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SBC DIGEST: S.C. Baptists weigh 8% budget reduction; WMU; Criswell College; Cambellsville Univ.; LifeWay Christian Stores

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–In the face of declining church gifts, the South Carolina Baptist Convention’s Executive Board approved a reduced budget for the coming year during an Oct. 12 meeting at the White Oak Conference Center.

The $29.5 million budget, which must be approved by SCBC messengers in November, is a reduction of more than 8 percent from the current $32.2 million budget adopted by SCBC messengers in November 2009.

The leaner budget reflects a continued decline in receipts from SCBC churches, down 5.37 percent through August of this year. Church gifts were down about 6 percent the previous year.

The Cooperative Program portion of the proposed budget calls for forwarding 41 percent of CP receipts to the Southern Baptist Convention (up from 40.4 percent) and retaining 59 percent for in-state ministries.

The proposed budget of $29,540,000 includes projected receipts of $29,400,000 through the Cooperative Program and $140,000 from cooperative gifts.

WMU LAUNCHES REDESIGNED WEBSITE — Woman’s Missionary Union launched a redesigned website in October at wmu.com.

“The two biggest changes are that all the sites for our age-level missions organizations are now consolidated into one site, and there is much more interactivity,” said Julie Walters, corporate communications team leader for national WMU.

Primary objectives of the redesign were to present a holistic picture of WMU — with continuity across age levels from preschool to adults — that reflects the relevance and value of missions discipleship; facilitate two-way communication to build community and better understand and meet the needs of churches and individuals; and attract a new audience not familiar with WMU, Walters said.

Prior to the redesign, WMU maintained 19 different websites. Thirteen of those were related to age-level WMU organizations or approaches and now have been rolled into wmu.com. Previous age-level web addresses redirect to new age-level landing pages on wmu.com. For example, gapassport.com redirects to wmu.com/children.

“The new site is designed to appeal to individuals and churches who are genuine in their pursuit of growing spiritually and affecting change by sharing the love of Christ,” Walters said. “As we expand our online presence to include social media and a dynamic website with interactivity and value-added features, we hope to engage a larger audience in missions discipleship through WMU.”

SPRADLIN ADDRESSES CRISWELL ANNIV. — “We should be absolutely consumed with the lostness of the world we live in,” Roger Spradlin, chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, said as one of the featured speakers for Criswell College’s 40th anniversary celebration.

Spradlin, a Criswell College graduate, is co-pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif.

David Allen, dean of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s school of theology and a former Criswell professor as well as a graduate of the college, also was a featured speaker Oct. 5 at the school founded by the late W.A. Criswell, longtime pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas. Both Spradlin and Allen preached in the expositional sermon style for which Criswell College is noted.

The college now has an enrollment of 370 students, a 17-member full-time faculty and 1,807 graduates serving in local churches, as missionaries and as leaders within various SBC entities. The college, now affiliated with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, currently is in a presidential search, with longtime Criswell administrator and faculty member Lamar Cooper serving as interim president.

Focusing on the preaching of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, Spradlin suggested there’s “something of a generational divide in understanding the Great Commission.”

“In the past, some have talked about the Great Commission purely in terms of evangelism. It would seem the goal simply is to populate heaven with as many born-again people as we can. Yet, some now interpret the Great Commission solely in terms of missions — taking the Gospel to various people groups. The fact is, it is both: Evangelism is reaching individuals with the Gospel and missions is taking the Gospel to the [world’s] people groups,” including an estimated 1.7 billion people who have “virtually no access today to the Gospel.”

Spradlin also said believers are “conditioned to think of salvation in terms of us. We say sometimes that if we were the only one on earth, then Jesus would have died for us.” Though true, Spradlin characterized the notion as “egocentric theology,” which he said “misses the big picture. What is the big picture? The big picture is what God is doing among the nations, the people groups of the earth.”

Spradlin also warned of “a kind of Gnostic Christianity.”

“We’re so proud of theological knowledge that we think the one who knows the most Bible verses is most the spiritual. What we do in our churches is fill the room with people, and then we fill their heads with Bible facts and we call that discipleship. But true discipleship is obedience-based,” Spradlin said. “Discipleship means a Christian is a learner of, and follower of Jesus.”

An extended report on Spradlin’s message can be accessed at the Southern Baptist TEXAN website at www.texanonline.net/default.asp?action=article&aid=7062&issue=10/18/2010.

Allen, in his address at the Criswell College celebration, preached from the Numbers 9:15-23 account of the cloud that God used in leading the Israelites.

“God always has a plan and God always has a man,” Allen said. “God will bring him — in His time, if we will obey and wait on Him — His next Joshua to lead the Criswell College.”

Through a series of leaders who upheld the vision of W.A. Criswell, Allen said the college has maintained its founding allegiance “to the inerrancy, infallibility, inspiration and authority of holy Scripture.”

At a luncheon, Alan Streett, W.A. Criswell Professor of Expository Preaching at the college, spoke on the school’s uniqueness, which, during the 1970s and ’80s, included its emergence as “the nerve center for the Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention” at a time when SBC leadership had moved leftward, reflecting the concurrent theological drift of the SBC’s six seminaries.

An extended report on Criswell College’s 40th anniversary celebration can be accessed at the TEXAN website at

LUTER & YORK SPEAK AT CAMPBELLSVILLE — New Orleans pastor Fred Luter Jr., a former vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Hershael W. York, an associate dean and professor of Christian preaching at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, were the featured speakers at Campbellsville University’s Pastors and Church Leaders Conference.

The church Luter leads, Franklin Avenue Baptist, was among the New Orleans-area congregations that suffered overwhelming loss in Hurricane Katrina in 2005. York, in addition to his seminary role, is pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky., and chairman of the Kentucky Great Commission Task Force.

Both Luter and York delivered three messages during the Sept. 23-24 conference at Campbellsville, which is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

Luter, in a sermon titled “Victory through the Word of God” from Psalm 119, noted, “If we are going to walk worthily of the calling, we must understand the power that is in God’s Word because we will be under constant attack. The Christian life is not easy.”

Luter listed three ways believers need the Word of God: in your hands, in your head and in your heart.

In your hands, Luter said, “Take it up and read it, for it is the way for the young man and woman to cleanse life.”

In your head, he said, “Meditate upon it, contemplate upon His Word.”

In your heart, Luter said, “Hiding the Word of God in your heart is the best weapon against sin in your life.”

York, in a message titled “Searching Until,” recounted two stories about lost things, a sheep and a coin, from Luke 15. Each story, he said, reveals the heart of God for lost people.

“There are preparations we need to make in our lives to really have God’s heart for the lost,” York said, citing four areas of preparation:

Prepare to suffer reproach, he said, noting, “Not everyone is going to be happy about evangelism, not even in your church.”

Prepare to shift your priorities, he said. “When something valuable goes missing, there is no longer a list of things to do but only one thing to do,” but among many churchgoers “a concern for the lost often is not high on the priority list.”

Prepare to actually search, he said, “Don’t just talk about it, but do it. When fishermen fish they flourish, and when fishermen don’t fish, they fight!”

Prepare to succeed, York said, “If we will search diligently, if we will search ‘until,’ God will give success to our all-out efforts to find the lost.”

An extended report on the Campsville conference can be accessed at www.campbellsville.edu/10042010luterandyork.

LIFEWAY HONORS MANAGER OF THE YEAR — Jan Watkins, manager of the Tukwila, Wash., LifeWay Christian Store, has been named 2010 Manager of the Year. Watkins was honored during the awards banquet of the National Sales Meeting, an annual event for all LifeWay Store managers and leadership of the retail division, held Oct. 10-14 at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina.

“We are very proud of the leadership Jan has exhibited over the years and especially for the outstanding performance in 2010,” said Bruce Munns, director of merchandising and store operations. “This is a prestigious award and speaks to the overall excellence Jan has maintained.”

Mark Scott, vice president of LifeWay Christian Resources added, “We are certainly very proud of Jan. He is a servant leader with a passion for placing biblical solutions in the hands of customers.”

Watkins, a native of Cushing, Okla., began his career with LifeWay in 1997 as a manager-in-training at the Plano, Texas, store. He managed the LifeWay Store in Denver and then in Tulsa, Okla., before moving to the Northwest in 2004.

Serving in the Northwest “is a calling,” Watkins said, noting that Washington and Oregon represent the most unchurched region of the country.

“There is such a need in that area of the country for the sound biblical solutions that LifeWay provides. There are people searching for answers, for truth, and we view our ministry as being an oasis of truth.”

Watkins attributed much of the success of the Tukwila branch to his staff, most of whom have worked together for several years.

“This is their award and is such an affirmation to us all,” he said.

LifeWay, an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention, owns and operates 163 LifeWay Christian Stores throughout the United States.
Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston and staff writer Erin Roach from reports by the Baptist Courier in South Carolina; Woman’s Missionary Union; Tammi Ledbetter and Norm Miller of the Southern Baptist TEXAN; Tawny Vilchis of Campbellsville University; and Russ Rankin of LifeWay Christian Resources.

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