Month: November 2013

Does it matter where we came from?

The question of origins has far-reaching impact on things less theoretical. In fact, some things happening in our culture, things that cause us some level of consternation, are influenced far upstream by the question of man’s creation and purpose. Compare it to the way we look at some legal and policy decisions in our country—the debate often includes the founders of our country, their intent, motivation and even their view of truth. The specifics of our culture today would be different if we’d been founded by a different sort of men.

Consider a few important things deeply impacted by our assumptions about the events described in the first chapters of Genesis:

Theology—The Bible tells us that we can discern some things about God’s nature from what has been made. Prominent skeptics are quick to point out that the majority view of origins, their own views, paint the Judeo-Christian God in a very negative light. Carl Sagan, whose popular “Cosmos” series described a universe unrooted in purpose or meaning, criticized God as a “sloppy manufacturer” who would be “out of business if there was any competition.” Of course if one looks at the fossil record as preceding the fall of man he sees a record of disease and death during the time when God called creation “good.” Another scientist described God as indifferent and capricious after viewing the fossil record. Certainly, some God-honoring folks do believe the earth is very old but the evidence of death before the fall is a sticky thing for them to explain.

An understanding of origins that begins mankind with a larger population of evolving apes also throws a theological monkey wrench into our view of sin and salvation. If instead of a literal fall based on the rebellion of the first couple we have beasts who become self-aware and later morally aware, why couldn’t they continue to evolve or learn toward goodness as some believe? If a population of Adams didn’t exactly fall but rather become aware of their incomplete moral development, what is the second Adam of Romans 5?

Biblical Authority—This, like so many things, does come down to the question of God’s revelation of himself. Is the Bible true or not? What is written in the first 11 chapters of Genesis has often been called into question because the significant events there conflict with a materialist view of the world. Let me emphasize that—there is no reason to dismiss 11 chapters of Genesis that could not be applied to any portion of the Bible. The anti-supernatural bias of skeptics drives their textual or scientific analysis.

If we doubt the truth of what is clearly presented as history in the Scripture we have no reason to believe the theology of it. Some say that God was not really trying to tell us that the world was covered with water but rather that he is the judge who purifies what is corrupt. OK, if the pretty precise language of Genesis 7 (Noah’s age, the length of the deluge, the time it took water to recede, the height of the water, etc.) is not a record of something that happened, then why should I believe the lesson behind the myth? If Jesus could not/did not multiply loaves and fishes to the amazement of his followers, why would they listen to him talk about being the “bread of heaven?” Why believe anything about a book that is largely false?

Consider also the history of biblical skepticism. Perhaps this more refers to the character of God but ask yourself who read the Scripture prior to the rise of Enlightenment thinking, which began to reinterpret the Bible according to scientific theories. Who has mostly read it since, academics or laypeople? If a person has to have an advanced degree to discern that God really didn’t mean that humanity began with one couple or that Jesus walked on top of the Sea of Galilee, did God intend to hide himself from the less sophisticated hundreds of millions who read it? That is unthinkable, absurd.

Anthropology—What is man? Many of us identify ourselves by where we’re from—our family, our hometown or even our alma mater. We think it tells people a little about us. Personally, such information roots us and is significant in how we understand ourselves. All humanity has a source and the various theories about how we came to be here have an impact on how we think of ourselves and others. If we were specially created by God, stamped with his image and tasked to continue his creative work, we have inherent value and should be treated accordingly by our neighbors. Man’s worth is not developed or self-attributed but is rather ascribed to us by the one who sovereignly declares things good and bad or valuable and worthless.

What if we’re not specially created by God? That’s easy to answer because those theories are built into so much of our cultural dialog. If man is simply a clever beast with opposable thumbs and higher intelligence, our worth is only relative. We are valuable until we discover a still more clever beast. Within humanity, we are more valuable than those who are less clever than ourselves or physically weaker. That’s bad news for older people, those dependent because of some physical condition and the unborn. Our worth in this prevalent scheme develops for the first half of our lives and wanes in some ways during the last half. The sweet spot apparently comes after puberty and before you begin to develop a paunch and high blood pressure. If God does not exist or matter, this makes sense to an increasing number of people. In reality this viewpoint attributes no inherent worth in any person. If we are the sons and daughters of random processes, our lives have no value except that which we bestow upon ourselves and can enforce upon others. As Paul put it in 1 Corinthians, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Where we see mercy, generosity or kindness apart from those who believe God, it is either his common grace or it is someone being influenced by beliefs he does not hold.

Of course we could also note how our beliefs about man’s origins affect business (Why be honest if no one’s watching?), law (Why be just?), biotech (Can human consciousness be uploaded to a hard drive and made immortal?), diplomacy (Does might make right?) and art (Is there meaning in life and how would we express it?). In all cases it matters what we assume about our beginnings. These discussions that I’ve just mentioned in passing go on around you. If you have a child in school or university, assumptions about the source and meaning of all things are front and center in that child’s days. You should assume that most of his education and all of his entertainments are based on the assumption that man came from nothing and is here for no reason. Do you know what your kids think about ultimate matters? Is it something you talk about around the table or in the car?

A big part of the answer is teaching our kids the Bible, at church and at home. If they leave home knowing what and why they believe they will be different than most church kids of the past 40 years. Children and young adults who are discipled before leaving home will not be knocked off their faith by the first challenge they face. Some of those well-taught and believing kids need to study physics and biology. They might never be respected by their less tolerant peers but they can study creation from a different starting point and be the influential professors for the next generation of inquiring minds. For the rest of us there are resources aplenty for those who want to know more about God’s revelation through nature. Note the resource box on page 9 of this issue. Read some of that material; place it in your church library or your youth department. Buy copies for your kids or grandkids. Help them know by your example that these foundational discussions of God’s work do matter and are worthy of our attention.

Richards to college: Pastor role an inexplicable call

DALLAS—Preaching to a Nov. 7 chapel audience at Criswell College, Jim Richards said the biblically qualified minister has an inexplicable call of God on his life. Therefore, said Richards, the SBTC’s executive director, the pastoral role is not merely a job or vocation but rather “a supernatural calling from God that he pulls up from within and puts in our lives.”

With 1 Timothy 3:1-7 as his text, Richards told students preparing for ministry, “If you can do anything else, do it. But if you can’t do anything else but serve God in that vocational call that he has placed in you, then you will not be happy doing anything else.”

As chairman of the presidential search committee for the college, Richards said many of the principles for seeking a pastor are transferable in finding the next leader for the Dallas-based school envisioned by W.A. Criswell in 1969.

Pointing to verses 2, 3 and 7 of the passage, Richards encouraged churches seeking a pastor to notice the character of his life and find a man who is more concerned with complementing Christ than contextualizing with the culture, and less concerned with liberty and more concerned with lordship. “Let it be said that our lifestyles complement our message,” he added. 

As the “husband of one wife” and head of the home, a minister must demonstrate spiritual leadership in the domestic setting, Richards said. “Nothing ruins a man’s effectiveness more than a poor home life.”

He turned to Hebrews 13:7, 17, and 24 as evidence of God’s expectations of a leader, recalling a remark of Adrian Rogers when he was accused of being a dictator at his church. “He said, ‘I am not the dictator, but I am the head tater.’”

Richards added, “There must be that leadership by example and instruction, control that is allowed so that the leadership may be able to set the course in the home, in the church and in an institution like a college.”

Explaining that leadership must be earned, Richards said, “The pastor can’t make a church follow him and even a president of a school can’t make the faculty, the board of trustees or the student body follow him.” Leaders can only go as far as people will let them, he added.

From verses 6-7 Richards observed that the minister should have experience and training, addressing the credibility that comes from preparation. “It can be a young man with training and even some experience or an older man with maybe less training and more experience. But the idea would be to have a man with training and experience so he would not be carried away by every wind of doctrine.”

From verse 2 he gleaned the only functional requirement of a pastor—that he is apt to teach. “Styles may vary, tastes may be different and factors come and go, but the non-negotiable is the Word of God.”

Making application to the college, Richards said, “So the president of the school must be a man who is committed to the inerrant, infallible Word of God, to our doctrinal statement at Criswell College, to the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, and to those things that we believe about the Word of God.” 

Regarding his ability to teach and preach, Richards said it must be expository, citing Isaiah 28:13 to describe the pattern of “line upon line, precept upon precept, taking the Word of God as it is, preaching it book by book, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, and line by line.” It also must be evangelistic, Richards insisted, citing Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 9:16 to preach the gospel as well as “edifying to the saints,” quoting 1 Corinthians 14:12.

That pulpit ministry will involve “preaching against sin, for righteousness and spiritual maturity—the whole counsel of God,” Richards said. “God is going to use the man who fills the qualifications so that when God gets ready to do a great work he raises up his man.”

While reiterating that the Bible teaches that the office of pastor should be held by a male, Richards encouraged women preparing for ministry not to settle for anything less than God’s will should they decide to marry. “If God chooses singleness for your life you might be like Lottie Moon or Rebekah Naylor and others who have contributed to the kingdom beyond estimation, but if God gives you a life mate, let it be God’s man for you and don’t settle.”

Closing with a pledge to seek God’s will in seeking a president, Richards said, “Let’s find God’s man for Criswell College—a president who can lead the school and be what God would have him to be.”

“No one has an inside track,” he said in regard to the solicitation of recommendations through Dec. 2. While a bylaw requires that the president hold an earned Ph.D. and affirm a pre-tribulation, pre-millennial eschatological viewpoint, Richards acknowledged that the board “may choose to suspend” some of those conditions of employment if led to a person deemed to be the best candidate.

Resumes should be sent to and prayer is requested for the committee as it seeks God’s leader.

Speaking for God above the noise

Just recently I read about a musical parody debuting in New York about the Phelps family and their bizarre Westboro “Baptist” Church in Topeka, Kan. Unless you’re a doomsday prepper who just emerged from your bunker after a long nap, you know this strange group as those sign-carrying folks who protest everything from military funerals to Southern Baptist Conventions—the latter because real Baptists dare think that God seeks to redeem all kinds, homosexuals included.

Of course, the people behind the musical, called “God Hates This Show”—a play on words from the signs the Westboro people carry—don’t appear to be sympathetic towards biblical Christianity or the God who invented sex. But neither is Fred Phelps, the church’s leader.

The devil is clever.

In God, there is no shadow of turning. With the evil one, every conceivable contortion is used to twist the truth—outlandishly or ever so slightly. Anything to tarnish the pure truth of God that leads to life. Death is his end game.

I cringe when I hear the words “Baptist” and “church” preceding Westboro. My inner PR man wants to cry foul from the rooftops. Between the “God Hates” rhetoric of Westboro and the propaganda of the homosexual movement, it’s hard to get a hearing on what’s true.

God never promised us an easy path. But we are to proclaim God’s truth, noise or no noise. Somewhere out there are unconverted people with no reference point and only the word on the street from which to form their views about God and the Bible. Their only knowledge of Baptists might be from TMZ’s coverage of the latest concert where the Westboro cult showed up. If you find that far-fetched, go watch some man-on-the-street interviews.

These people desperately need to know that …

God created. It’s the foundational truth that gets in the way of purely materialistic narratives about the nature of man and meaning (or meaninglessness) of life. If we are explained only by the fortuitous joining of electrical impulses and physical matter minus any real spiritual essence, then the gods of this world have a point. But if there is a Creator, it might be wise to hear what, if anything, he has to say. God’s people must continue to make that case.

God created made man in his image, male and female. Not only has God made everything, but he has exclusively made men and women in his image. His fingerprints are all over us. That imagery is evident not only in our differences as male and female, but also in our distinction from the animals and all other creation. Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us God has set eternity in our hearts. We are hard-wired for him. Also, our sexuality is directly tied to his image in us. We glorify God through our masculinity or femininity, including the sexual union of husband and wife. Even so, the closest marital relationship leaves the heart dissatisfied. Only God can fill our void. 

Sin marred God’s image in man. Romans 1:18-32 depicts a downward spiral of truth suppression despite men’s innate awareness of God—“namely, his eternal power and divine nature”—leaving them without excuse. Working backwards from redemption, in hindsight, the biblical narrative makes sense of the disordered world and universal sin. C.S. Lewis wrote that, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

Yet the natural man “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Those we seek to reach are walking a darkened path without the illumination of the Holy Spirit.

The gospel brings resolution to the world’s fallen state. Christianity stands alone among world religions in that it provides a sacrifice for sin. The God-man, Jesus Christ, is our scapegoat and our kinsman-redeemer, who through faith trades our rags for his riches because he has taken our just punishment and prevailed over sin and death. Whatever miserable and disordered state we find ourselves, we are not too far removed from the Lord, whose arm is plenty long to save (Isaiah 59:1).

In a world of disorder, confusion and demonic noise, the grand narrative of the Bible brings hope and healing. So don’t grow weary in doing good. The harvest still beckons.

The hopes and fears of all the years

I went back to the Grand Canyon this summer, but this time as a student rather than a tourist. Thanks to the folks at Canyon Ministries and Answers in Genesis I was the token editor in an international group of professors, apologists, theologians and pastors who took an advanced seminar on the geology of the canyon. For a week we rode a raft, hiked into side canyons and camped 5,000 feet below the rim of this incredible demonstration of God’s power.

Most of our group went into the trip convinced that the earth is less than 100,000 years old but a few were old earthers, open to the current majority view that the earth is millions or billions of years old and that the processes that formed its current state are gradual ones. Not surprisingly, no one in our group changed his mind though some of us understood our own convictions better by the end of our 190-mile journey.

The Grand Canyon is ground zero in the debate between creationists and the scientific status quo. Here you can see, especially from the bottom, geological strata from top to bottom without digging. We saw volcanic rock, sandstone, shale, limestone and sediment that has more recently formed along streams that seep down the canyon walls. We saw powerful evidence of very recent erosion, less than five years old, in which enormous boulders were carried nearly a mile on a stream of mud and gravel during a weekend flood. In some places we could see tracks in solid rock and even curved walls of stone that looked like soft mud frozen in time. The geologists teaching our group were enraptured every hour of each long day.

Much of our time was spent discussing the Genesis flood as a possible cause of this great natural wonder. The majority opinion among scientists is that the canyon was eroded by the Colorado River over many millions of years, the high walls also being raised and lowered by earthquakes and local catastrophes. This view is difficult to reconcile with the biblical record. Moses, Paul and Jesus at least apparently believed that Noah was a historical figure and that the great flood occurred as recorded in Genesis. We who believe that God has spoken in Scripture with no intent to deceive find it hard to escape the claim that the earth was covered with water 20 feet over the mountains in a worldwide catastrophe in which all air-breathing things outside the ark died. In the conventional geological timeline of the earth this happened pretty recently, within the past 10,000 years, if the Bible is true. If such a thing occurred, it changed the face of the whole earth. Bible-believing Christians are led to see signs of the fairly recent event in most mountains, canyons and fossil beds.

Our assumptions are transparent. We believe that God was the eyewitness to these events and that he revealed some details to Moses in the inspiration of Genesis. Proving something that happened thousands of years ago is not possible; neither is proving something purported to have happened between 250 million and 4 billion years ago. All those who present theories on the subject begin with opinions about what is possible and plausible that fence in their interpretation of the data. Some deny it but every person has a worldview built on some unprovable bedrock. That worldview starts with our response to God (Romans 1:21) and forms outwardly from there.

Genesis geology suggests a younger earth because the significant events of earth’s history happened around or after the special creation of a man and woman who were the parents of all. The genealogy recorded in Scripture may not be complete but it does not leave room for a span of even 100,000 years between Genesis 2 and today. If sin and death began after Adam and Eve and if something as significant as the destruction of nearly all mankind happened a few generations after Adam you begin to see how a much shorter timeline is suggested for the age of the earth but more significantly for the age of mankind.

Considering the flood as a possible cause of the trauma visible in the Grand Canyon allows us to work backward in understanding creation. If the Bible says the flood happened and if it is reasonable to believe that such an event left a mark on the land, then much of what the majority of scientists say about the formation of rocks and the erosion of canyons is up for discussion—a discussion they do not want to have for the most part. If the geological record does not require millions of years (because the canyon was formed by the fairly recent flood) then there is not sufficient time for the evolving of man from lower forms of life. If man did not ascend from lower forms of life then the Bible’s telling of the creation story is as plausible as any narrative imaginable. If the Bible is true, that truth does not upset thousands of years of scientific inquiry. The truth of the Bible actually challenges philosophy that gained momentum within the past 400 years. In our culture, this worldview became the majority view of intellectuals during the last 150 to 200 years. The scientific theories grew out of the philosophy, the worldview, not the other way around.

Back to the canyon. On this, my third visit to the Grand Canyon, my thinking moved beyond the romantic contemplation of beauty and power revealed in the scenery. As I began to see the words of Scripture written on the features of the land I began to see that so much of dramatic beauty is also the record of God’s judgment, a warning. Seeing the record of violent volcanic activity at the bottom and the top of the canyon reminded me that the bursting of the fountains of the deep was an incredibly violent event. The gathering of water in huge lakes that drained for perhaps 1,000 years in periodic torrents that scrubbed the land and ripped through every fault and fissure suggests a catastrophe with aftershocks that were locally as destructive as the worldwide flood. There was a warning there—an offense to God’s holiness is not a small thing. The God who could speak all this into existence can wash it clean in big and small ways according to his will. No weapon of men can aspire to the power that so thoroughly changed the face of the planet. From the bottom we could see the power of God at its most terrible.

But there is also hope in the midst of the record of judgment. When we’d round a bend and see a tableau of green and red and orange, stark white against black volcanic flow, we snapped photos like maniacs. The attraction was majesty. We’d lay at night in one of the few places where stars are visible in the U.S. and watch the Milky Way and various constellations rise and set between the canyon walls. It was so dark we’d track satellites in their relatively rapid course across our viewpoint. The mornings were cool and we’d sometimes see fog on the river, softening the light against the massive cliff faces. Our human nature was designed to respond emotionally to the sights and sensations of even this harsh and scarred land.

The God who judged the earth in the flood sent a double rainbow over the river the night we arrived at the Colorado. It was a promise that he is the God who also redeems the sinners and who will recreate the world as perfect as it ever was. We did not sing, pray and read Scripture between the canyon walls because we were cowed by the record of judgment but because we knew the story of hope and the promise of renewal implied even in the record of death and destruction. For those who do not believe, the canyon is a laboratory of random events that occurred quietly over thousands of millennia and will sputter out to no purpose at some point millions of years hence. Our happy band saw signs of a more perfect creation which was, which is fallen and which is to come. Yes, our creator speaks through what is created but he is the focus of that revelation and not the medium of rocks, fossils and stars. He is the one who warns us that he is a holy and just God, but also that he is the source of pure pleasure and hope for those who will understand his works. 

Assistance appreciated from and

Church outreach marks nearly 600 salvation decisions, more than 100 baptisms

BURLESON—In the summer of 2010, God burdened the heart of Pastor Charles Stewart about two matters: the Great Commission and Cana Baptist Church’s implementation of it.

In February 2011, Stewart launched Cana’s “Shattering the Darkness” campaign while preaching an evangelistic message from 1 Corinthians 9:22-23; Acts 1:8-9; and Mark 16:15-16 which was based on LifeWay’s Transformational Church program.

Now nearing the end of 2013, the Burleson church also is nearing 600 professions of faith and has logged more than 100 baptisms.

“The Lord burdened me to lead Cana members to trust him for one soul led to Jesus each week by a church member,” Stewart told the TEXAN. “Frankly, I was uncomfortable in going out on this limb because I believed God wanted the evangelistic effort to be led by the Spirit, not the flesh. God wanted Cana people sharing Christ out of love for the Lord and compassion for the lost, not out of a legalistic fear or loyalty to the pastor.”

“Humbly, I confess that God wrestled with my own heart for nine months before we began. This was something that I believe he initiated, not I,” said Stewart, who also is an adjunct professor at Southwestern Seminary.

Winning one every week
When Stewart preached that February sermon, he asked the congregation in each Sunday worship service, “Do you believe it would honor the Lord for us to ask him to allow someone in our church to lead one soul to the Lord in the coming week?”

“They agreed,” Stewart recounted. “So, we stopped and prayed as a church a simple prayer we have prayed for more than 140 weeks: ‘Father, if it would please and honor you, would you allow someone in our church family to have the joy and privilege this week of leading one soul to faith in the Lord Jesus?’”

Professing not to have the gift of evangelism, Stewart, since his college involvement with Campus Crusade for Christ, has attempted to remain a consistent witness, he said. “I also have prayed daily during our Shattering the Darkness campaign for God to allow someone in our church to have the joy of leading someone to Christ, and I personally volunteer to be that one.”

Stewart and a growing number of Cana’s members carry gospel tracts, consistently seeking witnessing opportunities. “I think I am more sensitive to the Spirit’s convictions to share the gospel with others,” he said. “Frankly, I think what has happened to me is similar to what is happening to many people in our congregation.”

When church members lead their first person to Christ, they express “unbelievable exhilaration, and sometimes bewilderment that they previously have been so reluctant to witness,” said Stewart, adding that Cana members grow “increasingly excited as souls come to faith in Christ, week after week.”

Professions, baptisms and follow-up
Having baptized about one-fifth of nearly 600 converts, Stewart explained the differential, saying the tally comes from professions at the nearby Beautiful Feet Mission to the homeless, mission trips across the U.S. and overseas, the results of sermons preached by Cana members in other churches and retreat settings, and converts from Vacation Bible School, musical presentations and other events that draw people from neighboring communities and other churches.

“Some professions occur on jets, on vacations, during business trips, etcetera, and those converts are not available for baptism,” Stewart said. Similarly, some professions are from church members’ involvement in the North American Mission Board’s Evangelism Response Center, where converts from across the U.S. call for spiritual counseling.

“We strongly encourage our members to record new believers’ contact information so if someone professes their faith at work, in a restaurant, or at a park, and they live elsewhere in the Metroplex, we can contact a good, local church for follow-up. Using a variety of means, we make sincere attempts to follow up with each convert,” Stewart said.

Stewart explained the campaign’s name came from an “idea the Lord gave me to demonstrate conversions each week. We placed seven electric candles on a stand in front of the pulpit, and whenever I receive a testimony of someone coming to Christ, I light a candle the next Sunday morning honoring God’s mercies in that sinner’s life. Since I was using the candles, and because John 1:4-5 states, ‘In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it,’ then ‘Shattering the Darkness’ seemed to me an appropriate title.”

When announcing conversions, Stewart cites only the converts’ first names and then shares their testimonies. “I never share the names of the evangelists,” he said. “This gives God the glory, keeps our folks’ motives pure, demonstrates God uses ordinary people in ordinary circumstances to lead the lost to Jesus, and helps members become more sensitive to the Spirit’s prompting to witness to the lost.”

Shattering the Darkness required evangelism training for members and a steady resupply of evangelism materials on the church’s tract rack.

Evangelism affects total church
Being in relatively close proximity to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Cana has become home to many professors, staff and students from the seminary. The unique calling the Lord has placed on their lives for vocational ministry has allowed them to help bolster the evangelism efforts at the church. Matt Queen, assistant professor of evangelism, said he and his colleagues’ contribution at the church is twofold.

“First, a number of our seminary personnel go and preach revivals and do supply preaching,” Queen said, explaining that the gap in nearly 600 salvations and slightly more than 100 baptisms is largely due to professors and students seeing lost people saved in cities across the world where they’ve preached and called for a response. Those people, he said, are referred to local churches that can begin the discipleship process and baptize believers into their own memberships. “Second, Beau Brewer, who is on the staff of Southwestern Seminary, provided the Evangelism Response Center (ERC) training.”

The ERC training has helped equip lay members in the church to share their faith and engage the lost in conversations that lead to a recognition of sin and the need of a savior—creating a congregation-wide preparedness for sharing the gospel that expands far beyond the reach of only those called to full-time ministry.

“It is great to see the Shattering the Darkness efforts clearly declare that the pastor and staff are not the only soul winners at church, nor even the five seminary professors, all of whom are soul winners themselves,” Stewart said. “The Holy Spirit is at work, energizing our people with compassion for the lost.”

Terry Wilder, one of those five seminary professors whose membership is at Cana, agreed and stressed that the church as a whole has come together to reach the lost.

“As we—not just seminary professors or students—advance the gospel, the church does so in unity and is careful not to take any credit for these salvations; rather, Cana Baptist attributes all glory to God,” said Wilder, professor of New Testament at Southwestern. “We have seen God miraculously work with divine appointment after divine appointment. I have never seen anything like it in a local church.”

Evangelism emphases have spilled over into other church ministries, Stewart said, as they “all seek to be evangelistic with intentionality. Every ministry should have this component, and any ministry can become evangelistic when evangelism is the intention of that ministry’s leadership.”

“Evangelistic intentionality cannot be overstressed,” he continued, “unless it somehow could distract us from our complete dependency upon the Father’s Spirit to accomplish the Father’s work through the Father’s children.”

Words of advice
“I think many of our Baptist programs can easily become exploits of our own strength and wisdom as some pastors try to motivate members with legalistic imperatives,” Stewart said. “From the beginning, I desired that we respond to the Spirit’s leadership in sharing Christ with the lost as our weekly prayer indicates.”

Additional cautions included Stewart’s suggestion that “no pastor engage his congregation in an evangelistic campaign like this without due prayer and perhaps even fasting beforehand. Otherwise, selfish motives will taint the effort and possibly quench the Spirit.”

“Prayer will confirm what the Spirit desires to do,” Stewart continued. “Only as the Spirit confirms his willingness to bless any campaign should we advance. We know the Father is drawing the lost to Christ, and that we are under a divine mandate to take the gospel to all the earth, especially our community. The Spirit must call the saints to prayer for the lost, sensitize the saints with compassion for the lost and impart to them boldness to share the gospel with the lost. Flesh and blood cannot do any of these things.”

Reiterating the foundational importance of prayer and its results, Stewart said, “God is answering our congregation’s prayers most graciously because they are in tune with his heart.”

SBTC team helping assess Filipino needs

CEBU, Philippines—A specialized disaster relief team from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is in Cebu, Philippines helping Baptist Global Response assess needs following Typhoon Haiyan. 

The SBTC team is serving alongside local churches, Filipino nationals and fellow Baptist Global Response workers following Haiyan’s devastation, which has affected 9 million people, left an estimated 660,000 homeless and left at least 1,700 dead, according to the United Nations. The death toll was expected to rise much higher. 

More volunteer teams will likely mobilize following initial assessments, SBTC DR Director Jim Richardson said. Updates on mobilization needs will be posted periodically at

International Mission Board personnel have met to discuss relief plans and will travel into disaster-stricken areas on several islands to assess needs and distribute food and water. 

Pat Melancon, managing director of disaster response and management for Baptist Global Response, said the “rapid assistance” team from the SBTC will be followed by a group that will make detailed assessments and formulate a longer-term strategy for helping survivors rebuild their lives. 

In Baptist Press on Tuesday (Nov. 10), Richardson asked Baptists to pray for them as they step into the chaos of the storm zone. 

“The team is preparing to assist the churches and brothers and sisters in Christ to share the help, healing and hope of our Lord Jesus with the people affected by Typhoon Haiyan,” Richardson said. “Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide their thoughts and actions.” 

Baptist Global Response has released an initial $15,000 in relief funds to humanitarian partners who are focusing their efforts on three areas: Tacloban, which is the hardest-hit area, and northern Cebu and Panay provinces, said Jeff Palmer, BGR’s executive director. Baptist churches in the Philippines and Filipino teams trained in disaster relief will be working alongside Southern Baptist workers in efforts focusing on immediate needs such as water, food and shelter. 

The extent of the damage–a national state of calamity has been declared–begs for Christian compassion to be shown to more than 9 million people affected by the typhoon, Baltero said. 

“For Christians, every disaster is a call to action; we are called to help those who are suffering when they need it,” Baltero said. “This is one ministry we cannot turn our backs on.” 

According to BP, IMB representative Mark Moses met with key Filipino leaders on the island of Panay and discussed relief plans there. 

Food and clean water are urgent needs in many remote areas of Panay. 

Moses purchased bags of rice and canned goods using relief funds donated by Southern Baptists. Moses and his team plan to pack the goods into family sized portions. 

“Currently, we still have no communications with these areas; electrical lines and communication towers are still down,” Moses said on Monday. “Hopefully by tomorrow, some roads will be passable so we can reach them.” 

Moses said after assessments are completed, relief funds would be used to help displaced Filipinos rebuild their homes. Funds also will be used to purchase basic medicine. 

Texan Mark Moses assesses needs in Philippines following typhoon

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines—They chose to return. IMB representatives Carl and Suzie Miller were in another Filipino city when they heard the news that their home in Tacloban City on the island of Leyte was in the path of Typhoon Haiyan.

Sustained winds of 195 miles an hour and gusts reaching 235 miles per hour made Haiyan the strongest recorded storm in the world, according to news reports. Called Yolanda in the Philippines, it registered as a Category 5 typhoon, with 25 million people in its trajectory.

The typhoon swept through the central Philippines, hitting the Millers’ island of Leyte around 5 a.m. local time on Friday, Nov. 8.

Stan and Dottie Smith, who live on the island of Cebu, supervise the Millers’ work. The Smiths asked the Millers about delaying their return since their area would be the hardest hit.

The Millers, however, said they felt they needed to be with the people they serve during the disaster — and be there for them in the aftermath.

Stan Smith said he appreciates “the attitude of being with the people during this bad time.” Smith said the Millers, in being agents of God’s truth, are seeking guidance from the Lord about how He wants to reach the people in the days ahead.

All International Mission Board personnel, including the Millers, have been accounted for as well as IMB national partners.

The BBC reported that people in 20 provinces are in need of shelter.

Smith said he spoke with several national believers who said large trees were leaning in the direction of their homes, but fell the opposite direction during the storm. “We were laughing, ‘The angels must really be tired from holding up trees,'” Smith said. “We thank God for their safety and well-being.”

Dottie Smith looked out their back window around 12:55 p.m. and saw that a tree had fallen in their yard and their neighbors may have lost their roof. The typhoon passed through their island around noon on Friday.

Electricity is out and cell phone towers are down in many areas.

The Philippines are no stranger to typhoons. Typhoons batter the Philippines every year, and Typhoon Haiyan is the 24th storm there this year.

On Oct. 15, an earthquake rocked the islands of Cebu and Bohol. Especially on Bohol, many people are still living in temporary housing while the island is still picking up the pieces from the 7.2-magnitude earthquake.

Mark Moses, also an IMB representative, reported at 2:56 p.m. that the worst of the storm had hit his city in Panay Island.

“Winds were very strong, but fortunately the storm was fast-moving, so no prolonged rains that could have caused massive flooding,” Moses reported. “Still, local flooding in low areas is likely.”

Moses and Smith said they are waiting until the storm has completely cleared to begin assessing the damage.

The IMB workers asked for prayer for people living along the coastlines who have faced the threat of storm surges and for prayer for opportunities to share about God’s purposes.

“[Pray] that this would be an opportunity to really minister,” Smith said. “Our number one prayer request has been that God would bring good out of great bad here.”

God shows his favor in West Texas

Another Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Annual Meeting has concluded. We had the event earlier than usual because we went out west to the Panhandle. It was a tremendous experience. God truly showed his favor as we had wonderful music, preaching, testimonies of ministries and encouragement. The fellowship was sweet and the attendance remarkable. Thank you to all the messengers and guests who made it possible.

The SBTC staff did extraordinary work in preparation for the convention. A huge “thank you” from me for the efforts put forth to make the convention run smoothly. Much prayer was put into the meeting. A lot of sweat equity was expended. It was worth it. As your SBTC staff, we rejoice in the result. 

The SBTC is joining the North American Mission Board in the SEND Church Revitalization Conference on Nov. 14 at North Richland Hills Baptist Church. Johnny Hunt will bring a word from the Word. There will be other sessions to help your church learn how to reach your community. You don’t have to be a part of the SBTC to attend. See our website——for more information. Revitalization is a new word for old-time revival. Believers energized by the Holy Spirit will see God move in their midst. That is real revitalization. 

The SBTC staff will still be conducting vision trips, attending training conferences and helping the churches in these last few weeks of 2013. During the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays the staff will take some much-needed time off to be with family and friends. Thank you for the confidence you have given us by allowing us to minister to the churches in Texas and beyond. The Cooperative Program giving plan is the way we are Reaching Texas and Touching the World together. Please pray for the SBTC staff at your regular congregational prayer times. Remember, your staff is here to serve the churches and help them carry out the Great Commission. 

The 2014 Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is on the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary campus in Fort Worth. Seminary President Paige Patterson and his staff are rolling out the red carpet for the messengers and guests. Put the dates on your calendar: Nov. 10-11, 2014. Thank you again for being a part of the SBTC. We are stronger, together!

DR teams in Austin see souls converted

AUSTIN—Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief volunteers continue to serve victims of flash floods that ravaged Central Texas on Oct. 31. The work has been fruitful beyond the immediate physical needs, however.

To date, 44 people have professed faith in Christ through the ministry of DR volunteers.

Feeding teams, chaplain assessors and mud-out teams are deployed to the Austin area and were expected to remain for several weeks.

“The main thing we are doing is mass feeding. One mud-out team is here. Chaplains and assessors are out roaming the neighborhoods,” Doug Scott, SBTC incident leader, said following the floods.

But the eternal results of disaster relief ministry were quickly seen.

On Nov. 8, Barber and an interpreter approached a home that chaplains Bob and Mary Sapp had visited earlier in the week. The Sapps had prayed with the homeowner and given her a Bible, but she was reluctant to trust Christ. By Friday, that had changed as Barber and an interpreter followed up with her. The woman and a friend both trusted Christ. “I am ready now,” she told the Sapps.

Assessment efforts were focused on the southeast side of Austin in the Pleasant Valley neighborhood and Bluff Springs Road, where work on about 30 homes was ongoing.

“We are encountering mostly water damage,” said Scott, who noted that several neighborhood resident died during the flooding.

The last death toll reported was four, according to the Associated Press.

One woman told Scott that the floodwaters sounded like a “freight train” when they unexpectedly hit on Oct. 31. The woman escaped to higher ground.

Scott commended city and county services for quickly removing damaged items piled outside homes in the flooded areas.

SBTC volunteers under the direction of Ralph Britt were manning the feeding unit from First Baptist Church Pflugerville, which was set up at Austin’s Oak Meadows Baptist Church. SBTC DR volunteers were also housed at Oak Meadows.

In Austin, the SBTC crew had prepared and packaged around 4,400 meals per day, said Britt, with feeding volunteers working long days that begin at 4 a.m.

In the neighborhoods, spiritual encounters were frequent and fruitful.

A family of four was among the 16 who accepted Christ on Nov. 5, Barber said. The father’s initial hesitance was overcome by the enthusiasm of his sons and daughter-in-law.

“What was so sweet was getting to talk to that man and share with him that he was the head of the house and the spiritual leader. He was so excited about getting to be the spiritual leader of the family,” Barber said.

A Spanish-speaking volunteer from Oak Meadows Baptist Church who had come to complete a work order ended up sharing the gospel.

“Art, do your thing,” Barber told the Oak Meadows member. “He presented the gospel in Spanish and the lady accepted Jesus.

Eight people had trusted Christ in the Oak Meadows church service on Nov. 3, Barber reported.
An older Hispanic couple gratefully received Bibles provided by First Baptist Jasper. The woman’s niece walked out while Barber and crew were witnessing to the couple. She, too, wanted to receive Jesus.

“Most had a Catholic background. We shared with them that we don’t teach religion and we don’t teach church. We share Jesus and him crucified,” Barber said.

“We’d be witnessing to one group and some others would walk up. One lady was witnessing to a woman and another woman walked up and accepted Christ.  It’s kind of like the crowds when Jesus was out and teaching. When people see these yellow shirts, they know we know Jesus and they want what we have in their lives. They see us talking and they just come up,” Barber added.

One middle-aged couple that sought safety on the roof of their home during the flood trusted Christ. They had encouraged rescue workers to help neighbors across the street who were stranded in trees. The Lord had been dealing with the husband, who shared that he had inexplicably been moved to tears earlier.

“He said the other night he cried for 20 minutes. He didn’t know what was happening. Now he knew. God was dealing with him,” Barber said.

Bob Sapp followed up with the man later, jokingly asking him if Barber had “charged” him much.

“He didn’t charge me anything,” said the man. “He gave me Jesus.”

Sapp also told of a couple with a toddler who was trying vainly to access their roof amid the flooding. A car floated up and they stepped on the top, but the roof was just out of reach. Then two logs floated up, boosting the car just enough so that the family could climb on the roof.

“We didn’t have to tell them about Jesus,” Sapp said. “They told us about Jesus!”