Month: November 2014

Church planting panel offers insight on culture, church, community

FORT WORTH – A Nov. 11 dinner and dialogue event at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s annual meeting featured a panel of five church planters discussing various aspects of their ministry. SBTC Director of Missions Terry Coy moderated the discussion and guided the planters as they spoke about culture, church and community.

Glynn Stone, pastor of Mobberly Baptist Church in Longview; Ben Hays, pastor of Church in the Center in Houston; Steve Lee, professor of Baptist church planting at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Shanon Thomas, pastor of Rockwall Friendship Baptist Church in Royse City; and Shane Pruitt, pastor of Connection Community Church in Rowlett comprised the panel.

On Culture 

When Coy asked the group if they considered culture to be an enemy of Christians and of churches, they all agreed they do not.

“I don’t think culture is our enemy,” Hays said. “I think culture is a way to define the group of people we want to plant the gospel within.”

He went on to recall from Scripture that Jesus did not speak in a way that implied culture as an enemy. Christ, he said, did not pray that Christians would be taken out of the world but that they would be kept from evil.

On Church

Stone, quoting G.K. Chesterton, said Mobberly doesn’t want to be a church “that will move with the culture” but one that “will move the culture.” He believes the problem lies more with a lack of understanding about what the Christ-centered culture of the church should be than the culture of the world. The average Christian, he said, doesn’t understand Christ’s culture.

“I’m trying to get the culture out of them to get Christ in them,” Stone said.

The church can only be the witness to the world—to the culture—that it is designed to be when the church knows what that Christ-culture looks like and aims to live it out, Stone explained. It’s a culture that is often preached from pulpits but not lived out in the lives of Christians.

Churches, he said, must remember the high holiness of God and recognize how far from holy they are as people.

“We’ve forgotten the Holy Spirit’s first name is ‘Holy,’” Stone said.

Pruitt said churches must be willing to function according to Scripture and not according to what people say.

“We preach verse by verse,” Pruitt said. “We let the text dictate the topic. We just three Sundays ago finished 29 months—118 Sundays—in the Gospel of Matthew.”

Mentors, coaches and pastors told Pruitt not to do that, saying he would certainly kill the new church that way. 

“What? Preaching the Word kills a church plant?” Pruitt exclaimed in conveying the remarks to panel attendees.

Preaching the Word—whether it offends or encourages—is part of what makes church different than mere social clubs, Pruitt said.

“If the church looks no different than the Rotary Club, then why go for an hour?” he said.

On Community

A church’s involvement in and care for the community also sets it apart, they agreed.

“We want to be a church that’s so in the city that if C3 (Connection Community Church) ceased to exist, the city would miss us,” Pruitt said.

All of the panelists have worked to make their church plants an integral part of their respective cities, all of them being mindful of the unique attributes of those communities. Thomas’ church has begun Bible studies in five local schools as well as a recreation ministry. Mobberly has taken a cue from one of the teams it sent to plant a church in offering to install smoke detectors in homes, using the time spent in the home to share the gospel. Church in the Center, an urban church with a large number of nationalities represented in it and in its neighborhood, has held cookouts to make veggie burgers and all-beef hot dogs for their Muslim neighbors. Lee leads in ministry at local colleges, bringing food for “study breaks” and being ready to engage in spiritual conversations.

Stone said he encourages planters to become as “local” as soon as possible, and Lee explained that planters should commit to be learners and servants. The panelists agreed that pastors must be willing to listen—to really listen—to their churches and their communities.

“When you listen, you understand that there is something in their background that gains an ear for the gospel,” Hays said.

Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation assists churches in developing culture of giving

FORT WORTH—Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation (SBTF) Executive Director Bart McDonald told messengers at the 2014 Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Annual Meeting, Nov. 11, that if national giving trends continue at their current pace, “the overwhelming majority of our churches” will face “an uncertain financial future as we bury the most faithful and generous generation.”

McDonald stated, however, that the foundation remains committed to assisting SBTC churches in developing cultures of giving.

Commending the “most faithful of the faithful,” McDonald, who assumed the SBTF helm in April, noted that in his experience pastoring two churches, more than 50 percent of the receipts came from older congregants.

McDonald explained that the foundation wishes to assist churches in creating a “legacy culture.”

“We come alongside our pastors. We want our pastors to understand what our objectives are as we seek to provide our churches value. We are ready to assist you in informing your congregants with the knowledge it takes for them to make adequate preparations so that they remember their church in their wills,” McDonald said.

“The government is poised to take a bite out of the apple in the passage of money to each generation,” McDonald stated. “We come alongside churches seeking to develop their stewardship.”

For church members seeking the SBTF’s assistance, McDonald noted that the foundation’s goals are “soundness, safety and an over market return on liquid investments.”

Revitalization is another focus of both the SBTC and the SBTF, with efforts specifically geared to assist churches in decline.

Citing Daniel 2:21, McDonald said, “Let the name of the Lord be blessed forever and ever for it is he who changes the times and the epochs.”

“We live in changing times,” McDonald affirmed, assuring member churches of the foundation’s readiness to assist in shifting realities, when “business as usual” no longer works.

Ziafat encourages churches to join Look Like Heaven initiative

FORT WORTH—Southern Baptists of Texas Convention President Jimmy Pritchard opened the “Look Like Heaven” report at the 2014 SBTC Annual Meeting by introducing Afshin Ziafat, pastor of Providence Church in Frisco.

Following a Look Like Heaven video, five individuals onstage prayed in five languages: Spanish, Hebrew, Swahili, Korea and English, before Ziafat encouraged the gathering of “fellow church leaders from across the state of Texas” to join the SBTC’s Look Like Heaven initiative.

Reminding the audience of the video’s emphasis on Revelation 7:9, Ziafat spoke of the “great multitude” from “all tribes and languages” loved by God. He urged pastors to encourage their congregants to get out of their “comfort zones to go out to other tribes, to people who do not talk or look or dress like us.”

Citing the examples of Abraham as the founder of a great nation and father of many nations as well as Peter’s witness to Cornelius in Acts 10, Ziafat reminded all that the Bible is the story of God’s redeeming a people to himself from every tribe, tongue and nation.

Referencing Ephesians 3:10, Ziafat expounded upon the meaning of “manifold” or “multifaced,” alluding to a diamond “with many faces that sparkles brightly” as an image of “God’s vision for the church” as a place for “every nation.”

Ziafat, an Iranian-American, recalled his own childhood experiences during the 1978 Iran hostage crisis, when his family returned to America from Iran and were spurned by others. A second grade tutor befriended him, giving him a New Testament with instructions to keep it and read it later.

“I am so glad that [she] got uncomfortable, loved me, and gave me that New Testament. I read it as a senior in high school,” said Ziafat, who trusted Christ afterward.

Ziafat also expressed gratitude to the Baptist church in Houston whose members discipled him after his father and family disowned him following his conversion to Christ.

“There are thousands more Afshin Ziafats all over neighborhoods around our churches,” Ziafat admonished listeners. “We must equip our people to get out of their comfort zones and go to the ends of the earth … to go and to love and to get uncomfortable as one person did for me.”

Outreach does not necessarily mean travel, Ziafat said.

“The ends of the earth have moved across the street,” exclaimed Ziafat, urging the audience to navigate the SBTC’s Look Like Heaven website for ways to engage the lost across cultural lines.

SBTC messengers re-elect president and recording secretary, elect new vice president

FORT WORTH — Messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Annual Meeting on the campus of Southwestern Seminary, Nov. 10-11, re-elected president Jimmy Pritchard and recording secretary Dante Wright while also electing a new vice president.

Pritchard, pastor of First Baptist Church in Forney, was elected by acclamation to a second term as president after being nominated by his son James, pastor of Robinwood Baptist Church in Seagoville.

Pritchard has served as a trustee of Criswell College, East Texas Baptist University and the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board. He served as chairman of the IMB trustees, and in 2011 he led the presidential search committee that selected recently retired IMB president Tom Elliff.

His son James spoke of his father’s ability to resonate with Texas pastors in churches of any size and emphasized his personal integrity as a quality needed in a president.

“The key to [my father’s] success was not what happened in front of people, but what happened in front of God,” James Pritchard said of his father.

Messengers also elected Sookwan Lee, pastor of Seoul Baptist Church in Houston and SBTC executive board member, as vice president.

A native of Korea, Lee was saved in his early 30s as a businessman living in Houston. He joined Seoul Baptist Church and began as a home group leader. After beginning to preach in 2001 and attending seminary, he came on staff as an associate pastor and then was called as the senior pastor in 2012.

Bart Barber, pastor of FBC Farmersville, said that observing Lee’s “quiet, statesmanlike leadership” on the executive board led him to nominate Lee as vice president.

“Sookwan Lee was born in Korea, but he came to work in Texas, joined a church in Texas, grew as a Christian in Texas, surrendered to ministry in Texas, went to seminary in Texas, took leadership of a great church in Texas, gave leadership to a denomination of Southern Baptists in Texas, and led a whole host of Texans to Jesus last year,” Barber said. “Sookwan Lee is the SBTC, and we would do well to make him our convention vice president for the year to come.”

SBTC messengers re-elected Dante Wright, pastor of Sweet Home Baptist Church in Round Rock, as recording secretary.

Wright spent 10 years as a football coach before surrendering to ministry and coming to pastor Sweet Home Baptist Church. Over the last decade, attendance has grown from less than 50 to over 800. The church, a multiracial congregation, has moved north of its original location into a new 1,200-seat auditorium.

Steve Washburn, pastor of First Baptist Church of Pflugerville, nominated Wright for the second year in a row.

“Last year we elected Dante to be the recording secretary of our convention. Immediately he was called on to also assume the role of vice president. In this past year he had been exemplary in both roles,” Washburn said.

All three men ran unopposed and were elected by single ballot.

Elliff addresses “the serious side of serving the Lord”

FORT WORTH—Christians tend to gloss over the challenges of ministry, but suffering is a welcome companion to ministers of the gospel, Tom Ellif told an overflow crowd during the president’s luncheon at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention annual meeting, Nov. 11.

Elliff, who retired as president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board in August, praised the SBTC’s generosity in giving to the IMB and to the Cooperative Program and expressed thanks to all who had prayed for his wife, Jeannie, currently undergoing chemotherapy for stage 4 cancer. He assured the audience that he didn’t want to preach but instead to talk about “the serious side of serving the Lord.”

“We like to hear the good stuff,” Elliff said.

Citing 2 Timothy 1:8-12, Elliff described the Apostle Paul’s suffering in a Roman prison. He focused on verse 12, a verse he frequently adds to his signature: “For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (NASB).

“Most of my ministerial pilgrimage, I failed to see that the verse begins with this statement: ‘It is for this reason that I suffer these things,’” Elliff said, emphasizing suffering. “I think Paul is saying this is not an easy road.  

“If there is ever something like a church planting movement in this nation, it is going to start with suffering. The suffering-less church is not found in the gospel, not in the New Testament, not in the heart of God.”

Elliff recounted the missionary sufferings of Paul, including his concern for the churches.

Elliff explained to his audience composed largely of pastors that the gospel is counter cultural. Noting examples of a Cambodian village pastor beaten savagely by his family for preaching the gospel and a successful IMB church planter in India whose American scientist father, an atheist, demeaned his work, Elliff emphasized that the challenges of ministry are worthwhile.

“You won’t be sorry,” Elliff said.

Recalling a recent experience in Nigeria among Fulani tribesmen—a group heavily recruited by the terrorist organization Boko Haram—Elliff described meeting smiling, laughing, machete-scarred Fulani men eager to talk of the 20,000 Fulani who had come to Christ, a tangible reminder that God changes lives.

“It is a journey of faith that leads you into intimacy with Christ,” Elliff said, reminding pastors that “God can handle anything you bring to Him.”

Reflecting on his wife’s struggle with cancer, Elliff recounted a time when, during an earlier round of chemotherapy 10 years ago, God had impressed the following upon him as he watched his sleeping wife, “Mine or yours?”

This is what God asks all Christians, said Elliff: “Mine or yours? Who’s gonna run the show here?”

“It is not an easy road, but you won’t be sorry you took it.”

In an interview with the TEXAN prior to the event, Elliff said he was pleased to accept SBTC President Jimmy Pritchard’s invitation to speak at the luncheon.

“This is one of my favorite state conventions,” Elliff said. “Not only was it born right, it has continued right. … It has led the way in terms of support for missions, missionaries and church planting in 50 states and all around the world.

“The SBTC not only does it correctly, but it is a model for other state conventions. Others say, ‘We can’t do that,’ but this state convention has proved you can.”

Resolutions address social ills, sexuality, evangelism, religious liberty

FORT WORTH – Messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention passed seven resolutions during their annual meeting on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Nov. 11. Resolutions addressed matters of compassionate evangelism, gambling, gender identity, women’s and children’s health, pornography and religious liberty as well as a resolution of appreciation toward the seminary for hosting the meeting.

While resolutions emphasized the need for Christians to recognize and confront sin, they also encouraged Christians to remember and demonstrate God’s grace and forgiveness.

Arguing that “neither psychological gender confusion nor medical gender reassignment actually changes a person’s gender,” the resolution “On Gender Identity” reaffirmed God’s creation of humanity as male and female. It encouraged pastors to “proclaim the truth of God’s Word about these issues from their pulpits, in their writings, in their public appearances, and in their support of righteousness in their communities.”

The resolution also called on elected officials to refrain from creating policies recognizing changes in self-perception or expression as actual changes in gender.

Barry Creamer, chairman of the committee, said such laws force a cultural confrontation that did not exist before the laws were drafted. The resolution asked policy makers to stop forcing citizens through laws to affirm something contrary to their religious convictions.

The passage of municipal laws publically affirming and accommodating transgender individuals have been a point of contention in Texas the past year, especially in Houston. But it is only one example of what some fear is a trend to quell religious voices in the public square.

In the resolution “On Religious Liberty,” the committee listed 13 incidences in which religious expression had been contested. The resolution, initially authored by Ann Hettinger, former state director for Concerned Women of America, recognized the religious freedoms established in the U.S. Constitution and reiterated in the Texas Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA). The resolution called for the incorporation of the RFRA into the Texas Constitution in order to strengthen the act.

A 2013 SBTC resolution commended the 83rd Texas Legislature for passing pro-life legislation, House Bill 2. The 2014 resolution “On Legislation Supporting Women’s and Children’s Health” called on other states to enact similar legislation. It also challenged SBTC church members to pray for the successful defense of House Bill 2 as it faces legal challenges by abortion providers in appeals courts.

The resolution also encouraged SBTC church members to elect pro-life candidates. And, recognizing the infamous Roe v. Wade court case establishing legalized abortion was birthed in Texas, the resolution concluded, “Just as the abortion industry began in the state of Texas, we fervently, faithfully, and daily pray that the end of the abortion industry also begins in the state of Texas.”

In another message to Texas elected officials, the resolution “On Gambling” condemned the perniciousness of gambling and the state’s practice of raising revenue from the industry. Introduced by Scot Sanford, associate pastor at Cottonwood Creek Baptist Church in Allen, the resolution recognized gambling as addictive and harmful to those who can least afford to participate.

Sanford, who is also a Texas State Legislator, wanted the Texas Legislature to know the SBTC supports all efforts to resist the expansion of the gambling industry. It also encouraged churches to continue educating their congregations on the dangers of gambling and provide resources for those caught in addiction.

Again drawing from Scripture to reinforce God’s design for human sexuality, the resolution “On Pornography” is the first resolution of its kind introduced to the SBTC messengers. The resolution urged pastors to “speak clearly and openly to their congregations on God’s design for sexuality and the dangers of pornography, while ministering to men and their families who have been devastated by this addiction.”

The multi-billion dollar industry is fueled by 4.2 million websites easily accessed by children, women and men in the church, including pastors. The resolution detailed the exponential growth of suffering, like human trafficking, that flows from the porn industry.

It encourages parents to take action to protect their children from intentional or unintentional viewing of online pornography and for all Christians to hold one another accountable in resisting “all forms of sexual temptation.”

The resolution “On Compassionate Evangelism” called Christians to “treat every person with the compassion and respect merited by persons created in and still bearing the image of God.” The resolution reminded Christians of their own state of grace when sharing the gospel and to avoid “divisive and demeaning” language when providing “prophetic correction.”

Creamer authored the resolution at the suggestion of committee member Eric Shin, pastor of New Life Fellowship in Houston, who wanted to reinforce the message of God’s grace in all the resolutions. Shin wanted to make sure it was understood the SBTC is “not just against things” but for people.

In appreciation for the “kind hospitality and generosity of the staff and leadership of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary” in hosting the 2014 SBTC Annual Meeting, the committee submitted the resolution “On Appreciation for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.” It stated the convention resolved to “express our profound gratitude to the Lord and to all those he used to bring about a meeting characterized by evangelism, worship, and encouragement.”

The 2014 Resolution committee included Barry Creamer (Chair), layperson, Lake Highlands Baptist Church, Dallas; Chuck Anderson, layperson, First Baptist Church, Euless; Juan Carlos (JC) Rico, minister, Immanuel Baptist Church, El Paso; Ann Hettinger, layperson, First Baptist Church, Dallas; Scott Sanford, associate pastor, Cottonwood Creek Baptist Church, Allen; Kris Segrest, pastor, First Baptist Church, Wylie; Eric Shin, pastor, New Life Fellowship, Houston; and Steve Washburn, pastor, First Baptist Church, Pflugerville.

To read the resolutions in their entirety, click here.

Revival comes through prayer and preaching, Bible Conference speakers say

FORT WORTH—Texas pastors were encouraged Nov. 9-10 to devote themselves to persistent prayer and the unashamed preaching of God’s Word in hopes of seeing the winds of revival stir the nation in this generation. These challenges were issued at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s 2014 Bible Conference, themed “Rend the Heavens” after Isaiah 64:1-4, on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

Sunday Evening

“Because God is sovereign, he can launch the next revival any way he wants to,” Richard Ross said during the opening session.

Ross, professor of student ministry at Southwestern Seminary, explained that revival and spiritual awakening have been historically sparked by young people. When asked if he believes the current generation of teenagers is primed to spark revival, Ross responds, “Almost.”

Ross said most teenagers in churches hold to a worldview that experts call moral therapeutic deism, which Ross describes as “a little Jesus in my pocket “ who doesn’t guide people’s decisions but is there to “poof away” problems when needed.

“The young people are full of moral therapeutic deism because mom and dad are full of moral therapeutic deism,” Ross said. “It’s the American church that has a case of it; the young people just made it obvious to us first.”

Preaching from Hebrews 1, Ross said church members of all ages need to see from the Bible a picture of Jesus as he truly is—the exalted, reigning king of the universe, seated at the right hand of the father.

“The way your people see Jesus is how your people see God,” Ross told pastors, calling them to preach Jesus as he is revealed in Scripture.

“If you will reveal Jesus for all that he is to a younger generation,” Ross said, “their sails will be raised for revival.”

The evening session concluded with a message by Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tennessee.

Gaines called on pastors and church members to return to fervent prayer as the catalyst for genuine revival in churches.

“We need God in government; we need God in our schools,” Gaines said, adding, “but let me tell you something else—we need God in our churches. … I wonder what would happen if Jesus really got into our churches; I wonder what it would look like.”

Gaines preached from Acts 12 on Peter being freed from prison and almost certain martyrdom for his faith. Gaines noted that throughout the chapter, the text notes the fervent prayer of God’s people, which brought about miraculous events and the spread of the gospel.

“Real revival will not come unless God’s people spend serious time in extraordinary prayer,” Gaines said.

Stating that churches today need to look like the churches in Acts, Gaines said the problem with most Southern Baptist churches is not their sermons, songs or systematic theology, but “it’s that we don’t pray like they did in the book of Acts.”

Gaines pointed out Jesus’ consistent habit of fervent prayer, adding, “If Jesus needed to pray, don’t you think you and I need to pray?”

At the end of his message, Gaines invited the audience to gather at the front of the auditorium to cry out to God for revival.

“What good is a prayerless preacher?” Gaines asked. “What good is a prayerless Christian? What good is a prayerless church?”

Monday Morning

A call to deeper devotion, as well as revival and spiritual awakening challenged attendees at the Monday morning session, which featured messages by Michael Pender and Eric Thomas.

Pender, pastor of Fallbrook Baptist Church in Houston, preached from Luke 10:38-42 about “Mary’s Devotional Moment at the Feet of Jesus.” Comparing and contrasting the attitudes of the two sisters, Pender noted the “necessity of Mary’s devotion.“

“The most important thing we can do is spend time with the Lord,” Pender said. “Devotional time with the Lord is so necessary that it supersedes ministry.”

Pender explained that while Martha’s choice might not have been sin, it wasn’t the best choice. Mary, he said, made the most excellent choice.

“There are a lot of things in this life that may not be sin, but there may be a better choice,” said Pender.

Pender concluded by pointing to the transforming work of devotion to the Lord.

“What good is devotion if there’s no change, no transformation?” Pender asked.

Following a Concert of Prayer for personal and church revival, Eric Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church of Norfolk, Virginia, continued the theme of personal devotion and revival, preaching from Luke 22:39-42. In the passage about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Thomas challenged listeners to prayer.

“We can’t just do the normal prayer,” Thomas said. “The prayer that leads to revival moves from the head to the heart and the heart to the head.

“Revival is born when we crawl into the father’s lap and say ‘Dad, I need you.’ It sets our hearts right. The infinite God becomes personal to us.”

Thomas also pointed out the importance of the word “nevertheless” in Christ’s prayer.

“’Nevertheless’ is a revival word,” Thomas said. “‘Nevertheless’ means, ‘the only thing that matters is that I’m sitting in your lap. I give you all that I am.’ The enemy of revival is you and me pretending and playing games instead of opening our hearts before a loving God and saying ‘nevertheless.’”

Monday Afternoon

Steven Smith, vice president for student services and communications at Southwestern Seminary, relayed Jesus’ teaching on prayer from Luke 11 during the third session Bible Conference.

“Jesus taught about 30 parables,” Smith said. “Only two of those parables focused on prayer, and those two parables on prayer both have the exact same theme: pray persistently.”

One of the two parables, found in Luke 11, tells the story of a man going to his friend at midnight asking for help. Just as the man persisted in his inquiring, so Jesus taught his disciples to be persistent in prayer.

In reference to the man who did not initially want to help his friend, Smith clarified, “This is not a parable of comparison; it’s a parable of contrast. The point is not that God is like this midnight friend [whom] you have to wear down. The point is that God is the opposite of that. God is a loving and gracious heavenly father who wants to meet our needs before we even ask him.”

Acknowledging the issue of unanswered prayers, Smith pointed to verse 13, which says that God will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.

“The reason why he said the Holy Spirit is because the Holy Spirit is simply the very best God has to give,” Smith explained.

To those who might grumble over unanswered prayers, Smith acknowledged that God’s gift of the Holy Spirit may seem inadequate. To that, however, Smith posed a question: “What if you go to God asking for something, and all you get is God? Is that enough?”

Concluding the Bible Conference was Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano. Graham preached from Acts 20, which tells the story of Paul delivering a farewell message to the elders of the church in Ephesus.

From this message, Graham gleaned four applications for Christian ministers, namely that they should humbly, compassionately, courageously and generously proclaim the word of Christ.

“Preach it, brothers,” Graham said. “Tell it, sisters. All of it—heaven and hell and sin and salvation; the power of God to save. Tell it all, the whole counsel of God—lest we walk into heaven with the blood of men on our hands.”

“If we [preach in this way],” Graham concluded, “a fire will start in us that will ignite our churches and our communities, and maybe, just maybe, one more time, we can see a great awakening in our country and great evangelism in our churches and in the nations of this world before Jesus comes again.”

Election of Officers

The Bible Conference elected new officers for next year’s conference, which will be held at Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, Nov. 8-9, 2015.

Michael Pender, pastor of Fallbrook Baptist Church in Houston, was elected unopposed as Bible Conference president after being nominated by Robert Webb, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Kaufman.

Chris Moody, pastor of First Baptist Church in Beaumont, was elected unopposed as first vice president, nominated by Jeremy Rogers, pastor of Arlington Park Baptist Church in Arlington.

Gene Kendrick, pastor of Mims Baptist Church in Conroe, was elected unopposed as second vice president, nominated by Jeremy Pruitt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Garrison.

–with reporting by Stephanie Heading and Alex Sibley.

SBTC President calls for churches to unite for spiritual awakening

FORT WORTH — Southern Baptists of Texas Convention President Jimmy Pritchard boldly challenged messengers to contend “as one man” for spiritual awakening during his president’s address during the opening night of the convention’s 17th Annual Meeting, Nov. 10.

“We live in absolutely astounding days,” said Pritchard, pastor of First Baptist Church in Forney.

Citing both crises and turning points in the world today, he added, “These seasons of turning points give us the opportunity to speak the gospel into them. There’s power in that.”

Referencing Philippians 1:27-30, Pritchard urged attendees to live a worthy life.

“There’s a certain weight that comes with being a follower of Christ,” Pritchard said. “We live in frightening days, but we should not be afraid. There will always be opponents.”

Warning that followers of Christ will know suffering in this world, Pritchard remarked that American Christians really don’t know about suffering for Jesus Christ. Noting that most people have nice homes, nice cars, warm beds and more than enough food, Pritchard said, “Don’t ever say we are suffering at all.”

Pritchard recognized the “great spiritual heritage” and impressive giving record of the SBTC, including sending 55 percent of Cooperative Program receipts on to the Southern Baptist Convention. Still, he lamented, many SBC agencies are making cutbacks.

“We are spoiled,” Pritchard said. “The Great Commission has shifted to be the Great Convenience. Our problem is not in structure. It’s in our heart.”

Pritchard also praised the stability of the SBTC, saying a belief that the Bible is God’s Word, an ongoing commitment to the Great Commission and genuine love for one another provide the stable foundation for gospel work. Nevertheless, he said, Southern Baptists have less influence than they’ve ever had before so something must be missing.

Based on 2 Chronicles 29-30, Pritchard called for believers to seek a spiritual awakening.

“We need a Great Awakening,” Pritchard said. “Our greatest need is to stand as one man.”

Pritchard said a call to spiritual awakening is born out of prayer and announced that he will be holding times of prayer in every region of Texas during 2015.

“We’ll find out if we really want spiritual awakening by who comes to those prayer meetings,” Pritchard said, adding, “Talk is cheap.”

Pritchard also encouraged churches to evaluate their giving, noting that people often want God’s blessings but don’t want to give to his work.

“We are incredibly disobedient in our giving as Southern Baptists,” Pritchard said. “God says, ‘I can’t trust you with a dollar bill. Why would I trust you with true riches?’”

In order to experience spiritual awakening, Pritchard said some things will need to be removed.

“We live in a time when the temple is in the heart; we need to open the heart and get the filth out,” Pritchard said.

“We just want to chase the American dream, blend into culture, and we’ll just bring Jesus in and blend with the culture. We may be more American than Christian. We’ve got to love people too much to change the gospel to accommodate them.”

Pritchard said Christians should expect rejection from the culture but be bold in proclaiming the gospel.

“We have to take the message outside the walls, no matter what the opponents say,” Pritchard said, adding that Christians must have a thirst for God and be in a state of desperation in order for revival to come, concluding, “It’s hard to get desperate when we are so blessed.”

“We have to shine the light as a lighthouse, standing as one man for the sake of the gospel.”

African-American Fellowship Dinner emphasizes missions

FORT WORTH — As part of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s annual meeting, the African-American Fellowship (AAF) Dinner provided an opportunity for camaraderie among church leaders and members from congregations across Texas and encouraged attendees to be missionally driven.

“It’s so easy for us as Christians to become dull, to become complacent, and to forget why we’re really here in the first place,” said James Womack, who delivered the evening’s special message. “We’re not here just to raise families. We’re not here just to have church every Sunday. We’re not here just to open up our door. But we are here to make a kingdom difference for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Womack, pastor of Destiny Church in Fort Worth, said the AAF believes that God desires for Christians to be missionally driven ministers and disciples of Jesus Christ.

“There are other things that can drive your life,” Womack explained. “Raising your kids can drive your life. Building a nice house can drive your life. Even building a church apart from the glory of God can drive your life. But what does it look like to be a missionally driven, biblically centered disciple of Jesus Christ?”

Womack urged attendees to take care of God’s ministry, their marriages and their money. Womack said that keeping each of these elements in check would ensure a healthy heart for ministry, which itself would produce a missions focus.  

In addition to Womack’s sermon, the dinner also included a time for special recognitions. Representatives of four churches were recognized for participating in an international mission trip for the first time. One church, Mesquite Friendship, had 33 individuals go on such a trip. These missions efforts bore fruit in such countries as Belize, Madagascar and Ecuador.

In keeping with the evening’s missions emphasis, Terry Turner, pastor of Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church in Mesquite and president of the AAF, encouraged attendees during his closing remarks to participate in the 2015 Church Growth Conference in Grapevine, Oct. 10. Turner stressed that the conference will prove important for fuelling the AAF’s effort to grow and mobilize believers to fulfill the Great Commission.

Stephens: Struggling churches and thriving churches have roles in revitalization

Jarrett Stephens, teaching pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, spoke about church revitalization to a packed room as part of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Bible Conference, Nov. 10. The topic of revitalization, he said, is fitting for the time, as research shows a large percentage of churches are declining, and fitting for the diverse group, as both thriving and floundering churches have a role in revitalization.

Dying churches, Stephens explained, have a duty to the Lord and the lost to look for ways to revive or renew so as to further the kingdom. Healthy churches have a similar duty to look around to find those declining churches, to reach out and to help them revive and renew, so as to further the kingdom.

The mission of the declining church is the same as the mission of the thriving church, Stephens said. The mission is to bring the lost to Christ, to advance the Kingdom and to penetrate darkness.

Pointing to Matthew 16:18, Stephens reminded the men and women that Jesus said the church is to take an offensive approach in fighting against the “gates of hell.”

“When we you are driving [through] your community, and you see that church that’s not doing so well, does it break your heart that they’re no longer on the offensive? That they’re no longer storming the gates of hell?” Stephens asked. “To be effective, we have to stay on mission.”

In addition to maintaining a focus on the mission, Stephens said, churches—both growing and dying—must also consider the responsibility associated with the Lord’s churches.

It’s a stewardship issue, Stephens explained. Using the illustration of the wins and losses seen in college football games over the weekend, Stephens reminded the crowd that those games were “won and lost on missed opportunities.”

“When it comes to the church of Jesus Christ, this is more serious than a little college football game,” he said. “We can’t afford to lose opportunities. There’s an opportunity tonight [in] you hearing our convention say, ‘We want to help you. We have churches that want to come alongside of you.’”

Thriving churches, too, have a responsibility in the matter, Stephens said, explaining that his own church believes God allows them to have interns and pastors not to help and expand Prestonwood but so that ministers can be sent out to help other churches.

Church revitalization scores a win for everyone, he said, but it also takes a full team of major players—both the churches who need help and hope and the churches who can reach out to offer it. When that happens, he said, referencing the five “wins” described in the Leadership Network’s book Better Together, struggling churches win and strong churches win. Local communities win and the body of Christ wins. The kingdom, he said, wins.