Month: May 2018

Southwestern Executive Committee terminates Patterson

FORT WORTH—Members of the Executive Committee of the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary voted unanimously May 30 to remove all benefits to Paige Patterson, a week after naming him president emeritus. “New information” regarding his handling of a sexual abuse allegation while employed at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary prompted their decision to act immediately.

Patterson loses the title of president emeritus, financial compensation and the opportunity to live at the Baptist Heritage Center as theologian-in-residence.

Released the evening of May 30, the statement reads:

“During the May 30, 2018, Executive Committee meeting of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) Board of Trustees, new information confirmed this morning was presented regarding the handling of an allegation of sexual abuse against a student during Dr. Paige Patterson’s presidency at another institution and resulting issues connected with statements to the Board of Trustees that are inconsistent with SWBTS’s biblically informed core values.

“Deeming the information demanded immediate action and could not be deferred to a regular meeting of the Board, based on the details presented, the Executive Committee unanimously resolved to terminate Dr. Paige Patterson, effective immediately, removing all the benefits, rights and privileges provided by the May 22-23 board meeting, including the title of President Emeritus, the invitation to reside at the Baptist Heritage Center as theologian-in-residence and ongoing compensation.

“Under the leadership of Interim President Dr. Jeffrey Bingham, SWBTS remains committed to its calling to assist the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention by biblically educating God-called men and women for ministries that fulfill the Great Commission and glorify God.

“Further, the Seminary stands against all forms of abuse and grieves for individuals wounded by abuse. Today, Dr. Bingham made it clear that SWBTS denounces all abusive behavior, any behavior that enables abuse, any failure to protect the abused and any failure to safeguard those who are vulnerable to abuse. Additionally, Dr. Bingham called for the SWBTS community to join the Body of Christ in praying for healing for all individuals affected by abuse.”

SBTC ministries grow along Texas-Mexico border

Nearly a decade ago, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention launched Borderlands Reach to saturate the most under-evangelized and under-churched region of Texas with the gospel of Jesus Christ. El Paso, Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley are the key areas in a church planting strategy that trains local leaders and utilizes volunteers from across Texas.

Far to the west, El Paso was named among the top 100 best places to live in the United States for 2017. The city also retained its ranking as one the safest cities in the U.S. It’s a “wide field for mission,” a multicultural community that is home to the U.S. Army’s Fort Bliss and a host of ethnic people groups, says Chuy Avila, a Southern Baptists of Texas Convention church planting missionary based there.

These factors make it an attractive place for churches to do evangelism work, Avila added.

U.S. News and World Report ranked El Paso 76th of 100 metro areas studied, according to “quality of life, job market, value of living and people’s desire to live there,” the El Paso Times reported. And while violence across the border in Juarez, Mexico, remains problematic, El Paso is a contrast: it is second in the nation’s 2017 safest cities rankings released by SafeWise, a home security and safety awareness company that uses FBI crime data to support its findings.

Avila stressed the need for bicultural churches to serve Korean, Japanese, Hindi, Spanish and English-speaking groups, plus millennials of all ethnicities.

Since Avila’s arrival six years ago in El Paso, the number of SBTC churches has grown from six to 22. Also promising has been the start in May 2013 of the El Paso Bible Institute housed at La Verdad Community Church. To date, 23 students in two graduating classes have completed the program designed to train pastors and church leaders, Avila said.

After completing a curriculum similar to that of the Laredo Bible Institute, some El Paso students have already begun graduate work through Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Avila said.

Farther east along the border, the Laredo Bible Institute, headquartered at that city’s Trinidad Baptist Church, is situated in a region where numerous churches are thriving. It recently graduated its first class of 20. Among the churches planted with SBTC support that continue to thrive in that area are San Ignacio Baptist Church and Nuevo Pacto (New Covenant) Church, the latter described by Avila as “among the fastest-growing churches in Laredo.”

Prior to relocating to El Paso, Avila served in Laredo, utilizing service projects in schools and other community institutions in order to build good relationships with school officials and start Bible studies in school facilities.

Through their partnership in Laredo, the SBTC and North American Mission Board sponsored spring break missions opportunities in 2011. During four weeks of door-to-door witnessing and various evangelistic events, 727 professions of faith were recorded after the effort. 

After volunteers visited 39,000 homes and the convention hosted school assemblies, one evangelistic event drew 4,800 people to the city’s Energy Arena. Four new church planters were introduced to the crowd that gathered, tasked with starting churches in nearby Rio Bravo.

In the Rio Grande Valley, some 30 SBTC-affiliated churches serve communities in and around McAllen, Harlingen and Brownsville. Five new SBTC churches have launched in the past four years, David Loyola, SBTC field ministry strategist for the region, said.

Spring break mission trips to McAllen in 2012 paved the way for volunteers to knock on 108,000 doors to leave invitations to an evangelism rally. Churches from across the state teamed up with McAllen-area churches and saw 403 people profess Christ as Savior.

To better serve the Valley, an SBTC Rio Grande pastors’ network launched in February 2018 with a prayer vigil and meeting at a Raymondville ranch. Loyola and SBTC church planting missionary David Ortega led the meeting attended by pastors from Edinburg, Mission and McAllen.

“The network will help strengthen pastors’ lives and ministries,” Loyola added. 

Small-town church remains town hub

CARBON Jody and Wendy Forbus left their small hometown of Carbon, Texas, in 1989, intending never to return permanently. They came back eight years later to take over a start-up church, among the first supported by the fledgling Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. 

Today, Carbon Community Baptist Church continues strong, with 150 active members from Carbon, Gorman and Eastland: a hub of energy in a town with a population under 230. 

“It all happened nearly at the same time,” Jody Forbus told the TEXAN. “When the SBTC was forming, we were forming as well… so was our association [Cross Timbers Baptist Association].”

Forbus praised the SBTC’s “instrumental” assistance in the church’s early years, calling the convention’s provision of a building grant and monthly support, “our survival.” 

Forbus assumed leadership in May 1997 of the small congregation pastored for eight months by Buck Landingham. Forbus knew the members; the nucleus attended a Friday night Bible study he had driven from Stephenville to teach the prior year. His parents were among that original group which met in an abandoned peanut weigh station. 

The years were unkind to Carbon. When the peanut industry dried up and the school district was absorbed by Eastland ISD, people pulled up stakes. 

“We once had five churches here,” Forbus said. “Now there are only two, a full gospel church and ours.”

When the “faithful few” decided to start a church from the Bible study group, Forbus told them to find a pastor. Landingham came. 

With $5,000 donated by a relative of local businessman Ike Whitson, the group bought the abandoned three-story school with its gymnasium and 14 acres from Eastland ISD. 

After Landingham left, the church called Forbus, who packed up his family and came home.

The large old school building was dilapidated, its windows broken, its third floor home to roosting pigeons for years. 

“You can imagine the mess,” Forbus said. 

Help arrived from an Abilene congregation, who sent teams to assist in the clean-up, an effort facilitated by Forbus’s father-in-law, Dwaine Clower, pastor of Pioneer Baptist Church in Cross Plains and Cross Timbers director of missions.

CCBC converted a classroom for worship, adding a piano and pulpit before Landingham’s departure.

The school proved problematic to heat and cool, prompting the church to quickly launch a building project with a grant from the SBTC. The structure was later expanded, with SBTC help.

The school is still used part of the year. The once pigeon-infested third floor serves as a dormitory for two three-day overnight camps for preteens and secondary students sponsored by the church each June since 2000. A K-2nd grade day camp is held between the preteen and youth camps.

Campers enjoy swimming in the pool and the one-acre tank adjacent to the gym, bouncing on an inflatable blob in water dyed vivid turquoise for camp.

“The camp is for kids who could not afford to go to camp,” said Wendy Forbus, adding that an annual spring community fun run/5K provides scholarships.

Camp is the capstone of a children’s and youth program to which the church busses dozens of kids from nearby Eastland for a Wednesday night meal and activities. 

But on New Year’s Day 2006, such outreach nearly went up in flames.

“As we came out of church Sunday morning … someone said it looked like a big thunderstorm was headed our way,” Jody recalled. The thunderstorm was actually an enormous wildfire which swept east of Hwy. 183, “shaving off Carbon,” destroying 60 homes, including the Forbus residence outside town.

This baptism-by-fire saw CCBC become a distribution and collection center for donations.

Although they had lost everything, the Forbuses, like many residents, rebuilt. Jody recalled encouraging visits from Jim Richards, SBTC executive director.

“Dr. Richards gave me a full [set] of commentaries, Genesis to Revelation, because I had lost all of my books. We had a revival and he preached,” said Jody, who is now chief of the Carbon Volunteer Fire Department, which holds fundraisers at the church twice yearly.

Five years ago, the Forbuses made a further commitment to the community by purchasing a local business: Carbon Agri Center, now Carbon Ag & Outdoors. The all-purpose hardware, feed store, agricultural supplier, deer processing plant and fertilizer company has become a hub as locals gather for coffee mornings and afternoons in a town whose last eatery closed years ago.

“They like the free coffee,” Jody chuckled, adding, “This ag center is an outreach. When we bought it, our mindset was to reach the community,” devoting “our lives to Carbon.”

The purchase enabled Jody to resign as a contractor for a healthcare company and stay in town rather than traveling. Congregational growth coincided with the acquisition of the business.

Now with a bi-vocational associate pastor and youth volunteers, and a revamped deacon structure, the church is populated mostly by adults in their forties and younger, including many new believers.

“We baptized 22 last year,” Jody said of his congregation of ranchers and farmers, their land dotted with bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush each spring: signs of new life near a church filled with the same. 

A Call to 2018 SBC Messengers

If Southern Baptists have the best preachers in the world but don’t have love, we are nothing more than a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If Southern Baptists have the strongest institutions and believe we can accomplish all we’ve set out to do but don’t have love, we are nothing. If Southern Baptists give all our money to missions and evangelism and send all our children to the mission field but don’t have love, we gain nothing.

Clearly, I borrowed the preceding lines from 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. The Corinthian church, while extremely gifted, was thoroughly divided. As the apostle Paul exposes their divisions, he climaxes his letter in chapter 13 with his strongest rebuke yet—lovelessness nullifies any good that the church may claim for itself.

Lovelessness is blasphemous. When we’re not loving we lie to the world about who God is and what he has done for us in Christ. As we gather in Dallas for the Southern Baptist Convention, then, let me call us to love one another (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). It is by this love that the world will know we belong to Jesus (John 13:35) and believe that the Father has sent Jesus to save (John 17:21). What does Christian love look like?

Love is patient and kind. We can express love in the simplest of ways, patience and kindness. When we’re patient and kind, we display God’s character to our spouse, our children, our church, our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers and one another.

So let’s begin the 2018 SBC with a commitment to these simple expressions of love—patience and kindness—not just with one another, but with all who will serve us during our stay in Dallas—waiters and waitresses, hotel housekeeping staff, Uber, Lyft, and taxi drivers, and convention center personnel. 

Love does not envy or boast. Southern Baptists like to boast. Admit it. We have a reputation for boasting about numbers—attendance, offering, baptism numbers and so on. Actually, if it can be counted, we boast about it. Of course, those whose numbers are down may envy those whose numbers are up. And the pressure to report high numbers may lead others to inflate their own numbers.

I get it! Numbers represent people. But love demands that we walk in humility. That doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate the work the Lord is doing among us and through us. It means, though, that when we celebrate God’s blessings, we give God the glory and recognize that anything good that happens in our churches and in our convention is all by the grace and mercy of God. It also means that we humbly admit our weaknesses, errors and sins.

Love is not arrogant or rude. Arrogance and rudeness are rooted in the lie that “I am better and/or more important than others.” When we believe this lie, we will be rude. 

But, we equally bear God’s image. By faith in Christ, we’re all sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. By God’s Spirit, we’re all brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore, in Dallas, let’s consider others better than ourselves—as Scripture commands—and instead of tearing one another down, let’s build one another up. 

Love does not insist on its own way. Too often, we insist on our own way—with the TV remote in hand, behind the wheel of a car, even at church. And yet, the Christian life is one of sacrifice.

As we gather in Dallas, let’s defer to one another. Let’s inconvenience ourselves for one another. Let’s serve one another.

Love is not irritable or resentful. When things don’t go our way, we get irritated. When people don’t do what we want, we resent them. If we’re not careful, our children will irritate us; we’ll resent our spouse; we’ll get frustrated with our pastor(s) or other church members. But because love is patient and kind, love is not irritable or resentful.

When we meet in Dallas, let’s not get irritated with one another. Let’s not resent individuals who step up to the microphone to offer a nomination or motion or resolution. Instead, let’s be patient and kind; let’s think the best of one another.

Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. The call to love is not a call to abandon truth. Love does not rejoice in sinfulness or worldliness, error or false teaching. Love rejoices with the truth God has revealed to us in Scripture. And, ultimately, that revealed truth is a person—Jesus. Jesus not only lived a life of perfect obedience to the Father, he also went to the cross and received God’s justice for human sin. You see, the very gospel we preach is a gospel of truth and love, of justice and mercy. 

As Southern Baptists, we affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as sufficient for our cooperative efforts to advance the gospel. Love demands that we not fight with one another over non-essential doctrines or differing theological convictions that are not contrary to the BF&M 2000. Instead, let’s rejoice over what we affirm together and let’s join together to take the gospel to all peoples everywhere, beginning where God has placed us and our churches.

Paul summarizes what love looks like. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). 

So, here’s my call to us: Whether we gather in a major city as a convention or in a small town as a local church, let’s love one another in both word and deed, in speech and action. Let’s bear one another’s burdens; let’s believe the best of one another; let’s hope for the best in one another’s ministries. Let’s endure in love, displaying the glory of our God who demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still sinners he sent his own beloved Son to die as a propitiation for our sins. This is love! Let’s, therefore, walk in it. 

Splitting the Southern Baptist Convention

Driving in New England last month, I passed a car with an obnoxious bumper sticker. I was shocked at how rapidly I judged everything about the driver; his views, his choice of auto—even his character was summed up in that one errant political view. The response immediately tasted bad in my mouth and gave me an insight for the Southern Baptist Convention. Maybe we aren’t disagreeing about issues so much as just being disagreeable. Between Woodstock, N.H., and Woodstock, Vt., I wrote this column in my mind.

I’d read that morning a column about comments Paige Patterson made 18 years ago on divorce and incidentally related to spousal abuse. The writer suggested, hopefully I think, that the SBC could split over this disagreement, or over the person of Paige Patterson. It will not. In his antipathy for Patterson, the writer was distracted by symptoms and not causes.

Neither will we split over Calvinism. One group speaks as if every Calvinist in the SBC is an existential threat to our mission. Another group talks down to the majority of “less theologically minded” (less-Calvinistic) Southern Baptists as if they don’t know how to read the Bible properly. This centuries-old discussion gets ungentlemanly in a hurry, but it is not the division in the SBC.   

We will not split over the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission or the International Mission Board or the election of Donald Trump or the role of women in our churches. These subjects have resulted in personal divisions and sharp exchanges but none of them is the reason our fellowship is wounded. These issues, some of them noteworthy in themselves, have become flashpoints because we have absorbed the toxic tribalism of our culture. Too many disagreements have become ultimate. 

SBTC President Juan Sanchez is right to point out the imperative of love between the brethren from 1 Corinthians 13. Also consider chapter 1, verses 10-17, of that same book. In Paul’s discussion of divisive quarrelling in the Corinthian church he notes Apollos, Peter, Jesus and himself as the invoked rabbis of the church’s sects. I’m struck by the real distinctions between those four. Apollos was a well-spoken African Jew who came later to the Lord than did Paul and Peter. Paul describes himself as the least of the apostles, born out of time, because he learned the gospel from Jesus after the Ascension. Paul’s ministry was heavily among the Gentiles. Peter had been with Jesus from the beginning and saw everything as it happened; he was the leader of the 12 by nature and experience. These three were not enemies but they had reasons to approach their ministries from different perspectives. It makes sense that different churches or individuals might like the style of one more than the others. Perhaps the most divisive people in the church were those who were above it all: “We follow Jesus,” they archly boast. In this way they praise themselves by praising their rabbi, and thus scorn those of other tribes. Neither Paul nor Peter, nor Apollos nor Jesus were at fault for these divisions; they were simply labels for the foolishness of men—those who boast in themselves (1 Corinthians 1:18-31).

Is it mere coincidence that this period of sharp and unyielding disagreements in our convention follows a contentious political decade—one marked by the rise of social media, by which millions can say immediately every silly thing that crosses their minds? It is not coincidence and it is not in our best interest that we absorb this cultural habit. Consider a few contrary ideas.

  • Love: The greatest Christian virtue submits our own interests to the kingdom of God and to the best interests of God’s children, our brothers and sisters (Romans 12:10). Genuine love will make it difficult to see our brethren as mere adversaries. Beware of those who benefit in some way by making it harder for you to love Christians who see things differently than you do—especially over issues or emphases that will pass away.  
  • Humility: This is the second of the Christian virtues (Philippians 2:3), and no more easily displayed in our lives than the first. The world teaches us to promote ourselves, brand ourselves, brag, humble-brag, and then score points off others to exalt ourselves. It is difficult to use the tools of the secular hype industry without falling into sin. 
  • Forgiveness: We too easily say we forgive others when we continue to the think less of them afterward (Matthew 6:14). We may forgive others for something they did to us, but what about the offense we take when someone is “wrong”? My response to the bumper sticker in New Hampshire was arrogant, but mostly unforgiving. Can Calvinists, anti-Calvinists, never-Trumpers, unenthusiastic-Trumpers, all-in-Trumpers, J.D. Greear partisans and Ken Hemphill partisans forgive each other for being wrong? 

Here’s where we split—the unloving, arrogant and unforgiving attitude we have toward brothers who believe the Bible and love the Southern Baptist Convention, but who say some things differently than we do. While some things are worth parting over, that list should be shorter than we often make it. The number of things we call “heresy” or “basic to the gospel” should be few. Loss of focus is the temptation of a diverse denomination and the tendency of a generational changeover. This “everything is worth killing or dying for” message is the clamor of an unhappy society. Our SBC culture should not be like that. 

That’s the question. Are we willing to continue in fellowship for and around the gospel? As we speak to one another, or about each other, think of that question. If the Southern Baptist Convention fragments, it won’t be over the nature of the gospel or the results of a presidential election. If we split anytime soon it will be because too many of us stopped loving one another. 

My prayer for the SBC

Welcome to Texas! The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is delighted you are in Dallas. There are many things to see and do in the Metroplex. Most importantly, we need your witness as we seek to share Jesus in our area. 

This year will mark my 37th consecutive Southern Baptist Convention to attend. I was born into a Southern Baptist family. I grew up in a Southern Baptist church. I was saved at home but baptized in a Southern Baptist church. I made public my call to preach in that same church. I went to a state convention college. It was there I first encountered theological liberalism. I had professors that denied the virgin birth, bodily resurrection and exclusivity of salvation in Christ. When I protested in class and on campus, I eventually was asked to leave the school. This experience burned within me a conviction about the inerrancy of the Word of God and the doctrines that flow from that belief. This gave me a few years head start on the Conservative Resurgence. 

I love Southern Baptists. I love the Southern Baptist Convention. Sure, we have a few crazy uncles. At times I”m sure some consider me one. We are like a family. The most important part about our family is what we do to further the gospel. There is no other vehicle in evangelical Christianity that has the potential to impact the world with the gospel like the SBC. Our missionary force, seminaries and other ministries are poised for action. We simply need a renewal of the Holy Spirit”s control in our lives.

Over the past few months I refrained from public remarks about the numerous opportunities and challenges we are facing. My heart is burdened. What a tragedy it would be to see the gains of the Conservative Resurgence be lost by being distracted from our main calling. The Southern Baptist Convention is at a pivotal point, yet I am optimistic because God is able. 

One of the greatest opportunities we have is to find God”s leader for the International Mission Board. In no way minimizing the importance of other ministries, the IMB is the 900-pound gorilla in SBC life. The president of the IMB can encourage churches to give through the Cooperative Program like no one else. This will enable all SBC ministries to move forward. Our Southern Baptist culture is complicated, but the leader at IMB can pull us all together for our common passion—reaching the nations. 

The CEO/President of the Executive Committee provides another opportunity to reset the SBC. As with the IMB president, the EC needs an involved Southern Baptist who can rally the churches for gospel advance. Administrative acumen coupled with a hot heart for souls requires a person with unique gifting. With the ethnic and theological diversity of our convention we need a man who can exhibit convictional compassion. It is a tall order but God has just the one we need.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustees, acting on behalf of Southern Baptists with information we do not have, removed Paige Patterson as president. This provides another opportunity for all Southern Baptists in general and those of us in Texas to pray for the seminary. We must have a president who honors our deeply held conviction of inerrancy while equipping the rising generation of men and women of God who will serve our Lord Jesus. 

Within the last 12 months the two most recognized leaders of the Conservative Resurgence have been charged with serious violations of biblical conduct. My heart is broken for both men and their families. However, the cause they championed is not to be denigrated. Were there liberals in the Southern Baptist Convention in 1979? Without contradiction! Our convention is on sound footing today because of the efforts of tens of thousands of godly men and women who sacrificed to bring us back from the slippery slope of liberalism. The Baptist Faith and Message Statement 2000 is a complementarian document. Complementarianism is contrary to the mistreatment of women. Egregious violations of the dignity of women are no grounds for the abandonment of the BF&M2000. The pressure of cultural trends is evident in the SBC. We like to think of the church being a thermostat on culture but instead the church today is a thermometer reflecting the culture. The crude, caustic atmosphere of the nation”s political scene has bled over into our churches. Unless we begin to act like the people of God instead of the police for political correctness, we will continue to rip one another apart. When the trendy cause celebre takes the place of presenting the gospel to those in need of Christ, we have lost our way. Galatians 5:14b, 15, 25, says, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit._x009d_ 

Pastor Jeremy Bradshaw, Liberty Baptist Church, Bridge City, tweeted my sentiments. Listen to this young pastor who is wise beyond his years.

For those rooting for the Southern Baptist Convention”s demise, remember the SBC is not the erring celebrity pastor or institutional executive. The SBC is an army of yellow-hatted volunteers bringing disaster relief to a hurting community. The SBC is men and women serving as missionaries in difficult and dangerous areas out of a passion for people to know the love of Christ. The SBC is couples who have sold almost everything to move into a new city to start a church. The SBC is students in a classroom being trained to serve the local church. Most importantly, the SBC is local churches—very small to very large—who aim to be salt and light in a world full of darkness. Don”t root for its demise but pray for its revival!_x009d_ 

I say, Amen!_x009d_ I pray we will join together in Dallas as one family to pray for forgiveness, the infilling of the Holy Spirit and for the lost to come to Christ.  

Santa Fe church pledges support after shooting

SANTA FE—After a mass shooting claimed the lives of eight students and two teachers May 18 at Santa Fe High School, Arcadia First Baptist Church in Santa Fe gathered for worship. Interim pastor Jerl Watkins asked the capacity crowd to come together as a community to pray and support one another.

“This is not a time for anything except to love our neighbors,” Watkins said. 

In a statement released on the church’s website, deacon Doug McDowell said many students from the church attend Santa Fe High, including one of the 13 wounded in the attack. “We will stand ready to provide counseling and comfort for our families in the coming days,” he pledged, noting that the church hosted members of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott arrived in time to greet members and offer words of comfort before the start of the service. Afterward, Abbott left flowers at a memorial site outside the school and prayed for families.

As prayer strategist for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, Ted Elmore told members, “The hurt goes deep. It stays around a long time, but there’s help.” He offered resources to assist with counseling and other needs the church might have.

Graduating seniors who attend the church were recognized that morning and a baccalaureate service scheduled to be held at the high school was moved to the church’s worship center.

“Changing laws is not what’s going to be what changes hearts,” stated Stephen Wilhite, associate pastor of worship. “What changes hearts is us getting out of these walls and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. When people repent of their sins and put their faith in Jesus, that’s when we will see change in this world.”

REVIEW: A spoiler-free parents” guide to “Solo: A Star Wars Story”

Han Solo is a crafty young man living in a lawless society, although he thinks he’s discovered his path to a better life.

“I’m gonna be a pilot,” he says. 

There’s only one problem: He doesn’t own a ship.

So he visits the nearest Empire recruiting office to sign up for flight school, which will teach him how to be an aviator while he learns other skills and helps restore peace and prosperity to the galaxy. Or so he’s told.

As we’ve learned over the years, nothing goes as planned in Han Solo’s life, and soon he’s caught up in a risky burglary plot that could either kill him or make him rich. Perhaps if he’s fortunate, he’ll even find a ship along the way.

Solo: A Star Wars Story (PG-13) opens in theaters this weekend, less than six months removed from the last Star Wars film and three years after Disney rebooted the franchise. Solo is the 10th Star Wars movie and the second stand-alone film – meaning it doesn’t follow the chronological sequence of the main saga. It tells the story of a young Han Solo and falls about 20 years prior to events in Star Wars: A New Hope (1977).

It stars Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!) as Han Solo, Woody Harrelson (Hunger Games) as his companion Beckett, Emilia Clarke (Me Before You) as his romantic interest Qi’ra, and Donald Glover (The Martian) as a young Lando Calrissian.

Most movie reviews dive into the details of a plot. This review, though, will be different. That’s because Star Wars fans – like me – often want to enter the theater with as little knowledge as possible. To them, a Star Wars movie is like a Christmas present, and they want to be surprised. Yet they also want to know the answer to the ever-so-important question: Is it OK to take the kids?

If that’s you, then here’s what you need to know: Solo is as violent as Rogue One. It has no sexuality but does include five kissing scenes. It also has around 11 coarse words – a record for a Star Wars film.

If you need more information, then keep reading.

(Scale key: Minimal, moderate, extreme)

Violence/Disturbing

Moderate. Like other Star Wars films, Solo contains plenty of laser blaster and battle scenes, even if it’s mostly bloodless. We see someone get hit in the chest with an instrument and then punched in the chest. A droid is run over by a vehicle. We watch a World War II-type battle scene, minus the blood. (We do see explosions and shooting.) A heist of a train involves shooting, punching and explosions. A character detonates a bomb, sacrificing herself to save everyone else. A character dies in close hand-to-hand combat, and we see his body.   

Sexuality/Sensuality

Minimal. Five kissing scenes, including one that lasts more than a second or two. One female character wears a somewhat revealing dress. No bedroom scenes or discussions of sex.

Coarse Language

Minimal. I counted 11 coarse words: h-ll (8), d—n (2), a—1). That’s not a lot of words for a PG-13 film, but nevertheless is the most ever in a Star Wars movie – and nearly double the previous high of six in The Last Jedi. Han curses some, but it’s mostly Beckett.   

Other Positive Elements

Han Solo, despite his desire to be a bad guy, makes his share of good choices. (See “Worldview,” below.)

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

We see characters drink alcohol. We also watch some of the primary characters gamble for money and possessions. The Force is not mentioned or practiced in the film. Some of the main characters lie to get ahead.  

Life Lessons

Solo gives us lessons on bravery, teamwork and doing the right thing, although many of the film’s lessons serve as warnings on the pitfalls of sin and crime. Speaking of that …     

Worldview

Han Solo is an antihero – that is, a protagonist who lacks the conventional qualities of a hero. He often does the right thing, even if he is attracted to the criminal life.

“I’m an outlaw,” he says.

“You are the good guy,” a friend retorts.

He hangs out with a few bad apples in Solo, and in spite of their tough demeanor, they desire for a normal life free from running from debtors. They simply want to start anew. One of them says he wants to out of his crazy lifestyle of robbery and learn how to play a musical instrument!

But they’re stuck in a spinning cycle of crime, whereby each bad deed is covered by another one.

The Bible says the law is written on our hearts (Romans 2:15). In other words, God designed us so that we will never be satisfied with a life of crime – even that of a smuggler in Star Wars. The life of Han Solo may sound fun, but in the real world, it’s a miserable existence.

Still, Han makes lots of good choices, too – choices that even his future friend Luke Skywalker would endorse.

The movie also raises the ethical question: Is it OK to steal from the Empire? Sometimes the answer is obvious. Other times it’s not. 

Sponsors

Denny’s, Esurance, General Mills, Nissan and Symantec Corp are among the sponsors for Solo.

What Works

Surprisingly, the music. Unless I missed it, the rock music heard in the trailer isn’t in Solo. In its place, we get the orchestral music that makes a Star Wars movie so great.

Additionally, two of the action scenes stand out. One is as good as any action sequence in The Empire Strikes Back.     

What Doesn’t

The end of the film drags. Compared to the last three Star Wars movies, it was a dud.

Where Does It Rank?

My updated Star Wars film rankings: 1a. The Empire Strikes Back, 1b. A New Hope, 3. The Force Awakens, 4. The Last Jedi, 5. Return of the Jedi, 6a. Rogue One, 6b. Solo, 8. Revenge of the Sith, 9. The Phantom Menace, 10. Attack of the Clones.

Discussion Questions

  1. Was it morally permissible for Han and his friends to rob the train, and then to steal from the planet?
  2. Would you want to be Han Solo? Why or why not?
  3. Name three good deeds of Han Solo in the film. Name three bad ones.
  4. Is it OK to cheer for an antihero? How so?

Entertainment rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Texans help Mexico City team strive for global impact

MEXICO CITY  When you’re a team of 12, how do you even start to reach a city of more than 28 million people? That’s a question Todd Beel’s team in Mexico City asks itself a lot. 

He and fellow IMB missionaries in the megacity hail from places ranging from Colombia to Cuba and from Korea to Texas. They represent a diverse collection of backgrounds and skillsets all working together. Some work with young families, others specialize in theological training, or working with university students. Some team members are single, some are married and some have children.

But they all have one vision—to see the world worship Jesus, and for it to start right where they are. 

“This is a massive city,” Beel, the team leader, said. “There are unreached people and places within it, and we want to take the gospel to those places.”

The team is seeing it start to happen already, and they’re seeing new believers catch a vision for reaching the nations. That’s exactly what they pray for. “Because this is a world-class city, it has connections around the world and people are coming and going every day, so this city has a reach worldwide,” Beel said.

Beel’s wife, Anne, grew up in Houston. He attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Fisher, Texas, in the Hill Country, was their base for about eight years when they returned to the United States, and they plan to spend their next stateside assignment in Houston, he told the TEXAN.

From the Beels’ home in Mexico City, they can spot planes coming in every five minutes or so. “Each time, that’s another couple hundred people coming in from Europe, multiple cities across Europe, cities across South America, many cities in the United States and Canada,” Beel said. 

Each time one lands, the vast city opens its arms to a little more diversity, and each time the task of reaching them for Christ gets a little bigger. But that’s exactly why the team is compelled to be there.

“Those are people coming and going all day long for business, work, sports and study,” Beel said. “It’s kind of like, ‘Who has the Lord brought to this city today who needs to be reached with the gospel?’ Many of them are coming from unreached people groups around the world.”

And as those planes leave again, they could be taking the gospel back with them, he said. That’s the hope of the team, a dozen people working together to equip new believers to take the gospel to unreached pockets of Mexico City and the world. 

Will Wright, a 20-something who recently joined the team, said it’s a big vision, but at the micro level, he can already see God at work. Wright has been working to build a strategy to reach the city’s universities, and in getting to know the students, a recent conversation turned into a four-hour discussion about the gospel. The next thing he knew, a young man named Daniel chose Christ over all the other things that had seemed good in his life before.

“Within a very short amount of time, there’s drastic changes in his life,” Wright said. “He’s wanting to live for the Lord. I see him broken over the sins of other people. I see him with a passion that other people come to know the Lord.” 

Wright, Beel and others are praising God for those kinds of transformations and hoping to fan the flames of that kind of passion into a fire that reaches the whole world for Christ.

“I’m just excited to think about the potential in what may be happening in the years to come, not only within but also without, as the people of the city, those who will come to know the Lord or already do, are mobilized to make a difference,” Beel said.  

Patterson named president emeritus at Southwestern

FORT WORTH—Trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary named Paige Patterson president emeritus after spending 13 hours behind closed doors discussing “challenges facing the institution, including those of enrollment, financial, leadership and institutional identity,” according to a statement issued May 23.

Patterson had requested the meeting after a 2000 audio clip circulated online launched a firestorm of criticism over his view of domestic abuse and avoidance of divorce.

The board expressed gratitude “for the contributions Dr. and Mrs. Paige Patterson have made since his presidency began in 2003,” the statement read. “Further, we honor his longstanding dedication and commitment to serving the Southern Baptist Convention in its mission to present the gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations by leading the way for the conservative resurgence.”

Trustees heard an update on executive committee meetings held during that month, a report of a special trustee review committee, and considered the president’s performance and the situation currently facing the seminary in light of the social media frenzy.

After the doors were opened at 3 a.m., chairman Kevin Ueckert of Georgetown announced Patterson’s acceptance of the new role. With the vote taken behind closed doors, no tally was given as to the number of trustees supporting the action to change Patterson’s title, though a follow-up statement characterized it as a majority. Thirty-five trustees of the 40-member board were present for the meeting in Southwestern’s Riley Center, while one participated via video conferencing.

Ueckert also reported the board’s affirmation of a motion stating that “evidence exists that the president has complied with laws concerning assault and abuse.” He added, “The seminary stands against all forms of abuse.”

Furthermore, the chairman reported that the board found  no evidence of misconduct in the personnel file of Nathan Montgomery, a student who was fired from seminary employment after he tweeted an article by Wheaton College professor Ed Stetzer that criticized Patterson’s leadership.

Another motion affirmed the board’s offer last September for the Pattersons to live on campus as the first theologians-in-residence at the Baptist Heritage Center to be completed in July.

Trustees named theology dean Jeffrey Bingham to serve as interim president, pending his acceptance. Bingham gained administrative and teaching experience at Dallas Theological Seminary, Criswell College and Wheaton College before being named to lead the School of Theology in 2016. A committee that includes four trustees will assist in the transition from Patterson’s leadership to Bingham’s interim role.

“As we begin the process of ushering in a new season of leadership, SWBTS remains steadfast in its calling to assist the churches of the SBC by biblically educating God-called men and women for ministries that fulfill the Great Commission and glorify God,” the official news release stated.

Only one trustee supported a failed effort by board member Wayne Dickard of Easley, S.C., who objected to the Executive Committee having held “multiple meetings” instead of waiting for the full board to convene.

Within 15 minutes after convening at 1:30 p.m., the board went into executive session, hearing a presentation from Patterson with cabinet members and a few selected staff and faculty who were allowed to remain in the room. About 4 p.m. he was called back with his cabinet for another hour and a half,  and appeared once more late in the evening, amounting to nearly three hours in discussion with trustees.

Patterson’s 15-year tenure at Southwestern Seminary prioritized archaeology, missions, women’s studies and evangelism. Key accomplishments include:

  • a focus on academics paired with evangelism and missions known as “scholarship on fire”;
  • expansion of undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs for women with Terri Stovall named as the first dean of women’s programs in a Southern Baptist seminary, Dorothy Patterson as professor of theology in women’s studies, Candi Finch as assistant professor of theology in women’s studies and Hongyi Yang as assistant professor of systematic theology in women’s studies;
  • launched undergraduate degrees in humanities, biblical studies and music through what came to be known as Scarborough College;
  • bolstered the School of Church Music and gaining funding to become an all-Steinway school;
  • completed MacGorman Chapel, the 3,500-seat auditorium and performance venue; Mathena Hall which houses the Roy Fish School of Missions and Evangelism along with the College;
  • created the School of Preaching;
  • launched the Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement, Center for Expository Preaching, and Center for Early Christian Studies;
  • added the M.A. in archaeology and biblical studies along with the Tandy Institute for Archaeology; and
  • significantly increased the school’s endowment.