Month: June 2014

Big victory today for Hobby Lobby, religious liberty

Hobby Lobby has won its long-awaited case at the Supreme Court, striking a blow to Obamacare’s controversial contraceptive/abortifacient mandate and establishing precedent for religious liberty protections.

Simply put, the 5-4 decision means employers with religious objections can opt out of the contraception coverage mandated by the federal Affordable Care Act. Hobby Lobby’s beef was with the several drugs out of about 20 mandated by Obamacare that could function as abortion-causing drugs. 

Here are some links to news stories on the case:,0,7311433.story









At 96, Orville Rogers could hang up his red pair of New Balance runners. But hanging things up is not his style.

Forty-six years ago, Army Air Corps veteran Orville Rogers picked up and read a copy of the then-controversial book “Aerobics” by medical doctor Kenneth Cooper. So motivated by Cooper, Rogers started running the next day and hasn’t stopped.

Now 96, he averages 10 miles of roadwork a week. Rogers said he is an example of Cooper’s adage that as people age they don’t wear out; they rust out. Nearly half a century of running and maintaining a steady level of physical activity has him all the more convinced that people “don’t stop running because they get old; they get old because they stop running.”

Needless to say, he has no plans to stop—taking his fellow University of Oklahoma graduate Cooper’s advice as a lifelong habit.

Having already set nine world records in track and field events, Rogers will travel from his Dallas home to Winston Salem, N.C. this July to compete in the National Outdoor Masters Championship.

Yet it’s all worthless to him, he said, unless he can glorify the Lord in his efforts. He told as much to a church group of about 500 people recently as he held eight of his medals in his outstretched hands.

The most important race
“‘If I can’t serve God well, if I cannot finish strong, then all of these achievements are worth nothing,’ I told them. And I dropped the medals on the floor,” Rogers said.

Serving the Lord is Rogers’ bottom line. Saved at age 10, Rogers said he got serious about his faith as a senior at the University of Oklahoma. He had a love for airplanes and said he had wanted to be a pilot ever since he learned what an airplane was, but he also felt drawn to ministry. So in the fall of 1940, after earning his degree in mechanical engineering from OU, Rogers enrolled at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Three weeks in, Rogers received a draft notice.

“I enrolled in the U.S. Army Air Corps and served four-and-a-half years in World War II, almost all of it as an instructor,” Rogers said. “I figured that was God’s way of telling me I didn’t need to be in vocational ministry.”

Prepared for God’s plans
But God’s placing a heart for ministry in Rogers was not misplaced, nor was it an accident, the pilot said. Instead, the Lord used the training Rogers received in the Air Corps to allow him to serve in ways he otherwise would never have been able to.

During his 31-year-career with Braniff Airways, Rogers would often use vacation time to fly airplanes for Wycliffe Bible Translators and for Southern Baptists to locations around the world, facilitating the spread of the gospel. He also volunteered to fill in for other missionary pilots while they went home on furlough.

Rogers said he thinks the Lord may have been able to use him more as a ministry-minded pilot than if he had become a vocational minister—a message he shares with fellow retirees and veterans.

“There is a place to fit in,” Rogers said. “That’s particularly true of veterans. They can use their job skills in mission work somewhere in the world either on a short-term basis or for a year or more.”

Rogers, who has served as a deacon at First Baptist Dallas since 1953, started the church’s first young marrieds Sunday School class one month after he and his late wife Esther Beth joined the church in 1946—three years into their marriage. Rogers didn’t miss a beat in answering just how long he and Esther Beth were married before her death: 64 years, nine months and five days, he said with a serene smile. That same smile returned when, standing in the parking lot beside his red Camaro, Rogers explained the significance of the “10” on the license plate, which reads “BETH 10.”

“My wife asked me that,” he said, chuckling. “’What’s the 10 for?’ she wanted to know. I told her I picked 10 because she’s a ‘10.’”

Rogers’ commitment to gospel expansion stretches beyond his local church and his missionary service. A library in the MacGorman Chapel and Performing Arts Center on the campus of Southwestern Seminary bears Orville’s and Esther Beth’s name and honors their missionary service and support of the institution, especially highlighting the way flying boosted the ability to get the Bible to other nations. Rogers said he and Esther Beth gladly chose to support and partner with Southwestern because the school consistently turns out graduates who are firmly rooted in the “effective, inerrant Word of God.”

Rogers serves on the Board of Visitors at the seminary. He also served on the Criswell College board when it selected Paige Patterson as its president in 1975.

A bomb, the gospel and Moscow
Rogers’ flying career and life-long ministry service collided in 2004 in a palpable moment of gravity, for which the pilot says he simply has no words.

In 1951, Rogers was called out of the reserves to fly in Europe after tension and conflict had risen in Korea and Russia. For 21 months, Rogers flew a B-36—the largest and most advanced aircraft in the military at the time—armed with an atom bomb comparable to the one dropped in Japan just six years earlier.

“I was on a select crew with an assigned target in Moscow,” Rogers recalled, going on to talk about his great relief at never having to drop the bomb his plane carried. The bomb his plane was prepared to drop, he said, would have decimated an area of about 10 miles.

Fifty-two years later in 2004, Rogers found himself on a mission trip to Russia where he and about 230 other people traveling by ship stopped and witnessed on the streets in three cities on the way to Moscow, handing out English and Russian Bibles. When they docked in Moscow where they set up a medical clinic inside a school building, Rogers realized with great heaviness that he had come full-circle—to a place that had once been his potential target.

“We were within five miles of where my target was in 1952,” Rogers said. Staring off into the distance for a moment, he said there was just no way to express the emotion he felt that day when his mission trip brought him to an unobliterated Moscow.

“Instead of bringing death and destruction from above, we were bringing the Word of God which promises abundant life and eternal life on the horizontal plane,” Rogers said.

Rogers said he logged more than 38,000 hours flying millions of miles. Recently, he rolled over 40,000 miles in running. Both have given him opportunities to serve the Lord and share the gospel, he said. Though he retired from flying at age 79, Rogers said he has no plans to stop running or even days when he’d like to give up. He said he encourages others to “finish strong” and wants to do the same.

“I intend to run as long as the Lord gives me the ability,” Rogers said. “I’m looking forward to 100 so that I can enter a new age bracket, God willing.”

Interruptions God uses

The Lord is beginning a new work in my heart about how I view interruptions in my life. Little did I know when I bought a Bible study book by Priscilla Shirer—”Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted”—that I would be in the middle of a health interruption several months later, but God’s timing is always perfect.

The book of Jonah, as Shirer recounts, is about a man whose life was interrupted by God. Jonah was a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel. God would give him a word and then he would share it with the people. 2 Kings 14:25 tells us that King Jeroboam set the border of Israel according to the Word of the Lord that Jonah received. Jonah lived in a prosperous Israel. Because he foretold good things to the people, he was probably popular, highly respected and appreciated.

Jonah’s interruption began in Jonah 1:1 when “the Word of the Lord” came to him: God was changing Jonah’s priorities and instructing him to go in an entirely different direction. He would be giving up his plans and the comfort of the familiar to go to Nineveh.

We have the privilege of reading the entire book of Jonah at one time, so we see all the events laid out at once. But Jonah didn’t have that opportunity. If he could have read all four chapters, he would have seen that what he saw as a huge interruption in his life was really an invitation from God to make a huge difference in the lives of people in Nineveh.

The Filipino people we have been ministering to had a huge interruption in their lives by Typhoon Yolanda. But as a result, they have experienced God’s love through the helping hands of Missouri Baptists. As we have shared with them, many of them have received Christ. The storm and the response of Southern Baptists from Missouri and other states have been God’s transformational instruments.

When the strategy for the Missouri disaster relief project was initiated, we were planning to assemble and distribute water filtration systems to the people, but the freighter carrying the filtration parts went down in rough seas. Obviously, when we heard the news of no water filtration, that was an interruption.

However, we shifted to construction. After all, the first word on mission trips is “flexibility.” So, we began restoring their homes and painting the school. The result was, we had more direct contact with people and many have received Christ.

I was excited about the plan to give the people clean water and disappointed when that plan was changed. However, God was more interested in them receiving Living Water.

I don’t know where this medical interruption in my life will take me, but I want to view it not as an “interruption” but as “God’s intervention” in my life for his purposes.

As Priscilla Shirer states in her study of Jonah, “When we sign up to follow Christ, we automatically signed up to be open to Divine Interventions—God interruptions. While His call might not always be convenient or easy, responding to it should not just be a duty but our joy.”

Living a life devoted to Christ doesn’t mean we don’t have aspirations or that we shouldn’t make plans, but it does mean that we should be open for God to intervene. We should hold our dreams and plans in our hands and not in our hearts. We should be open to the Divine Interventions that come our way to mold us in his image. We can trust him to have the best plan for us.”

—Sharon Yeats is the wife of John Yeats, former Texas pastor and executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Sharon wrote this column prior to surgery for stage 3 melanoma in early May.


BROWNSVILLE—When volunteers from Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief discovered they would be handing out blue medical scrubs for children to wear while their clothes were being washed, they were surprised but undaunted.

The dire situation called for nothing less than that, and Southern Baptist yellow shirts are known for delivering more, not less.

They were there in Brownsville the last two weeks of May, ministering to some of the tens of thousands of children, some as young as 3 years old, who are being sent from Central American countries on a long journey to cross the Rio Grande into the United States.
Many of the children are without their parents or adult guardians.

Once in the U.S., they surrender to Border Patrol agents who take them into custody and detain them in localized facilities meant for 24- to 48-hour stays. Trying to locate their relatives and get them healthcare screenings has backlogged the system and filled detention facilities beyond capacity.

President Obama on June 2 described the border situation in a presidential memorandum as a “serious humanitarian issue.” In the last eight months, 47,000 children have been detained at the U.S.-Mexican border.

When DR volunteers from the SBTC saw the wide range of kids—from toddlers to teens—and the short selection of sizes for scrubs, they improvised with duct tape, some children’s pajamas and a few odd size T-shirts. When the weary children finally got a chance for a hot shower, they hitched up their pants and rolled up their sleeves. Some smiled, likely for the first time in a good while.

Jerry Bishop, a “white hat” leader of SBTC DR volunteers from Harmony Hill Baptist Church in Lufkin, said it took just a “little piece of duct tape” to hold the scrubs up on the little children that volunteers ministered to.

The smiles reassured volunteers their expressions of love penetrated the children’s blank stares.

Nearly 50 SBTC DR volunteers from churches including Cedar Bayou Baptist Church in Baytown and First Baptist Church in Burkeville, joined with First Baptist Church in Brownsville in mid-May in this care ministry, providing 1,505 showers, washing 960 loads of laundry, and preparing and delivering approximately 22,500 meals.

Craig Smith, worship and administration pastor at First Baptist Brownsville, where two SBTC DR feeding trailers were set up as kitchens to prepare meals, said the 250-member congregation has about 60-70 disaster relief trained volunteers of its own.

Dogwood Hills Baptist Church in Woodville quickly deployed its water support trailer, which houses two massive water tanks, a water purification unit and a large generator, plus a laundry unit that has four washers and four dryers. Cedar Bayou and Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jasper deployed shower units for a total of nine showers, and an additional two washers and dryers.

SBTC DR operated the shower and laundry units within the Brownsville U.S. Customs and Border Patrol detention center compound.

In a telephone press call outlining a government-wide response, White House Director of Domestic Policy Cecilia Munoz underscored the need to “ramp up” efforts to care for what has been a 70 percent increase just since last year in the number of unaccompanied migrant children.

Noting the children in many cases are young and have endured a “harrowing experience” traveling from Latin American countries alone, Munoz said, “This is creating an urgent humanitarian situation which the government is moving to quickly address.”

Obama appointed the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Craig Fugate, to take charge, as the White House asked Congress for an extra $1.4 billion in federal funds to foot the bill.

Mothers and children have also added to the border migration.

At the Brownsville facility, agents distributed diapers and formula. They carefully led women and very small children to one large holding area, girls and women to another, and men and boys to still another.

On an observation deck protected by bullet-proof glass, several agents worked to process files, while watching monitors overhead and activity on the floor beneath them where several more agents interviewed people.

One immigrant sat outside a holding room with a young, obviously ill boy, lying on a concrete bench beside him.

The inhabitants were clearly visible inside each holding room from the observation deck—except those who stepped behind a small cinder block hygiene wall in the rear of each room. Many were wrapped in silver emergency blankets.

In the holding room for men and boys, they were sitting and lying head to toe, with a fan standing in a partially opened doorway. Several small boys stood at the window of the holding room, faces pressed up against the glass, watching agents and others on the floor, glancing up at the observation deck.

SBTC DR volunteers learned of the overcrowding in mid-May and just a day later had a team assembled and ready to go, Bishop said. He was told FEMA had requested the help and had the two disaster relief kitchens operated by First Baptist Brownsville onsite to begin producing meals May 15.

“Before we got there border patrol was serving a dry bologna sandwich at 6 a.m. and at 6 p.m.,” Bishop said. “We started serving three meals a day.”

Still, it was challenging, Bishop said, to serve with no utensils to comply with the rules.

FEMA, using government contractors, set up a large tent just outside the compound and began serving meals after breakfast on May 28 in relief of the Southern Baptist volunteers. They also took over shower and laundry operations May 31, said Bishop who rotated the leadership position with two other “white hats.”

The shower and laundry ministry was a full circle operation with children showering while their clothes were being laundered.

Joan Hogue, a DR volunteer from First Baptist Burkeville, hung towels to dry on a clothesline. A few of the children glanced over as they passed, clutching their bags to their chest with one hand and grabbing at their pants with another to prevent them from falling off.

From inside the laundry trailer, Kathy Poplin, also from First Baptist Burkeville, took clothes from a washer and put them in the dryer. Children moved from the showers back inside a building where they sat in an air-conditioned hallway to comb their hair and rub lotion on their chapped skin. After showers they eagerly crunched down a piece of candy from their hygiene kit.

“My heart goes out to these kids,” said Poplin, who was a teacher’s aide for 18 years. “Their lives are just torn apart.”

Glancing down at her hands, Poplin reflected, “It’s like they’re being shoved out to have a better home. It’s so sad.”

One day most of the children were crying before they went into the shower, but by the time they came out they were all smiling. “It was so great to see their faces,” she recalled.

Betty Dufner and her husband Joe have seen a lot of children over the years, but have never had an assignment quite like this one. In charge of a disaster relief childcare unit, they are “blue hats” experienced in running emergency childcare for those age 7 and under.

“This is different, very different,” Betty Dufner said. “We’ve never been to a place like this—but because we love kids, it’s a flexible thing we are doing.”

Checking on her supply of brushes and combs, she made sure to sterilize each one, and to carefully pump mounds of lotion into each child’s hands. She squatted and then kneeled to roll up the pants of one 8-year-old Honduran boy—and then a 12-year-old sitting next to him. Both boys were unusually small.

“Malnutrition,” a border agent whispered.

The teams worked long hours. In the first week it wasn’t unusual for them to stay on the job for 12 or more hours to see that all of the laundry was completed. What helped was that First Baptist Brownsville has two dormitories that can house up to 150 volunteers at a time, complete with showers. That’s where the DR volunteers stayed.

“You’d like to stay until everybody has a shower and gets washed and clean clothes,”  Joe Dufner, the pastor of Forest Branch Baptist Church in Livingston, said.

Fugate, the FEMA director, in the June 2 media call, said that as soon as he learned of the dire conditions last month he reached out to volunteer and faith-based partners, such as SBTC DR, to develop a “sufficient and efficient” way to deal with the crisis until resources and facilities could be developed.

The next step is for children to be placed into longer-term facilities, such as a care center operating at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio or Naval Base Ventura County in California, for 30-35 days, until parents or other adult sponsors are found, according to plans outlined in the call.  

Munoz said more than 90 percent of the minors are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and “it seems to be quite clear” they are fleeing from violence and fear and poor economic conditions in their own countries. And they wish to reunite with their parents, she said.
That aside, migrant children remain in removal proceedings even after they have been reunited with a parent and there is an incorrect “perception” in Latin American countries that they might be able to stay.

In Brownsville, diaper boxes still lined the trash cans outside the holding rooms where Bishop said he was finally able to deliver 400 New Testaments to Border Patrol agents who gave them to the children. 

For him, talk in Washington, D.C. or in Austin doesn’t matter much when it comes to big-eyed girls with little protection.

“Once you see those little ones who are here without even their parents, 4-year-old little girls especially,” Bishop said, “no one here except them and no parents for them to go back to—it was some bothering times.”

The first to respond, Bishop didn’t know the nature of the assignment until the children literally were walking towards the showers, he said.
“I don’t know how you could send a child like that away, but they did. Someone. Somewhere.”

Smith, the Brownsville worship pastor, said he experienced a couple of “heartbreaking” situations—like the sight of a woman with a 2-week-old infant in detention, and a brother and sister, ages 3 and 5, with no mom or brothers or sisters.

“Just the hopelessness you would see in their eyes—very little expressions—just the thought of all that they had been through must have been agonizing for them,” Smith said.

“I felt bad just giving them a burrito or a bologna sandwich,” Smith said. “They must not have had a meal for several days. It was heartbreaking to see those little bitty kids—mostly teenagers and several young moms—heartbreaking to see what they had to go through to get up to here.”

Politics aside, Smith said while it’s true they have entered the country illegally, “they are men and women who have physical needs for shelter or food, but more importantly they have the need of the love of Christ.”

“We didn’t get into the legal or political aspects,” Smith said. “We are there to visit those in prison and to give food to the hungry as it tells us to in Scripture.”

For information on disaster relief ministry training, visit Information on giving toward DR ministry is accessible here.

Criswell founding dean dies at 77

DALLAS—James Bryant, founding dean of Criswell College and author of “The New Guidebook for Pastors,” died June 11. A service celebrating his life was held June 16 at First Baptist Church of Dallas.

Bryant was an alumnus of Wheaton College and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he earned a master of divinity and a doctor of theology. He had also received an honorary doctorate from Criswell College in 1999.

Interspersed with his service to Criswell College, for which he served as the founding academic dean, Bryant served as pastor at churches in Texas, New Mexico and Arkansas and as associate pastor at a church in Georgia. He spent three years serving as executive vice president and then president of Luther Rice Bible College and Seminary in Atlanta, Ga. and then served as professor of religion at the University of Mobile in Alabama before returning to Texas to serve Criswell College as vice president for academic affairs for two years. His most recent role at Criswell was that of distinguished senior professor of pastoral theology.

Ten seminaries and colleges currently use Bryant’s book “The New Guidebook for Pastors” as a textbook. Bryant taught a weekly Bible class at FBC Dallas and served as a trustee on multiple denominational boards. He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Ruby; two sons, Scott and Kurt; two grandchildren; and one sister. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, memorials be made to FBC Dallas or Criswell College.



SBC elects Floyd, prays for revival & restoration

BALTIMORE (BP)—Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention elected Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd as president and heard repeated calls for prayer and revival — highlighted by outgoing President Fred Luter’s presidential sermon.

Messengers also gave the first of two required approvals to an amendment of the SBC constitution, requested information about a Muslim student who was admitted to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and heard Executive Committee President Frank S. Page call for a “Great Commission Advance” in SBC missions.

The June 10-11 convention’s 5,294 messengers marked an increase from 5,103 in Houston last year. Virginia had more messengers than any other state at the Baltimore convention with 497. Maryland was second with 429.

Floyd elected

Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, was elected on the first ballot with 51.62 percent of the vote. Maryland pastor Dennis Manpoong Kim received 40.70 percent of the vote while Kentucky pastor Jared Moore received 5.91 percent.

“I want to see revival come to the church of Jesus Christ,” Floyd said at a news conference following his election, “so that America would be awakened with a powerful God consciousness where great numbers come to faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior.”

Luter sermon

Preaching from Psalm 80:18-19, the passage for this year’s “Restoration and Revival through Prayer” theme, Luter said Southern Baptists must repent of their failure to share the gospel with lost men and women.

“As your president for the past two years, my heart’s desire has been that God would make us one and that God would send revival and renewal through the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Luter, the SBC’s first African American president, said.

“Brothers and sisters, the only way that will happen in this nation, the only way that will happen in this convention, the only way that will happen in our churches is if the people of God cry out to God in prayer, if there is genuine repentance, if there is genuine remorse, and if we call on the name which is above every name,” Luter said.

Article III

The proposed amendment to Article III of the SBC Constitution would grant two messengers to the annual meeting for each cooperating church that contributed to convention causes during the preceding fiscal year. A church would qualify for additional messengers through one of two avenues:

— A church would receive one additional messenger for each full percent of its undesignated receipts given through the Cooperative Program, as a designated gift through the Executive Committee for convention causes or to any SBC entity.

— A church would receive one additional messenger for each $6,000 given during the preceding fiscal year through CP, as a designated gift to the EC for convention causes or to any SBC entity.

The $6,000 figure was selected by adjusting the present figure of $250 — adopted in 1888 — for inflation and other factors. To become final, the amendment must be approved again at next year’s annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio.

Page address

Page told messengers about a strategy for world evangelism and discipleship called Great Commission Advance. A key component of the strategy is CP, Page said. He reported that the Executive Committee will soon reduce its CP allocation for the third time during his tenure as president in order to send more money to Southern Baptist ministries at home and abroad.

“I’ll drop the Cooperative Program if you can show me something else that long-term is effective and engages every church concurrently and consistently in an Acts 1:8 strategy,” Page said. “Show it to me, and I’ll support it…. But I haven’t found it yet.”

Page said the average CP gift among Southern Baptist churches rose for the first time in two decades to 5.50 percent.


The convention adopted nine resolutions on topics ranging from transgender identity to payday lending, church revitalization, global hunger relief, the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and casinos and lotteries.

The resolution on transgender identity affirmed “God’s good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one’s self-perception.” The resolution invited transgender persons “to trust in Christ and to experience renewal in the gospel” and opposed all efforts to “validate transgender identity as morally praiseworthy.”

ERLC awards

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission presented awards to the Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, and Saeed Abedini, an American pastor who is imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith.

The Greens received the John Leland Religious Liberty Award for their refusal to abide by the federal government’s abortion/contraception mandate, which requires employers to provide abortion-causing drugs to their workers. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the Greens’ case later this month.

ERLC President Russell D. Moore said the Greens “believe that every human life from the moment of conception is sacred, and they believe that the government is not the Lord of their consciences.” Messengers gave the Greens a standing ovation.

Abedini received the Richard Land Award for Distinguished Service for “faithfully serving the Lord Jesus Christ … despite the risk involved.” Abedini converted to Christianity from Islam and led house churches in his native Iran before moving to the U.S. in 2005. During a trip to Iran in 2012, he was arrested and sent to prison, subject to beatings and solitary confinement. Abedini’s wife Naghmeh accepted the award on her husband’s behalf to a standing ovation.

SWBTS Muslim student

On two occasions messengers addressed the recent decision of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson to admit a Muslim student, contrary to the seminary’s admission policy of admitting only Christians. During Patterson’s report to the convention, a messenger requested a “straight-forward explanation” of the decision.

In response, Patterson apologized to the convention, saying, “I made an exception to a rule that I assumed, probably wrongly, the president has a right to make.” The student is not funded by CP money and is “very open to the gospel,” Patterson said.

The decision to violate admission policy was motivated in part by a desire to win the student to Jesus, Patterson said. He said he will tell God on judgment day: “I violated a policy but I didn’t want to stand before you with blood on my hands. Dear God, I did the best that I knew how.”

Steve James, chairman of Southwestern’s board of trustees, told messengers that trustees will discuss concerns about the Muslim student’s admission at meetings in September and October. James requested prayer for Patterson and the seminary.

Earlier, a messenger moved that Southwestern be required to explain its decision regarding the Muslim student. The motion was ruled out of order because it directed an entity rather than requesting an action.

In other matters:

— Messengers elected Clint Pressley, pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., as first vice president and Hance Dilbeck, pastor of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City as second vice president. The convention re-elected John Yeats as recording secretary and Jim Wells as registration secretary.

— The Crossover evangelistic push in Baltimore preceding the annual meeting yielded 214 salvation decisions. More than 2,300 volunteers participated in Crossover in partnership with 32 local churches.

–The CP exhibit featured a series of panel discussions projected on high-definition screens in the exhibit hall and streamed on the Internet. Nearly 125 panelists addressed such topics as Southern Baptist cooperation, international missions, church planting theological education, ethnic diversity, social justice and sexuality.

— The International Mission Board presentation focused on God’s work in Cuba and featured testimonies from Cuban believers. IMB President Tom Elliff reported that more than 6,000 churches were planted overseas last year in conjunction with national partners. Last year the average IMB missionary helped lead 49 people to faith in Christ, led 24 new converts to be baptized, helped mentor at least five potential leaders and was involved in discipleship with 90 people.

— The North American Mission board presentation highlighted a Baltimore church revitalization effort and a church plant in Montreal that grew to 700 worshipers in its first year. “We are absolutely committed to planting evangelistic churches all across America,” NAMB President Kevin Ezell said. NAMB also presented a new evangelistic conversation guide developed by Jimmy Scroggins, pastor of First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, Fla.

— Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary President Jeff Iorg told messengers that the seminary plans to announce the site of its new Southern California main campus later this summer.

— Messengers proposed 17 motions, six of which were referred to SBC entities for consideration. A motion asking churches to “pray passionately and regularly for persecuted Christians” was adopted by unanimous consent. Ten motions were ruled out of order.


Was the Conservative Resurgence a failure?

The recent report of the Pastors’ Task Force on Evangelistic Impact and Declining Baptisms will likely be a frequent discussion topic in the hall as the Southern Baptist Convention meets next week in Baltimore. The group was formed last year after 2012 data from SBC churches indicated a worse-than-average drop in the number of people our churches baptize. This is not a new discussion but one we’ve had with increasing gravity each year for decades. The problem is systemic and a reversal of this decline will touch everything we do in significant ways.

Liberal Christians and other outsiders have responded with a measure of satisfaction, as though the SBC’s bluff talk through the past 30 years has turned around to embarrass us. During the Conservative Resurgence of 1979-1995 our leaders pointed out that denominations that abandoned biblical authority were in free fall, maybe not losing members to us but losing members still. This is undeniable, but the intent of that warning was to draw our own people to embrace the truth of God’s Word, not to dance on the graves of other denominations. It is observable that groups with convictions are more appealing than groups without them. Our numbers now are said to be declining in the same way the numbers of liberal, mainline churches did for a generation. It’s not really an apples-to-apples comparison; our decline means to us that fewer disciples are being made among our churches, not just that our auditoriums are empty. And yes, that is a big deal.

But saying that our continued decline is a negative judgment of the Conservative Resurgence is to misunderstand the situation. A recent article by Molly Worthen, a history professor at the University of North Carolina, suggests that our rejection of “big tent” denominationalism ran off vast numbers of our people and actually accelerated the decline already underway. What was the primary goal of the resurgence? Our goal was not so much reversing downward trends as it was an emergency response to a critical situation. For decades, some of our employed SBC leaders, particularly those teaching our pastors and missionaries, were working at cross purposes with pastors and leaders who were trying to encourage world evangelism. Some of these professors did not agree even with the proposition that men and women are lost and hopeless outside of Christ. Rather than a strategy to increase evangelistic effectiveness, I’d say the resurgence was a desperate response to ensure that we would even exist as a fellowship of churches in the decades to come. After the last of six conservative SBC seminary presidents was inaugurated in 1995, we had a chance to once again focus on our cooperative work of world evangelism. Did our period of reformation distract us? Absolutely, it distracted and weakened us for a time in the same way war weakens a nation. But would doing nothing have been worse, more destructive? Absolutely, our denomination would be weaker, smaller and less concerned about the lostness of our nation and world. Neither would we be unified by years of phony peace. Look at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship if you need a tiny snapshot. I’m saying the very fact that we are grieved about a lack of evangelistic fervor among our people rather than just about attendance or giving means that the resurgence gave the SBC more time than it would have otherwise had.

With due respect to the statisticians among us, today’s problems are today’s and they are sufficient. Whether we were facing a 30-year decline or a one-year decline, the spiritual torpor of our churches is observable. We are not, in my own community, reaching our neighbors for Christ. No one has come up with better priorities than the five proposed by the Pastors’ Task Force: Fervent and effective prayer for spiritual awakening, pastors who prioritize personal evangelism, churches focused on multiplying disciples, reaching the next generation, and a celebration of new life in Christ. No demographic or cultural trend will excuse us from the hard work and radical reformation suggested by these priorities. Are we desperate enough to undertake the work? 

The Conservative Resurgence was the culmination of efforts throughout most of the 20th century to resist the skepticism toward the Scripture being modeled by our nation’s intellectual leaders. The effort was undertaken in the Southern Baptist Convention, but politely, in 1925 and in 1963. No one minded because few noticed; nothing changed. The resurgence was a grassroots effort in the 1980s that was impolite and irresistible because the situation had become unbearable to tens of thousands of Baptists willing to invest time and personal wealth in an effective response. People noticed and a lot of things changed for the better. Whether we are talking about fervent prayer for spiritual awakening or a priority on making disciples, it’s hard to imagine a true Great Commission resurgence rolling across our convention until pastors and lay leaders in thousands of our churches understand that the situation of our day is also unbearable.