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December 2006 Issue

Southern Baptist missionaries David and Tami Wood rumble down a deserted dirt road somewhere in the southwestern corner of Burkina Faso. All they can see from their truck are hills and high grass.

With a map and Global Positioning System (GPS) device in hand, they're searching for the Senufo people group. Right now, any signs of life would be good. In this part of West Africa, a good sense of direction and four-wheel drive take them only so far.

But with a different language and culture around nearly every mud hut, there is one thing that links most of the people they encounter — a need for faith in Jesus Christ.

"Some groups live every day in fear of spirits and forces that are beyond their control," says David Wood, who has served with his wife in West Africa for more t...

I will never forget the horrible realization three years ago: we would have to defer missionary appointments due to lack of financial resources. After all, we are a missionary-sending agency of the largest evangelical denomination in the world with unlimited potential resources.

Each of the previous two years more than one thousand new missionaries had been sent around the world, and more candidates were in the process of appointment than ever before. The critical nature of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering became evident as never before. It is not just providing additional support beyond the Cooperative Program to underwrite the budget of the International Mission Board. It is the means for supporting God-called missionaries to take the Gospel to a lost world.

We, in America, tend to ...

Could West Africa be won to Christ over a glass of sweet tea?

Maybe, if you drink it with the right people: village chiefs, religious leaders, heads of family clans, young trailblazers of the future.

That's exactly what some Southern Baptist missionaries in West Africa are doing. Several people groups in the region savor an elaborate tea ceremony: The host brews and serves progressive rounds of strong, hot tea to guests. Each glass gets sweeter, symbolizing the growth of friendship. Friendship opens ears — and hearts.

They Yearn for Living Water

But the 287 million people of West Africa thirst for something far sweeter than tea. They yearn for Living Water.

God desires for the people here to worship Him, according to...

When journeyman Danielle Koepke spent her first night in a Fulani village in Niger, West Africa, she wondered if she was ready for the experience. Surrounded by an older Fulani woman and several members of her extended family, Koepke suddenly realized how little these Fulani people understood her.

"I was just struck with the fact that she had family all around," she says, "and being in a group like that, alone, being the only person that understands myself, I got really lonely."

Despite her loneliness, Koepke says she remembered Bible passages about being courageous and knew she was where she needed to be.

"The Bible talks a lot about being strong and having courage, so I was like, 'OK, I'm going to stay and stick it out and take up God's strength,' ...

Doctrine and church growth have often been considered to be unrelated if not antithetical. Some church growth gurus have actually suggested that "doctrine" might be a barrier to reaching a specific target group. The implication is that doctrine is offensive and even divisive and therefore must be jettisoned. To be fair, many churches and denominations had begun to "downgrade" the value of doctrine before the growth gurus ruled it unfashionable. Many churches replaced the study of doctrine with some version of a "self help" study.

I will agree that you can draw a crowd without sound doctrine, but it is impossible to grow the church without doctrinal instruction. Roger Finke and Rodney Stark, two sociologists, looked at denominational growth in America from 1776 to 1990. They point ...

Opportunities for theological education exist at all levels within the Southern Baptist Convention.

The six SBC seminaries — Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, California; Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri; New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana; Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina; Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky; and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas — have extension centers across the country where professors teach master's-level courses that count toward a seminary degree.

Some extension centers also offer undergraduate-level courses that count toward a bachelor's degree at one of the five SBC seminaries that house an undergraduate college — Midwestern, New Orleans, Southeastern, Southern, and Southwestern.

With seminary extension centers scattered across e...

The enthusiastic response that messengers at the SBC annual meeting in June gave to a Cooperative Program report envisioning "what more we could do" is being embraced by many state Baptist conventions this fall.

Several states like Louisiana and Arizona are embracing the CP Advance Plan that moves their conventions toward giving an increasing percentage of receipts to SBC missions causes. Others like Utah-Idaho, while not overtly embracing the CP Advance Plan, are incrementally increasing the portion for SBC ministries while some like Colorado are motivating their churches to move toward giving at least 10 percent of undesignated gifts through the Cooperative Program.

Last spring, an Ad Hoc Cooperative Program Committee recommended a CP Advance Plan whereby state conventions commit to allocating half of CP receipts over and above their budgets to SBC national and international missions and ministries. Instead of suggesting an annual incremental increase or a cer...

Holman CSB Illustrated Study Bible

To really grasp God's word, understanding the Bible's historical, geographical, and cultural contexts is vital. Using over 1,000 color graphics, maps, photographs, reconstructions, and charts to enliven the Bible world, this special Bible edition enlightens readers to the contextual details of every major character and moment. In addition, helpful introductions list the author, date, original audience, and purpose of each book; give a key text and term; show Christ in each book; and place each book in the overall story of Scripture. (B&H Publishing Group, $39.99)

Everlasting Dominion
by Eugene H. Merrill

A thoroughly researched theology of ...

Outreach Ideas for the Holidays

From the newest technical gadget to toys and clothes, the Christmas holidays are naturally associated in our culture with both giving and receiving. Of course, as Christians we understand the real "eternal" meaning goes much deeper and the greatest gift ever was Christ Himself.

This is why the Christmas season provides a natural bridge to show Christ's love in creative and effective ways. Here are eight suggestions.

Considering that gas is such a needed commodity, provide a "gas-buy-down" through a local station. Simply get permission from the owner and for two hours on a Saturday afternoon, supplement $.25 off every gallon of gas that is sold (set a limit of twenty gallons per car). For instance, if a gallon of regular is $2.00, the advertised price would be $1.75 for the two ...

What Will You Do With Him?

Christmas: the birth of our Savior — gift giving — seeing relatives — helping people — generosity — little children. So many words you can use to describe the joyous Christmas season.

The greatest gift was born to be shared with everyone — especially relatives we'll come in contact with this Christmas. With so many opportunities ahead, consider this testimony from Jesus R. Amaya, a member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, California where Rob Zinn is pastor.

I praise the Lord for evangelism training and for the opportunity to be trained to share my faith in Spanish. This training allowed me to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to my mom, dad, and siblings. They all prayed to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior. They are now continuing to grow in their faith.

Let me go back about six or seven years to explain what is so great about the training I received at my church. I had desperately tried and fail...

It's that time of the year. Kids are trying to figure out how Santa gets into the house (I know that one — it's through Dad's wallet). Many of you are trying to figure out where the relatives will stay for Christmas, and many of you are trying to figure out your relatives. And the world is trying to figure out Christmas.

I know most are content with the ritual of Christmas, but in this season many do wonder about the reason for Christmas. When I think of Christmas I think of the two old men standing on the end of the pier. One tells the other to look at all of that water, and the other responds that that is just the top. At Christmas the world just sees the top — the Nativity, the birth of a baby. To figure it out you have to do what the little boy said Mary did, "She pounded those things in the heart."

When I stop to consider (ponder) that Christmas is the day we celebrate the entry of the eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient Go...

Reality Shows "Better" For Kids

A new study finds that reality shows are among the cleanest options on television for children, considering that many scripted shows contain high levels of sex, violence, and profanity these days.

The Parents Television Council analyzed twenty of the most popular prime-time broadcast shows among children ages 2-17 according to rankings by Nielsen Media Research and determined that reality shows may be the least offensive.

"Every single scripted show that children watch is characterized by graphic sexual content, violence, and coarse language," L. Brent Bozell, president of the PTC, said in a news release October 31. "Parents must be more concerned about what their children are watching. In addition, parents need to be wary about innocent-sounding television shows, such as Family Guy or American Dad. They are among the...