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April 1998 Issue

More than 10,000 Southern Baptist churches reported no baptisms in 1996 according to Jimmy Draper, president of the Baptist Sunday School Board. That represents about one fourth of all Southern Baptist churches. More than 13,000 additional churches reported five or fewer baptisms in the same year. That means less than half of all Southern Baptist churches baptized six or more in 1996. The same reports suggest that it takes forty-two Southern Baptists to reach one person for Christ.

This glaring inconsistency has alarmed the leaders of the North American Mission Board and the Baptist Sunday School Board and energized their search for solutions. They may have found part of the answer in "FAITH," the evangelism and discipleship strategy of Daytona Beach First Baptist Church. After meeting with Bobby Welch, the pastor of Daytona Beach First, and after examining the FAITH approach, the joint leadership of the BSSB and NAMB has initiated a concentrated, cooperative effort to em...

As our SBC meeting in Salt Lake City draws near, I am asked with increasing frequency if I really believe it is appropriate to "evangelize" those of Mormon faith. This question is reminiscent of a similar question often asked following our 1996 SBC in New Orleans. There we passed a resolution reminding our convention that we must not overlook any segment of society, including those of Jewish heritage and faith, in our efforts to share the gospel with all people groups.

In both instances my answer is an unequivocal "Yes!" My convictions regarding witnessing stem from my understanding of the very nature of evangelism. Consider the following observations regarding our Lord's commissioning of those terrified followers gathered in secrecy on the Sunday of His resurrection. His words clarify for us the "evangelism equation." "As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you" (John 20:21). In other words, His work is our work. We can conclude thes...

An Historic Meeting

Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, in a January 19 meeting with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Dr. Chapman and James Merritt, pastor of First Baptist Church, Snellville, Ga., and chairman of the Executive Committee, were among a number of evangelical leaders invited to meet privately with Netanyahu in Washington, D.C. Other Southern Baptists at the meeting were: Bailey Smith, past president of the Southern Baptist Convention and president of Bailey Smith Ministries; his son Steven Smith, pastor of Salem Baptist Church, Richmond, Va.; and Richard Lee, pastor of Rehoboth Baptist Church, Tucker, Ga.

Healthy Cooperation

In recognition of the healthy relationship between state conventions and the Executive Committee, on February 17, 1997 the Executive Committee of the Souther...

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is closer to Southern Baptists' hometowns — within arm's reach on their radio dial.

The SBC's agency for moral and public policy concerns launched a national radio program Feb. 16 that will enable millions of Southern Baptists and others to tune in and participate in biblically-based discussions on the critical issues confronting the nation.

The program, For Faith & Family, debuted on more than 170 radio stations live and on tape-delay across the United States and at AudioNet on the Internet.

ERLC President Richard Land is hopeful Southern Baptists will tune in to every episode of the half-hour, call-in radio program airing live at 11:30 am Central weekdays. "We hope and pray that For Faith & Family will help listeners develop a Christian worldview which will enable them to fully understand and address the critical social, moral, and public policy issues...

The newly gathered conference attendees wandered about the room, cautiously asking each other for coins as part of an odd and awkward assignment. The ice breaker exercise required each of these pastors and their wives to produce a dime, a nickel, and a penny. Whatever coins they lacked, they were to solicit from other participants. That task completed, they were instructed to return to their seats, examine each coin carefully, and determine which coin best reflected their feelings. Then, each participant was asked to share which coin they chose and why.
The Great Debate

The debate continues over whether Mormons are a part of historic Christianity - this time in an address by a church apostle, Boyd K. Packer, to 15,000 students at Brigham Young University, Feb. 1, reported by The Salt Lake Tribune, and a letter-to-the-editor reply by Phil Roberts, director of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board's interfaith witness team.

Packer, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve, a tier of Mormon authority second only to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' governing First Presidency, gave "one of the strongest declarations in memory about the nature of the faith" in his lecture at BYU, The Tribune reported Feb. 2.

Roberts, recapping various Mormon beliefs, noted in his letter, "All of these concepts began with Joseph Smith and are not a part of biblical and historical Christianity."

Packer did not mention the Southern Baptist Convention by name in his address, the newspaper noted. The SBC will hold its annual meeting in Salt Lake City June 9-11 and, in preparation for the visit by Southern Baptists from across the country, NAMB's interf...

"Oklahomans want to build the state on sound moral principles and sound economics. People knew the issues and didn't falter." - State Rep. Forrest Claunch

"Don't roll the dice," Oklahomans said in February as they voted 2-1 against legalizing casinos.

Despite fears from state educators, votes on school funding millages were not affected by the heavy "no" tally against casinos. Most property tax millages, which provide most of the funding for public schools in Oklahoma, also passed by a 2-1 margin.

The final tally on casinos was 304,349 against and 139,024 for. The 443,373 votes represent about 22 percent of the state's registered voters.

In 1994, 697,000 Oklahomans voted against a state lottery.

If this year's measure had passed, it would have allowed casinos in four locations: Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Sallisaw (far eastern Oklahoma), and Love County (far southern...

The National Acteens Convention is only held every four to five years, but participants come away from the event with something that impacts their lives for years, according to leaders from across the nation.

Acteens is the missions organization for girls in grades seven through twelve sponsored by Woman's Missionary Union. NAC is designed for Acteens members and other girls who have completed the seventh grade. More than 10,000 teens and their leaders are expected to attend NAC July 1-4 in Louisville, Ky., at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center.

"NAC is a great event," said Charlie Wilson, associate pastor for youth and activities at First Baptist Church in Hartwell, Ga. "The festive atmosphere makes missions exciting. I would encourage everyone to go.

"I attended NAC in 1994 for selfish reasons," said Wilson. "I had just started my current position and was looking for opportunities to build relationships with the youth. I dec...

A Washington-based pro-life organization has found another reason to boycott The Disney Company — it gives money to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the country's leading provider of abortions.

At a January news conference unveiling a new advertising campaign aimed at informing the public of Planned Parenthood's agenda, Life Decisions International announced it had added Disney to its list of boycotted corporations. LDI released a list of more than sixty corporations on its boycott list for their financial support of Planned Parenthood.

LDI joins the Southern Baptist Convention and such organizations as American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, and Focus on the Family that have called for a boycott of the entertainment giant because of corporate policies that support homosexuality and entertainment products that denigrate Christianity and the family.

In announcing Disney's addition to LDI's boycott list, Will Dods...

The voters of Maine dealt a setback to the homosexual rights movement in February, repealing a state law granting civil rights status to homosexuals.

Though official results were not available, the Bangor (Maine) Daily News reported the referendum succeeded by a margin of about 52 to 48 percent, according to The Washington Post. The referendum was taken on a law enacted last spring.

The vote marked the second time in four months supporters of homosexual rights have lost in a statewide initiative. In November, voters in Washington defeated a homosexual rights initiative by 60 to 40 percent.

Some opponents of homosexual rights said the two statewide results show the tide may be turning against what has appeared in recent years to be an unabated advance by the homosexual movement.

"It's a huge, huge victory," said Peter LaBarbera, an analyst for the Washington-based Family Research Council. "I think people are waking...

North East Park Baptist Church has a unique way to remind members that you can "count" on prayer.

At every business meeting, Vicki Phillips, prayer coordinator for the St. Petersburg, Fla., church, presents a written report that would rival any financial statement. She and the prayer ministry team tally the accomplishments stemming from the dedication of those involved in intercessory prayer. The report lists the number of prayer requests, the types of requests, and the results. During 1996, the prayer ministry team reported that 2,675 prayer requests were given to the church.

In one business meeting last year, Phillips reported, "Our prayers of a spiritual nature are 192, and that is 52.9 percent. At the end of last year that percentage was 44.1 percent."

From this "accounting," the church grows not only in the number committed to prayer but also in the kind of prayer going on, she said.

"But don't let the numb...

During Ted Stone's first walk across America in 1996, he constantly reminded his listeners that the country's drug problem would not be solved in Washington but that it must be tackled in each community across the United States.

In an effort to set an example for his countrymen, he organized a group of local residents in his hometown Durham, N.C. — Citizens United To Fight Drug Abuse. Since last fall the organization has sponsored several events. After the first public meeting twenty young people and their leaders hiked five miles across the city to a cemetery where seventeen-year-old Stan Emory is buried. Emory, whose family was active in a local Baptist church, was murdered in a drug-related tragedy. The group joined hands in a circle around the teenager's grave, praying that what happened to Stan would not happen to others across America.

Stone served as chairman of the citizen's group which secured passage by the Durham County Commissioners of ...

A friend recently recounted a sad but true story from his childhood. It took place in the late 1960s, when he was about eight years old. A hippie family came to their church one Sunday night. The husband had a scruffy beard, they were wearing beads, and they obviously stood out in the congregation. The pastor got up, looked across the auditorium, and said, "It is so nice to see everyone clean shaven and well bathed this evening." By the time my friend turned around to see the family's response, he saw only the back door swinging back and forth. They got the message, and left.

Perhaps that church should have been called the "Clean-Shaven and Well-Bathed Only Baptist Church," because the hippie family was not welcome there. The story raises a point — how does the testimony of a church compare to its name?

In the Bible a name often described the character or something unique about the person — Abraham means "Father of Nations," Amos means &q...

Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity. And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatory. Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore.

Would you lose your sorrows? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead's deepest sea; be lost in His immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of grief and sorrow; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead.

From "The Immutability of God" by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, delivered, January 7, 1855 at New Park Street Chapel, Southw...

Laurie Beth Jones in her book, Jesus C.E.O., quotes a child as saying that Jesus' first words upon stepping out of the tomb that first Easter morning, were, "Ta-Da!" It may seem a little frivolous to us, but not to a child's way of thinking. Easter is the grand "Ta-Da!" It is the great surprise. It is the miracle whose magnitude legitimizes the Christian faith. It is the perfect answer to Ponce de Leon's wandering through the alligator-ridden swamps of (what later became) Florida looking for the fountain of youth. It is the cry of hope for Job's great question, "If a man die shall he live again?"

In the thirty-odd years I was a pastor, I preached many funerals. I never preached a single one without quoting the Grand Ta-Da! I liked helping the sorrowing remember that Jesus put an end to all endings. Life has no right to die. Jesus fixed grief once and for all. God in eternity will wipe away all tears, but He first got His handke...

No Gay Genes

Much of the push to normalize homosexuality has been linked with the assertion that sexual orientation — straight or homosexual — is determined by genetics. Gay rights advocates have based their claims of discrimination on the "fact" that they had no say in their sexual preference — that they were born with a homosexual disposition. However, evidence now seems to suggest otherwise.

Those claims were based on autopsies performed by Dr. Simon LeVay at the Salk Institute in San Diego. He found that there was a difference in the brain structure between heterosexuals and homosexuals. Activists, anxious to validate their sexual orientation, suggested the difference proved a biological basis for their homosexuality.

However, according to the Los Angeles Times, October 23 1997, neuroscientist and psychology professor Marc Breedlove of the University of California at Berkeley has pr...

This time of year reminds me of a guy who was drafted into the Army. When they told him he would be in for four years, he started grabbing every piece of paper he saw. He would look at the paper and say, "This isn't it." Then he'd grab another piece of paper, look at it, say, "This isn't it," and throw it away. Even when the general walked by, he grabbed a piece of paper out of his hand, looked at it, and said, "This isn't it, either." Every piece of paper he grabbed, he would look at it and report, "This isn't it."

His superiors were concerned about him and called in the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist said, "You have a problem. What is this strange habit you have? What is it you are looking for?" The man said, "I don't know. I just know I haven't found it yet." Then he started looking through the papers on the doctor's desk, but they weren't what he was looking for. The psychiatrist deci...