Month: November 2012

Ziglar, ‘America’s motivator,’ conveyed hope, joy

PLANO — For the past seven years, Jay Hellwig would accompany Zig Ziglar to business meetings and speaking engagements worldwide, with Ziglar often sharing platforms with world leaders in business, politics and entertainment. Sometimes, he would sit across from Ziglar at his kitchen table as he finished up his Bible reading or his daily newspaper.

Hellwig would be the one to insist that they hurry along at airports as Ziglar engaged strangers wanting their books signed or a nugget of advice from a man widely known as “America’s motivator.”

But as Ziglar’s personal assistant, what sticks with Hellwig above all is Ziglar’s practice of reserving meal appointments very selectively. Ziglar could have his pick of interesting and entertaining people for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Those sought-after appointments, however, were held for people who didn’t have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, Hellwig said.

Ziglar, known worldwide for his folksy and often anecdotal motivational talks on success through serving others, died Wednesday (Nov. 28) in Plano, Texas, of complications from pneumonia at age 86.

His pastor, Jack Graham, said Ziglar saw himself foremost as a “minister of encouragement.”

“He was a dispenser of hope and joy and a whole lot of love,” said Graham, of Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, during a news conference hours after Ziglar’s death.

Ziglar’s deep, soothing Mississippi drawl and speeches and books often sprinkled with mentions of his Christian faith endeared him to millions. Ziglar was arguably the best-known motivational speaker of his day, having conducted hundreds of corporate seminars and giving motivational speeches to hundreds of thousands of people over a 42-year speaking career.

A longtime Southern Baptist, Ziglar served as first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1984-85 during Atlanta pastor Charles Stanley’s tenure as SBC president.

His 30-plus books include best-sellers “See You at The Top!” and “Confessions of a Happy Christian.” Another book, “Confessions of a Grieving Christian” (B&H Publishing Group, LifeWay Christian Resources) followed the death of daughter Suzan Ziglar Witmeyer from pulmonary fibrosis in 1995.

Ziglar taught an “Encouragers” Bible study class for 18 years on Sunday mornings at Prestonwood until several years ago, Graham said.

“His ability to communicate and motivate came from deep within,” Graham said. “He had an incredible faith and what motivated the ‘motivator’ was his personal faith in Christ.”

Graham said one of his favorite “Zigisms” — those wise turns-of-phrases Ziglar was known for — was along the lines of, “‘You can get everything you want in life as long as you are willing to help others get what they want in life.'”

“So many of the principles and teachings that Zig gave were right out of the Bible and he would tell you that,” Graham said, noting that Ziglar rarely missed church despite a demanding travel schedule. The last year, Ziglar’s declining health caused him and his wife Jean to watch the services online.

Graham said Ziglar’s definition of success included a high ethical and moral code and “a greater picture of using what you have, your success, to encourage or bless others” and to honor God.

Ziglar often talked about “stinkin’ thinkin’,” expressing a firm belief that attitude deeply affects all areas of life.

“We all need a daily check up from the neck up to avoid stinkin’ thinkin’ which ultimately leads to hardening of the attitudes,” Ziglar is cited as saying in a collection of his quotations provided by his company, Ziglar Inc.

Among an array of his observations: “Many marriages would be better if the husband and wife clearly understood that they’re on the same side” — and “Kids go where there is excitement. They stay where there is love.”

And this quote appears in a memorial entry on Ziglar’s Facebook page: “Among the things you can give and still keep are your word, a smile, and a grateful heart.”

Ziglar’s conversion in 1972 by the testimony of “Sister Jessie,” an African American woman who visited the Ziglar family over the 4th of July weekend that year, heightened his appreciation for people from all walks of life, Hellwig said, noting the Wall of Gratitude in Ziglar’s office commemorating the influence of 27 men and women whom Ziglar considered his major influences. Sister Jessie shares that wall with a diverse group of men and women, Hellwig said.

Hellwig said Ziglar’s affection for his wife Jean — whom he often called “the redhead” and frequently referred to in his speeches — was evident to all who knew the couple.

Donald Wildmon, founder of the Mississippi-based American Family Association, who worked with Ziglar in the 1980s to get pornography removed from the shelves of the 7-11 convenience store chain, said that while Ziglar was a “giant in the business community,” he was also a “wonderful Christian gentleman who served God in many ways” and “believed in our cause of returning decency and morality to the public square.”

“An amazing, amazing man whose legacy will live on” through his family and his church, Graham told reporters.

The 10th of 12 children, Ziglar was born in Coffee County, Ala., as Hilary Hinton Ziglar but the nickname “Zig” stuck with him as he grew up in Yazoo City, Miss. Ziglar was a World War II Navy veteran and attended Milsaps College in Jackson, Miss., and the University of South Carolina before beginning his career as a salesman and later a public speaker.

Ziglar was preceded in death by his 11 siblings and his daughter Suzan. In addition to his wife Jean, he is survived by one son, John Thomas (Tom) Ziglar of Plano; two daughters, Cindy Ziglar Oates, of Southlake, Texas, and Julie Ziglar Norman of Alvord, Texas; seven grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.

Ziglar’s funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday (Dec. 1) at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas.
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Charitable deduction cap would be ‘devastating’

WASHINGTON—A proposal to limit charitable deductions would be devastating for churches, religious organizations and other nonprofits if adopted by the federal government, says a Southern Baptist church-state expert.

Leaders in both political parties have suggested further restricting charitable deductions for at least some Americans who itemize on their tax returns as a way of helping avert the “fiscal cliff” facing the country Jan. 1. Without congressional action, the tax cuts implemented under President George W. Bush will expire on that date, producing about $7 trillion in tax increases. At the same time, inaction will result in sequestration — automatic cuts to defense and non-defense spending of $55 billion each.

The idea of capping the charitable deduction “is as serious a threat to religious organizations as anything the federal government has done in recent decades,” said Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).

“This would be catastrophic in its impact, particularly on those large gifts that many religious organizations, colleges, universities and ministries, as well as churches, depend upon for continuing operations,” Land told Baptist Press Thursday (Nov. 29). “Everything we know from past experience tells us if they cap deductions it will seriously erode charitable giving.”

In a Nov. 28 email alert, Land urged Southern Baptists and others to ask their members of Congress to oppose further limits on charitable deductions.

Enacting such restrictions would not only reduce giving to churches and charities but would harm services such organizations provide to the needy, said Land and other foes of capping such deductions.

“At a time of severe economic dislocation, when the people’s demand for the services of charitable institutions is particularly high, it would be extremely counterproductive and illogical to implement tax policies which would result in crippling cuts to the budgets of charitable institutions, rendering them far less able to help the most vulnerable in our society,” Land said in a Nov. 29 Baptist Press column.

A coalition of nonprofit organizations included the following in a Nov. 14 letter asking President Obama to maintain the current charitable deduction:

— The American public gains about $3 in benefit for each dollar a donor receives in tax relief for a contribution.

— Americans gave nearly $300 billion to charities in 2011, according to Giving USA, with much of that total deducted from taxes.

— Taxpayers who had an adjusted gross income of at least $100,000 in 2008 contributed about 58 percent of all charitable donations, the Congressional Budget Office recently reported.

— One-third of donors surveyed would reduce their giving without the charitable deduction, according to a 2012 study.

— Nonprofit organizations produce $1.1 trillion a year in jobs and services and provide 13.5 million jobs, about 10 percent of the United States workforce.

The 32-member Charitable Giving Coalition, which sent the letter, includes the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, The Salvation Army and American Red Cross.

In his budgets, Obama has proposed capping the itemized deduction at 28 percent for couples whose incomes are at least $250,000 and individuals who make at least $200,000 a year. High-income earners now can deduct at least 33 percent in charitable gifts.

The proposal could reduce charitable donations by as much as $7 billion a year, according to an estimate cited by Independent Sector, which leads a network of about 600 nonprofit and philanthropic organizations.

The federal tax system needs an overhaul, but the suggestion to limit charitable deductions further “is a threat aimed like a dagger at the heart of America’s charitable nonprofit entities, secular and religious,” Land said in his column. “It will weaken most, kill many, and harm all.”

Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.

Keeping our commitments

Talking about tough financial times has become like talking about the weather, clichéd and often idle. Everyone knows it’s hot in August but we still say it; everyone knows that our economy has taken some hits in the last 10 years and that those hits have hit home with nearly everyone, but we still say it. The only appropriate response is to nod solemnly. This background noise about the economy causes a little unease as churches plot budget projections for the next year, as state conventions plan ministries based on a guess of how the churches will do, and as SBC agencies make commitments to project the ministry of Southern Baptists around the world.

And yet some things haven’t changed. Americans (including some of us) will spend billions this year on music downloads, fancier cars, movies, dessert, alcohol, pornography, and gambling. Our church buildings are still climate controlled, most have padded seating more than sufficient for their attenders, the kids will go to youth camp, and DiscipleNow will feature a live band.

Now, I’m a big fan of dessert and live music. It’s also nice to not have to wear a parka as I teach my Sunday School class. My point is that, at this moment, few of us are actually suffering or missing meals. Sometimes we talk as if we are.

This week in other places, new church starts will meet in borrowed space and the people will sit on rusty metal folding chairs. In some places the meeting space will not be climate controlled or even indoors. Believers around the world will worship God this week in English and a hundred other languages without benefit of trained musicians or even musical instruments. I’ve preached in places like that within 500 miles of here and have done so 8,000 miles away. I have friends half a world away who we’ve sent into privation for the sake of the gospel. They have gone out with joy, and with the expectation that we would share in their work, perhaps occasionally in their hardship. It’s a reasonable expectation.

A friend of mine tells the story from his work in North Africa of straining the goat hair from the milk he purchased for his kids to drink. The largest clusters of lostness seem to be in places where hygiene, safety, political stability, and medical care are most dodgy. When Americans transplant their lives in the third world for the sake of the gospel they accept to some degree the hardships of their new neighbors. I don’t hear them complaining but I do suspect we at home have too small an understanding of their commitment, and of our own.  

Christmas is an odd mix of wild rumpus and spiritual wonder for those of us whose hope is in heaven. Greater participation in the costs of our world missions enterprise can help individuals, families and churches keep our focus on the better side of Christmas.

Keeping our commitments begins in the heart of individual Christians and families. Without a doubt our standard of living is higher than that of our grandparents and yet that generation built our missionary apparatus and sustained it during difficult financial times long ago. They had fewer outfits, older cars, simpler meals, and a fairly narrow selection of amusements. Between their day and ours, Christian stewardship has become a shadow of what it was. Whether your biblical understanding of financial stewardship is that we should give 10 percent of our riches or that we should give more than that, we are generally far off that mark. Our churches have not prospered in proportion to our families.

And our churches have prospered to a greater degree than has our cooperative work. During the day that our grandparents kept less for themselves our churches also kept less for themselves. Generosity begins on an individual plane but is magnified and modeled by churches. Churches in that day often had fewer staff members, simpler programs, better volunteerism, more effective discipleship, and better missions giving. As average family giving has dropped to about 2 percent of income, undesignated church giving for SBC causes has dropped to between 5 and 6 percent. I don’t believe this change can be blamed on economic factors so much as on spiritual ones.

We have the capability of giving a record offering for world missions this year regardless of what the stock market does. I think that is one way we keep a commitment, one way that we express our heavenly priorities. Our churches, certainly in this part of the country, are wealthy enough to promote the offering without reservation or fear of their own financial loss. World missions is more important than some of what nearly every church does. Our church members are wealthy enough to give more than we normally do, also. World missions is more important than some of the things nearly every family buys.

Southern Baptist churches have sent their friends and children into harm’s way for the sake of the gospel. Nearly every issue of the TEXAN includes a story about people whose actual names we cannot use for fear that their ministries or lives would be endangered. For the most part, we respect that commitment. We also include stories in most issues about a place where Christians are attacked or arrested or even harmed for the simple convictions of their hearts. We have sent people into those very countries because they are the front lines where darkness and light clash. One way, one very safe and painless way, we can honor that commitment and participate in that crucial combat is to provide resources and personnel worthy of the cause.

Our Lottie Moon Offering for world missions is committed 100 percent to work around the world. It does not pay for domestic administration or even for promotion of the offering. It pays for workers and resources committed to spreading the good news in bad news places. As you give during this year’s offering season, I urge you to share just a little more of the burden that the few substantially bear. Lead your church, help your church, give a world missions offering this year that reflects God’s faithful blessings on our lives rather than our fears of financial hardship. The work that money will do will outlast the temporary things that would have otherwise claimed your wealth.

Corpus Christi woman finds “fun” ministry among international students

Michelle Woods laughs at the idea that her Saturday outings are a “ministry.”

“I just spent the day shopping with a bunch of girls. That was fun,” she exclaimed.

Ministry, after all, is presumed sacrificial in Woods’ mind. Woods, a member of Padre Island Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, contends ministry is not shopping and lunching with a gaggle of college girls on a bright, brisk Saturday afternoon. Where’s the sacrifice in that, she asked?

Woods lives on Padre Island, just across the John F. Kennedy Memorial Causeway from Ward Island, home to Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. There are just over 10,000 students enrolled, including 480 internationals from 67 countries. Most of the international students do not have cars and are at the mercy of a bus system that does not serve them well, Woods said. Providing transportation to these students gives her the opportunity to fill a need and engage them in spiritual conversation.

It had been a month since Woods last saw the students when she pulled up to their dorms and apartments one Saturday early in November to ferry them around town. Her daughter’s homecoming activities and the unexpected death of her father-in-law took the family in different directions throughout October. Woods said she missed her time with the young adults she has come to consider friends.
Their few hours together that day—trying new dishes at the Asian Fusion Bistro and perusing the aisles of the Asian Market and H.E.B.—were filled with laughter, encouragement, and timely insertions of the gospel.

Woods is a latecomer to an international student outreach initiated by a woman who knew many of the students at the TAMU Corpus Christi campus. The woman suggested, in order to have a richer cultural experience while in the United States, the students should visit a church. Woods’ sister, Marlene Mills, picks up the willing students on Sunday mornings and takes them to a local church, The Summit, with a large international student ministry.

Transportation services extended throughout the weekend, ferrying the co-eds to local shops not on any bus route. During the summer break from her job as a dyslexia facilitator at Seashore Charter Schools, Woods took on the role of Saturday driver at the request of her sister. She had the free time and thought it would be fun, assuming it would only last until she went back to work in the fall.
But then she was hooked.

About a dozen students, primarily Chinese, take up Woods’ offer of taxi driver and escape from campus for a few hours. Though the number of students varies each week there is a core group of three to four female students who regularly accompany Woods. That Saturday, after the month-long hiatus, four young women piled into the car excited to see Woods and each other. Their conversation slipped from English to Chinese and back, punctuated often with laughter. Behind the wheel Woods listened to the exchange and beamed, happy to be the catalyst for the encounter.

Ma Dai Xi, “Daisie,” is Nebraska born of Chinese parents. Although her father’s oil industry job kept the family moving around the U.S., Daisie’s upbringing was so deeply rooted in Chinese culture she is most at home with the international students on the campus. In fact, 200 Chinese students attend the school.

Nancy Chang, 31, of Taiwan and Yanqing Kong, 32, known as “Echo,” are MBA graduate students. Daisie, 19, and Yonglin Chen, 20, known as “Annie,” are studying marketing.

Daisie and Nancy are Christians grateful for the fellowship of the new church home and the small Bible study group on campus that brought them all together. Echo and Annie (many international students take on Anglo-sounding names) are not believers but their introduction to the Christian church and its people has been positive.

“In China I heard about church but I never go inside,” Echo explained. “I saw church as old people and old buildings.”

A gregarious resident of Shanghai and the only one married among the four, Echo is amazed by the kindness and openness of the people in her new smaller and slower-paced environment. And it is here where she first heard about Jesus.

And though she does not yet have a clear understanding of the gospel message—she said she believes all religions are basically the same—she recognizes a unique characteristic of Christians.
“Religion is just religion but I think Christian is much better,” Echo said. “The way they treat us is different.”

Annie agreed to attend church in Corpus Christi though she presumed it would be boring. Raised to be self-reliant, her family does not claim any faith nor did they ever venture into the one church in her hometown. But her misgivings proved unwarranted as she enjoyed the worship music and found the sermon unexpectedly touching.

The pastor spoke from 2 Timothy 1:7. Though her new environment did not make her fearful, Annie admitted she missed her family. Learning God gives his people a strong spirit was encouraging, she said. Being invited to a Bible study and spending her Saturday afternoons with Woods has made Annie realize she just may have an extended family in Texas.

Like a mother, Woods’ feelings for her international friends swing between concern and joy as she frets over their wellbeing and the choices they make while watching them take baby steps toward understanding the Christian faith.

Woods said she now realizes she does not have to go to China to share the gospel. The students from there are aware their government keeps things from them, especially notions about religion. So they are curious and receptive to the message Woods and others have to share. Their Saturday afternoons together, though not exhausting or gritty, provide the perfect forum for a free-flowing conversation about all that matters to the students from the trivial to the profound to the eternal.

“My father told me, ‘Nobody will ever listen to you if you don’t meet their basic needs,’” Woods said. “Because I am meeting that need they are willing to listen to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Prayers, support evident during meeting

While Christmas is the main topic on everyone’s mind at this time of the year, I want to reflect just a little on the emphasis of this edition of the TEXAN, our annual meeting. God’s favor was upon us as we gathered in San Antonio.

First of all, “thank you” to all who attended. Our messenger count of over 900 and almost 500 registered visitors gave us an exceptional number of participants. Pastor James Shupp, the staff and the members of Castle Hills First Baptist Church were gracious hosts. Being in a worship center provided a spiritual ambience. Truly the Spirit of God moved on hearts. The preaching, singing, praying and even the business were done in a Christ-honoring way.

Through the means of technology there were 19,000 hits on the live streaming. People all over the world were able to be a part of the excitement. I am thrilled that friends, family members and churches were interested in what God is doing through the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

Preceding the convention was the Bible Conference. Many pastors, staff and laypersons were ministered to through the theme of “Forged by Fire.” Some have commented that this was the best-ever pre-convention session.

So many auxiliary activities took place I cannot mention them all, but the Criswell/SBTC Dinner and Dialogue was a hit again with convention attendees. The Spanish-language session was an encouragement to many. Ethnic fellowships, seminary dinners, and young pastors’ activities provided venues for the diverse composition of the SBTC. The annual meeting is truly a homecoming and family gathering.

President Terry Turner presided over the sessions with a humble spirit. The 2013 convention operating budget was approved. Resolutions of substance were adopted. These resolutions expressed the opinion of the messengers at the convention on topics such as sanctity of life and religious liberty to name a few. Our special guest, Dr. Charles Stanley, concluded the convention with a transparent, heartfelt life testimony. I was on a mountaintop at the end of the convention.

As we turn our attention to 2013, the annual meeting will be in Amarillo. West Texans are wonderful people who always extend a kind welcome to the convention. October 28 and 29 are the dates. Put it on your calendar. You will be blessed by being with God’s people.

Thank you for praying. Thank you for giving. Thank you for allowing me to serve the churches of the SBTC. I look forward to another year serving the Lord with you. Have a blessed time with family and in ministry during this Christmas season!

Dever: Put Scripture before “newest thing”

AUSTIN—“Many pastors have believed the lie that it is the programs, the technology, or innovations that will make our churches healthy,” said Ben Wright, associate pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin. “The foundational things are what we’re being told to forget.”

Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, D.C. and founder of 9Marks, a ministry designed to equip churches to fulfill their mission by glorifying God, said many churches are in bad shape and need a return to the scriptural tenets that define a church, its leaders and members.

Pastors and lay leaders representing several denominations and from as far away as Mexico attended a two-day 9Marks conference, Nov. 2-3 at High Pointe Baptist Church. There were no PowerPoint presentations, no videos or praise band. With a backdrop of only three small banners bearing the 9Marks logo and mission statement, the three speakers—Dever and pastors Josh Smith of Irving and Garrett Kell of Alexandria, Va.—spoke to over 100 pastors in the English-language session as Ryan Townsend, Edgar Aponte, and High Pointe Pastor Juan Sanchez addressed two dozen Spanish-speaking pastors.

“It’s important for us pastors to come to these things,” said Tyler Looper, pastor of First Baptist Church Crowell in North Texas. “It reaffirms what we know the Bible says.”

But too many congregations are ignoring what the Bible says about church, Dever told the pastors. The pervasive nominalism of the American church spurred Dever to create 9Marks, he said.

Championing nine marks of a biblical New Testament church such as expositional preaching, doctrinal soundness and a disciplined church as defined by the New Testament, 9Marks has gained a following. Though the marks are common-sense constructs, they are often dismissed in favor of the newest method of “contextualization” as churches seek relevance and new members, Dever said.

Jamie Owen, a Capitol Hill Baptist Church pastoral assistant, told the audience, “God displays his character to the world through the church. When we realize this we realize what a weighty calling it is to lead a church.”

In fact, said Josh Smith, pastor of MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church in Irving, pastors should see their current tenure in terms of years and not as a step on the career ladder. He said most pastors, especially those new to the ministry, want healthy, God-honoring churches but are overwhelmed by pressures to conform. As a representative of the 9Marks ministry, Smith said pastors he interacts with tell him they are encouraged by the teaching and the discourse they get with other pastors and lay leaders.

Smith urged the younger pastors among them not to rush implementation of the 9Marks tenets. There is a natural progression to each of them; one begets the other, he said.

For example, Smith said the act of church discipline would naturally follow the establishment of a meaningful membership process. Being a member of a church should be so important no one would want to violate the covenant of membership, he said. But if that happens, the biblical response of turning an individual out of membership is done with the hope of eventual restoration.

He said pastors should spend two or three years “getting membership right.” Don’t try to rush it or enact discipline practices before then.

Dever, whose church is elder led, said he believes elder-led congregations set the biblical standard. Those elders can be paid pastors or they can be lay leaders but they are not to be confused with deacons who serve a different role in the church, he stressed.

Dever said pastors are too easily drawn to practices that are either exciting in their newness or revered for their antiquity. But best practices align with Scripture, producing healthy churches that reach their communities with the gospel, he emphasized.

Resolutions cover evangelism, HHS mandate, traditional marriage

SAN ANTONIO—Messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention passed eight resolutions on topics ranging from “a clear and complete” gospel message to religious liberty violations in the federal healthcare law and the right of the state of Israel to exist.

The resolution “On Evangelism and Missions” laments the drop in baptisms among Southern Baptists and defines evangelism as “the intentional, verbal declaration of the biblical gospel to unbelievers in the power of the Holy Spirit” and “the heart of the gospel” as the death, burial and resurrection of “the God-man, Jesus Christ.”

The resolution calls for “a clear and complete gospel presentation” and “the invitation to repent of one’s sins and to believe in Jesus Christ as the only way to receive God’s salvation.”

It encourages personal evangelism training, daily, intentional sharing of the gospel, and an emphasis on the gospel in sermons, Sunday School lessons and Bible studies.

The resolution “On the Violation of Religious Liberty in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” objects to the Obama administration’s requirements of coverage for free contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs and the requirement that health plans maintain “a separate abortion fund supported by a premium surcharge on health plan participants regardless of their religiously formed convictions about abortion.”

The resolution calls on the president and the federal Department of Health and Human Services to drop such requirements.

A resolution “On Support for Traditional Marriage” cites Genesis 2:15-25 and Matthew 19:4-9 as the basis for marriage, referring also to the Baptist Faith & Message confessional statement to articulate the biblical definition of “one man and one woman in the covenant commitment.”

Noting President Obama’s groundbreaking support for homosexual marriage and the Department of Justice’s opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, the messengers affirmed “the biblical mandate regarding marriage and sexual morality.”

Further, the resolution states that “all men are sinners who need God’s redeeming love” and “we respectfully implore President Obama, the Congress, and the Department of Justice to recognize and encourage only the traditional definition of marriage.”

A resolution “On the Sanctity of Life” affirms the “personhood and humanity of the unborn begins at conception” and that the unborn should have protection under the 14th Amendment. Further, the resolution affirms the governor of Texas for denying public funding to abortion providers and lends support to states seeking passage of personhood amendments.

Messengers also passed a resolution recognizing the nation of Israel as God’s people and their right to exist as a sovereign nation as the country marks 65 years as a modern state on May 14. The resolution calls on Israel to “affirm the rights of all peoples within her borders to their religious views and beliefs” and asks churches to set a day between May 1 and May 21 to pray for Israel.

Other resolutions covered the Cooperative Program, support for military members and their families, and appreciation to the host church, Castle Hills First Baptist in San Antonio.

Houston native Richard D. Land, who will retire in October 2013 as president of the Nashville, Tenn.-based Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, was also honored through a resolution for his years of service, noting his steadfastness on moral issues ranging from the sanctity of human life and racial justice to international religious freedom.

Exec. Board adds two ministry staffers

SAN ANTONIO—The Executive Board of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention elected two ministry associates in the areas of children’s and women’s ministry and church planting, and was challenged by the convention’s executive director to champion Cooperative Program missions giving.

During its fall meeting Nov. 14 in San Antonio, the board also heard from a former board member-turned-church planter, welcomed eight new board appointees, honored the retiring church ministries director, and heard a financial report of net operating income despite slightly lagging CP receipts.

The board re-elected its officers by acclamation. Board Chairman Hal Kinkeade is pastor of First Baptist Church of Springtown, Vice Chairman Bart Barber is pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville, and Secretary Jo McGuire is a member of Cornerstone Fellowship Baptist Church in Haskell.

The board hired Emily Smith of Texarkana as church ministries associate serving the areas of women, preschool and children, and Richard Taylor, who most recently served as evangelism director at the Baptist Convention of New York, as church planting associate.

Smith joins the convention staff after serving as children’s minister at Beech Street First Baptist Church in Texarkana, Ark. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark., and a master of arts in Christian education from Southwestern Seminary.

Taylor served the New York convention for 11 years. He earned a bachelor of arts degree from Texas A&M-Kingsville and associate of arts and bachelor of arts degrees in Christian education and counseling from New Orleans Seminary. Taylor served four years as associate pastor of youth and young adults at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, La.

Addressing the board, SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards asked members to be champions for “missionally driven” churches—one of the SBTC’s three core distinctives, the others being a fellowship that is biblically based and kingdom focused.

Richards said he and his wife, June, plan to increase their church giving by 1 percent this year, and he encouraged board members and their churches to do that or more for the sake of kingdom advancement. He also said he is committing to speak more about the importance of CP giving to worldwide gospel work.

“Almost everything that is done is accomplished by the CP giving of the churches,” Richards told the board. “There is never a time our Cooperative Program dollars are not working for kingdom purposes. Our dollars never sleep.”

Richards also marveled at the number of online visitors who viewed live video streaming of the Bible Conference and annual meeting, held Nov. 11-13 at Castle Hills First Baptist Church in San Antonio. The tally for visitors to the stream at sbtexas.com was 19,191 page views.

Doug Hixson, who left Pampa two years ago to begin a church in South Dakota, reported that the church is growing and more help is welcomed in reaching that region as Connection Church in Spearfish, S.D. plants other churches in surrounding communities. SBTC church groups that have taken short-term mission teams there have witnessed Connection Church grow from a handful of people to several hundred people meeting in a local movie theater. In the short term, the church plans to plant two other churches within a 10-mile radius as church planters are called to the work, Hixson told the board.

Connection Church’s commitment is to put 25 percent of its receipts into missions—10 percent through CP, 10 percent to church planting and 5 percent into local ministries, Hixson said.

“Every week I get a text from Terry Coy telling me that he and his staff are praying for me and my family,” said Hixson, explaining the importance of such encouragement.

One recent convert at Connection Church is a woman named Mary, a butcher-shop worker whose interest in the faith was piqued when a missions team from Texas stopped by the butcher shop bearing donuts and cards from the church that read, “No Perfect People Allowed!” Something about the message on the card resonated with her, and she began attending, was saved and then baptized.

Hixson said Mary describes herself as hard and mean before her conversion. “God not only changed her heart, but he changed her countenance,” he said, adding, “There are Marys around this state and nation who need the gospel.”

The board approved a resolution of appreciation for Jim Wolfe, who joined the SBTC staff as church ministries director 12 years ago. Wolfe and his wife, Kathy, are retiring to Louisiana.

Richards told the board that early in the life of the convention he was seeking a man of integrity who was trustworthy and diligent when he turned to Wolfe to help him develop the convention’s ministry to churches. In Wolfe, he had a proven commodity, having served with him at one church and then as co-laborers in the same city as pastors of different churches in Louisiana. During Wolfe’s 29-year ministry, he has served as pastor, music minister, and youth director for 11 churches in Texas and Louisiana.

Under his leadership, the church ministries staff grew from one person to nine full-time staff members and more than 50 annual training events during a tenure that saw the fellowship grow from fewer than 500 churches for more than 2,400.

The resolution noted that Wolfe “led faithfully to support church health and leadership ministries within the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, and he remains committed to building up the church through preaching the Word, equipping the saints, encouraging ministry, and loving others.”

Chief Financial Officer Joe Davis told the board that despite slightly lagging year-to-date Cooperative Program receipts—CP giving was below budget by $403,943 through October—the convention had a net operating income of $1.375 million as of Oct. 31 due to budget constraints, and undesignated gifts and interest income exceeding $305,000. Several staff vacancies contributed to the cost savings, Davis said.

Despite lagging year-to-date giving, October CP receipts were $805,423 higher than in October 2011.

Meanwhile, giving through the Annie Armstrong Offering (North American missions) was up by $37,976 and the Reach Texas Offering (state missions) was up by $3,650. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (international missions) was down significantly from the last giving year—by $349,583—due to two large gifts from the same church, both of which were recorded in the 2011-12 giving year, Davis said.

The giving year for each missions offering differs: Annie Armstrong runs January through December, Lottie Moon June through May, and Reach Texas September through August.

The board welcomed a slate of new members. They are: Larry York, pastor, Nolan River Road Baptist Church, Cleburne; Jared Wellman, pastor, Mission Dorado Baptist Church, Odessa; Gwyn Tidwell, member, Northgate Church, Haslet; Bill Simmons, pastor, River Hills Church, Robstown; Chad King, pastor, First Baptist Church, Childress; Steve Dorman, pastor, First Baptist Church, Brownsville; Josh Crutchfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Trenton; and Craig Bailey, member, First Baptist Church, Madisonville.

Geoff Kolander, a member of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin who was elected SBTC first vice president, is a board member by virtue of his office but was unable to attend the meeting.

The board approved affiliation for 37 congregations while removing 47 churches, 40 of which had disbanded and seven that became independent or exclusively related to other Baptist groups.

As of Nov. 14, the total number of affiliated churches stood at 2,406.

On Jan. 1, SBTC ministry relationships will be categorized as affiliated ministries and related ministries. The category of fraternal relationships will no longer exist.

Thus, the board approved requests from Korean Baptist Fellowship of Texas, Baptist Missionary Association of Texas, Baptist Credit Union and Houston Baptist University for related ministry status, the latter two formerly being titled “fraternal relationships.”

Only affiliated ministries—which include Criswell College, Jacksonville College, East Texas Baptist Family Ministry and Texas Baptist Home—receive annual budgeted funding.

The board also approved from reserve funds a grant of $250,000 to the Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation to supplement the budget of the seven–year-old institution—a decrease in funding from $300,000 in 2011 and $275,000 in 2012—and a $100,000 grant to the Mission Dignity ministry of GuideStone Financial Resources for retired ministers and their spouses.

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Be refined through fiery trials, pastors told

SAN ANTONIO—The fiery trials of ministry will come. When they do, embrace them for the refining purposes of God, ministers and lay leaders were reminded during the SBTC Bible Conference, Nov. 11-12 at Castle Hills First Baptist Church in San Antonio.

Preaching under the theme “Forged by Fire,” the lineup of pastors on the conference program shared anecdotes of adversity and lessons learned from the pages of Scripture and proved by experience.

Rudy Gonzalez, dean of Southwestern Seminary’s William R. Marshall Center for Theological Studies in San Antonio, told those attending the conference that “everyone will be salted with fire,” quoting Mark 9:49.

Preaching from Mark 9, in which Jesus told his followers that it’s better enter eternal life crippled than to be cast into hell with an offending hand, foot or eye, Gonzalez said the promised fires for the Christ follower are notably juxtaposed next to a verse about the unquenchable fires of hell.

Many people think they are experiencing hell on earth—Gonzalez mentioned the leg braces he began wearing five years ago as a moment of questioning, and the loss of a son and a brother-in-law, both at young ages. “This reality comes to an end, but hell is forever.”

“I don’t want a fiery trial that I will forget tomorrow,” Gonzalez added. “I want a fiery ordeal that I will remember for the rest of my life” and for the glory of God.

Gonzalez said the believer must embrace testing by fire because without it he is susceptible to stumbling and it must be embraced desperately and joyfully in order to bear fruit.

Warning against spiritual amnesia, Danny Forshee directed pastors to 1 Peter 1:3-9 to recover a sense of God’s wonder. “We forget how awesome God is and how brief our trials are,” declared the pastor of Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin.

“Spiritual faith is to be enjoyed, not to be endured,” Forshee pleaded, referring to salvation’s joy. “God wants us to pause to have a full memory and say, ‘Thank you, Lord, that you are my joy.’”

In view of eternity, pastors ought to be encouraged by the brevity of trials and mindful of God’s purposeful sustenance.

“It could be that your greatest power is in your darkest trial. Be faithful. Keep preaching the Word of God. Keep praying. Keep telling people about Jesus because God is working a testimony,” he said. “When it’s all said and done, you’re going to say, ‘Hallelujah, what a savior! He brought me through.’”

Remembering salvation’s author, Forshee said, “It is for him that we serve, that we preach, that we live. It is all for you, Jesus, because you are awesome. I can’t see you right now, but one glorious day I will see you and it will be worth it all.”

Robert Webb, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Kaufman, said too many pastors have heard that if they loved Jesus more, their churches would be growing and things would be going well when in reality many “are one business meeting away from throwing in the towel.”

Using 2 Corinthians 4:6-12 as his text, Webb said the passage, which speaks of being “afflicted in every way, but not crushed,” changed his life, “for we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake.”

Webb noted that God draws an excellence out of our simplicity in that he chose “the foolish things of the world to confound the wise … But God’s not insulting you when he calls you that.” The Lord uses earthen vessels to accomplish his purposes “so that the excellence of his power may be of God and not of man.”

One of Webb’s pet peeves, he said, is the preacher who presents Christian discipleship as rosy. The believer is called to take up his cross daily, but that has been cast wrongly as merely a burden to pick up.

“The cross is not a burden; it’s a summons unto death,” Webb stated.

Believers have the honor of suffering and to do so with grace so that unbelievers might believe, he said.

Tony Mathews, pastor of North Garland Baptist Fellowship in Garland, preached from Matthew 9:9-13, a passage in which Jesus drew criticism for his calling Matthew the tax collector and his eating with “tax collectors and sinners.”

Mathews said Jesus is the role model for dealing with destructive criticism. Pastors must remember that “we are more than conquerors” through Christ and that destructive criticism often comes right after godly obedience—just like the passage.

Right after Jesus tells Matthew, “Follow me,” the critics show up, he observed.

“Destructive criticism comes when I’m doing what the Lord has called me to do” and also “when I’m getting results doing what he’s called me to do,” Mathews said.

Amid the criticism, pastors must follow Jesus’ example by answering the critics with truth but always in a loving, Christ-like way.

In Matthew 9:13, Jesus goes further, inviting his critics to learn the substance of the Old Testament scriptures regarding mercy. In the same way, pastors should invite their critics to learn about the rigors and calling of pastoral ministry because most congregants know little about it.

“You don’t have to be mean about it,” Mathews said. “Love them with a smile on your face.”

Southlake pastor Tom Pennington said personal trials over the last year included watching his wife endure radiation treatments, a daughter’s cancer surgery, and the prospect of church discipline for several beloved men in his church. For the believer and especially for pastors, these trials are not meaningless, he noted. “Because of Christ, our trials do matter,” Pennington, pastor of Countryside Bible Church, told the conference.

From Romans 5:1-5, speaking of the suffering, endurance and character leading to hope in God’s glory, Pennington reminded his hearers that “every sin you and I commit, every sin deserves the wrath of God.” But God’s extraordinary justification of sinners changes everything, he said.

“Justification is something objective that happens in the courtroom of heaven … He credits Christ’s righteousness to you” and therefore the believer receives the benefits of Christ’s righteousness that are expressed in Romans 5.

The believer, Pennington said, has peace with God by his grace, will both see and share in God’s glory, and is able to rejoice not merely amid trials but in the trials themselves.

“The reason we can rejoice in our trials and tribulation is that we know something”—namely, God’s goodness, wisdom and sovereignty, Pennington said. “When the pressures of life are mixed with that kind of faith, they produce perseverance” leading to proven character and then hope, realizing that “God’s love hasn’t waivered one bit.”

Pastors must choose to be unoffended by people, the experiences of life, and even the ways of God, urged Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church of Northwest Arkansas, in the Bible Conference’s closing message.

“You cannot walk around being offended and have the touch of God on you,” he insisted. “Let it go.”

As pastors seek to minister in a culture with high expectations for every area of life, Floyd turned to Luke 7:18-23, recalling how John the Baptist’s expectations of Jesus to establish an earthly kingdom were not being met. Jesus’ appeal for John the Baptist to trust him and be blessed by remaining unoffended serves as an example for pastors today, he explained.

Floyd said pastors must remember God’s perspective. “He loves them, died for them and forgives them, so live what you preach. Forgive them.”

It should be no surprise that the world is fallen in sinfulness and will conduct itself accordingly, he said. “Life and its experiences will take me down one straight pathway to unforgiveness.”

But the sovereignty of God should prompt a minister to ask what God is saying in the experience and what he is trying to teach, Floyd said.

“I wonder how many of you are blaming God for something he could have done, should have done or could have prevented in your life?” he asked. Directing pastors to immerse themselves in Genesis 37-50, he encouraged them to see that what others plan for evil, God can use for good.

“When the fires of ministry come into your life—it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when—you’ve got one big-time choice: Remain unoffended.”

Also during the Bible Conference, a new slate of conference officers were elected during the session on Nov. 12. Gil Lain, pastor of Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, was elected Bible Conference president for the coming year. Steve Taylor, pastor of First Baptist Church of Borger, was elected first vice president. Eduard Valdez, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Central in Terrell, was elected second vice president.

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Mesquite pastor re-elected SBTC president

SAN ANTONIO—Terry M. Turner, pastor of Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church near Dallas, was re-elected on Tuesday for a second term as president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention during the group’s 15th meeting in San Antonio. Turner was unopposed.

Garland pastor Russell Rogers nominated the Oklahoma native, noting his longtime friendship with Turner that began when Rogers was a young preacher and Mesquite Friendship was a fledgling work begun under Turner’s leadership. Today, the church has grown to more than 1,700 members.

In visiting the church, Rogers said he had been struck by how much the people at Mesquite Friendship love him, “and I quickly realized he loves them.” In Turner, SBTC churches would have “another gentleman we can love and who truly has a heart for God and a heart for us,” Rogers added.

Also during Tuesday’s session at Castle Hills First Baptist Church, Geoff Kolander, a deacon and Sunday School teacher at Hyde Park Baptist Church and an Austin attorney, was elected by acclamation as SBTC first vice president after being nominated by retired judge H. Paul Pressler, a layman at Houston’s First Baptist Church.

James Nickell, pastor of First Baptist Church of Quitman, was elected recording secretary by acclamation.

Messengers approved a 2013 Cooperative Program budget of $26.3 million and passed eight resolutions on topics ranging from “a clear and complete” gospel message to religious liberty violations in the federal healthcare act to sanctity of life, biblical marriage, the nation of Israel and other social concerns. Texan Richard D. Land, who will retire in October 2013 as president of the Nashville, Tenn.-based Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, was also honored through a resolution for his years of service.