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August 1996 Issue

Report of the Implementation Task Force as Given to the 1996 SBC



The following is a reproduction of the ITF report given to the 1996 Southern Baptist Convention. Although it has already been approved by Southern Baptists, we have left the report in the future tense, as written by the ITF committee.


The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, in June 1995 adopted the report of the Executive Committee's Program and Structure Study Committee (PSSC) entitled "Covenant for a New Century." That report included an instruction that upon the final approval of Bylaw 15 revisions by the SBC meeting in New Orleans in June 1996, the Executive Committee of the SBC should implement the changes required by the Covena...

Following our annual meeting of the SBC in New Orleans, I was asked how I viewed the upcoming year as your president. I answered that I intended to view it as a "365-day sprint" with no backward look. I am humbled that you would accord me this privilege. This letter is written so that you might know my heart and pray faithfully for Jeannie and me in the coming days.

To illustrate my heart, let me share this story: Bueno Venturo Bello was viciously attacked and left for dead because he refused to tear his country's flag from the wall of his classroom. After the enemy forces left the area, his bullet-riddled body was found and carried to a casualty clearing station where he was nursed back to health. A Christian friend, upon discovering the cause for his injuries, exclaimed, "Why didn't you just pull the flag down?" His reply was convicting: "There comes a time in the life of every man when he must prove what he believes by what he does."

'Church Health, Not Church Growth is Key to Future'

Rick Warren is approaching legendary status as the pastor of Saddleback Community Church, the fastest growing Baptist church in American history. After graduating from Southwestern Seminary in 1980, Warren and his wife moved to Southern California to plant a Southern Baptist church in the suburbs about an hour south of Los Angeles. The deliberately non-traditional church was aimed at reaching people who wouldn't ordinarily come to church. In 16 years, Saddleback has grown to be the largest attended Southern Baptist congregation, averaging over 12,000 attenders each weekend, while at the same time starting 26 other churches. This year's Easter service attracted 21,988 to a service and 1,084 unbelievers registered commitments to Christ.

Warren, who encourages struggling pastors by saying he can remember when the church only had 25 members, has written a book for church leaders outlining Saddleback's evangelism and disciple-making strategy. The Purpose Driven...

It may come as a surprise to many Baptists, but the popular personal training programs written and promoted by Stephen R. Covey are also meant to subtly promote his Mormon beliefs. Ironically, one of the reasons his materials, such as The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, are so popular among many Christian leaders is because they give a prominent place to spirituality in personal growth.

Yet, 7 Habits contains many of the same principles, anecdotes, and illustrations as found in one of Covey's earlier books, The Divine Center, a book meant to promote Mormon beliefs and show that any spiritual model other than the Church of Latter-day Saints (LDS), including evangelical Christianity, is a false "map" that limits the personal development of its followers.

Covey explains in The Divine Center that he has discovered how to communicate Mormon truths to non-Mormons by simply changing his vocabulary. He writes, "I have found in ...

Arthur Siggers knows the importance of starting something new. The Hattiesburg, Miss., native returned home 14 years ago to become pastor of Mt. Olive Baptist Church — a congregation of 140 meeting just twice a month. Today, Siggers preaches to more than 800 every week, and he attributes the growth to adding ministry and worship opportunities.

To start something new, churches must have the proper vision and planning, said Siggers. A pastor considering a new ministry, Sunday School class, or worship service must consider the reason for the new project, he said. "The Lord gives different visions to different men for different churches."

Churches must prepare the people, prepare the plan, and prepare for growth as they start something new, Siggers said. Preparing the people can help overcome discomfort or initial objections to the changes necessary for new initiatives. "That comes from sharing your vision. Talking about it. Not just doing it cold turke...

Dan Stone would not want to be remembered for his circumstances. Forget that he has cancer. Forget that just a few years ago his wife died of cancer. Stone would have you remember, instead, the God who lifts him above this temporal life to his true life in Christ.

"God has shown me that nothing has really changed," said Stone, who has been undergoing chemotherapy for a year. "The only difference is now I know what God knew all along."

Stone noted we often focus on our circumstances rather than God. Instead, we need to realize that the Christian life originates with God: Christ is our Life.

"When we try to construct a life, even one that is Christ-like, we are meant to fail because it can't be done in our own power," said Stone. "But we actually succeed by failing, by realizing we're inadequate. That's when God can move in and live life through us."

This sense of connectedness allowed Stone to see God at work in his life, even as his wife was dying of cancer. Stone was an itinerant Bible teacher, traveling the country in faith. One day he sensed God telling him to radically a...

When we lived in Dallas, our family would always meet after church on the second floor of a certain building. On a particular Sunday, we were supposed to eat with several couples, and everybody had agreed to meet in that building. Everyone was there at the appropriate time except my teenage daughter, Angela. She had just turned thirteen, and she wasn't there (at the time, I didn't realize she wouldn't be "there" for the next six years).

We waited ten minutes ... still not there. Everyone was getting antsy, and I was getting embarrassed. One couple said, "We'll go to the restaurant and save a place, because it's going to get crowded." Another couple said, "We know you don't know the way to the restaurant, so we'll stay and you can follow us." I said, "Thank you for going and saving a table. Thank you for staying." Meanwhile, even as I was acting so appreciative, I was getting more embarrassed, and as the Kin...

Missionary/Anthropologist's Fascination with Arab World Began in Sunday School

Long before he and his wife became the first Southern Baptist missionaries to Iran, George Braswell was captivated by the biblical story of the Persian King Cyrus releasing the children of Israel from their Babylonian captivity and by the story of the Iranian Magi bringing gifts to the baby Jesus.

"My Sunday school teachers, by emphasizing these great biblical stories, had a lot to do with my interest in the Arab world," said Braswell, author of the new Broadman-Holman book, Islam: Its Prophet, Peoples, Politics and Power.

Braswell's book is a basic history of Is...