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August 2011 Issue

Southern Baptist Convention messengers meeting in Phoenix June 14-15 adopted an historic report encouraging ethnic diversity, witnessed dozens of leaders standing together in support of a landmark unity pledge, and saw hundreds of pastors and laypeople volunteer to lead their churches to embrace one of the world's 3,800 unengaged people groups.

It was the lowest-attended annual meeting in sixty-seven years, with just over 4,800 in attendance, but the substance of the meeting led plenty who attended to argue it shouldn't be judged on numbers.

"I do believe it could prove to be the most spiritually significant convention over the last fifty years," Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright, who was re-elected to another one-year term, told Baptist Press after the Phoenix gathering. Wright pointed to the sluggish economy and to the travel time from most SBC churches as possible reasons for the low attendance.

From beginning to end, messengers heard biblical pleas for Southern Baptists to join the church pla...

First, it takes biblical thinking. Our Lord taught us to live an upside down, or better, a rightside up life (Matthew 20:25-26).

For example, Jesus instructed His disciples that in order to be great they must become servants (Matthew 20:26). He shocked their sensibilities when He instructed them to forgive in order to be forgiven (Matthew 6:14-15; 18:21-35). He taught that the first will be last and the last first (Mark 10:31). He told them, then showed them, that the way to gain one's life is to lose it for the Gospel (Mark 8:35; 10:45).

When we cooperate, we esteem others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). We willingly and graciously submit ourselves to one another in the Spirit of Christ (Ephesians 5:21). We embrace the string of selfless admonitions woven throughout the New Testament letters—from Romans 12 to Philippians 2; from Colossians 3 to 1 John 4. In fact, the one who does not love his brother has no part with Jesus (1 John 3:10-12; 4:7-11).

Second, it takes obedient action. American poet Henry...

Sensitive to the need for greater diversity in leadership and increased participation of ethnics, the Southern Baptist Convention voted overwhelmingly June 14 to ask for greater accountability regarding their involvement in SBC life.

During a news conference after the vote, Paul Kim, pastor emeritus of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said: "I want ethnic pastors and leaders to also have the opportunity to express their love for Southern Baptists in Christ. We have to work together."

It was Kim who asked messengers at the 2009 SBC annual meeting to study how ethnic churches and leaders could better partner with others to serve the SBC. After a two-year workgroup study of the motion, the SBC Executive Committee approved a ten-part recommendation for the Phoenix meeting, citing the "need to be proactive and intentional in the inclusion of individuals from all ethnic and racial identities within Southern Baptist life."

For the first time in history, the convention will ask its entities to provide...

The starting point for Southern Baptists is not the Great Commission, but "falling in love with Jesus once again," Bryant Wright told messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 14.

Wright, president of the SBC and pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia, likened Southern Baptists to the New Testament church of Ephesus that Jesus rebuked for having abandoned its first love.

Taking his text from Revelation 2:1-7, Wright noted that Christ began His message to the Ephesian church with words of commendation—and Wright acknowledged that Southern Baptists are doing thousands of good things at home and around the world.

"Ephesus had existed for forty years and endured hardship in the midst of a pagan culture," Wright said. "The Southern Baptist Convention, formed in 1845 in Augusta, Georgia, has survived a civil war, two world wars, the Great Depression, the recent years of economic recession, and years of abundance and great prosperity. In the past fifty years our convention has persevered in the midst ...

Our Only Hope

If Southern Baptists are going to fulfill their God-given mission in a lost world, they must deal with fragmentation and self-centeredness and recommit themselves to gratitude, trust, unified ministry, and honesty, messengers were told during the opening session of the SBC annual meeting June 14.

"We have been headed in the wrong direction, in several ways," said Frank Page, SBC Executive Committee president, during the EC's report to the convention. "Our convention is fracturing into various groups, some theological, most methodological. Sometimes there is an honest difference of opinion, but often there is self-centeredness that frequently mirrors our own culture.

"Christ-like selflessness is our only hope."

While many have lamented a decline in giving through the SBC's Cooperative Program missions channel, Page cited statistics that showed total mission expenditures in Southern Baptist churches also have declined over the past twenty years. In 1989, Southern Baptist congregatio...

Even as scorching temperatures bumped 102 degrees in Arizona's Urban Corridor, Southern Baptists mobilized in Crossover 2011 to bring the Living Water to people throughout the region's parched deserts.

Some 5.2 million people live and work in the corridor, which stretches from the Phoenix metro area down to Casa Grande and Tucson. Several hundred of those people are new believers in Christ following a week of community evangelism and Crossover's Saturday events.

Phoenix was the 23rd year for Crossover, an evangelism event coordinated by the North American Mission Board, the Arizona Baptist Convention, local associations, and churches that precedes the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting. This marks the second time the annual meeting has converged in Phoenix, the first time in 2003.

"This past week, Arizona Baptists have truly shown their neighbors the love of Christ in action through Crossover," said Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board. "This has been a model for how we...

Excerpts From Live Interviews in the CP Booth // 2011 SBC Annual Meeting

Listening was the order of the day for the Executive Committee while in Phoenix for the SBC annual meeting, June 13-15, Phoenix, Arizona. Over the three days, a wide variety of SBC leaders passed through the exhibit hall and stopped at the CP booth to give their opinion about CP. Frank Page, EC president, approached this year's convention with two overriding objectives: engaging in conversation about CP and expressing gratefulness for it. The "listening" portion was addressed through panel discussions and one-on-one interviews in the CP booth, as well as through flip video interviews, which were conducted by seminary students on behalf of the Executive Committee. The following are condensed comments from one of several panel discussions which were videotaped and are now available for viewing in their entirety at www.talkcp.com. This discussion included: Jeremy Roberts, minister and church relations associate, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, Grapevine, Texas; Ben Brammer, lead pastor, Northwest Baptist Church, Oklahoma Cit...

Southern Baptists have identified their understanding of the biblical teaching concerning the church in Article VI of The Baptist Faith and Message, "The Church."
Anyone who has kept up with The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in recent months may have heard the phrase, "We are serious about the Gospel."
These snapshots illustrate the love Southern Baptists have for their Lord, and their efforts to demonstrate that love by meeting needs.
Stewardship and Missions at Sagemont Church

Over a 45-year pastorate, John Morgan has led Houston's Sagemont Church to give $25 million to missions, build $50 million in buildings, and set aside more than 10 percent of its annual budget for missions.

Remarkably, the church has done it all without borrowing a penny for decades. "There's not one building program in the Bible that was ever financed," Morgan said. "It was when a willing-hearted people gave a willing offering as God prospered them. And so I became very convicted that if our church was going to do missions like we wanted to do them, then we couldn't do so and stay in [financial] bondage to the world."

Morgan's ministry at Sagemont began in 1966, when he was called as the congregation's first pastor. At that time, it was a mission of First Baptist Church in Pasadena, Texas, where Morgan's father was pastor. About fourteen people came to the new church initially, he said.

In June, Sagemont celebrated its 45th anniversary. Over four decades, the church e...

Several months ago a church member and I went out knocking on doors, and we met a husband and wife who were both going to college to become nurses.  They had grown up in a very legalistic church—one in which the members seemed to contradict themselves in much of what they would say and do.  When they started college—and started diving into the university's courses in science—they increasingly started believing the tenets of evolution and started to deny the existence of God. They also started using drugs and alcohol on a regular basis, which made it more palatable to not believe in God.  We spoke with them for about one and a half hours that day; when we left, we gave them several Gospel tracts ranging from "science confirming the Bible" to some that gave clear Gospel presentations.

That began a relationship that allowed me to speak to them on pretty much a weekly basis; we would discuss all sorts of questions that they had, and we would always end at the cross of Christ, the empty tomb, and what they we...

As a practicing psychologist, I have found that most of the people I've worked with did some incredibly dumb things. Many times I have felt like saying, "I am sorry that your insurance does not cover the preexisting condition of your being so stupid." Stupidity can be found in all walks of life—crooks, educators, Hollywood actors—but it is most apparent when we think we know better than God.

Dumb people can make you laugh. Two men were on trial for robbery, and the prosecuting attorney was examining the witness. He asked if the witness was at the scene when the robbery took place and if he observed the two robbers. The witness responded that he was and he did. The prosecutor then asked, "Are they present in the court today?" Before the witness could answer, the two robbers raised their hands.

Dumb and Dumber, the movie, might make you laugh, but dumb and dumber in society will eventually make you cry. How did we get so dumb? The Bible tells us that dumb people, or fools, say there is no God. We are ultima...

August 2011
Social Issues Sunday (August 7)
Student Evangelism Day (August 14)

September 2011
Single Adult Sunday (September 4)
Church Music Emphasis Worship Music Week (September 11-17)
Anti-Gambling Sunday (September 18)
Discipleship Rally (September 19)

October 2011
Cooperative Program Emphasis Month (October 1-31)
Soul-Winning Commitment Day (October 2)
World Hunger Sunday (October 9)

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