Family tops Kingdom Challenge emphasis

PHOENIX ?The message was clear to Southern Baptists attending the annual meeting held in Phoenix June 17-18. Homes in America are under attack, and Southern Baptists can play a strategic role in calling the family back to a biblical foundation.

“We can’t go back and unlive our past,” stated Tom Elliff, aware that single parents or couples experiencing conflict lead many Southern Baptist homes. “But by the grace of God, from this moment on, we can be what God wants us to be ? as a family.”

Speakers at the pre-convention Pastor’s Conference heard similar observations under the theme of “Building Kingdom Families”:

“If your Christianity does not work in your home, it doesn’t work. Don’t export it,” stated Dallas Theological Seminary professor Howard Hendricks.

Dallas author and speaker Josh McDowell told parents they must combat the truth crisis their teenagers face through exposure to secular education and entertainment. “If they don’t see truth in your life, they will walk away from it.”

Evangelist Hank Williams of Asheboro, N.C. warned each pastors that without a family that is spiritually healthy, “You don’t have a ministry.”

On Monday night, Pastors’ Conference President Mac Brunson yielded time to the first-ever Kingdom Family Rally to set the week’s tone. “A church is going to take on the personality and the flavor of the pastor,” Brunson said in planning the conference. “What he does in his family speaks so much louder than anything he says in the pulpit?how he treats his wife, how he treats his kids, what he does with his family.”

Tom Elliff, head of the Council of Family Life introduced the Seven Pillars of a Kingdom Family as guiding principles for personal and family life. They include: honoring God’s authority, respecting human life, exercising moral purity, serving my church, using time wisely, practicing biblical stewardship and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Elliff is depending on pastors whom he called “gatekeepers” of whether Southern Baptists will fully embrace the strategy for saving the family. As the Council launches Kingdom Family Conferences this fall, Elliff said, “Unless the pastor and wife attend, none of the church leaders” can register. “This puts the onus on the pastor,” he explained during a news conference.

The conferences scheduled this fall are set in Oklahoma City, Aug. 11-12; Wheaton Ridge, Colo., Sept. 4-5; Brandon, Fla., Oct. 2-3 and Highland, Calif., Nov. 6-7. In addition, LifeWay Christian Resources is developing resources that focus on both traditional and nontraditional families that will help churches support the Kingdom Family emphasis.

“Although LifeWay has been involved in this for decades, I believe the renewed emphasis by the convention has given new energy to once again say to pastors and Southern Baptists that we do care about the family,” stated Jay Johnston, director of church ministry leadership.

James Dobson of Focus on the Family and Dennis Rainey of Family Life offered praise for the emphasis from their perspectives as non-Southern Baptists. “We simply can’t let the institution of the family be destroyed by the postmodernism that swirls around us,” Dobson said.

Rainey called the initiative “the most important battle Southern Baptists have waged since you struggled over the inerrancy of Scripture. You won the battle for the Bible. If we lose the family, we will lose the church.”

Tennessee pastor Adrian Rogers reminded, “The home didn’t come from the swamps of immorality. It is the plan of God to meet the deepest psychological and emotional needs we have. (Turn to page 24 for more coverage on the rally. You can access the Council on Family Life web page through www.sbc.net.)

As the annual meeting opened on Tuesday, President George W. Bush added his thanks to Southern Baptists via videotape sharing a common value in upholding marriage and family as sacred institutions that should be preserved and strengthened.

The SBC’s Task Force on Ministry to Homosexuals dealt with another issue that affects family values. Formed by LifeWay Christian Resources and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission following the 2001 SBC meeting, the task force described how Southern Baptists can share the gospel with homosexuals and reach out to them without compromising biblical truth. (See page 20 for their report.)

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