Month: August 2013

San Antonio law would bar from city government those who oppose homosexuality

The San Antonio city council is considering an ordinance that would seem to bar anyone who opposes homosexuality from serving in public office or getting a city contract.

Opponents of the ordinance, some Texas Southern Baptists among them, say it violates the First Amendment freedoms of religion and speech.

“An effort is being made to silence and in some senses violate the civil rights of the Christian community and even the community at large, irrespective of their faith, if they oppose this non-discrimination policy,” Robert Welch, teaching pastor at Parkhills Baptist Church in San Antonio, told the TEXAN. “They will be discriminated against if they have had any association with an organization that has had discriminatory policies.”

A draft of the proposed ordinance prohibits “appointed officials” and “member[s] of a board or commission” from demonstrating “bias, by word or deed, against any person, groups of persons, or organization on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, age or disability, while acting in such public position.”

“Sexual orientation” and “gender identity” are the categories that have sparked opposition. The ordinance draft labels “bias” against homosexuals as “malfeasance” and authorizes the city council, in what would be unprecedented for a Texas municipality, to “remove the offending person from office.”

Businesses that have contracts with the city must include in their contracts a statement that they do not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity, according to the draft. The measure could come to a vote this month.

Supporters argue that similar policies in Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin lend credibility to the San Antonio proposal. But Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values, told the TEXAN that the San Antonio measure goes further than those cities’ statutes and is “one of the most egregious city ordinances of its type,” effectively barring Christians who believe homosexuality is a sin from serving in city government.

The ordinances in Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin deal with employment and housing discrimination and equal access to public accommodations as they pertain to gender identity and sexual orientation, but say nothing about bias “by word or deed” regarding city officials or boards.

It “jeopardizes and threatens religious freedom and free speech and also tramples on rights of private businesses,” Saenz said. “That is why there is a large and growing group of folks in the San Antonio area and throughout the state that have major concerns with this ordinance.” He added that the opposition is an effort by people of “all different political parties.”

Nearly 120 people signed up to testify against the ordinance at a public hearing Aug. 7, and opposition letters are pouring into city hall, according to Texas Public Radio.

Among the measure’s critics is first-term U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

“Any attempt to bar an individual from public service based on a personal religious conviction is contrary to the liberties guaranteed us under our constitution and should be emphatically opposed,” the Houston Republican said in a statement. “It is encouraging to see so many Texans standing up to defend their religious freedoms in light of the misguided proposal put forth by the local city council.”

Even if the ordinance passes, Saenz said it is likely to lose a legal challenge. Cities that have attempted to enact similar measures, he said, “have been tied up for years in legal challenges and recall elections and court cases.”

Welch worries that the ordinance could exclude from public office any member of a church that teaches homosexuality is a sin. He has mentioned the issue in leadership meetings at Parkhills and urges all San Antonio believers to contact city leaders to express their opposition.

If Christians remain silent on this measure, it could hinder their ability to win people to faith in Christ, Welch said. Believers who do not defend biblical standards in civic life appear selective and hypocritical when they call people to repent in private witnessing encounters, he said.

“If we keep silent at this point on a matter that is most clearly revealed in Scripture to be antithetical to the plans of God, then we have no leg to stand on when we call people to repent of any sin,” Welch said.

There is no evidence that a homosexual or transgendered person has ever faced discrimination in the city government, Saenz said.

“It’s very clear that the folks that define themselves by their sexual orientation and behavior and their gender identity want to use the government to punish people that don’t agree with their lifestyle,” he said. “It’s unfortunate but I think it’s very clear that’s why these ordinances continue to come forward.”

Texas church planters: Evangelize kids to grow

Despite limited resources and even less space, two Texas church plants are centering their evangelism and outreach strategies around children as a means for reaching families with the gospel. The strategy, the planters say, is crucial in building a healthy church.

Currently in its pre-launch stage, Revolution Church in McKinney averages 35 people who gather on Sundays in the home of church planter Randy Moore.

“RevKids is devoted to helping our kids establish a foundation in the Word of God,” Moore wrote on the church’s website.

“Our goal is to come alongside your family to help your children learn what it means to love God with all their hearts and love others as themselves,” he said, citing Deuteronomy 6:5-9. “RevKids is more than just a children’s ministry; we consider ourselves a family ministry. We believe that where there are healthy families, you’ll find healthy children.”

Moore told the TEXAN, “If you are reaching kids, their parents will return. We specifically target kids for all of our outreach events,” he explained. Four children have responded to the gospel since families began gathering in February.

An 8-year-old neighbor who accepted an invitation later brought her two sisters and eventually the three of them brought their father. “God has used this sweet little girl to reach the rest of her family,” Moore said.

“If the child asks their parent everyday if it is Sunday, the likelihood of a returning guest is dramatically improved.”

Stonelake Church, a nearly three-year-old church plant in Cleburne, has also seen families come to Christ through its children’s evangelism emphasis. Pastored by Chris Williams, the church averages 130 in attendance. The pastor’s wife, Amber, has directed the children’s ministry for several years.

“We just recently baptized a man who started coming because his girls came,” Amber Williams said. “The girls’ grandfather brought them, and they attended regularly for a year or so. Then their father started coming about three or four months ago. He accepted Christ and was baptized on Father’s Day. There were three men who were baptized that day. I can’t think of a better way to witness to their children than to see fathers show outwardly who they serve.”

Mostly younger families between the ages of 25-45, Williams said Stonelake ministers to about 40-50 children from birth to 5th grade each week. Like Revolution Church, many of the families have not attended a church in years if ever.

When the plant began to research their community in the pre-launch stage, they discovered that families were looking for a dynamic children’s ministry. Children’s evangelism became a vital part of Stonelake’s church planting strategy.

To that end, Stonelake provides a program called Adventure Kids during the worship hour for birth through 5th grade. Lessons are video-based and include interactive games and activities. Children’s ministry volunteers rotate on a two-week schedule, she said.

“We are reaching younger families and the parents want to know their children are well taken care of and are learning how to grow in their relationship with God,” Williams said. “At the same time children want to have fun.” The church has also hosted drive-in movies, play days at the water park, and a VBS-type program called Adventure Week.

“You want your children’s area to be inviting but when you are portable and have to tear down every week that can pose a challenge. You get creative in making classrooms. We used decorative fences and tents. The kids love the tents because it created an outdoor atmosphere and the fences helped keep the babies and toddlers in one area,” she said.

Beyond space restrictions, Williams said recruiting and training volunteers has been challenging as well.

“During our first year, we spent time building our children’s workers,” Williams said. “Several of them started by loving on the babies and toddlers. We have been blessed with amazing workers who have gone beyond the call of duty.”

Despite the challenges, Williams said Stonelake would continue to invest heavily in children.

“We are reaching out to the kids, but at the same time we are reaching the parents. We want to minister to the whole family, not just to the children or the parents,” she added.

Is yours a reasonable faith?

It was one of those seminal moments. There I sat on a brick ledge outside the student center at Wichita State University on one of those warm, picturesque spring days you’d like to bottle up and keep. It was the mid-1980s, and a speaker from Brown University named Cliffe Knechtle had jumped headlong into a Mars Hill-style talk on the lawn as passersby stopped to see what was being peddled during the noon hour.

It wasn’t long before a crowd had gathered as Knechtle boldly, intelligently stated why he believed what he believed.

That day—for the first time—I saw in person the power of a well-reasoned, articulate and winsome defense of the Christian faith. I knew what was true and had believed it since the day God overwhelmed me at age 8. But I had never seen it asserted so smartly and confidently and in such a hostile environment.

Knechtle, wearing a button-down oxford with his sleeves rolled up as I recall, paced back and forth, hands engaged, making his case for God and specifically for Christ with skillful rhetoric. I don’t remember many specifics, except that he referred to “Pascal, the great 17th-century mathematician. …” Frankly, I’m not sure I knew Pascal from Pasteur, but Knechtle had me making mental notes when he said that Pascal believed man had within him a “God-shaped vacuum” that gravitated toward worship.

I went back that evening to hear him speak to the campus InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and taped his presentation, replaying it several times. He genuinely seemed to enjoy the fray, not for argument’s sake, but for what seemed to be his end game. Apologetics was merely a means.

All these years later, I have benefited from apologetical study, driven mostly out of fear of not knowing answers to potential questions. In fact, it’s a biblical command to be able to give an answer for your hope, but always kindly, respectfully (1 Peter 3:15).

Up until that point, however, I was where too many Christians stay, content to swim in the warm, shallow waters close to shore.

Make no mistake: Apologetical argumentation has never converted a soul. The Holy Spirit does that through the explicit gospel. In fact, some who enjoy an argument too much can be a stumbling block. The goal isn’t to “win the debate” but to lay out the answers. That’s why the Word tells us to be ready. Amazingly, God desires to use us in his work.

Clearly, apologetical study benefits the believer as much as the unbeliever.

An exposure to the best of Christian apologetics should remove objections that Christianity isn’t rational. If the skeptic is willing to follow the evidence historically and logically, he inevitably will come to a decision: Either he will seek more truth, setting up an encounter with the gospel, or he will opt to “suppress the truth in unrighteousness,” a la Romans 1. 

For the believer, though, he cannot defend what he doesn’t know. It seems logical that apologetical study for the Christian would drive biblical literacy and deeper theological understanding. It’s a natural partnership, holding in one hand the foundations of the faith and in the other an ability to defend its validity against all contenders.

What we don’t know should drive us out of fear onto our knees and into greater study to be certified, unashamed workmen for Jesus.

On this last point, ask any parent or grandparent these days about the terror of answering a 7-year-old who wants to know what gay means, or a 9-year-old who wants to know why a doctor would make babies die. They will talk about anything, and at surprisingly young ages. We live in a culture that lets it all hang out.

So for a Christian adult, this is no time for lazy-minded belief. You must not only know what you believe and why you believe it (a first step), but what they believe, why they believe it, and why Jesus towers above the dead gods of this world. 

Our faith is wedded to reason. Can you provide a reasonable, kindly delivered answer for your hope?

If not, or if you need a refresher, I recommend the Confident Christianity Conference on Sept. 6-7 at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Cedar Hill, with leading thinkers such as J.P. Moreland of Biola University and our own Barry Creamer of Criswell College tackling the skepticism and relativism of the age. For more on that, see our story in the latest TEXAN Digital.

































































Air Force sergeant canned for saying ¦ nothing

SAN ANTONIO – Due to a perceived slight against homosexuality Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk is in a fight for his career. The Lackland Air Force base first sergeant was told Friday by his commanding officer to clear out his office. The point of contention is reportedly not about anything Monk said but what he refused to say.

“It’s all because he didn’t say anything wrong. He thought it,” said Steven Branson, pastor of Village Parkway Baptist Church. Monk, his wife, and their three teenage sons faithfully attend services each Sunday the pastor said.

Branson said Wednesday he has been in touch with Monk since the sergeant told him Sunday of the untenable situation. The pastor said Monk feels abandon by the institution he has served for 19 years. Deployed as a medic, Monk devoted himself to saving the lives of his fellow service men and women, according to his pastor.

“Now I’m in trouble and everybody’s leaving me behind,” Monk told Branson.

At issue is Monk’s refusal to reveal his personal views regarding homosexual marriage to his commanding officer. According to a Fox News report, the commander, a lesbian, asked Monk to report on disciplinary proceedings for an Air Force instructor under investigation for making objectionable comments about homosexual marriage during a training session.

According to Fox News Monk interviewed the instructor and determined his comments were not intentionally provocative. But some trainees complained. Monk suggested his commander use the incident as a learning tool about tolerance and diversity. But she would not be satisfied.

“Her very first reaction was to say, ‘we need to lop off the head of this guy.’ The commander took the position that his speech was discrimination,” Monk reportedly said.

Branson said the commander began to press Monk about his views on the issue.

Fox reported, “She said, ‘Sgt. Monk, I need to know if you can, as my first sergeant, if you can see discrimination if somebody says that they don’t agree with homosexual marriage.’”

Having witnessed the commander’s ire regarding the instructor, Monk balked. He also understood Air Force policy demands silence from homosexual detractors. So Monk refused to answer the question.

“She got angrier and angrier with him,” Branson said. “So he got fired for something she thinks he believes.”

The action will be a mark on an otherwise spotless record. Branson called Monk “pure military”- a real “do-it-by-the-book” service man who also happens to be a strong Christian.

It is because of his faith and the lesson he wants to teach his sons that compels him to take action when no one else would stand for him.

Monk told Branson, “I’m going to teach my boys they can’t run from everything.”

The Liberty Institute in Plano agreed to represent Monk should the need for legal counsel become necessary. And although the family is “low key” and not well known among the congregation, help has come from the church. Branson said members who are experienced news media and military professionals offered counsel on how to negotiate the anticipated onslaught of exposure and scrutiny.

“We’re trying to provide him coverage,” Branson said.

He said the Monk family has faithfully attended Village Parkway Baptist for two years. Though a number of military personnel from Lackland Air Force Base attend the church they do not join because reassignments keep them on the move. But their attendance and involvement in the congregation is encouraged and valued Branson said.

San Antonio proposal heats up religious freedom debate

A San Antonio proposal that some say would essentially ban from city government or city contract work anyone who holds a tradition view on sexuality will likely come before the San Antonio City Council in the next few weeks. The timing of a vote has been difficult to discern, perhaps purposefully so, but the opponents of it are encouraging likeminded people make their voices heard.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Houston) this week even entered the fray, speaking out against it.

“Any attempt to bar an individual from public service based on a personal religious conviction is contrary to the liberties guaranteed us under our constitution and should be emphatically opposed. It is encouraging to see so many Texans standing up to defend their religious freedoms in light of the misguided proposal put forth by the local city council,” Cruz said in a statement.

A story is planned for the next TEXAN Digital, due out Aug. 14. Until then, read more about the proposed ordinance here.


Texas churches prioritize ministry to military families in transition

ABILENE—During Joe Sexton’s Air Force career he and his wife Melene, along with their two daughters, moved nine times in 20 years—which meant attending many different churches. But they are quick to say which one they miss most: Southside Baptist Church in Abilene.

That’s because Southside makes a point to embrace families from nearby Dyess Air Force Base and integrate them into leadership even if their time in the church is brief.

“They asked Joe to be a deacon after we’d been there about a year and a half,” Melene Sexton told the TEXAN. “Joe told [Pastor] Kevin [Ueckert], ‘I’d love to do it, but we’re not going to be here that much longer.’ And Kevin said, ‘We want to use you while you’re here.’ And that made us feel good.”

Southside is among dozens of SBTC churches near the 19 military installations around Texas that make caring for servicemen and women a priority.

Dyess is home of the B-1B Lancer bomber and is the Air Force’s premier operational B-1B unit. The B-1 is the backbone of America’s long-range bomber force, providing massive and rapid delivery of weapons anywhere around the globe on short notice. The 317th Airlift Group also operates at Dyess with some of the busiest C-130 units in the Air Force.

Ueckert said one of his church’s goals for Air Force families is to help them feel a part of the congregation quickly and teach them how to use their gifts in the body even when they know that they’re going to be deployed or that they’re not going to stay in Abilene long-term.

“We try to organize our ministry opportunities, our leadership opportunities so they can jump into stuff while they’re here and then vacate that area while they’re gone, knowing that it’s still going to be OK and jump right in when they get back,” Ueckert said. “We want to make the most of their time here.”

Jason Gray, pastor of Elmcrest Baptist Church in Abilene, said his church works to extend hospitality to Air Force personnel. A year and a half ago, Elmcrest baptized a couple who both served in the military and whose families lived far away. Later, when the wife was deployed overseas, the church helped the husband care for their two sons who were both under 3 years old.

“There’s stability in the military in general,” Gray said. “But there’s instability of location and being away from family. I think that’s the hardest thing—being away from all your natural family. The biggest thing we as a church can do is to be that family away from home for them.”

Two hundred miles away at Fort Hood, Army families are the focus of ministry for area churches. As one of the largest U.S. military bases in the world, Fort Hood is home to more than 30,000 people.

At nearby Unity Baptist Church in Copperas Cove, most of the members are either active or retired military. Each deployed soldier in the congregation receives letters from the church’s children and youth along with care packages that include CDs of worship services. There is also a special ministry for children of deployed parents, and men’s and women’s ministries provide support for the spouses of soldiers.

Unity Baptist Pastor Richard Lewis said the attention his congregation gives to Army families has yielded significant spiritual fruit.

“At least 14 young men have been called to the ministry out of our church that are now either working in the ministry in other places after they’ve been reassigned or are here with us after they’ve retired or have gone away to seminary,” Lewis said. He added that Unity sees marriages and families healed “on a weekly basis.”

Skyline Baptist Church in Killeen, which is about a mile from Foot Hood’s east gate, has a Sunday School class for wives of deployed soldiers. Called the “Overcomers,” the class provides a support network for the women, and men in the church do yard and housework for them.

Skyline also waives the $65 Upward Basketball fee for children of deployed soldiers, and its AWANA program draws many Army children.

“Through all the programs, we see these people who come for help and come for comfort go away with more than what they came with because of the love of Jesus portrayed through the people that are working with them,” Skyline Associate Pastor Dennis Cutbirth said.

Whether it’s at Dyess, Fort Hood or any other base, Melene Sexton said friendship and support are the most helpful ministries a church can extend toward the families of servicemen and women.
“Sometimes the squadron can’t do what a church can do,” she said.

Reeling from gunshot wound to femoral artery, officer shares gospel

Sometimes, the Holy Spirit’s abundant dunamis (from which we get our word dynamite) towers above the crowd in a stunning display.

Take the story of Charles Lodatto, who wasn’t witnessing on his own strength when, after taking a bullet to his femoral artery while serving a capital murder warrant at a Saginaw home on July 23, bragged on Jesus and his power to save souls while en route to the hospital. As a firefighter and a paramedic worked to control his bleeding, he had a captive audience, according to a story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Lodatto, an Arlington police detective, was released from Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth this week after 17-year-old Tyler Lane Holder shot him. FBI special agent Andy Farrell stepped in to grab Holder right before the shooting occurred because Holder had brandished a pistol, stopping Holder from causing more mayhem. According to the story, Saginaw detective Robert Richardson removed Lodatto’s belt and applied a tourniquet.

Holder is charged with raping and murdering his neighbor, 6-year-old Alanna Gallagher.

Lodatto told the newspaper: “There are things going on with Tyler Holder that I don’t think anybody can explain. He’s obviously a troubled youth that needs to be saved, and I hope through this incident he can find peace.

“He’s a sinner just like me. God saved me, and he can save Tyler Holder.”

Not the words of a part-time Christian.

Leading our kids to Christ

The primary responsibility for teaching children God’s truth is assigned to parents by Scripture. A surprising amount of discussion among people who agree about this has left us with this simple priority that is anything but simple to accomplish. In reality, many parents do not consider the gospel to be an important part of their children’s education. Some of these kids are nonetheless in our churches. We also know some apparently devout parents lack the grounding and confidence to disciple their children. For these reasons, the encouragement of parents in their role should not become a pendulum swing away from the evangelism of children in our churches. Instead, churches should continue reassuming the role of strengthening those families with which they carry some influence without diminishing their direct evangelism of children.

I know there have been excesses and I have seen well-intentioned foolishness by some children’s leaders during my own ministry. Even so, the excess has not been ubiquitous. For every earnest children’s worker who asked my kids ill-considered yes-or-no questions about accepting Jesus, we had 20 who were careful and wise. While Tammi and I were primarily used of God to explain the gospel to our kids, we are ever grateful for those who sang in the chorus. The Lord only knows how significantly they were used to lead our kids to a point of decision.

We’ll continue to uplift the role of parents in these pages for as long as I edit the TEXAN but let me also suggest some things that our churches must shore up if they are going to have a gospel ministry to parents and kids.

Preach the gospel in every setting: Parents are primary but they are not omnipresent. Preschoolers should regularly hear the gospel from pastors and teachers. Everyone who attends your church should hear it well, winsomely and wholly told. That’s the primary good news of a church; it’s what we mostly have in common. For kids who are old enough to understand, invite them to respond to the gospel in the auditorium, in the classroom, at camp and everywhere else you get a chance. Please don’t become more subtle or timid in sharing the message. Parents who are doing their best will consider you an ally rather than a competitor. And I think this continued telling and inviting will show parents how it’s done. It will give them an experience to play off of in their discipleship of their own children. Churches teach parents and kids at the same time.

Have Vacation Bible School: When I was in local church ministry, and as far back as I could remember before that, VBS was the big week of the summer for every person in the church. Staff members didn’t go on vacation or on a mission trip that week, volunteers who couldn’t be there during VBS hours handed out invitations to the event and visited families touched during the week.
In my own life, God used VBS workers to lead me to Christ. My parents and my extended family taught me to love the Lord from my earliest memories but it was that week during the summer between fifth and sixth grade that I heard the Lord’s voice. I’m grateful for a church that deliberately encouraged older children to respond to the gospel. There is no reason why that message should be muted in our day. I think there will be fewer adults in coming years who will raise their hands and say, “I was won to Christ during VBS.” Partly this may be because fewer children attend Vacation Bible School and partly because some VBS weeks are less evangelistic for whatever reason.

Disciple parents at all stages: As I mentioned, the trend seems to be moving toward a more focused effort to help parents with their God-given role. Great, bring it on from pre-natal classes on spiritual leadership to remedial classes for parents of teenagers. Helping an adult disciple his children is also helping an adult to follow Christ. That only multiplies the ministry power of a church. It is ultimately an investment in every significant thing a church should do. Don’t forget single parents, though. Women particularly find themselves raising kids alone. Although I do believe a godly mother will find that the Lord will provide what her children lack from not having their biological father in the home, he often makes that provision through the body of Christ. Churches then can be a part of fathering the fatherless. One the most graphic examples of this I’ve seen was an inner-city church where the community suffered from epidemic fatherlessness. That pastor scheduled individual appointments with fatherless kids when report cards came out. He discussed the report with students, prayed with them and then signed the report card. Mothers in the church were grateful for the assist, especially the mothers of boys. This pastor invested time and attention in children who needed a father figure because he considered this a priority pastoral ministry. How can your church shore up that fatherless family next door to your building? It sounds like a pretty good application of James 1:27.

Invest your best in this ministry: Nope, I’m not saying that you should double your budget for children’s ministry. Money is rarely the biggest need. Instead, strategically utilize the best teachers and encouragers and evangelists you have in ministry to those under 18 years old. Your second string should be focused on their parents. Maybe that gifted lady who’s enjoyed teaching her friends for the past 20 years should be retooled to disciple those the age of her children or grandchildren—perhaps her whole class needs to be assigned to this ministry. Your teachers and gifted leaders are resources. How strange that so many churches invest these gifted people in relatively mature Christians. Consider also your staff leadership of children’s ministry. If your church is large enough to have a full or part-time children’s minister, or a youth minister, do you have someone in place whom parents will consider a credible resource for their own efforts to disciple their kids? Most churches do not. If these are pastoral roles, and they are in fact if not in intent, more careful consideration should be given to the person who leads. The same would be true of churches that depend on volunteer leadership. Consider someone respected by parents rather than someone who is merely fun with kids.

In the training of our kids, we were blessed with a wide selection of what we used to call “significant other adults.” These men and women said the same thing we said without having that tired old Mom and Dad face. From our side the collection of these people appeared to be deliberate on our part or the surprising provision of God—it did not often appear to be a well-planned church strategy. God can use good planning and most parents would consider the help a nice surprise.

So yes, I agree with our experts that parents are primary in the winning and discipling of children. I also agree that churches, rather than any other human institution, should be in a secondary facilitating role in this great ministry. But this secondary role is important. It must not diminish just because we are exalting the primary role of parents. I don’t believe churches generally have been doing the wrong things in children’s ministry but I do wonder if we’re starting to neglect doing the right things.

West Texas, here we come!

In July, my wife June and I traveled across a portion of West Texas in seven days. We started out in Abilene at Elmcrest Baptist Church meeting with a group of pastors and church leaders. This was followed up with a dinner in Stamford. The next day I preached three times on Sunday morning at Broadview Baptist Church in Abilene. Pastor Wes Terry and the wonderful folks there made us welcome. God’s Spirit was evidently present. Sunday night I preached at Midway Baptist in Big Spring. Four sermons in one day is a challenge but an awesome privilege.

Pastors and church leaders meetings followed over the next five days. We were in San Angelo, Odessa, Lamesa, Lubbock, Amarillo, Pampa and Childress. Believe it or not, we drove through rain each day. Pastor Randy Davis at Lifeway Baptist Fellowship, Amarillo, was kind enough to allow me to preach on Wednesday night. Randy was one of the founding board members of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

One reason for going to West Texas was to encourage the faithful in carrying out the Great Commission. Instead of providing encouragement, June and I were greatly encouraged. Pastors and church leaders are seeking to please our Lord Jesus in small, out-of-the-way places and oil boom cities. The commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture is strong. Care for fellow believers is evident. Compassion for those who need to know Jesus is being practiced and proclaimed. June and I were humbled and uplifted by the loving SBTC folks in West Texas.

Another reason for going to West Texas was to invite everyone to the celebration at the Annual Meeting. We will be at the Amarillo Convention Center, Oct. 27-29. The Bible Conference led by Pastor Gil Lain of Paramount Baptist Church, Amarillo, precedes the convention, starting Sunday night and wrapping up Monday afternoon. A Spanish-language session is on Sunday night too.

SBTC President Terry Turner will preach on Monday night accompanied by his talented choir. He will preside over the sessions, concluding his second year of service. Pastor David Wilson of Southcrest Baptist in Lubbock will bring the convention sermon on Tuesday morning. His church will provide music in that session. Other brief biblical expositions will be interspersed with praise and worship.

There are two small segments of business. The Executive Board will bring recommendations on Tuesday morning. The Resolutions Committee presents their report that afternoon. Some people do not care for resolutions but they are extremely helpful. While resolutions are not binding on any church, they do give a snapshot of the opinion of the messengers for that convention. Current resolutions allow convention staff to appropriately represent the churches’ opinions on certain issues. During the recent debate in the Texas Legislature about restricting abortion, SBTC staff were able to speak definitively in favor of life because of our faith statement (BF&M 2000) and recent resolutions.

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is comprised of churches. You are the convention. Come to Amarillo! You will be amazed to hear what the 2,415 churches are doing together. Working together and giving together makes it possible to reach Texas and touch the world.