The conclusion of another busy news year

This issue marks the end of this volume of the Southern Baptist TEXAN. What a year! I’ve often remarked that I don’t remember a slow news cycle since Hurricane Katrina. Whether we’re talking about world news, SBC news, or stories of ministry in Texas, 2010 has been full of more than we can tell.

One of our most popular issues this year dealt with Bible translations and versions. Understandably, this is a complex issue for many people. Different kinds of Bibles abound. Our effort to explain a bit about how we got our Bible and the different intents and philosophies behind the versions was popular with many of our readers. Of course our issue focusing on health-related topics was not as popular. None of us enjoys having someone else poke a finger in our pudgy bellies. I found it convicting, and inconvenient, as we move into the season of the year when we are bound by honor and appetite to eat five times a day.

In a category some would call “boring but maybe important” resides many stories surrounding the idea of a Great Commission Resurgence. Since a task force appointed to investigate how Southern Baptists can do Great Commission ministry more effectively made their report last spring, their suggestions have launched a career or two and impacted more than a couple of state conventions. No doubt we’ll continue to hear of how churches are responding to this initiative as 2011 calendars and budgets kick in.

A related subject involves the financial struggles of churches and parachurch ministries. Some of the energy directed at reforming the mission we share comes from the fact that families, churches, and those ministries further down the funding stream, are receiving less money. Nothing focuses a ministry’s attention like not being able to meet payroll. Perhaps in ministries large and small, God will use challenging financial times to put our attention back on first things. In working through the budget process at my own church, I was surprised to find how (almost) inextricably the nice things and necessary ones are woven together in a ministry that has plenty of money. Unwinding those distinct budget priorities is difficult and painful. We won’t do it until we’re forced. Maybe it takes a shortfall to put our attention on good stewardship.

The nation largely rejected President Obama’s political agenda this November. The turnover of the most unpopular of all public institutions is big news because of the magnitude of the change. It will be a test of the president’s character as he sorts out how he will respond to a Congress newly committed to checks and balances. Moral conservatives will face no less a test as our new legislators begin to reveal their own commitments to matters more timeless than the economy. A Republican party willing to reject biblical morality in favor of winning is of no use to us. Many of our new reps seem genuinely conservative but we must be diligent as they start putting action to their words. Issues like the proposed repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” continue to roil. On this day, we stand on the verge of wrecking the U.S. military for the sake of trendy sentimentality. Few people intend to wreck our nation’s armed forces. At the same time, it is apparent that few of us, including few of our national leaders, understand the armed forces. It’s a disastrous idea in a year of more than one foolish notion.

The independence of Criswell College was a big story this year. We’ve said a lot about that so I’ll let it suffice to bless First Baptist Dallas for their generosity to my alma mater, and to thank God for a positive outcome to the complex discussions that took place over the course of two years.
Our SBTC Disaster Relief ministry got off to a hectic start in January when an earthquake wrecked the already poor country of Haiti. Southern Baptists in Texas prayed, sent, went, and gave. Our collection of “buckets of hope” provided food to thousands of those who had nothing. Our volunteers helped with chaplaincy, medical services, and rebuilding alongside Southern Baptist volunteers from all around the country. Flooding in the Rio Grande Valley and in Mexico also mobilized hundreds of us to provide clean water, clean up, food, and comfort to our neighbors. As often happens, many of us also took DR training this year so that we might be deployable the next time something comes up.

It’s just a sampling but you can see that important things are going on all around us. I pray that your family and your church will find ways to make good news during 2011.

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