Month: March 2016

State leaders discuss church revitalization best practices

CHARLESTON, S.C.—Leaders from 14 Baptist state conventions met March 21-22 in Charleston, S.C., to network and share best practices related to their work in church revitalization. Also present were representatives from LifeWay Christian Resources and the North American Mission Board as well as several leaders from local associations in South Carolina.

“Church growth is a supernatural event, and therefore church revitalization is more of a spiritual issue than a mechanical one,” said Ken Hemphill, guest speaker for the meeting and director for North Greenville University’s Center for Church Planting and Revitalization.

“Our core conviction is [that] nothing changes the heart and mind but the Word of God applied by the Spirit of God. Church revitalization must be undergirded by prayer and based on the effective and accurate teaching of God’s Word.”

The leadership network was initiated by Kenneth Priest, director of convention strategies for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, and Steve Rice, church consulting and revitalization team leader for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

“The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention believes church revitalization is brought about by the people of God returning to the Word of God,” Priest explained.

“This means that the strongest model for bringing about the needed change in a church is done from the pulpit by the pastor. Therefore, we use a process that is focused on preaching for revitalization and reinforce this with small group study based off the sermon.”

Darwin Meighan, director of church revitalization/evangelism for the Nevada Baptist Convention, shared ways his convention partners with pastors and churches, including providing resources that give “transferable scriptural principles along with key components essential to the spiritual process of revitalizing every church regardless of its size, condition or context.”

“Our desire is to come alongside pastors and churches to join them in the journey of restoring spiritual health, hope and renewal in each church’s unique ministry setting, with the goal of helping them more effectively accomplish the Great Commission,” Meighan said.

Each year, a different state convention hosts the meeting of state convention leaders so they can discuss what is happening in their respective states, new practices and tools developed in the past year, what is working and what is not working in church revitalization.

“Even though each of us has a different model, none of them are bad or wrong; they are simply different,” said Steve Rice.

“Each of us has to approach revitalization within the model and the context of the model within our respective state convention.”

Men”s Game Banquet sees 191 professions of faith

FORT WORTH  Nearly 2,000 men and boys filled Southwestern Seminary’s MacGorman Chapel for the Men’s Game Banquet, Feb. 20, united by a love for the great outdoors—the artistry of the fields, streams, and mountains; of the fish and the animals; of the sunrises and sunsets. And there on the seminary’s campus, many of them met for the first time the Artist who made it all—the heavenly Father.

The event featured free barbeque, exhibits, and door prizes, along with speakers Paige Patterson and David Morris relating hunting stories regarding some of their most prized trophies, but the clear focus of the evening was the gospel. Of the almost 2,000 men and boys assembled, 191 responded to the gospel message by surrendering their lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ.

David Morris, Tecomate president and CEO, gave the first presentation, sharing among other things his experience of taking down an elephant. “[But] as much as I love hunting,” he continued, “it is not my first love. My first love is Jesus Christ.”

Morris explained that for many years he was hesitant to submit to God’s authority for fear that God would force him to abandon his aspirations and become a vocational minister. Nevertheless, conviction brought by the Holy Spirit eventually led him to surrender.  

“And instead of taking away the things that he had put on my heart to have a passion for [like hunting], he expanded my horizons,” Morris said. “It was from that point that I began to hunt all over the world and have TV shows and hunt big deer and have ranches—things that I never dreamed. God’s plans for us are way bigger than ours.”

During his presentation, Patterson, president of Southwestern Seminary, encouraged all those in attendance to go on safari in Africa. He shared some of his own experiences from his time on that continent and some of his trophies—including a cape buffalo, a roan antelope, and a lioness—sat alongside him on stage to authenticate his stories. Noting that such a trip presents an opportunity for family bonding, Patterson then transitioned into something of a more serious nature.

Citing a study conducted by the Dartmouth medical school, Patterson said America’s No. 1 problem is not immigration, drugs, alcohol, gang warfare in the cities, or even issues with the government. Instead, the No. 1 problem in America today is that one out of every three children grows up without a father.

“We found out that as important as Mom is—and she is critical—Dad, to a little boy, is absolutely imperative,” Patterson said. “And what Daddy does, the kid’s going to do. No wonder we’re in trouble in America.”

Patterson proceeded to inform the men of a terrible truth: many of them are on their way to hell. Acknowledging the numerous reasons that one should want to avoid hell, Patterson pointed to one of particular significance.

“[That Dartmouth study] said that even the harshest of masters, the sons honor,” he said. “[So] as you file off into hell, look behind you: your boy will be there. He may be 13, he may be 33, he may be 53, but he’ll be following you to hell, and his son will follow him.”

In order to be made right with God, Patterson, alluding to Psalm 51:10, said one needs a new heart. He explained, “Only God can create in you a clean heart, but he can do it, and he can do it today.”

Patterson invited those who wanted to surrender their lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ to pray a prayer of salvation. Nearly 200 men did so. 

Greear, Gaines, Crosby to be SBC president nominees

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is an edited compilation of three separate stories written by David Roach at Baptist Press. 

ST. LOUIS Three Southern Baptist pastors will be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention during the annual meeting June 14-15 in St. Louis. 

Florida pastor Jimmy Scroggins announced March 2 that he will nominate J.D Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Georgia pastor Johnny Hunt announced March 9 that he will nominate Steve Gaines, pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn.; and former SBC President Fred Luter announced March 24 that he will nominate David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans, La.

J.D. Greear

Greear, 42, “is leading his generation to live out a passion for the SBC, missions and the local church,” Scroggins, pastor of Family Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., wrote in a news release.

During the 14 years Greear has pastored The Summit Church, worship attendance has grown from 350 to just under 10,000, Scroggins said. Total baptisms increased from 19 in 2002 to 928 in 2014, the last year for which statistics are available through the SBC’s Annual Church Profile.

Scroggins said The Summit’s “149 people currently with” the International Mission Board marks the largest total from any church in the convention—a statistic the church told Baptist Press the IMB has confirmed. Greear himself served two years with the IMB before being called to The Summit.

Closer to home, The Summit has planted 26 churches in North America in conjunction with the North American Mission Board.

In his release, Scroggins said the church “voted last year to give $390,000 to the Cooperative Program in 2016, making it one of the top CP giving churches in the state of North Carolina and the SBC.” He noted this marks a 230 percent increase in The Summit’s CP giving.

Three years ago, the congregation voted to increase its giving through the Cooperative Program over a five-year period to 2.4 percent of undesignated receipts, the church confirmed to BP. The Summit reached its goal two years early.

As of Jan. 1, 2016, The Summit began forwarding all its CP giving through the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC), the church said. Previously, it forwarded some funds it regarded as CP gifts directly through the SBC Executive Committee for distribution according to the CP allocation formula. In 2013-14, for instance, it gave $96,000 directly to the EC, according to the 2015 SBC Annual. The BSCNC reported CP receipts of $54,000 from The Summit in calendar year 2014. Adding the two numbers together yields the $150,000 the church self-reported as “CP giving” on its 2014 ACP—a total amounting to 1 percent of undesignated receipts.

The Summit’s Great Commission Giving “has been at or around 10 percent for the last several years,” Scroggins wrote. Great Commission Giving is a category of giving established by SBC action in 2011 that encompasses giving through CP, Southern Baptists’ unified program of funding state- and SBC-level ministries, as well as direct gifts to SBC entities, associational giving and giving to state convention ministries.

According to ACP data, The Summit’s Great Commission Giving was 13 percent of undesignated receipts in 2014, 12 percent in 2013 and 15 percent in 2012.

The Summit’s Great Commission Giving includes more than $1 million annually to IMB-related causes and more than half a millions dollars to NAMB-related causes, the church told BP. 

Greear told BP he would have two goals as SBC president. First, he would encourage “my generation … to take personal responsibility for the agencies and the mission boards of the SBC and not just think of them as the SBC’s, but think of them as ours.”

Second, he would “celebrate the autonomy of the local church in choosing how it’s going to give. We want to see CP giving elevated, and we are doing that … but we also want to see Great Commission Giving celebrated, because that’s part of the autonomy of the local church.”

He is married to Veronica and has four children. Greear holds Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from Southeastern Seminary.

 

Steve Gaines

“When Steve Gaines shared his prayer journey he and [his wife] Donna had traveled, I was touched by his clear call to allow himself to be nominated,” Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., wrote in a news release.

“Steve struggled with this nomination as he has always believed this office should seek the man,” Hunt continued. “With such a passionate desire for spiritual revival in our churches and nation, and knowing him to be a man of deep intense prayer, it brings joy to my heart to nominate Dr. Gaines.”

During the 11 years Gaines has pastored Bellevue Baptist, the congregation has averaged 481 baptisms per year, according to the SBC’s Annual Church Profile. Previously, he pastored churches in Alabama, Tennessee and Texas.

Bellevue’s finance committee is recommending that the congregation give $1 million during its 2016-17 church year through the Cooperative Program. That will total approximately 4.6 percent of undesignated receipts, the church told Baptist Press.

As of April 1, 2012, Bellevue began forwarding all its CP giving through the Tennessee Baptist Convention, the church said. Previously, it forwarded approximately $200,000-$340,000 annually in CP through the TBC, according to ACP data, and designated about twice that amount to be forwarded to the SBC Executive Committee for distribution according to the CP allocation formula, the church said.

The shift in giving methods resulted in an increase from giving 1.3 percent of undesignated receipts through CP in 2011 to 2.6 percent in 2012, according to ACP reports. Bellevue increased that percentage to 3.5 in 2013 and 3.8 in 2014. 

The church’s Great Commission Giving totaled approximately $2.5 million over the past two years and is anticipated to be $1.3 million (6 percent of undesignated receipts) for the congregation’s 2016-17 church year, which begins April 1, Hunt said. 

Hunt said Bellevue has collaborated with the International Mission Board to lead evangelism training in 34 countries since 2007 and “at the request of the IMB … has been a strategy church for Jinotega, Nicaragua, since 2007.” 

Bellevue is partnering with the North American Mission Board to plant churches in the Northwest and has planted 10 churches in other areas, including work with Native Americans in three locations, Hunt said.

Total missions giving for next year is anticipated at 18 percent of Bellevue’s undesignated receipts, the church reported, and includes the “Bellevue Loves Memphis” initiative, a service evangelism campaign launched by Gaines in 2007.

Gaines has served as a member of the SBC Committee on Nominations, a trustee of LifeWay Christian Resources, a member of the committee that proposed a revision of the Baptist Faith and Message in 2000 and chairman of the SBC Resolutions Committee. He preached the SBC convention sermon in 2004 and served as SBC Pastors’ Conference president in 2005.

Gaines told BP, “I would like to continue [current SBC president] Dr. [Ronnie] Floyd’s emphasis on seeking God for a spiritual awakening and revival. … I’ve been praying for an awakening for a long time, and that’s really my heart. I want the manifest presence of God in our churches and also in our denomination.

“… I also believe that we’ve got a real problem with our baptisms,” Gaines said. “We need to get back to personal evangelism and soul winning.”

Gaines is married to Donna and has four children and nine grandchildren. He holds Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. 

 

David Crosby

“I have watched David the last 10 years here in New Orleans as he has taken the leadership of all the churches and pastors of our city in helping to rebuild New Orleans, which everybody knows was totally destroyed [in 2005] in Hurricane Katrina,” Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, said in an interview, telling Baptist Press of his intention to nominate Crosby.

“I saw how he was able to get a lot of things done to get the city back up and running,” Luter said, noting Crosby’s “passion for the Body of Christ and for our convention.”

During the 20 years Crosby has pastored First Baptist Church in New Orleans, the congregation has given between 7 and 15 percent of its undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program, Luter said. That level of CP giving persisted despite a major relocation effort and $3.5 million of damages sustained from Katrina, Crosby said.

During the fiscal year that began a month following Katrina, First Baptist gave 10.4 percent through CP, according to the SBC’s Annual Church Profile. Over the past five years, the congregation has averaged 9.5 percent giving through CP.

Total missions giving for the congregation has been at least 22 percent of its undesignated receipts each of the past five years, according to ACP.

Currently, First Baptist forwards 7 percent of undesignated receipts through CP; 1 percent to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; 1 percent to the New Orleans Baptist Association; .5 percent to Baptist Friendship House in New Orleans (a joint ministry of the North American Mission Board and the New Orleans Baptist Association); and approximately .5 percent to a ministry to seafarers at the Port of New Orleans, Crosby said.

A designated gift held in trust also generates funds given through CP each year, Crosby said.

The church has averaged 658 in worship and 24 baptisms annually over the past five years, according to ACP. Previously, Crosby pastored churches in Texas and Mississippi.

Luter said Crosby has demonstrated “a heart for missions and a heart for people regardless of their skin color or what side of the tracks they were born on.”

Some 20-25 percent of worship attendees at First Baptist come from non-Anglo ethnic groups, Crosby said. Following Katrina, Franklin Avenue, which is predominantly African-American, met at First Baptist’s facilities for two and a half years, and the two churches continue to engage in joint ministry and fellowship activities.

Total missions participation at First Baptist “may rival” worship attendance, Crosby said, with 4,235 instances of individuals participating in missions projects reported on the 2014 ACP, the most recent year for which data is available. That statistic includes some individuals being counted multiple times because they participated in multiple missions projects, Crosby explained.

Each week, First Baptist sends 80-100 adults into New Orleans to perform a variety of ministries, including feeding the homeless, providing weekend food for needy public school students, conducting prison ministry and nursing home ministry, teaching English as a second language and ministering to people in the sex industry.

The church has taken 14 trips to Ghana over the past six years in conjunction with its adoption of an unreached people group “through the guidance and encouragement of the International Mission Board,” Crosby said.

First Baptist sponsors NOLA Baptist Church, a NAMB church plant, and Crosby is a founding board member of New Orleans Baptist Ministries, the umbrella organization that operates Baptist Friendship House on behalf of NAMB and the local association.

Crosby has served a variety of leadership roles at the association, state convention and SBC levels, including moderator of the New Orleans Baptist Association, Executive Board member of the Louisiana Baptist Convention and member of the SBC Committees on Committees and Resolutions. He is a trustee at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.

Crosby told BP, “I really believe in cooperation, and I believe the Southern Baptist Convention exists primarily to facilitate cooperation among our churches for the world mission of the gospel. Cooperation, to me, has a financial component, and my churches have always been deeply invested in the Cooperative Program and the special missions offerings. Cooperation also has a personal component.”

He continued, “I also feel strongly about the gospel being both proclaimed and enfleshed. The gospel needs proclamation and incarnation. So I’m convicted that our behavior, both individually and collectively, should reflect the Savior and please him, and that our words are not enough. … I try to keep both the Great Commandment and the Great Commission on my heart.”

He is married to Janet and has three children and eight grandchildren. Crosby holds a Master of Divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from Baylor University.

SBC childcare, children, youth registration open

ST. LOUIS  Registration is open for preschool childcare, Giant Cow Children’s Ministries and Youth on Mission in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2016 annual meeting June 14-15 in St. Louis.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) childcare volunteers will care for preschoolers; Giant Cow Children’s Ministries will lead the 5- to 12-year-olds, and Woman’s Missionary Union will guide Youth on Mission curricula and activities.

All activities for children and youth will be housed at the America’s Center, the annual meeting site. Youth who have completed grades 7-12 will begin their days at the convention center with worship before going into the community for hands-on mission projects.

Pre-registration is required and is available online at sbcannualmeeting.net under the “children/youth” tab, with a deadline of May 6 or whenever the space limitation of 120 children is reached. Registrations will not be taken on site. 

Preschool Childcare

SBDR childcare volunteers will offer childcare for newborns through 5-year-olds June 12-15, encompassing the SBC Pastors’ Conference June 12-13 and the annual meeting. The cost is $25 per child for the Pastors’ Conference and an additional $25 per child for the annual meeting. There is also a $10 non-refundable registration fee per child.

Lunch for preschoolers will be available for $6 a day June 13–15. Parents should pay all related fees upon registration to ensure their child’s participation. The SBC will verify registrations with an emailed confirmation packet, including a parent’s handbook.

Every lesson and game for preschoolers will focus on the theme “Jonah and the Whale.”

Giant Cow Ministries

Giant Cow Ministries will be offered for staggered fees; $65 for June 12-15, $55 for June 13-15, $45 for June 14-15, and $25 for each individual day.

Registration deadline is May 30 or until available spaces are sold. WMU will provide missions education as part of the curriculum.

Youth On Mission

Youth On Mission will engage students in hands-on missions projects June 14-15 for $55 per youth, plus a nonrefundable registration fee of $10 per youth.

“Youth on Mission will have the opportunity to study the Bible together, hear testimonies from North American and International missionaries, and gain a greater understanding of how God can use them in His work in the world,” said Jess Archer, Louisiana WMU children’s/youth missions education strategist and Youth on Mission coordinator.

Lunch and snacks will be provided both days.   

“Awaken America” registration opens for SBC St. Louis

ST. LOUIS  Registration for the SBC’s “Awaken America: Reach the World” annual meeting, June 14-15 in St. Louis, has opened. Online registration for messengers and local hotels can be accessed at SBCAnnualMeeting.net.

Through online messenger registration, each messenger will receive an eight-digit registration code to present at the annual meeting’s Express Registration lane in St. Louis, preferably as a printout for the church’s credential. The code will be entered into a computer at the SBC registration area and a nametag will be printed. The appropriate church-authorized representative must complete all online registrations.

The SBC constitution and bylaws were amended last year to broaden messenger representation.

Each cooperating church that contributes to convention causes during the preceding fiscal year now automatically qualifies for two messengers; previous rules allowed for one messenger.

Additionally, the convention will recognize 10 additional messengers from a cooperating church under one of the following options:

  • One additional messenger for each full percent of the church’s undesignated receipts which the church contributed during the fiscal year preceding through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the convention’s Executive Committee for convention causes, and/or to any convention entity.
  • One additional messenger for each $6,000 the church contributes in the preceding year through the normative combination of the Cooperative Program, designated gifts through the Executive Committee for convention causes or to any SBC entity. 

Reporting on the SBC

In 1994, right before the Southern Baptist Convention met in Orlando, the little paper I edited ran an investigative piece about a far-reaching policy at one of our SBC agencies. It was an embarrassment to the president of that agency and he responded by calling our executive director as he was packing for the trip and asking in a loud voice, “Can’t you control those people?!” The exec backed us (those people) up in that case, and the agency president took his lumps. It doesn’t happen every year, but I’ve seen a version of this struggle between reporters and administrators for how the news is told many times and at all denominational levels. 

What is the legitimate role of the denominational press, the Baptist state publications, as the leaders of our work and the constituent churches attempt to communicate with one another? A bit of the answer is presupposed in my question—the publications pass information to and from both parties in various ways. Because state papers are positioned to know the churches of our state conventions better than national leaders, we ask questions or seek information we believe will be beneficial to our churches’ stewardship of SBC work. These questions, and some editorial content, help alert leaders to how churches in different parts of the country understand their ministries. Because journalists have opportunities to observe the work of our SBC leaders, we can interpret their work to our churches in a way that makes sense and usually encourages them. This interpretation is more crucial and difficult when the news is less encouraging. 

Most recently, for example, the “less encouraging” news came from the International Mission Board as it completed the hard work of cutting personnel in order to balance the budget. Something had to be done, and it was a challenging way for President David Platt to begin his tenure at IMB. In the midst of conference calls, press conferences, and other contacts between IMB leadership and the denominational press, there was a bit of a struggle over the message. Is the headline “IMB brings expenses into line” or “IMB cuts 1,132 missionaries and staff”? That’s the struggle. It’s nearly always a disagreement made inevitable by the differences between the role of news writers and that of visionary leaders. Though passions may run high, it’s rarely a matter of good guys versus bad guys. But someone will almost always speak as if it is. 

Someone who asks, “How will this work?” or “What will this cost?” is seeking information, not trying to undermine God’s kingdom.

Here are some thoughts on the responsibilities of the denominational press telling difficult stories and a couple of ideas for those who find us frustrating.

Journalists should ask about issues or decisions we don’t understand or that should be more completely told. Sometimes asking questions is seen as malicious or an effort to trip up a spokesman. This happens and probably explains why some folks won’t talk to reporters. But asking is not by definition contrarian, although it may turn that way when a reporter is biased or when a leader keeps too many secrets.

Baptist papers should provide information and examples that spur churches to support Southern Baptist work worldwide. These stories are crucial and gathering them requires full cooperation from our leaders. I add here that the IMB has been exemplary in cooperation with the denominational press as we seek missions stories. 

Baptist journalists must give churches a clear understanding of why things are not going according to plan and what is being done about it. This is tricky for both parties, but if we don’t do it, church leaders become cynical or immune to our calls for support. That has happened over the past 40 years. 

Journalists should not, however, be recreationally suspicious of those who lead ministries broader than our own. It can become a habit or a lazy man’s version of “objectivity,” but suspicion, snark and insinuation are death to our work. Neither should we be an uncritical extension of someone’s public relations team. We do wish our leaders well but cannot become habitual boosters of every plan or leader. 

Leaders, tell it all, unless you can share a good reason to keep something secret. Confidentiality should be the exception rather than just the easy option. When a reporter seeks access to your business, see her as representing thousands of readers with whom you’ll never have any other contact. She does. Would you treat hundreds or thousands of Southern Baptists attending your meeting as intruders?  

When a leader shares a vision or plan at a press conference, he must remember that he is not the only person in the conversation who talks to God. Someone who asks, “How will this work?” or “What will this cost?” is seeking information, not trying to undermine God’s kingdom. 

Similarly, leaders are not the only people in the room who want the mission of the SBC to succeed. Baptist editors and reporters are committed to the prospering of God’s work through Southern Baptists. Unity in purpose does not mean we ignore hard questions. 

“Good journalism” is not necessarily telling the story a reader wants told in the way he wants it told. Of course it follows that “poor journalism” is not simply defined as a story we wish was not true. Poor journalism exists, of course, but it’s sloppy, even sinful, to slander a writer just because his perspective or the news he tells annoys us.  

This tense interplay between newsmakers and those who tell and explain the news is not a recent phenomenon, and it will not end. When Christian brothers are on both ends of the communications process, we are obligated to treat one another with the kind of respect we don’t always see in the culture at large. “Respect” does not mean we must agree. It does require news people to think carefully about what is edifying as well as what is true. It requires that both parties develop thick skin and a bit of grace. We will not always agree on what’s true, much less on what is edifying to the kingdom. 

I believe newsmakers and news reporters have distinct and important roles within the kingdom of God. We each have responsibilities, and we can provoke one another to fully live up to our Great Commission ideals. Perhaps it can be a mutually edifying relationship if all parties approach it that way.  

Parenting, Gender Confusion, and Child Abuse

Which of the following options would you define as “child abuse”?

A) a parent encourages a child to pursue desires that will cause irreparable physical, psychological and emotional damage, or
B) that parent protects the child from these desires, despite the child’s insistence on what’s best

The answer seems easy, but when it comes to the debate over treatment for gender-confused children, medical professionals demonstrate competing worldviews that will prove disastrous for this generation.

The American College of Pediatricians released a startling article March 21, calling on educators and legislators “to reject all policies that condition children to accept as normal a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex.” The medical professionals highlight the dangers of puberty-blocking drugs and cross-sex hormones in gender-confused adolescents—treatments that pave the way for gender reassignment surgery as an adult—and conclude that encouraging children and parents to pursue such treatments is “child abuse.”

The nationwide American College of Pediatricians (ACP) is a socially conservative medical association distinct from the larger American Academy of Pediatrics.

Key to their propositions is the biological fact that human sexuality is binary—male and female—and having these genetic (XY and XX) markers is normal and healthy. Children with gender confusion, such as a boy believing he’s a girl or a girl wanting to be a boy, suffer from “an objective psychological problem [that] lies in the mind not the body,” these pediatricians say.

The article condemns attempts to normalize transgender treatments, citing the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association that “as many as 98% of gender-confused boys and 88% of gender-confused girls eventually accept their biological sex after naturally passing through puberty.” Noting that suicide rates are 20 times higher among adults that use cross-sex hormones and undergo sex reassignment surgery, the ACP asks, “What compassionate and reasonable person would condemn young children to this fate … ?”

The LGBTQ community will likely do everything it can to discredit these physicians and their claims. Certainly they cannot allow the massive surge in the acceptance of the transgender movement, popularized by last year’s media frenzy over Bruce Jenner’s “transformation” into Caitlyn Jenner, to lose steam. After all, don’t they hold the rights to the term “child abuse” in reference of parents who refuse to allow children to “be who they really are”? This claim shows just how skewed the term “child abuse” has become.

Make no mistake, this is about opposing ideologies.

The medical analysis of the ACP flies in the face of doctrine given to parents of children with gender dysphoria (the medical term for gender confusion) who are told they are abusive to force their kid to accept their biological sex.

Take, for example, the story of Mela Singleton, mother of 12-year-old “Evan” Singleton. She first noticed her daughter Evie’s desire to be a boy when she was just 2 years old. As a toddler, Evie rejected anything “stereotypically girly” and threw fits when people would refer to her as “she.” By age 7, Mela and her husband decided that Evie must have a boy brain with a girl body, so they acquiesced to their adolescent’s wishes, changed her name to Evan, and gave her a boy’s haircut and clothing.

Two years later, “Evan” became the first patient in the Children Medical Center Dallas’ transgender program, absurdly called Genecis (GENder Education and Care, Interdisciplinary Support), the only pediatric clinic of its type in the Southwest and among the 40 such clinics nationwide.

“It’s my job as a parent to help him be his authentic self,” Mela says, adding, “it’s not about me; it’s about raising a child to be the best him that he can be.” Evan, whether conditioned by his parents or the Genecis program, simply wants transgender to be normalized, stating “it’s not that big of a deal.”

But what if “raising a child to be the best him that he can be” actually means raising him as a her, which is her God-given biological sex. That is, after all, what the data presented by the pediatricians at ACP suggests.

Sadly, an over-idealized concept of individual freedom runs rampant in our culture, asking, “Who are you to refuse to let someone choose who they want to be?” My answer to that question is simply, “I’m the dad.”

As parents, we face difficult choices over what is best for our children all the time, and these decisions often come at the protest of our children, who think they know best.

What if my 5-year-old daughter, who has her dad’s sweet tooth, says she thinks M&M’s are the healthiest food for her and throws a fit when I place anything else in front of her? What if I acquiesce to her wishes and feed her only M&M’s because “that’s just who she is”? Or what if after she complained of a headache, I handed her a bottle of Aspirin and encouraged her to eat as many as she wanted to make her feel better.

I’m pretty sure in both of these cases that Child Protective Services would be knocking at my door.

Let me be clear, gender dysphoria is a serious psychological disorder in children, and I would never encourage parents to ignore it or say “he’ll get over it.” Parents should patiently and prayerfully seek help but also be aware that recommendations they get from some doctors will go against God’s design for human sexuality.

At the same time, just because your daughter likes to skateboard or doesn’t like the color pink doesn’t mean she’s a boy trapped in a girl’s body. And just because your son is more effeminate, it does not mean you should pursue medical treatments that could jeopardize his health and his life.

Undoubtedly, this debate will rage on, but I appreciate physicians like those with the ACP who are willing to stand against the trends in psychology and medicine in order to more clearly identify the true definition of “child abuse.”

DR teams spread across Southeast Texas, Louisiana to support storm and flood victims

Poet T.S. Eliot may have called April the “cruellest month,” yet March 2016 has been anything but kind to southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana as severe storms spawned tornadoes and flooding. President Obama declared a major disaster for flooding in Jasper, Newton and Orange counties as of March 19, the Associated Press reported.

With the Sabine River bordering Texas and Louisiana suffering its worst flooding since 1884, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott requested the federal declaration on March 18. Abbott said more counties may be added, the Associated Press stated.

Even before the federal declaration, SBTC Disaster Relief teams were among many first responders deploying teams to assist victims.

“Our churches, disaster relief units and volunteers continue to respond to the needs of their communities. These past couple of weeks our tasks have been focused on feeding and shelter care. On Monday [March 21] mud-out operations will begin as water continues to recede in southeast Texas,” said Scottie Stice, SBTC Director of Disaster Relief.

DR training

Even as current SBTC DR volunteers are in the field, others are being trained. On Sunday, March 20, 117 attended Phase 1 (yellow hat) training at Liberty Baptist Church in Bridge City.

“The training went very well with several churches represented. We look forward to working with these churches as we serve the needs of the flood victims of southeast Texas,” Stice said.

Southeast Texas flooding

Stice said that mud-out operations in Burkeville and Deweyville were scheduled to start March 21 and would include Orange as soon as water recedes sufficiently there.

In preparation for southeast Texas operations, SBTC shower units have been set up to support church shelters and volunteers at First Baptist Church and Call Junction Baptist Church in Kirbyville, Hartburg Baptist Church in Orange, and Burkeville Baptist Church. A feeding unit is operating out of First Baptist Church in Vidor.

A Missouri DR laundry unit has also been deployed to Vidor to support SBTC feeding and mud-out operations. An SBTC laundry unit that had been deployed to assist flood victims in Leesville, La., has arrived at First Baptist Church in Mauriceville to support feeding and mud-out operations.

Additionally, an SBTC incident management team (IMT) will set up March 21 at FBC Mauriceville, where their efforts will also be assisted by an SBTC shower unit. A DR command unit from Missouri arrived Sunday to help coordinate mud-out operations from FBC Mauriceville. Volunteers from Missouri are also arriving to supplement SBTC teams.

Caddo Lake flood

Stice confirmed that assessors have been working the MARC (Multi Agency Resource Center) at Karnack. More than 30 ministry requests have been received and mud-out operations will also begin March 21.

Kilgore flash flood

SBTC white hat or incident leader Paul Easter and team were housed at Forest Home Baptist Church, Kilgore, where mud-out operations concluded on March 19.

Malakoff tornado and wind event

Assessors, chaplains, shower unit volunteers and recovery teams headed by SBTC unit director Garry McDugle have assisted victims with downed trees in Malakoff after the March 8 tornado.

McDugle posted on Facebook the story of Anna, an elderly woman who was in the back part of her home when a tornado ripped through the east Texas town of Malakoff. She hid in a bathtub. Her husband was in the other end of the house, McDugle stated.

“Anna said she kept calling out to Jesus that she wasn’t ready to go,” McDugle said. “She told me she wanted to meet Him in the air someday, but not this way.” During the tornado, as Anna and her husband prayed, a huge tree crashed upon the house, missing the sections where the couple crouched.

“Anna told me she began to feel the bathtub move upward and she felt herself going up,” McDugle added. “She cried out to Jesus and the storm passed. When she realized what happened, she knew then that Jesus was there the whole time.”

LGBTQ groups target Criswell College over Title IX exemption

DALLAS—For the second time in a matter of months Dallas-based Criswell College has been called out as LGBTQ groups target religious institutions that have received or applied for Title IX exemptions.

Most recently Criswell was named by the Dallas Voice as over 80 groups file an appeal asking the NCAA to “divest from all religious-based institutions that have made Title IX waiver requests targeting transgender youth.”

Although Criswell has no sports programs and no affiliation with the NCAA, the school must remain in compliance with Title IX regulations in order to receive Title IV funds such as Pell Grants and Direct PLUS Loans for students seeking financial aid.

Drafted in 1972, Title IX was intended to protect women from gender-based discrimination in educational institutions or programs that receive federal money. Under the Obama administration, Title IX protections have been expanded to prevent discrimination based not only on sex but also gender identity.

The current federal administration’s interpretation and enforcement of Title IX gender discrimination guidelines has created a threat for every school with sincerely held religious beliefs about traditional understandings of gender, sexuality and marriage,” Criswell president Barry Creamer said.

According to Creamer, this expanded interpretation of Title IX protections poses a substantive threat to religious liberty.

“Some LGBTQ advocacy groups believe that the religious liberty of school administrators and supporters is less important than the sexual liberty of their own constituents,” he said.

The law contains a specific exemption for religious institutions if accommodation “would not be consistent with the religious tenets of such organization.” Criswell is one of more than 50 institutions requesting exemption.

“We believe our request for a religious tenet exemption will be granted and that our students will not be adversely affected by the pressure tactics of these groups,” Creamer said. “We know our conviction regarding the issues will not change.”

In December, the Human Rights Campaign called upon the Obama administration to enact laws that would require schools seeking or receiving exemptions to publish information about the scope of the exemption and force the Department of Education to report which schools have been granted exemptions.

Just last week a coalition of LGBTQ advocacy groups called on the NCAA to divest from those institutions that are seeking or receiving religious exemptions in keeping with the organization’s stance on diversity.

While many of the immediate implications regarding the law affect sports programs, the law more broadly applies to discrimination in areas such as admissions, housing and financial aid.

According to Creamer, Criswell directed $500,000 last year toward the establishment of a Religious Liberty Education Fund with the Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation that will eventually replace federal assistance for students.

Our position is not complicated. We are resolute in our policy, stance and doctrine regarding gender, sexuality and marriage,” Creamer said. “We would cease to operate before we would change our commitment.”