Month: April 2014

Filipino village awakened to gospel by SBTC”s Disaster Relief efforts

A small-scale awakening continues in Agojo, the Filipino fishing village in the province of Capiz devastated by Typhoon Haiyan last November, as disaster relief workers minister there under the direction of Garry and Sherry McDugle of Bois d’Arc Baptist Church in Palestine.

The McDugles, coordinators for the effort and disaster relief chaplains with the  Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, have been in the area since early January and will extend their stay until the end of April.

Volunteer teams from churches in Georgia and Texas have assisted in the efforts.

Nearly 80 Filipinos have made decisions for Christ followed by dozens of ocean baptisms and the start of multiple Simbalays, or Filipino home churches.

These new believers face challenges and need prayer, volunteers said.

“Some will be ostracized from their families, friends and communities,” Garry McDugle said. “Here, it is not well received for one to be baptized outside the Catholic faith.”

At the conclusion of an ocean baptismal service, the McDugles’ driver, Bert, expressed curiosity and after hearing the gospel, he too asked to be baptized.

Filipino pastor Ronald Calina conducts the beach services. On March 8, at one evening service, 30 adults and 15 children prayed to receive Jesus.

The scene could have occurred on the Sea of Galilee, Sherry McDugle said. Fishing boats rocked gently offshore, nets cast out, while the families of the fishermen—women, elderly parents and fishermen themselves—listened attentively to the gospel.

A young boy took Sherry McDugle’s hand and explained, smiling and pointing aloft, that he was not going to hell but to heaven.
While the gospel is at work, the physical work of recovery and rebuilding also continues.

Much progress can be seen at the local elementary school, painted by volunteers from the Georgia Baptist Convention. The Georgia contingent completed work on 80 sites and even installed windows in the Agojo daycare, Garry McDugle said.

“I just showed them the need and they went for it,” said McDugle of the team who returned to Georgia on March 14.

Teams from Texas, including volunteers from First Baptist The Colony and First Baptist of Brownsville, have rotated in.

“We have over 250 work orders,” said Garry McDugle, who noted that 30 of the needed 55 10-foot by 10-foot shelters have been completed and that 10 carpentry teams remain busy.

Baptist Global Response and the SBTC have provided $100,000 in funds to meet the region’s needs, but individuals are still encouraged to donate to the effort. More DR teams are also needed, said McDugle, who emphasized the effectiveness of smaller two-person teams like First Baptist The Colony’s Wally Leyerle and Jake Martinez.

SBTC DR teams have assisted schoolteachers who live outside the Agojo neighborhood but work at the Agojo elementary school. One, a mother of five named Gina whose husband had suffered a stroke and pneumonia prior to the typhoon, commutes to work 45 minutes twice daily by motorcycle. Her home was in the eye of the storm and debris remained scattered about. As DR workers gathered to pray with Gina’s family, neighborhood residents joined them.

The family of Belinda, another teacher who lives just outside Agojo, had huddled underneath a table during the typhoon’s blast. Belinda’s husband lost his fishing boat, the family’s means of livelihood, to the storm. Tears welled up in Belinda’s eyes as DR workers arrived with sheets of corrugated metal to repair her home.

Just as Belinda will never forget the November day when the typhoon destroyed her island, neither will she forget that March day when SBTC DR workers arrived to help and to pray. She requested and received a new Bible to replace hers that was lost during the storm.

Stories abound of Filipinos coming to the Lord. There is Nenitea, a laborer likely in her 40s, recently widowed, who with her grown daughter trusted the Lord. Jessa, a 16-year-old who was befriended and given a Bible by the McDugles more than a month ago, recently trusted Jesus, as did her best friend, her father and family of six. Even the wife of the local Agojo elected official or captain has expressed interest in learning more about Jesus.

“Please, please keep praying for everyone here,” Garry McDugle said.

“Jesus is wooing the community,” Sherry McDugle added.

Trustees approve new apologetics master”s degree, elect four professors

FORT WORTH—Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustees approved the formation of a Board of Visitors and elected new faculty members, among other business, at a meeting on the school’s campus April 9.

The Board of Visitors acts as purely an observatory and feedback-supplying body, and its members have no legal responsibility or authority to the seminary.

“They don’t have any oversight over the campus,” said Steven Smith, Southwestern’s vice president of student services and communications. “What they do is they come and they look around and generally gain awareness themselves of what’s going on, on campus, and they’re able to give us feedback. It’s one more avenue to engage people who are not formally or vocationally in the ministry, necessarily, and for them to come on to our campus and see what we’re seeing everyday.”

Pending approval by the seminary’s accrediting agencies, students may soon have another degree program from which to choose when they begin studying at Southwestern. The trustees voted to approve a master of arts in Christian apologetics degree as well as a certificate in the same field of study.

Provost Craig Blaising said interest in apologetics has been piqued among laypeople and academics alike and continues to be on the rise, especially among many students studying in the College at Southwestern. The creation of a degree focused on that area seemed a natural response to that interest, he explained.

“With the interest that has been communicated to us, we felt the time was right to go ahead and create this degree, as well as the certificate, because the certificate is there for maybe laypeople who have interest in apologetics, science and culture and who want to focus and get some training in that area.”

Though approved in concept by the trustees, the degree will still have to go through the approval channels of the accrediting agencies before students can begin the new degree.

Faculty Elections
The trustees also voted to elect four professors to the seminary’s faculty: Paul Gould as assistant professor of philosophy and Christian apologetics; Craig Kubic as dean of libraries; Vern Charette as assistant professor of preaching; and Keith Loftin as assistant professor of humanities. Additionally, the board voted to endow the Jesse Hendley Chair of Biblical Theology and elected Blaising to occupy it. Matt Queen, assistant professor of evangelism, was elected to fill the L.R. Scarborough Chair of Evangelism, also known as the Chair of Fire, formerly held by Patterson.

“Due to Matt Queen, this place is a different place than it was three years ago,” Patterson told the board early in the meeting, before the professor’s election to the chair. “Matt Queen has done exactly what I asked him to do. I told him, ‘I don’t care what you teach, I just want you to electrify this campus with evangelistic outreach. I want there to be only two kinds of people that set foot on Southwestern’s campus: those who are soul winners and those who are desperately ashamed of themselves and miserable because they’re not going to get involved in it.’ And he has done that unbelievably. The longer he is at it, I see how big of a failure I was during my first eight years here, and my hat is off to him, and I thank God for the others who have joined him.”

Officer Elections
The trustees made elections to their own board as well, voting to select Steve James of Lake Charles, La., to serve a second term as chairman, Bart Barber of Farmersville, to serve as vice chairman and John Brunson of Houston, to serve a second term as secretary.

Budget and other business
Trustees approved a $35.1 million budget for the seminary for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which represents a slight increase over the $32.9 million budget approved for 2013-2014. The board also approved audits for the seminary and the seminary’s development foundation for the fiscal year ending July 31.

Patterson requested the board “receive the report of the successful conclusion” of the 2009-2013 strategic plan, which it did unanimously. He then also asked that they approve the 2014-2019 strategic plan, which Patterson said includes items such as libraries, faculty and staff compensation, and upkeep to the physical plant.

Alvord church touts CP”s global impact

ALVORD—Hopewell Baptist Church, nestled a few curvy miles off Highway 287 in North Texas, is a modest church. It offers a nursery as needed, has one Sunday School class and fits all its announcements on a small corkboard outside a two-stall bathroom that the pastor and his wife clean themselves.

But for Hopewell Baptist, small would be a misnomer.

Hopewell Baptist operates on a big-vision mindset, taking decidedly large strides in supporting missions and ministry through the Cooperative Program—the collective giving arm of Southern Baptists. As a church, members of Hopewell have committed to pass 10 percent of their annual budget through the CP via the Southern Baptists of Texas and Southern Baptist conventions—all in an effort to extend their reach beyond their community to the far corners of the globe.

Pastor Timothy Pigg, a Florida native and master of divinity student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, says Hopewell members realized that on their own, they could not do much in the battle to win souls globally, yet they also knew they were not excepted from the Lord’s instructions in Matthew 28 to go into all the world proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. From where they sat in a small white church situated just up the hill from a cow pasture and an unmarked railroad crossing, it seemed their influence was somewhat limited.

“We do not have the financial resources to do what the church at Antioch did with Paul,” said Pigg, who grew up the son of an associate pastor now serving at First Baptist Church in Naples, Fla. “As a smaller church, we cannot financially support a full-time missionary, but we recognize our Great Commission obligation to make disciples of all nations. We were stuck in a quandary.”

The CP, however, has provided Hopewell a chance to make big waves for Christ, even from their rather remote and out-of-cellular-range location.

“We decided that partnering with other like-minded churches would allow us to impact the kingdom of God in ways that would otherwise be impossible,” Pigg said, explaining that increasing their contribution through the CP served as part of the solution to the church wanting to up its efforts in missions and evangelism. Pigg said the church also takes Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary offerings in answer to God’s call to sacrificial giving.

“Another reason why I support giving through the CP is that is allows me to teach my members the importance of unity and cooperation,” Pigg said. “The nature of the CP is churches working together to accomplish one goal. As a pastor, I want a spirit of unity to undergird every ministry we do as a local congregation. The CP allows me to remind my members how we have been called to a greater service for God that involves our cooperation.”

140th anniversary celebration
In keeping with the church’s big vision was the service it held April 6 commemorating Hopewell’s 140th anniversary. The celebration, which coincided with CP Sunday—a day churches make a concerted effort to recognize the value of the Cooperative Program and emphasize their continued and fervent support of Southern Baptists’ giving channel—included a sermon by Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson and music led by Don Wyrtzen, Southwestern church music professor, and Leo Day, church music dean.

Dorothy Patterson taught a women’s Sunday School class, and SBTC Minister-Church Relations Associate Ted Elmore presented a plaque of commendation on behalf of Executive Director Jim Richards and the convention for Hopewell’s faithful ministry over the past 140 years.

Nearly 100 people packed into the two sections of pews for the celebration and then converged on the fellowship hall to share a Texas-sized potluck. Pigg said a normal Sunday service runs about 30 people—double the average attendance from little more than a year ago when the church called Pigg as its pastor.

Before preaching from John 3, Patterson commended the church for its longevity and also for its faithful giving through the CP, which not only funds missionaries but also substantially underwrites the preparation of missionaries, pastors and church leaders in the convention’s six seminaries.

“By your faithful giving and sharing with other churches all across the state of Texas and far, far beyond, in your giving to a common missionary fund, what you have done is to make it possible for Timothy Pigg and this young man and that young man and several others I see around here, all the way back to this young man [Patterson], for us to go to seminary at a third of the cost,” Patterson said.

Reduced education costs for students, Patterson said, equate to ministers and missionaries free to go wherever the Lord calls them without mountains of educational debt. This means, he explained, that those the Lord has called can begin their service with immediacy and focus.
That service, Patterson said, is an extension of the ministry of Hopewell Baptist Church, among thousands of others, as it financially and prayerfully backs those serving as the Lord’s hands worldwide.

“You have 5,200 career missionaries—that’s the largest mission force in all of the history of Christianity—in 2,000 years of Christianity—you have 5,200 missionaries representing you out there on the field in 138 countries,” Patterson told the congregation. “We have all those people scattered throughout the world that represent you and that represent me. Thank you, church, for what you have done across the years.”

Pigg said he prays the milestone in the life of Hopewell Baptist Church will stoke fires that have been burning among their body for the past 140 years into a furnace that will propel ministry and revival in Wise County, and thanks to the CP, the whole world. 

“My prayer is that the 140th anniversary service serves as a catalyst for the next 140 years,” Pigg said. “There is still much to be done for the kingdom of God, and I could not think of two people [Patterson and Day] who would celebrate God’s past work and challenge us to go forward with greater fervency to study and know God’s Word, than these two men.”

Texas evangelist yields pulpit for Ukraine”s acting president to share faith on Easter

Keller-based evangelist Michael Gott saw a providential moment and seized it when he yielded his preaching time on Easter morning to Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov.

Ukrainians attending the service at a large and crowded Baptist church in Kiev were unaware that Turchynov, a fellow Baptist and an occasional lay preacher, would be there when they gathered to celebrate Christ’s resurrection, Gott said in a statement provided to the Southern Baptist TEXAN. 

Turchynov, designated as acting president following protests and bloodshed in the former Soviet republic, spoke to the crowd for more than 20 minutes about his faith in Jesus Christ, noting his deep appreciation for their prayers and referring to them several times as “dear brothers and sisters,” Gott said.

Gott, in the Ukraine on an evangelistic tour with the Arkansas Baptist Master’Singers choir, said he urged the president to take the opportunity to encourage his fellow Ukrainians.

“Mr. President, I honor you for the courage you have to stand before this nation as a humble, born-again Christian,” Gott told Turchynov from his seat near the leader. “While the world is watching, let them hear you confess Jesus Christ as the risen Lord.” 

Gott said Turchynov was “gracious in his words of encouragement.”

When it was announced Turchynov was in attendance, the Baptist church broke out in applause—unusual for a Ukrainian church, Gott noted.

Gott said Turchynov’s address to the church was “a historic moment. Never before has an acting Ukrainian president attended a Baptist worship service. Never. And I would remind all of us that this is the same Ukraine that once harshly persecuted Baptists and called them ‘a despised cult.’ But also this is the Ukraine in which Nikita Khrushchev once said, ‘Ukraine does not need Jesus Christ—they have me!’”

Gott said he even joked with Turchynov that he would make a good evangelist, yielding a “Thank you” and a smile from the head of state.

Later in the day, Gott spoke to an estimated 20,000 people at Maidan, in the heart of Kiev, where he reminded the open-air crowd and a live national television audience that political leadership would not solve the unrest plaguing the nation.

“A new president is not the solution to Ukraine’s problems,” Gott said. “This nation needs a new bir­th — a spiritual awakening.” 

Gott commended the nation for uniting to oust a corrupt leader, but said the lasting hope for Ukraine would be found in kneeling before the risen Lord.

The pro-Western government took over after Viktor Yanukovich, the Moscow-backed president, fled the capital amid civil unrest after his refusal, under Russian pressure, to strengthen ties with the European Union.

Moscow refuses to acknowledge the acting Kiev government and reportedly has troops positioned along its border with Ukraine. In March Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in what the United States condemned as an illegal “land grab.”

Ukrainians need Christians worldwide to join them in prayer, Gott said.

“The situation in Ukraine reminds all of us how we need to become world Christians and to recognize that some of these major events taking place in the world directly affect our brothers and sisters in Christ, and so we all need a new sensitivity about the work of God going on in many places in the world.

“But for Ukraine in particular, we need to imagine the anguish and the struggle in the hearts of these people,” Gott said. “An invasion from Russia in Ukraine would be disastrous and it would almost force the world to go back to the Cold War mentality. Ukraine could not withstand a Russian military invasion. We need to pray for peace, and we need to ask for God to intervene, and we need to recognize that all of this indirectly affects the work of the Great Commission. Let us ask God to bless the people of Ukraine.”

During his time there, Gott has also visited with the Ukrainian Baptist Union president, Viacheslev Nesteruk, thanking him for his support and adding, “We have come to lift up Jesus Christ and to see people drawn to him.”

The choir tour is covering seven cities in western Ukraine and is done with an official invitation from the Ukrainian minister of culture that gives the Michael Gott International ministry permission to hold events in public buildings, Gott said.

Our ministries are not competitors

The Southern Baptist Cooperative Program has taken a beating over the past few decades. It is well known that the total received for worldwide missions has declined in real, post-inflation dollars. We have more churches and wealthier churches, but those churches have reduced their giving significantly in many cases. On the local level, church members give a drastically smaller percentage of their incomes than did their parents and grandparents. I maintain that the decline of the Cooperative Program is not a failure of marketing or branding but one of discipleship in the lives of Christians and nearsightedness on the part of churches. And no one has a better idea for addressing the Great Commission.

That last point matters. Even as some outside the SBC, those who’ve lived with societal missions for 100 years, express admiration for the CP, some more familiar with our cooperative giving plan have started to admire societal giving. As you’d expect, this “new” idea is only better for those ministries the innovators like best. I do respect the missionary heart of those who rob Judea to reach the uttermost parts of the world, but I also think it is shortsighted.

The dalliance with societal missions within the SBC has often aimed at blessing the International Mission Board. IMB President Tom Elliff has been careful to uplift CP, but he passionately lays out the problem—too little money means too few missionaries around the world. This reality has drawn many of us into a version of societal missions. It can only work for a short time and it will not address the causes for long.
Here’s what I mean: It may start when pastors decide to send more money around the world by reallocating mission funds in favor of some causes and to the detriment of others. By some, theological education is deemed less important, so world missions gets some of the money that would go to the six SBC seminaries through the adopted SBC allocation budget. It’s important to note that many of these supporters of world missions continue to uphold the importance of the ministries being cut. This is a bit of a mixed message.

When prominent pastors in the SBC make this case, saying, “This may not be for everyone. It’s just what we think we should do,” they are downplaying their real influence among the churches. We know their names because they lead high profile ministries, host pastor conferences and speak at denominational meetings. What they do, some others will do, and partly because they’ve done it. There is a stewardship of influence that should be given more consideration.

That stewardship of influence is why I say it’s a mixed message to claim that ministries to which a church lowers or cuts funding are important but not important enough to receive adequate support. If the ministry, seminary or state convention still has an important role and if a prominent leader leads his church to lower funding, and if that leader has influence across his region, is he actually OK with other churches, maybe most churches, doing as he has done partly because he did it? He should be OK with it and say so. In fact, he’d better be comfortable with those ministries declining or shutting down if he’s going to lead a parade away from supporting them. 

Yes, I affirm the right of churches to discern for themselves God’s will regarding what they fund and support. It’s only on my worst days that I wish some mortal man could tell Baptist churches what to do. I also affirm the leadership of pastors in helping their churches discern and pursue God’s will. In fact, I don’t reject the notion that some ministries, even some aspects of denominationalism, can pass out of importance or relevance. What I do have trouble affirming is the idea that something is still significant, it has even benefited our own ministry at times we can remember, and we actually believe it should continue to benefit ministries more needy than our own, but somebody else needs to carry that ball because we’ve moved on to another level of understanding what missions means. Others inevitably will want to join us on that higher plane and the ministries we’ve affirmed with our mouths will starve to death.

Southern Baptists have a significant presence in and strategic vision for the nations for exactly the same reasons that we have cutting-edge Baptist scholars teaching our pastors and missionaries-in-waiting. It is for exactly that same reason we have a strategy for reaching American towns and people groups few have heard of. It is for the same reason that rock star “yellow shirts” show up almost as soon as the tornado sirens stop wailing. It is the same reason that Southern Baptists are doing serious work in revitalizing dying churches. We can do these things because the Cooperative Program funds ministries your church doesn’t need at this moment. We can do these things because some people are empowered to study unreached corners of Texas or to prepare disaster relief volunteers with the same intensity a local pastor gives to his own church.

Yes, we need more missionaries. That will take money currently going to other things. But those competitors for funding are rarely other ministries. The money needed to reach the nations is in the same place as the money you need to reach your own community—largely tied up in credit card interest, cars, clothes and entertainment. As I said, it’s a discipleship issue. And that is what your church and mine should be about: making disciples, joyful givers, out of lost people and the spiritually immature. 

Celebrating directors of missions

Serving the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is one of the most enjoyable experiences God has ever given me. Thank you, SBTC, for the privilege of being a servant to the churches. There is no better place than being in the center of God’s will.

I must confess to you that I did have another ministry assignment that I enjoyed just as much. For a brief three and one half years, I served the Northwest Baptist Association in Bentonville, Ark., as director of missions. When my predecessor welcomed me into my new place of service, he said, “You have just taken the best job in the Southern Baptist Convention.” There was a lot of truth in his remarks.

During the time in Bentonville I was able to build on the firm foundation of those who had served before me. Because of the exploding population growth, the association was ready to focus on starting new churches. We created a church planter endowment that funded church planting. We saw new congregations spring up as the towns and cities grew.

Being in worship with the pastors was one of my highlights every week. After pastoring for more than 20 years in Louisiana I wanted to be a DOM that blessed the pastors. Every Monday between Labor Day and Memorial Day—except for a Christmas break—we met for prayer, preaching and praise. It was incredible. Just a couple of years ago I was invited back to speak on a Monday at the Pastors’ Fellowship. The room was packed. The fellowship was sweet. I was energized by simply being there.

Equipping the churches through resources was important. My time at the association was at the very beginning of the computer age, so it is very different now. But there are still unique needs of churches specific to the locale. While virtually any kind of assistance can be found on the Internet, hands-on training remains valuable.

Assisting pastorless churches was a challenge but well worth it. When requested, I provided guidance to churches during a leaderless time. No one should try to place a pastor in a church—that is God’s business. But we can be instruments God uses to get a person considered.

I was called upon to be a listening ear to a hurting pastor or staff member. Having a personal relationship made it possible to be involved in the lives of God’s servants. It is an honor to love on those who love the Lord.

Associational life has changed considerably in the last 20 years, even the last 10. The monolithic SBC is no more. Brand loyalty went by the wayside. Now ministries have to prove themselves to be trustworthy, viable, and to some like me, doctrinally sound.

Once, associations were the gatekeepers of Baptist life. Confessionalism started in the association. Unfortunately, some associations have come to the lowest common doctrinal denominator. The three-fold cord is the same for the association as it is for the SBTC—“Biblically Based, Kingdom Focused and Missionally Driven.” Having a doctrinal standard that all churches can agree upon is essential for true unity.

Secondly, do something for Jesus. Being kingdom focused means having a strategy to make a difference with the gospel in your geographic area. Missionally driven associations are staffed by people who want to exhibit the Philippians 2 mindset of Jesus. Be servants to the churches.    

No doubt in my time in Bentonville, I didn’t do everything right. I wish I could have done more. At that time and in that place it was the “best job in the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Associational Missions Week is May 18-24.

Is the SBC relevant to a 21st-century world?

DALLAS—A good question and one worth asking: Does our SBC have anything significant to say to this 21st century? I ask the question here in response to the contemporary idea that the age of denominationalism is past.

It does us no good—and actually does us harm—to dwell on our size, numerical goals and our heritage. We can’t live in the past. Our heritage is only as meaningful as its most recent application, meaning that all we have done in reaching the nations for Christ does not guarantee us relevance in the future. Being “Great Commission People” and “People of the Book” means daily seeking opportunities to engage the world with the power of the Gospel but in humility and with a heart of service.

“What relevancy does the SBC have today?” It’s a good question and here’s my answer.

1. The SBC foundationally has a vision for missions and evangelism. Taking the gospel to the nations is in our DNA. Never could our denominational forefathers have predicted the geopolitical complexities of the 21st century, but the SBC is structured to literally reach the “uttermost” parts of earth.

2. There is strength in our cooperative efforts. We can do more together than we can by ourselves. Get beyond the cliché that many people have made this statement to be and contemplate its weight.
We currently have more missionaries under appointment and more volunteers serving around the world than any other evangelical denomination. No one church, especially the smaller churches that comprise the majority in the SBC, can so completely cover the globe with resources, but together they can.

The irony is that these totals are the tip of an iceberg. There is no reason why Southern Baptists couldn’t involve thousands more missionaries and give billions of dollars to support them through the Cooperative Program and our missions offerings. We have the resources; we just have to give them.

3. Southern Baptists have a heart for soul-winning. We take seriously God’s mandate to share the good news of salvation. All ministries are important and have their place, but the greatest service we can provide to a lost world is personally introducing people to the Lamb who sits on the throne. We have a long way to go to implement this vital soul-winning strategy, but it is in our hearts to do so. We just need to do it.

4. We love the local church. We understand that simply leading others to salvation is only part of the process. Jesus created the church—his bride—to be an integral element in his relationship with us. It is through the church that we grow spiritually. From the church we are sent out, and to the church we bring the lost for refuge.

5. We have a clearly defined doctrinal base. The Baptist Faith and Message outlines the area in which we move theologically and is a statement of “our faithfulness to the doctrines revealed in Holy Scripture.”

6. Southern Baptists celebrate the autonomy of the local church. There is no hierarchical structure to force conformity on issues. Autonomy creates enormous freedom, and also tension (our structure actually invites controversy!). No action by the SBC or its entities is binding on any church. We volunteer to cooperate and when we do it creates a bond of steel.

7. We have developed the most effective theological training anywhere in the world through our seminaries with more than 16,000 students enrolled. In fact, all six of our seminaries rank in the top 15 largest seminaries in America. Men and women are formally being developed to impact the world with the gospel and that impact will be felt for generations to come.

8. Resources provided by Southern Baptist entities have had a significant global impact in cultures worldwide and beyond our denomination.

Am I boasting? Absolutely not! I trumpet God’s blessings on us as a people and recognize that He has worked through us in spite of ourselves. Can we do more? Absolutely! Think how God would use us if we totally and humbly submitted ourselves individually and corporately to His leadership.

Is the SBC a lost cause? Absolutely not! Remember, the story we are sharing with the world is one of grace, redemption, restoration and usefulness. Let’s extend grace to each other and stay on point to be used of God. If we will, I believe that not only will good come from the SBC, but that the best is yet to come.

James T. Draper Jr. is interim president of Criswell College in Dallas, president emeritus of LifeWay Christian Resources and a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The GamePlan aims to turn personal evangelism “moments” into a movement

Nathan Lorick’s prayer is that “God would take a moment and turn it into a movement”—the movement being a cycle of Great Commission events, namely praying for, evangelizing and discipling converts in a New Testament model.

“Imagine church members going from not actually sharing their faith at all to now discipling someone they led to Christ by walking them through the process of knowing Christ and then making him known,” Lorick, evangelism director at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, explained.

It’s called “The GamePlan”—not a program, Lorick emphasized—but an initiative to get churches and families on mission together in reaching lost friends and family members with the gospel and following up in discipleship.

Tasked in his role with helping SBTC churches evangelize their state, Lorick said the appeal of The GamePlan is its simplicity and intentionality. The materials needed are minimal—a card or refrigerator magnet with five blank spaces for names is all a participant needs. The plan consists of:

  • identifying five lost people,
  • committing to pray daily for them,
  • planning for a moment of sharing the gospel message with them,
  • presenting the gospel,
  • plugging in the new believer to a local church for baptism and discipleship.

Lorick rolled out The GamePlan during the Empower Evangelism Conference with the help of Chan Gailey, former college and NFL head coach with numerous teams, including the Dallas Cowboys.

Sometimes churches, and even pastors, lose their urgency for sharing the gospel outside the church walls and need a renewed focus to help them, Lorick said.

“This gives a pastor a simple way to get his people excited again about sharing their faith with others in a way that creates a buzz in the congregation and within families as moms and dads and their kids pray daily together over a list of people God has placed on their hearts. This initiative, especially with its sports theme, has a wide appeal,” Lorick said.

The GamePlan materials include brochures with football, basketball and baseball themes in English and a soccer theme in Spanish. There are also refrigerator magnets and pocket cards with five blanks for the names of the people each participant is praying for.

Lorick said he is praying that those “moments” that lead to conversions will add up to a movement across Texas as people begin identifying and fervently praying for the lost and discipling them as reproducing believers.

He knows of churches that are planning tailgate parties to kick off the initiative. Being intentional is a significant part of effective evangelism, he noted.

“Imagine a pastor asking his church members, ‘Who are your five? Who are you praying for?’ And, ‘How can I pray for them?’”

The SBTC evangelism team is available to help churches implement the initiative. To order The GamePlan materials, visit
For more information on the initiative, visit The SBTC evangelism team may be reached toll free at 877-953-7282 (SBTC).

Killeen church bends knees in prayer for Fort Hood

KILLEEN—The congregation of Skyline Baptist Church in Killeen, near the sprawling Fort Hood Army post, has seen tragedy before.

On Wednesday night, after a lone gunman at Fort Hood killed three people and injured 16 others before turning the gun on himself, the church gathered like they always do midweek—albeit with a few members missing from a base-wide security lockdown—and bent their knees on the church auditorium carpet in prayer.

Army Maj. Kevin Thompson, a signal officer at Fort Hood, serves as co-interim pastor of the church along with an Army chaplain, also from the base, and left the post about 20 minutes before the shooting—reportedly at the hands of a soldier being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Once at the church, a 25-minute prayer service, heavily focused on the shootings, preceded the Wednesday night Bible study. 

“It was kind of conversational and people were telling details of conversations they had with those they knew on the base or the latest of what they had heard on the news,” Thompson told the TEXAN. “Generally we were praying for the victims and their families and that somehow God would find a way to prompt people to call out to him through this incident, no matter how horrific.” 

Thompson said the prayer time, as usual, involved groups of two or three gathered together, pleading in prayer.

Church members said they knew of no one from the church who was shot, but the unit of one of the church members was directly affected by the tragedy. 

“There’s going to be a lot of anguish, particularly this time,” Thompson said, alluding to past incidents at the base, including the 2009 massacre by Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan, who is awaiting the death penalty for killing 13 people and injuring 32. 

“From a spiritual standpoint, pray that people realize that you never know when your time is,” Thompson added, “and that they would trust Christ before it is too late.” 

Elaine Clark, a longtime Killeen resident and former Killeen school counselor, was at her usual post—teaching AWANA to a meager children’s crowd at Skyline. 

About half of the children and adult volunteers were absent because they live on Fort Hood—home to more than 45,000 soldiers, families and personnel—and weren’t able to leave, she said. 

“Children have questions and they need to be answered,” said Clark, who noted that last night, appropriately, they were studying and memorizing 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 

Explaining to a young girl the importance of knowing God is always in control, even in danger, the girl responded to Clark: “You know God sent Jesus to die for that man,” the girl said of the shooter. 

“That just spoke to my heart how God speaks even to these little ones in these terrible times,” Clark said. 

A Facebook user, Clark said she has a community of friends she’s in frequent contact with who have ties to Killeen and Fort Hood, and that prayers are being sent up for the survivors, the families of the victims, and for the family of the shooter. 

“That family has a lot to go through and I’m sure they will have questions that will never be answered.” 

She related the fear she said pervades the base in times like these to her own experience of surviving a nighttime intruder who was chased out of the family home years ago by her husband. 

“It was a long time before we felt safe again,” she said. “Considering Fort Hood is a home for so many people, it makes you question that you’ll ever be safe again.” 

Clark said prayers are needed for children in the Killeen-Fort Hood area, that “they would cross paths with people who will share Jesus with them and that God loves them and he is with us even when we are afraid. … They don’t have to be afraid with Jesus as their friend.” 

Thompson said he had not returned to the base yet, but that prior to the shooting morale had been high in his unit because they had rated well in a recent field exercise.  

The day following the shooting, “Understandably, the people I have talked to, there is a somber tone in their voice,” he said.