Month: March 2013

Spring break volunteers blanket El Paso with gospel

EL PASO—During their spring breaks, volunteers from nine SBTC churches converged on El Paso to distribute evangelistic packets to 100,000 homes and a potential 400,000 people.

In addition to Bibles, tracts and information about local churches, the packets contained invitations to a city-wide strength demonstration and evangelistic rally April 20 at the El Paso Coliseum featuring Team Impact. The spring break campaign, March 11-22, was designed to complement ongoing church planting efforts in the El Paso area and included nine churches from outside El Paso. In years past, the SBTC has sponsored similar spring break efforts in Laredo, Corpus Christi and McAllen.

“New churches will be started as a result of this and established churches will be strengthened,” Barry Calhoun, SBTC missional ministries team leader, said of the spring break outreach. “I see those as the larger impacts this could have. The kingdom of God is advanced because we’re carrying the message of the gospel to those who don’t know him. And many different ethnic groups will hear it because we’re there.”

Though the outreach was intended mainly as a seed-sowing ministry, at least 14 people made first-time professions of faith in Christ as a result. Block parties and other evangelistic activities supplemented the packet distribution.

One salvation occurred as SBTC missions director Terry Coy distributed packets along a residential street. At most houses volunteers would simply hang a packet on the door handle without knocking. But at one house a man in his 70s was standing in front of the door, so Coy started a conversation.

When Coy asked how the man would respond if God asked why he should be let into heaven, the man listed some of his good works. So Coy presented the gospel and the man prayed to receive Christ. He even gave his full name and granted permission for a local pastor to contact him.

“I was sensing some sincerity in the conversation,” Coy said. “He wasn’t just being polite, trying to get rid of me, which sometimes happens.”

Another team encountered a woman who had prayed the night before for God to give her some evidence of his existence. Though she was not saved during the conversation, she asked the team to pray for her sick son and said they were a sign from God that he exists. She attended one of the participating Baptist churches the next Sunday.

Chuy Avila, an SBTC church planting missionary in El Paso, said the spring break outreach was desperately needed due to the large number of lost people in the city and too few gospel-preaching churches.

“We’ve been studying El Paso, and we’ve discovered that most of the Baptist churches are located to the northeast of the city,” Avila said. “And there are some places here in El Paso where there is no evangelical church. So we decided we will emphasize this area. So we visited some areas, and we got about 50 people that showed interest in a home Bible study.”

Avila said the work of spring break volunteers helped him identify several groups that are underserved by Christian ministries. He said he hoped to begin 20 or more Bible studies resulting from the outreach.

“I’m not emphasizing only Spanish-language church planting,” Avila said. “I’m going to emphasize any church planting because we discovered some ethnicities that nobody’s reaching in El Paso. So this effort helped open my eyes about the need among different ethnic groups in El Paso.”

Some of the greatest needs are among Chinese, Japanese and Korean people, he said. Avila asked that anyone interested in ministering to those groups contact him through the SBTC.

“We’re still trying to reach the 26 million people in Texas with the gospel,” Calhoun said. “And too few of them fully understand what the good news of Christ could mean in their lives.”

Bill may hold keys to retaining religious freedom in Texas

AUSTIN—Texas legislators have filed a bill in the current legislative session that could allow Texans to take strides in the fight to retain religious liberty. Versions have been filed in both the House of Representatives and the Senate—HRJ 110 by Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) and SJR by Sen. Donna Campbell (R-San Antonio) and Sen. Ken Paxton (R-McKinney). If supported in the 83rd legislative session, the bill could be placed on the ballot as a proposed constitutional amendment for Texas voters to consider in November.

Campbell said faith and religious values are foundational and that protecting them is essential to democracy.

“SJR 4 proposes a state constitutional amendment that reaffirms our religious freedom and serves as a firewall against activist judges and overarching mandates which may encroach on the religious beliefs of Texas citizens,” Campbell said. “Whether a municipality decides to start a public meeting with a prayer or a student includes a Scripture on a football banner, these are free expressions of the soul and should not be silenced with the threat of government action.”

Rep. Isaac said although some legislation exists to protect religious liberty, it has become clear that further steps need to be taken to insulate those freedoms from otherwise deteriorating.

“Religious liberty is a founding principle of our country, and it’s crucial that we preserve this freedom for future generations,” Isaac said. “Although Texas enacted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1999, recent litigation has led me to believe that a constitutional amendment is necessary to ensure that our liberties are protected from an overreaching legislature, government bureaucracy or court system. Citizens are guaranteed freedom of religion, not freedom from religion, and there is an important distinction.”

Texas Values, a state-focused effort of Liberty Institute to effect policy in Austin, echoes the bill authors’ sentiments and calls the bill “one of the most important” of the legislative session. Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values, recalled specific, recent examples of government encroachment.

“[Examples include] a school student banned from bringing a religious-themed candy cane to a winter party in public school (Plano), valedictorian threatened by judge with incarceration for offering a prayer during her graduation comments (Medina Valley High School), cheerleaders prevented from using a religious message on privately made banners for sports events (Kountze) and pregnancy care centers targeted by the City of Austin and forced to violate their religious beliefs to satisfy a city ordinance,” Saenz said.

The leadership of Texas Values stressed the need for citizens to urge representatives to support the measure in the House and Senate. Campbell said with that vocal support from Texans, the forecast for the bill appears favorable.

“I believe the outlook for the bill’s passage is good so long as citizens remain vocal in their support,” Campbell said. “It’s not controversial; it has the backing of the lieutenant governor, and constitutional scholars like Kelly Shackelford have endorsed it. Sixteen other states have passes similar measures.”

The constitutional amendment would place the “substantive core” of the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts that have been enacted federally, into the state constitution.

“The substantive core of the Texas Religious Freedom Amendment, which has been called Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRA), have been enacted and/or recognized at the federal level and in 31 other states—some in the form of state law, constitutional amendment or by court interpretation,” Saenz said. “Texas currently has state law protection in the form of a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 1999, but the attacks on religious freedom in Texas have continued since 1999.”

Saenz said the religious freedom amendment’s passage in the state Legislature would provide an opportunity for Texans to speak out and act to retain their freedoms, which appear in greater danger with each passing day.

“New attacks on religious freedom are becoming more and more frequent, even in Texas,” Saenz said. “Our Texas Constitution does not currently include the level of religious freedom protection necessary to be the lasting firewall we need on such a fundamental issue. HJR 110 and SJR 4 provide that firewall and give Texans the chance to decide this issue at the ballot box in November.”

Those who wish to find information on how to contact their representatives can visit capitol.state.tx.us and fill in the ‘Who Represents Me?’ box on the right side of the page. To follow the progress of the bill, type ‘SJR 4’ or ‘HJR 110’ into the ‘Search Legislation’ field at the top of the same page. Now that the bill has been filed, it will go on to committees in the House and Senate and will be voted on by each. A draft of the bill is also available by clicking the ‘Text’ tab at the top of the web page for either version of the bill.

For Ft. Worth church, Easter outreach begins in summer

FORT WORTH—The Easter season is often a popular time for churches to invite neighbors to their services, but for a Fort Worth church it is only an end marker of about eight months of outreach.

Although Normandale Baptist Church has been in their neighborhood for only five years after moving from the military barracks they met in beginning in 1948, they have made an impact and hope to connect with all residents in the community surrounding the church.

Pastor John Mark Yeats has helped carry out that goal and initiated an outreach plan that runs all year that would help accomplish it.

“We don’t think that outreach needs to ever stop or needs to be focused on just one event,” Yeats said.

The outreach program begins with invitations to Vacation Bible School each summer.  The church keeps the contact information for the children that attend and then visit their families and invite them to their services as well as the next church event.

A similar procedure is followed for the fall festival, the Christmas Eve service and ultimately Easter. With each event, a follow-up occurs so a visitor is not forgotten.

“Our long-term goal is to reach as many homes as we can in a five-mile radius of our church,” Yeats said.

Yeats said every visitor—whether to a special event or normal church service—is usually contacted by three different church staff or members within the first 48 hours, encouraging them to come back.

Outreach also ranges from “snack sacks for hungry kids to fixing things around the house for those who no longer can … in White Settlement, Benbrook, Aledo and West Fort Worth,” according to the church website. There is also a monthly food giveaway at an area Wal-Mart and the “Normandale Futbol League,” a gospel-based soccer outreach to kids.

The church furthers their outreach more for the Easter service by getting the whole church involved and not just the staff.

Yeats described their event called the “Big Invite” as a chance for church members to personally invite the community to the Easter service.

The church sends out about 1,000 invitations by mail, and then on one evening church families are assigned streets where they go door-to-door inviting neighbors personally.

 “We believe that we have a responsibility before the Lord for those homes to reach them with the good news,” Yeats said.

Because of that responsibility, Yeats said their church keeps a focus on missions with all their events and uses them as a chance to share the gospel.

“The one relationship that will transform their lives forever is that with God,” Yeats said.

Yeats said a strategic plan is key for a church hoping to begin an outreach program in its community.

“Churches who are wanting to impact their community have got to start thinking of their community as a mission field,” Yeats said. “And how can they enter into a relationship with these individuals within that community so they can make a difference in their lives.”

Yeats said that can start with one activity that they know brings in people from the community and then using their contact information to remain in touch with them and invite them to return.

“It has become part of the way we do life in the community,” Yeats described their program. “Because God has placed us strategically in a specific area and we want to be able to reach the people that God has given us to reach.”

Yeats encouraged other churches to do the same—finding an outreach program that works in their community that the entire church can commit to.

Q&A with ERLC search chairman Barry Creamer

The TEXAN’s Tammi Ledbetter interviewed Barry Creamer, chairman of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s search committee and vice president of academic affairs and professor of humanities at Criswell College in Dallas, about the committee’s recommendation of Russell Moore to succeed Richard Land as ERLC president. Moore was elected on Tuesday (March 26) and will begin on June 1.

Q. Explain the value of the ERLC leader having a doctorate in theology as opposed to more specifically in ethics.

A. We wanted someone who’s going to keep the gospel and keep solid doctrine at the center of what we present—even on public policy issues. So we felt it was really important to get someone and we had to have someone, if they’re going to represent Baptists and speak to Baptists, they have to have impeccable doctrinal foundations, and he’s got that. But the interesting thing is he is an ethicist. He is a philosophically trained intelligent Christian ethicist with a focus on theology.  So we feel really strong about both sides of that.

Q. I assume you have an interest in knowing whether he is a Calvinist.

As a person who debates with Calvinists it matters to me whether a person is a 5-pointer or not. Russ Moore is very specific about the statements he makes about the atonement, and the extent of the atonement, and describing those things in ways that are very important to me. For instance, that Jesus died for everyone without any qualifications. He discusses the importance of that belief that he just died for the world, everyone, each one. He’s very particular about it. So the cores of the doctrine, as Russell Moore talks about this, it’s really compelling on all issues of Calvinism and Arminianism he is able to speak to both sides of the camp. He has regular engagements with a Free Will higher education group that he meets with and speaks at and obviously he listens to the Reformed crowd and he has the respect of both sides. As chairman of the committee and as a person who is absolutely not a Calvinist and was very meticulous in asking questions and talking about details of his own doctrinal stands and what that would mean, I’m 100 percent confident he’s going to represent the whole of the Southern Baptist spectrum well.

Q. Explain the vote process.

We had a vote of 26 to 1 and we agreed that was OK to make that public. We were very particular about maintaining the importance and the significance of the board process so we wanted the board to have a real vote, not just a stand up and unanimously endorse what we’ve said is going to happen. So we respected them from beginning to end, asking them for a private ballot and they gave us a private ballot of 26 to 1. There was not a word spoken against. Everyone was in complete harmony when we left the room. But we feel really good about the fact that we were respectful to the board and said if you vote secretly, no names, and you vote your conscience, and you seek what the Lord wants you to do—and our board felt good to vote their conscience—and that the decision was 26 to 1 in favor of Russell Moore. So there’s a little bit about that process.

Q. There are issues near and dear to Dr. Land’s heart. Is there anything in particular of great importance to Russell Moore?

A. I don’t know that the emphasis is going to shift right away. The things he mentioned that are obviously at the top of his radar are religious liberty and sanctity of life. Those are issues important to him personally and in anticipation of the things that are coming before our culture right now. Obviously those are both things that are really important to Dr. Land also and I think there is a lot of respect between both of them on their ethics positions.

Retired Wichita County pastor dies

BURKBURNETT—Bob Webb, pastor emeritus of Hillside Baptist Church in Electra and a resident of Burkburnett, died March 13. He was 76.

A native of Danville, Ark., Webb served 22½ years in the Air Force before surrendering to the gospel ministry. He married Tempey Arlene Willis on Oct. 23, 1953 in Portales, N.M. Webb served pastorates at Charlie Baptist Church in Charlie, Petrolia Baptist Church in Petrolia, and Hillside Baptist in Electra. Upon his retirement from Hillside, the church named him pastor emeritus.   

Webb served eight years on the Executive Board of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, made many mission trips to Belize, and filled leadership roles in Baptist Men and Royal Ambassadors in the Wichita Archer Clay Baptist Association.

Services were March 18 at First Baptist Church in Burkburnett, with Jim Richards, SBTC executive director, officiating and Gene Pepiton, director of missions at the Wichita Archer Clay Baptist Association, assisting.

Webb was preceded in death by his parents, two sisters and two brothers.

He is survived by his wife Tempey Arlene Webb of Burkburnett; two daughters—Barbara Kernott and husband Charles of Burkburnett, and Brenda Banks and husband Bill of Canyon; four granddaughters, three great-grandsons, and one-great-granddaughter. Webb also has two surviving brothers and three surviving sisters.

 

Sooners QB remembered as preacher, unlikely star

It was tragic to hear of the death of former University of Oklahoma quarterback Steve Davis, a Southern Baptist who was licensed to preach as a high schooler, in a plane crash in South Bend, Ind., on Sunday. The crash also killed Wesley Caves, 58, a business associate of Davis.

The 60-year-old son of Sallisaw, Okla., was an active member of First Baptist Church of Tulsa, and news reports said he was speaking in Sunday School class on the day of his death about how glad he was that he was a Christian, according to a report in the Tulsa World. That afternoon, Davis, Caves and two other people left Tulsa on business for South Bend.

Davis’ was the last scholarship given the year he came to Oklahoma under then-head coach Chuck Fairbanks. Eight quarterbacks were on the roster in the days before scholarship limits. He was a long shot until he caught the eye during a freshman scrimmage of an assistant coach named Barry Switzer. He went on the become the starter during Switzer’s first year as Sooners coach in 1973, guiding Oklahoma to consecutive national titles and a 32-1-1 record from 1973-75. 

For University of Texas fans, that era marked a dry spell against the Sooners—Texas lost five in a row until a 6-6 tie in 1976—and was a thorn in the side of Longhorns coach Darrell Royal, who retired after that season.

The Daily Oklahoman in Oklahoma City included a link to a video recording of Davis sharing his testimony during a 1975 Billy Graham Crusade. As a 9-year-old and a fairly new Christian, I was thrilled to hear Davis preach at Olivet Baptist Church in Wichita, Kan., in the summer of 1974. He signed the inside of my Bible: “Steve Davis OU #5.”  

Rick Ballard of McKinney, a Southwestern Seminary grad who has pastored Texas churches and was a director of missions here, was a competitor for the quarterback job along with Davis at Oklahoma. They played against each other in high school. Ballard wrote on his Facebook page:

“So horrible to hear of the tragic accident that took the life of my friend, teammate and rival Steve Davis. In HS we went head to head in football and track with his (Sallisaw) Black Diamonds vs. my (Poteau) Pirates. At OU we both wanted to win the starting job while the heir apparent was Freshman Kerry Jackson. By spring of 1973, Barry Switzer became the new head coach, Kerry was a recruiting violation, I was engaged and Steve became the starter and finished as the winningest QB in OU history until this year.

“Steve was a strong Christian who did some preaching. I heard him wrestle Scripture with coach (Ron) Fletcher after practice one day. I was saved and called to preach much later. Steve had a tough family life and lost his bro George way too early but he was a fine example for so many people. I pray his family will have God’s peace through the coming days and people will learn about Steve Davis the man. … apart from being an OU great! RIP Steve! Well done.”

Former Sooners coach Barry Switzer said of Davis on Twitter: “I’m saddened by the loss of Steve Davis. Great role model for young people on & off the field. He was my 1st QB & had an outstanding career.”