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June 2002 Issue

It may not be a church-planting movement yet, but hundreds of Muslims across Israel and the Palestinian areas have come to Christ in the past year or so.

The decisions have resulted in small groups of believers scattered in villages and cities across this troubled region, leaping tense borders as ex-Muslims share their newfound faith with others in their extended families of parents, uncles, aunts — and sometimes, multiple wives.

"I've been working among these people for thirty years, and I promise you I've never seen anything like this," marvels one Southern Baptist worker.

They gather behind closed doors to study the Bible despite the fact that professing belief in the Scriptures in Muslim areas can result in violent attacks or worse.

This is not the kind of movement Southern Baptists are likely to see covered on the six o'clock news. But Christian workers here are praying and carefully trying to fan the fragile flames of...

Andrew* prays for power as he drives into a refugee center in Western Europe, the back of his minivan loaded with clothing, food, toys, and Bibles in various languages. The kids spot him first and come running from the nondescript, dormitory-style building. "Mr. Andrew! Mr. Andrew!" they shout, jumping into the missionary's arms. Parents and other adults follow. Andrew's visits count among the few bright spots in their often-gloomy days.

Every refugee family has a story — usually a sad one. Such stories are as common as despair among the thousands of refugees flocking to this European country for sanctuary.

They come not only from Afghanistan but many other places people flee because of war, misery, oppression, ethnic turmoil: Iraqis, Iranians, Palestinians, Algerians, Kurds, Azerbaijanis, Syrians, Chechens, Gypsies, even Burmese. They arrive by plane, in the backs of trucks, inside crates, and in the rat-infested holds of ships.


Where Do We Take Our Stand

Mohammed Akbar centered himself in his Afghan culture and faith each time he spoke his name. The name his parents gave him literally means 'Mohammed is the Greatest,' and attests to a core Islamic identity shared by most in his hometown of Kabul, Afghanistan.

But in 1979, an attack on his homeland by the former Soviet Union shook the foundations of his faith and identity.

"He fled from his home to Iran after the invasion because he said he was not a fighter," recalls an International Mission Board administrator who now works in South Asia.

In Iran, Mohammed Akbar soon found himself lost with no home or job in a nation swept up in its own revolution. That same year the Shah of Iran had abandoned his throne, and Ayatollah Khomeini was installing a brand of Islamic government the world had never known.

By December 1979, Iran's revolutionary police were patrolling streets to enforce Islamic codes of behavior, but Mohammed Akbar was s...

It was New Year's Eve in northern Lebanon and death was in the air. As the year 2000 dawned, a horrible plot was underway that would forever mark this place. It is a rich agricultural area, between the Mediterranean and a range of hills on the horizon, where olives, citrus fruits, and vegetables are grown. The rich olive oil produced here is famous for its quality.

In the village of Kfar-Habou Jean, a Baptist layman, and his wife, Sarah — five months pregnant with their first child — were returning home where Sarah's mother, Selwah, waited for them.

When Jean drove his nephew into Beirut earlier that evening, he saw the Lebanese army had sent troops into the area. When they returned home around 10:45 p.m., Jean, an officer in the army, checked with his base to ask what was happening; he was told there was no problem.

But there was a big problem.

Suddenly, they heard a bomb blast and shooting. Sarah was terrified. Jean again called his base.

"What's happening up here?" he asked. He was told to stand by. After hearing more shooting he called the base again.

"Don't w...

How Will The Church Respond to the Homosexual Challenge?

The church's engagement with the culture involves a host of issues, controversies, and decisions — but no issue defines our current cultural crisis as clearly as homosexuality. Some churches and denominations have capitulated to the demands of the homosexual rights movement, and now accept homosexuality as a fully valid lifestyle. Other denominations are tottering on the brink, and without a massive conservative resistance they are almost certain to abandon biblical truth and bless what the Bible condemns.

Within a few short years a major dividing line has become evident — with those churches endorsing homosexuality on one side and those stubbornly resisting the cultural tide on the other.

The homosexual rights movement understands that the evangelical church is one of the last resistance movements committed to a biblical morality. Because of this, the movement has adopted a strategy of isolating Christian opposition and forcing change by political action ...

Beginning with this article, SBC LIFE will present a series of articles in the next three issues that summarize the Focus on the Family "Love Won Out" lectures presented at Southern Seminary.

In his classic 1946 book, Animal Farm, George Orwell coined the phrase: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." That statement, which is now over fifty years old, sums up the legal objectives of the homosexual activist movement regarding the religious civil liberties of all Americans.

Their prevailing attitude towards religious freedom is succinctly summed up in the following statement by radical homosexual activists Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen in their manifesto for the "gay" rights movement, After the Ball: "[In regards to...

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) announced on Feb. 4, 2002, "a growing body of scientific literature demonstrates that children who grow up with one or two gay or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual."1 Based on this, the AAP states it supports "legislative and legal efforts" to allow homosexuals to adopt their partner's children.2

Many in the media have used this statement from the respected AAP as a discussion-closer on whether heterosexual parenting is good or bad. The AAP says the gender of parents doesn't matter, so the media figure it must not really matter, either. The members of the AAP know better. An e-mail memo to select members of the Academy laments:

"the AAP has received more messages — almost all of them CRITICAL — from members about the recent Policy Statement on cop...

Sexual contact between adults and children has long been a societal taboo so strong that it has been considered one of our culture's few unquestioned moral principles. A recent barrage of books, academic journal articles, and online material, however, has begun to argue that at least some sexual contact between adults and children should be acceptable, especially when children consent to it. According to an article in the March 26 Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, "With more research, some scholars say, it may be only a matter of time before modern society accepts adult-child sex, just as it has learned to accept premarital sex and homosexual sex."

The attempt to normalize such abhorrent behavior by referring to it merely as "adult-child sexual contact" is alarming and reprehensible. It illustrates how some would justify or rationalize sinful behavior under the guise of social science. If this precedent is not challenged, and if the effort is successfu...

David Huxley was an incredibly strong man who in October 1997 pulled a 180-ton airplane 100 yards in one minute and twenty-nine seconds. A much greater power is displayed, however, when a man enters the cockpit and fires up the engines, lifting it thousands of feet into the air.

Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, said the ministry can be like that, too: Ministers are often like Huxley, trying to pull their ministry to success, relying on their own strength, while Jesus waits for them to allow Him to display true power in the midst of their struggling.

"That is the power you and I have to tap into if we're going to touch the world for Jesus Christ," said Brunson, the featured speaker in New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary's annual Gurney Evangelism Lecture series, March 5-6.

Focusing on Mark 5, which he called the "chapter of the incurables," Brunson first turned his attention to Jesus' ministry, which he desc...

Anointed expository preaching is abso-lutely necessary if the church is to experience true revival, Stephen Olford recently said at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Olford, founder and senior lecturer of the Stephen Olford Center for Biblical Preaching in Memphis, Tenn., was on campus in April for the annual Power in the Pulpit conference, a series of sermons intended to strengthen pastoral skills. His son, David, was also a featured speaker.

"All across the land we see men, women, boys, and girls turning aside to myths and fables," Olford said. "Every day [in America] a new cult arises. Perhaps one of the most sinister is the New Age movement with its tentacles in most every area of life, especially in corporate life.

"We need to read the times, but we need to heed the trends in light of all this. There must be a return to anointed expository preaching of the Word of God calling for a Divine verdict."

Olford, eighty-...

The New Testament is very clear that God's will for every believer is spiritual maturity. He wants us to grow up. Paul says we are not meant to remain as children ... but to grow up in every way into Christ the head. (Eph. 4:14, Phillips) The goal of spiritual growth is to become like Jesus. This has been God's plan for us since the beginning. He created us to be like His Son.

The big question, then, is how? How does spiritual growth happen? How do we become mature in Christ? Churches are filled will people who have attended for decades but show little development in discipleship. What's the problem?

One of the biggest barriers to growth is the misconception that all you need is Bible study to grow. Many of our churches have been built on this myth. I call them "Classroom churches." Classroom churches tend to be left-brain oriented and cognitive-focused. They stress the teaching of Bible content and doctrine but they give little, if any...

In his annual review of the year's top religious findings, George Barna provides five lists of faith-related survey results: the most revealing, most controversial, most surprising, most significant-but-not-surprising, and most challenging faith-related insights.

"Other people would probably place some different outcomes on each of these lists," admitted Barna. "But based on our on-going assessment of the spiritual climate and religious gyrations in America, these outcomes give a pretty dynamic summary of what happened in the U.S. in its religious life in 2001. Such lists are always subjective, but the breadth of revelations represented by these factors may be helpful in reviewing the true spiritual condition of America."

The Seven Most Important or Revealing Results

1 When people who regularly attend Christian church services were asked to descri...

TruthQuest 2002

A new reality-based television show will follow the adventures of twelve Southern Baptist teenagers as they travel through California reporting on and participating in cutting-edge missionary work.

TruthQuest: California will introduce the concept of reality television to FamilyNet, a twenty-four-hour family values network run by the North American Mission Board's Broadcast Communications Group.

Baptist Press will send and FamilyNet camera crews will follow the twelve evangelical Christian teens on a sixteen-day quest to discover missions and ministry in California.

Their stories will appear daily in Baptist Press and their adventures will be chronicled in thirteen half-hour episodes of a reality-based television series on FamilyNet. The concept was created by Todd Starnes, assistant editor of Baptist Press.

The TruthQuest team will surf with an evangelical surfing ministry in San Diego, visit with a church that wo...

In January, International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin sent a letter to each of the more than 5,000 Southern Baptist missionaries asking them to sign an affirmation of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. Since Southern Baptist missionaries have been required to affirm our convention's statement of belief for decades, one would think this bit of housekeeping would have gone relatively unnoticed.

One would think. Instead, the letter requesting missionaries affirm the stated beliefs of the Baptists sending them was met with resistance. But the resistance did not come from the vast majority of missionaries, most of whom appear to be signing it, content to affirm Southern Baptist doctrine. No, the resistance came primarily from the leadership of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

On Feb. 26, the BGCT executive board voted to create a "special missionary transition fund" to assist missionaries who leave or are fired by the IMB for refusing t...

at the Southern Baptist Convention

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will highlight its forty-fifth anniversary during its June 11 alumni luncheon in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in St. Louis.

Messengers to the 1957 SBC annual meeting approved the establishment of a seminary in the Midwest that launched Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.

"Celebrating 45 Years of Ministry" will be the theme of the Tuesday noon luncheon in room 261 of the Cervantes Convention Center (part of America's Center). Midwestern's president, R. Philip Roberts, will be the keynote speaker.

Alumni of the year honors will be given to William Curp, director of missions for Missouri's Jefferson Baptist Association, and Dewey Hickey, retired director of the readiness team of the church planting group of the North American Mission Board. Honorary ...

Social scientists are discovering what Christians have known all along: communities where successful marriages are common result in better outcomes for children, men, and women than communities with high divorce rates.

According to the report, Why Marriage Matters: 21 Conclusions from the Social Sciences, healthy marriages usher in physical, emotional, and economic benefits for families. Conversely, divorce may be more detrimental than some have imagined. Consider some of the study's key findings:

About Children

• Parental divorce reduces the likelihood that children will graduate from college, and achieve high-status jobs.

• Children who live with their own two married parents enjoy better physical health, on average, than ...

A comprehensive prayer strategy might be more ideal than reality for many churches pressured with competing ministries. But it can yield powerful results in the lives of individuals, the church as a whole and the cause of Christ globally, a California prayer evangelism leader said.

Randy McWhorter, director of evangelism for the California Southern Baptist Convention, shared details of a model "Great Commission Prayer Ministry" during the Connection 2002 conference sponsored by the North American Mission Board April 10-13 in Ontario, Calif.

"We can almost capture what God's up to by the volume of prayer that his people are doing," McWhorter said during one of the conference's small-group workshops. "When there is a greater emphasis on prayer, a great desire for prayer among God's people, God's action is not far behind."

While many church prayer ministries are often confined to individual prayer and an intercessory pr...

Our dear brother still seemed nervous as he unraveled what has become the funniest and most instructive of any witnessing attempt I've ever heard. He had never before attempted to use the F.A.I.T.H. acronym to share the gospel. Although the outline is very simple and easy to share (you use the fingers of one hand to represent the letters of F.A.I.T.H. acrostic along with a few Bible verses), he was still worried that he would forget the letters!

He admitted that when he and a FAITH team from church went visiting, "I prayed more earnestly than ever that all the people we visited would be god-fearing, saved, church-going, tithers! God did not answer my prayer! I found myself talking with a man who needed to hear the plan of salvation.

"Fearing memory failure, I bypassed all the small talk, introductory comments, the key question, and launched directly into the outline. Opening my hand in front of the man and pointing to my thumb, I said, 'That is "F&qu...

I was standing on my front porch one recent Saturday enjoying the sights and sounds of a beautiful morning when I heard it. I had heard the sound before, but I realized something for the first time: the faint, musical sound of wind chimes indicated a storm was coming.

Springtime in Texas means storms. One of the worst tornadoes ever to touch down in the United States tore a path through Moore, Okla., just a few hours north of here three years ago. The F-5 tornado had winds of 360 miles per hour. I had never seen such devastation. A tamer tornado hit Fort Worth two years ago, nearly destroying several skyscrapers.

A storm blew through my life in May of last year. My father, in tremendous pain and deep sorrow, took his own life. I was devastated. I spent months questioning God's existence, battling guilt, and looking for reasons to live. Fortunately a counselor, family, and friends helped me survive. While God didn't answer my questions as I'd hoped, I learned so...

Life on the road is interesting. I tell people that I have been in more hotel rooms than Gideon's Bible. Actually, a few weeks ago I was in a Super Motel 4 and they only had half of the Gideon's Bible.

One of my fears about traveling is arriving at the wrong destination. One time I was scheduled to speak in Odessa, Texas and thought I was flying into the Midland-Odessa airport. I love to speak in West Texas because the people are lonely. When I arrived at the airport I realized I was in the wrong place. I had messed up big time and flown to the wrong city. After frantically checking with a few people, I realized they had relocated to their new airport since my last visit.

I do worry about flying to the wrong city but my greatest fear happened — being the wrong person. As I look back I should have known something was wrong. A few days before I was to speak, the church requested that I sing a few songs at the banquet. The girls in the office thought it was hi...

Ridgecrest's New Chapel

With a "come on in" greeting, officials at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center opened the doors to a new 300-seat Rutland Chapel April 10.

Built with a $1 million gift from the Rutland Family Foundation in Decatur, Ga., the chapel is a stone and wood structure set on a mountainside overlooking the North Carolina conference center complex. In addition to the chapel area, the building has conference and fellowship space.

Mike Arrington, vice president of LifeWay's corporate affairs division that oversees the conference centers area, welcomed guests to the dedication, saying the chapel was an answer to prayer and a first step in achieving a vision for the conference centers.

"This chapel," said LifeWay President James T. Draper Jr., "is the first new construction at either Ridgecrest or Glorieta Conference Center in thirty years. As such, this chapel will s...