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August 2004 Issue

SBC Executive Committee President and Chief Executive Officer Report to the Southern Baptist Convention, June 15, 2004

They said it couldn't be done. Religious scholars and well-known pastors said it couldn't be done. Historians and futurists said it couldn't be done. Denominational leaders said it couldn't be done. Liberals believed that no band of Bible-thumping preachers, professors, and laymen could ever be used of God to return a denomination to its conservative roots.

We need only to look at mainline American churches to see examples of once-vibrant denominations in agonizing decline. Do you know why? Their leaders abandoned the clear teachings of the Bible. The faithful in the pews and pulpits tried to steer them back to their conservative roots, but were defeated by the juggernaut of liberalism. Their appeals for fidelity to God's Word were ignored.

These well-meaning believers, devoted to the absolute authority of the Bible, were condemned as narrow-minded, uninformed proponents of an outdated theological worldview. As a result, once-proud, gospel-preaching d...

One way to boil a frog is to put it in a kettle with lukewarm water and slowly turn up the heat. The frog doesn't really sense the changing temperature and before the frog knows it's too late, well, it's too late.

I'm afraid the Southern Baptist Convention resembles the frog a bit too much these days, and it's time for us to realize the water is heating up.

Last week at the Southern Baptist Convention I introduced two concerns I have about the future of our denomination.

My first concern stems from the decrease in baptisms as reported for the fourth consecutive year in the Annual Church Profile. It reflects a denomination that's lost its focus on evangelism. It is hard for someone to argue to the contrary when more than 10,000 Southern Baptist churches did not baptize a single person last year. Although we've seen tremendous strides in overseas baptisms, we are not keeping up with the population growth at home or around the world.

...

A sense of urgency for evangelism is topmost in the mind of the Southern Baptist Convention's newly elected president, Bobby Welch.

Welch, pastor for thirty years of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Florida, underscored his evangelistic convictions and answered questions concerning "homosexual marriage" and the sentiment among some Southern Baptists to remove their children from public schools in his post-election news conference June 15.

"The concern for me, and the axis of advance that I intend to try to encourage in this Convention, will be that of unity of purpose for evangelism," Welch said.

"My commitment is that we stay true to the most critical mission we have as Southern Baptists — and that is what Jesus died for, seeking and saving the lost. We affectionately call that, as you know, the Great Commission," Welch told reporters.

Southern Baptists have made plain the things they are against, Welch sai...

The Kingdom of God is explosive in power and therefore when it is fully understood, and boldly declared, it will radically impact those who hear and respond. The truth of this statement is nowhere more clearly seen than in the life and ministry of Jesus. We cannot read the Gospels and not be confronted by the centrality of the Kingdom in the preaching of Jesus.

The Overarching Theme

It is not insignificant that the Gospels begin with Jesus preaching the Kingdom. Matthew tells us that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested. The final testing is pivotal when the devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and offered Him all the kingdoms of the world if He would but worship him. Jesus' immediate response was to quote from Deuteronomy...

Not an Option, But a Scriptural Mandate

By the time the polls closed on Election Day 2000, 56 million American adults with the right to vote had not. Over half of those individuals (37.3 million) hadn't even bothered to register to vote.

Those numbers concerned Richard Land and were the impetus behind the development of iVoteValues.com, an initiative to register and educate voters launched by the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Land is president of the ERLC.

The goal of the "grassroots voter mobilization and education effort" is to register two million previously unregistered but qualified Americans for the 2004 election cycle. The initiative also will work to promote an awareness of the immediate and long-term importance of "values-based voting." The effort's linchpin: www.iVoteValues.com.

While voter turnout among registered voters in 2000 bounced back from a modern-day low of 82 percent in the presidential contest between Clinton and Dole in 1996 (86 ...

The Cooperative Program Working at Home and Abroad

East Paris Baptist Church, through sacrificial missions giving, has experienced God's faithfulness.

The Paris, Texas, church began as an independent Baptist congregation in 1942 but affiliated with the SBC a few years later. Under the watch of Mike Fortenberry, the church's pastor since 1979, it has been a regular contributor to the CP and to state missions endeavors.

In 2003, the Paris congregation channeled $48,000 through the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) for CP Missions.

"The Cooperative Program gives us an opportunity, whether our church is large or small, to join together all our resources to do a better job than any of us could do alone," Fortenberry said.

"One of the things that our people have learned about giving to missions and the Cooperative Program is that you cannot out-give God," Fortenberry said. "We have a great opportunity to make a difference through the Cooperative Program."

...

The number of adults in the United States who do not attend church has nearly doubled since 1991, according to a recent survey by the Barna Research Group. And although Southern Baptist churches and missionaries baptized more than 800,000 believers in North America and overseas in 2003, the denomination's evangelism efforts are not keeping pace with the growth in world population.

In an effort to close that gap, Southern Baptist churches are being challenged to Vote CP this fall, refocusing on cooperative missions and its potential to reach the world.

"Most of our churches participate in (CP) Missions, but I believe it is safe to say that too many people in the pew have no idea what CP is, what it does, and, most importantly, who it reaches," said David Hankins, vice president of Cooperative Program for the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee. "Vote CP is an effort to put a face on that portion of the church...

It happened at a Christian Life Convention in Birmingham, Alabama. Stephen Olford was the keynote speaker. I was eighteen years old and had just surrendered to God's call upon my life seven months earlier. My knowledge of preaching or any other aspect of ministry was limited. In fact, it would be safe to say that I knew nothing about preaching or ministry at all.

I sat riveted to my seat as I listened to the most powerful sermon I had ever heard. If I had been asked to give a technical answer for the sermon's power and effectiveness I could not have given one. I did not know about hermeneutics, homiletics, or the art of expository preaching. But I did know what drove the sermon I was hearing. I did know why its impact was so powerful. It was passion. Our forebearers call it unction.

From that time until now I have been keenly alert to the place of passion in ministry. I have been in ministry and a student of ministry for more than thirty years, and I have concluded ...

There are places one expects to find feminist theology: the university doctoral seminar or the New Age spirituality section of the neighborhood bookstore. One does not expect to find radical feminist theism at sing-a-long time at Vacation Bible School or church camp. That could be changing.

Feminist theologian Jann Aldredge-Clanton, a Baptist, has teamed up with North Carolina Baptist minister of music Larry E. Schultz to author Imagine God! — a children's musical that proclaims its use of "a variety of feminine, masculine, and non-gender images of God."

The musical also draws on panentheism, the concept that God is the life presence within all things, an idea popularized within feminist circles by process theology and "creation spirituality." Thus, according to the musical's lyrics, "God is in us and above, She and He and so much more."

With this the case, children in this musical sing lyrics such as "Our ...

If you have ever worked with teens or had one in your home, this story will sound all too familiar. It plays out most every day, in every school and in every Sunday School class. But often we don't know what an opportunity we have in front us. Our students have such great potential — as you will see in this account from a FAITH team leader.

Our student FAITH team assembled together before departing to go share our faith. Our team was assigned three ministry visits consisting of sixth- and seventh-grade girls, because I am the sixth- and seventh-grade Sunday School teacher.

The first visit was good. All the girls on my team played softball with the prospect we were visiting. We uncovered two prospects on this visit. Instead of continuing on with the other visits assigned, our team decided to visit Misty.

You see, several weeks prior, our team was returning from all our FAITH visits when I noticed a young girl walking down the road. The girls on ou...

Leaders in the church have a hard time knowing when it is time to leave. Sometimes you are offered another unbelievable opportunity — like double your salary. Then it's a fairly easy decision — you go where the money is because God is everywhere. Just kidding. Of course there are other times when the present situation is so bad it's time to make a move. So I have compiled a list to help you know (tongue-in-cheek, of course).

You know it's time to leave when ...

1. They just installed gun racks in the Fellowship Hall.

2. The staff is giving you a reception and calling it a whine and cheese party.

3. Tonight is your annual leadership banquet and your verse for the day is, "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies."

4. You just found out your minister of music's nickname at his former church is Little Napoleon.

5. You find out your nickname at your present church is Deadwood...

The M.E. Dodd Cooperative Program Award

Dudley Shoals Baptist Church in Granite Falls, North Carolina, and its pastor, Don Ingle, were singled out as exemplifying Southern Baptists' cooperative missions spirit when they were presented the M.E. Dodd Cooperative Program Award during the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting June 15.

In his thirty-two-year pastorate, Ingle has led the congregation to increase its (CP) Missions giving through the Cooperative Program from about 10 percent to 25 percent of its undesignated receipts. In 1999, the congregation reached a goal of giving $100,000 through the Cooperative Program and is projected to give $142,000 in 2004.

The congregation has maintained its commitment to percentage growth in missions giving through two building programs, a major land purchase, and economic slowdowns.

In an age wh...