Month: February 2012

Pastor seeks to reach second-generation Asians on campus

DENTON—The aroma of native foods wafting through the hallways from the church kitchen foretold that something important would follow.

For the English-speaking young adults in the church auditorium—most of them miles from the comfort of family and friends—a hot Sunday lunch and fellowship with other Korean-background believers filled an important need following corporate worship.

But unlike the Korean Baptist churches Pastor Sung-Jun Shim attended growing up, worship services at Risen Church in Denton are in English. A jeans-clad music leader played guitar on a recent Sunday, helped along by three other young adults in a praise chorus belting out contemporary staples such as Matt Redman’s “Blessed Be Your Name.”

Shim’s sermon, from Luke 9:23 on dying daily to follow Jesus, was thoroughly expositional and served up with cultural references that would have connected with nearly any other English-speaking evangelical church around.

These English-speaking Asians, mostly collegians from nearby University of North Texas and Texas Women’s University, have largely assimilated, for better or worse, into the culture of the West. They often prefer an English-language service and worship music they hear on their iPods, but still wish to retain some cultural identity.

Congregations such as Risen Church, planted this summer by Denton Korean Baptist Church with help from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, fill a niche for second-generation Asian young people at a pivotal time in their lives. They are charting more than just careers, Shim said.

He is praying that more and more traditional Korean churches will aim to reach second-generation Asians—lest they lose them—by planting English-speaking Asian congregations.

Prime locations for such churches are urban centers that attract young professionals, and college towns. Denton, on the northern edge of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, is a college town, with UNT and TWU within blocks of where the church meets.

Shim understands the stresses of straddling two cultures as an Asian student on an American college campus.

After high school on Long Island, Shim put his ministry calling on the shelf to pursue “success in life,” as he termed it, at State University of New York-Albany, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1998 and came away with a Jonah-like change of heart. At a school celebrated for its partying, Shim said his four years there “were a very dark and dissatisfying time.”

Unable to keep running from the ministry calling he said he received in middle school in South Korea, Shim took his degree and ran toward Fort Worth.

He married his wife, Won Hee Choi (also an economics major, at SUNY-Stony Brook) and moved the couple to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Shim earned his master of divinity while Won Hee also took a few classes. They then moved to San Francisco, where he took a second master’s degree at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary before serving several years on the staff of Hayward Korean Baptist Church in the San Francisco Bay area.

Shim, in his mid-30s, is young enough to relate well to collegians, and among the student bodies at UNT and TWU, the Asian student populations are growing, he said.

Denton Korean Baptist Church, which owns the building where Risen Church meets, believed in the mission so much it moved its services to 2 p.m. on Sundays so Risen Church could meet at 11:15 a.m.

“The fact that Dr. Kim (Hyoung Min Kim, pastor of the sponsoring church) gave up his prime meeting time shows a tremendous conviction and his kingdom mindset to reach second-generation Asians as well as other internationals at UNT and Texas Women’s University,” said Steve Lee, Nehemiah Professor of Baptist Church Planting at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.  

Lee said some second-generation Asian churches are flourishing, but there is always a challenge to be met in reaching the next generation.

David Alexander, an SBTC church planting associate, said second-generation churches reflect the assimilation that occurs.

“Today, the second generation is assimilating much faster to the American culture than in previous years. But many second-generation people still have a love for their parents’ nation and culture and strong ties to their families. Therefore, while operating in English as the heart language of the church, the church wishing to reach ‘second gens’ often needs to celebrate the ancestral culture of the people it reaches,” Alexander said.

But second-generation churches focused on a single demographic group, Alexander said, tend to grow more slowly because there are fewer potential members.

“This is where many multi-ethnic churches succeed, because they reach second gens who are used to living amidst multiple cultures and the church is able to highlight the various different cultures through alternating worship styles, preaching techniques, leadership styles and cultural events where no one culture outshines the rest,” Alexander said.

“A few planters like Sung Jun Shim have a passion for this generation and are gifted in being able to move in and out of the focal cultures,” Alexander added. “Many second-gens who become planters have the uncanny ability to move in and out of multiple cultures and are able to quickly understand varying worldviews.”   

One way Risen Church is building bridges with unchurched or disconnected Asians is a new ministry it is calling New Elements Kids. The program, which takes elementary-aged kids through an overview of the Bible, is being run on Saturdays at the church facility immediately following something called “Korean school.”

Shim explained that in most communities where a sizeable Korean population lives, the community will form a Korean school one day a week to teach the children of immigrants about their Korean culture and heritage. The programs are not church related, but churches often host them because of convenience.

In Shim’s case, it helps that the principal attends Denton Korean Baptist Church.

Korean school is held from 9-noon every Saturday, and New Elements Kids is offered for an additional two hours following lunch.

“We are reaping the benefits of being connected to the Korean school,” Shim said. “It provides the parents another two hours to run errands and it is a golden opportunity to insert into the hearts and minds of elementary students what the Bible teaches in a holistic view.”

Also, Risen Church should hear soon the status of its application to host a Bible study on campus at UNT. The Bible study will adapt the New Elements material for collegians, Shim said.

Kim, the sponsoring church pastor and also an SBTC ministry facilitator for Korean/Asian Ethnic Groups, said he realized the need to reach Asian collegians meant finding a qualified young pastor called to such an endeavor. Upon discovering Shim, his church accommodated the new work.

Kim said he envisions not just Korean or Asian believers worshiping at Risen Church, but eventually he would like to see an international church develop that reflects the diversity of the two campuses.
Risen Church, he said, could be a springboard for that.

In the meantime, Shim is continuing towards getting a presence on the UNT or TWU campuses, by hosting Bible studies.  

The core membership of Risen Church is yet small: about 15 people, plus a few visitors week to week. Almost all are of Asian descent but not all Korean, Shim noted.

Shim shares Kim’s vision of one day expanding to be a multi-ethnic congregation reaching not only Asians but many others also.

“We always say among our core group that our door is wide open. But that is hard to do. Our DNA and our leadership reflects our Asian heritage. But not just Korean. We have had several Vietnamese students attending. Last Sunday we had a Japanese student and another Vietnamese student. We have had several Chinese as well.”

Shim said a Hispanic student attended for a few weeks but hasn’t been back.

“It’s hard to break that cultural barrier but in the long run we’ll hopefully transcend that and become a church where every ethnic group can worship and feel comfortable.”

Although the church is still small, Shim said he believes the core group is ready to get bolder in its witness.

“About six or seven of them are now teaching others how to be disciples. We are in the process of witnessing and discipling others. By year’s end, hopefully all of them will be making disciples.”

Land: Obama mandate is a Baptist issue

WASHINGTON—The issue at the center of the swelling controversy over the Obama administration's refusal to protect the conscience rights of employers in its “contraceptive mandate” is “about as basic as it gets,” especially for Baptists, says Richard Land.

“Does the government have the right to intrude on the consciences of people to force them to pay for that which they find unconscionable? This goes contrary to our tradition in this country and contrary to our understanding of the First Amendment's religious freedom protections,” Land said Feb. 9 in explaining what is at the heart of the debate.

“In my opinion, a Baptist needs to take a stand on this issue. Our Baptist forefathers went to prison and died for the freedoms that we have, and now it's our responsibility in the providence of God to defend these freedoms lest they be taken away by government fiat,” said Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

” In my opinion, a Baptist needs to take a stand on this issue.”
— Richard Land

Opposition has continued to grow — especially among Roman Catholics and evangelicals — since the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Jan. 20 that health insurance plans must cover contraceptives, including ones that can cause abortions, and sterilizations as preventive services. The “contraceptive mandate,” as it has become known, requires all methods approved as birth control by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be included in a range of services offered to patients free of charge. Those FDA-endorsed contraceptives include ones that have abortion-causing properties — “ella;” emergency contraception, such as Plan B, and the intrauterine device (IUD).

Protests especially have been focused on the rule's failure to provide an adequate religious exemption. The HHS rule includes an exception for employers who oppose paying for such coverage on religious grounds, but it is narrowly drawn. It will protect many churches and other houses of worship, but it apparently will not cover churches that may primarily serve people outside their faith. The exemption also will not extend to such Christian-based organizations as schools, hospitals and social service programs.

“This is not about the Obama administration and the Catholic Church. This is not about women and birth control pills,” Land said. “This is about the government compelling people to subsidize and pay for that which they find unconscionable — in the case of the Catholic Church, birth control and abortifacients; in the case of Southern Baptists, abortifacients, because this covers the morning-after pill, and it covers forms of contraception that allow conception but deny implantation, like the intrauterine device.”

Obama's resistance so far to expanding the religious exemption — a move opposed by abortion rights and some women's rights organizations but supported even by some liberal Catholics — looks like it could affect his re-election bid.

“This is a decision that may very well cost the president dearly, because Catholics supported the president in the last election,” Land said. “A majority of Catholics voted for Mr. Obama.”

The questions he is asked most frequently about the issue are, Land said:

“Why would the Obama administration do this? Are they that tone deaf to people's feelings? Or are they so ideologically driven that they are going to force this issue based on their ideology?”

He thinks it is ideological, Land said.

He doesn't think Obama “can claim stupidity as an excuse,” Land said, citing reports that Vice President Joe Biden and former Chief of Staff William Daley warned the president it would be a mistake.

Obama “listened to the female ideologues in his White House staff who were arguing what has been consistently argued by the Obama administration. That is — that sexual rights trump religious rights,” Land said.

As an example of this pattern, Land pointed to the president's recess appointment of Chai Feldblum to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, because she was “too radical” to gain Senate confirmation. He cited Feldblum's support for favoring gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered rights when they collide with religious freedom rights.

“Well, similarly, the Obama administration is arguing that their belief that a woman's right to have contraception and abortifacients paid for as part of her health services trumps the religious freedom and conscience concerns of Catholics and other Christians,” Land said. “So it is typical of their elevation of sexual rights. It is typical of their diminution of religious freedom rights.

“This is part and parcel of their decision to go forward in attacking the ministerial exemption hiring clause to religiously affiliated institutions,” he said. “Their position was so radical that they had a nine to nothing Supreme Court ruling against them [in January from a court that included two of Obama's own nominees].”

GuideStone: Obama mandate violates religious liberty

WASHINGTON (BP) — The Southern Baptist Convention's benefits entity has joined the growing chorus of evangelical and Roman Catholic voices publicly protesting the Obama administration's mandate that health insurance plans cover contraceptives, including ones that can cause abortions.

GuideStone Financial Resources, which provides health insurance coverage and other services to more than 200,000 people, expressed strong opposition Monday (Feb. 6) to the new federal rule, especially its failure to provide adequate conscience protections.

“This encroachment of religious freedom is blatant and outrageous and should be taken seriously by those of us who are part of the body of believers, as well as by others who respect and regard this nation's history and constitutional foundation,” GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said in a written statement.

Under final guidelines announced Jan. 20, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said the controversial 2010 health care reform law would require health plans and insurers to provide no-cost coverage of contraceptives and sterilizations as preventive services. The “contraceptive mandate,” as it has become known, requires all methods approved as birth control by the Food and Drug Administration to be included in a range of services offered to patients free of charge. Those FDA-endorsed contraceptives include ones that have abortion-causing properties — emergency contraception, such as Plan B; the intrauterine device (IUD); and “ella.” 

The HHS rule includes an exemption for employers who oppose paying for such coverage on religious grounds, but critics say the religious exemption is too narrow. While it will protect many churches and other houses of worship, it does not appear it will cover all. The exemption also will not extend to such faith-based organizations as schools, hospitals and social service programs.

Richard Land, president of Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, have been among Southern Baptist and evangelical leaders who have decried the rule and its insufficient religious exemption. Land has described the combination as “bad news for freedom of conscience and for respect for the freedom of religion protections” in the Constitution, while Mohler said Obama “has trampled religious liberty underfoot.” (See Mohler's first-person commentary in Baptist Press today, Feb. 6.) 

While many evangelicals have publicly opposed the HHS rule, the Roman Catholic Church has led the resistance to the new regulation, which will affect its many hospitals, colleges and social service programs. Catholic bishops have said they cannot comply. Many American Catholics recently heard letters from their bishops decrying the rule read in masses.

In its Feb. 6 statement, GuideStone said it “strongly opposes any governmental intrusion on the ability of church health plans to reflect fundamental and long held religious convictions.”

GuideStone described the 2010 health care law — labeled by critics as “Obamacare” — as “the greatest challenge ever confronted” by denominational church plans and said it is actively involved in seeking its total repeal. GuideStone also is part of a coalition of other church plans seeking “legislative and regulatory relief” — including an adequate conscience clause — from some of the law's effects, according to its statement.

GuideStone has not addressed the question of whether it will comply with the contraceptive regulation if an adequate religious exemption is not provided, said Timothy Head, the board's executive officer for denominational and public relations. GuideStone would prefer to address that question if and when it arises, he told BP.

Hawkins said in the Feb. 6 statement that GuideStone “is honored to join with our friends at [the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission] and all of our other Southern Baptist Convention entities to advocate on behalf of those organizations and individuals we are so privileged to serve. We will remain vigilant and diligent in these efforts with our long held biblical convictions and our participants' needs uppermost in our mind.”

GuideStone, which is based in Dallas, serves worldwide more than 200,000 participants who serve in about 36,000 churches, missions organizations, schools, hospitals and other ministries. In addition to health and other insurance coverage, GuideStone also offers retirement, investment management, property and casualty coverage and other services.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R.-Fla., introduced legislation Jan. 30 to protect religious liberty in the new HHS rule. His measure would amend federal law to prevent any guidelines based on the 2010 health care reform law from requiring any person or organization to provide coverage of contraception or sterilization in violation of religious belief.

The ERLC endorsed Rubio's bill, which is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, S. 2043.

The HHS rule goes into effect for most health plans beginning Aug. 1, but the administration granted an extra year for compliance to nonprofit employers who currently refuse to cover contraceptives in their insurance plans because of their religious beliefs. 
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.

The full statement by GuideStone Financial Resources, titled “GuideStone Comments on Forced Abortion Drug Coverage and Religious Freedom Encroachment in Obamacare,” follows. The author is Timothy Head, GuideStone's executive officer for denominational and public relations.

DALLAS – GuideStone Financial Resources, as the benefits board of the Southern Baptist Convention, strongly opposes any governmental intrusion on the ability of church health plans to reflect fundamental and long held religious convictions. As noted by Dr. Richard Land and Dr. Albert Mohler and others within Southern Baptist life, the Obama Administration's recent action requiring coverage of contraceptives goes beyond the issue at hand. O.S. Hawkins, President of GuideStone Financial Resources, added, “This encroachment on religious freedom is blatant and outrageous and should be taken seriously by those of us who are part of the body of believers, as well as by others who respect and regard this nation's history and constitutional foundation.”

For many decades, GuideStone has been privileged to provide health care coverage to ministers and others serving churches and church-related organizations. GuideStone's plans are specifically designed to reflect Southern Baptist polity and to provide benefits in a manner consistent with Southern Baptist convictions especially related to the sanctity of life and marriage as well as the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit. GuideStone's plans take into account the unique needs of pastors and others involved in ministry and Christian service.

The health care reform law (often referred to as Obamacare) presents the greatest challenge ever confronted by denominational church health plans throughout the nation. GuideStone was active in its advocacy for church health plans and their participants prior to the enactment of Obamacare. However, since that time, GuideStone has devoted significant additional efforts seeking to prevent church health plans and their participants from being adversely affected. GuideStone is in the forefront of those calling for a full repeal of Obamacare specifically due to its adverse effect on church plans. In the event it is not repealed, GuideStone has presently joined with a coalition of other church plans to seek legislative and regulatory relief from various aspects of Obamacare that could threaten the ability of church health plans to serve their participants.

One area of focus for many months has been the need for a conscience clause so that the convictions so important to us as believers are not disregarded or overrun in the name of healthcare reform. GuideStone continues to be active in addressing issues involving sanctity of life, and also is adamant about other issues of vital interest to the evangelical community that could conceivably impact health plans in future years. For example, GuideStone could never concede to extend coverage to same sex spouses or cover questionable stem cell treatments. GuideStone continues to seek avenues of obtaining a conscience clause to protect and preserve these foundational convictions. 

“There are many challenges to be confronted as a result of the enactment of health care reform. GuideStone is honored to join with our friends at The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and all of our other Southern Baptist Convention entities to advocate on behalf of those organizations and individuals we are so privileged to serve. We will remain vigilant and diligent in these efforts with our long held Biblical convictions and our participants' needs uppermost in our mind,” Hawkins concluded.

Susan G. Komen restores Planned Parenthood funding option

WASHINGTON (BP) — Susan G. Komen for the Cure revised a policy Friday that it had recently used in deciding to stop funding for Planned Parenthood, leaving the impression it had reversed itself on future grants to the country's No. 1 abortion provider.

The statement issued by the world's leading breast cancer organization did not guarantee Planned Parenthood affiliates would continue to receive funds, however, only that they would remain eligible for such grants.

Komen's action — after three days of a deluge of Planned Parenthood-fueled criticism — was received by many pro-life advocates as a distressing setback following so closely on the Jan. 31 report that the breast cancer charity would no longer give money to one of the abortion rights movement's leading organizations.

One thing seemed certain after days of widespread news coverage of Komen's original action and the reaction — many more pro-lifers now know the breast cancer foundation has given to Planned Parenthood and may continue to do so. As a result, pro-life advocates' donations to Komen and participation in its popular five-kilometer fundraising runs/walks that draw more than 1.6 million participants each year likely will decline.

Southern Baptist leaders who had applauded Komen's defunding of Planned Parenthood expressed their disappointment at the latest development.

'It shows that underneath it all they share the culture of death mentality of the pro-choice movement. Pro-life Americans … will have to take that fact into account.'
— Richard Land

“I am extremely disappointed that the Susan G. Komen Foundation would cave to the political pressure of the radical pro-choice movement,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “It shows that underneath it all they share the culture of death mentality of the pro-choice movement. Pro-life Americans, now the majority in the country, will have to take that fact into account as they choose how to allocate their charitable contributions.”

Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, had said Feb. 1 the Southern Baptist entity might reconsider its relationship with Komen in light of the charity's defunding of Planned Parenthood. In December, LifeWay pulled from Walmart and other stores copies of a special pink-covered Bible that partially benefited the cancer charity after learning of its connection with Planned Parenthood.

“I am deeply disappointed with today's announcement from Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation if it means a reversal of Komen's decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood,” Rainer said in a written statement Friday (Feb. 3). “I renew my strong encouragement of Komen's leadership to end that relationship permanently, and restate LifeWay's commitment to not be involved, even indirectly, with Planned Parenthood.”

Komen's latest announcement — which came from its board of directors and Chief Executive Officer Nancy Brinker — said the charity was “distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not.”

Komen decided to abstain from future funding of Planned Parenthood affiliates because of its new policy that bans grants to organizations under government investigation, a Komen spokeswoman had said in a Jan. 31 report by the Associated Press. A House of Representatives committee began an investigation of Planned Parenthood in September.

In its Friday statement, Komen said it would amend the criteria “to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political.”

“We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities,” according to the Komen statement. Komen also apologized to the public for “recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women's lives.”

A Komen board member told The Washington Post the new statement does not mean Planned Parenthood definitely will receive money in the future.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), portrayed Komen's announcement as a return to the previous relationship.

“In recent weeks, the treasured relationship between the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation and Planned Parenthood has been challenged, and we are now heartened that we can continue to work in partnership toward our shared commitment to breast health for the most underserved women,” Richards said in a written release. “We are enormously grateful that the Komen Foundation has clarified its grantmaking criteria, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with Komen partners, leaders and volunteers.”

Komen affiliates gave about $680,000 to PPFA centers last year, AP reported Jan. 31. An analysis last year by the pro-life American Life League found 18 among Komen's affiliates, numbering about 120, had given PPFA centers grants totaling nearly $630,000 in the 2009-10 fiscal year.

Government funding of Planned Parenthood dwarfs Komen's giving. PPFA and its affiliates received $487.4 million in government grants, contracts and reimbursements alone in 2009-10, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

Money for PPFA and its affiliates helps support an organization that performed 329,445 abortions in 2010. That was more than one-fourth of the lethal procedures in the United States for the year.

In defending its grants to PPFA affiliates, Komen had said the funds were not for abortions but for breast screenings and breast health education. Planned Parenthood, however, does not offer mammograms, a further reason reportedly used by Brinker to defend Komen's defunding decision. Komen has said grants to PPFA may pay for mammograms at other sites.

Pro-life leaders decried Planned Parenthood's tactics in fomenting an uprising against a private charity.

Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life and a breast cancer survivor, called the campaign “an ugly and disgraceful shakedown that highlights Planned Parenthood's willingness to pursue a scorched-earth strategy to force compliance with their pro-abortion agenda.”

“It is unfortunate that donors to [Komen] are now confused about their association with the nation's largest abortion provider,” Yoest said in a written statement.

Life Decisions International (LDI) publishes a boycott list of organizations that give to Planned Parenthood and seeks to persuade them to stop those donations. That list includes Komen.

LDI President Douglas Scott said in a prepared statement, “If Komen officials did not expect to face the wrath of Planned Parenthood and its media allies they were extremely naïve. We have urged Komen to refrain from telling Planned Parenthood of its decision because we knew from experience how the abortion-committing enterprise would respond.”

Something similar happened to AT&T in 1989, when it announced the end of 25 years of contributions to Planned Parenthood, according to LDI. In response, Planned Parenthood purchased full-page ads in major newspapers and magazines to criticize the company.

“AT&T held firm,” Scott said. “They didn't appreciate being treated in such a way by a 'friend.'”

LifeWay's mid-December decision to remove its Here's Hope Breast Cancer Awareness Bible came after it learned of the Komen connection with Planned Parenthood about two months following the Bible's appearance in stores. The Bible — which was from its publishing arm, B&H, but was not stocked in LifeWay stores — provided for a $1 donation to Komen for each sale.

Copies of the Bible have been returned to LifeWay's distribution center, but a decision has not been made on what will be done with them, Rainer said.

Rep. Cliff Stearns, R.-Fla., is leading an investigation of Planned Parenthood by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. In a Sept. 15 letter to Richards, Stearns asked PPFA's president to provide audits, documentation, policies and procedures regarding such issues as improper billing, segregation of federal funds from abortion services and reporting of suspected sex abuse and human trafficking.

Planned Parenthood has been plagued by various scandals in recent years. Secret investigations by pro-life organizations have uncovered PPFA workers demonstrating a willingness to aid self-professed sex traffickers whose prostitutes are in their early teens, seeking to cover up alleged child sex abuse and agreeing to receive donations designated for abortions of African-American babies.

Komen also has received criticism from some pro-life advocates for refusing to acknowledge studies that indicate a link between abortion and breast cancer. Some pro-lifers also have said Komen has contributed money to embryonic stem cell research, which results in the destruction of human embryos. In a Nov. 30 statement, Komen denied it had ever funded such experimentation, saying it supports research only on stem cells “derived without creating a human embryo or destroying a human embryo.”
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook ( and in your email(

NAMB president keynoting SBTC CP Luncheon

North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell will be the keynote speaker during the annual SBTC Cooperative Program Luncheon at the Frisco Convention Center on Tuesday, Feb. 28 during the Empower Evangelism Conference.

Musical guests will be Josh and Angela Stanbery. Josh is music pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church’s Dallas campus.

Ezell became NAMB’s president in 2010 after 14 years as pastor of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky. He has also pastored in Illinois, Tennessee, and at Hilltop Baptist Church in Fort Worth. His work at NAMB involves providing strategic vision, direction, and leadership as NAMB works with state partners in helping Southern Baptists reach North America through evangelism and evangelistic church planting.

Ezell was born in Germany where his father was serving in the Air Force. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Union University in Jackson, Tenn., a master of divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, and a doctor of ministry from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Ezell and his wife Lynette have six children: Anna, Shelly, Taylor, John Michael, Libby, and Micah Lyn. The three youngest children were adopted from three different countries.

Registration is $10 per person and may be completed online at

The Cooperative Program Luncheon also recognizes churches that faithfully support the CP, Southern Baptists’ shared funding mechanism for worldwide gospel mission and ministry.

The agenda of disgust

It’s trendy this season to talk about how unhappy voters are with their choices for president. After listening to candidates and pundits hack the president and his aspiring opponents for the 2012 presidential election to pieces, some are calling for someone else to step into the race—someone we can get excited about. I seem to remember a good bit of excitement about several candidates, including the sitting president, over the past three years, but it was always short-lived when we discovered failings and mere humanity in our flavor of the month. How silly to think that another candidate would energize this capricious culture for months at a time. We’re basically unhappy and determined to make that undefined unhappiness known to all who cross our paths.  

I write this only a few weeks after Time magazine selected The Protester as its annual “Person of the Year.” The lead article begins with poignant stories of those in North Africa who became fed up with the tyranny in their countries and used social media to spread a spirit of dissent throughout their region. That unrest burned through several countries in that corner of the world and resulted in the downfall of more than one dictator. As some in Europe and the U.S. saw the Arab Spring protests succeed, milder versions spread through Greece, Spain, and across our own nation in a movement called Occupy Wall Street or just Occupy.

Time’s writer did not say often enough or clearly enough that the Occupy Wall Street protests that popped up all across the U.S. were not morally equivalent to the Arab Spring. One participant in the OWS protest in New York noted with sorrow the empty (though trashed and filthy) park the protesters left behind because the police forced them to live somewhere else. Note that he was not talking about bloodstains on the sidewalk as might be the case in Syria, Libya, or Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Those who were willing to go to the wall for basic liberty and free elections are people of more serious and clear intent than those who only know that they don’t trust our leaders, or dislike having to repay student loans.

Disgust with our political system and unhappiness with the circumstances of life in America is not a 2011 or 2012 phenomenon. “Voter disgust” was a lively topic during the Clinton and Bush administrations. My first presidential election was a choice between a man who became arguably the worst U.S. president of the past 100 years and a moderate Republican incumbent. While “disgust” was not the word of the hour in 1976, neither was “enthusiasm.”

Unhappiness with available choices is in the water supply I think. Our own Southern Baptist Convention has heard several pastors and would-be leaders suggest that we should demolish our convention and start over in some better way they can’t spell out. We all know those who have abandoned church attendance with a facile “I love Jesus but not the church.” Again, they know what they are against but not what they are for.

Those who see the status quo as inadequate may be worthy of respect, depending on what they’re willing to do next. Those who can only quit or carp or corrode when faced with a man-sized problem are of little interest. Serious people are those who settle in and seek a better way. That is the way our American founders thought. They not only had a self-sacrificial response to clear tyranny, they had a workable plan upon which they were willing to pledge their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.

In a flawed or failing marriage, the admirable person seeks the long road back to a healthy relationship. If repairing a struggling marriage is the work that takes the remainder of your life, it is worthwhile. The promises you made are worth your remaining years.

In an imperfect church, the man who really loves Jesus will find a way to build up his fellow believers rather than be the first man off a sinking ship. The command of Christ does not give us the option to cut and run. If you believe that this is a body for which Jesus died and that these people will be with you in Heaven, why not adopt the mind and love and humility of Christ now rather than in some other place or time? Again, this is the work of a lifetime but still the right work.

Of course our country has its faults. But I know the source of that imperfection. We elect men and women who are generally better people than we are, if only by a little. We find their faults easy to spot because they came from us. Do we only disdain politicians who break promises or does it apply to you and me also? Are our elected leaders the only ones who should be loyal to their spouses or generous in charitable giving? We may send a better sort of person to Washington or Austin when we are ourselves a better people. The response of the habitually disgusted person implies that the system has somehow become unworthy of him. That’s not true of many of us. And yet the disdain we express for our elected leadership is so ubiquitous as to become background noise.  

Disgust and general crankiness is a lazy way of thinking that leads to much worse things. The growing anger that erupted violently in London last summer began with this “they are to blame; I am entitled” mentality. It was also too much a part of the less-violent Occupy protests. American Christians must recognize runaway cynicism as toxic in their own lives. It is a wicked habit that makes us ungrateful, ungovernable, and unbearable.

Lewisville church carving paths for gospel in East Asia

The Great Commission commands believers to “go and make disciples of all nations.” But in many nations that command seems impossible because mission work and Christianity are outlawed.

Lakeland Baptist Church in Lewisville is breaking through those barriers, using conversational English in East Asia to make inroads in places where Christianity is outlawed and mission work is illegal. Ken Abbot (not his real name), a church leader at Lakeland, is leading teams into schools, building relationships and opening the door to the gospel.

“What we normally consider as ‘mission work’ is not permitted,” Abbot said. “That does not mean that there are not effective and legal ways to share our faith.”  

One advantage for Christian workers is that school children are required to learn English in many parts of Asia. “By the time students reach late middle school and high school, their reading and writing skills are fairly good,” Abbot said. But he notes that the students’ conversational skills are poor due to a lack of native English speakers.  

That’s where the Lakeland group steps in, working as conversational English teachers in local schools. “Our teams go into public and sometimes private schools to assist them in this area. Our group commits to come back for three consecutive years if we are happy and the school is happy.”

The method is simple.  

“We ‘teach’ 3-4 classes each morning for one week,” Abbot said. “In return, we request that we can do daily outings or field trips along with the teachers with whom we have been paired.” The group also requests to have lunch and dinner with the teachers from the English department.

“This gives us a lot of time to meet with and develop friendships with the teachers.  Essentially, we are with them every waking moment of every day for one entire week.”

The goal is singular.

“Our purpose in this is to win teachers and administrators to the Lord. We are very intentional in our prayers and train our people how to take advantage of conversations and opportunities that arise during our time together,” Abbot said. He notes that teachers are fascinated with Western culture and eager to ask questions.

“While we are very evangelistic and intentional in our efforts to win teachers to Christ, we also recognize that many of our initial trips are relationship and trust building,” Abbot said. “Over the past few years, I have seen several of our people who like to return to certain cities because of relationships they have established.

“This makes our return much more meaningful to the teachers. They generally remember all our names.”

In addition to using English as an inroad to the gospel, Abbot also tries to foster relationships with missions personnel and nationals to whom he’s previously ministered.  

Lakeland keeps an eye out for International Mission Board personnel while there, but they rarely have an opportunity to work with them, Abbot said. “We are very evangelistic. Our missionaries have to be a bit more discreet due to the nature of their work. We have, however, worked very closely with some.”    

One IMB couple was new to the mission field and due to his ongoing relationships in the area, Abbot was able open doors for them.  

“The people are very slow to warm up to new people—especially foreigners,” Abbot said. “My recommendation of this couple broke through a lot of barriers that would have taken months to accomplish.”

Abbot also makes it a point to arrive early and stay late while on the field.  

“My purpose is to travel back to cities where we have worked in the past and schedule time to meet with believers in the areas.”  

On a recent trip, Abbot was booked in meetings from morning until night, making the most of opportunities to share the gospel.  

“I met with some pre-med and law students for four hours one afternoon. None were believers. We spoke for about an hour just getting to know one another. I then began asking them what was important to them as young adults. This gave me the opportunity to tell them about what is more important in my life as well.”

The importance of the gospel continues to drive Abbot and the people of Lakeland to reach out to Asia through the English language, promoting not only cultural exchange, but also fulfilling the Great Commission along the way.

“I Am Not Ashamed!” Empower Evangelism Conf. Feb. 27-29 in Frisco

The 2012 SBTC Empower Evangelism Conference is planned Feb. 27-29 at the Dr. Pepper Arena in Frisco. The theme, “I Am Not Ashamed,” is taken from Romans 1:14-17.

This year’s conference will feature many familiar names, from evangelists such as Junior Hill to pastors such as Florida’s Ted Traylor and Bob Pearle of Fort Worth, and denominational leaders such as International Mission Board President Tom Elliff.

Steve Scheibner, a former pastor and American Airlines pilot who runs a ministry called, will share his story of God’s providence on 9/11.  Musicians for the conference will include Charles Billingsley of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., and Grammy-winning vocalist Larnelle Harris as well as Ernie Haase and Signature Sound. Praise teams from First Baptist Church of Odessa and Birchman Baptist in Fort Worth will also appear.

The Monday evening session will include Gardendale, Ala., pastor Kevin Hamm, Steve Gaines, pastor of Belleview Baptist Church in suburban Memphis, and Scheibner.

Tuesday morning will feature Pearle, Georgia evangelist Jerry Pipes, and Don Wilton, pastor of First Baptist Church, Spartanburg, S.C.

On Tuesday afternoon, Marc Farnell, pastor, Crossridge Church in Little Elm, will preach, as will First Baptist Odessa pastor Byron McWilliams and Wichita Falls evangelist Jay Lowder.

On Tuesday night, preachers will include Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas; and Robert Smith, professor of divinity and Christian preaching at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala.

Wednesday morning’s conclusion will feature Traylor, pastor of Olive Grove Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., Hill, a longtime Alabama evangelist, and the IMB’s Elliff.

Details are available online at  


  • The Spanish-language sessions that coincide with the conference include a Saturday workshop (Feb. 25) at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano that includes breakfast and lunch, and a Sunday evening rally (Feb. 26) at the Dr. Pepper Arena.
  • The Ladies’ Session of the conference is planned from 1:30-4:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 27.
  • The Conference of Texas Baptist Evangelists will meet at the convention center from 1:30-4:30 p.m. and will feature the preaching of Michael Gott, Larry Taylor, Jon Randles and Don Cass.