Month: September 2019

Tada, Hennings highlight third annual Criswell Legacy Awards Gala

Author and activist Joni Eareckson Tada was the recipient of the feature award and former Dallas Cowboy Chad Hennings was the keynote speaker at Criswell College’s third annual Legacy Awards Gala Monday night, Sept. 23.

Each year, the Legacy Award is presented to “an individual who conducts their personal and professional life with Christ-like character, is committed to the inerrancy of the Bible, unselfishly gives of their time and resources to promote the gospel, and models servant leadership.” Past recipients include Andy Horner of Premier Designs and world record-holder in running and former pilot Orville Rogers.

Tada, who was left a quadriplegic after a diving accident at the age of 17, recently endured a second bout with breast cancer, which she defeated this summer. Her health struggles prevented her from attending the gala but her taped comments were shown at the event.

“I am so blown away honored to receive the Criswell Legacy Award. I knew Dr. Criswell, I heard him preach,” Tada said. “That man stirred my heart when I was still very young, and he energized me to do the Bible verse in 2 Corinthians 4:5 that’s printed on the award, because it’s all about sharing the gospel of Jesus with those in need, and that’s exactly what this award represents.

“Dr. Criswell left quite a legacy, not only right there at Criswell College but in casting a vision at the college which has stuck these many years, because they hold fast to not only their articles of faith and their core values, but to biblical, orthodox Christianity,” she said. “As the years roll by there’s one thing that certainly doesn’t change about Criswell College, in that it adheres to those biblical tenets, that orthodox faith, the faith once delivered to the saints that Dr. Criswell so loved to preach and that the folks at Criswell College instill within the hearts of their students.”

Tada recalled visiting the campus of Criswell College in the summer of 2017 to record a radio show and at first wondering why the school was positioned in Old East Dallas.

“But I tell you what, as I spent time with some of the students, and as I talked with teachers and administrators, as I looked around the community, I got the picture. I understood the vision,” she said. 

“It was so clear to me that the whole point behind Criswell is to reach out to the littlest, the last, the least, the lost. To actually put into practice what Jesus told us to do, to be mindful of the least of the brethren, the people disenfranchised, the people pushed to the margins of society, those with incredible special needs, the poor, those struggling to find a job, the homeless—so many needs in East Dallas. Praise God the college hasn’t pulled up its roots and moved to the suburbs.”

The gala is the college’s biggest event of the year, meant to introduce new friends to the work they do and raise funds for various projects, among them student scholarships and the new residence hall currently under construction. In addition to her remarks accepting the award, Tada also appealed to the audience for financial support.

“God loves cheerful givers, and I think that also must mean he loves cheerful askers!” she said in her appeal. “And I’m so happy to ask on behalf of Criswell because I’m convinced that what they’re doing is God honoring and Christ glorifying.”

Hennings, who received the Christianity and Culture Award in addition to giving the keynote, graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy and flew 45 successful combat missions before entering the NFL. He drew on his history in the military and in professional sports to challenge the audience to live a life of legacy and make an impact for the kingdom of God.

From lessons learned both on and off the field he touched on the themes of preparation, analysis, accountability and execution. Although his exhortation wasn’t unique to the men in the room, many of his remarks dovetailed with the focus of the ministry he leads, called Wingmen, which challenges and men to be disciple-makers in the home and workplace.

As he wrapped up his speech he mentioned that the Promise Keepers organization is being resurrected, with its first large gathering to be held at AT&T Stadium in the summer of 2020, and he also challenged the attendees to be generous in their financial giving to Criswell.

Criswell College is a cooperating institution with the SBTC. For more information on the college, visit criswell.edu.

Why Odessa?

Odessa was chosen by the messengers of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention three years ago to be the host city for the annual meeting of the churches. The SBTC has been to Amarillo and Lubbock twice each but never to Odessa. First Baptist Church and Pastor Byron McWilliams were gracious enough to extend an invitation for us to use their facilities. About every five years the convention is held in a West Texas city. We want to encourage the churches of West Texas. By having a convention out west it draws us all closer together.

As you know, tragedy struck Odessa on August 31. A crazed gunman opened fire on a state trooper starting a rampage that left innocent people in his wake. Lives were taken, people were injured and a community was scarred by the demonic action of an evil man. El Paso had just experienced a similar incident.

There is only one cure for the type of violence that has become so prevalent in our society. Jesus Christ being Lord in a person’s life will produce the fruit of righteousness. The theme of this year’s annual meeting–“Who’s Your One?”–focuses on reaching people for Jesus as the hope we can offer a fallen world. There are all types of ills that plague our culture but the power of the gospel can overcome them. While I am looking for Jesus to come today, there is nothing in my Bible that says a spiritual awakening cannot happen. I am praying for a fresh breath of God’s Spirit to fall on the people of God. With a new holy boldness we can proclaim the answer to tormented hearts. When Jesus comes in, he will change hatred to holiness. This is the answer.

There is a second way to curtail hurtful acts. When God’s people are unapologetically salt and light in a decaying dark generation, societal norms can change. It is more than a contrast of ideas. The Bible offers a way for people to live in peace with one another. I am not a post-millennialist but I do believe that we can see the neighborhoods, cities, states and our nation impacted by the power of biblical truth. Until Jesus returns Satan will be at work. We can combat him with the gospel, the scriptures and a life given over to the Savior (Revelation 12:11).

I want you to come to Odessa. We will mourn together. We will rejoice together. We will exalt the name of Jesus. It is going to be a tremendous gathering of God’s people. You will not want to miss it. We start with a Look Like Heaven symposium on Monday afternoon. The first session on Monday evening has an added prayer time for El Paso and Odessa. SBTC President Juan Sanchez will bring a message from 2 Corinthians 4. Special prayer for our Southern Baptist International Mission Board missionaries will be offered. IMB President Paul Chitwood will preach a challenging word. On Tuesday morning a panel discussion featuring the theme of Imago Dei has been added recently to our program. This teaching is the foundation of our treatment of humankind. Racial, ethnic and other differences fade in the light of the fact we are all created in God’s image. Southwestern Seminary President Adam Greenway closes out the morning session. Other great preachers, music and breakouts make the trip to Odessa worthwhile.

If for no other reason, I encourage you to come to be with God’s people known as the SBTC. We need each other. God will use this time in your life. See you in Odessa!

REVIEW: “Abominable” is a touching film about grief, healing

Yi is a busy young woman living with her mother and grandmother in Shanghai, China.

During the day, she makes cash doing odds jobs — taking out trash, walking pets through the city, and babysitting small children.

At night, though, she lays in bed, thinking about how things used to be when her father was still alive. Sometimes, she even sneaks up on the roof to play his old violin.

“She misses her dad,” her grandmother says. 

If only Yi had a close friend.

Perhaps a mythical hairy creature would help her cope. And that’s exactly what happens.

One night while playing a favorite tune on the roof of her apartment building, Yi sees a huge, white-haired creature hiding in the shadows. It is a …. yeti.

With an armed helicopter chasing this beast, Yi helps it hide, and then bandages its wounds and feeds it.

“I don’t know where you come from, but you sure don’t belong here,” she tells him.

Can Yi help the yeti find his home before he is captured and killed by researchers?

The DreamWorks animated film Abominable(PG) opens this weekend, telling the story of a girl who sets out on a quest with two neighbors to return the yeti, named Everest, to his mountainous home. (You guessed it: He’s from Everest.)

It stars Chloe Bennet (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) as Yi, Albert Tsai (Coop and Cami Ask the World) as her friend Peng, and Tenzing Norgay Trainor (Liv and Maddie) as another friend, Jin. 

Abominableis similar to other child-meets-creature-and-learns-lesson movies of the past, including E.T., Pete’s Dragonand Home. Although it may not be as entertaining as those other films, it’s still pretty good, and it’s filled with positive messages about healing from grief. Moviegoers who have lost a family member recently will share Yi’s pain. 

The yeti — in case you’re not up to speed — is the mythical creature that supposedly lives in the snow of the Himalayan mountains. He’s often called the Abominable Snowman.

In Abominable, Yi and the Yeti have similar needs. They’re each lonely. They’re each running away from something (she from reality; he from the bad guys). And they’re each longing for something significant (her — a closer relationship with her family; him — his home in Mt. Everest).

The movie is mostly family friendly, although it does have a few worldview elements that will concern some parents (more on that below). 

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

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

Violence/Disturbing

Minimal/moderate. The movie opens with Yi being chased by the bad guys. (They had captured him and stored him in a research lab.) He escapes and then is hit by a car, but survives. Everest growls several times in the film, but he’s mostly a lovable creature who just wants to play. (He’s a yeti child.) Those bad guys don’t give up, and chase Everest throughout the film with tranquilizer guns. We see unmanned drones corner Yi and her friends. The film’s ending might frighten sensitive children. (Yi is pushed off a tall bridge and is presumed dead, but survives.)  

Sexuality/Sensuality/Nudity

Minimal. Jin’s popularity among teens girls is a running joke. We see him preparing for a date.

Coarse Language

None. Two instances of “oh my gosh.” One “you idiot.”

Other Positive Elements

Yi’s mother and grandmother truly care for her. They’re also patient with her when she is frustrated with life.

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

The grandmother jokes that she only plays basketball “for money.” Everest the yeti is magical.

Peng and Yi say they learned that the stars are “ancestors who watch over us.”

Yi, while on her way to Mt. Everest, stops at the Leshan Giant Buddha, a Mt. Rushmore-type sculpture of Maitreya (or the Buddha yet to come). 

Life Lessons

Friendship is a blessing: Yi needs a friend, and she finds it in Everest and two neighbors.

Arrogance is not attractive: Yi’s neighbor/friend, Jin, considers himself a lady’s man who dresses like he belongs in a boy band. He’s also self-centered.

Grief is a process: The movie doesn’t tell us how long Yi has been without her father, but it implies it’s been several months, if not longer. Yi carries around a picture of her father in her violin case. She acknowledges she’s stayed busy to suppress the pain — and has yet to stop and cry.

Children need a family: Yes, teens sometimes act embarrassed around parents, but Abominableaffirms the necessity of the family structure, including that of a mother and father. (Her dad formerly played the violin for her.) 

Worldview/Application

First, the good. Abominable, much like Pete’s Dragon, can teach children a simple lesson about our world: Science can’t explain everything. “Yetis don’t exist,” Jin tells Yi. But in her world, they do. Similarly, in our world, people often reject the existence of God, pointing to (supposedly) scientific evidence. Kids innately know better.

Now, for the problematic. Abominableisn’t as overt in its unbiblical worldview as Moanaor Coco, but it’s still there. We learn that Yi’s father longed to take her to the Leshan Giant Buddha statue, and then we see it up close, as she takes her time exploring it. (“What’s that?” my 11-year-old son asked. “A false God,” I told him in a two-second movie explanation.) We also hear Peng say that stars are “ancestors who watch over us.” Except for that one line, little to nothing else is heard about traditional Chinese religious beliefs.

Everest the yeti is magical, and he is able to control nature — including the growth of flowers and other plants — simply by closing his eyes and humming. (His body glows, too.) We are told he “talks to nature.”

If you take the children, then be prepared for a worldview discussion on the ride home.

The film’s message about grief is a good one. Yi learns to celebrate her father’s memory and to rely on friends and family members for healing. Of course, the Bible has much more to say on the topic (Psalm 34:18, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4) that is worth exploring.

Sponsors

Little Debbie, Luigi’s Italian Ice, Bearpaw, Yogurtland, FAO Schwartz and East West Bank.

What Works

The animation. The scenic landscapes. The education in cultural differences. (Grandma cooked dumplings that looked different than anything I’ve eaten.)

What Doesn’t

Everest’s magical powers. Yetis are Jedi-like? (So, that’s why we never seen one, huh?)

Discussion Questions

1. What helped Yi heal emotionally?

2. What does the Bible say about grief and healing? Do people heal from grief differently?

3. What was the movie’s message about social media? About arrogance? Was Jin likeable?

4. Is there someone you need to reach out to who is grieving? 

Entertainment rating:3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating:4 out of 5 stars.

Abominable is rated PG for some action and mild rude humor.

John Brady: We were “standing on the real Word of God”

Editor’s note: This continues a series on the founders of the SBTC.

HOUSTON When the inaugural meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention occurred in November 1998 at Woodforest Baptist Church in Houston, John Brady was there.

He had to be. Brady was the pastor of Woodforest, the church he led for almost five decades from its beginnings in 1960 as a mission of Woodridge Baptist.

Like other SBTC founders, Brady had become involved in the growing Southern Baptist conservative movement in Texas in the years prior to the landmark 1998 meeting at his church.

“I was part of a group of pastors wanting to get back to the Bible, back to basic fundamentals, standing on the real Word of God, the inerrancy of Scripture,” Brady told the TEXAN in a recent interview.

Brady grew up in Hearne in Central Texas, where he was saved at First Baptist Church of Hearne. As a young man about to head to Baylor University, he felt the call to preach.

Following his freshman year at Baylor and newly married, Brady became the pastor of Five Points Baptist Church outside Hearne.
In 1957, he was called to Cottage Grove Baptist in Houston and in 1960 began helping organize Woodforest, becoming its first pastor in 1961.

“That was a hundred years ago,” Brady said with a chuckle.

Among his contributions to Southern Baptist life, Brady also served as a trustee of the North American Mission Board and on its personnel committee. He served for many years on the board of directors of the Baptist Mission Centers of Houston and on various committees of the Union Baptist Association.

He was also a member of the SBTC’s first board of directors and executive board.

Of the SBTC currently, Brady said, “I’m thrilled. It’s a miracle of God, built around our loyalty to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.”
Expressing his admiration of SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards, Brady added of the convention, “And the best is yet to come. Amen.”

Brady and Yvonne, his wife of 66 years, still live in Houston.

Fellowship of the Nations, a church pastored by Brady’s son, meets in the former Woodforest facilities. The Woodforest and Fellowship congregations merged in 2008 and Brady became minister of missions and congregational care.

Until health problems over the past year prevented him from continuing, Brady taught a large Bible class at Fellowship of the Nations. He still attends services and does intercessory prayer counseling by phone.

“At 85, I’m doing well. Still vertical, still praising,” Brady said with a laugh. “The Lord has been good to us.”

This article also contains reporting from the Houston Chronicle.

More volunteers needed as Texas Southern Baptists ramp up response to historic Tropical Storm Imelda

BEAUMONT—The Disaster Relief Ministry of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention now has three incident command units set up in East Texas to help churches minister to residents impacted by last week’s historic Tropical Storm Imelda.

“We have three incident management teams in place and are getting things organized,” said Scottie Stice, the director of disaster relief for the SBTC. “We have assessors in place, and our teams will begin to arrive this weekend or early next week and everything will be in full swing.”

The incident management teams are located at Calvary Baptist Church in Beaumont, First Baptist Church of Vidor and First Baptist Church of Hampshire. The teams in Beaumont and Vidor are with SBTC Disaster Relief. The Hampshire team is with Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief. Stice says additional teams from the SBTC and other states are on the way. Alabama, the Baptist General Convention of Virginia, the SBC of Virginia, Tennessee, Colorado, Kentucky and Oklahoma have all activated disaster relief units to help in East Texas.

Stice adds that the teams in place right now include shower, laundry and feeding units supporting volunteers. A couple of shower units are serving shelter residents in Beaumont and Hampshire. First Baptist Church of Winnie has hosted a Convoy of Hope unit at their church and is distributing food and water to those impacted by the storm. According to the organization’s website, Convoy of Hope is a faith-based humanitarian relief organization from Springfield, Mo.

“There are lots of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief sites, which is good,” Stice said. “It’s a bigger event than any one state convention can respond to.”

The collective Southern Baptist response comes after Tropical Storm Imelda dumped 40 inches of rain on some parts of Texas, according to The Houston Chronicle. Although the storm’s landfall was expected, the severity of the storm surprised many. At least 14 SBTC churches have reported storm damage.

The Chronicle compared the storm to the downfall during 2017’s Hurricane Harvey, which hit some of the same places as did Imelda. Stice says while the breadth of Imelda’s devastation isn’t equal to Hurricane Harvey, the damage in the impacted communities is just as severe.

“At the same time, it’s one of the largest events we’ve ever responded to,” Stice said. “I heard a description the other day that the flood zone is equal to the size of the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined. It’s still a large flood zone.”

Authorities are attributing five deaths to the tropical storm. Three died when their vehicles got caught in the flooding. One died while trying to move his horse. A fifth person was found in a ditch outside of Houston on Friday, apparently a victim of the storm as well. According to The Chronicle, more than 75 people died as a result of Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

The SBTC incident command at Calvary Baptist Church in Beaumont was the first SBTC unit to become operational. The church had three mud-out units on site and is already serving in the community, helping homeowners and sharing the gospel.

Daniel White, the SBTC Disaster Relief “white hat,” or team member in charge of leading the Beaumont effort, notes that the response from the local community has been strong. Although many are in shock, the homeowners are appreciative of the help provided by Texas Southern Baptists.

“We’re dealing with everything from people who just got a few inches of water in their house to others who have three to four feet of water,” White said. “Many of the homeowners are just now getting everything back how it should be in the last six months after Hurricane Harvey, and now they’ve been flooded again.”

White says they need more people to volunteer to help. He encourages Texas Southern Baptists who can serve to contact the state disaster relief office and schedule a time to get trained and begin to serve. The Beaumont location currently has about 12 volunteers on site with SBTC Disaster Relief. Another 20 volunteers who have been through the Texas relief training are serving on the ground. A few other local church groups are responding with the SBDR teams as well.

Stice asked Texas Southern Baptists to pray for the teams on the ground as they continue to prepare to serve impacted communities.

“Our goal is always to be a blessing and to share the hope of Jesus Christ,” Stice said. “We share the Lord with people. We pray with Christians. We seek to be a blessing in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

New entity leaders deliver first reports to EC

NASHVILLE Four of the five newly-elected Southern Baptist entity presidents delivered their first reports to SBC Executive Committee members, noting some of the challenges they face and thanking churches for supporting their work through the Cooperative Program.

Among the new leaders speaking Sept. 17 in Nashville—in addition to EC President Ronnie Floyd, who gave his first report as president to the committee in June—were Ben Mandrell of LifeWay Christian Resources, Jamie Dew of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Adam Greenway of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Paul Chitwood of the International Mission Board.

Chitwood, who was elected last fall, shared reports on the IMB’s progress and that the entity “is fully committed to promoting all of the cooperative mission work of Southern Baptists, certainly including the Cooperative Program.”

“IMB is the largest single recipient of Cooperative Program funds and as such should have the loudest voice in CP promotion,” Chitwood said. “Rest assured, today’s IMB fully understands and enthusiastically accepts this stewardship.”

To ensure that missionaries are equipped to promote CP, the IMB has added an SBC identity component to its seven-week personnel orientation, “and I personally am teaching that,” Chitwood said.

“My goal is for every IMB missionary, regardless of their background or church origin, to become an active mobilizer who helps all Southern Baptists join in the work of praying, giving, going and sending,” Chitwood said.

“The IMB looks forward this next year to helping Southern Baptists celebrate the fact that for 175 years we have not been without a gospel witness among the nations. Southern Baptists’ generosity, Southern Baptists’ prayers and Southern Baptists’ support of the IMB have made that possible.”

Dew, who was elected in June, said he has been assessing New Orleans Seminary during his first six weeks on campus.

“We’ve been delighted to discover a team of people there that love that city, love that school, love each other and are excited and ready to go,” Dew said.

During discussions about the seminary’s mission, Dew has identified some main principles motivating the work. The seminary wants “to be a people that are passionate about being servants,” he said. They also want “to be a people of great devotion.”

With a goal of taking the gospel to the nations, New Orleans Seminary is underscoring opportunities for impact available in the city, Dew said. He also addressed how the seminary is prioritizing the potential of its undergraduate arm, Leavell College, and renovating the former location of the campus LifeWay store for use as offices for both the college and enrollment, as well as a campus welcome area.
“In our city, the nations sit on our doorstep,” Dew said. “In our city, you have great wealth. You have great poverty. You have great opportunity. You have great brokenness. And if you can do it in that city, then you can do it anywhere.”

Greenway, who was elected in February, expressed gratitude to the “largest cumulative donor in the history” of the seminary, the Southern Baptist Convention.

“We are advocating, championing the work of our convention of churches through the Cooperative Program,” Greenway said, noting the establishment of the B.H. Carroll Center for Baptist Heritage and Mission with Gregory Wills as the founding director and David Dockery as the inaugural theologian-in-residence.

“We are trying to do everything we can to articulate for our convention of churches, for our students, what it means to be authentically and credibly Baptist in the 21st century,” Greenway said. “At a time when many people are trying to run away from our identity and our cooperative methodologies, we want to run into these things to help pass along this rich DNA of what it means to be Southern Baptist.

“It matters because truly God has used our convention of churches to make an eternal impact, and I do not believe God is finished with us as Southern Baptists,” Greenway said.

Mandrell, who was elected in late June, said during his first 90 days on the job he is focusing on, among other things, tightening up mission, vision and values language. He’s investing in a rebranding discussion too, noting “it’s time for LifeWay to rebrand. Our current logo and look was created in 1998.”

Mandrell also presented the Executive Committee with checks for $356,744.73 for the International Mission Board and $197,002.30 for the North American Mission Board from offerings given by this summer’s participants in LifeWay’s Fuge, CentriKids and World Changers ministries.

Mandrell shared how he is taking time to learn more about the products LifeWay offers. “I did not know before coming to LifeWay how much LifeWay does,” he said. And LifeWay continues to see year over year growth in its resources, which is the future of its ministry, he noted.

“We’re up 6 percent over last year in our non-store channels,” he said.

In July alone, traffic to LifeWay websites, Mandrell said, was more than four times larger than the normal monthly traffic to LifeWay Stores.

Toward blamelessness: practical suggestions on ordination

According to a recent statistical survey by Jason Lowe (jasonalowe.com), the current state of ordination vetting in SBC life is alarming. In keeping with the autonomy of local churches, each church bears not only the joy of ordination but the responsibility of it as well. But are Southern Baptist congregations taking this responsibility seriously enough?

Twice in his letter to young Titus, the apostle Paul uses the word “blameless” to describe the prerequisite for one being considered as the pastor of a local congregation (Titus 1:6-7). But recent happenings in Southern Baptist churches have proven some in Christian leadership today to be anything but blameless.

This is nothing new to Christianity. Two thousand years ago, the teachings of Hymenaeus and Philetus were “ruining the faith of some” in the local church (2 Timothy 2:17). The church leader Demas fell in love with the world and out of ministry (4:10). These were only a few of the church leaders in their day who were arrested in “the trap of the devil” (2:26).

The recent study reveals a need for local churches to be more diligent in the laying on of hands. As has been the case for millennia, we need blameless church leaders. So how do Southern Baptist churches today move toward blamelessness in the laying on of hands? Here are five suggestions.

1. Don’t rush.

When someone surrenders to the call to ministry in your church, wait for the evidence of that calling to take deep root not only in the individual, but in the church as a whole. Develop a pathway—a process—to move a candidate from surrender to ceremony. Require a season of discipleship and mentorship in the ministry by someone who is an ordained minister. Walk with the candidate through spiritual disciplines, ecclesiological practices and Christian character and leadership development. Give responsibility to the candidate gradually over time with regard to teaching and preaching assignments. Allow the candidate to sit in deacons meetings and staff planning meetings. “Don’t be quick in the laying on of hands,” the Bible instructs us. Don’t rush.

2. Run background checks.

While the eternal consequences of every sin are paid in full by the blood of Christ, temporal consequences remain. Every redeemed child of God is gifted by the Holy Spirit for service in the local church, and should exercise that giftedness for the church’s edification. There are, however, some sins that disqualify an individual from holding a vocational office in the church: “Furthermore,” writes Paul to young Timothy, “he must have a good reputation among outsiders, so that he does not fall into disgrace and the devil’s trap” (1 Timothy 3:7); “Blameless,” he instructs Titus.

Those whose actions have resulted in ongoing public dishonor with regard to integrity of faith and practice should not hold offices in the church. They should instead serve behind the scenes, according to their giftedness, and with great humility, looking forward to the day when their redemption in Christ is made complete (Philippians 3:20-21). Run background checks. Be diligent in this.

3. Hold the ordination council before the ordination ceremony is scheduled.

Between 65-72 percent of churches running 50-249 regular worshippers advertise the ordination ceremony before the ordination council is completed. Between 62-74 percent of them reported holding ordination councils the same day as (most of them only hours before) ordination ceremonies. How can we say we are diligent in the laying on of hands if we schedule and publicize the ceremony before the evaluation is completed? Have we not made the council perfunctory when people are gathered for the ceremony before the questioning has even commenced? As a pastor, I myself was guilty of this. Moving forward, it is something I would change.

4. In the ordination council, ask questions about both life and ministry.

The seasoned apostle warned the young pastor, “pay close attention to your life and your ministry” (1 Timothy 4:16). Still today, many pastors do not disqualify themselves on the basis of their teaching, but rather, on the basis of their personal lives. The ordination council is a place for questioning issues of both orthodoxy and orthopraxy—life and ministry. Leave no question unasked. Ask about the nature of baptism, the purpose of preaching and the mission of the local church. Ask also about their salvation experience, sexual purity, areas of potential growth and measures of accountability.

5. Consider license and ordination at the same time.

In years past, licensing someone into the ministry was understood to be a step on the way toward ordination. This is a practice that needs to change moving forward. For many, especially in the public realm, licensing and ordination are viewed as equally substantial. Licensing usually allows someone to perform the duties of the office of pastor in the public realm, while ordination is the church’s stamp of approval on a person’s eligibility to hold the office within a church.

Should we approve someone to perform public duties of an office they have not been affirmed to privately hold? I submit to you that we need to rethink licensing apart from ordination. Let our affirmation of the gospel call be clear with regard to both public performance and private office.

When it comes to ordination practices in the Baptist church, we have a long way to go toward blamelessness. But we will only get there if we take one step at a time in the right direction. What step can your congregation take today to move her forward, toward blamelessness, in affirming the call of God on someone’s life into the gospel ministry?

Scripture on ordination

2 Timothy 2:15
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
This passage stresses the need for preparation, spiritually and otherwise. The approval of God, relative to the task, is the basic element of being set apart.

1 Timothy 5:22
Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.
Here Paul emphasizes deliberation before setting apart someone for ministry.

Acts 14:23
And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
Here is a model for the way we think of ministry ordination, committing them to the Lord.

Acts 6:3
Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.
We commonly think of this verse as the foundation for deacon ordination. Notice the role of the congregation in this.

Hebrews 13:7
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
Although this is an admonition to observe the positive example of their leaders, it also sounds like a general call to discern the integrity of a leader’s ministry by the way they live.

1 Timothy 3:1-7
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? …
This is the go-to passage for qualifications for a pastor. Paul stresses high standards in all aspects of a spiritual leader’s life—again, observed by those with whom he worships.

Revelation 2:2
I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.
The Ephesian church is praised for testing (by the Scriptures) the message and lives of those who claim to be spiritual leaders.

1 Peter 5:5
Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
“Elder” in this case refers to maturity rather than a role but the usual pattern for examination of a ministry candidate
is that the ordainers are more experienced and the ordained is new to vocational ministry.

James 3:1
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
With a high calling comes high accountability. One purpose of examining a ministry candidate is to protect him and his hearers from  false teaching and foolish talk.

SBTC Disaster Relief responds to Harvey-like damage in southeast Texas

HOUSTON As torrential rains caused Harvey-like damage throughout southeast Texas on Thursday, Sept. 19, Southern Baptists in Texas mobilized to serve the region. As of the time the Southern Baptist Texan went to press on Sept. 20, an SBTC team was on the ground in Houston and preparing for a statewide response to the damage caused by Tropical Storm Imelda on Thursday.

Four SBTC units headed to First Baptist Church of Vidor on Friday, Sept. 20, where their first task will be to clean up the church so it can serve as a base for future teams. Shower, feeding, and at least one mud-out unit will be among the teams who will be on site Friday afternoon.

The response comes after Tropical Storm Imelda hit the same general area as Hurricane Harvey did two years ago, causing many observers to draw parallels between both storms’ intensity and the impacted area. The storm was the first named storm to hit the Houston area since Harvey.

The Houston Chronicle attributes two drowning deaths already to a “relentless downpour” from Imelda. By Thursday night, flood waters had begun to recede. The Chronicle notes that Harris County officials had reported at least 1,700 high-water rescues and evacuations. Though the area had been bracing for the arrival of Imelda, its intensity and longevity surprised the region.

As of the Texan’s publication, SBTC Disaster Relief team members were beginning plans to gather and deploy more teams to the impacted region. All SBTC Disaster Relief units have been put on alert status for further deployment to southeast Texas.

SBTC promises grief counseling training as part ongoing aid

EL PASO Irene walks among the mounds of flowers placed along a span of green construction fencing at the makeshift memorial for the victims of the Aug. 3 shootings at the Cielo Vista Walmart.

Weeks after the tragedy, she culls dead stems and plucks shards of broken glass from pavement filled with notes, glass candles depicting Jesus and Our Lady of Guadalupe, crosses bearing the victims’ names and flower arrangements that comprise the somber garden.

“I have to come here,” the El Paso native said, declining to provide her full name but willing to quietly share her story in a place where nearly everyone speaks in hushed tones.

Irene’s daughter had commented on Facebook that seeing the pictures of the 22 victims was like “opening a family photo album.”

“It’s true,” Irene said. “Everyone resembles someone in our family. God did make us brothers and sisters.”

And so Irene comes daily to “barely make a dent” in the debris until the El Paso heat drives her away. “They are all family,” she said.
Carlos also stops by, his first visit to the memorial since the day of the shootings, when the airport security guard waited to catch his bus connection at the Sun Metro station beside the Walmart parking lot.

“I don’t believe that anybody from El Paso would have done this,” Carlos said.

Marissa Monroy, who lives in Austin, returned to her hometown to celebrate the birthday she shares with her mother, Linda. With Marissa’s sister, Amanda Madrid, the three El Paso natives walk along the memorial, stopping to take pictures and read placards.

“This is the first thing she wanted to do when she got to town,” Linda said of her daughter.

“I can’t really put it into words. I just wanted to come and pay my respects,” Marissa said.

They walk on, the sound of heavy machinery rumbling behind the fence obscuring the view of the Walmart. The machines are not bulldozers; the company has announced that the store will not be razed but redone, with new fixtures, flooring and merchandise—a total restoration of one of the busiest Walmarts in the nation. The reconstruction will include a memorial to the victims and should be open by the holidays, the company announced Aug. 22.

The people of El Paso are likewise in need of a restoration of the heart that churches and pastors—including those from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention—are helping to shape.

By Aug. 7, four SBTC Disaster Relief chaplains, all pastors, had driven from across Texas to minister in the tragedy’s immediate aftermath. Immanuel Baptist, a two-minute walk from the Walmart, hosted a prayer vigil two days prior with more than 350 in attendance.

The evening of Aug. 22, some 50 pastors, wives and SBTC representatives gathered for a prayer rally at Immanuel and Executive Director Jim Richards delivered a message reassuring the group of the SBTC’s continued support in ministering to community.

“When people are being killed because of the color of their skin, their ethnicity or even their religion, it is nothing but evil. Human help and power fail us,” Richards said as he preached on Nahum 1:7. “It’s only God who can help us get through these evil days.”
Needs remain in the wake of the tragedy.

Juan Vazquez, pastor of Agua de Vida church, told the TEXAN that gatherings such as the prayer rally were beneficial, adding that more training in grief response would help. That opinion was echoed by Mario Martinez, pastor of El Buen Pastor church, and Sergio Lopez, pastor of La Verdad Community Church.

Lopez said that prayer is needed is not only for the community but also for authority figures, calling for “unity between all churches, Spanish and English.”

Richards confirmed that SBTC trainings in grief counseling, church safety and prayer are scheduled for El Paso this fall.

Daniel Moreno, Jezreel pastor, has already invited licensed counselors to provide emotional support to the members of his church. Moreno, a bivocational pastor who works for a federal agency, knows the counselors, all Christians, from work. Four families in Moreno’s church were directly affected by the shootings: two people worked at the Walmart and two worked nearby.

The church’s youth were especially affected, according to Jezreel youth pastor Oscar Gonazalez, who said counseling has been provided for them.

Moreno said he was scheduled to be interviewed by Spanish Christian Radio Manantial FM 91.1 to discuss counseling at the church once services were established.

“We are going to have a presence here from our staff who will minister,” Richards said.

Grief counselor training was scheduled for Sept. 28 at Iglesia Bautista Jezreel, according to SBTC prayer strategist Ted Elmore.

The church security workshop is scheduled Oct. 12 at Immanuel Baptist and led by Dallas-based Teamworks Consulting Inc. The SBTC’s Prayer Bootcamp is scheduled for Nov. 12, also at Immanuel.

Trainings will be in Spanish and English.

The SBTC is also reprinting and making available Elmore’s 20-page manual, “Incident Preparation & Recovery,” in both English and Spanish. Plans are underway to offer the resource to other state Baptist conventions, with options for customization for individual states.

To prepare the manual, Elmore drew upon his experiences as the liaison between the convention and First Baptist Sutherland Springs following the Nov. 5, 2017 shootings at that Texas church.

“This madness has got to be stopped,” Elmore said. “The gospel is the ultimate answer to violence. We must address the ‘problem of the heart,’ which is the heart of the problem.”

He advocated prayer: “We know from the book of Acts that every time the church prayed, they prayed themselves into unity and God did things no human can do.”

Elmore’s manual contains a section on prayer, but churches may also download other resources at sbtexas.com/prayer.

“We are blessed if you pray for us,” Mario Martinez told the TEXAN, his request pertinent not only for his congregation but for El Paso residents like Irene, who continue to mourn.