Month: September 2014

Cooperation is more than a dollar sign

Executive Director’s note: In place of my column I wanted you to hear from Josh Crutchfield. Over 10 years ago when he was a youth we attended the same church, he became my intern for a year during the time he studied at Criswell College. His heart for the gospel is revealed in this article. Josh Crutchfield is a two-time Criswell graduate who is working on his Ph.D. He is a pastor and serves on the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Board. I’m so grateful for Josh, his wife, Jamie, and their children. The next generation is leading well.
-Jim Richards

By Joshua Crutchfield | Special to the TEXAN

It was 8 o’clock in the evening, and the sun had already set. We were exhausted from a long day of travel—two plane rides and a five-hour van ride. The crisp Caribbean air was now refreshing us as we traveled to Livingston, Guatemala, under cloak of darkness. It is not as if we were going into a hostile or dangerous place, but we couldn’t help but feel like special ops going into a region to carry out a mission. Of course, we did have a mission to carry out—bring the gospel to the Garifuna.

You may question what this story has to do with the Cooperative Program or cooperation altogether, and that would be a fair question, so let me elaborate. You see, I was leading college students from the church I pastor on their first-ever mission trip. Our goal was to bring the good news of Jesus to the Garifuna people in Livingston. However, we did not know of the existence of the Garifuna until a sister church in a different state invited us to cooperate with them in advancing the gospel to peoples who have never heard the good news. Andrew Hebert, pastor of Taylor Memorial Baptist Church in Hobbs, N.M., spoke with me about the opportunity to go into a region where no active Southern Baptist work exists and cooperate together to plant churches. As my team walked the streets of Livingston, there was not even an evangelical church to be found.

Still, you might say that this does not fully address the Cooperative Program, but it does. When Andrew contacted me about reaching a people I did not even know existed, he was not sharing something that was common knowledge or something he already knew—Andrew was working with the International Mission Board (IMB) in order to identify an unreached, unengaged people group. Upon identifying a people group (e.g. the Garifuna), the IMB worked with and trained the leaders of Taylor Memorial Baptist Church to go and engage the Garifuna with the gospel. That was funded and made possible through the Cooperative Program.

As exciting as it was for my students and me, and as wonderful as it is to see how God is using Taylor Memorial Baptist Church and Trenton FBC, none of this would be accomplished or experienced without cooperation. But now something must be addressed—cooperation is more than a dollar sign. It does involve dollar signs, but money is not the foundation of our cooperation. No, the foundation of cooperation is the Great Commission and the hope that all peoples will hear of the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. This cooperation can take many forms but the foundation and goal remain the same.

This is the beauty of the Cooperative Program. It brings like-minded, like-faith people together for the purpose of making Jesus known. This kind of cooperation reveals to the world that our churches are more than simply autonomous churches seeking to build our own kingdoms but instead shows the world that regardless of our race, background, city, or state, we as God’s children have a common Savior and a common purpose. Cooperation proclaims the unifying work that God has accomplished in his church. Those who refuse to cooperate—be it through the funding of the Cooperative Program or simply working with other local churches—reveal the true nature of their hearts and serve as a poor representation of the gospel.

This trip served as an incredible teaching moment for my church family. We saw the fruits of the Cooperative Program through the identification of the Garifuna and through the resources, such as tracts written in Spanish and the 1 Cross app, provided by the SBTC. We saw churches come together by offering financial support—churches like Allen’s Point Baptist Church, pastored by Kevin Towery, and through our local association. And that is just the starting point.

As we continue our efforts to reach the Garifuna, we are building on the work of other churches, such as Taylor Memorial Baptist Church, which will soon be returning to Livingston in order to build on the work we have done. Cooperation is more than a dollar sign; it is the outcome of the work of Christ and the evidence of his indwelling Spirit, so that he may receive glory and that the lost might come to know the one who died for them.

—Joshua Crutchfield pastors First Baptist Church of Trenton.

Confident Christianity Conference features Norman Geisler

Registration is open for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Confident Christianity Conference, which will be held at Fort Worth’s Southcliff Baptist Church, Sept. 19-20. The annual apologetics conference, now in its third year, has evangelism at its core and seeks to equip Christians to share and defend their faith.

Bruno Molina, SBTC ministry associate, says a panel discussion has been added to this year’s conference to allow attendees to hear speakers respond to and interact with questions they submit at registration. The panel discussion will be held after lunch on Saturday.

Molina says the conference will equip Christians to understand better what they believe and why they believe it.

“It’s important to love God with all our minds, and it’s a way of preparing ourselves to share the gospel in what is fast becoming a post-Christian context,” Molina said. “This conference is different from just about any other conference we do because it’s all about getting answers to questions people don’t typically ask in a Bible study or life group environment.”

In addition to the panel discussion, workshops and keynote addresses, Christian apologist and author Norman Giesler will participate in a question-and-answer session.

Other speakers include Barry Creamer, president and humanities professor at Criswell College; Sam Dallas, minister to students and minister of apologetics at Reece Prairie Baptist Church in Burleson; Edgardo Ferrer, associate pastor of Hispanic ministries at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Cedar Hill; Rudy Gonzalez, director of the William R. Marshall Center for Theological Studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary;  Mike Keas, professor of history and philosophy of science at the College of Southwestern; Mary Jo Sharp, assistant professor at Houston Baptist University; and Terri Stovall, dean of women’s programs and associate professor of women’s ministry at Southwestern Seminary.

Molina said this conference will be well-suited for both students and adults, with sessions tailored toward each. He highly recommends bringing entire youth groups to the conference.

“If I was a youth leader, I would definitely be bringing my youth to this,” Molina said. “We need to equip them before they go to college and get discouraged about their faith in God. This conference especially applies to them.”

To register and to watch a video about the conference, visit Registration is $25 for adults and $10 for students.

If you never swing the bat, you will never hit the ball

My 10-year-old son Will and I share a common love—baseball.

While he’s not naturally gifted at playing the game, Will loves to be part of the team, and as with most kids his age his skills have progressed each year through repetition and practice.

This past spring, Will graduated from coach-pitch to kid-pitch, which brought with it both excitement and anxiety. However, after only a few games I could see that anxiety largely overshadowed the excitement.

Will hit the ball well during practices and pre-game warm ups, but as soon as he stepped in the batter’s box, fear froze him in his tracks—so much so that he would not even move when an errant pitch came right at him.

In the very first game, he was hit in the arm by a pitch. The painful experience only served to make him more fearful of batting. I joked with him after the game, “I know it hurt, buddy, but at least you didn’t get hit in the face.” And, wouldn’t you know it, the very next game, a wild pitch hit him square in the face.

Added to this, he struck out several times because he never swung the bat. This only intensified his timidity. Soon, whenever his turn at bat approached, he complained of feeling nauseous.

Following one of his games, I asked, “Will, what goes through your mind when you’re up to bat?” Will replied, “I’m afraid I’m going to strike out or get hit by the ball.” He was so afraid of pain, failure and embarassment that he did not even want to try.

I then gave him some baseball advice that eventually became a mantra we would repeat before every game and every at-bat: “If you never swing the bat, you will never hit the ball.” I encouraged him to swing at every pitch, even if it was outside the strike zone.

Over the course of the season Will began to swing the bat more and more. Yes, he still struck out on occasion, but he also began to put the ball in play and advance his teammates around the base paths.

And then the big moment came—Will got a base hit. The look of excitement on his face was priceless. And, of course, this success strengthened his resolve to swing again during his next at-bat.

Our mantra—If you never swing the bat, you will never hit the ball—reminds me of a similar statement by Southwestern Seminary evangelism professor Matt Queen to those who fear the pain of failure, rejection or embarrassment when sharing their faith:  “Not every time you share the gospel will someone profess Christ, but if you never share the gospel, you’ll never see anyone profess Christ.”

For many Christians, especially those of us who are not naturally gifted evangelists, the prospect of sharing our faith leaves us terrified and frozen in our tracks. Even the thought of it brings a nauseous feeling. Rather than risk “striking out” in a witnessing encounter, we sit idly by and refuse to say a word.

Maybe the remedy is simply to start swinging. Thankfully, God measures success in evangelism by obedience, not decisions. A rejection of the gospel is a rejection of Jesus, not of us. So, in a sense, we never strike out when we evangelize.

We must faithfully obey our Lord’s Great Commission and let the Holy Spirit do his work. Sometimes, we swing and miss. Other times, we plant or water gospel seeds, advancing a person’s understanding of his need for the Lord. Given enough swings, eventually we will experience the exhilarating joy of seeing someone come to faith in Christ. And with every swing we gain confidence for future opportunities.
Last week, the tables turned—Will became the teacher; I became the student. As the first day of school approached, Will said, “I can’t wait to start school so I can tell my friends about Jesus.”

He will likely never be a professional baseball player, but Will understands what it means to overcome his fears and swing for the fences when it comes to sharing his faith.

What if Christians took the Great Commission seriously and decided to risk failure, rejection and embarrassment to share the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ? What if we intentionally sought out opportunities to share the gospel with family, friends, co-workers or those we meet as we go about our daily lives?

This week, pray for opportunities to share your faith, pray for boldness to witness when God brings someone across your path (and he will), and pray that the gospel would show its power.

If the thought of this makes you nauseous, remember: If you never swing the bat, you will never hit the ball.