Month: October 2015

Bible Conference and Convention Officer Nominees Announced

HOUSTON—As the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) Annual Meeting approaches in November, several pastors have announced plans to nominate individuals to serve as officers of the Bible Conference and the convention for 2016. Nominations will be made during the meetings at Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, Nov. 8-10, 2015.

Steve Washburn, pastor of First Baptist Church in Pflugerville, plans to nominate Danny Forshee for president of the 2016 Bible Conference. Forshee has served as pastor of Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin since 2010. He is president of the Danny Forshee Evangelistic Association, has pastored churches in Texas, Virginia, and Arkansas; and served as a professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. He earned his M.Div. and Ph.D. from Southwestern Seminary.

In March, Chris Osborne, pastor of Central Baptist Church in College Station, announced that he will nominate Nathan Lino, pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church (NEHBC) in Humble, for president of the SBTC. Born in South Africa, Lino’s family immigrated to the Houston area when he was 11. He planted NEHBC in 2002 and has served previously as first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 2012-13 as well as vice president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention from 2006-08.

Terry Turner, pastor of Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church, plans to nominate Dante Wright, pastor of Sweet Home Baptist Church in Round Rock, for vice president of the SBTC. Wright has served the past two years as recording secretary of the SBTC. In 2014, he also assumed the role of vice president. Wright spent 10 years as a football coach before surrendering to ministry and coming to pastor Sweet Home Baptist Church.

What’s at stake in Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (Proposition 1) vote next Tuesday?

With a contentious vote over Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (Proposition 1 on the ballot) looming on election day next Tuesday, pastors and non-profit organizations have sought to set the record straight on what is at stake with the ordinance and have voiced concerns over the ordinance.

Nathan Lino, pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church in Humble, Texas, voiced these concerns:

Proposition 1 is a ballot initiative on HERO, Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, a proposed sexual orientation, gender identity, nondiscrimination law. The ordinance is more commonly known as “the bathroom ordinance” as it includes regulations for the use of restrooms and locker rooms in the city limits. Any individual in our city would be allowed to use whichever gender-based restroom or locker room he or she most identify with that day. For example, any male in our city would be free to enter a women’s restroom or locker room simply by claiming he self-identifies as a female. Churches would be exempt from the proposed ordinance.

Prop 1 is an unacceptable proposal on at least two major levels. First, it is a clear infringement on religious liberty in our city. All private business owners should be free to operate their businesses according to their personal beliefs without the fear of unjust government punishment. The government was formed to be freedom’s greatest protector, not its greatest threat. We surrender to Caesar what is Caesar’s: tax money, but we surrender to God what is God’s: our conscience. If Prop 1 passes, private business owners who are Catholic, Muslim, Mormon, Christian, etc. will be forced to operate their private businesses contrary to their personal convictions.

Prop 1 is also a significant infringement on the safety and privacy of many people in our city. All women and young girls should be free to use public restrooms and locker rooms in Houston without fear of a man watching them in their most vulnerable state. This ordinance will provide cover for perverted and malicious individuals to access our women and children. Surely there are solutions to sexual orientation, gender identity and public service challenges whose costs do not have to be carried by the young girls of our city.

Evangelicals nationally may not realize this ordinance is directly related to the Houston city government issuing sermon subpoenas to five Houston pastors in the fall of 2014; the fight over this matter has been going on for 18 months. The mayor of Houston had this ordinance put into law by the city council. Fortunately, city law also allows Houston citizens to collect a certain number of signatures on a petition and force a city council decision to be brought to a public vote. Thousands more signatures were collected than the minimum necessary. Every signature was accompanied by detailed and verified information. The petitions were notarized. The mayor promptly had her city attorney invalidate the signatures. She simultaneously attempted to bully Houston pastors by issuing far-reaching subpoenas to five high profile pastors, demanding all sermons, emails, letters and text messages. Houston pastors were undeterred. The petitions were appealed all the way to the Texas Supreme Court, who ruled 7-0 that the signatures are indeed valid and ordered the mayor to repeal the ordinance or put it up for a city vote. The Prop 1 vote on Nov. 3 is the result of this 18-month process.

Eighteen months ago, a poll showed the vast majority of our city opposes this ordinance. But in the end, it won’t matter how many city residents oppose the ordinance; it will matter how many voters oppose the ordinance. The evangelical pastors of our city, including myself, are highly motivated to defeat Prop 1 as religious freedom is clearly a gospel issue and the protection of our city’s little girls is clearly a fundamental human right. For people in our city who are tired of the attack on religious liberty, this is a clear target to shoot at: “Vote no on Prop 1.” Northeast Houston Baptist Church is mobilizing our members, utilizing stage announcements and social media. Our pastors participated in a press conference with more than 100 other evangelical pastors, asking our city to “Vote no on Prop 1.”  The Houston Area Pastor’s Council is running television commercials and social media advertisements; yard signs are peppered in many yards. Lord willing, voters will force our government to find a way to provide public services to our city without infringing on religious liberty or exposing many of our citizens to harm.

David Walls wrote an article titled “5 Things Every Houstonian Needs to Know About November HERO Vote” on the blog of Texas Values, a non-profit organization dedicated to standing for faith, family and freedom in Texas. He points out many of the same concerns as Lino and draws out further implications for religious liberty.

On Tuesday, Nov. 3, Houston voters will finally have a chance to vote for or against the controversial LGBT “Equal Rights” Bathroom Ordinance (or HERO), known as Proposition 1 on the ballot. I was born and raised in Houston and I can tell clearly that this issue is the most divisive ordinance and issue to ever take place in Houston. The ACLU and the LGBT lobby group Human Rights Campaign have focused their efforts on Houston to force the city to accept their agenda, a city that is already known for its cultural diversity and tolerance long before any ordinance of this type was proposed.

The vote comes after a more than yearlong campaign by Houston Mayor Annise Parker to illegally disenfranchise voters and intimidate opponents, including efforts to silence Houston pastors by attempting to subpoena their sermons and private church communications. A unanimous Texas Supreme Court ruled against the Mayor in July ordering the Council to stop enforcement of the ordinance and “comply with its duties” to allow Houstonians to vote on the issue.

With early voting already taking place and Election Day closing in, a thorough analysis reveals the ordinance is about giving local government new power to force private individuals and businesses to affirm homosexual conduct and actual or perceived “gender identity” under threat of serious criminal penalties. Openly lesbian Mayor Parker admitted as much during the original debate over the ordinance in 2014, when she said in her own words ‘This [ordinance] is about me.’

Here is an updated analysis of the ordinance that all Houston voters should consider:

  1. The ordinance will allow men access to women’s bathrooms, shower rooms, and locker rooms (any “place of public accommodation”). The proposed ordinance requires Houston businesses to make all women’s bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms available to all who are dressed in female attire, without regard to biological sex. This will place women and children at risk. Houston Astros star and Houston resident, Lance Berkman has released a video in opposition to the ordinance for his concerns about the safety of his daughters.
  2. The ordinance would force employers and private business owners to violate their religious and moral convictions and could be harmful to religious organizations as well. It subjects individuals to criminal prosecution for refusing to participate in the celebration of the homosexual conduct because of their religious beliefs or conviction of conscience.  This includes bakers, florists, planners, musicians and others who might decline to participate in same-sex weddings, which violate their faith. A similar law in New Mexico was used to force a Christian Photographer to use her gifts and talents to affirm and participate in a same-sex ‘commitment ceremony’ that she disagreed with or face punishment by the state. Mayor Parker issued subpoenas for pastors’ sermons after numerous faith leaders in Houston talked about the issue from the church pulpit. Parker sent out a “tweet” that pastor are “fair game” for targeting by the government because of their pulpit comments. Parker later withdrew the sermon subpoenas due to enormous national pressure and backlash.
  3. The ordinance promotes government-backed discrimination by seeking to criminalize opposition to homosexual and transgender behavior. Anti-discrimination protections for race, color, national origin, sex, and religion are already protected in state and federal law. Many believe the ordinance will actually promote discrimination by imposing “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes onto the private sector of Houston, while centralizing the power of investigation, fines, and punishment under the Mayor. Within just the past year the legislatures of Idaho, Wyoming, and North Dakota declined to add sexual orientation and gender identity to their nondiscrimination laws. So have the following cities: Berea, KY (October 2014), Fountain Hills, AZ (November 2014), Beckley, WV (December 2014), Glendale, AZ, which hosted this year’s Super Bowl (January 2015), Bardstown, KY (March 2015), Charlotte, NC (March 2015), Scottsdale, AZ (March 2015), Elkhart, IN (July 2015), and Goshen, IN (August 2015). Voters in both Fayetteville, AR and Springfield, MO, recently repealed the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity to their nondiscrimination laws
  4. The ordinance equates race with sexual conduct. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars discrimination based on race (and color, national origin, sex, and religion). The U.S Supreme has declined to subject classifications based on “sexual orientation” to the “strict scrutiny” legal standard that applies to race. The Coalition of African American Pastors opposes the ordinance and numerous African American, Hispanic and Asian American leaders in Houston oppose the ordinance as well. Some members of the NAACP have expressed support for the ordinance.
  5. The ordinance increases government interference in the private sector by mandating employment of homosexual and transgendered persons. The ordinance seeks to substitute the judgment of the Mayor for that of the employer regarding what qualities or characteristics are most relevant to a particular job. Houston businesses could be forced under penalty of law to hire people that openly promote homosexual or transgender behavior that is inappropriate for their job and contrary to the business owner’s religious convictions.

NAMB trustees approve Send Relief, IMB aid

SALT LAKE CITY (BP)—Trustees of the North American Mission Board have approved the establishment of Send Relief—a new compassion ministry to offer Southern Baptists opportunities to meet physical needs and serve underprivileged communities.

Also during their Oct. 7 meeting, NAMB’s trustees approved a $4 million budget reduction so the entity can send funds to assist International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries.

NAMB President Kevin Ezell, commenting on the Send Relief initiative, noted shortly after trustees closed their meeting in Salt Lake City, “Imagine 40,000 Southern Baptist churches engaged to meet needs in their communities and across North America. Send Relief will give churches hands-on opportunities to alleviate suffering and transform lives.”

Send Relief will launch in 2016 and include compassion ministries to combat hunger and poverty, serve children through foster care and adoption, combat human trafficking, minister to migrants through international learning centers, and meet inner-city needs with construction and medical teams.

NAMB’s disaster relief team will be part of Send Relief and continue to have its own director, although the position is currently vacant. Texas trustee Denny Gorena of Leonard told the Southern Baptist TEXAN that NAMB’s role of coordinating national responses will not change. “Disaster Relief, in my opinion, has been one of the greatest ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention and NAMB’s coordinating efforts have been recognized by many different organizations, churches and individuals in the SBC.”

Trustees approved David Melber as vice president of Send Relief. Melber has led Crossings Ministries camp outreach in Kentucky since 2003.

Melber said Send Relief won’t focus on building its own ministries but will find people who are already demonstrating leadership and success and give them a larger platform to expand their ministry.

“I don’t think I’ve got the greatest idea on how to address human trafficking, but God has no doubt burdened people with that. They are already doing great things, and they need to be given some encouragement and resources to see those ministries expanded,” he said.

Melber said Southern Baptists have a great reputation for serving in times of disaster, and he wants to build on that inclination to serve.

“The reality is there are plenty of human conditions that need relief without hurricanes or tornados,” Melber said. “Jesus went to where the people were. These ministries will help us do that. Ultimately this will be for proclaiming the gospel and helping to start new churches. I don’t want to say it’s the best thing going at NAMB, but I’m pretty excited about it.”

“Young people want to serve,” Ezell said. “People are retiring with 10 or 20 or more years of good health left. They want meaningful ways to use their skills and serve. Send Relief will do that.”

Trustees approved the $4 million budget reduction to assist IMB missionaries during NAMB’s 2015-16 fiscal year. Ezell requested the action in response to the IMB’s announced reduction in personnel of up to 15 percent in order to address ongoing revenue shortfalls.

“This is a Kingdom vote,” declared NAMB trustee chairman Chuck Herring, senior pastor of Collierville First Baptist Church near Memphis, after NAMB trustees unanimously passed the resolution. Next, the SBC Executive Committee must approve the proposed assistance before NAMB can transfer funds to IMB.

In other business:

— Trustees received a report showing that revenue for 2014-15 was 1.15 percent higher than the previous year and revenue exceeded spending for the year.

— Trustees authorized several other position and structure changes in addition to Melber’s in Send Relief. Carlos Ferrer will serve as executive vice president; Kim Robinson will serve as vice president of marketing and ministry support; and Clark Logan will serve as chief financial officer. All three men have been promoted from other roles at NAMB.

— Gary Frost shared with trustees that he has resigned from his role as vice president of NAMB’s Midwest Region to move to the role of national facilitator for prayer and compassion initiatives with Mission America.

With additional reporting by Tammi Ledbetter.

Blockbuster Churches in a Netflix World

Fifteen years ago, we were living in a less technological society than we are now. Blockbuster, the video rental market leader, was booming with thousands of retail stores scattered across the nation. Millions of customers poured in week after week to rent the newest action thriller or comedy. Blockbuster was simply at the top of their game, or so they thought.

Beyond the glare of the blue and yellow lights, something was happening that went largely unnoticed. A new company had formed with a new creative form of video rental that would push the limits of the norm. This company, known today as Netflix, had the right idea at the right time. However, for various reasons, the CEO of the new company wanted to partner with Blockbuster to create a new dynasty that was sure to take the video rental world to levels not seen before.

In 2000, the CEO of Netflix approached the CEO of Blockbuster and offered to sell the newly formed Netflix for a mere $50 million. While that number sounds large to us, this is a small investment for a major retail business. It wasn’t the money that caused the CEO of Blockbuster to decline the offer; instead it was because he missed the opportunity to see beyond the present market. Hindsight is 20/20. Today, Blockbuster is out of business, and Netflix is the largest video rental company—worth more than $30 billion.

This is a modern picture of what many churches are going through. At one time they were thriving and growing at rapid rates. Their ministries were effective in every way measurable. Things were as good as they could be. However, somewhere along the way, attendance began to drift off, giving became less dependable, and the influence of their ministries became unknown to those outside of the church. Simply put, churches were so focused on the present, they stopped dreaming about the future. They essentially became a Blockbuster church in a Netflix culture.

So what can be done about this if your church is in this stage? What is the key element to moving forward into a new season of growth and vitality? While there can be many answers, I want to narrow it down to one key element: re-launching evangelism in your church’s strategy. Evangelism is the axis on which our church must turn in order to see it revitalized to life and growth. Nothing brings new life to a church more than seeing people experience new life in Christ.

So how do you bridge the desire for church revitalization and evangelism? I believe this is found in three simple answers.

First, you must create a culture of evangelism in your church. Church members must sense the need and urgency to reach people for Christ and recognize their responsibility in God’s kingdom work to share the good news of Christ. Your church has to create strategies that are focused on reaching the lost with the gospel. When this happens, people begin to expect God to transform lives each and every week. Creating a culture of evangelism in a church will simultaneously create a culture of newfound enthusiasm in a church.

Second, you must create opportunities to train people on how to share their faith and to engage in personal evangelism. People are eager to see God use them for his purposes. They genuinely want to see people come to faith in Jesus; many just haven’t been discipled in how to do it. When your church equips people with the necessary tools to share the gospel, God uses them to expand his kingdom. Once someone leads another to Christ, they develop a new excitement because they know they have been used by God!

Third, you must consistently dream about the future and try new tools for evangelism. In our day, we have more tools and gadgets to share the gospel than ever before. Churches should always evaluate what is out there to utilize as well as continue to be innovative in how they engage those without Christ.

The tragedy of Blockbuster is that they settled for being good in the present and missed the opportunity to be great in the future. Likewise, God has given us an incredible opportunity to shine his light brighter than ever before. I encourage you as a church to be forward thinking in how to engage your community with the gospel. After all, we’re not a part of a video retail business; we are a part of a worldwide gospel revolution.

Marriage Heroes: Veterans and newlyweds celebrate God”s blessing

FORT WORTH—The two largest Sunday school departments at Fort Worth’s Travis Avenue Baptist Church are the young marrieds and the senior adults. On Oct. 11, the two groups came together as the younger couples hosted an event honoring the church’s more than 70 couples and 30 widows or widowers married at least 50 years.

The celebration was so meaningful that Fieldon Williams arrived sporting two black eyes and staples in his forehead from a fall that had sent him to the emergency room days earlier. Williams and his wife Colleen, married 55 years, joined fellow church members for wedding cake, punch, nuts, mints, conversation and fellowship. Several couples brought wedding albums for guests to peruse.

“We’ve got everything you need to have to have a southern wedding,” associate pastor Bernie Hargis joked to those assembled. Hargis served as the event’s emcee, opening the program with prayer and recognition of the 180 church members who had persevered in marriage. He then introduced a video by senior pastor Michael Dean, who was out of town and unable to attend.

Offering congratulations to those who had been married a half-century, Dean said, “You are our heroes. The rest of us look to you as an example of what God intends for marriage to be. In our culture today, marriage is not held in high esteem. Many are trying to redefine marriage. But you can see in this room the evidence of God’s blessing on his good and perfect design of a man and woman for a lifetime for his glory.”

Applause resounded as Hargis next recognized couples in the room who had been married 50-54, 55-59, 60-64 and 65-69 years or more, including Volera Kirkpatrick, a widow who had been married 70 years.

Kristin and Matt Sessoms, wed seven years, expressed appreciation to these marriage veterans. Sessoms, a marriage and family counselor, commended the “longevity of commitment” of those honored. Noting that the “average marriage for couples our age is about two years,” Sessoms explained that his work involved helping couples establish a “foundation for longevity.” Sessoms praised the older couples, saying, “You are testifying to us that commitment does work and following God’s plan does matter.”

Ray and Janis Raley, a couple married 30 years who joined the church as newlyweds, also addressed the crowd.

“Many of the couples we are honoring today are among the very earliest investors in our marriage, and they continue to do so today,” Janis said.

“You have qualities in your marriages that we notice and we admire. You possess a calm during the storms of life,” Ray added. “You have counted it all joy. You have a quiet confidence. It’s not emotionless. It’s not stoic. But it’s a quiet presence. The Bible talks about being surefooted in the Psalms. You have seen God work so many times in plenty and in your struggles.”

Ray also praised the couples for their commitment to serving in the community and fellowshipping with one another.

“You pray for each other. You hold confidences very dear and hold them fast. … You guys just love being together. It’s wonderful. You invest in the lives of those coming behind you.”

A time of intergenerational fellowship around the roomful of tables followed as younger couples asked questions of older couples. The conversations were both heartfelt and deep as one generation passed its wisdom to the next. The evening concluded with prayer and a group photo of all those in attendance married 50 or more years.

Michael and Meredith Hughens, members of the Travis Avenue newlywed class, handed out nametags. When asked what they hoped to gain from visiting with the older couples, Meredith replied, “There’s endless kinds of wisdom to learn from these folks. We’ve made it a year, and I feel we have learned a lot in a year. I can’t imagine how much you learn in 50-plus years.”

Referencing Psalm 71:18, Wes Black, minister to senior adults, summed up the goals of the celebration: “Scott Floyd, our church counselor, and I are looking for ways our older adults can pass along their faith to the next generation, and this is one way to facilitate that.”

If the smiles and laughter around Travis Avenue’s Great Room are any indication, the celebration of marriage provided just that.

Text-driven preaching drives new School of Preaching at Southwestern

FORT WORTH—Asked by a trustee whether he favored the lateral move from dean of the School of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to lead the newly announced School of Preaching, David Allen quoted John Wayne in answering confidently, “You better know it.”

“I’m convinced God has given me the lineup of lights in the harbor to know that the Lord wants me to do this,” he told a trustee committee, seizing the opportunity to advance the kingdom of God, further the ministry of Southwestern Seminary, and satisfy the desires of the school’s president and provost.

The new School of Preaching will be launched in August 2016 to offer studies in preaching in classroom, seminar, workshop and conference settings. Allen, as the founding dean, defines text-driven preaching as “expository preaching in its purest form, where the structure, substance and spirit of the text drive the structure, substance and spirit of the sermon.”

Joining him as the school’s faculty to provide more than 217 years of combined experience with expertise ranging from linguistics and rhetoric to history and evangelistic preaching, are Vern Charette, Barry McCarty, Matthew McKellar, Steven Smith, Denny Autrey and Kyle Walker.

Allen, who has served in multiple senior and interim pastorates throughout Texas, says this creates “such a dynamic that when we stand in the classroom to talk about preaching, we are not dealing with this from an ivory tower; we are people coming from the angle of practical experience, and that makes a world of difference in the teaching of preaching.”

Degrees available through the school include the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D), Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.), and Master of Theology (Th.M.). In addition, the school will also offer the certificate of preaching that will supplement the Master of Divinity programs of the School of Theology and Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions.

“We’re coming into the life of the convention at a time when the conservative reformation has accomplished its task, but the next stage is to bring out the meaning of that in the preaching in churches,” stated Craig Blaising, executive vice president and provost. “We have the battle for the inerrant Bible being taught in the seminaries, but now is the issue of preaching the Word. It has to be preached, and this is the place to [learn how to] do it.”

In establishing the seventh academic school at Southwestern, Patterson said Southwestern has followed the “standard university pattern” as opposed to classifying disciplines in departments as most seminaries have ended up doing. Long ago the seminary established schools focused on theology, church music, and education—relabeled as church and family ministries. More recent additions address women’s programs, evangelism and missions, and undergraduates studies at the College at Southwestern.

Since current faculty members are being moved from one school to a new one, Patterson said the launch does not involve the expenditure of a great deal of money. “Everything is already in place,” he said, adding, “It is a historic move but not a costly one.”

“We have had tremendous response to our preaching program,” Patterson said, citing Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, as a current student pursuing a Ph.D. in preaching.

“We are catching that train and riding it as far as it will go.”

A new dean of theology will be recommended to the board by next spring, Patterson said, adding that he will be forever grateful for Allen’s work in that role since 2004, calling it “nothing but near perfection.”

Beyond the classroom experience, Allen said he can imagine what can be done through ministries that flow from the School of Preaching out to the convention and beyond to a broader evangelical world and the 80 international seminaries with which Southwestern partners through its Global Theological Innovation.

“These are the things that are running around in my brain from the excitement of what God can do,” Allen said with exuberance. “He has opened the door.”

Texas trustee Kevin Ueckert, pastor of First Baptist Church of Georgetown, told the TEXAN, “I’m excited about what the seminary can now offer in preaching—there are a lot of pastors who have been preaching quite a while who want to improve, and a lot of younger guys who want to preach better. This gives attention to both segments and highlights what the seminary does best.”

He praised not only Allen’s long career as a champion of text-driven preaching but expressed delight at the election of SBC parliamentarian Barry McCarty as professor of preaching and rhetoric. Before pastoring several churches in Georgia and Texas, McCarty served as president of Cincinnati Christian University and taught preaching and philosophy at Mid-Atlantic Christian University.

Others elected to the faculty include:

–Nathan Burggraff as assistant professor of music theory, having served as music administrator at a church in New York and as an itinerant sacred concert pianist;

–Bennie Caston as associate professor of voice, having served as a music minister at several churches in Georgia, director of choral activities at Truett-McConnell College, and assistant professor of music at Brewton-Parker College;

–Charles Savelle as assistant professor of Bible exposition, having taught adjunctively at Criswell College and Dallas Theological Seminary and directed the equipping center at Waterbrook Bible Fellowship in Wylie; and

–David Toledo, as assistant professor of music ministry, having served as associate pastor of worship and creative arts at First Baptist Church of Keller and an adjunct professor at SWBTS since 2012;

Other Business

In response to a motion at the annual SBC meeting in June seeking initiatives to repair the moral fabric of America, trustees pointed to conferences offered at the Land Center for Cultural Engagement, the Theological Matters blog site, and teaching of Christian ethics and morality as indicative of Southwestern’s attempt to engage “just about every moral issue facing our land.”

Board members also approved graduates for fall commencement, authorized the sale of a small apartment complex, elected trustees to serve on the seminary’s foundation board, and received news of a clean audit.

Trustees participated in the dedication of the library of former SBC president and longtime Memphis pastor Adrian Rogers, displayed on the second floor of the Roberts Library, and broke ground on the Mathena Hall building, which will house the Roy Fish School of Missions and Evangelism and the College at Southwestern.

The student services committee reported that enrollment had been up 10 percent for the last two years, with prospect cards for new enrollees up 52 percent and those moving from application to enrollment growing by 19 percent. With 400 more students than the previous year, Patterson said “students are coming in with a sense of commitment that is absolutely unbelievable.”

Trustes also received news of several opportunities being offered to churches at no cost, including Heritage of Hymns events led by by SWBTS musicians Bruce McCoy and Don Wytzen and Revive This Nation revival services led by students. The newest Southwestern News magazine features alumni serving average-sized Southern Baptist churches with fewer than 200 members.

$1 million set aside for returning IMB workers to plant, revitalize churches in Houston

GRAPEVINE— International Mission Board missionaries returning from the mission field as part of a voluntary staff reduction could find immediate opportunities to reach ethnic people groups in America’s most diverse megacity—Houston. The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s executive board will consider in its November meeting a recommendation to set aside $1 million to facilitate returning missionaries as church planters or church revitalizers for the convention’s Reach Houston initiative.

“Reach Houston is a SBTC plan to increase church planting and revitalization in the Greater Houston area,” Executive Director Jim Richards said.

“With Houston being the most ethnically diverse city in the United States, there is a need for language and cultural skills possessed by IMB personnel who have already served among the various people groups of the world. Secondly, the burgeoning population calls for all types of churches to be planted as well as revitalization of existing churches in multi-ethnic neighborhoods by intentionally helping churches to become multi-ethnic congregations.”

Richards estimates the $1 million could support as many as 25 church planters and church revitalizers. The administrative committee of the convention’s executive board will present the proposal, which would be taken out of reserve funds, for approval during its fall meeting, Nov. 11.

“The missionaries coming off the field as a result of the IMB’s VRI (Voluntary Retirement Incentive) bring huge ministry opportunities to stateside churches and communities. While the SBC family of churches pray for those who will be in transition, we also believe that it’s important for the SBC family to consider ways they can open ministry opportunities for them,” said Robert Welch Jr., chairman of the administrative committee and pastor of Rock Hill Baptist Church in Brownsboro, Texas.

“Houston is a very diverse city with many of the world’s people groups residing the city. IMB missionaries are some of the most highly trained and highly cultured leaders that we have in the SBC. We believe that by providing these missionaries with opportunities for church planting and revitalization in Houston, we could see a ministry surge that could have transformational kingdom impact throughout Houston.”

SBTC is currently seeking a Reach Houston coordinator to live in the city and direct church planting and revitalization efforts. During the search, former SBTC missions director Terry Coy will serve as interim coordinator.

“Although we know the adjustment for many returning missionaries could be difficult, we are excited that God is going to use this time to join some of the returning missionaries with SBTC’s focus on reaching Houston,” said Coy, who grew up in Chile as a child to Southern Baptist missionaries.

“The revitalization and church planting needs in the Houston area are great. We are asking the Lord to call the right people with the right experience to join with us in this kingdom adventure. Look forward to great things!”