAYER
    Robert Webb, pastor,
    Calvary Baptist Church, Kaufman

Praying and Going around the World

     Sanctuary Choir and Orchestra,
    Travis Avenue Baptist Church,
    Fort Worth
    John Lee, associate pastor
    of worship and music


    Jim Richards, executive director, SBTC

6:50    PRAYER
    Samuel, Dallas-Fort Worth area
    church planter among Hindus &

    Michael Dean, senior pastor,
    Travis Avenue Baptist Church,
    Fort Worth


    “Embrace the Unengaged”

    Mike Simmons, pastor,
    Hillcrest Baptist Church, Cedar Hill


    Sanctuary Choir and Orchestra,
    Travis Avenue Baptist Church,
    Fort Worth
    John Lee, associate pastor
    of worship and music

    Mark Dever, senior pastor,
    Capitol Hill Baptist Church,
    Washington, DC

8:50    PRAYER
    Ed Ethridge, director of missions,
    North Texas Baptist Area


IRS asked to investigate FBC Dallas pastor’s endorsement

WASHINGTON (BP) — A church-state watchdog group has asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate whether or not First Baptist Church of Dallas broke IRS rules in posting videos of Pastor Robert Jeffress endorsing Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry.

Jeffress introduced and endorsed the Texas governor at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., Oct. 7.

“Pastor Jeffress is trying to do an end-run around the law,” Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said in a news release. “The IRS should put a stop to it.”

While Lynn said Jeffress has a right to endorse a candidate, placing the endorsements on the church's website breaks IRS rules

The videos at the church website include a disclaimer that such videos and other news accounts “does not constitute First Baptist Dallas' endorsement of any political candidate. As Dr. Jeffress has noted in multiple interviews, his political views and endorsements do not represent the church, but him personally.”

Jeffress also reignited a debate among evangelicals—and drew wide media attention—over the question of whether or not they should support a Christian candidate over others.

Jeffress asked attendees at the summit, “Do we want a candidate who is a good moral person or one who is a born-again follower of Jesus Christ?” He added, “I believe that in Rick Perry we have a candidate who is a proven leader, a true conservative and a committed follower of Christ.

The statement was seen as a reference to Romney and Mormonism, and afterwards Jeffress made clear who he was discussing when he told reporters that Romney is “part of a cult.” That touched off a media storm that saw Jeffress appear on CNN, MSNBC and FoxNews, explaining his comments. The story was the top item on some national newscasts.

Jeffress addressed the controversy during the following Sunday morning's service, telling church members his comments at the summit and on television came as a private citizen.

“I believe that as Christians and as Americans, that it is important for us to elect Christian leaders who embrace biblical principles,” Jeffress told the church. “I believe God does bless a nation that honors Him and His Word, and He rejects a nation that dishonors Him and His Word.

“… Part of a pastor's job is to warn his people and others about false religions. Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Mormonism are all false religions. And I stand by those statements,” he said to applause.

Jeffress told CNN's John King that while he won't vote for Romney in the primary, he would vote for him in a general election.

“I think it is much better for those of us who are evangelical Christians to have a non-Christian who embraces biblical values in the White House than to have a professing Christian like Barack Obama who … embraces unbiblical positions,” Jeffress said.

The debate over Romney's religion is not new, having dogged him in 2007 and 2008 when he previously sought the Republican nomination. In June of this year, two employees of World magazine, an evangelical publication, took opposite positions in columns on the issue, with managing editor Timothy Lamer saying he could vote for Romney and associate publisher Warren Cole Smith saying he could not. Baptist Press published both columns, and they were the most-read stories on the BP website that week. [Read the stories at]

Evangelical leaders say the controversy focuses on two questions: Is Mormonism Christian? And should an evangelical vote for a Mormon? Most major evangelical leaders are in agreement that Mormonism is not Christian.

LifeWay Research released a poll Oct. 10 showing that 75 percent of American Protestant pastors do not consider “Mormons to be Christians.”

“It is another religion,” Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said on MSNBC. “It does not have an orthodox view of the Trinity and the full and complete deity of Jesus Christ. One sentence from the teaching of Mormonism says it all: 'As man now is, God once was. As God now is, man may become.' They have every right to believe that, and we should protect that right under the First Amendment, and it shouldn't be a disqualification for office…. But it doesn't qualify as orthodox Christianity.”

Still, Land said in referencing the White House race, “we're not looking for somebody who is applying for church membership.”

“We're looking for somebody who wants to be president of the United States,” Land said. “You should examine his policies, you should examine his views, and if you find he is most in agreement with your views, then you should vote for him. And if he is not most in agreement with your views, then you shouldn't vote for him.”

Malcolm Yarnell, associate professor of systematic theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote in a Tweet Oct 9, “Mitt Romney is not asking for church membership but for political office. Vote for or against him on the basis of his governance.”

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said U.S. evangelicals in 2012 might face a political reality that Christians in other countries have faced for a long time — a choice without an orthodox Christian who lines up with their beliefs.

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying that if you have equally qualified candidates, a preference would go to the one who shares our worldview most comprehensively,” Mohler said on his “The Briefing” podcast. “… [But] we may very well face the reality of having to vote for someone who does not share our Christian worldview.”

Yet evangelicals should be clear in saying that Mormonism is not “historic biblical Christianity,” Mohler said. It is a “rival worldview,” he added.

“The more you know about Mormon theology, the more you come to understand its contrast with historic biblical Christianity. The God of Mormonism is not the monotheistic God of the Bible,” Mohler said.

Much of the controversy has focused on the word “cult.” The North American Mission Board's apologetics website lists Mormonism under a “cults and sects of North America” heading. The website gives a theological definition to cults, saying, for instance, that cults “deny or redefine any or all essential Christian doctrines” and also “claim to possess a new and inspired written scripture that supplements or supersedes the authority of the Bible.” Cults also, the website said, “usually claim to be the only true (or the most true) church in the world.”

The word “cult,” Mohler said, has a different meaning theologically than it does in the public, secular realm, where it refers to a “secretive group that has a nefarious and subversive aims.” That is not the theological meaning, he said.

SBTC executive director featured at SBC Today blog

SBC Today: What do you think are the greatest challenges confronting the SBC?

Dr. Richards: Other than a spiritual awakening, perhaps one major challenge to the SBC is cooperation. The monolithic structure of the Southern Baptist Convention is long gone. We no longer have the stack poles of uniform Sunday school literature, hymnody, or Training Union. As we made huge strides in diversifying to reach people for Christ we changed some aspects of our convention. This is not necessarily bad. However, we must find commonalities to share in order to stay together.

Read the rest of the interview at SBC Today

Sound biblical interpretation must fuel expository preaching

SPECIAL REPORT: Preaching Genesis 1-11

FORT WORTH—Southwestern Seminary professor Jason Lee urged pastors to let the texts of Scripture rather than apologetic issues drive their preaching, especially in regard to Genesis 1-11. Lee, who teaches hermeneutics at the seminary, explained that while pastors must address questions from doubters and skeptics, these issues must not obscure the authorial purpose of the passage.

“There is great apologetic value in defending the historicity of these narratives,” Lee said. “However, there is a subtle danger due to the level of interest in our congregations or even our own apologetic bent as preachers, that we would focus on the apologetic issues and therefore allow the text itself, and the author’s intention, to be eclipsed by our own purposes.

“As expository preachers, we need to make sure our chief focuses are the features of the inspired text and that the meaning expressed and the intention of the author is our interpretive goal and our proclamation foundation. That’s what we preach.”

Lee said answers to questions of historicity and other apologetic concerns often go unexpressed by the biblical authors and may extend beyond their intended meaning.
“The point here is that in the biblical text, there is no debate,” Lee said. “In the biblical text, the creation narratives, the Fall narrative, and the Flood narrative are all in (the genre of) historical narrative, and therefore, they’re presented as fact.”

Still, pastors must not avoid or dismiss opportunities to help their congregations with answering difficult questions and skepticism. Rather, with caution and precision, pastors should equip their people to defend and explain the Christian faith. Lee suggested giving some attention in a sermon to the most important apologetic issues and providing additional resources for church members with answers to further questions. The majority of the sermon, he said, should be centered on the message in the text.

Lee himself addressed some of the apologetic issues associated with the created order and sinful fall of humanity found in Genesis 2-3. With each question, he emphasized what the text says rather than where it remains silent. He addressed questions related to what kinds of trees the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil were, where and how big the Garden of Eden was, and how the serpent could speak.

Lee demonstrated his views on the role of apologetics in preaching by spending the majority of his session discussing the theological implications and practical applications of Genesis 2-3. Hermeneutics, or the task of biblical interpretation, must serve as the foundation for biblical preaching, he said.

“Fundamental to good, expository homiletics is good, sound, biblical hermeneutics,” Lee said.

Lee likened the preacher’s task to crime scene investigation dramas on television, saying pastors must gather the textual clues within a passage and bring them back to the lab to see which clues are most helpful in determining meaning. This occurs at the macro and micro levels, viewing a passage from three vantage points.

The canonical vantage point examines how the passage fits within the Bible as a whole. The book and passage vantage points zoom in and view the context and specific textual features of a narrative. Lee applied all three vantage points to Genesis 1-11 and more specifically to chapters 2-3.

“From a canonical vantage point,” Lee said, “the text of Genesis 1-11 sets the foundation for God’s universal reign, his righteous judgment and his unique salvation,” themes which become intertwined throughout Scripture. More specifically in Genesis 2-3, God responds to sin by granting mercy even as he punishes.

With regard to the book vantage point, Lee said, “A biblical author’s intention is best seen on a book level. If I’m going to study a passage within the book, then I want to make sure I can clearly establish the context of this passage within the authorial purpose of the entire book.”

Lee said the narratives in Genesis 1-11, including the account of the Fall, must be viewed not only in the context of Genesis but also in the scope of the entire Pentateuch—the first five books of the Old Testament.

At the passage level, the pastor considers grammar, syntax and vocabulary to discern textual meaning. Lee pointed to the repeated, three-part pattern found throughout the Pentateuch, which provides a grid for interpreting Genesis 2-3. The pattern consists of a narrative section followed by poetry and an epilogue. The poetic seams, he said, “provide a lens for reading the narrative” and “play a pivotal role in understanding the theological outlook of the chapters.” Epilogues indicate the results of the narrated events.

In analyzing the narrative sections, Lee said Genesis 2 presents a picture of God’s sovereign work in providing humans with a perfect place, a perfect plan and a perfect partnership. This provision becomes perverted in chapter 3 when Adam and Eve seek human wisdom over divine wisdom.

“The serpent makes a sinister suggestion in verses 4-5. He questions God’s justice and God’s goodness,” Lee said.

“The serpent now promises this kind of wisdom or knowledge to be a human quality without the need for God. God had been good in declaring what was good and not good to the humans, but to continue in this relationship required the humans to trust in God and not their own abilities.

Lee concluded with present-day applications and said four theological themes connect Adam and Eve with people today: “Their God is our God; their world is our world; their sin is our sin; and their Savior is our Savior.”

“Just as they were tempted to leave the sure provision of God for their own pursuits, so every sinner since them has struggled to determine his or her own path instead of solely trusting in the provision of the Lord.”

“The only lasting measure of hope granted to Adam and Eve is found in God’s pronouncement against the serpent in 3:15. All covering of sin is only temporary until God finally triumphs over evil though the seed promised to Eve.”


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