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October 2007 Issue

For New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

Sunlight and shade along tree-lined Seminary Place, along with red brick and green grass, make it seem as if nothing was ever out of place on the main artery through New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Faculty members tend to their yards. Down the road, the children of students slide and swing on the playground.

Doctoral student Billy Puckett and other members of the seminary family know better. Puckett, 32, of Orange, Texas, returned to campus after Hurricane Katrina hit to find a lifeless campus of downed trees, mud, muck, and mold.

"It was as if you were in a black-and-white world," Puckett said. "It was colorless. There was gray mud and dirt all over campus. We didn't see life anywhere."

Now: "There's life. There's color. You hear children laughing on the playground. There's life here. I can walk out on my balcony and see it every day."

That long road to recovery, which seminary officials say was b...

For Christ's Sake...

Do we love one another? Do we love our pastors? Do we genuinely care one for another? Do we care for the lost? Obviously, the list could go on and on, but the question remains, "Do we love and care for one another?"

I have been greatly burdened in recent days. Our lost world, our lost continent, hurting churches, and hurting pastors are crying out. A few days ago I had the opportunity to share Christ with a young man on an airplane. At that very moment, I had to decide whether to continue writing this article or talk to this young man. Obviously, I put the writing material down and spoke with this young man who is in desperate need of Christ. He, like our world, is looking for authenticity and for love. I point this out because I believe we often are making the wrong choice.

Our witness is being diluted and energies expended on other activities, especially on ...

Traveling across the Southern Baptist Convention over the past year has given me an opportunity to see the hearts of many people.

I have traversed this nation visiting state conventions, colleges, seminaries, associations, and churches. While I cannot claim that I have a window into every heart across the Convention, I have learned a great deal. What are some of the lessons I have learned this past year?

I have learned that people desperately want a choice in leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention. I am encouraging all Southern Baptists to pray diligently about the leadership of our Convention in the days ahead. Encourage a number of people to consider running for president and vice presidential slots over the next few years. Pray that people of different ethnic backgrounds might consider being a part of leadership. Pray that the day will come when laypeople will once again feel a calling to be a part of this leadership.

I have also learned that people ...

Two innovative technologies paved the way for the explosive growth and influence of music on our daily lives. One innovation is recent; the other historical.

We live in the digital age. The masses have immediate and exhaustive access to the highest quality music. This is true in the Christian music arena as well as in the world at large. Digital technology has changed the world!

What few realize, however, is that the historical development of the "tempered scale" serves as the unseen platform upon which the rich diversity of modern music is made possible. In previous ages, composers and performers were greatly limited. Instruments had to be retuned for each key change. By the 18th-century, however, the tempered scale was gaining popularity. Johann Sebastian Bach became an immediate and enthusiastic advocate. The tempered scale is an ingenious innovation, permitting music to be composed in various keys. It provides for seamless modulation from one key to another o...

We have heard plenty about the plateaued and declining church in America. I have seen research that indicates that somewhere between 66 and 80 percent of evangelical churches would be found in one of the two categories mentioned above. Our concern is magnified by the reality that a declining church has downward momentum that could become a death spiral if the decline is not stopped and new life injected. Further, we know that the plateaued church is only a generation away from becoming a declining church. Knowing these realities causes us great concern, particularly if we happen to be the pastor or a concerned member in one of the churches that is plateaued or declining.

Revitalizing the American church is the passion of my life. I believe that the church is the Bride of Christ and has been given the keys of ...

A New Focus for Stewardship

Most church members know the importance of tithing their incomes, but few have considered the idea of tithing their estates as part of their wills.

To help facilitate this potential for positive Kingdom results, the stewardship office of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee is launching It's a New Day for Christian Estate Planning to provide church members with resources for making arrangements to fund ministries beyond their lifetimes.

"As Southern Baptists tithe their estates, it catapults us into a position where we can fund the Great Commission in a greater way than we ever have before," said Ashley Clayton, associate vice president for Stewardship at the Executive Committee.

"The International Mission Board desires to double the number of missionaries that they have," Clayton added. "If Southern Baptists would tithe their estates, we could do this in a short amount of time. That's really what'...

Quail Springs Baptist Church

Quail Springs Baptist Church uses its Acts 1:8 partnerships to put a face on the Cooperative Program.

Akin to the biblical passage's spheres of outreach, Quail Spring's "Judea" is Baptist Temple in Oklahoma City's inner city; its "Samaria," the South-Central Baptist Association in Kansas; and, in its global mission, Armenia is the church's focus.

"Our missions partnerships are with Southern Baptists," pastor Hance Dilbeck said. "That way, when our people think of the Cooperative Program, they have a connection with real live missionaries."

From its foundational missions giving through the Cooperative Program, Quail Springs is an outwardly focused church by design, the pastor said. In the midst of a ma...

With buildings battered and congregations scattered, pastors in post-Katrina New Orleans were worn out.

"There were pastors living in trailers, half their congregation gone, devastated, discouraged." said Bill Taylor, former director of Network Partnerships of LifeWay Church Resources who now serves as a consultant to the North American Mission Board. "They had problems with insurance. They couldn't handle it. They needed somebody to help all the time."

From the heartbreak of Katrina came the spark of an idea. Initially, the plan was to bring in Christian educators to help on a short-term basis, Taylor said. But the problems were just too large. And the beleaguered churches were in no position to pay staffers.

Then came a simple formula: Seminary students, plus sponsoring churches or associations, plus churches in need. The end result? Practical experience for students and bruised churches revitalized through an initiative now known as <...

On Hate Crime Legislation

WHEREAS, The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007, H.R. 1592, and a similar bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate; and

WHEREAS, These bills create special protected classes of homosexual and transgendered persons; and

WHEREAS, The Bible is clear in its denunciation of homosexual behavior (Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:21-28; 1 Corinthians 6:9), and upon that basis, our Founding Fathers and early laws opposed its practice in American society; and

WHEREAS, Proponents argue that the establishment of such protected classes is a civil rights issue, yet neither homosexuals nor transgendered persons constitute a class like race, ethnicity, or gender because their identity is based upon a lifestyle choice; and

WHEREAS, Such hate crimes legislation violates the U.S. Const...

Around the globe, in places like Africa and India, hunger often parades naked — exposed by gaunt faces, skeletal ribs, and the paradox of bellies swollen to conceal their emptiness. We look at photos of the world's most famished places and people, sometimes enveloped in clouds of dust and flies, and know for certain that slow death from starvation awaits them unless something is done.

The hungry in North America, however, may be harder to recognize. Although we see the need in homeless people digging scraps of food from Dumpsters, many hungry people cloak themselves in the trappings of normal lives. They dwell among us in apartments or houses, go to school, work, raise families, and live in retirement. The result of their hunger pangs may not look like malnutrition as much as a puzzling failure to thrive.

Southern Baptists have learned, no matter where the hungry live: if you feed the belly, the soul often wells up for nourishment, too.

As a response t...

The Harvest ... His Plan, Our Passion is the theme for this year's "soul-winning commitment day" scheduled for Sunday, October 7, throughout the Southern Baptist Convention.

The special-day emphasis is part of the North American Mission Board's On Mission to Share Jesus initiative, developed and sponsored by NAMB's evangelism group.

"It is a time when SBC churches are encouraged to promote evangelism, inspire, motivate, enlist, and share the Gospel," said Dick Church, church evangelism resource manager for NAMB in Alpharetta, Georgia.

But On Mission to Share Jesus is more than one special Sunday on the Southern Baptist calendar, Church said.

"It is a way of life and the very mission of the church. Sharing the Gospel reflects the very lifeblood of the church and can have profound effects on the future health of a church. Hopefully, it will renew a church's passion for reaching ...

I continue to hear from pastors across our nation about how evangelism outreach accomplishes Kingdom work each and every week. Any church going out into the highways and byways of a community — either to reach new people or to minister to their members — cannot help but grow. But it's not just about the numbers. It's about doing ministry. And those they visit are aware that the church or their Sunday School class cares enough about them to venture out to their home. The community recognizes and appreciates a church that will come to them. You can see this in the testimony of Ray Stonecypher, pastor of Piney Grove Baptist Church in Ardmore, Alabama.

Piney Grove Baptist Church has been impacted by our focus and training in intentional evangelism. Our Sunday School has increased in numbers from 213 to 255 during our first semester of FAITH back in 2006. Our enrollment went up from 373 to 515. Our evangelistic efforts are reflected in our baptisms and other ad...

Many of us are not naturally equipped to deal with relationships, so God provides us with a safety net. Our families and churches provide us opportunities to learn how to love God, live with others, and live with ourselves. God created you uniquely so you can't just copy someone else. You can't just do it the way Mom or Dad did it. If you try to live like other people, you will get into trouble. Boxer Marvin Haggler hit himself in the face to get psyched up for his matches. One of the young Golden Globe boxers saw Marvin and copied his technique. His problem was he hit himself square in the nose, broke it, and had to cancel the fight. Copying others can cause lots of problems. Copying our dysfunctional families can cause us to pass down emotional baggage.

I am extremely familiar with baggage, because I travel all the time. A lady was traveling on a train scheduled to take a leisurely, scenic route. To no avail, she tried to shove her extra baggage into the overhead bin. Sh...

Texas Court: State Can't Regulate Seminaries

The Texas Supreme Court has capped eight years of litigation in ruling 8-0 in favor of three seminaries that the state's higher education code places unconstitutional restrictions on them.

The Texas Education Code required religious and other private degree-granting institutions to be state certified or accredited before granting post-high school degrees. The law, amended in 1998, also required state certification before a religious school could call itself a seminary.

The state's Supreme Court's ruling in favor of Tyndale Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Southern Bible Institute in Dallas, and Hispanic Bible Institute in San Antonio notes that the state's requirement "impermissibly intrudes upon religious freedom protected by the United States and Texas Constitutions."

The court's August 31 rulin...