Month: November 2019

SBTC 2019 annual meeting highlights “Who’s Your One?”

ODESSA – With the SBC’s “Who’s Your One?” initiative providing the theme, the 22ndannual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Oct. 28-29 at First Baptist Church of Odessa emphasized the urgency of evangelism and passed resolutions on racial reconciliation, reporting sexual misconduct and mental health.

Messengers approved a $28.9 million budget for 2020, continuing the SBTC’s practice of sending 55 percent of undesignated receipts to the national Cooperative Program while retaining 45 percent for Texas CP ministries. The 55 percent reflects the largest percentage of CP giving of any state convention.

After a welcome from Executive Director Jim Richards, SBTC President Juan Sanchez, pastor of Austin’s High Pointe Baptist Church, gaveled the convention to order Monday evening.

Richards welcomed groups from El Paso and Midland-Odessa, announcing a time of prayer for pastors and staffs from those cities in the aftermath of August’s mass shootings.

“Texas has experienced some of the most tragic consequences of human depravity,” Richards said, praising the response of local pastors to their communities and outlining ways the SBTC has assisted.

Applause erupted as the El Paso contingent stood. Messengers surrounded them while Sanchez prayed in Spanish and English that the Lord would bless, protect and “use them in the midst of tragedy in this historic moment” to advance the gospel.

Reminding attendees that three years ago the SBTC had voted to hold the 2019 meeting in Odessa, Richards also thanked pastors and staffs from that area for their “consistent witness and testimony,” inviting them to stand, surrounded by attendees, as Sanchez again prayed.

Monday night speakers Sanchez and International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood delivered messages centered on evangelism.

Sanchez preached from 2 Corinthians 4:1-6, recalling lessons from his own time in the U.S. Navy, when the goal was to “accomplish the mission.”

Believers have a “clear mission”: to go into the nations and make disciples; a “clear strategy”: to preach Christ; and a “clear mission field”: the unbelieving world hostile to God, Sanchez said.

In Corinth, the apostle Paul opposed a “celebrity” culture that prized clever speech, not unlike today’s social media-driven society. Sanchez urged the preaching of the gospel “without shameful tactics.”

As for reaching the “one” person with that gospel, Sanchez cautioned perseverance: “Don’t get discouraged. As long as that ‘one’ has breath and so long as Jesus has not yet come,” there is time, he said, calling Christians “the original Impossible Mission Force” attempting to reach the “spiritually blind.”

“The God of the possible makes the dead come to life and the blind to see,” Sanchez said, adding, “Proclaim the truth of the gospel. Leave the rest to God.”

Chitwood similarly called upon attendees to focus on the “one” that God would have them evangelize, recalling a visit by two Baptist deacons to his modest childhood home in the eastern Tennessee mountains where his single father raised him and his two brothers.

“I had no clue how kind the Lord was being to us, how our lives for eternity would over time forever change because of the faithful witness of two Baptist brothers, out looking for their ‘one,’ knocking on doors, inviting people to church,” Chitwood said, introducing his text, Revelation 22.

Andrew Hebert, pastor of Amarillo’s Paramount Baptist Church, preached Tuesday morning’s convention sermon, beginning his message on 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 with an illustration of the Navajo Code Talkers of World War II, who, like believers, were “entrusted [by] headquarters with a critical message.”

With Paul as his example, Hebert urged the audience to carry the gospel in both “weakness” and “boldness,” reminding them that “small faith in a big God equals big faith” and that “hardship” is a “worthy sacrifice” when enduring in evangelism.

Messengers approved the 2020 budget, and Executive Board President Danny Forshee, pastor of Austin’s Great Hills Baptist Church, described the findings of the special needs task force which outlines resources for churches and proposes a Special Needs Sunday.

Accompanying the executive board’s affirmation of the “Who’s Your One?” initiative, Richard Taylor, SBTC evangelism associate, presented a five-step strategy for accomplishing it.

Forshee then spoke to the tragedies in El Paso and Odessa, describing SBTC responses.

Adam Greenway, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, preached on Luke 5 and linked cooperation and evangelism, noting that the four friends who carried the paralyzed man on a stretcher to see Jesus did so together. He called the text an “example of those who found their ‘one.’”

Jesus praised the faith both of the creative, determined friends and the paralyzed man, Greenway emphasized, stressing urgency in evangelism so that it might become “impossible for anybody to die in Texas and step out into a Christ-less eternity.”

He encouraged persistence: “One hundred percent of those we do not share Christ with will not respond. One hundred percent of the people you do not invite to your church on Sunday are not going to come. More than you imagine will respond.”

Tuesday afternoon featured Charles Lee, pastor of Acts Fellowship Church in Austin, who spoke on 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, urging the eternal perspective in evangelism and recommending perseverance.

“Eternity is around the corner,” Lee said, “but you know, there are some co-workers, some friends, some acquaintances, who are not going to be there, at least for now. Who’s your ‘one?’”

Caleb Turner, assistant pastor of Mesquite Friendship Baptist, spoke on 2 Corinthians 5:11-15, beginning with an illustration of a 1985 New Orleans tragedy in which a man drowned in a pool with 100 lifeguards present. The lifeguards, or laborers, lacked focus, Turner said.

With a sobering reminder that “our friends are drowning,” Turner emphasized urgent evangelism, lamenting that some churches may have become “too big” to remember “the least of these.”

Like the Apostle Paul, we must be “compelled” to convince others of the truth of the gospel. Like Paul, we respond to critics by example.

“Is our life a living billboard for Christ or a commercial for the devil?” Turner asked, affirming that God knew Paul and knows us. Controlled by the love of Christ, we share Christ. Anything else renders us flying blind in the cockpit.

Following the report of the resolutions committee, Richards offered the last sermon of the day, thanking FBC Odessa pastor Byron McWilliams and his wife, Andi, church staff and volunteers, and outgoing president Sanchez.

Starting with a story of near-drowning in his own childhood, Richards expressed gratitude for the man who saw him “in desperate need at the deep end of the pool,” as he began his message on 2 Corinthians 5:16-21.

“So many are at the deep end of the pool. Someone must go rescue them,” Richards said, referencing the “Who’s Your One?” campaign, calling his text—with its repeated emphasis on reconciliation—“ideal” for underscoring the theme.

As Saul became Paul on the road to Damascus in a “dramatic transformation,” so salvation comes to those who surrender themselves to Christ, Richards said.

He described many who prayed for his salvation as a teenager, his own “dramatic transformation.” Among those who prayed was his best friend.

“I was his ‘one,’” Richards said.

In convention business, Joyce McKinley, secretary, reported total registrations of 1,029: 772 messengers and 257 guests.

Messengers elected Kie Bowman, pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church of Austin, as the 2020 SBTC president. Tony Mathews, pastor of North Garland Baptist was elected vice president and Frances Garcia, Primera Iglesia Mexicana of Odessa, elected secretary. Outgoing officers Sanchez, Vice President Joshua Crutchfield and Secretary Joyce McKinley completed their terms.

Messengers approved resolutions expressing appreciation for Sanchez, FBC Odessa and first responders in the El Paso and Midland-Odessa shootings. Also approved were resolutions affirming the “Who’s Your One?” initiative, repudiating the prosperity gospel, and supporting mental health ministry in the local church. A resolution endorsing racial reconciliation passed with minor amendments and a bill praising the authors and supporters of HB 4345, which protects those who report the sexual misconduct of former volunteers and employees, passed without debate.

The 2020 SBTC annual meeting will be held Nov. 9-10 at Hyde Park Baptist Church, Austin.

Messengers pass resolutions on sexual misconduct, racial reconciliation, mental health, prosperity gospel

Messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention annual meeting passed resolutions on mental health, racial reconciliation and the prosperity gospel Oct. 29 and endorsed a new state law that shields churches from civil liability when they try and stop sexual predators.

Messengers, meeting at First Baptist Church of Odessa, also approved a resolution of appreciation for the first responders to recent mass shootings in Texas and a resolution supporting the “Who’s Your One?” evangelism initiative.

All total, messengers approved eight resolutions.

Liability for Disclosing Sexual Misconduct

The resolution on liability for disclosing sexual misconduct supports a new law signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that protects charitable organizations from civil liability when they disclose pertinent information about a potential employee related to sexual misconduct, abuse or crime. The law, for example, allows churches to contact one another without fear of a lawsuit.

The new law is known as the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code.

Ben Wright, a messenger and the pastor of Cedar Pointe Baptist Church in Cedar Park, Texas, spoke from the floor in favor of the resolution.

“There have been situations in the Southern Baptist Convention and even in the state of Texas,” Wright said, where “churches or other organizations … have been afraid to take that action to warn and to protect [others from an accused or convicted sexual predator] because of the fear of lawsuit. This legislation eliminates that. So what that means is that we need to know about our moral obligation. And we need to know that we are protected from lawsuit when we act to warn in accordance with the law.”

The resolution encourages other state legislatures “to follow the lead set by the Texas legislature” and “protect those most vulnerable.”

Racial Reconciliation

The resolution on racial reconciliation condemns prejudice “as unworthy of the people of God” and as “an offense to the image of God in all men and women.”

It endorses “efforts to make the representative diversity of our convention be reflected in convention committee and leadership structures” and encourages churches to “consider ways in which their church committees and leadership structures can accurately reflect the ethnic diversity within their congregations.” Further, it urges churches to “increase the ways in which they minister to all ethnicities so that God will be glorified” through the “praises of the multitude from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

Mental Health

Messengers approved a resolution on mental health that acknowledges that Adam and Eve’s sin resulted “in the fall of the entire human race, affecting every facet of the whole person.” The resolution says churches “should provide a safe place for conversation regarding mental health struggles for their members and communities.”

For treatment, the resolution acknowledges that “Christian and biblical counseling are means by which those who experience mental health struggles can receive treatment beyond the local church.” It also acknowledges that “medical and mental health professionals are trained to provide wise and helpful tools as a means of God’s common grace for those who experience mental and emotional pain.”

Prosperity Gospel

The resolution on the prosperity gospel says messengers “deny that the promises and the teaching of the prosperity gospel are in accordance with sound doctrine and the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Further, it says “we have the biblical example of publicly distinguishing true preachers of the gospel from false teachers (2 Timothy 2:16-18; 3:1-8; Titus 1:5-16).”

“Pastors, as commanded by Scripture, should … publicly and courageously oppose teachers of the prosperity gospel as occasion requires (Galatians 1:6-9; Titus 1:9; 2:1; Jude 3).” 

First Responders Appreciation

A resolution on appreciation for first responders to the mass shootings in El Paso and Midland/Odessa says messengers “recognize the exceptional courage exhibited by the law enforcement officers in stopping the shooters and interceding on behalf of the citizens” and “express our appreciation for the emergency services and hospital personnel who removed the victims, provided exceptional care, and comforted those who were impacted by both events.”

“We encourage each church of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention to express appreciation to and pray for the law enforcement officers, emergency services personnel, and medical first responders of our communities and our state,” the resolution says.

Messengers applauded when it passed.

Who’s Your One? Initiative

The resolution endorsing the “Who’s Your One?” evangelism initiative calls it a “useful strategy in recovering the primacy of personal evangelism as the essential means for Christians to faithfully fulfill the Great Commission” and urges church leaders to “start a ‘Who’s Your One?’ campaign within their congregations.”

To individual Christians it says, “We call on members of churches affiliated with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention to answer the ‘Who’s Your One?’ invitation by praying for, sharing the gospel with, and leading one person to Christ in the next year.”

Messengers also approved resolutions in appreciation of outgoing SBTC President Juan Sanchez and of First Baptist Church of Odessa, which hosted the meeting.

What is your badge of honor?

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—In the Spring of 1992, a year after I started a new church plant across the Cambridge Police Department in Central Square in Cambridge, Mass., I invited the police commissioner and his public relations officer to a monthly meeting of clergy.

Nearly a dozen pastors were at the meeting to discuss how we could work together to support the police department. We talked about the high rate of crimes around the Central Square neighborhood and the need for citizens to get more involved in keeping the area safe. On that day eight fellow clergy volunteered to serve as police chaplains. The police department showed us their appreciation by giving each of us volunteers a chaplain police badge and even invited us to attend their roll calls.

From time to time we met with the deputy commissioner to hear about community updates and about what the officers were doing around the clock. A few times I got the opportunity to ride in a police cruiser with an on-duty officer to observe the rounds. I listened to their concerns and heard their firsthand experiences of what it was like to give their lives to protect and serve the community daily.

As a police chaplain, I was treated like one of their own. One time a police officer was conducting a random sobriety check at a road block on a bridge. As I approached the officer I showed him my chaplain police badge. He expressed his appreciation and let me through without any further questions.

Another time I had car trouble and had to pull off the highway to wait for a tow truck. A state trooper stopped to ask if I needed assistance. He was so kind and helpful. Again, I pulled out my chaplain police badge and he was pleased to know that he was helping out a police chaplain. We talked for a bit and before departing he asked me if I could write a letter to commendation to his chief. As soon as I got back home I wrote a nice letter to his police chief stating how he went above and beyond the call of duty.

The police department and the chaplaincy was truly a relationship of mutual respect and admiration. I remember that on the last Sunday of each May we had a Police Appreciation Sunday at the Grace United Methodist Church in Cambridge where we invited police officers and cadets to attend the worship service and held a banquet afterward. It was such a blessing to have the police department and local clergy working together and encouraging one another.

I learned a lot spiritually while serving as a police chaplain. I will share two things. First, while I felt a certain identity and authority by association whenever I flashed my chaplain police badge, I considered the basis of our ultimate identity. What is your badge of honor, authority, and identity? As Christians, we should have a certain presence of authority, not based on our good behavior or our high credentials, but purely through our identity in Christ.

Second, as a police chaplain I began to have a greater appreciation for police and first-responders who put their lives on the line every single day. I know of many cases in Massachusetts of police officers falling in the line of duty. Countless fellow officers from the surrounding areas, many from out-of-state, and even some from across the nation gather to attend their funerals as a show of respect and police unity. Of course this does not happen with the typical office worker. The difference is simply that police officers and first-responders deal with matters of life and death. They are willing to sacrifice their lives for others.

Our Lord on the cross was the greatest example of such a sacrificial life. For Jesus said: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.” Let us not seek to run away from taking up our cross daily and following in our Lord’s footsteps of service and sacrifice.

Chitwood encourages, challenges messengers: “He’s coming soon”

International Mission Board president Paul Chitwood addressed messengers and guests of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s annual meeting at their opening session Monday night, Oct. 28.

Chitwood expressed his gratitude for the generosity of SBTC churches through regular giving and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, and he challenged the messengers of the 21stannual meeting with a sermon from Revelation 22 that describes the second coming of Christ.

Chitwood, who grew up as one of three sons being raised by a single father, was saved as a result of a home visit by the deacons of a local Southern Baptist church when he was young.

“When I was a boy growing up in the mountains of east Tennessee and Kentucky, I heard a lot about that day,” he said. “I recall there were a lot of sermons that had an excitement that was instilled in them as the preacher preached about the coming of the Lord. About the day when the sky would open up and Christ would come for his church. But I don’t hear that much preaching about that anymore.”

He said that he often hears people describe the day of the Lord as something that is exciting but will hopefully delay until after they can experience or accomplish something else.

“It’s as if we think there’s something that we would want to see happen here, something we want to experience, somewhere we want to go,” he said. “And those sort of things kind of infatuate and enchant us, even as we think about the coming of the Lord.”

Chitwood used the illustration of a wedding in which the bride, just as she prepares to walk down the aisle, looks at her father and tells him that although she desires to get married eventually, she wants to put it off for a while.

“When the church, the very bride of Christ, hears about his coming and our immediate thoughts begin to turn to what we want to do before he gets here, what else we wanted to experience, what else we wanted to see, might it be that we’ve fallen more in love with the created things than the Creator?” he continued.

He pointed out that in Revelation 22, John writes four times about the “soon coming of Christ.”

“There is an urgency to the work that he has given us, and we ought not forget that he said, ‘I’m coming soon,’” Chitwood said. “What will it look like if our mission is colored by the urgency of Christ’s coming? It’ll look the way it ought to look, because he is coming.

“This is why the mission of the church must be approached with a sense of urgency,” Chitwood said. “This is why when we ask the question ‘Who’s your one?’ we can’t wait until next week or next month or next year. There must be a sense of urgency because his coming is imminent.”

Chitwood also pointed out the necessity to be evangelistic while we still have the opportunity.

“When he comes, the opportunity to repent will have passed,” he said. “And that’s why, brothers and sisters, urgency must rest upon us. A sense of urgency must color our preaching and drive us to the nations where there are still billions who have yet to hear, who have yet to know, who have yet to believe, and should the Lord come today they will be lost forever and spend eternity in hell. And his coming is imminent.”

The coming of the Lord is not only imminent, Chitwood said, but it is exclusive.

“He will not be coming for everyone on that day.”

Chitwood recounted the story of his selection to fill the presidency of the IMB and the conflict with his family’s adoption of a foster child in Kentucky. He and his wife would not be able to take her with them to Virginia until the process was finalized, but things were not moving forward despite numerous attempts to seek assistance.

“And day and night I called on heaven. I said, ‘Lord you’ve not given me this little girl for me to leave her here. Help us, Lord.’”

On the day before he was to be announced to the public as the IMB’s presidential candidate, he finally received a call from his adoption attorney with a date to finalize the adoption and bring his daughter to their new home.

“How much more the God of heaven will refuse to leave his own. And yet the Lord has left his church here. He didn’t save us and take us to heaven. He could have. But he left us here. Why?” he asked. “Because there’s a mission. The very mission of God that he’s called us to be a part of and we are to be the advocates—those who are crying out for a lost world.”

“Because he is coming, and he is not coming for everyone, and there is more at stake than we could ever imagine,” Chitwood said. “Church, we have a mission and it is urgent. Who’s your one? Christ is coming. His coming is imminent, his coming is exclusive. But I also want you to know his coming is good.”

“He’s only coming for those who are his, those who have heard, those who have believed, those who are adopted. That’s why you’re here. You’re here for them. And there’s no time to waste. He’s coming soon.”

Chitwood ended with a call to prayer and for each in attendance to identify one person in their life with whom to share the gospel.