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February 2003 Issue

Planting and Cultivating New Churches in Southeast Arizona

As an associational missionary in Southeastern Arizona, Tommy Stevens knew the small town of Pirtleville needed a Southern Baptist congregation. And all it took for him to see God begin to move was to share that need with a congregation in the nearby Mexican-border city of Douglas.

Deacon Ben Stevens immediately felt called to the work, and for eight months prayed every day at sunrise and sunset, in the middle of the community and at each corner. A home Bible study quickly led to a need for a building.

"I advised him to look for a place in the community, and when he found it, to stand in the middle of it and ask God for it," Tommy Stevens said. "Ben had no more sense than to do as I suggested. Soon he called and said, 'I've found it!'"

The new pastor was so confident that he took out a personal loan for the building and a small mobile home, defying the conventional process for such things. But he eventually got his money back, an...

Theme Interpretation

"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'" - Matt. 9:36-38, NIV

Only as Christians take seriously the Great Commission can we reach those in North America who have not received Christ. Many of them have never heard the gospel or have not understood it. We must be on mission individually and collectively, using our God-given skills and abilities to serve Him by sharing His message of salvation with all people. While God has created us to be different, He has enabled us to be unified in our Christian commitment to make His Word and love known to all.

The urgency to unite as partners for the purpose of sharing the gospel is undeniable. In a world characterized by change and uncertainty, we must be proac...

Tommy and Elizabeth Stevens are among eight missionaries or missionary couples featured during each day of the March 2-9 Week of Prayer for North American Missions. Please remember to pray for them and all of the more than 5,000 missionaries serving in the United States and Canada. Other featured missionaries include:

Aias and Gecina De Souza serve in Mobile, Ala., where Aias is director of the International Seamen's Center in the port of Mobile and language missions director for the Mobile Baptist Association. His mission is twofold: ministering to seafarers while gaining an opportunity to share Christ and help them grow in their faith, as well as waking local volunteers to...

The evangelization of the world in this generation was the cry of the world's first international and interdenominational gathering to promote and strategize missions. Leaders of all the "great" evangelical denominations were present at the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh in 1910 to discuss how they could work together to win the world to Christ. They were convinced that the task was too large and the need too great to allow divisions of doctrine and polity to keep them from reaching the world.

Today, the need is great — perhaps greater. We must not let minor doctrinal divisions keep us from reaching the world with the gospel. We can and must work with others — but we must not make the same mistakes evidenced through that initial attempt at cooperation. We should learn from their mistakes. We must maintain our doctrinal integrity even as we journey with other evangelicals with convictions that may differ slightly from our own. We must not ma...

The Need for Missions in North America

Few people would debate that North America's "lostness" is deepening. Millions of people — in the United States, its territories, and Canada — still desperately need Christ. They need the gospel presented in ways they can understand. And they need churches to which they can relate.

Though we in the United States have a profound Christian heritage, and though the tragedies of recent days have rekindled a new sense of patriotism, we cannot ignore the reality that the influence of biblical Christianity on the culture and character of our nation has weakened dramatically, even in the past generation.

North America's population is now slightly over 316 million, and it is estimated that as many as 224 million of those people do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. While the U.S. population has grown 13 percent in the past ten years, the number of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches here grew only nine percent and the number of re...

Beyond One Denomination, One Generation

Although the Kingdom of God is a central teaching of Scripture, rarely do Christians speak of it, and even fewer claim to understand it, said James T. Draper Jr., president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Nearly every parable in the New Testament centers on the Kingdom of God, Draper acknowledged during LifeWay's 2002 State Leaders Meeting in Nashville, Tenn., and it is proclaimed in John the Baptist's cries in Matthew 3:2 of, "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!" and Jesus' preaching in Matthew 4:17 that the Kingdom of God is near.

Still, Draper said, "I was surprised when I looked back on all of the sermons I had preached that only one focused solely on the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is central to the Word of God, yet it is seldo...

How did Empowering Kingdom Growth (EKG) come to be voted on by the messengers at the 2002 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis? That is a question being asked by Southern Baptists from around the nation and it deserves a clear, precise response. The more we understand the history of a development, the easier it is to accept it and help it proceed. In the final weeks of 1999, two Southern Baptist leaders began conversing with each other about their particular roles. One was Dr. John Sullivan, executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention and president for that year of the Association of State Convention Executive Directors. The other was Dr. Jimmy Draper, president of LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville and chairman for that year of the Great Commission Council, a group of thirteen presidents from the various entities of the Southern Baptist Convention.

More teens are "Choosing Virginity," as highlighted in a headline atop a cover story in Newsweek magazine Dec. 9.

"Visit any American high school and you'll likely find a growing number of students who...have decided to remain chaste until marriage," Newsweek says of "this wave of young adults ... a new counterculture, one clearly at odds with the mainstream media and their routine use of sex to boost ratings and peddle product."

And, Newsweek acknowledges, the growing abstinence movement has been "largely fostered by cultural conservatives and evangelical Christians."

Since 1993, LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention has sponsored a worldwide campaign to challenge students to choose abstinence. More than a million young people have signed True Love Waits covenant cards, which state: "Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family...

Someone recently asked me, "Does student evangelism even work anymore?" My answer was an emphatic, "Yes!" I see firsthand scores of students coming to Christ on a weekly basis. All over the country, and the world for that matter, the gospel is just as relevant today to students as it was years ago. Students are searching for something that is real and fulfilling in their lives. I was dialoging with a student who claimed to be an atheist. Rather than argue with him, I simply asked, "Is it working for you?" He responded, "No, I am looking for the truth!"

If so many students are looking for the truth, you might wonder, why are there not more students being saved and packing out youth groups across the country? Traveling as a full-time evangelist for the last fifteen years, I have been in all types and sizes of churches. I have seen ministries all over the country that are reaching students, but even more that are not. There are three things tha...

Remembering Those Slain in Yemen

Three Americans were killed and another wounded Monday, Dec. 30, when a Muslim extremist attacked a Baptist mission hospital in Jibla, Yemen. Hospital administrator William E. Koehn, business manager Kathleen A. Gariety, and nurse Martha C. Myers were killed and pharmacist Donald W. Caswell was injured in the early morning attack.

Helping People And Serving God

William Koehn spent nearly three decades serving the people of Yemen.

"He gave his life doing what he loved to do, helping people and serving God," his son-in-law, Randal Pearce of Mansfield, Texas, said in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Dec. 31.

Koehn was born in Kansas and managed grocery stores in the state before attending Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo. After seminary, he traveled to Yemen to serve at the hospital in Jibla.

"He was what a Midwestern man is supposed to be: hardworking, direct, stra...

Remembering Those Slain in Yemen

From the memorial service message for Martha Myers, Bill Koehn, and Kathleen Gariety, delivered January 10, 2003 at Grove Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond, Va.

All of us have been deeply touched by the testimony of our three fallen comrades that we have come to memorialize.

However, not everyone feels the same way we do. Some people are asking, "Why this waste?" So much ability; so much talent; so much invested in their lives that you can't put a price on the value of any of them! Their parents, relatives, friends, teachers, churches, and countless others have invested so much. They are priceless. So some ask, "Why couldn't their lives been invested in their homeland, among those who loved them, where they could live and serve for many more years?"

I am here to tell you that their lives and the giving of their lives is not a waste!

How do I know that? Turn with me to Mark 14:1-9. It was the last week of Jesus' ...

Darwinian evolution is the most widely held theory of biological change. Small changes in living organisms supposedly happen naturally and randomly and frequently. These small changes (if favorable to the organism) supposedly accumulate, and over time it is thought that these small changes result in larger changes, even to the point of transforming one species into another. This process of accumulating small "beneficial" changes and eliminating "non-beneficial" changes is called natural selection (as opposed to divine selection).

No doubt, biological organisms do change over time in response to environmental stimuli and these changes sometimes seemingly accumulate so that new groupings of animals appear. The Stickleback fish seem to have gone through such a change (there are now two varieties of these fish where there use to be only one), and the so-called Walking Stick insects apparently have recently developed a new variety. A strain of bacteria may develop a r...

There was a tropical depression off the coast of Florida and it was a dreary, rainy night in Winter Garden, Florida. It did not seem to be the best night for the Sunday School FAITH team to be out visiting. The team had made a prospect visit, but John felt an urgency to go to a specific apartment complex. There they went from door to door — sharing one umbrella between the three of them. They were able to go through the opinion poll questions a few times, but without any obvious results.

It was getting late and they were ready to call it a night when they decided to knock on one last door. No one answered, even though they could see a light on in the apartment. They knocked again and because there was still no response, they started to leave. Just as they turned to walk away, the door opened and Glen greeted them with, "Yeah, what do you want?" Their first thought was to run but they introduced themselves, explained what they were doing, and asked if he would give th...

Gathering Young Women of God From Around the World

For four days in the summer of 2003, in the heart of Nashville, Tenn., more than 8,000 teenage young women will gather to witness, experience and celebrate how God is at work around the world at "SyncroNations," the National Acteens Convention (NAC). Among those teenagers will be approximately 110 young women from the fifteen regional areas of the International Mission Board and seven continental unions of the Baptist World Alliance Women's Department.

The international young women will experience SyncroNations as guests of Woman's Missionary Union through the "Together We Bring" scholarship program. "Our dream," said Evelyn Tully, who serves on SyncroNations' international guests committee, "is that while they're here, they'll have fun and be inspired. The ultimate outcome is that we will equip them with exciting ideas that they will use in their own countries."

The idea of bringing a large group of international ...

Affirming the Value and Validity of Bi-vocational Ministry

In the small town of Gladeville, Tenn., more than a thousand people gather every Sunday to hear a pastor who earns his living with a fulltime job elsewhere.

In Oklahoma City, Leon Wilson planted a congregation that grew to 600 members while he operated a used truck sales business. And in Cushing, Okla., Larry Lehr finds dynamic synergy in his dual roles as pastor of the slightly smaller Council Valley Baptist Church and his secular profession as a marketing coordinator for an educational institution in nearby Drumright.

For at least half a century in Southern Baptist life, according to these leaders in bivocational ministry, there has been a perceived pride on behalf of both pastors and churches in what is commonly called "fulltime" ministry — in which the pastor of a church has no other employment. In fact, only 60-65 percent of churches have what bivocational ministers prefer to call "fully funded" pastors.

A modern movement advocatin...

Seventy-three-year-old Charles Williams is the embodiment of the famous "never surrender" speech which Winston Churchill delivered during the darkest hours of World War II.

Williams' commitment to those well-known words bore fruit yet again in December. The Monticello, Fla., native graduated from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, receiving a doctor of ministry (D.Min.) degree in church consultation. He now holds seven degrees alongside more than forty years of experience in ministry.

"I adopted Churchill's advice a long time ago," said Williams, who served in the U.S. Army during the Korean conflict. "And that is to never give up. I think the secret to success is not necessarily intelligence but perseverance."

Williams' story is one of perseverance and accomplishment. In his seven-plus decades of life, Williams has served as pastor for eight churches in Kentucky, Georgia, and Florida, attended six different colleges,...

Before It's Too Late!

The announcement of the birth of a cloned baby, whether true or not, demonstrates why the United States should act soon to prohibit all human cloning, pro-life leaders said.

Clonaid, a company affiliated with a religious sect that teaches extraterrestrials created life on earth, announced Dec. 27 the clone of a thirty-one-year-old American woman had been born the previous day. The name of the sect is the Raelians.

The seven-pound girl was born by Caesarean section, said Clonaid head Brigitte Boisselier, according to Associated Press. The site of her birth was not disclosed, however. Clonaid offered no proof in support of its assertion.

Regardless of the announcement's validity, spokesmen for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, National Right to Life Committee, and Christian Medical Association said Congress should outlaw all cloning.

ERLC President Richard Land also called for Congress to ban cloning for both repro...

Most of us are addicted to something. Some of us are addicted to coffee. You Know You Are Drinking Too Much Coffee When ... You answer the door before people knock. ... You have converted your car's radiator so that you can brew a pot on the way to work. ... Juan Valdez names his donkey after you. ... You can play ping-pong without a partner. Your coffee filters are monogrammed. ... You chew on other people's fingernails. Your eyes stay open even when you sneeze. ... You can jump start your car without cables. ... You can photograph yourself from ten feet away without using one of those timers. ... You ski uphill.

The twelve-step program is an interesting program that started many years ago. It is a program that is right from the Bible. In many ways it is a discipleship program. People often think that when you become a Christian your problems disappear. That is a myth. When you receive Christ, your personality remains the same, your body remains the same, your bank account r...

Christian Bands Turn Down Movie Role

Most independent rock bands would jump at the chance to appear in a Hollywood movie, especially one produced by R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe. But several Christian musicians in Vancouver turned down just such an opportunity when they were asked to fill in for an American band that backed out of a film at the last minute. The reason they turned the film down? The script, which makes fun of born-again Christians.

Co-written and directed by first-time feature filmmaker Brian Dannelly, Saved is a religious satire, set in a Christian high school, about a girl named Mary who becomes pregnant after sleeping with her gay boyfriend in an unsuccessful attempt to make him straight.

The script originally called for the Elms, a Christian band that recently toured with Jars of Clay, to play themselves in a scene at the high school prom; the characters even t...