Month: February 2013

See you in Irving, March 4-6

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Evangelism Conference is right around the corner, March 4-6. I’m excited about this year and the future for our efforts together in Texas through evangelism. The schedule is second to none. You will want to hear God’s Word from his anointed servants.

Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter and Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, will preach Monday and Tuesday nights, respectively. Our evenings also include Texas pastors Glynn Stone and Robert Jeffress. Their choirs will provide the musical worship. Tuesday will transition to a little more contemporary music with recording artist Josh Wilson. Pastors, evangelists and other ministers will bring messages during the day. Wednesday will feature a Southern Gospel emphasis with Mark Lowry. Favorites Bill Stafford and Don Cass will preach. Throughout the sessions will be testimonies from laypersons who are dynamic witnesses for our Lord Jesus.

Director of Evangelism Nathan Lorick came on staff after most of the program was completed. However, he added some exciting opportunities for training and networking. He plans to unveil a new tool for reaching people that is more than cutting edge. The Tuesday afternoon session will provide tremendous insight to local church evangelism through a dialogue time. The panel consists of Ed Stetzer, Danny Akin, David Wheeler and Ronnie Hill. Dr. Lorick will share his vision for the 2014 Conference. Awesome changes are coming!

The location of the conference this year makes it easier for people to attend. The Irving Convention Center provided a wonderful, worshipful venue for our messengers in our annual meeting recently. Accessibility makes it very accommodating. Road construction is a matter of life in Texas but you can get to the convention center with relative ease. DFW Airport and Love Field will enable you to fly in close.

There are various auxiliary functions that take place around the Evangelism Conference. The Spanish-language session is on Sunday night. The Conference of Texas Baptist Evangelists has a great lineup for Monday afternoon. A major highlight is the Cooperative Program Luncheon featuring Fred Luter. You will want to purchase your tickets early for the CP Luncheon.

You can read more about the details in the center spread of this issue of the TEXAN. Registration for meals can be made online or by calling SBTC at 877-953-SBTC.

Like never before we are to share the good news. The Evangelism Conference is designed to encourage, challenge and equip. I believe if you come to Irving you will leave with a renewed passion to reach people for our Lord and Savior. See you in Irving!

FBC Dallas controversial?

Tim Tebow is coming to First Baptist Dallas in connection with the dedication of their new building project. More about the building another time but right now the focus is on the views of the church and her pastor. Tebow, who has borne an amazing amount of scorn for simply living out his Christian faith in public, is now being urged to distance himself from First Dallas because the church has a reputation for … living out its faith in public. It really is OK to laugh at our critics sometimes I think.

FBC Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress has been in the news over the past couple of years for his statements regarding homosexuality, Islam, Mormonism, and even Rick Perry. It’s no surprise that he is usually in disagreement with our elite opinion makers. And his statements are no surprise or scandal among those who believe that some behaviors and doctrines are not compatible with biblical Christianity. Frankly, I don’t think those who disagree with us are surprised either. It serves their purposes to act as if they are surprised. It serves their purposes to pretend they are giving Tim Tebow good advice that they know he will not take unless he is pressured by his employers. It’s posturing, another flail to beat Christians who believe what Christians believe.

Sometimes churches should be controversial. The gospel certainly is. Frankly, Robert Jeffress’ comments about the most controversial issues of the day are offensive to many because they are the gospel. We won’t win the media battle and we don’t need to. But we should stand with our churches and pastors who get pounded for preaching the truth.

Clarity of vision builds unity across multiple campuses

Unity comes around clarity of vision as members agree on their motivation and method, stated Bryan Rose of Auxano, a newly acquired division of LifeWay. “Then success will be measured, not so much by numbers,” but “how are people being made into disciples.”

Fashioning ministry at new sites has to get beyond mere preferences, Rose added. “You have to get into the simple vision of what we’re here to do,” he added, encouraging churches to ask, “Why are we called to do this?”

A downtown site may look very different from a suburban site meeting in a theater, “but there has to be that shared DNA” that is carried more than through the unity of “shared vision and articulation.”

Rose consults with churches onsite from six to 12 months as they consider a move to multi-site or other new models of ministry. “We believe in more than just transferring statistics and best practices or coaching in the principles of launching a campus,” he added.

Auxano is in the early stages of piloting a lab of sorts in the Dallas area for churches interested in developing a multi-site strategy around vision clarity—the element Rose considers most crucial to long-term church health and intra-campus alignment.

When sharing success stories, multi-site churches shift into storytelling mode, he said, with testimonies of new disciples told from one campus to another, building unity around fulfillment of a clearly stated vision. Churches like Fellowship of the Parks in Keller and the Met in Houston are among those that feature videotaped testimonies of changes in the lives of their members.

Participation by members of different campuses in mission trips and other service opportunities help unify the congregation across various campuses.

Congregational business meetings can be a challenge, but Beaumont’s Calvary Baptist Executive Pastor Gary Rothenberger Jr. said those who are concerned about making decisions for the church’s future will make an effort to show up at the main campus. “We’ll answer questions at the north campus, but we will all gather to have the vote.”

Prior to a vote at the various campuses on a transition to elder governance, the Met facilitated a joint Q&A session one week in advance.

Fellowship Church in Grapevine relayed video of the 90 baptisms from distant campuses during a challenge for Christ-followers to observe the ordinance that day. Young’s appeal resulted in 515 people stepping forward for a spontaneous baptismal service.

“I told the crowd that when someone balks at this first step of obedience in the Christian life, I have to wonder if they are really a Christian,” Young said.

“We were not sure if the spontaneous baptism approach would work via video, but it did,” former campus pastor Mark Morgan said at the time. “We were excited to see a total of 90 people baptized at our satellite locations. We had to get creative since our satellites meet in high schools and renovated warehouse space where there are no baptisteries. We used an inflatable kid’s pool for one location.”

Bannockburn Baptist’s South Austin campus transported its “singing Christmas tree” to the Dripping Springs campus, providing an outreach tool that attracted more than 220 worshippers.

“One church meeting in multiple sites sounds good, but multiple sites can lose their connectedness if ‘out of sight, out of mind’ starts to become the norm,” said BBC’s multi-site pastor, Jeff Humphreys, who praised the commitment of 100 members from the main campus.

State Ed Board: Where the ideologies collide

Anyone who’s followed politics and cultural issues in Texas knows the Texas State Board of Education has been Ground Zero in the culture wars. It seems to be the place where the Left and Right butt heads beyond the legislative chambers and the decisions made there affect not only Texas school children but also kids in other states because of the Lone Star State’s influence in public education.

Among other things, the disciplines of science and history have drawn competing lobbies and national media attention in the last decade. Conservatives have held sway by a narrow margin. Now that SBOE Chair Barbara Cargill (R-The Woodlands) has cleared a Senate committee, her vote now goes to the full Senate for confirmation, likely on Tuesday (Feb. 19).

Cargill, known widely as a social conservative but also regarded as fair-minded to those to the left of her, needs a two-thirds majority. According to the Austin American-Statesman, she was cautiously praised during the committee hearing by Austin Democrat Sen. Kirk Watson even though he quizzed her on her views of intelligent design and other things.

Thomas Ratliff, a Republican SBOE member who is widely considered a moderate on the board, voiced his support for Cargill, even though he acknowledged the two have ideological differences.

As is par of the course, Cargill was criticized as having an agenda to push intelligent design in science classrooms by Kathy Miller of the Texas Freedom Network, a liberal group founded in 1996 by Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards to counter the “religious right.”

Texas Freedom Network has a dogged lobbying presence at the state education building and at SBOE meetings. Conservatives may hold the voter majority in our state, but TFN is loud and squeaky.

Gov. Perry’s nominee in the last session, Lampasas Republican Gail Lowe, didn’t make it out of Senate nominations committee. Cargill was the next choice and served as SBOE chair during the last session.

The Texas SBOE is anything but boring, has wide influence on the future of Texas, yet seems to fly under the radar of many voters. Please prayer for our SBOE members. They have a tough and highly scrutinized job to do.

A positively pro-life ministry

Here’s one thing that pro-life and pro-choice people apparently agree about: a woman who is fully aware of what she’s doing is less likely to abort her baby. That agreement is why Planned Parenthood and other ardently pro-abortion businesses strenuously oppose informed consent, parental consent, and pre-abortion sonograms. Of course that is also why pro-life advocates very much favor laws that require women to receive complete information about the life she is thinking of ending. The statistics indicate that 70-80 percent of abortion-minded women who see sonogram results before an abortion will choose to let their babies live. That’s still a choice, isn’t it? Those who profit from abortion consider it an unacceptable choice. For the abortion industry, those women represent a loss of 80 percent of potential customers. For pregnancy resource centers, those choices represent women who are unscarred from having an abortion, AND children who live and grow up to have kids of their own.

That’s where the Psalm 139 Project came from. The Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has raised money for and placed sonogram machines in cities all across the country. More recently, the focus has been on the cities in which the Southern Baptist Convention meets each year. In 2011, Psalm 139 placed a machine in the Phoenix area; last year, a portable machine was place in the New Orleans area. This year’s SBC meeting is in Houston. The intent of Psalm 139 leadership is to place a sonogram machine that city. The location chosen is Mission Greenspoint.

Mission Greenspoint is a human needs ministry supported by several Houston area churches including Houston’s First, Metropolitan, Houston, Spring Baptist, Champion Forest of Houston, and Fallbrook, Houston. They provide the normal services: counseling, feeding, a clothes closet and assistance for those seeking employment. The pregnancy center built into Mission Greenspoint is within a short radius of several abortion providers, including one of the largest abortion franchises in the country. Their community is poor and the clientele of the pregnancy center there is 40 percent high school dropouts. We’ve got to imagine that the cluster of abortion providers in a poor neighborhood is there because the customers are there. A pregnancy resource center that depends heavily on donations and volunteers—that doesn’t make a profit—is there with a completely different motive. An average seven to nine people each month accept Christ as a result of someone at the pregnancy center sharing the gospel. I’ve often seen the stats and heard the testimonies of those who confess Christ in a pregnancy resource center and wonder, pound for pound, what else we do that has better evangelistic results.
I hope that Mission Greenspoint will have an increased flow of clients as a result of expanding its services to providing sonograms.

Perhaps they can cut more deeply into the nasty commerce being done at local abortion clinics. That’s our hope and that’s why this is a good investment.

Would you or your church be able to contribute to the Psalm 139 project? If so you can go to or contact the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission at 901 Commerce, Nashville, Tenn., 37203. Because the Cooperative Program provides all the administrative support for Psalm 139 through the ERLC, 100 percent of your gifts will go to place a sonogram machine where it will do the most good.

Our goal this year is raise funds so that we may build up the ministry of Mission Greenspoint’s Pregnancy Assistance Center in time for the SBC meeting in June. I’m convinced that our support for this ministry will result not only in children who will live because their mothers saw them in the womb but also those who will live forever because of the gospel ministry of the center. Rarely does the intersection of social ministry and evangelism meet so perfectly as it does in a Christian pregnancy center. Few ministries deserve our enthusiastic support more than these.

Keep the lamp burning in the church

They offer to the Lord every morning and every evening burnt offerings and incense of sweet spices, set out the showbread on the table of pure gold, and care for the golden lampstand that its lamps may burn every evening. For we keep the charge of the Lord our God, but you have forsaken him. —2 Chronicles 13:11

God holds the pastor and members of the local church responsible for presenting Christ to the world. The church serves as a conscience for the world to help it know whether its ways are right or out of the will of God. In the Old Testament, the priest was responsible to lead the nation of Israel in the ways of God. When Israel pleased God, the lamp would burn bright in the temple because the priest had fulfilled his job of serving God in the temple and leading the people to live by His commandments. During these times, God’s blessing would be upon the nation. However, when the priest failed in his responsibility, the light in the temple would burn low, and eventually go out. God would withdraw His blessings, and Israel would experience the consequences of disobedience and sin.

Today’s church is in a battle to maintain the orthodox views of the Christian faith. The early church battled over the humanity and divinity of Christ. In this age, we find ourselves in a battle over the maleness of a man and the femaleness of women. A pertinent question of our day is, “Does God approve of men and women having conjugal same-sex relationships?” Did God make man to be homosexual and woman to be lesbian?

The universal church has become divided. Many brothers and sisters from other denominations, and some within our denomination, have embraced the gay rights agenda and are teaching that God accepts the sexual orientation of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community. Although Wikipedia is not always a reliable source, its definition of homosexuality accurately describes the behavior as a “romantic attraction, sexual attraction or sexual activity between members of the same sex or gender.” As an orientation, homosexuality refers to “an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectionate, or romantic attractions primarily or exclusively to people of the same sex; it also refers to an individual’s sense of personal and social identity based on those attractions, behaviors expressing them, and membership in a community of others who share them.”

The gay rights movement is strong, aggressive and determined to implant its beliefs into the moral fiber of the great institutions of society—most recently by attacking traditional marriage. Consequently, our American society is fast approaching a day when moral relativism will become the norm—there will be no moral absolutes. What will the righteous do if the foundations are destroyed? What will the Christian do if the norms of society become immoral? The light is burning out in our churches when homosexuality is regarded as a norm in the American way of life. The Holy Bible has established moral standards. Who is man to change what God has said is right, wrong, light, darkness, moral, immoral, godly and ungodly? Darkness and sin will prevail when the immorality of society replaces God’s morals.

We are living in times when defending what is morally right will cause you to face persecution. I have observed people who oppose the immoral acts of homosexuality, the gay rights movement and same-sex marriage being persecuted and forced to retract their statements or lose their jobs. God will have to stop this movement—man cannot stop it without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The church and the Christian are to be a light in a dark world. The lamp is a biblical symbol of God’s ability to illuminate the marvelous blessings of life that Christ gives to those who trust Him for salvation. Only the church can witness a godly lifestyle to a dark world. The church must oppose the evil of darkness so that those who are lost in this darkness might see and escape.

Thankfully, many in the church have done just that. A case in point is the recent decision of the Boy Scouts of America to delay voting on a policy that would have lifted the organization’s ban on homosexual Scout leaders. When executive board members arrived in Irving for a meeting to consider lifting the ban, they were greeted by hundreds of people—many of them believers—holding a prayer vigil and calling them to uphold biblical morality. And in the days leading up to the meeting, Christians in the media urged the Scouts to persevere in their stance against homosexuality. These courageous believers clearly influenced the board not to change its policy.

The apostle Paul would have applauded such public advocacy of righteousness. When he lists the sins that lead to eternal condemnation, he includes two references to homosexuality. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 he writes, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” Paul states in verse 11 that some homosexuals changed their sinful ways and were washed by the blood of Jesus (forgiven for their sins), sanctified (set apart for the purpose that they were made). This sanctification will enable homosexuals to embrace their designed genders as male or female.

The pastor and congregation must keep the lamp burning in the church so that all sin will be revealed and those who are lost can know Christ as Savior. In the New Testament church the lamp has been replaced by the Spirit of God that lives within each believer. It’s the Holy Spirit who burns within our hearts and compels men and women to repent of their sins and know Christ as their personal Savior. Let us unite in prayer that the Holy Spirit will move on the hearts of men and women everywhere that they will see the error of the homosexual lifestyle and be washed in the blood of Jesus, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of God. Amen.