Month: March 2023

Southwestern Seminary accepts City of Fort Worth offer for purchase of Carroll Park

FORT WORTH—Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary accepted a non-binding agreement for an $11 million acquisition of 15 acres of the B.H. Carroll Park property from the Fort Worth Housing Finance Corporation, the housing development arm of the City of Fort Worth, during the Fort Worth City Council meeting on Feb. 28, Interim President David S. Dockery announced today.

“This agreement with the City of Fort Worth to move forward with its purchase of 15 acres of the Carroll Park property is not only welcome news for Southwestern Seminary, it is the next chapter in a 115-year partnership between the seminary and the city we call home,” Dockery said.

Mayor Mattie Parker said in comments provided to the seminary, “I am grateful for the historic partnership between Southwestern Seminary and the City of Fort Worth. The seminary’s commitment to serving our city has been made even more clear in the work it has taken to make this project possible.”

The partnership includes the City of Fort Worth and two primary non-profit organizations who will manage the project, One Safe Place and Samaritan House, with support from other philanthropic organizations including the Rainwater, Morris, Amon Carter, and Sid Richardson foundations, and the Paulos Foundation. The city plans to use the property to provide housing for 140 vulnerable families, including victims of domestic violence, and homeless members of the community.

“We are overjoyed that this property so many seminary families have called home over the decades can now be used to meet a critical need in our city—housing for the most vulnerable among us, including families experiencing homelessness,” Dockery said. “We remain committed to ensuring a smooth transition for our students who are still living at Carroll Park as we work with the City and other partners to finalize this historic transaction.”

Dockery noted plans to sell the property, which were announced at the seminary’s October 2022 board of trustee meeting, have been under consideration for a number of years. He said other housing on the main campus can better accommodate the needs of the institution than the Carroll Park property, which is not contiguous with the campus.

Since the board of trustee meeting, campus leadership has met in town hall meetings with Carroll Park residents to address questions and provide information for student housing.

In a press release from the city, Parker called the project a “perfect example” of Fort Worth’s “commitment to families and ensuring every child has the support they need to be successful.”

“As we face a crisis of family homelessness across the country, we are fortunate in Fort Worth to have nonprofit and philanthropic partners that are committed to working alongside the city to ensure we are investing in the needed housing and services for our most vulnerable,” Parker said.

EMPOWER ’23: Barber outlines CP’s history, need for continued sacrificial giving during luncheon

IRVING—Southern Baptist Convention President Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, challenged 450 attendees at the Empower Conference’s Cooperative Program luncheon on Tuesday to continue the tradition of cooperation begun among Baptists during the 1800s.

“I’m not going to preach today,” announced Barber, who moments earlier had concluded giving the message to close the conference’s morning session. During that message, Barber called Jesus “amazing” and said He can use the Cooperative Program to advance kingdom causes in a tremendous way.

“I love what we do together,” he said.

Noting the Cooperative Program will mark its 100th year in two years, Barber launched into a brief history that included its earliest iterations through the missionary efforts of William Carey, Adoniram Judson, and Luther Rice. Judson and Rice raised support among congregationalists for foreign missionaries, he said, only to see that support collapse when they became Baptists. Judson’s missionary efforts in Burma became legendary.

Cooperative Program roots

Barber said Southern Baptists existed for 80 years before the Cooperative Program was formed. From the ashes of the Civil War, God inspired Southern Baptists to combine funds and send missionaries to Brazil, China, and even Italy.

“We were going to storm hell with a water pistol … and get all those Catholics to become Baptists,” Barber said with a chuckle of the early Italian missionary efforts. “There was no Cooperative Program, but there was cooperation.”

During the early 20th century, messengers at the 1919 annual meeting took the initiative to start an unprecedented effort called the 75 Million Campaign. The 75 Million Campaign ensured that churches established a means for churches to give in support of local and global ministry.

“God started to move among Southern Baptists to dream that they could do something that reached a little further,” Barber said. Before the campaign, messengers brought money to the annual meeting from their churches: an allocation for the Foreign Mission Board, a separate amount for the Home Mission Board, and funds for the seminaries.

“We came to a point where we said, ‘We are serious about this. Every church in the convention is going to make a plan for our people, for our finances … a plan that is bigger than us, that reaches out to people who don’t live near us, that don’t look like us, that don’t speak the same language,’” Barber said.

The 75 Million Campaign raised $93 million in pledges. Barber noted the extensive involvement of Texas Baptists in the foundation of the CP, including Pastor J.B. Gambrell of Fort Worth.

“Money comes when people trust and are inspired by the work of the Great Commission. That’s what fuels cooperation among Southern Baptists,” Barber said.

From China to Cuba to Brazil, news of how campaign funds were used to bring people to Christ encouraged Southern Baptists. State conventions began to cooperate with the SBC and with one another, and “all our churches came together in this rope of sand with the strength of steel” by which we are able to support the work of the SBC, he said.

His church, FBC Farmersville, has chosen to give 10 percent of its undesignated receipts to CP and called it “healthy” for churches: “We are doing it because we think it is a great investment in the work of the Great Commission around the world.”

That cooperation is not only financial, he said, but also involves cooperation in prayer, dialogue, and the work of the convention.

Get involved

Barber urged involvement with the SBC, noting that officers like himself are volunteers, as are those who serve on the various national committees. For example, elected members of the Executive Committee are volunteers. For these, cooperation is more than writing a check, but giving time, and Barber challenged attendees to “lean in” to CP with their best efforts.

He also addressed, briefly, two SBC national controversies: the recent disaffiliation of Saddleback Church by the SBC EC over the issue of female pastors, and the recommendation by the SBC’s Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force to retain Guidepost Solutions to manage an abuser database.

Barber noted the criticism regarding those decisions and challenged the audience to become involved in solutions: “If you’ve got the time and the expertise to criticize, maybe you’ve got the time and the expertise to help.” He added that he trusts the Holy Spirit who inspired Adoniram Judson so many years ago to continue to guide the cooperation of Southern Baptists.

EMPOWER ’23: Inaugural Student Rally draws hundreds, leads to 28 salvations

IRVING—Around 300 middle school and high school students flocked to the Irving Convention Center Tuesday evening to sing, pray, and praise God during a student rally that marked the official end to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s annual Empower Conference.

“We are thrilled this year to have the inaugural student rally,” SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick said prior to the event. “We are praying that God will place something in the hearts of these students that will spark a revival.”

God may have done just that, as 28 students prayed to receive Christ.

The warmup

Brandon Bales, SBTC youth ministry associate, warmed up the crowd with games and giveaways as the room filled with smoke, fog, strobe lights, and music while the large onstage screen displayed multi-colored Christian graphics, the name of Jesus, and words of faith.

Participants received black wristbands inscribed with gospel symbols and the words “JesusSave.Me.” Ryan Fontenot, SBTC evangelism consultant, explained the symbols: a heart representing the love of God, a division symbol representing sin, a cross representing Jesus, and a question mark suggesting the ultimate decision possible regarding Christ.

A worship team fronted by Jimmy McNeal, worship pastor at Austin Stone Community Church, led worship throughout the evening. Dallas-based Christian illusionist Brice Harney, who has performed for Toyota, Google, major television networks, and ministries including CRU, offered a fast-paced variety of tricks involving audience volunteers. Whether retrieving torn cards from his mouth, guessing names, or playing mental games, Harney fascinated the room.

After a disappearing trick with audience members, Harney ended his performance by warning students to go back into the world knowing the difference between reality and illusion.

The main event

Shane Pruitt, author and national Nex Gen director for the North American Mission Board, followed, beginning his message by posing several of life’s biggest questions: What is the purpose of my existence? Why am I here?

At Pruitt’s request, hands shot up throughout the auditorium as students admitted knowing friends struggling with suicidal thoughts or depression. Such feelings are often rooted in a lack of understanding their true purpose, Pruitt said, which is found only in Jesus.

“The Word of God points to the Word of God and His name is Jesus,” Pruitt said. “You literally exist to know Jesus. You are here to know Jesus and to make Jesus known.”

Speaking in an area known as the Bible belt of Texas, Pruitt said many people think they will go to heaven by being a good person. He challenged students to ask people how they think a person can go to heaven.

“Good people don’t go to heaven. Those who are saved by Jesus do,” Pruitt noted. “We may be good at sinning, but Jesus is better at saving. Jesus isn’t just sent from God. Jesus is God.”

Pruitt defined repentance and assured students of the security of their salvation. “When God comes to live inside of you, it changes everything. You are forgiven of sin: past, present, and future.”

He then presented the plan of salvation in simple, clear language. Sitting in church no more makes someone a Christian, he said, than does sitting in a McDonald’s make someone a Happy Meal.

“Now is your time,” he told the students as he led the gathering in prayer, including a prayer of salvation to which 28 young people indicated by raised hands that they had responded. Prayers and instruction regarding the need for believer’s baptism and the call to missions or ministry followed, to which other students responded.

Pruitt challenged students to pray for revival to break out in their schools, churches, neighborhood, and nation.

“You are a bold generation. You are a cause generation,” he said. “It’s time to live boldly and publicly for Him.”