Month: July 2012

175 make faith professions at SBTC camps

Student camps hosted by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention saw approximately 175 professions of faith during four sessions at three different camp locations the last three weeks of June.

During M3 Camp, held two weeks in the Hill Country location of Highland Lakes west of Austin, and one week in East Texas at Pine Lakes, more than 160 students recorded salvation decisions.

The camps drew 1,388 students, said Mitch Tidwell, the SBTC’s coordinator for the M3 camps.

“The value of M3 Camp is it allows the students to get away from their typical routine and focus exclusively on spiritual things through Bible study, and breakout sessions to get a biblical understanding of the things they are facing in their lives,” Tidwell said. “There are no TVs and limited cell phone use. It’s really a week to get away and spend time with God among other believers.”

Speakers for the camps were Johnny Derouen, associate professor of student ministry at Southwestern Seminary, Wade Morris, Birmingham, Ala., evangelist, Marc Farnell, pastor of CrossRidge Church in Little Elm, Wes Hamilton, teaching pastor at Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, and Adam Robinson, teaching pastor at Double Oak Community Church in Birmingham, Ala. Music was led by the Justin Colfield Band, Jeff Johnson, and Cody Dunbar, with illusionist Jared Hall.

Alto Frio

Also, the multiethnic ministries department hosted 168 students at its annual student camp at Alto Frio Baptist Encampment in Leakey, along the Frio River.

The camp pastor, Mike Keahbone, challenged the students to be unleashed—the theme of the camp based on John 8:32—and they were also encouraged to sing praises to God by the Brady Davis Band. Contemporary Christian band Seventh Day Slumber performed a surprise concert also.

“The Lord’s favor was upon us as we saw sponsors and students impacted during the week,” said SBTC Multiethnic Ministries Associate Jesse Contreras. “We thank God for 15 professions of faith, 21 rededications, seven re-assurances of salvation, 10 students called to ministry, and 20-plus prayer requests.”

Scouts can be bonafide church ministry, So. Baptist says

IRVING—The Boy Scouts of America oath goes like this: “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”

All that’s missing at the conclusion is a hearty “Amen!” Though not officially a Christian organization, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), as demonstrated in its oath, holds young boys to a high code of conduct and character familiar to Christians as the words are based on biblical precepts. They would also recognize the stark contrast between what is required of a scout and the lack of character development in all too many males today.

Recognizing that void, churches are using scouting as a ministry and a means of interjecting Christ into the communities surrounding their churches. Boy Scout packs and troops often hold weekly meetings in churches of all denominations but are led by volunteers, some of whom come from outside those churches. Chip Turner, chairman of the BSA Religious Relationships, and former president of the Association of Baptists for Scouting, said Southern Baptist churches should take that relationship a step further and move beyond sponsorship to ownership.

There is a sense of urgency in Turner’s plea for more Southern Baptist churches to take on scouting as a ministry in light of ongoing attacks on the Irving-based organization by homosexual activists and the declining influence of male leadership in the lives of boys.

On July 19, one day after the national organization’s board reaffirmed the organization’s policy of excluding homosexuals from membership and from leadership positions, an Ohio mom presented a petition to officials at the BSA national offices in Irving demanding the policy be dismissed. Jennifer Tyrrell, the mother of a 7-year-old boy, is a former den leader who was ousted, she said, for being a lesbian. She has since removed her son from the BSA Tiger Cub program.

The cultural battles have many fronts and Turner, a 56-year BSA veteran, said churches that only open their buildings for Boy Scout and Cub Scout meetings miss the opportunity to engage in those struggles in their immediate communities. Demonstratively sharing the gospel through leadership and an inculcation of the message during the weekly meetings can bring boys and their families into the church and a relationship with Christ.

The 102-year-old program is especially important for boys raised in homes without a father, he said. Turner quoted Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter who said recently, “Our kids can never be what they’ve never seen.”

It is the mission of Troop 272 leaders to be that example, said Olus Holder, executive pastor of Fallbrook Church, which facilitates the scout program. The church is situated in an unincorporated area of north Houston at the crossroads of three school districts in a predominantly African American and Hispanic neighborhood.

The troop draws half of its 20 members from the church and from the surrounding neighborhood. All are African American and about half come from single-parent homes. Holder said there is a void in the lives of the boys who do not regularly see men living by faith in God.

“The main thing we try to do is set a good example, model for them integrity, love,” Holder said.

They also set high standards. Each scout is encouraged to finish what he begins and attain the highest BSA rank of Eagle Scout. Holder called such an accomplishment a “game changer” and a means of empowering the boys.

The fledgling Troop 272 was launched in June 2011 and will add a Cub Scout pack to the ministry in August. Holder said the church hopes to add a Hispanic pastor to its staff in an effort to more effectively reach that segment of the neighboring population for the church and the scouts.

At High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin the scouting troops serve a neighborhood that is primarily Hispanic and Vietnamese. Associate Pastor Ben Wright said most of the church membership does not come from the immediate community but the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts do.

“We wanted to better penetrate our community with the gospel,” Wright said. Participation has grown fivefold since they started, bearing testimony to its success.

High Pointe also facilitates an AWANA Club and Vacation Bible School but the scouting program, Wright said, allows for the most regular and in-depth contact with the scouts’ parents. Establishing a relationship with unchurched families opens the door for many ministry opportunities.

Turner said churches that move beyond hosting a scout unit to actively operating one can uniquely design some of the content to include the gospel. Each troop must operate according to the specifications of the national organization but can augment the instructional time with biblically sound messages. He said campouts can and should include a time of worship. That may be all the church some of the boys ever get, Turner said.

The Religious Emblems Program is an important part of scout training that should be offered by churches. The work required to earn each medal allows the pastor or his appointee to speak specifically about God, the church, and a scout’s relationship with both.

In a letter to the SBTC, Turner wrote: “Scouts and their families involved in the Religious Emblems Program are often reached for Christ and it is not uncommon for youth participants to clarify their calling to vocational ministry.”

Presenting the gospel in a familiar, nonthreatening environment is a tremendous opportunity for Southern Baptist churches that charter scout units. Through operating a scouting ministry—Cub Scout Packs, Boy Scout Troops and Venture Crews—affords an unprecedented opportunity to reach scouts and their families. It is not unusual for units to be comprised of scouts and families where 50 to 60 percent of them have no prior church relationship.

Wright said providing a scouting opportunity through High Pointe allows them to be good neighbors. Holder concurred. He said the impetus for the ministry was to bless the community and the feedback indicates that has happened. “The parents are all excited. Parents want their kids to do well. They see hope in them.”

Ft. Worth shooter eyeing Olympic gold

LONDON—Sarah Scherer sat in the crowd during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, cheering on her brother Stephen in the air rifle competition. She was thrilled to see him reap the fruits of countless hours of training and practice.

Shooting had been a bonding activity for the Scherer siblings for eight years at that point. When Stephen picked up the sport, his little 9-year-old sister Sarah wanted to join him. They were practically inseparable, both inside and outside of the shooting range. Such was life for the Scherers as they grew up in a single-parent home, with their mother Sue doing the best she could to provide for her family.

This year, 21-year-old Sarah will be the one grabbing the air rifle to compete in London. She'll suit up in the heavy leather outfit that helps support her physically as she aims and fires at 40 quarter-sized targets from 10 meters away. She'll make every effort to control, relax and steady her body—even her beating heart.

The roles will not be reversed from 2008, when she watched her brother compete. Stephen will be noticeably absent. Two years after his 2008 Olympic competition, he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The heart that Sarah Scherer will try so hard to still during her Olympic competition—the heart whose untimely beat can be the difference between pinpoint precision and catastrophic error in her sport—was practically torn from her body when her brother died. She contemplated giving up shooting entirely. Too many haunting reminders.

But through God's grace and the love and support of family and friends, Sarah has found the strength to continue her own shooting career. She does it with a heart full of hope and confidence that she and her brother will one day be reunited.

“Knowing that my brother had a faith in Christ and lived for him, that's the biggest thing for me,” Scherer said. “Because of that decision and that choice my brother made, and that trust that I have, I'm 100 percent sure of where my brother is. I know that he's in a much better place, and that I'll see him again in heaven. That's the number one comfort that I've really experienced coming from my brother's faith.”

In the months that followed Stephen's death, Sarah found encouragement from Scripture. Her church family at Southcliff Baptist Church in Fort Worth surrounded her and her mother with prayers. Sarah’s collegiate small group was especially helpful as she grieved her brother’s loss and wrestled with the difficult questions. Why, God?

“Sarah’s small group was kind of an anchor that continually brought her back to what she knew to be true from God’s Word,  even when she was at her lowest points,” said Spencer Plumlee, one of Southcliff’s pastors who was the college minister at the time.

Friends emailed or texted her with encouragement, often at just the time Sarah needed it the most. Her small group leader talked with her and listened to Sarah’s questions. Through all these things, Sarah saw the hand of God upholding her. She heard the voice of God telling her, “I'm here for you. Yes, this is a tough time, but I have a plan, and I'm in control.”

“Leaning on Christ through this time has been the only way that I've gotten through it,” she said.

Scherer continued to practice and develop her shooting skills on the Texas Christian University shooting team. The times she felt like quitting, she got confirmation from God that he still had work for her to do among that community.

So she kept at it, and her diligence paid off. As she prepares to compete in London, Scherer knows the Olympics may resurrect painful memories of her brother. This was their dream, not just hers, and now he’s no longer there to share it with her.

But she’s also fully aware of the work God has done in her life, bringing her through trials and tragedy and preparing her for the biggest athletic event of her life. Whatever the outcome, Scherer continues to cling to her Lord.

“My performance in the athletic world doesn’t define who I am,” she said. “My definition is from Christ.”

—This story was written by Tim Ellsworth

NAMB: Chaplains don’t support same-sex unions

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – The North American Mission Board's executive director for chaplaincy, Douglas Carver, is reiterating that Southern Baptist military chaplains endorsed by NAMB on behalf of the convention do not support same-sex civil unions that might take place on some military installations.

Carver's statement follows a news article published by the Associated Press implying that Air Force Chaplain (Col.) Timothy Wagoner condoned a same-sex ceremony that took place on his base. The 20-year NAMB-endorsed chaplain strongly refutes the news story.

“When the AP story first came out, we contacted Chaplain Wagoner and he assured us he was either misinterpreted or quoted out of context in the story,” Carver said.

The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, which serves as the SBC's guiding doctrinal statement, clearly lists one man, one woman marriage as the only biblical standard for marriage. Several resolutions approved by SBC messengers in recent annual meetings — including one this year at the New Orleans meeting — also affirm support for one man, one woman marriage.

Wagoner supervises chaplains of lower rank and other faiths at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Wrightstown, N.J. He clarified to NAMB his position on civil unions and his responsibilities as a supervising chaplain.

“The (AP) article does not accurately reflect why I attended a civil union,” Wagoner said. “The general tone of the article has led many to conclude incorrectly that I personally support same-sex civil unions, with statements such as 'he was watching supportively.'”

Wagoner said he told the AP reporter in the interview that “while I support our service members as an installation chaplain and member of the Armed Forces, both my conscience and adherence to historic Baptist principles would not allow me to personally officiate at a same-sex civil union. I steadfastly adhere to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 … that marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in a covenant commitment for a lifetime.

“I am devoted to the Southern Baptist faith,” Wagoner said. “My intention was never to embarrass or misrepresent the Southern Baptists whom I have faithfully served for 30 years as a pastor and military chaplain.”

Some 1,450 NAMB-endorsed chaplains serve in the various branches of the U.S. military.

Carver said, “Our expectations are that military chaplains will continue to uphold the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, which makes it crystal-clear that marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman.”

After the AP article appeared, Carver said NAMB's chaplaincy office immediately emailed a letter to all its chaplains, reinforcing the Southern Baptist position on same-sex civil unions. A videoconference session for all senior SBC military chaplains also is planned to emphasize NAMB's expectations for ministry to members of the armed forces.

Carver, himself a former military chaplain who became the Army's 22nd Chief of Chaplains before his retirement last summer and appointment at NAMB, said today's military chaplains are in a challenging situation because of changing cultural values in American society.

“I believe military chaplaincy — and chaplaincy at large — is one of the toughest ministries in the Kingdom of God,” Carver said. “Southern Baptist pastors who respond to a vocational calling as military chaplains enter a multi-faith, multi-cultural environment where diversity is expected, promoted and applauded, and where the intrinsic values of our nation are tested in a combat environment.

“Pastors who volunteer for the military chaplaincy agree to accommodate the religious beliefs of all they serve without violating the religious beliefs and practices of their own faith group,” Carver continued. “Our Southern Baptist military chaplains have the complete freedom to proclaim Jesus Christ to our troops as the only way of salvation and to promote God's Word as the foundational truth for a significant, moral and ethical life.”

Carver acknowledged, “It's a vague environment out there, especially as our chaplains promote and defend the whole counsel of God in a post-'Don't Ask-Don't Tell' military environment. Our chaplains are navigating through unchartered waters, where the cultural values of the military increasingly conflict with the traditional values and beliefs of Southern Baptists.”

Carver said such an environment requires NAMB to protect SBC chaplains' religious liberties.

“Our chaplains need the assurance of our prayerful support as they fight the good fight of faith with the uncompromising truthfulness and love of Jesus Christ,” Carver said. “We're going to protect our chaplains and, as they take their stand, they need to remember they're not alone. We are here to love, defend and support them.”

Mickey Noah writes for the North American Mission Board

What Obamacare means to you

You must buy health insurance or pay a fine

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling upheld the individual mandate in Obamacare, which means that everyone must buy health insurance. If you do not buy insurance, you will have to pay a fine starting in 2014. By 2016, a family of four will be fined or “taxed” either

  1. the market rate of a standard insurance premium, or
  2. the greater of $2,085 or 2.5% of household income. 1

In other words, the government is requiring that you purchase something, even if you do not want to. This sets a dangerous precedent for the future, because the government can use this method to require other actions it deems necessary.

DOWNLOAD this document in a PDF.

You could pay higher insurance premiums or lose your current coverage

Because Obamacare requires the expansion of many health plans to cover more services, insurance premiums are certain to increase. In addition, Obamacare will create a bad business environment for many insurance providers, causing them to stop providing coverage altogether. Also, some businesses will determine they can no longer afford to offer health care to their employees. According to McKinsey & Company, 30% of employers will “definitely or probably” stop offering health insurance coverage after 2014. 2

For instance, companies such as AT&T, Verizon, Caterpillar, and John Deere have conducted internal studies to determine the cost of keeping coverage. 3 One congressional report found that Fortune 100 companies could save an average of $4,821 per employee in 2014 alone if they eliminated health insurance and paid the fine. 4 This strain placed on both providers and employers could cause you to lose your employer-provided health care and force you into a government Exchange.

You may lose your current doctor

If your current insurance plan is discontinued because your employer stops offering health care coverage, or it is discontinued because it is not compliant with Obamacare regulations, it is possible that you will no longer have access to your current doctor through a new insurance plan. You may also find that your doctor becomes so discouraged with the red tape, regulation, and rules forced on him or her by Obamacare, that he or she decides to stop practicing medicine. In a recent poll, 83% of doctors who responded said that they have considered quitting medicine in light of current changes in the medical system. 5

If you are an employer, you must provide free access to contraceptives and abortion-causing products for your employees

The religious freedom of thousands of employers will be violated by regulations in the wake of Obamacare. Unless you meet the government’s very narrow exemption, if you own or manage a business that employs 50 or more people, you will be forced to provide health care coverage that includes free access to contraceptives and abortion-causing products. 6 This violation of religious freedom was not contained in the Obamacare legislation itself, but the law gave the administration authority to make this regulation.

The regulation cannot be overturned unless Obamacare is repealed by Congress, or unless Congress passes a law specifically forbidding it. Employers who refuse to comply with this regulation because of their Christian faith will face an expensive fine. 7

Your insurance premiums will help pay for services that violate your religious convictions

Under Obamacare, your insurance plan is required to use part of your premiums to provide contraceptives and abortion-causing products, even if you have religious objections to it. Since the law’s passage, the Obama administration has failed to adequately address these religious objections. You are required to have health care coverage, and the coverage is required to include these services. 8

Your taxes will increase

In addition to the taxes assessed by the individual mandate, other tax increases are necessary to pay for Obamacare. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that, because of Obamacare, American taxpayers will pay an additional $770 billion in taxes over the 2012-2021 period. 9

For instance, Obamacare imposes a 10% tax on tanning sessions, a tax on the pharmaceutical industry, and a 2.3% tax on medical devices, which will increase the price to patients for such things as pacemakers, prosthetic limbs, stents, and operation tables. 10 There is also now a cap of $2,500 on flexible spending accounts, which are tax-free savings accounts that can be used to pay medical expenses. 11

In addition, Obamacare will raise the threshold for itemized deduction for unreimbursed medical expenses from 7.5% to 10% beginning in 2013. 12 Also, Obamacare stipulates that all families earning above $250,000 must pay an additional 3.8% in taxes for gains on their investments and a 0.9% increase on the Medicare Payroll tax. 13 Obamacare’s extensive tax increases guarantee that you, along with every American, will personally feel the financial burden.

You will be required to contribute to an abortion fund with certain health care plans

Beginning in 2014, many who purchase private insurance from a government-run Exchange will be required to pay a premium into a separate account that funds elective abortions, apart from their primary insurance premium. 14 This arrangement has been made in an attempt to circumvent the ban on federally funded abortions. Though at least one plan will be offered that does not cover abortions, you may be forced to choose between a plan that does not adequately meet your health needs and a plan that requires you to pay into an abortion fund.

You could be denied life-saving treatment by insurance providers, especially in old age

Obamacare opens the door to rationing of health care. This law creates the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which is tasked with recommending limits on Medicare spending and non-federal health care programs. 15 The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) then has the ability to implement the board’s recommendations. This scheme gives HHS the ability to incentivize doctors to drastically cut costs in order to retain their contracts with Medicare or other providers. Unless this problem is addressed by Congress, it will likely lead to a situation in which a patient is denied life-saving treatment because a doctor was compelled to value cost-cutting over the patient’s best interests.

What You Can Do

It is important for you to support better solutions to our country’s health care problems Christians need to be advocates of health care reform that promotes affordable, high quality, and universal health care consistent with biblical convictions. While as Christians we may disagree with many aspects of Obamacare, we do affirm that our health care system is broken and in need of a solution. It is not enough just to be against Obamacare. We must also be for a more reasonable, constitutional, and compassionate solution to our health care needs.

For a resource outlining free-market health care principles, please refer to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s Fifteen Principles for Successful Health Care Reform.

  1. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as Amended Through May 1, 2010. Sec. 15015000A IRC ©(2)(B)(iii) ↩
  2. How U.S. Health Care Reform Will Affect Employee Benefits. June 2011.McKinsey Quarterly. ↩
  3. Documents reveal AT&T, Verizon, others, thought about dropping employer-sponsored benefits. May 6, 2010. CNN Money. ↩
  4. “Broken Promise.” May 1, 2012. U.S. House of Representatives. ↩
  5. Physician Attitudes in Medicine Survey Results. Doctor Patient Medical Association Foundation. ↩
  6. Federal Register. Vol. 77, No. 31(8727-8729) ↩
  7. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as Amended Through May 1, 2010. Sec. 15134980H IRC ©(2)(D) ↩
  8. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as Amended Through May 1, 2010. Sec. 10012713 PHSA (a) ↩
  9. Additional Information of CBO’s Preliminary Analysis of H.R. 2. Jan 7, 2011. ↩
  10. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as Amended Through May 1, 2010. Sec. 90094191 IRC (a); Ibid., Sec. 109085000B IRC (a); Ibid., Sec. 9008 (a); Five Major ObamaCare taxes that will hit your wallet in 2013. July 5, 2012. Fox News. ↩
  11. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as Amended Through May 1, 2010. Sec. 9005 (a)125 IRC (i)(1) ↩
  12. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as Amended Through May 1, 2010. Sec. 9013 (a) ↩
  13. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as Amended Through May 1, 2010. Sec. 14021411 IRC (a)(1); Ibid., Sec. 9015 (a)(2) ↩
  14. Federal Register. Vol. 77, No. 59(18472) ↩
  15. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as Amended Through May 1, 2010. Sec. 34031899A SSA (b); Ibid., Sec. 34031899A SSA (o) ↩