RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Southern Baptists’ response to the disaster in Middle America caused by Hurricane Mitch is being limited by a short supply of funds, says the director of the International Mission Board’s human needs program.
On Nov. 4, the board’s general relief fund stood at $42,186, said John Cheyne, interim director of the IMB human needs department. Since then, as much as $20,000 has been spent on projects to relieve the suffering of thousands of people whose lives were devastated by Hurricane Mitch.
“Right now we are confining our response to emergency, life-threatening situations,” Cheyne said. “We have had to say to our missionaries, ‘Give us $5,000 of your life-threatening problems, and we can go ahead and try to deal with that.'”
Part of the problem comes from the fact that Southern Baptists have given generously for hunger relief, but gifts designated for world hunger cannot be used for disaster relief, Cheyne said.
“We desperately need funds designated for general relief,” he said. “So many people in Nicaragua and Honduras have lost homes and businesses that it’s just beyond description. We can’t use hunger funds for development and rehabilitation programs like that. The general relief funds are going to be very, very important in the months ahead.”
The situation also is compounded by the fact that Southern Baptist missionaries are responding simultaneously to major disasters in Bangladesh, the Caribbean and Middle America, Cheyne said.
The International Mission Board may be the only agency working in Honduras that has an adequate network for distributing emergency aid, Cheyne said.
“We have a tremendous network set up,” he said. “Our missionaries are working with Honduran Baptist pastors, and 61 churches have been set up as feeding stations. We have warehousing facilities and transportation from the airport out to the feeding stations.
“Other groups are coming down there with massive loads of material but really have no way for proper widespread distribution.”
A cargo plane loaded with food relief purchased with $178,000 of Southern Baptist hunger funds is scheduled to leave sometime the week of Nov. 9 for Honduras, Cheyne said. That shipment will meet emergency requests filed by missionaries for projects that will feed 6,000 people for one week. Another $35,000 has been released for food aid in Nicaragua.
Southern Baptists have a strong track record of helping people recover from disasters, Cheyne said.
He recalled the horrific famine in Ethiopia, where he and his wife, Marie, served as missionaries.
“So many agencies set up relief camps on major roads and brought the people out of their villages and fed them for a period of time in the camps,” he said. “Then the people were left destitute and many couldn’t even go back to their villages.
“Our missionaries went into a village and worked through farmers’ organizations to deliver emergency food supplies. The people cooked the food in their own houses, and as they were strengthened again after the drought they gave them seed and plows and the things they needed to get started again.”
The result was that people were able to stay in their homes and improve their condition — and large numbers of churches were started in places where missionaries had never before been allowed to go, he said.
Southern Baptists didn’t deliver relief just to start churches, he said. Southern Baptists were compelled to follow Jesus’ example and present the hope of the gospel by ministering to hurting people’s needs.
“We don’t meet human needs as a means to an end. We meet human needs because there is a human need,” he explained. “But everything goes out with an unapologetic witness as to who did it and why. We don’t apologize for that. That’s who we are and why we are involved.”
Contributions to the General Relief Fund may be sent to: Office of Finance, International Mission Board, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230.
Small churches offer intimacy,
ownership and involvement
By Cindy Kerr
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Small churches offer church members intimacy, ownership and involvement in ministry, and are crucial to the growth of megachurches, according to speakers at the “Hope for the Small Church Leader” conference held at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in October.
“Smaller churches provide intimacy where people know each other, find a home and train for other places of service,” said Charles Chaney, research professor at Southwestern and former vice president of the Home Mission Board.
“Small churches do have high impact. They provide koinonia fellowship, effective discipleship, closer accountability, strong mission support and participatory governments,” agreed David Sanchez, director of Southwestern’s Scarborough Institute for Church Growth and current pastor of First Hispanic Baptist, a small church in Fort Worth. He spoke of his appreciation for the smaller churches he pastored in Panama and Atlanta for ministering to his family when they lost a daughter to leukemia.
“They are people who truly know one another and share their victories and sorrows,” he said.
“Ownership, ownership, ownership is key in any organization, large or small,” said Bob Ray, bivocational pastor of Fairy Baptist in Hamilton County, Texas. “Don’t assume that church members don’t have vision — they’re God’s. If we believe in the priesthood of believers we’ll listen to them. It’s a challenge for leaders to be quiet, but allow brainstorming and listen to the great ideas that generate from your people.”
At the members’ suggestions, Fairy Baptist adopted the Texas 2000 evangelistic campaign for their community. They organized a daily prayer calendar and visited everybody in Fairy. “They did it,” said Ray. “It’s not how it gets done, but that it does.”
“It’s a crime for someone to fully fund a staff and take away church members’ ministry,” agreed Leon Wilson, bivocational pastor of South Park Baptist in Oklahoma City. While he does have paid ministers of music, youth, finances, missions, outreach, family and education, they, like him, are bivocational, which allows church members to do ministry too. “Use the skills of your people to specialize. I was once asked by a neat Christian guy into car racing, `Why doesn’t our pastor let us do what we know how to do?’ People need and want to be involved. Let them loose.”
Carl Barrington, NAMB consultant in adult volunteer mobilization, listed positive aspects of smaller churches:
— When a church realizes a problem exists, it is easy to communicate and mobilize solutions quickly.
— Participation and involvement are at high levels.
— Fellowship can be sweet as people’s lives are closely intertwined.
— Warmth and intimacy come naturally to a healthy small church. Such intimacy can be used in positive evangelism to those whose nuclear families are not nearby.
— A smaller internal bureaucracy allows a smaller church to discover needs of its own members and community that are not being met elsewhere.
— Financial contributions are higher according to NAMB statistics showing that smaller churches give a larger percentage of undesignated gifts to the Cooperative Program.
According to Barrington and Sanchez, smaller churches also face inherent challenges such as:
— poor self image. Sometimes they are overlooked by the denomination and seldom asked to participate fully.
— lack of a sense of destiny. They may become satisfied with their status and size and not become more than what they currently are.
— false belief about the community and its people. Real evangelism and outreach are not always supported when they forget that lost people live nearby.
— inadequate ministry program. A pastor may be tempted to do everything and not let go of responsibilities that should be entrusted to others.
— inadequate personality. Sometimes blood ties are thicker than baptismal waters.
— exclusive family structures. These can cause people to feel unwelcome.
— an entrenched leadership pattern of small group control
— inadequate structure. The result is few points of entry.
— unrealistic congregation expectations of pastoral care. Too much is expected of the pastor.
— a remnant mentality. This is the feeling of satisfaction with the faithful few neglecting God’s original purpose for Abraham’s descendants to multiply and be a blessing to the entire world.
— a limited vision. This ultimately leads to plateau and then decline.
Whether counting their benefits or challenges, smaller churches are here to stay according to Chaney. “We’re at the dawning of the megachurch. With more megacities will come megachurches,” he said, adding the Southern Baptist Convention currently has at least three churches where more than 20,000 people attend each weekend. “Yet this is having no impact on the development or proliferation of small churches. Small churches are normative worldwide. In the SBC alone there are 26,500 small churches with 5 million members.
“Most new churches are small. As Lyle Schaller, a church growth specialist, said, `Denominations that grow start new churches; declining ones don’t.’ In fact, new churches feed the growth of megachurches.”
Sanchez noted many seminary graduates will go into the NAMB and International Mission Board’s church planting programs rather than into larger, established churches. “We are already having many students come to Southwestern because of Scarborough Institute’s mentorship program and the master of divinity in church planting,” Sanchez said.
The Nehemiah Project, a strategic partnership between NAMB and the six SBC seminaries, was discussed at the conference. The project calls for NAMB to establish church planting centers on each SBC seminary’s campus to mentor students with church planting interests and to provide resources for each seminary to hire a professor of church planting appointed as a NAMB missionary to teach and direct the church planting center.
The conference, sponsored by Southwestern’s Scarborough Institute and the Baptist General Convention of Texas, not only targeted ministers working in smaller churches but also featured speakers who themselves are pastors of small churches. It addressed topics such as spiritual vitality, family needs, growth principles, pastoral care and church staff.
“I left the conference very encouraged,” said Allen Coffey, pastor of Crescent Valley Baptist in Victoria, Texas. “I have left so many conferences in the past with speakers from very large churches feeling that something was wrong if my church was not running 2,000 in Sunday school. These speakers have been pastors for a number of years and have experienced both the upside and downside of leading smaller churches.”
Coffey also mentioned the confirmation he received in his present ministry methods and the fellowship he enjoyed. “Smaller churches in the SBC are often neglected. People don’t show up at our doors and ask, ‘So Brother Coffey, how did your church get this way?’ Smaller churches are not stepping stones to ‘real’ ones. We have something to offer too.”
“Small church leaders need to be addressed by someone reading from the exact same page, and that happened at this conference,” said Julia Petter, Southwestern student at the San Antonio campus. A member of the 5,000-member Hyde Park Baptist in Austin, Texas, Petter discovered the small church structure is very similar to that of a department of a larger church.
“Conferences like this one must continue so that smaller churches will not feel they’ve fallen through the cracks. The cross section of pastors was very good. They touched on every area of small church leadership,” Petter added.
“I met some real warriors for Christ,” said Alan Littlejohn, a Southwestern student on the Fort Worth campus who is considering pastoring a smaller church.
Statistics support the need for efforts to better prepare smaller church leaders. In Texas, 71 percent of all churches have fewer than 100 members, and 28 percent are led by bivocational pastors. Convention-wide, 86 percent of SBC churches are single-staff small churches.
The Scarborough Institute plans to form a council of small church leaders to address future needs. It will also offer similar conferences annually or bi-annually. Literature on smaller church ministry is expected to be produced from the results of this year’s meeting, Sanchez said.
“Small church leaders need encouragement, help with broadening vision and the chance to hear from others doing an effective job in smaller churches,” Sanchez said.
“Other denominations are abandoning their small churches, especially those in rural areas,” he continued. “Yet a big percentage of our Southern Baptist churches are smaller churches. We have a commitment to reach people wherever they are.”
Arkansas Baptists celebrate 150 years,
approve resolution to pray for Clinton
By Trennis Henderson & Russell N. Dilday
ARKADELPHIA, Ark. (BP)–Arkansas Baptists celebrated their 150th anniversary as a state convention, agreed to pray for President Clinton and adopted a detailed trustee selection process during their 1998 state convention annual meeting. The meeting was held Nov. 3-4 on the campus of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia.
During a Tuesday evening celebration, participants highlighted the convention’s sesquicentennial with a special service that included a 300-voice combined choir, banners, drama and a message by ABSC executive director Emil Turner, who challenged listeners to “reopen” spiritual wells of missions, evangelism and cooperation dug 150 years ago by convention founders.
Inviting Arkansas Baptists to join in “Reflecting, Rejoicing and Renewing,” the two-hour anniversary featured a dramatic and historical recap of the convention’s highlights and storms, personalities and leaders, hopes of the past and dreams for the future.
The resolution about Clinton called on Arkansas Baptists to pray for the president as he “faces the challenge of rebuilding his character” in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal. The resolution, titled “Commitment to Prayer,” was one of six adopted by convention messengers.
Resolutions Committee chairman Mike Seabaugh presented the resolution, which was adopted by voice vote with slight opposition. It encouraged Arkansas Baptists to “commit to pray, asking God to bring redemption, healing and righteousness for the President, the Congress and the nation.” It also noted Clinton, a member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, has “expressed repentance for his actions, sadness for the consequences of his sin on his family, friends and church family, and asked forgiveness.”
The resolution stated while “any sin is serious and offensive to Holy God … the transgression of a leader is unique because of its influence upon others.”
In addition to prayer for Clinton, it called for prayer for members of Congress as they “confront the Constitutional task of determining the legal consequences of the President’s actions.”
Messengers also adopted resolutions affirming the historic Baptist doctrines of local church autonomy and the priesthood of the believer while rejecting a resolution “on cherished Baptist doctrines” submitted from the floor during the convention’s final business session.
Seabaugh, pastor of First Baptist Church, Camden, said the resolutions on prayer, autonomy and priesthood of the believer were formed from resolutions submitted about the Clinton scandal. He noted “with the exception of three resolutions, the balance dealt with Clinton in some facet and the issues deriving out of that.”
The resolution affirming local church autonomy, which passed on a voice vote, resolved to “strongly affirm the principle of local church autonomy and call upon Arkansas Baptists to uphold this important Baptist distinctive.”
The resolution on “Soul Competency and the Priesthood of the Believers” passed on a show of ballots. It stated “the doctrines of the competency of the soul under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the priesthood of believers are distinctive and foundational convictions of Baptists.” Following an amendment to change the word “diversity” to “unity”, it called on Arkansas Baptists to “affirm these doctrines and celebrate our unity under the authority of Scripture and the Lordship of Christ.”
A resolution on evangelism called for Arkansas Baptists to “pray for lost people to be saved, examine their efforts to touch their community with the gospel, determine how they may become more effective in presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ, and labor diligently to reach more people for Christ in the coming year than in any previous year in our history.”
Following the committee’s report, Leroy Wagner, pastor of Pearcy Baptist Church, submitted a resolution from the floor on “Cherished Baptist Doctrines.” Wagner’s resolution, which earlier had been considered by the Resolutions Committee, was seen by some as a no-confidence referendum on the prayer, church autonomy and soul competency resolutions.
The proposal, which failed on a raised-ballot vote, noted while “we cherish the autonomy of the local church; we also cherish the God-given mandate for lay persons and leaders alike to ‘speak the truth in love;'” that “local church autonomy, in reality, can only be violated when it is externally controlled to act or think contrary to its self-governance, not merely by a person expressing their opinion”; and while “the authority for church discipline resides totally within the local church; this in no way precludes those outside the church from addressing scriptural matters in a prophetic voice.”
The resolution’s wording appeared to defend the call from many Southern Baptist leaders, including Southern Baptist Convention president Paige Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, that Clinton resign and Immanuel Church exercise church discipline against the president.
Wagner’s resolution drew a stern response from Seabaugh. Noting “church discipline is only a part of the process of … bringing sinners to repentance,” Seabaugh added, “It is not to embarrass or bring to the knees other people. It is to bring about forgiveness and repentance of those seeking the Lord.”
In other business, messengers re-elected Greg Kirksey to a second one-year term as state convention president. He is director of Covenant Connections at Alexander Youth Services Center.
In a sharp break with longstanding Arkansas Baptist tradition, however, Kirksey was challenged in his presidential re-election by outgoing Pastors’ Conference Barry King, pastor of Tumbling Shoals Church, Heber Springs. In a ballot vote, Kirksey was re-elected by a vote of 569 to 149, gaining 79 percent of the votes cast.
In other elections, Bill Bowen, pastor of First Baptist Church, Mena, was elected first vice president and Tim Reddin, director of missions for Central Baptist Association, was elected second vice president. Bowen was elected by a vote of 440-330 over Wallace Edgar, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, Texarkana. Reddin was elected by acclamation.
Following two years of ups and downs, messengers adopted a trustee selection process to guide the work of the state convention Nominating Committee.
The process calls for nominations to be secured from Arkansas Baptists at-large followed by the Nominating Committee meeting “with a subcommittee of no more than five persons from the board of each Arkansas Baptist State Convention entity” to “compile a list of potential nominees equal to two times the number of vacancies to be filled.”
It also specifies “after sufficient discussion and thoughtful consideration of the recommendations, concerns and needs of each board, the convention Nominating Committee selects nominees from the lists” compiled by the two groups.
The committee will then present its recommendations to convention messengers, with the understanding that messengers “can substitute nominations from the floor.” Further steps give the committee the responsibility of temporarily filling vacancies on boards until the next convention annual meeting.
Concern over trustee selection guidelines surfaced in 1996 when that year’s Nominating Committee declined to accept any of the trustee recommendations suggested by Ouachita Baptist University officials. Ouachita’s trustee board countered by voting to revert to the school’s original charter which provides for the trustee board to be self-perpetuating. The ABSC executive board’s executive committee, in turn, voted to escrow Ouachita’s Cooperative Program funds until the issue could be resolved.
The executive committee established a reconciliation committee which met with Ouachita officials to hammer out a reconciliation agreement. Messengers to the 1996 convention approved the plan by a vote of 801-456. An effort to incorporate the plan into the convention’s governing documents the following year narrowly failed to gain the two-thirds majority needed to enact charter and bylaw changes.
In response, the convention’s Structure Study Committee, which already was studying the trustee selection process prior to the October 1996 actions, proposed a set of trustee selection guidelines which did not require changes to the ABSC charter and bylaws.
In other convention business, a proposed amendment to the ABSC Articles of Incorporation failed to gain a two-thirds majority needed for implementation. The proposal sought to delete a clause which states The Baptist Faith and Message shall not be interpreted to permit alien immersion or open communion.
Don Nall, pastor of First Baptist Church, Batesville, submitted the proposed amendment. Noting he respects “the right of every Baptist Christian and every Baptist church,” Nall added, “My problem is where it says, ‘shall not be interpreted.’ The very cherished principle that Baptist Christians have had … is the principle of priesthood of the believer and autonomy of the church and here we have our state telling us how to interpret or not to interpret The Baptist Faith and Message.”
Following debate on the issue, messengers voted 433-232 to approve the proposal, failing by 10 votes to receive the two-thirds needed for adoption.
Messengers also approved a 1999 Cooperative Program budget of $17.68 million, a three-year missions partnership with the Bulgarian Baptist Union and a series of “Touch the Community” ministry projects.
The 1999 CP budget of $17,682,975, which remains the same at this year’s budget, includes 41.77 for Southern Baptist Convention causes, 30.2 percent for executive board programs and 28.03 percent for Arkansas Baptist entities and related ministries.
Next year’s convention will be held Nov. 9-10 at First Baptist Church, Springdale.
Supreme Court lets stand
Milwaukee voucher program
By Tom Strode
WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. Supreme Court extended the life of educational vouchers in Milwaukee Nov. 9 when it refused to hear an appeal of a Wisconsin high court ruling in favor of including religious schools in the program.
The Supreme Court’s refusal to review the decision means the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program will continue to enable as many as 15,000 low-income children to use vouchers at religious or secular private schools, as well as public schools. The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in June the program violated neither the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment prohibition of a government establishment of religion nor the state constitution.
The court’s denial of the appeal affects only Wisconsin and leaves the remainder of the country without a decision on the contentious issue of educational choice. School-choice cases are pending before state supreme courts in Arizona, Maine, Ohio and Vermont, according to the Institute for Justice, a public-interest law firm defending the programs in those states. The institute also defended the Milwaukee program.
The justices announced their denial of the appeal without comment.
“The families who are enjoying the benefits of this wonderful program can rest a little easier,” said Clint Bolick, litigation director of the Institute for Justice, in a written statement. “School choice is the most promising education reform in America. By declining to review the Wisconsin ruling, the Supreme Court leaves intact the most definitive court decision to date, which solidly supports the constitutionality of school choice.”
Opponents of school choice criticized the high court’s action.
“Every day the voucher plan does more damage to the Milwaukee public schools, and the city’s taxpayers are paying the tab,” said National Education Association President Bob Chase in a written statement. “Vouchers will not ‘reform’ our public schools. They will only serve to weaken them.”
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief before the Wisconsin Supreme Court supporting the Milwaukee program. The brief, authored by the Christian Legal Society, argued the exclusion of religious schools from a voucher program for only secular private schools would constitute discrimination against religion, while inclusion of religious schools would not violate church-state separation.
The high court’s refusal of the appeal perhaps will open “the door for more people to have the option of deciding what’s best for their children without having to be forced to send their children to the public schools if they don’t feel the public schools are doing a good job,” ERLC President Richard Land said on the agency’s “For Faith and Family” radio program Nov. 10.
The Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, which was the SBC’s church-state representative in Washington prior to the 1990s, maintains its long-standing opposition to vouchers for religious schools as a violation of the First Amendment’s ban on establishment of religion.
In August, a poll conducted by the Gallup Organization found 51 percent of Americans surveyed support government-funded, educational-choice programs that include religious schools. It was the first time in the four years the poll asked the question that a majority supported the concept. The survey also found 75 percent of respondents believe private and religious schools that accept government tuition payments should be accountable to the state in the same way public schools are.
A preliminary study of a privately funded voucher program in New York showed a slight improvement in standardized test results among elementary students who transferred from public schools to religious and secular private schools, it was announced in October. The study by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance found improvements among fourth and fifth graders using vouchers of four percentiles in reading and six percentiles in math, according to The New York Times. The differences were smaller for second and third graders.
In May, President Clinton vetoed a bill that would have provided vouchers for low-income children in the District of Columbia to attend private schools, including religious ones.
The Milwaukee program permitted vouchers for only secular private schools when it was inaugurated in 1990. At the urging of Gov. Tommy Thompson, the Wisconsin legislature expanded the program to include religious schools in 1995.
Southwestern church growth institute
ministers to thousands in first five years
By Matt Sanders
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–More than 1,000 students, hundreds of ministries and tens of thousands of Christians and non-Christians have benefited from the first five years of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Scarborough Institute for Church Growth, according to Daniel Sanchez, the institute’s director.
“Let’s continue to think creatively … to see how we can as a church growth institute help our seminary be on the cutting edge,” said Sanchez to the Southwestern faculty and staff members who gathered for a Nov. 4 luncheon to celebrate the institute’s fifth anniversary.
The purpose of staying on the cutting edge, Sanchez added, is to better prepare students for ministry, not just develop new programs or duplicate what other schools are doing.
Sanchez shared highlights from the institute’s first five years, updated information on current programs and announced several new ones.
The latest program for the institute is the Nehemiah Project, which is being implemented in conjunction with the North American Mission Board. By providing a church planting professor on campus, the program will further bolster the seminary’s efforts to prepare students in church planting.
“The NAMB has wisely recognized that seminary students are some of the best candidates for church planting,” Sanchez said. The program is expected to begin in summer or fall 1999, he added.
Sanchez said the Scarborough Institute is an excellent example of cooperation among the seminary’s three schools, Southern Baptist agencies like the NAMB, the International Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources, state conventions, associations and local churches. He said the Scarborough Institute has provided a way for the seminary and the denomination to begin programs more easily.
“When the question of having a master of divinity in church planting came up, we already had an organization within the institute to do this. The same is true for the mentorship program and many of the other things that we have done,” he said.
The master of divinity in church planting allows students to complete their degree while on the field starting a church. Other degrees initiated by the institute include a doctor of ministry church growth tr