Month: October 2015

Eagle Pass flood relief teams see 21 professions of faith

EAGLE PASS, Texas—When flash floods submerged Eagle Pass, one resident told relief volunteers, “God is against me!” The disaster marked the fourth time his home had been flooded, and the distraught man also told volunteers about his father’s recent death and his wife’s health problems.  

“We took him to a back room, prayed with and over him, and asked God’s blessing,” said Mike Benton, the SBTC Disaster Relief (DR) logistics officer during the recovery efforts. Benton noted that the man calmed down after the prayer.

“The next day, when they finished up his house, he was happy. He apologized. He explained he was just overwhelmed,” Benton said.

DR teams deployed to Eagle Pass, last week in response to flooding caused by 10 inches of rain that fell upon the area Oct. 9. Volunteers began arriving Eagle Pass on Sunday following the storm and stayed through the week to provide mud-out and clean-up units, office and kitchen units, chaplains, and assessors.

Work was concentrated in flooded homes situated along the three arroyos cutting through the city of Eagle Pass. SBTC DR efforts focused on the Seco Mines, Becos Street and Elm Creek areas, said Julian Moreno of Uvalde, SBTC DR incident leader during the deployment.

By the week’s end, mud-out and clean-up teams had worked on 36 homes. As a result of evangelism efforts, they saw 21 people make professions of faith and distributed 74 Bibles.

Sometimes Bibles wound up with the unlikeliest of recipients. Driving through a checkpoint while leaving Eagle Pass, Benton was stopped by a border patrolman requesting proof of citizenship. The officer accepted the Bible offered by Benton, who recalled, “I could see in my rearview mirror that he was looking at it.”

When DR workers knocked on the door of one home in the Seco Mines area, a young man who was obviously ill invited them inside.

“He looked yellowish and had a bloated stomach,” Moreno said. “He was weak and had been trying to pull off baseboards with a small pry bar.” Volunteers learned the man was undergoing chemotherapy.

“Physically, I do not have the strength to do what I need to do in my home,” the man said.

“He had serious medical problems,” Moreno said. “We had gotten there in time. We shared God’s word. He responded to the opportunity to accept the Lord.”

After the man had prayed to accept Christ, he asked if he could pray again.

“He bowed his head and started praying, thanking God for having sent us there to help him out at a critical and difficult time of his life,” Moreno said, noting that the man explained that his mother was a Christian who took the family to church but that he had strayed from God.

“I am coming back to the Lord,” the man said.

SBTC DR volunteers averaged 20-25 per day, some from as far away as Texarkana. Teams were housed at Quemado First Baptist Church, said Scottie Stice, SBTC director of disaster relief, who praised the church and pastor Brouning Lentz for opening their mission center to volunteers.

Stice also lauded First Baptist Church of Eagle Pass for hosting the SBTC DR operations center. “Pastor Jeff Oliver and his church were a big help to us logistically.”

Faith, religious liberty among presidential forum topics

PLANO—If most evangelical Christians are avoiding the polls and allowing leaders to be elected by non-believers, “is it any wonder we have a federal government that is assaulting life?” asked Sen. Ted Cruz during a presidential candidate forum at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, Oct. 18.

“There are 90 million evangelical Christians in America,” Cruz said during the event that drew about 6,000 people to hear from Cruz and five other presidential candidates. “In the 2012 election, 54 million evangelicals didn’t vote; it’s a majority of evangelical Christians.”

Prestonwood pastor Jack Graham said the forum, co-hosted by his church and the Faith & Freedom Coalition, was designed to encourage evangelical Christians to vote and do so as informed citizens. Candidates attending the event included Cruz, former business CEO Carly Fiorina, former Sen. Rick Santorum, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

A range of topics was discussed during the four-hour forum. Among them were the candidates’ faith, sanctity of life and religious liberty issues. Each candidate had time to speak to the crowd before sitting down with Graham for one-on-one interviews.

The candidates were never on stage at the same time, but they did make reference to one another in their comments to the crowd as well as to those running for office from the Democratic Party (all of whom were also invited to the forum). 


Huckabee noted, “I haven’t come here to fight the other Republicans running for office. Most are friends, and I like them.”

“Every single one of them on that stage I believe will be a better president than any of the people that were on the stage this week [referencing candidates at the first Democratic debate, hosted by CNN and Facebook]. It’s not my goal here to stay to fight them but rather to fight for you.”

In committing to fight for “you,” Huckabee went on to make it clear that “you” includes unborn Americans.

“How can we ask God to bless a nation that for 42 years has ended the lives of 60 million unborn children?” he said. “This is not just a social aberration—this is uncivilized savagery for which we must repent. We must do more than be sorry about it—we must change it.”


Cruz, R.-Texas, garnered the most vocal and enthusiastic support with his home-state crowd. He spoke of the encouraging signs he sees of an American awakening.

He discussed his record on standing up to Washington and defending the values upon which the nation was founded. He painted a grim picture of the current state of affairs for America both domestically and internationally.

“As these threats grow darker and darker and darker, they are waking people up here and all across the country,” Cruz said. “I believe 2016 will be an election like 1980, and it took Jimmy Carter to give us Ronald Reagan.”


Fiorina, the lone woman running for president in the Republican field, said, “I very much hope I can earn your support and your votes and continue to have your prayers.”

Aiming some of her comments at Hillary Clinton, Fiorina added, “but I will never ask for your votes or support because I’m a woman, although I am proud to be a woman. I will ask for your votes and your support because I believe I’m the most qualified candidate to win this job and the most qualified candidate to do the job.”

Fiorina also discussed the importance of her faith. “I have been tested,” she said.

“My faith has been tested. I have battled breast cancer. I have buried a child. And through it all, the love of my family and personal relationship with Jesus Christ has seen me through. And on this journey, my family and my faith will see me through as well.”


Carson acknowledged he is often criticized for having a perceived “soft demeanor.” As a young man, he said, he realized he had a hot temper that was going to land him in jail, reform school or the grave. After his temper nearly led him to take the life of another person, Carson sat down in a bathroom and began searching the Scriptures. Verse after verse seemed to be written just about him and how his temper was an indication of foolishness and selfishness.

“I stayed in that bathroom for three hours and came to an understanding during that time that to lash out at somebody—to punch somebody in the face was not a sign of strength, but weakness … That was the last day I had an angry outburst. Some say, ‘You just learned how to hide it.’ Not true—when God fixes a problem, he doesn’t just do a paint job—he fixes it from the inside,” he said.

“That’s why I have this calm demeanor that people mistake as softness. It’s not softness; it’s just the ability to look at things from lots of perspectives and not get angry about it.”

As a neurosurgeon who has performed surgery on babies inside of a mother’s womb, Carson discussed abortion. He noted he could never be convinced that a baby was merely a clump of cells. Addressing a variety of other issues, Carson also focused on foreign affairs., saying he would seek not only to name America’s enemies but to destroy them before they destroy America.


Former Sen. Santorum of Pennsylvania shared with the crowd something he thought might come as a surprise to many of them.

“Now some of you may know I’m a Catholic—but I’m an evangelical Catholic,” Santorum said, saying that he believed it was his “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” who has upheld him and delivered to him political victories in standing for things like faith, life and traditional marriage.

Santorum spoke about reforming government programs so that strong families are encouraged instead of providing incentives for fathers to not marry the mother of their children. He also spoke about fighting America’s enemies.

“Seven months ago I was in ISIS Magazine,” Santorum said. “ISIS knows who I am, Iran knows who I am, and when I get sworn in … the enemies of the world will know who they have to deal with.”


Last to speak was Bush, who said he stands for creating a culture of life. He pointed to his fight for life in the 2005 case of Terri Schiavo and to Florida’s defunding of Planned Parenthood during his service as the state’s governor.

“I’m proud of what I did,” Bush said. “Always err on side of life.”

Bush also discussed his religious beliefs.

“I read the Bible from cover to cover for the first time. I got halfway through Romans and realized Jesus was my Savior, and I accepted Him as my Savior and from that moment on had a partnership with Jesus that gives me counsel,” he said.

Bush said he later decided to covert to his wife’s religion—Catholicism—and now enjoys attending mass.

“The blessed sacraments give me great serenity as well,” Bush said.

While some in running for office would wish to “push [Christians] out of the public square,” he said, the involvement of people of faith is crucial in restoring America to the values-based nation she was built to be.

“The ministry of this church and others is so important,” Bush said. “Why not do this in partnership? Hillary Clinton said people of faith just have to get over it—you can pray in your home and church pews but can’t act on your faith or consciousness. That’s wrong on every level. Who feeds the homeless? Who takes care of elder shut-ins? Is it the department of elder affairs? No. It is the faith community of people acting on their hearts.”

Video of the forum is available at

—With additional reporting by Tammi Reed Ledbetter

Quotes of Note from the North Texas Presidential Forum

PLANO—Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, and the Faith and Freedom Coalition hosted six GOP presidential candidates, who shared their vies on a variety of topics, during the North Texas Presidential Forum at the megachurch, Oct. 18. Senior Pastor Jack Graham moderated the event, conducting individual interviews with Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson and Jeb Bush.

The following are highlighted comments given by the candidates on key topics.

Conservative Values/Reasons for Running

Fiorina: “We’re going to have to have that fight for what conservative values really mean.”

Cruz: “We all came out here this afternoon because we recognize that our country is in crisis. People are waking up. We are seeing an awakening—a spirit of revival across this country.”

Santorum: Santorum encourages voters to “go back and look at the record.” Find people who “stand by what they believe, hire people who share values.”

Huckabee: Why run? Huckabee says 8 years ago, because of his children. Today, because he has 5 grandkids. Doesn’t want to leave them charred remains of great country.

Carson: I finally just said, Lord, this is not on my bucket list, but if it’s really something you want me to do, I will. A lifetime of experiences is what prepares him to be president.

Bush: “There are things that are broken, but we have to fix them. To advocate … so strong families are most powerful political institutions in our society and we solve problems locally.” The next president is “going to have to fight for religious freedom with his heart and soul.”

Role of Faith

Fiorina: “I’ve been tested. I’ve battled breast cancer, have buried a child. My personal relationship with Jesus Christ has seen me through. Here’s what I believe: People of faith make better leaders.”

Santorum: “Now some of you may know I’m a Catholic, but I’m an evangelical Catholic.”

Carson: Talked about realizing his options, as a hot-tempered young man, were jail, reform school or the grave. “God fixed my temper. That’s why I have this calm demeanor that people mistake as softness. It’s not softness. It’s just the ability to look at things from lots of perspectives and not get angry about it.”

Bush: Says he began reading the Bible cover to cover, and by the time he reached Romans “realized Jesus Christ was my Savior.”

Religious Liberty

 Cruz: “I believe 2016 is going to be a religious liberty election. This is an issue that really separates a number of the candidates running on the GOP side. Some say accept, surrender, move on.”

Carson: Talked about America as the most free nation in the world, “or it used to be,” he said.

Huckabee: “If you can put a county clerk in jail, who’s next? You know who’s next? You are,” Huckabee said to Graham. “And every other pastor…”

Christian Persecution

Fiorina: The person occupying the office of president “must not be silent regarding persecuted Christians in the Middle East.”

Bush: “Who is going to take care of religious persecution but America?”

War on Women

Fiorina: “I will never ask for your vote or your support because I am a woman, although I am proud to be one.”


Huckabee: “The only people who should be blamed for 9/11 are the monsters who trained and planned to kill Americans.”

Santorum: “Look around. … There’s no doubt this world is getting much more hostile and violence is on the rise. Seven months ago, I was in ISIS Magazine. ISIS knows who I am. Iran knows who I am. and when I am sworn in, our enemies will know who they have to deal with.”

Huckabee: “For the president to say that our greatest threat is climate change is like saying the greatest threat we face is sunburn and not a beheading, and that is nonsense.”


Santorum: “What’s missing in today: someone who knows how to lead, not someone who knows how to go before cameras and scream and holler.”

Huckabee: “No greater preparation to run for public office than to be a pastor. … Rather than being a disadvantage, it’s the biggest advantage. The next president needs to know he doesn’t know everything. The most dangerous man in the room is the man who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. Knowledge can be Googled. Wisdom comes from above.”

Carson: “Some people think political leadership is for a certain class, but I believe it’s for citizen statesmen.”

Bush: We need to require leadership—not by preying on people’s angst. We are on the verge of greatness, but a lot of tough work is ahead.


Santorum: “The Bible talks about helping the poor; it doesn’t give that role to government.” He believes Medicaid, food stamps, housing assistance, etc. are all “creating a problem by infusing themselves and creating a dependency.”

Sanctity of Life

Huckabee: “How can we ask God to bless a nation that for 42 years has ended the lives of 60 million unborn children? This is not just a social aberration. This is an uncivilized savagery of which we must repent.”

Carson: “Life begins at conception. There’s no way anybody’s ever going to convince me that is a mass of cells and isn’t a human being.”


Huckabee: “The only ally we have that is reliable in that region is Israel. I’ve known Netanyahu for 20 years. They have always believed the USA would be one country that would have their back.”

Patterson: “talking about gospel” not same as “grinding labor of taking gospel to the lost”

KANSAS CITY—Acknowledging curmudgeonly ways, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson mixed his metaphors with a Texas twang, delivering on his promise to at least amuse the audience of several hundred with a dozen instructive analogies.

“Tapping a veteran of most Southern Baptist Convention wars in anyone’s recent memories to address the topic of protecting the deposits of the former generations of Southern Baptists might be thought to imply the younger generation is impervious to the thesaurus of Baptist Principles,” the septuagenarian confessed to those gathered for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s SBC Symposium Sept. 30, adding, “Or worse—that the speaker is a condescending crank, a convention curmudgeon determined to resist the changes that are a part of the progress.”

He began with a warning that “talking about the gospel is as far removed from effective witness as talking about race cars is from driving in the Indy 500.” Beyond mere talk about how to define the gospel, Christians must be willing to do the “grinding labor of taking the gospel to the lost,” he said, encouraging concerted intercession for unbelievers and an exemplary standard set by the pastor.

Next, Patterson advised, “Culture is your friend in the same way a brown bear is your buddy.” The avid sportsman recognized the value of the artistic and educational aspects of culture but argued that “a life of holiness is neither ruled nor much motivated by culture.”

Regarding the scriptural caution against entering too soon into pastoral ministry, Patterson said a young minister seldom has suffered enough to have proven the goodness of the Lord in his life. “A Christian who has not seriously suffered is like a beautiful Rolls Royce with no engine,” he observed. “While beautiful to behold, it remains totally useless.”

Suffering turns a believer to the comfort of Christ, helping him discover “that the assaults of suffering physically, emotionally and mentally are inadequate to separate us from the love of Christ.”

And although arrogance “knows no age restriction,” Patterson said it “too often occurs in the younger set” when there is too little knowledge, experience and time spent with God. “Arrogance is as charming to God’s people and as appealing to God as an angry bull in a rodeo arena.”

He explained, “A man cannot be haughty when he has just been walking with God that morning. Imperfection has been on a stroll with perfection, and the further they hike, the more obvious the chasm between them appears.”

Patterson said, “In the end, the imperfect one is not so much known by his ascription of praise to the sovereign God words that anyone can echo but by the diminution of himself and his humble service to his sovereign Lord.”

He offered his hope for a recovery of humility and integrity in Christian social media that will distinguish the body of believers clearly from the world. “Above all, may such general piety be observed in our preaching.”

Other analogies dealt with the grandeur of salvation, preaching through the Bible, unchristian ecumenism, therapeutic-minded pastoring, powerless ministry and purposeful fences.

His concluding admonition addressed the law of unintended consequences. “When you get into a Texas shoot-out, once you draw your pistol, it is too late to call time out and say you changed your mind.”

By posing the question, “If I do what I now contemplate, what will happen that I do not yet see?” the answer might “save a thousand sorrows,” he offered.

In spite of the occasional missteps of youth, Patterson said, “Romans 8:28 has not been dropped from the sacred text. A significant number of leaders love Jesus profoundly and will excel far beyond what this septuagenarian has been able to accomplish.”

Watch the full video at

Understanding the IMB Financial Crisis

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on The Christian Index.

I met David Platt at a meeting in the Dominican Republic 13 months before he was elected as IMB President. During a break, I asked him, “What are you going to do when you become IMB president?” Now I understand and I like what he’s doing.

As Southern Baptists seek to dis­cern the magnitude and urgency of the cur­rent IMB financial crisis, I would like to share some thoughts. I led one of the IMB field administrative regions for over six years with about 325 missionaries under my charge. During an 18-year career with the IMB, I also served as a church planter in Tan­­za­nia and as an unreached people group strategy coordin­a­­tor in a limited ac­cess coun­­try in North Africa. Currently I am the professor of Missions and Dean of Students at Mid­west­ern Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri.

I’ve known the last four presidents of the IMB. Each of these leaders brought a unique skill set to the IMB presidency and grew into their presidential roles, leav­ing a lasting mark on missions. Kathy and I encountered Baker James and Eloise Cauth­­en after they had retired in California. The Cauthens met with us during a min­isters’ retreat in 1980, counseling us about our missions call. Adrian Rogers told me in his office that he’d never heard a greater missions preacher than Cauthen.

In 1984 the Hadaways were appointed SBC missionaries by Keith Parks. A few years later Parks looked at the one third of the world locked behind com­munist iron curtains and Islam and created a missionary administra­tive structure (Coop­er­a­tive Services International) to reach them. The current emphasis on unreached peo­ples is his legacy. In 1997 Jerry Rankin ask­ed Kathy and I to move from Africa to South Ameri­ca to lead a newly created admin­istra­tive re­gion as part of his “New Directions.” Rankin was one of the hardest working leaders I’ve known and was extremely ac­cessible to his reports. I met Tom Elliff in 1987 while I was serving in Tanzania. Elliff was a caring leader who pastored the IMB flock in an exemplary way. His 4-year presidency brought new initiatives in theological training and market­place ministries. Rankin and Elliff continued Parks’ unreached peoples emphasis.

As a mission’s veteran, I must admit to having some reservations about David Platt’s election as IMB president. After almost 13 months, I no longer have these doubts. I believe only an outsider could have taken a fresh look at the pro­cedures, posi­tions, and roles that have evolved over the organization’s 170-year history. I ap­plaud David Platt for examining missions through different eyes and adjusting stra­tegy, structure, and personnel to fit the 21st Century.

In one sense the IMB is not in a financial crisis. Despite the budget shortfall these last six years, the organization did not incur any debt. Nobody has been dis­missed. The IMB has been surviving by selling unneeded properties overseas, spend­ing down cash reserves, and not spending discretionary items in the budget. The mission entity is in the black and has received a clean audit every year. The fi­nan­­cial downturn of 2008 caused a significant depletion of IMB investments and the resulting income from them.

I know something about managing a Southern Baptist entity during a finan­cial predicament. When I became interim president of MBTS in February of 2012, many in the SBC thought Midwestern Seminary was in a fiscal crisis. We were and we were not.

We did not have to borrow money or go into debt. However, for about six months we operated month to month without significant cash reserves. Due to some actions my leadership team took in early 2012 we finished the academic year with a surplus. Un­der the capable leadership of Jason Allen, MBTS now enjoys not only budget sur­plus­­­es, but comfortable cash reserves.

Managing the personnel and financial resources of the IMB is a daunting task. Unlike institutions that receive tuition and housing in­come, the IMB relies princi­pal­ly on gifts from South­ern Baptists for its proceeds (Cooperative Program & Lottie Moon Christmas Offering). The IMB is not in a crisis currently but would soon be in one without Platt’s actions. The IMB financial picture is complicated and unlike no other SBC entity, institution or church.

The status of field missionaries and stateside staff differs greatly from one another. In the case of stateside non-missionary staff, the spouse is not counted in the personnel tally. On the other hand, in the instance of field missionaries the spouse is counted as a full missionary. Of the 4,780 mis­sionaries, there are approxi­mately 2,000 couples and about 780 single mission­aries. In IMB terminology this amounts to about 2,800 “units” on the field. Of course, not all of these missionaries are actu­al­ly on the field at the same time. About 20% of the units are in the USA on stateside assign­ment (fur­lough). Another 10% are in the States receiving training, recently ap­pointed, planning to resign, undergoing medical treat­ment, or working in a stateside job but on mission­ary status.

This is why David Platt is going about trimming the budget in layers. The reason the IMB has forecast the need to reduce personnel by 600 to 800 persons is not be­cause they are inexact. Rather, it is because the personnel reductions will come from a com­bination of field and stateside personnel. A unit of two persons may retire (net two) or there may be a unit of one (a single missionary). Also, Platt has wisely chosen to seek volun­tary retire­ment as the first alternative rather than reduce bene­fits to field mission­aries.

Each field missionary unit has a “package” that varies from country to coun­try. A missionary unit receives a small salary based on 5-year longevity incre­ments plus a cost of living supplement depending on their coun­try of assignment. All mis­sionaries receive a house or apart­ment and only pay utilities. All mission­ary units receive transportation either by way of a mission-owned-and-maintained car or a trans­por­tation supple­ment for bus, taxi, or subway fare. A few Amazon mis­sion­aries operate boats in lieu of a car. Mis­sionary units pay $50 a month for the use of an automobile with the mis­sion board paying the fuel.

Each missionary with child­ren receives an education allotment. Families can choose online edu­cation, home school, or apply a standardized dollar amount to attend a local school. This varies by locale from $500 to $2,500 per child. In advanced coun­tries, missionary children can attend public schools whereas in Third World situations local education is inadequate. In Africa and Asia some children attend Christian boarding schools with these funds. The IMB sets a dollar amount and the parents pick up the dif­fer­ence for the more ex­pensive option. Each missionary unit has a communications budget for telephone and Internet (most missionaries have to buy their computers). In my region, the communication budget was about $2,000 annually per unit.

Each unit with college age children receives an allotment for their children’s education often matched by Baptist colleges in the USA. Missionaries receive a re­tire­ment contribution the IMB pays into their Guidestone accounts. The IMB also pays each missionary a social secur­ity supplement and provides an­nual income tax preparation.

Last and not least, overseas missionaries and their children re­ceive 100% reimbursement for all medical and dental care. This includes psycholo­gical, psychiatric, and counsel­ing services for all members of the family if necessary. Besides this basic “package” the home office provides travel for the mission­ary fami­ly to and from the field and within the USA. Field missionary units and their families travel to many IMB meetings together. Usually, the head of the household has work travel and conference and office budgets for his or her missionary endeavor.

Platt could have cut some of these benefits to squeeze all field personnel with­­­in available funds. He wisely has chosen to voluntarily reduce personnel by of­fering a generous retirement incentive so those who remain can be fully sup­port­ed. The next wave in January will give all IMB personnel the opportunity to accept a voluntary reassignment outside of the organization.

I am not pri­vy to the internal discussions by leadership, but in the coming restructuring many jobs will probably be combined and consolidated, rather than missionaries being laid off. Now it may be that existing missionaries may not accept retraining or reas­sign­ment. I applaud, however, Platt’s administration for looking at the worldwide situa­tion with fresh eyes and determining the jobs that need to be done in this new age of missions.

Once phase one and phase two are complete I believe David Platt will make every effort to insure that every missionary who desires to stay on the field remains. They might have to accept a different position, however, in another part of the world. When we lived in North Africa, my wife and I were the only SBC mis­sionaries in the country. I was the strategy coordinator, field evangelist, business manager, and treasurer.

I believe in the Gideon Principle. In Judges chapter 7, the Lord re­duces Gid­eon’s forces from 22,000 down to 300. Fewer missionaries can often be as effective many. Some roles missionaries have historically filled may change in the current reset.

To my missionary friends on the field and former colleagues in the States, let’s give David Platt a chance to chart a new course at the IMB. He is being advised by men like Zane Pratt, John Brady, and Clyde Meador who have long missions experience and great wisdom. Missions has fundamentally changed since my wife and I departed for the field in 1984. This is a good time for a reset and recalibration.

I conducted some re­search when I was about to move my family to Brazil during the last great IMB reorganization in 1997. After the stock market crash of 1929, the Foreign Mission Board could not pay many of their missionaries. The missionaries in Brazil obtained secular jobs so they could stay on the field. Such was their calling. Our current mis­sion­­aries are cut from the same cloth. If need be most of them would find jobs and stay on the field without the fi­nan­cial support of their send­ing agency.

As David Platt and his team rethink 21st Cen­tury missions by re­fo­cus­­ing IMB strategy and personnel, let’s support their efforts by increasing our gifts to the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering so the world may be won to Christ.

–Robin Dale Hadaway serves as professor of missions at Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City.

SBTF funds first loans as direct lender, plans to redeploy_x009d_ money for ministry

The Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation signed agreements this summer lending funds to two Texas churches—a move that marks an expansion in direction and goals within the foundation. Until now, the foundation has served as a loan originator but has not served as direct lender. With a previous focus in planned giving, which remains an important part of the SBTF’s commitment to serving churches, the foundation now looks excitedly toward furthering its ministry reach and bolstering its ability to serve Texas churches through this expansion into direct lending.

The foundation funded its first two loans Aug. 21, re-financing an existing loan for $500,000 with Arlington Park Baptist Church of Arlington and approving a $300,000 building renovation loan for Jordan Missionary Baptist Church in Lancaster. Three other loans have been approved but have not yet been funded.

SBTF Executive Director Bart McDonald said funding the foundation’s first two loans is a significant milestone. McDonald aims to build the foundation’s loan portfolio with the goal of returning the investment made by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, which has contributed to the foundation since its founding in 2005. Embarking into the world of direct lending to qualifying churches will play a major role in growing the foundation to a point where it can become a viable funding source to support convention operations for years to come.

McDonald said the most important part of the foundation’s work is delivering value to churches. To this end, he said if another lender can offer a church a better rate, he will encourage them to take it. In many instances, however, the foundation can negotiate competitively and with an added benefit that many churches find appealing: Whereas the interest paid to other lenders pads shareholder pockets, interest paid on foundation loans returns to ministry.

“The money we make,” McDonald said, “Is redeployed for ministry.”

Ultimately, the more money the foundation can bring in, the more money the SBTC can free up in its budget for missions and evangelism tasks.

The same concept is true with the foundation’s ability to serve churches through investing, which McDonald said can be negotiated for terms as short as 30 days. One church, he recalled, was able to make grand strides in its capital campaign after investing $400,000 it had been holding in a checking account. The interest earned from that investment covered the financing of the remainder of the capital needed.

Essentially, McDonald said, the foundation’s ability to serve as a direct lender allows it to “make money so we can give money away,” and serve churches.

Churches interested in applying for a loan through the foundation can call McDonald at (817) 552-2500 or visit to fill out an application.

Why the IMB’s Missionary Reduction is a Welcome Wake-up Call for the Church

Several years ago I pastored a small church in East Texas. Our annual budget was slim, and we barely scraped enough together each week to pay the light bill. A stout conviction of our fellowship, however, was giving to missions. We designated 10 percent of our annual budget to it. The experience was difficult, one that made me wonder if our tiny church with our even tinier budget really made a scratch on the proverbial surface of the lost world.

One summer I found myself in Nazareth Village in Israel. I was on a tour of the country alongside several other pastors. While walking into a bookstore, one of the older pastors called me over and introduced me to an IMB missionary. I’ll never forget how he did it: “Jared,” he said, “come meet one of your missionaries.” For the first time in my tenure as a Southern Baptist pastor, I genuinely felt connected to missions. I realized that my giving touched real people, even if I felt like a widow giving her final mite.

This illustrates the beauty of the Cooperative Program (CP), but it also showcases a glaring weakness. While it’s true that every active CP church can say that they support international missionaries, it’s also true that, sometimes, said missionaries are nameless numbers (as are the lost people they serve).

The CP is more than just sharing money to support missions. It’s about sharing money to support missionaries. That is, the CP is about supporting living, breathing people who share the gospel with dying, breathing people.

Recently David Platt announced he is downsizing our international mission brigade by 600-800 people. This means that we are losing 600-800 living, breathing people whose lives impact countless dying, breathing people. This is disconcerting news. I recently concluded my first SBC Executive Committee (EC) meeting. As you would imagine, this issue beleaguered the gathering. One major concern is how Platt’s reset will impact CP giving, particularly the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO). This, however, is just the problem. That this concern is framed by the potential impact it can make on an offering is why the IMB is in its current predicament. The IMB isn’t an offering, nor is it money. It’s not a budget item nor is it, really, an entity of the SBC. It’s people—living, breathing people. It’s people with passions and aspirations and hopes and dreams and convictions and families and lives. But most importantly it’s saved people reaching lost people with the gospel.

It’s judicious to be concerned about the impact the reset can make on the offering, but this concern should segue to the real problem—lost people. When we express more concern over an offering rather than the lives the offering touches, we’ve lost touch. The Cooperative Program becomes just that—a program. We forget who and what we are as Southern Baptists because we think of missions as a cog of the church’s machine rather than the church as a cog in the machine of missions.

This is all to say that, with all of our finger pointing, we ought to look at the four fingers pointing back at us. The present issue is not an IMB issue. It’s an “us” issue. The IMB has, year after year (and with less than sufficient resources) continued to keep and send missionaries, but the IMB can only operate within the confines of the financial assets it receives, and the average church isn’t providing the necessary assets to keep these missionaries on the field, not to mention send more out.

This is why the IMB needs the church’s support now more than ever. It would be a categorical atrocity if this year’s LMCO dipped a cent lower than the $153,002,394.13 it received in 2015. Not only this, but it should be the largest ingathering in history.

Southern Baptist pastors ought to teach their people that the CP isn’t just a line item in the budget but a cooperation of believers to support other believers to create more believers.

Pastors also ought to begin thinking about how they can increase their annual CP giving. “Annual” is the key word. The IMB needs consistent gifts to keep missionaries on the field.

Finally, pastors ought to begin preparing their people for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering now by asking how we can strategically and creatively raise more money. What kind of event can we host? What corner can we cut? What face can we place beside the number?

More than ever, this is the time to come together as Southern Baptists. Let’s turn the Cooperative Program into a Cooperative Initiative. Let’s remember that our churches exist because of the Great Commission and not the other way around. Let’s remember that there are faces behind the numbers.

–Jared C. Wellman is pastor of Mission Dorado Baptist Church in Odessa, Texas.

Criswell board approves VP of Finance, policies

DALLAS—Criswell College trustees formally approved a vice president of finance for the institution, elected new board officers and approved various policies and administrative procedures during its fall meeting, Oct. 1.

Trustees unanimously approved the naming of Kevin Stilley as vice president of finance and Chief Business Officer. Stilley, a Criswell graduate, worked for a decade in human resources and retail operations for Borders Group before joining the college in July.

“He is spiritually committed to exactly what the college is about; he’s actually a graduate of Criswell of College, he’s in ministry, but he’s also got significant business experience,” President Barry Creamer told trustees.

Trustees also elected new officers, effective Jan. 1, 2016. The board elected Tony Rogers, pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Bowie, Texas, as chairman; Chris Lantrip, CEO of CyberlinkASP, as vice chairman; and Jack Pogue, a Dallas businessman, as secretary.

The board approved eight new trustees for 2016. According to its governing documents, the board is comprised of 40 percent from the Criswell College Foundation, 40 percent from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and 20 percent at-large. New trustees approved to the board include Clint Pressley (at-large), Rod Martin (at-large), Adarose Jennings (at-large), Harold Rawlings (Criswell Foundation), Curtis Baker (Criswell Foundation), Jarrett Stephens (Criswell Foundation), Mack Roller (SBTC), and Anne Hettinger (SBTC). Roller and Hettinger’s approval to the board is pending the convention’s approval during its annual meeting in November.

Outgoing chairman John Mann expressed appreciation for his time on the board, saying, “Not only is the legacy of Criswell College strong, but the current state of Criswell College is strong and being strengthened through the work of the administration, faculty and the board. The future of Criswell College is an exciting thing that is laid before us.”

As for administrative decisions, trustees unanimously approved an updated version of the institution’s conflict of interest policy as well as the presidential assessment policy. Additionally, they approved minor tuition increases to undergraduate and graduate programs—from $315 to $330 per credit hour for undergraduate courses and from $415 to $420 per credit hour for graduate courses.

Trustees heard reports from various departments as well as updates on the institution’s “Building on Legacy” capital campaign—a $20 million venture that includes remodeling educational space and constructing student housing. They also approved a new vision statement and individually signed the school’s statement of faith.