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October 2006 Issue

Holding their keys high for all to see, thirty New Orleans families celebrated the joy of home ownership at a dedication service in August.

The brightly painted new homes in the Upper Ninth Ward — part of a joint project by New Orleans Southern Baptists and Habitat for Humanity known as the Baptist Crossroads Project — and the smiles of the new owners offered a message of hope in the battered city just days before the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina: "New Orleans is coming back."

"This is ... an investment of our blood, our sweat, and our tears as an endowment to hard-working families in this community to lift them to a new level of economic stability and give them a stake in the community," said David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans.

Along with the homes, each new homeowner received a new washer and dryer from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco's office. Landscaping and road repaving grants have als...

Putting Hands and Feet to the Gospel

Nearly seven hundred volunteers from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary marked the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina by putting hands and feet to the Gospel at twenty-eight sites throughout New Orleans on August 29.

Subjects like pastoral ministry, missions, and evangelism were not taught in the classroom on this day, but in the city. Real-world training took place in hard-hit areas like the Ninth Ward, St. Bernard Parish, and the seminary's own Gentilly neighborhood. The volunteers' work was a message of love, hope, and God's grace — a hug for the hurting city.

Groups gutted homes, chopped waist-high weeds, worked on churches, and prayed. Roving counseling and evangelism teams also walked through neighborhoods offering hope, encouragement, and a Gospel witness not only in English, but in Spanish as well. Most of all, the groups illustrated the love of God in word and in deed.

Teams went out in groups of ten to fifteen people wearing ...

President's Page

Words cannot express the depth of emotion that I felt during an August trip to New Orleans and surrounding areas.

Like many people, I had seen media reports on the damage of Hurricane Katrina. However, I quickly realized that there is no way to see the absolute scope of devastation without visiting there personally. Literally, mile after mile of devastation greets any visitor.

I was there at the invitation of David Crosby, pastor of the First Baptist Church of New Orleans. (By the way, that church has maintained a 10 percent giving level to the Cooperative Program, even during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina!) David and I have known one another for many years. While there, I spoke at the First Baptist Church of Covington, Louisiana, which is under the capable leadership of Waylon Bailey. I also was privileged to speak to the many leaders of the greater New Orleans area. Pray for them as many in their congregations are experiencing an ongoing lassitude.

But in...

As the United Nations was mobilizing troops to maintain the fragile ceasefire the last week of August, Southern Baptists were stepping up relief efforts in Lebanon and Israel, funneling more than a half-million dollars in aid into the war-torn region.

Air raids and rocket attacks flattened homes and leveled buildings, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. Some spent hours sifting through ash-colored rubble, trying to salvage any trace of their former lives — perhaps a photograph or family heirloom. Most of the devastation was concentrated in southern Lebanon, an area that was subsequently visited by a Southern Baptist medical assessment team.

"They've got no possessions left; there is not a single chair that's intact," a Christian medical worker said. "Everything is smashed and covered with concrete. The smell of dead bodies, either human or animal, is prevalent in these communities."

So far, Baptist partners in both nations ha...

What would a Kingdom-Centered church look like? How could we describe its character? We are going to begin a journey that will take us the better part of the year as we explore the Bible together to look at the character of the New Testament church and ask the Father how we can embody these character principles in our churches today.

Who wouldn't want to see the church of the 21st century impact its world the way the church of the first century did theirs? Wouldn't you love to pastor or belong to a church that your community would describe like this: Now all the believers were together and had everything in common. So they sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need. And every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day t...

Statistics show that Americans spend $1.20 for every dollar they earn and have $600 billion in credit card debt, averaging nearly $8,300 per family. Americans are saving at a level of only about 2.2 percent and giving through the local church is at an all-time low of just 2.6 percent. In response to the current money management crisis, Ken Hemphill has written a third installment to the Southern Baptist Convention's Empowering Kingdom Growth vision titled Making Change: A Transformational Guide to Christian Money Management, published by Broadman & Holman.
Hundreds Find New Life

Nathan Johnson dreamed of starting a revolution for Christ.

In August 2005, the fifteen-year-old wrote in his diary, "Today through His mighty power and glorious grace, God has brought me back to Him. He has enlightened the eyes of my heart to His will in which He has with no doubt called me. His will for me is to radically impact my school for Him."

But before he could see the revolution become a reality, Johnson's life was cut short by an automobile accident. On the morning of July 28, Johnson was on his way to football practice at Beech High School in Hendersonville, Tennessee, when his Jeep Cherokee drifted across the center line, striking a cement truck almost head on. He was pronounced dead shortly after a LifeFlight helicopter transported him to the Vanderbilt University Hospital Emergency Room in Nashville.

Despite his early death, friends and family will tell you Johnson was well on his way to the revolution he dreamed of. They will also te...

Through the Cooperative Program

God didn't put us here just to occupy space," says ninety-year-old Hazel Amerson of Sisters Baptist Church in Sandersville, Georgia. "He put us here to help other people.

"When I see somebody in need, I feel like we should meet it, and the Cooperative Program helps meet those needs," Amerson, WMU director of the church, added. "We wouldn't keep giving to it if it didn't."

Sisters Baptist Church gives 15 percent of its offerings through the Cooperative Program and is equally as generous elsewhere in its financial and hands-on support of missions. The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists' method of supporting missions and ministries of state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention.

"I think there's such a great need; so many people need to know the Lord," Amerson said. "We do what we can; the Cooperative Program takes it from there."

Two sisters in the early 1820s got tire...

In recent days it seems that Halloween has become such a "dark" celebration. However, while that is the unfortunate nature of the holiday, it doesn't mean that churches must miss an excellent opportunity to proclaim the Gospel. Here are a few ideas.

Some churches sponsor the popular Christian "reality houses," in which a dramatic, real-life presentation of the Gospel is acted out. Other churches host "harvest celebrations." These festive nights present an exciting, carnival-like atmosphere where costumed children can enjoy various attractions. In the parking lot they might find the pastor sitting in the dunking booth, or they can slide on the inflatable slide and jump around in the "moonwalk." Inside, Sunday School classes sponsor various booths where children can participate in games and activities, complete with prizes. If a church is too small to host the event by itself, it could partner with other churches. Often, local merchants wil...

Are you ready for some football? Oh yes! As I am writing this the sure signs of another NFL season are everywhere, and the Dallas Cowboys have already been in trouble — in the preseason! It seems that the new Cowboy mega, colossally-salaried star receiver would not come to practice. Do you remember how it all began?

Someone once told me that on the eighth day God said, "Let there be football," and it was good. Later that day, according to my source, God said, "Let there be one team to rule the others, to set the standard for excellence." And with that he plucked a star from the heavens and placed it on a helmet of silver and blue. "Let them be called the Dallas Cowboys" (this is the revised, agnostic, Da Vinci Code translation).

Somebody else told me that John Madden was at a Denver Broncos game and noticed a guarded red phone beside the head coach. He asked the coach about the phone, and the coach responded, "That's the phone...

Mark your calendar for Tuesday, November 7 — the day when Americans have an opportunity to vote in the general election. When we vote, we help determine who will lead our nation, make our laws, and protect our freedoms. Voting is a right, a privilege, and a freedom that millions in other parts of the world can only dream about — and failing to vote violates biblical principles. Unfortunately, many are confused about what is and what is not legal given the IRS restrictions on political activity by tax-exempt organizations. While it is impossible to lay out a definitive list of dos and don'ts, here are some general guidelines from iVoteValues.com: