Month: October 2018

Breakout sessions to spotlight race, gender roles, Great Commission

Kingwood The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention annual meeting isn’t shying away from what often are labeled “hot-button” issues in its panel discussions, and convention president Juan Sanchez hopes they serve as a model for civility. 

The program features four breakout sessions during a scheduled 90-minute lunch Tuesday, Nov. 13, covering such issues as race, gender and sexuality. Messengers will be able to select two of them. The meeting will take place at Second Baptist Church, North in Kingwood.

“Our goal is not to push any particular agenda or position, but to equip pastors, church leaders, and church members to handle these issues when they are confronted with them in their local churches,” Sanchez, pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, told the TEXAN. “In addition, because they are ‘hot-button’ issues for many, we also hope to provide a model for how to have humble, edifying, Christian conversations in a manner that provides more light than heat and that maintains the dignity of all our brothers and sisters, regardless of their personal position on some of these matters.”

Each breakout session spans 40 minutes. The session titles are:

u “Moving forward in conversations about race.” Richard Taylor (moderator), SBTC associate director of personal evangelism and fellowships; A.B. Vines, SBC first vice president; Andrew Hebert, pastor of Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo; and Juan Alaniz, Spanish language pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church. 

u “Fulfilling the Great Commission as the nations come to Texas.” Sanchez (moderator); David Fleming, pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston; Philip Levant, pastor of Iglesia Bautista La Vid in Hurst; and Eric Shin, pastor of New Life Church in Houston.

u “The value of women serving in the church.” Bart Barber (moderator), pastor of First Baptist in Farmersville; Laura Taylor, SBTC women’s ministry associate; Katie Van Dyke, assistant director of operations and strategy for Speak for the Unborn; and Grant Castleberry, pastor of discipleship at Providence Church in Frisco. 

u “Gender and sexuality.” Ben Wright (moderator), pastor of Cedar Pointe Baptist Church in Cedar Park; Barry Creamer, president of Criswell College; and Owen Strachan, assistant professor of Christian theology at Midwestern Theology Seminary and senior fellow of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood.

“I am sure some may see these breakouts as trying to dive into the hot-button issues of our day,” Sanchez said. “Actually, though, that was not my thought when we talked about the need for these panels. Rather, Dr. Jim Richards, our executive director, Michael Criner, our chair of the Committee on the Order of Business, and I agreed that these were some of the most prominent issues facing our pastors and churches today.”

A Tuesday morning panel discussion during the plenary session will spotlight another sometimes contentious issue: “Complementarianism and the Future of the SBC.” It is scheduled for 10:13 a.m. Sanchez will moderate. Scheduled panelists include Strachan, Castleberry, and writer and speaker Karen Yarnell.

The planning team for the annual meeting, Sanchez said, noted that complementarianism was an issue at this summer’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Dallas.

“Our confessional statement [Baptist Faith & Message 2000] is clear that only men are to be pastors. We’re in agreement on that,” Sanchez said in email comments. “But each local church works that out in different ways. Some pastors and churches apply complementarianism narrowly—only within the home and the local church. Other pastors and churches apply complementarianism more broadly—within the home, the church, and culture at large. We must recognize all who profess Jesus Christ as Lord as our brothers and sisters in Christ. And we must also recognize that all who confess the BF&M 2000 are cooperating partners in fulfilling the Great Commission through the SBTC. 

“Still, we need to be able to have these conversations (and disagreements) in a Christian manner that upholds the dignity of all involved,” Sanchez added. “Since our planning team sensed that this issue will come up again at the SBC meeting in Birmingham [in 2019], we hope to model how that conversation might take place among brothers and sisters who are one in Christ, love one another, and may be at different points on the spectrum of complementarianism.”  

McKissic sermon restored to SWBTS website

Fort Worth—According to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s chapel archives, a sermon by Dwight McKissic that was once withheld from the website is now available online.

McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington and then-trustee of SWBTS, made news in 2006 when he preached a chapel sermon in which he admitted his personal use of a private prayer language and obliquely critiqued International Mission Board policies in place at the time.

“I’m here to say that as the Spirit gives me utterance I pray in tongues in my private prayer life, and I’m not ashamed of that,” McKissic said. “I do believe that all spiritual gifts listed in Scripture are operable today, and by the grace of God some Christians will experience the gift of tongues when filled with the Holy Spirit. 

“I think it’s tragic in Baptist life when we take a valid, vital gift that the Bible talks about and come up with a policy that says people who pray in tongues in their private prayer lives cannot work in certain positions.”

In November of 2005, IMB trustees had voted to establish a policy precluding its incoming field agents from participating in the use of a private prayer language, stating that “if ‘private prayer language’ is an ongoing part of” a missionary candidate’s practice, “the candidate has eliminated himself or herself from being a representative of the IMB of the SBC.”

SWBTS issued a press release later that day explaining the decision to not post McKissic’s sermon.

“[W]hile Southwestern does not instruct its chapel speakers about what they can or cannot say, neither do we feel that there is wisdom in posting materials online which could place us in a position of appearing to be critical of actions of the Board of Trustees of a sister agency,” the statement read. “[T]hough most of Rev. McKissic’s message represented a position with which most people at Southwestern would be comfortable, Rev. McKissic’s interpretation of tongues as ‘ecstatic utterance’ is not a position that we suspect would be advocated by most faculty or trustees.

“For these two reasons stated above the President made the decision not to continue the video-streaming of this message lest uninformed people believe that Pastor McKissic’s view on the gift of tongues as ‘ecstatic utterance’ is the view of the majority of our people at Southwestern.”

Two months after McKissic’s sermon the trustees adopted a statement on private prayer languages, which stated that “Southwestern will not knowingly endorse in any way, advertise, or commend the conclusions of the contemporary charismatic movement including ‘private prayer language.’ Neither will Southwestern knowingly employ professors or administrators who promote such practices.” McKissic was the lone dissenting vote on the motion to adopt the statement.

McKissic’s sermon set off a chain of events—including a meeting with trustee officers and a publicly issued apology—that ultimately led to his 2007 resignation from the seminary’s board.

In his letter of resignation, directed to then-chairman Van McClain, McKissic expressed his love for the seminary despite differences of opinion and regret for “pain and frustration” he had caused the school during his brief tenure as a trustee. 

“I shall always be grateful and honored for the opportunity to have served the SBC and SWBTS this past year,” McKissic wrote. “However, my involvement as a trustee has been a huge distraction from my ministry priorities for the past nine months. I’ve devoted too much mental, physical, emotional and even spiritual energy to matters resulting from the aftermath of my chapel sermon. I’ve been distracted and consumed with SBC/SWBTS matters the past nine months in a way that I haven’t been the past 24 years of pastoring an SBC church.

“It has taken a tremendous toll on my family and ministry, and my wife believes it has negatively impacted my health. I simply want to return to the place I was prior to being a trustee. The time and attention that I’ve given to SBC/SWBTS issues since my chapel sermon, I must now once again devote to my family and the Cornerstone Church.”

The seminary’s release of the sermon was not accompanied by a press release or announcement on social media.

On Twitter, McKissic reacted to the seminary’s decision to restore his sermon to their website.

“Grateful for the decision by SWBTS to remove my ‘06 chapel sermon from censorship. I’m even more excited and grateful for the heart for revival and reconciliation on all fronts at the seminary, where The Word of God & The Spirit of God calls for reconciliation. Praying that SWBTS [sic] best days will be before her, not behind her,” he wrote. “God bless SWBTS.”

The ban on private prayer languages for IMB personnel was reversed by the entity’s board of trustees in 2015, along with loosened restrictions regarding divorce and baptism.

In response to a question from the TEXAN, Charles Patrick, VP of communications said that the addition of the archived sermon was part of the seminary’s task to “ensure and preserve the history of the institution. …“Approximately 30 items a month are updated to the digital archive database … Dr. McKissic’s sermon from 2006 was merely one of those monthly updates. The addition of Dr. McKissic’s sermon has nothing to do with him, Dr. Patterson, or any theological position.”

Update Oct. 26, 4:30. Charles Patrick offered the following clarification to his remarks Friday morning:

“Many decisions have been made as Southwestern moves forward, including the decision to not censor chapel sermons from the historical archives process. Dr. McKissic’s sermon was affected by this decision and it was uploaded to the archives; it was the right thing to do.”

REVIEW: “Indivisible” has a convicting message for those in ministry

Heather Turner is a stressed-out Army wife who wants her husband home.

For the past 15 months, she’s been juggling three children and day-to-day-life while her husband, Chaplain Darren Turner, serves in his first tour in Iraq. Separation has been tougher than they expected.

But when Darren returns to the U.S., life doesn’t go back to normal. The loving husband and father has been replaced by someone who is distant and angry. Instead of playing with the children, he sits alone in the backyard, contemplating the horrors of war. And instead of helping with the housework, he argues … a lot.

Finally, after one heated argument, Heather orders him to move out.

Darren and Heather each got into military life to help save souls and rescue marriages. Are they willing to go to battle to save their own relationship?

The faith-based movie Indivisible (PG-13) opens this weekend, telling the true story of a chaplain whose marriage was nearly torn apart due to emotions and pressures he didn’t expect. It stars Justin Bruening (Grey’s Anatomy) as Darren and Sarah Drew (Grey’s Anatomy, Mom’s Night Out) as Heather, and was directed by David G. Evans, who also helmed the faith-based movie The Grace Card. Provident Films, the same film company behind I Can Only Imagine and War Room, was involved with Indivisible.  

It reportedly is the first film ever to spotlight a military chaplain, although its target audience is military and non-military families. That’s because it carries many of the universal themes and messages that were in the 2008 movie Fireproof.

The movie begins with Darren reporting for duty at Fort Stewart and learning that due to a shortage in personnel, he needs to travel overseas faster than he and Heather had planned.

Indivisible is an entertaining and inspiring movie that has a message that many families, including those in ministry, need to hear. Bruening and Drew are solid in their roles, too.

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)

Violence/Disturbing

Minimal. We see several gore-free combat scenes. Death is discussed. Bodies are placed on stretchers. Darren carries a dead child. One of the most tense-scenes involves Heather and her attempt to prevent her asthmatic daughter from dying. (The girl survives.)

Sexuality/Sensuality/Nudity

None. Darren and Heather kiss.

Coarse Language

None.

Other Positive Elements

Darren’s commitment to the people in his unit is impressive. When one soldier tells Darren to mind his own business and to stop asking personal questions, Darren lays off momentarily but doesn’t give up. He also befriends a soldier who is doubting God. It’s obvious that Darren has a calling on his life from God. Heather, too, is involved in her own ministry outreach (to military spouses).

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

Darren and Heather have a couple of heated arguments.  

Life Lessons

Indivisible provides multiple life lessons, including ones on forgiveness and reconciliation, selflessness, and balancing family life and ministry. Speaking of that …

Worldview/Application

The movie’s primary theme is reconciliation within a marriage. But related to that is a theme directed at those in the ministry: balancing family responsibilities with God’s call on your life.

Most pastors work well beyond 40 hours during the week, facing pressures not seen in some other professions. Just like in Indivisible, the family can be forgotten.

“There are elements of this film that I think many pastors will be able to identify with — the struggles they face every day,” Evans, the director, told me. “It’s the phone calls, the visits to homes and hospitals, and the counseling that they do. … We’ve all seen examples where pastors can have a huge fall from grace and they’re being attacked by the enemy.”

The good news: God can salvage any broken relationship.

What Works

Acting is a weakness in some faith-based films. In Indivisible, it’s a strength.

What Doesn’t

The war scenes are passable, but they are not as strong (or gritty) as in most movies you’ll see.

Discussion Questions

  1. What caused Darren and Heather’s relationship to fall apart? What saved it? Who was at fault?
  2. What is the key to forgiveness and reconciliation within a marriage? Within friendships?
  3. Why does ministry sometimes take precedent over family life? What is the secret to finding the right balance?

Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Rated PG-13 for some thematic material and war violence.

Permian Basin church refocuses on its community and oilfield camps

GARDENDALE—“The first step toward solving a problem is to recognize that it does exist” is one of the acclaimed sayings of the late Southern Baptist motivational speaker Zig Ziglar.

Members of First Southern Baptist Church of Gardendale recognized their problem: the church was on its last legs.

“In the latter part of 2017 came an awakening that our finances were dwindling, our attendance was dwindling, and no young people,” said Terry Easley, pastor since 2005. “We didn’t see a future. That’s when we knew we needed a change.”

In its first summer with a new vision, First Southern Gardendale already is reaping the rewards of reaching out to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention for its help in revitalization.

Easley contacted Kenneth Priest, SBTC director of convention strategies, who connected him with revitalization consultant Mike Landry. The men and the congregation looked at the church’s past and present, and envisioned “a future blessed by the Lord,” Easley told the TEXAN.

When Easley had arrived as pastor in May 2005, a dozen people welcomed him. That grew to such an overflow situation for the 125 attending Sunday morning worship that in 2012, the church built a new 299-seat worship center, eight classrooms, nursery and office space.

“In 2015 is when the decline started,” Easley recalled. “People started moving out, retiring, some of them even moving out of state. We lost about 12 families and couples.”

The congregation that remained was for the most part, older. Church leaders discussed building a gym to bring in young people, but there was no money. It had all gone to the now debt-free 2012 construction project.

“We prayed about it and went with the revitalization program,” the pastor continued. “We liked that the intent of the program was to not only grow the church but to strengthen the church to be able to reach our community.”

SBTC provided First Southern Gardendale with a demographic study, which showed “a lot of potential growth within three miles of the church,” Easley said. “We learned there are many uncommitted people near us.

“We all humbled ourselves,” the pastor continued. “We all began to pray. We realized we are not in control, and God just started moving.”

Revitalization starts with prayer, Landry, the revitalization consultant, told the congregation. For 40 days last spring, First Southern Gardendale members prayed in their home with the help of a prayer guide from SBTC.

On “Launch Sunday,” June 24, Landry offered a stirring sermon about the “dry bones” spoken of in Ezekiel, and how “if you give it to the Lord, he’ll bring it back to life,” Easley said.

Gardendale, a town of less than 500 permanent housing units in far West Texas, is mushrooming as a result of the Permian Basin oil boom, where output is expected to double between 2017 and 2023, according to IHS Markit, an industry intelligence tool. With the need for housing far surpassing availability, oil companies and private contractors have attempted to fill the gap with portable housing.

Some housing is dorm-style, with two or more men to a room in what are known as “man camps.” Some areas have “family camps,” which are clusters of RVs and fifth-wheel trailer units.

“We have an estimated 3,000 people in man/family camps within a three-mile radius of the church,” Easley said. “We’re seeing some of them come to our church but as far as getting a long-term commitment, they have a church home where they come from.”

While Easley’s main focus is on Gardendale’s permanent residents, as the church’s ability to do so grows, it wants to grow in its ministry to the people staying in the camps, the pastor said.

He mentioned an Asian family attending that includes five youngsters and their parents. They own a nice home in Tennessee, but wanted to stay together when the father took an oilfield job, so they live in a 32-foot fifth-wheel parked on the dry, hot and treeless West Texas land.

One of First Southern Gardendale’s first outreaches in the early stages of its revitalization was to provide an evening VBS in late July. It drew youngsters from the permanent community and the family camps.

“We had 35 to 40 kids per night who attended,” the pastor noted. “Eleven made professions of faith and from that we had 20 join the church. Since then we’ve had 13 professions of faith, three baptisms and six families join, one of which had five kids.”

Easley spoke of another oilfield worker in his 40s, who started attending with his wife and three half-grown youngsters. Within a month he made a profession of faith in Jesus.

“We set a date for his baptism, and he told his employer he needed that Sunday off,” the pastor said. The boss said no. The employee on Thursday asked again for Sunday off, and was told no. On Friday, he asked again and the boss said, according to what Easley said he’d been told, “No way you’re getting off on Sunday. You’re not getting into that Jesus stuff.”

The new Christian employee quit, was baptized on Sunday, and on Monday found a job with more pay plus benefits and every Sunday off. Since then, his three children all have made professions of faith, and his Christian wife is helping in First Southern Gardendale’s children’s ministry.

“It’s not anything we do,” Easley said. “It’s what God does through us.”

About 50 people now attend First Southern Gardendale, which just completed a study on the seven churches noted in the New Testament book of Revelation.

“One thing I have to stress,” Easley said. “It was really nothing I did. I just tried to do what the Lord was leading us to do. It’s just being obedient to what he’s wanting our church to be.”

“The discipleship part is very vital,” the pastor continued. “But if you don’t get them there to start with, you can’t disciple them.”

This fall First Southern Gardendale plans to start teaching ESL classes. At an interest meeting in August, 14 people showed up to learn more how to help.

Reaching people, seeing people making professions of faith and being baptized, is the bottom line of revitalization, Landry said.

“One thing about Bro. Terry,” the revitalization consultant said, “he has bought into the hard work and vision necessary for revitalization. Revitalization requires a pastor getting his vision back. Bro. Terry really wants to see God do his work in Gardendale. He [Easley] is committed to that, and that will make the difference.”

The biggest SBC story

The simultaneous transitions in leadership at five of our 12 SBC agencies is the most significant thing that’s happened to our denomination in 20 years. Add to this the fact that three of those transitions were precipitated by varying degrees of controversy. You could say three of five were involuntary. Two of the involuntary transitions resulted in disappointment or hurt among the leaders’ or institutions’ partisans. The men and women in these search committees have a great deal of influence over the future of our convention. They deserve our prayer support, our deep gratitude and our closest attention. 

I’ve seen 29 transitions at our 12 (it was 19 prior to 1997) SBC institutions since I began editing a Baptist paper. Of those, 17 were accompanied by controversy, even compulsion to leave. Most of the transitions disrupted the work of the institutions and almost all of them resulted in big changes in staffing and vision. Leadership changes in churches and institutions can be “two steps forward, three steps back” events for the ministries. The current transitions in the SBC institutions will result in impactful course changes for those important SBC ministries. That’s why I say those search committees, and the boards to which they answer, deserve our closest attention.

It matters who will lead the International Mission Board, the Executive Committee, Southwestern Seminary, New Orleans Seminary and LifeWay Christian Resources. You have had opportunity to see how the personal beliefs and style of SBC agency leaders affect the work we attempt to do together. The differences I saw between Keith Parks, Jerry Rankin, Tom Elliff and David Platt at the IMB resulted in changes in missionary strategy, missionary accountability, financial strategies and relationships with SBC churches. Our missionaries currently on the field could see changes in what they do and even where they do it, based on the theology and vision of that next leader. That has happened multiple times in the past 30 years. The swerving strategies we’ve seen in world missions may be less pronounced at the other four agencies, but in their own ways they will impact the way our churches do worldwide cooperative ministries. How can we hear them? 

First and last, we should pray for them. Pray in a focused way so that the attitudes, actions and discernment needed will manifest themselves in the election of God-ordained leaders for our SBC work. Pray for boldness. I’ve seen a couple of times when a board acted out of fear and soon regretted the decision. These search committees are getting a lot of advice, even pressure. It will take courage for them to sort out guidance from other kinds of inducements. Pray for guidance. These processes often surprise everyone as a leader rises out of “nowhere” to be just the right one. That is no more the work of God than when the expected person is elected, but it does remind us that this is a spiritual process, not just an employee search. Pray for energy. Imagine adding monthly meetings, along with some between meeting research, to your schedule. These folks serve Southern Baptists by overseeing our institutions. Now a few have the added responsibility of locating and nominating a high-profile leader from among millions of constituents. 

We can also encourage them. In some cases we know search committee members personally. In every case, we can know their names and the institutions they serve. If need be, send a note to the headquarters and ask them to forward it to search committee members. Encourage them with a kind word, a call to some action you believe appropriate, or maybe a verse of Scripture. It can seem like thankless work. It can also seem like work in which too few people are interested. 

We can support the institution’s work in the interim. I’ve been disappointed to hear folks saying they’ll no longer support this or that because a leader left. I understand that some transitions are shocking, others heartbreaking. But it’s a lot like a church that changes pastors—those who leave probably had less interest in the ministry than in the leader. An SBC agency, like a church, has a life both before and after a particular leader. In our day, the next leaders of any of our ministries are not likely to make 180-degree turns in theology or practice. Turning your back on an institution because a leader departed makes it all about your preferences. 

Doing these things will make a difference. These actions give proof to our claim that we care about the future of the SBC and it global ministry. These transitions are significant and each has its own specific drama. But they are also opportunities to see each ministry move into a new era of effectiveness as a leader with his own style takes the reins. Those who are doing hard work and seeking God’s men to lead us need to know that the rest of us are not standing around watching. It’s our work, too. 

All 3 SBTC officers to be renominated

Kingwood All three officers within the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention will be renominated at this year’s annual meeting Nov. 12-13 at Second Baptist Church, North in Kingwood. 

President Juan Sanchez, pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, will be renominated by Ben Wright,  pastor of Cedar Pointe Baptist Church in Cedar Park.

“Our convention has a straightforward gospel-spreading, church-planting mission,” Wright said. “Both external pressures and internal disagreements threaten to distract us from that mission. Juan Sanchez is ardently committed both to our biblical convictions and to our gospel mission. I know of no pastor who’s more capable of leading us in unity to advance that mission.”

Vice President Joshua Crutchfield,  pastor of First Baptist Church in Madisonville, will be renominated by David Fleming, pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston.

“I have known Joshua Crutchfield for more than 10 years and served with him as a fellow pastor, a member of the Southern Baptists of Texas Board of Trustees, and as a personal friend,” Fleming said. “He is a man of great character and integrity, vision and passion, and wisdom beyond his years. I would recommend Joshua to the SBTC regardless of his age, but I am especially encouraged by what I see and know of him, as one example of the many fine young pastors we have in Texas. I not only trust his leadership, but I am excited about our future as Southern Baptists of Texas with young pastors like Joshua Crutchfield leading the way.”  

Secretary Joyce McKinley of Rowlett Friendship Baptist Church will be renominated by Johnnie Bradley, pastor of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas. 

“Joyce exemplifies integrity and sincerity to the highest degree,” Bradley said. “With a woman with that type of integrity and sincerity, I believe that she will make a great secretary and role model. She’s consistent, she’s faithful, she’s dutiful, and most of all, she’s immersed in humility. That’s what we need.” 

No other nominations have been announced for president, vice president or secretary. 

The glory and goal of missions

“Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’ And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’” (Revelation 5:11-13)

Have you ever seen those pictures that make you cross your eyes and make funny faces in order to try and see the hidden three-dimensional (3-D) image? When you first see these pictures, the variety of the colors and the detail of the individual shapes distract your focus from seeing the hidden image; however, when you look through the image and focus on the big picture, rather than the individual images, then the hidden image emerges (or it’s supposed to).

If we’re not careful, life can be like looking at those 3-D images. At least, that’s what people mean when they say, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” Sometimes we’re so focused on the smaller details of life that we fail to see the “big” picture. The same thing happens in the church. We won’t understand our mission if we don’t first see the big picture. The details of our mission help us answer the who, what, when, where and how questions. When we think about the big picture, though, then we are asking the “why” question—why do we do evangelism and missions? If you try to answer the why question by merely looking at the details, your answer will be incomplete or possibly even skewed. You won’t see the forest for the trees.

The Big Picture

Although the book of Revelation seems difficult to understand, it offers a clear message about the glory of God and his power to bring about his plan in history no matter how bad the present circumstances (the details) may appear to his people. By looking around us it seems like the world is falling apart, yet Revelation 4 reminds us that God is still on his throne. Additionally, in Revelation 5, we see that there is only one who is able to accomplish God’s saving plan—the one whom God has placed beside him on his throne: Jesus Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David (Revelation 5:5), the Lamb that was slain (Revelation 5:9, 12). 

Jesus purchased a people for God from every tribe, language and nation, making them a kingdom of priests to God (Revelation 5:9-10). Our role in this plan is to make disciples of all nations (the details) in order that those who presently do not worship Jesus Christ may become worshipers of the one true and living God (the big picture). 

So, the ultimate reason we do missions is the glory of God in Christ—that Christ would become famous in all the world as the treasure most worthy to be prized and praised. But the glory of God in Christ is not just the goal of mission, it is also the rule for mission. When we understand that we make disciples of all nations to the glory of God in Christ, we should be moved to share Christ with everyone the Lord brings into our lives—whether across the street or across the world.

The Details

We share the gospel with our unbelieving family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances and co-workers (evangelism) that God may be glorified in Christ Jesus. We pray for, give to and go on mission preaching the gospel to all the world so that those who presently do not worship God, in Christ, by the power of the Spirit, may become true worshipers in spirit and in truth. It is our privilege to participate in God’s eternal plan to exalt Jesus as King and Lord over all things by sharing the gospel and calling all peoples everywhere to repent and believe in King
Jesus. 

So, share the good news of Jesus with unbelievers as the Spirit gives you opportunity and pray for missionaries who are serving throughout the world. But don’t stop there. Help send missionaries to peoples who do not know Jesus. Consider GOING—whether short-term, mid-term, or for life. However we engage, may the glory of God fuel our evangelism and missions. 

“To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever” (Revelation 5:13)! 

Heroic pilot speaks at First Baptist Dallas: “Hope always changes us”

DALLAS Tammie Jo Shults, the Southwest Airlines captain who safely landed SW flight 1380 on April 17 after the plane’s left engine exploded, told the congregations of both Sunday morning services Oct. 21 at First Baptist Dallas that she wasn’t supposed to be flying that fateful day. It was not the only surprise she offered the church.

“I traded with my husband,” Shults, a former U.S. Navy fighter pilot and mother of two, said while interviewed on the First Dallas worship center stage by Pastor Robert Jeffress.

“And he is going to be hearing about that the rest of his life,” Jeffress noted with a smile.

“He calls it the gift that keeps on giving,” Shults said as the audience in both services laughed and applauded.

Asked to relate her faith background, Shults said she grew up in rural New Mexico and realized as a child that God was the creator: “seeing sunsets and moonrises and listening to bird songs, it doesn’t take long to realize we’re not sovereign, that somebody made this happen.”

Not until she was 13 did Shults trust Christ as Savior, when it “finally dawned” on her through a study of God’s Word at church camp that Jesus wasn’t demanding perfect behavior but offering love.

“I realized he only asked me to believe, not to behave, and that what he was asking me to believe was that he loved me: nothing weird, nothing strange, just that he loved me,” Shults said, adding that reading Scripture through God’s “lens of love” opened the Bible to her in an “amazing way.”

As for the event of April 17, Shults recalled that her first officer, Darren Ellisor, was flying the Boeing 737-700 as the plane passed 32,000 feet in altitude and the left engine blew, puncturing a window with shrapnel and causing a deafening and rapid depressurization.

The incident claimed the life of passenger Jennifer Riordan.

Shults asked the First Dallas congregation to think about the noise generated when one drives 60 mph with a window rolled down. “Well, at 500 mph, it’s a roar,” she said, explaining that she and Ellisor had to communicate with hand signals. Rapid depressurization sucks air out of the aircraft and people’s lungs, Shults said, describing a punctured balloon to illustrate her point.

She told the congregation that she preferred to focus on the “human element of courage” that surfaced during the ordeal, commending passengers like Peggy Phillips, Tim McGinty and Andrew Needham: “Everyone that day, very much, understood the value of human life and how every life is precious.”

(Editor’s note: Retired nurse Phillips, Tim McGinty and firefighter Needham all attempted to save Riordan, abandoning their oxygen masks, pulling her back into the plane and administering CPR.)

Shults observed that habits surface in times of crisis. “We are such creatures of habit that whatever we do on a normal day is what we will do on a crisis day,” she said. “So whatever you anchor your day to everyday is what you will anchor your day to on those crisis days.”

She offered praise for flight attendants Rachel Fernheimer, Kathryn Sandoval and Seanique Mallory, who calmed passengers and assisted them with oxygen masks.

Despite the noise, Shults said she managed to communicate with Mallory that the aircraft was “not going down” but instead “going to Philly.”

Mallory passed the reassuring news to her fellow flight attendants to share with passengers, whose anxiety subsided with the knowledge that they had a “destination.”

“It didn’t change the flight. It stayed as rough and loud as it had been. But just that information, that hope, changed the atmosphere,” Shults said, later adding that “hope always changes us even if it doesn’t change our circumstances.”

Quoting her mother’s saying, “God never wastes anything,” Shults revealed something at First Dallas she had never shared publicly before. On the way to LaGuardia airport that April day, she was talking to her mother on the phone. The national news that week had featured reports of women’s groups agitated over a policy.

“I just wish I had a microphone for five minutes,” Shults said she told her mom that day. “Be careful what you wish for,” she said, turning to the congregation.

“I would like so much to point the eyes of women my age, older, younger, to the fact that we have a champion. He is found in Scripture. Jesus was so counter culture in his time of pulling women out of the shadows, hallmarking their courage, highlighting their faith. We read about it now thousands of years later, the fact that we really do have a champion and it’s Jesus,” she said.

Following Shults’ remarks, Jeffress told her that two FBCD members—a mother and infant daughter—had been on flight 1380 that day. April Walker, her baby daughter and husband, Kyle, then walked out for a tearful reunion to thank Shults.

It was, as Ronald L. Harris, president of MEDIAlliance International, put it moments later onstage, an “amazing moment.”

A faithful fellowship, from start to finish

Words cannot express my gratitude to God for you. To be able to serve the churches of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention for the past twenty years has truly been a grace gift from the Lord!

Often I get asked what the vision is for the next five, 10 or 20 years for the SBTC. One constant will be our core values. We will remain biblically based, Kingdom focused and missionally driven. Adjusting to the rapidly moving trends, the SBTC has sought to keep a broad yet defined umbrella of fellowship in the BF&M 2000. Otherwise almost everything else is on the table before the Lord. 

Technology has changed at warp speed over the last 20 years. There will continue to be the need to adjust to new ways of communication. Once brand loyalty was a mainstay. Currently we live in an entrepreneurial atmosphere. Churches can find a myriad of resources available no longer depending on a denominational vendor. Online training, refreshed web presence and attractive imaging are things not important 20 years ago. Today, the SBTC leads the way.

Relationships have increased in value. Pastors gravitate toward niche groups rather than finding their collective identity with a convention. Even with a small full-time ministry staff, the SBTC intentionally seeks to build relationships to customize service to churches and pastors. As someone has said, “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” Accessibility coupled with a Philippians 2 mindset of servanthood will characterize the SBTC. 

Cultural trends drive much debate on social media. The SBTC Texas Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee works diligently to impact public policy on social and moral issues. The SBTC is committed to human dignity. Racial injustice is addressed in small gatherings, resolutions and intentional involvement of diverse ethnic groups. Abortion is not only opposed, but alternatives such as adoption are made available through Texas Baptist Home for Children, an SBTC cooperating ministry. Marriage between one man and one woman is not a debatable matter, but the role of women in the church has become a serious discussion topic recently. Topics will continue to surface that require a serious response, and the SBTC will seek to help churches navigate through turbulent cultural waters.

Financial viability is a concern for all institutions. Churches decide how they want to invest their dollars. Fewer dollars are being entrusted to organizations with greater allocations being made to the more direct “hands on” approach. The synergy of churches pooling their resources for a cause is irrefutable. Direct relationships are possible with organizational personnel. Positive impact of investments is evident in the results of being a part of a statewide, national or international effort. Southern Baptists call it the Cooperative Program. What the future holds for a unified budget will determine how effective our work together will be. It is time to re-image the Cooperative Program in whatever areas necessary.

The year 2018 has been a wonderful season of ministry for the SBTC. Thank you for your participation. Technically the convention is a legal entity made up only two days out of the year. Realistically, the convention is a fellowship of churches doing ministry together. Your SBTC staff stands ready to assist churches as they carry out the Great Commission. Should Jesus not return in the next 20 years, my prayer is that he will find a group of churches known as the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention continuing to be faithful!