Month: July 2016

Reflections on time with gospel warriors in closed countries

… And thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.” Romans 15:20-21 

recently spent a week in Europe at a meeting of some of our gospel warriors who serve on the front lines in some of the most difficult closed countries in the world—North Africa-Middle East (NAME). The gathering together of their entire region of the world is called an Affinity Group Meeting and is rare—the last time it happened was in 2004. Over 1,300 people were present. Security was very high.

For seven days the attendees received spiritual provisions we consider normal here in the States. There were daily worship services led by a well-known preacher and a band from Kentucky. There were individual counseling and marriage enrichment opportunities. There was a children’s camp and one for the teenagers. There were day-long training sessions for the workers to learn best practices for their specific ministry contexts. Additionally, about 20 SBC pastors were present.

One of the many things that really impacted me was the daily worship services. These workers don’t get to worship in groups larger than 10 people or at a volume above a whisper. So when they got in a room with over 1,000 people, in a free country, with a good band, you should have seen them singing! Self-consciousness and personal inhibitions went by the wayside. I think I got a taste of the roar of the Israelites as they finished their seventh lap around the walls of Jericho. The workers sat through hour-long sermons from David Platt writing down every word they could, visibly disappointed when it was over. The prayer times in the worship services were fervent. It was a considerable blessing for me to get to sit in a worship service like that.

Along the way I learned several facts that I think our SBTC churches ought to know.

As president of the organization, David Platt is prophetically and courageously insisting that all global church plants hold to BFM 2000 theology and ecclesiology. In fact, I’d consider President Platt’s 12 characteristics that define a New Testament church to be a goal worthy of all our stateside churches, including text-driven preaching, meaningful church membership, biblical conversion, and church discipline. I rejoiced listening to him call for biblical precision in church practices, citing the Lord’s Supper as a specific example. Stories of our forefathers in the faith being burned at the stake for opposing transubstantiation have proven to us the necessity of sound doctrine in Christian practice. I left the meetings very confident in the vision and leadership of David Platt.

Morale is high. Following the financially driven reduction of the workforce, I was curious to get a sense of the morale among the workers. Don’t get me wrong; tragically, the reduction of workers has impacted many teams and the scope of work that can be done. Teams are still assimilating into the “new normal.” But what was just as clear was the widespread, visible excitement, joy, and optimism. One big example was during the meetings, the workers gave a voluntary, one-time kingdom advancement offering of $193,000!

The need for the gospel across this region of the world is still desperate and substantial, yet the opportunities for SBC churches in NAME are great. Unbelievably, there are still 500 Unengaged Unreached People Groups (UUPGs) in NAME alone, not counting UPGs. If you are wondering where to get your church involved in global gospel advancement, I urge you to consider NAME. Consider creating an escalating ladder of involvement opportunities for your people:

A. Focus missions segments in worship services on some NAME people groups; pray and give financially from right here at home.

B. Use a worker, home on stateside assignment, to lead a workshop on Islam and engaging Muslims.

C. Establish a ministry to NAME peoples in your American city or one nearby.

D. Take a group of members on a vision trip to a more open country in NAME.

E. Prayerfully seek a partnership in a more open country in NAME.

F. Prayerfully seek a partnership in a more difficult country in NAME.

As you build the escalating ladder of involvement, urge your people onto it and then lead them to go to the next rung and then the next. 

Houston D.A. dismisses all charges against undercover Planned Parenthood videos creator

HOUSTON—Six weeks after a Houston judge dismissed misdemeanor charges of attempting to buy fetal tissue and human organs from Planned Parenthood, the Harris County District Attorney’s office dropped all charges Tuesday, July 26, including a felony charge, against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt.

Daleiden and Merritt, leaders of The Center for Medical Progress (CMP), spearheaded a three-year undercover investigation into allegations that several Planned Parenthood abortion clinics sold fetal remains for a profit. CMP began releasing videos in 2015 to expose Planned Parenthood as profiting from the sale of fetal remains, and the videos went viral on social media along with the hashtag #PPsellsbabyparts.

The videos brought nationwide attention to Planned Parenthood and its abortion practices. In Texas, a Harris County grand jury conducted a two-month investigation of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast (PPGC), the initial target of CMP’s investigation, but no charges were filed. Instead, Daleiden and Merritt were charged Jan. 25, 2016, with a Class A misdemeanor for attempting to purchase human organs and a 2nd degree felony for tampering with a governmental record.

Abortion clinics are only allowed to recoup the cost of delivering fetal remains to research facilities. Daleiden and Merritt posed as procurement representatives for a fictitious medical research laboratory in order to gain access to PP abortion clinics in Texas and other states in an attempt to show the organization did more than break even on the transfer of fetal remains.

While the grand jury investigation of PPGC resulted in no charges against Planned Parenthood, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said at the time that the state would continue it’s investigation of the organization’s actions.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said, “The fact remains that the videos exposed the horrific nature of abortion and the shameful disregard for human life of the abortion industry. The state’s investigation of Planned Parenthood is ongoing.”

Pokémon “lure party” draws 6 people to Christ at SWBTS

FORT WORTH—When viewed through the augmented reality lens of “Pokémon Go,” Southwestern Seminary is home to three “gyms” and nearly three-dozen “Pokéstops.” In addition, numerous desirable Pokémon are known to frequent the campus. As such, since this smart phone app launched just a few weeks ago, numerous visitors who would not otherwise step foot on campus have made their way to Southwestern in order to play the game.

Realizing the unique opportunity to reach out to the community, seminary students and faculty hosted an on-campus “lure party,” July 19. Calling to mind Jesus’ words to his followers to be “fishers of men,” Southwestern set off 80 “lures” over a two-hour period, drawing roughly 200 people from the community—many of them non-Christians—to the campus. Southwesterners utilized the people’s voluntary attendance by engaging the lost with the gospel, and as a result, six Pokémon players professed faith in Christ.

“Unlike any other time that we have done outreach in either the community or any type of mission trip, this was the rare opportunity where we didn’t have to go find people, but they were coming to us,” said Master of Divinity student Joshua Clayton, who organized the event. “So we just simply offered the opportunity to seize the moment and strategically utilize the game for evangelism.”

Housing coordinator Jonathan Baldwin was among the evangelists, and he personally saw two people—both high school students—believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

“The conversation started about the game, then transitioned into school and future college plans,” Baldwin recalled. “I took this time to share how God had saved me during my senior year of college, and I boasted in the Lord at how amazing this new life with Him is.”

In light of the two students’ decision to receive God’s free gift of salvation, Baldwin said, “It is always exciting to see God save people and always refreshing to retell his story.”

Water stations were placed at key locations around campus, and the servers at these stations offered passersby not just physical water, but “living water.” M.Div. student Joy Arulogun manned one of these stations, and she had a fruitful discussion with a group of young students that resulted in two salvations and one rededication.

Southwesterners’ tag-team efforts at a water station on the opposite side of campus also led to a salvation. Master’s students Heather Mentz and Mark Becker and Ph.D. student Jessica Wan spoke with three young men—Angel, Fransisco and Kevin. Upon hearing the gospel message, Angel prayed to receive the Lord. Though Fransisco did not respond to the invitation extended to him, he nevertheless heard the gospel, and Kevin, who is already a professing Christian, was encouraged by the evangelists to continue in his faith and find a church home.

Beyond these specific examples, numerous other conversations were had, and many people heard the gospel. Though they came to campus to catch Pokémon, they left with the message of Christ firmly planted within their minds.

“When there are so many people involved with something like this, you can’t miss the opportunity to use it for God’s good in some way,” said evangelism instructor Brandon Kiesling, who coordinated the evangelism teams.

“Personally, I think Christians at-large have missed too many of these opportunities in the past, and so I would hate to miss another opportunity like this, especially when the people come to us. Why wouldn’t you [seize that opportunity]?”

Listening session with black pastors paves way for racial reconciliation

GRAPEVINE—Nearly two dozen black pastors from churches across Texas met with Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Director Jim Richards and convention staff July 19 for a prayer and listening session on racial reconciliation. The topic is fresh given the racial tensions across the country as a result of black men being shot by police in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Florida as well as gunmen targeting and killing police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, La.

Richards invited the SBTC pastors to discuss ways the convention can assist churches of all ethnicities in working together for racial reconciliation in their communities.

“Whether it’s racial justice, whether it’s law and order, whatever the perspective is from (our) churches, we need to help them see what your concerns are, what your heart is, and how we can help our churches minister in the current environment,” Richards said.

SBTC vice president Dante Wright, pastor of Sweet Home Baptist Church in Round Rock, Texas, opened the session by sharing his views on the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, comparing and contrasting it with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Wright explained that he does not see BLM at its core as a group that hates cops or promotes violence but one that seeks to replicate aspects of the Civil Rights movement and voices legitimate concerns about police brutality and inequality in the criminal justice system.

At the same time, he said, one of the major differences between the Civil Rights Movement and BLM is that the latter “has eliminated religious leaders, they have eliminated biblical principles.”

Terry Turner, pastor of Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church and former SBTC president, agreed, noting that BLM has a variety of voices, some positive and some negative.

“Society doesn’t know what to believe; everybody’s caught up in whether it’s good or it’s bad. … [Black pastors] have to have the voice that overshadows the negative voices,” Turner said.

Prior to leading one of several prayer times throughout the meeting, Turner thanked the pastors in attendance, noting God’s sovereignty in the midst of chaos.

“We’re caught up in the midst of turmoil and trauma in our society, but it has not caught God unaware,” Turner said. He explained the tragic events surrounding racial tensions have been used by God to provide a forum for discussing solutions.

“It allows us to deal with some of the racial issues that have been swept under the carpet for over 100 years in our society,” he said.

Pastors expressed their frustrations and concerns related to racial injustice and inequality that still pervades American culture in sometimes subtle as well as sometimes volatile ways. At the same time, they discussed ways their churches are seeking to provide solutions of racial reconciliation within their communities.

Pastor Jack Crane of Truevine Missionary Baptist Church in Fort Worth shared how his church held a prayer meeting following the police shootings in Dallas and invited local police officers to come so they could pray for them.

“If we’re on the same team, then it should be the norm in the church for all of us to come together and say we stand for one cause,” Crane said.

Pastor Donald Burgs of Alief Baptist Church in Katy explained that, too often, solutions are sought reactively instead of proactively. His church has pledged to be a community partner with the Katy police department.

“When you meet with the police chief and mayor in your community, you are not asking for anything; you are sharing what your church membership is going to be as a community partner.”

For Alief Baptist, this has included dialogue with the police department on the value of body cameras and de-escalation training for officers as well as compliance procedures for citizens. Additionally, men in the church have offered to be “boots on the ground,” mentoring young black men who are repeat offenders.

Tony Mathews, pastor of North Garland Baptist Fellowship and president of the SBTC African-American Fellowship, challenged pastors to be intentional about creating a multi-cultural church with staff and leadership of varying ethnicities. Recognizing it’s “easier said than done,” he said this approach ultimately “builds relationships in the congregation” and allows the pastor to de-escalate tensions in the congregation during difficult times.

“It takes a long time to build relationships cross-culturally, and it’s hard work. You have to know people and build relationships with people before you get to some of these volatile areas or you’ll end up building barriers instead of bridges.”

Bryant Pearson, founder of Bowtie Boys Mentoring Program in Garland, said churches must get involved in the educational and economic systems because much of racism stems from economic disparity. He works to get police involved in the lives of young children so mutual respect is built between them.

Wright agreed with Pearson about the cyclical nature of poverty and the criminal justice system, which is why his church has opened up a barber shop, beauty shop and daycare center in order to provide jobs to those with criminal records.

E.W. McCall, a longtime pastor in California and currently a specialist in African-American ministry with SBTC, encouraged his fellow pastors to be “system savvy” by using their influence for God’s glory and speaking out against government laws and policies that contribute to inequality and racial tensions. He also challenged pastors to preach the gospel unashamedly as the only hope for reconciliation.

McCall reminded the pastors of the need for them to “show up” at convention meetings and “pay up” through their church’s participation in the cooperative program. “WE are the convention,” he said. “It’s the theology of presence—I need to see you guys that’s here today at these statewide meetings.”

Other solutions discussed during the meeting included black pastors building friendships with pastors of other ethnicities in their communities and looking for multi-ethnic worship opportunities such as swapping pulpits with another pastor. The pastors also asked for the state convention to provide future opportunities for pastors of all ethnicities to dialogue with one another in small-group settings to find solutions for racial reconciliation.

SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards concluded the meeting by promising to fulfill this final request of black and white pastor discussion forums “sooner rather than later.” He issued a challenge for the black pastors present to build relationships with white pastors in their communities and bring them to the meetings.

Pastors & Politics: Southern Baptists differ on how to approach election

As the U.S. presidential race heats up and the two less-than-ideal major party candidates have been solidified, politics has become a lightning rod issue among Southern Baptists. At the core of the discussion has been whether Christians should apply a “lesser of two evils” approach in the voting booth.

During the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in June, pastors and denominational leaders addressed the topic in a number of sessions.

Panel Discussion

Proclaiming Scripture instead of promoting controversy is their approach when addressing political issues, pastors said during a June 15 panel discussion.

In a session titled “Pastors and the Church in American Politics Today” and moderated by Ronnie Floyd, now former SBC president, five Southern Baptist pastors addressed how they handle political issues in their churches, especially during a tumultuous election season that has found many Southern Baptists and other evangelical Christians dismayed at their presidential options.

“I do not try to be controversial; I want to be biblical,” said A.B. Vines, senior pastor of New Seasons Church in Spring Valley, Calif., and a past president of the National African American Fellowship (NAAF) of the SBC.

“I want to give them the Word of God,” Vines said, adding he teaches the people of New Seasons Church “to trust God in these moments.”

David McKinley, pastor of Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga., echoed Vines, saying, “I don’t want to add to the controversy. I want to help people to think biblically.”

McKinley seeks to teach “that every one of us—Republican, Democrat, whoever we are—are to come under the authority of Scripture. And I think if we preach that and teach that, we will be an equal opportunity offender in what we do.”

Hance Dilbeck, senior pastor of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, said he hears “a lot of disappointment” from church members with their choices for president.

“It’s almost like an expression of grief,” he said. “I can see all the five stages, you know, anger and denial and bargaining and depression and acceptance.

“[W]hat they’re grieving is at least the loss of perceived cultural dominance, where Bible-believing people were a majority that could exercise political power and always win the day,” Dilbeck told Floyd.

While Americans have “tremendous political tools,” Christians “have so focused on those tools that some of our spiritual muscles have atrophied, and we’ve gotten weak when it comes to prayer and to purity and to proclamation of the gospel,” he said. “[Pastors] have this great opportunity to call our people back to the kind of biblical, spiritual influence that is always going to be our primary influence.”

The presumptive presidential nominees—Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump—have prompted some Southern Baptists and evangelicals to declare they can vote for neither major candidate. They find Clinton unacceptable because of her support of abortion rights and government funding of abortion, as well as other liberal policies. They reject Trump based on his inconsistent positions on such issues as abortion, religious liberty and immigration; autocratic inclinations; insult-laden rhetoric; and a lifestyle marked by adultery.

Others have supported Trump in the primaries or plan to vote for him in the general election only because of the Democratic alternative, while a much smaller group appears to be prepared to vote for Clinton.

Refusing to vote is not an option, said Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas.

“You can’t sit this one out. You can’t say, ‘I’m not going to participate.’ The stakes are too high,” said Graham, a former SBC president.

“Isn’t it great to know, number one, that God is not in heaven wondering, ‘What am I going to do with Donald or Hillary?,’” he said, adding, however, Christians are responsible to act in the election. “[W]e simply must not abdicate our responsibility to pray, to participate, to vote and, as pastors and leaders in our churches, to encourage others to do the same.”

He is focusing on three primary considerations in determining how to vote in this presidential election, Graham said: (1) A candidate who will seek God’s wisdom in making Supreme Court nominations; (2) someone who will support the sanctity of human life; and (3) a person who will defend religious liberty.

K. Marshall Williams, pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pa., and another former NAAF president, said the church needs to be “passionately praying” for those in authority.

Also, he said, Christians should “maintain a collective, incarnational, redemptive presence in the church and in the culture.” The church should not only address such issues as the sanctity of life and religious freedom, but “attack systemic racism and injustice in our land,” Williams said, and “be concerned about the pipeline from school to prison, that one out of every three African-American men are tied to the criminal justice system.”

All five pastors encouraged Christians to run for local offices. Williams prays God “would raise up men and women to go into public office of moral courage,” he said.

Floyd opened the session by encouraging pastors and other Christian leaders not to be judgmental of one another during this election season. “Disagreement does not have to result in a strained relationship with a brother or sister in Christ, especially over politics,” he said.

9Marks & ERLC

The “moral formation” and unity of the church are two vital considerations for a pastor in guiding God’s people during a disturbing presidential election season, attendees were told during a June 13 event sponsored by 9Marks, a church health ministry based in Washington, D.C., and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

9Marks President Mark Dever and ERLC President Russell Moore answered questions about pastors and politics.

Moore said his primary concern when a church member asks a pastor how to vote “is going to be for the moral formation of my people.”

In this election, Moore said he thinks “there would be a very clear difference between someone who is simply walking into the voting booth and saying, ‘Let me try to decide between these two train wrecks,’ which I know a lot of people are doing, and what is happening in the moral degradation of many people supporting both of these two candidates and in so doing not only excusing clear injustice and immorality but, as Romans 1 would put it, heartily approving of that.

“The issue for me is not what happens to those two horrific candidates debating back and forth,” he said. “The issue for me is what happens to us.”

As a pastor, Dever said he would be concerned if he has “someone loudly in our church saying, ‘Morally, you cannot do this or that.’”

That “feels like Satan’s device to divide the church,” said Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. “The way that I’ve heard evangelicals articulate support for a wide variety of political options to attain good ends, I may disagree with all of them that I hear. I may even think some of them involve sin,” but he wouldn’t prevent that person from taking communion.

Rather, he would try to understand what moral issues a church member can see are at stake in his or her vote, Dever told the audience.

Baptist 21 Luncheon

The issue was also addressed during the eighth annual Baptist 21 luncheon June 14, where Moore and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. responded to questions regarding the 2016 presidential election.

Both said they would vote third-party or write in a candidate in November. Mohler noted that while he cannot vote for a pro-choice candidate, he also cannot vote for a candidate simply on pro-life claims because “character is an indispensable issue.”

Mohler recalled first meeting former President Bill Clinton hours after appearing on national TV calling on him to resign during the scandal involving Monica Lewinsky. Mohler said he could not be consistent if he voted for Republican nominee Donald Trump, whose character “eclipses” Clinton with his unrepentant adultery and support of the pornography industry.

“I find myself in a situation I never envisioned in my life as a Christian or as an American,” Mohler said. “But I’m going to have to be Christian in order to be a faithful American.”

Moore explained his reason for writing in a candidate because “character matters” and “the life issue cannot flourish in a culture of misogyny and sexual degradation … when you have people calling for the torture and murder of innocent non-combatants.”

“You lose an election, you can live to fight another today and move one,” Moore said. “But if you lose an election while giving up your very soul, then you’ve really lost it all.”

—compiled from Baptist Press reports by Diana Chandler, Harper McKay, S. Craig Sanders and Tom Strode

Burk named new CBMW president after Strachan steps down

LOUISVILLE, Ky.—The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood announced on its website July 20 that the organization’s board of directors has appointed Denny Burk as its new president. The announcement comes a week after CBMW announced that Owen Strachan had resigned as president of the organization.

Strachan, who also serves as associate professor of Christian theology and director of the Center for Theological and Cultural Engagement at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, had served in the position since 2014 following two years as CBMW’s executive director.

Burk becomes CBMW’s ninth president since its founding in 1987. He will continue to serve as professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate school of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and director for The Center for Gospel and Culture, based at the school. He also serves as an associate pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville.

Burk has written and contributed to a number of books, including Transforming Homosexuality: What the Bible Says about Sexual Orientation and Change, co-authored with Heath Lambert, and What Is the Meaning of Sex? He also addresses cultural and theological issues on his popular blog, 

In a blog post on CBMW’s website July 20, Burk said he had a “very clear vision” as president—to affirm and advance the organization’s vision statement. He explained that the organization will continue to affirm its Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which “define(s) the mission and vision of CBMW.” At the same time, he said, “in the 30 years since the drafting of the Danvers Statement, challenges to this biblical vision have not abated. In fact, the challenges have only increased and broadened.

“Western culture has embarked upon a total revision of sexual and gender norms. It has evicted the male-female complement from the definition of marriage. Indeed, with the transgender challenge, it has thrown into question the meaning of the sexual binary that God has encoded into every cell in our bodies.

“As a result, churches find themselves facing questions about manhood and womanhood that were barely imagined when the Danvers Statement was written. Nevertheless, the theological vision of Danvers has implications for the current challenges we are facing. For that reason, I believe that CBMW needs to address these challenges explicitly, and we need to do so in some specific ways.”

Burks concluded that evangelicals must “come together to produce a new statement of conviction concerning these current challenges.” He assured that this new statement would not replace or revise the Danvers Statement and may take time to develop.

The announcement of Burk’s appointment received ringing praise from a number of prominent Southern Baptists.

“Denny Burk is a brilliant, experienced, Christlike leader who understands both the Bible and the culture,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. “I am excited about his selection to lead CBMW and about his vision for the organization. We at the ERLC look forward to working with CBMW to serve the church toward a biblical view of God’s good design for men and women, girls and boys.”

R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of Southern Seminary, said that Burk is “an outstanding theologian and a leading Christian intellectual. …  I am confident that Dr. Burk will bring the wisdom and courage needed for this important task. He is rigorously biblical and is a man of great character. Furthermore, he models in his life, marriage, and ministry what he teaches in the classroom and in the public square.”

As for Strachan’s departure, he clarified his reasons for stepping down on his blog July 12 and in an interview with Baptist Press.

“I first started thinking over my role a year ago,” Strachan said. “The responsibilities of full-time leadership and a professorship at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary were not small. Fundraising in particular is a preoccupation for most any non-profit leader. My goal was to leave CBMW in a strong financial position, which meant putting on our April 2016 Together for the Gospel pre-conference. By God’s grace, that event was a success. This meant that I could step down in good conscience.”

A theological debate this summer regarding the relationship between God the Father and God the Son—a debate that has included criticism of CBMW—“played no part” in Strachan’s decision to resign, he told Baptist Press in an email.

“The summer of 2016 has been surprisingly active in terms of theological debate, but the online discussion has played no part in my decision,” Strachan said, noting, “My decision was made months ago.”

At issue in the debate is the argument of Strachan and other theologians—including  Grudem and Bruce Ware of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary—that God the Father and God the Son eternally have been equal in divinity but that the Son eternally has submitted to the Father. Strachan articulated that view in his 2016 book The Grand Design, coauthored with Gavin Peacock, and defended it in subsequent blog posts.

Strachan and other proponents of this view additionally argue that the “authority-submission dynamic” within the Trinity illustrates the proper relationship between a husband and wife: possessing different roles but equal in value.

CBMW praised Strachan’s leadership and the growth experienced by the organization under his direction.

Board member and CBMW co-founder Wayne Grudem said, “Owen has served as an excellent president for CBMW, and the organization has grown remarkably in influence through his leadership.”

“I’m sorry to see him leave the presidency of CBMW, but I am glad to know that he will continue associating with CBMW as a senior fellow, and I fully expect that we will continue to see additional valuable contributions from his writing and speaking on issues of biblical manhood and womanhood.”

Criswell College announces new VP of advancement

DALLAS—After an extended search, Criswell College announced the hiring of Michael Clayton as the new vice president of advancement, effective July 1.

A Dallas native, Clayton received his undergraduate degree from Dallas Baptist University and pursued theological education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth as well as Luther Rice Seminary.

Over the course of his career he spent 15 years as president of the Southeast Texas Better Business Bureau and more than 20 years serving local churches in administrative and pastoral roles.

“Since the day I began as president two years ago I have been searching and praying for the person God would send our way as vice president of advancement,” Criswell College President Barry Creamer said. “We believe Michael’s personal gifts will make the college’s relationships even stronger, just as his professional skills will augment our administrative work.”

For the last four years Clayton has addressed audiences across the world as a keynote speaker, corporate trainer, and as a business consultant to numerous clients including State Farm, Coldwell Banker, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

“It is an honor to serve Criswell College to advance its mission to engage minds and transform culture through the power of God’s Word and his leadership,” Clayton said.

According to Creamer, Clayton’s proven track record as a leader throughout his career made him the perfect candidate for the position.

“It has been more than 45 years since Dr. Criswell imagined the reality of this college,” Creamer said. “It is uplifting to be joined in that pursuit by someone who not only understands the vision of our founder, faculty, staff, students and supporters, but also has the expertise and experience to help us achieve it.”

As vice president of advancement, Clayton will oversee the Departments of External Relations and Development. He will also lead efforts to secure financial support for the school through development of the annual fund, coordination of major gifts and management of estate planning.

“Criswell College has a rich and successful history of positively influencing the lives of students and others beyond its campus,” Clayton said.  “I am privileged to be part of its future growth and transformation to significantly impact the world.

During his time with the Southeast Texas Better Business Bureau, the organization  held an 18 percent market share for four straight years, the highest ever in the 100 years of the organization and three times the international average. 

In addition to his corporate experience, Clayton is also a best-selling author and spent time as the vice president and executive director of Feed the Children in Oklahoma City.

“The greatest days are ahead for Criswell College,” he said. “Bright and dedicated students, passionate faculty and staff, and sacrificial partners will make it possible, and I have quickly discovered they are already here.”

Clayton will serve under presidential appointment until he can be confirmed by the Board of Trustees at an upcoming meeting.

Do All Lives Really Matter?

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1John 4:7-8).

Love in the midst of trauma is the answer to the cry “Do Black Lives Matter?” This question has sent America into one of the most confused race-relationship eras since the Civil Rights movement of the ‘60s. There are many voices speaking out in this racially charged climate, but too many are not inspired with the words of God to bring unity and healing. When America is caught in a racial divide, the body of Christ must impact the world with the love of God for all people. The federal, state or local governments cannot solve hatred within the hearts of people—only the love of God displayed by the people of God can help to change the wickedness in human hearts. God’s people are consistently called to show love in the midst of sinful situations. The Apostle Peter reminds us of the power in love; he says, Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Believers must love those who are difficult for us to love if we are going to make a difference in the lives of lost men and women.

Please hear this cry: enough is enough. Christian brothers and sisters, it’s time to put away the biased thinking that keeps us divided and embrace all people in godly love. Our lost world will never change unless the people of God see the pain of all people groups. Our hearts are broken over the killing of our police officers in Dallas, but we should also have had broken hearts over every black life taken by police over minor offenses, guilty or innocent. To see men die for trivial reasons is despairing in the black community. It is our hope that all Americans will love and respect the law enforcement officers that protect us, but it’s difficult when one group is frequently traumatized by killings. My dear mother would always say, “A right does not wrong anybody,” and, “Baby, God sees those who do ugly.” Amazingly, in America, we have lived so long in our biased world that wrong is not always realized when seen. The people of God must open our eyes, ears and hearts to the lives and struggles of others of different races. Will God hold Christians accountable for loving brothers and sisters who look like themselves or for loving all the human family? “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:20-21).

When the love of God is missing, the world becomes a wicked place and we find ourselves asking the tough questions. What is happening in America when Micah Johnson, a 25-year-old black man, takes a gun into Dallas and kills five white police officers in the name of racial hatred? How powerful is racial hatred when a white man, Dylann Roof, walks into a black church prayer meeting in South Carolina and kills nine church members after joining them in prayer? What causes a police officer to kill a man over the trivialities of selling cigarettes, selling CD’s on the streets or for a broken taillight? What fear is in the hearts of police officers that causes them to kill a 12-year-old boy playing in the park with a toy gun? The ultimate questions lie with the body of Christ. When will Christians love all people enough to stop the madness in our land? Will the church ever stand up and call those in the body who are divisive in their statements into accountability? We must realize those who love some and not all provide a negative image of the body of Christ. “So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him’” (Acts 10:34-35).

All Lives Matter is a call to join in healing of the hurts endured by people from all races. The power of love born in the hearts of the people of God is the only answer for the racial issues that exist in Dallas and America. When the church is committed to live as Jesus commanded, she can teach the world that the love of God is able to deliver from racial hatred. Yes, all lives matter to born-again Christians who are committed to live by the Word of God. The cry of the protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement is a call for America to see the pain of black Americans who are losing their lives over senseless reasons. This chant does not reduce the importance of white lives, brown lives, red lives or yellow lives—yes, All Lives Matter. There are some in America who say the cry “Black Lives Matter” is not being inclusive of all people groups and is therefore a racial statement. In contrast, the majority of black Americans might consider it offensive to question the fact that black lives matter and think it is racist not to be supportive of the statement. Black lives are a part of “all lives;” therefore, black lives matter.

Many Christians are praying for the day when Americans will have no need to recognize the race of a person and we can be truly one race. America has come a long way, but we still have a long way to go if we are going to overcome the dark days of our past. Perhaps, the people who see the Black Lives Matter movement as racist have forgotten that America, in its infancy, promoted racism and black America has always been its main target.

The power of love within Christianity has been a source of healing for many in the black community as proclaimed by the Lord Jesus Christ, The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18). This Scripture is key to healing in our country because America termed blacks as chattel slaves and subhuman from 1619 to 1865—black lives did not matter. This way of thinking continued from 1865 until 1965 when black lives in freedom were legally considered second-class citizens under Jim Crow laws, a time when black lives did not matter as much as white lives. Now we are only 51years after the end of the Jim Crow laws, and the residuals of racism are still in the hearts of many in our country. For many whites today, the concept of superiority over blacks is associated with the belief that blacks should be feared or subjected to abuse.

The final question Christians must consider is how history will record our handling of sin, hatred and racism in present-day America. Will they see us walking in the power of love for healing or yielding to the wiles of Satan through hatred, racism and divisiveness? We all need each other’s understanding to overcome these perilous times. Let’s be intentional and love everybody, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:1).

Texas student wins National Bible Drill

COLLEYVILLE—Brian Beto of Esperanza Del Rio Community Church emerged victorious in a drill-off to determine the winner of the high school division at the National Invitational Tournament for Bible Drill held at First Baptist Church in Colleyville on June 16-17.

The Friday evening drill-off concluded this year’s National Invitational Tournament for Bible Drill and Speakers’ Tournament attended by some 200 participants and families from across the country and hosted by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

The tension-filled drill-off was held at the banquet the evening of the competition, said Emily Smith, SBTC associate over women’s and children’s ministries. Smith, with representatives from three other state conventions, served on the NIT planning team.

Bible Drill has long been a staple of Southern Baptist churches, with associations and state conventions holding competitions. Children grades 4-6 participate in the Children’s Drill. Young people in grades 7-9 take part in the Youth Drill, while older teens, grades 10-12, compete in the High School Drill and Speakers’ Tournament.

Only youth and high school competitors advance to state and national levels. The children’s competition terminates at the regional level.

SBTC began sponsoring Bible Drill competitions in 2002. Since the Baptist General Convention of Texas also holds competitions, nationals featured two teams from Texas. This year, Beto defeated the BGCT national finalist in the drill-off.

Bible Drill requires students to memorize Scripture and locate Bible passages. Competition is intense as a caller issues a command and students have only eight seconds to locate chapter and verse in their Bibles. Contestants must earn certain scores at their local association or church level to qualify for regionals. In the Speakers’ Tournament, students prepare and deliver 4-6 minute talks on assigned topics.

“A total of 270 participated at the regional level, representing 38 churches,” said Judy Van Hooser, assistant to Smith.

In the state Bible Drill competition, 12 youth and 12 high school participants advance from regionals, with each region’s first place winner progressing automatically and the other qualifiers determined proportionately, Smith explained.

State finals were held April 30 at the SBTC offices in Grapevine, where they have taken place 14 of the last 15 years, Van Hooser added.

 “It’s very impressive,” Smith said. “It’s exciting, and it will put you to shame to see how much the kids know.”

Bible Drill participation runs in families. Brian Beto, representing the SBTC, has gone to nationals in both youth and high school divisions, while his sister Janice won the SBTC state youth drill competition two years in a row and placed second at nationals in 2015.

Anna Moreno, Bible Drill sponsor at Bethany Baptist Church in Breckenridge, is a veteran winner of both drill and speaker competitions at the regional and state levels.

“My mother is a huge proponent of Bible Drill,” said Moreno. Moreno’s mother, Tami Wood, a children’s minister often invited to call drills at competitions, helped start the program at Bethany.

When Moreno and her husband, Bethany’s associate pastor of youth and family, came to the church nine years ago, Anna volunteered to coach Bible Drill, with impressive results. Bethany’s Riley Tatum placed second at nationals last year in the high school drill while her brother Kole was second in state in the youth division this year, said Moreno.

When asked about the value of Bible Drill, Moreno said, “Memorizing Scripture and hiding God’s Word in your heart will never return void. It encourages children in a fun way to learn Scripture. I have found personally that a lot of those scriptures I learned as a child come back to me. Besides, I just loved the competition.”

SBTC awards college scholarships to those placing first ($1,000), second ($500) and third ($250) at the state level in the youth, high school and speakers’ competitions.

For more information and published results of SBTC regional and state competitions, see


State Winner Perfect for Children’s Division (Achieved a Perfect Score of 24)

Jack Applegate (Prestonwood Baptist Church)

Sarah Grace Becker (La Junta Baptist Church)

Hagan  Berridge (First Baptist Church, Odessa)

Megan Canfield (Prestonwood Baptist Church)

Brandon Chee (Prestonwood Baptist Church)

Caleb Christopherson (First Baptist Church, Euless)

Cooper A. Cobbs (Prestonwood Baptist Church)

Brooke Criner (Prestonwood Baptist Church)

Kevin Dixon  (Cornerstone Baptist Church, Arlington)

Jonathan Duhon (First Baptist Church, Keller)

Maddie Duncan (First Baptist Church, Odessa)

Jack Franklin (First Baptist Church, Keller)

Hope Hale (First Baptist Church, Keller)

Mason Harris (First Baptist Church, Stinnett)

Colin Hautmann (Lake O’ the Pines Baptist Church)

Stephen Hemsworth (First Baptist Church, Euless)

Abigail Higginbotham (Lakeview Baptist Church, Ore City)

Skylar Iversen (Memorial Baptist Church)

Jayden Jones (Forest Home Baptist Church)

Clayton Kelly (First Baptist Church, Odessa)

Darcy E. Lessert (Prestonwood Baptist Church)

Finn Limer (First Baptist Church, Euless)

Zakrey Mayfield (First Baptist Church, Odessa)

Zak Mikes (First Baptist Church, Forney)

Hannah Moreno (Bethany Baptist Church)

Hannah Patterson (First Baptist Church, Odessa)

Joshua Patterson (First Baptist Church, Odessa)

Anisa Payen (First Baptist Church, Odessa)

Toby Pike (First Baptist Church, Keller)

Samuel Snyder (Prestonwood Baptist Church)

Olivia Stukey (First Baptist Church, Springtown)

Nathan Thompson (Tate Springs Baptist Church)

Zacchea Torres (First Baptist Church, Odessa)

Jayden Vaught (First Baptist Church, Odessa)

Daunte Ware (Cornerstone Baptist Church, Arlington)

Courtney Wittrock (First Baptist Church, Keller)

London Yount (Prestonwood Baptist Church)