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June 2004 Issue

Putting Its Money Where Its Heart Is
Eric Redmond takes no credit for the fact that Hillcrest Baptist Church, nearly in the shadow of the White House, gives more than 30 percent of its undesignated offerings to the Southern Baptists' Cooperative Program. This is perhaps the largest CP Missions percentage of any African American congregation in the SBC, but Redmond takes no credit for that, either. "I inherited this," Redmond, pastor of the church, said. "A strong missions-giving emphasis was a vision of Pastor [Hubert] Keefer. But I believe in it.

In recent years, many churches have reduced the percentage of their undesignated gifts to the Cooperative Program. The reasons are manifold — the economy, building programs, increased local missions expenses, rise in medical insurance costs, and disenchantment with leadership at the local or national level. At bottom, however, is a fundamental issue: Do we truly believe that reaching the whole world for Christ remains the essential mandate for our local churches?

While there are many ways to achieve this goal, a tested, tried, and true method we have used is the Cooperative Program. The CP is a unified budget plan that allows us to multiply our individual efforts to reach the world. Note these benefits of the CP.

One, our Cooperative Program arrangement is still the best plan developed to have a fully diversified missions portfolio. In Acts 1:8, Jesus gave four target areas for world evangelization — our community, our state, our nation, our world. Few of our c...

Empowering Kingdom Growth

For a year now, I have had the pleasure of traveling across our Convention on behalf of the Executive Committee and Lifeway speaking about Empowering Kingdom Growth. I have spoken in local churches, associational settings, and to various state convention staffs. I am thrilled to report that there is growing excitement and anticipation about this bold initiative adopted by our convention in 2002.

We are already beginning to see new and bold initiatives at every level of our Convention as people attempt to ask what it means to be Kingdom-focused. Many of the state conventions have adopted creative Kingdom initiatives to assist their churches. I will be sharing several of these stories in the days to come. The stories I share about local churches, associations, or states are representative of many ...

The Importance of Deciding Now!
It would be difficult to estimate how much has been lost to God's Kingdom because of indecision on the part of its leaders. Faced with a multitude of issues, it just seems easy, somehow, to put off critical decisions until another day. I remember listening as the exasperated wife of a pastor lamented the struggles he had with decision-making. She said she felt he just dragged decisions around behind him like the tin cans tied behind the car of newlyweds. Periodically, the strings would come loose, and a can would fall off. "That's the way it seems to be with my husband," she said. "Most of our decisions are made for us as the result of forfeited opportunities."
Christians and Churches Alike Have a Role to Play in Electoral Process

Every election year thousands of churches are frozen into inaction because they are deathly afraid the federal government is going to swoop into their church and take away their tax-exempt status. Their perspective: Better to do nothing than risk the loss of our 501(c)(3) status. Here's good news: You can safely keep your tax-exempt status and still speak to the issues that are destroying families across our nation. Here's the even better news: It is legal and it's perfectly proper.

The line is very clear. A church and its leadership can be fully obedient to the scriptural command to be "salt" and "light" and come nowhere near the line stipulated in the federal tax code.

The bottom line: Churches, as tax-exempt organizations, cannot be involved in partisan politics. Partisan is the operative word. Yet there is nothing in the U.S. tax code, in federal election law, or the Bible that prohibits churches from being involved in the civic processes...

Developments in Massachusetts and Kentucky point to the probable shape of things to come in the same-sex "marriage" debate in America. As momentum toward homosexual "marriage" builds, defenders of traditional marriage are forming resistance movements to counter the tide, but with mixed success.

As the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment slowly winds its way through the legislative process, the real action is now in the states, with more than twenty currently considering constitutional amendments to prevent legalization of same-sex "marriages."

A turning point in the Massachusetts battle came March 29, when the Massachusetts legislature voted 105-92 to propose a constitutional amendment which would eventually be presented to the state's voters in 2006. The proposal will disappoint defenders of traditional marriage.

The Massachusetts vote came after weeks of wrangling and turmoil, and the actual amendment adopted by the special con...

While the Kingdom of God was the central theme of all preaching in the New Testament, it has been virtually ignored by modern-day evangelists. This absence of Kingdom-centered evangelism has had devastating effects on the Western church and has now reached critical mass. An anthropocentric gospel of American individualism, which traces its roots back no farther than to the American frontier, has replaced the God-centered "gospel of the kingdom." The deficiency is so great that most evangelists and professors of evangelism would be hard-pressed even to define the "gospel of the kingdom" (Matthew 24:14; Mark 1:14). The result has been a watered-down message that has no power to change lives.

The Basis for Preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom

When John the Baptist came preaching, Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand! (Matthew 3:2), his hearers understood he was referring to the eschatological age fo...

Recently, U.S. officials in Iraq surprised some by opening the door for former Baath Party members to apply for government positions. As you may remember, Baathists are the former rulers of Iraq. When the Iraq War was at its hottest, some commentators inadvertently confused their listeners, referring to "Baathists" in a way that sounded like "Baptists." The two names can sound the same — if you're not careful.

But there is a world of difference between the two.

The Baath Party, formally the Baath Arab Socialist Party, is the political party and movement influential among Arab communities in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iraq.

The Baath Party was, from the beginning, a secular Arab nationalistic party. Socialism was quickly adopted as the Party's economic dogma: "Unity, Freedom, and Socialism" is still the motto of the Party. From its earliest development, the motivation behind Baathist political thought an...

On 9-11, 2001, Americans experienced an act of terror that forever will change their lives.

On 9-27, 2003, Bill and Sharla Merrell experienced their own personal terror, which forever will change their lives.

While traveling to a vacation site in Florida, Bill, vice president for convention relations at the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, suffered a brain stem stroke. Less than a month later, blood clots formed in his arms, legs, and chest. And four months after that, he experienced a heart attack. Yet, eight months after the stroke, Bill and Sharla say they are the recipients of God's grace, mercy, and faithfulness.

September 27, 2003 began with expectations of a relaxing, much-needed, vacation. The Merrells were on their way to Destin, Florida, where they planned to spend time with friends who own a beach house and where they would celebrate Bill's sixtieth birthday on October 1.

Bill was driving when he said he felt a weakn...

Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary

The Golden Gate Theological Seminary luncheon for alumni and friends will be held at noon on Wednesday, June 16 at the Indiana Convention Center's Wabash Ballroom 3.

The featured speaker will be Jeff Iorg, executive director-treasurer of the Northwest Baptist Convention and newly elected president of the seminary. This year's distinguished alumni award recipient will also be announced at the luncheon.

Tickets are $10 per person and will be available at the seminary's booth in the exhibit hall or by calling 1-888-442-8709.

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

A complimentary luncheon will be given for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's alumni association at noon on Wednesday, June 16 in Indiana Ballrooms E, F, and G at the Indianapolis Marriott.

Speakers will be Phil Roberts, pr...

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge;
My savior, You save me from violence. ~ 2 Samuel 22:2-3

My mission in the first half of December started like most others I have had during my time in Afghanistan. It ended up being anything but.

I left Forward Operating Base Salerno on my way to the city of Gardeyz for a ten-day mission, responsible for the lives of sixty-two men. I still remember the last words my commander, Captain Condrey, said to me as I climbed into my up-armored HMMWV for our departure, "Bring 'em all home." Those are the most sobering words I have ever heard, especially as our route would take us through a treacherous mountain pass affectionately known as "Ambush Alley." With that thought lodged in my mind we began our movement. And I realized that though I have no power over life...

Friends, never underestimate what God is doing or where He might be working. He calls us to "be ready, in season and out of season." Mike's team was prayed up, prepared, excited, and looking to find where God might be working.

On a brisk Tuesday evening my FAITH team, consisting of myself, my wife, Denise, and Linda were out making FAITH visits. It was an incredible night that none of us will ever forget. I had become a Christian and a member of First Baptist approximately two-and-one-half years prior to this night. It was our fourth semester in FAITH and my first semester as a team leader. I was nervous but had been encouraged by my previous FAITH team leader that I could do it. So here we were.

We had made two visits and we were a little discouraged because no one had been home. Our preacher always says, "Make just one more visit before you come in." So we decided to go to a large apartment complex (already assigned to us in case no one was...

As our girls were growing up, I spent father/daughter time by taking them individually on a trip. They picked the location and the restaurants. One year Breanne chose Orlando, home of Disney World. Our hotel was right by McDonalds. We had fourteen meals at McDonalds that week. I was soon called McCharles. At Disney World I was able to watch the interaction between parents and their children, and most of the kids weren't having fun at a place built for kids. I saw a man dragging his kid while telling him, "You're going to see Mickey Mouse." The kid said, "But I don't like Mickey Mouse." The father countered, "I've driven 677 miles, and you're going to see Mickey Mouse." Other children were hurried from ride to ride. Parents were trying to get the best dollar per ride ratio. They figured they had paid $50 and they needed to ride at least thirty rides. That logic made the kids miserable. Here I was at the place made for fun and the kids weren't...

Tearing Down Strongholds — Even In Flight
by David Roach

Ed Stucky planned to read during a recent plane ride from Orlando, Florida, to Louisville, Kentucky.

But when fellow passengers began asking questions about the Bible, the Southern Seminary student from Townsend, Tennessee, found himself standing in the aisle and sharing the gospel with more than seventy people.

Stucky began the flight reading Bible commentaries in preparation for an upcoming sermon. However, when a fellow passenger remarked that she was taking a New Testament class in college, Stucky initiated a conversation that unfolded into an opportunity to tell half of the airplane about salvation in Christ.

Upon hearing about the young college student's study of the Bible, Stucky asked whether she had a personal interest in knowing the Scr...