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6 agency heads address SBC Pastors' Conference
-- By Don Hinkle
ATLANTA, June 15--A call for a constitutional amendment protecting children's right to pray in public schools and an exhortation for pastors to renounce any hidden sins in their lives were among the messages delivered by six Southern Baptist Convention agency presidents during the 1999 Pastors' Conference, June 13-14, at the Georgia Dome.
     It marked the first time in the 64-year history of the conference that the heads of the SBC Executive Committee, North American Mission Board, International Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and Annuity Board had all addressed the conference in one year.
     In his sermon, Morris Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the Executive Committee, called for a constitutional amendment that would protect children's' right to pray in public schools.
     Recalling how Elijah had prayed, asking for God's fire to fall on his offering before the prophets of Baal, Chapman called on Christians to faithfully pray for America and its children.
     "We have a government that is suppressing religious expression," he said. "It is attempting to make our schools religion-free zones. We do not want government-supported religion, but we need God's presence in our schools."
     "We are doomed if we do not become concerned with the violence [in America]," he said. "The devil is a great deceiver and he is preying on our children.
     "In our lifetime, there has been no revival that has swept across America. Let Southern Baptists pray for revival and pray for our hearts to be purified," Chapman said.
     LifeWay President James T. Draper Jr. acknowledged it has become difficult to minister in today's world without getting discouraged. Preaching from 2 Corinthians 4:1, he said, "There have to be some affirmations, but there must also be some renunciations."
     To be effective, he said ministers must renounce hidden, subtle and selfish things in their lives.
     "We don't preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ. There is no place [in the ministry] for prima donnas or acclaim. We must learn the secret of servant leadership," Draper said.
     He encouraged the pastors to announce the "simple, clear, naked, adored truth of God's Word. Preach the Word! Hold up God's Word and he will bless it."

     NAMB President Robert E. "Bob" Reccord compared the urgency of sharing the gospel of Christ with the spirit of urgency that exists on an aircraft carrier.
     After a film clip of Naval jets being launched off an aircraft carrier was shown, Reccord asked: "When the word 'urgency' comes to mind, what do you think of? Do you see urgency or complacency when you look at the church?"
     Preaching from Matthew 16:13-18, Reccord noted how Jesus handled his disciples differently than he would have.
     "I would have taken them to Jerusalem, to the temple of God. But Jesus took them 100 miles away to Caesarea Philippi, a multicultural city built on secularism. It was an entertainment center where religions from everywhere gathered. Pagan idols dotted every corner."
     Reccord challenged the pastors to pray and then penetrate America's cities with the message of Jesus Christ.
     He noted that NAMB has committed to taking the gospel to urban centers such as Chicago, Las Vegas, Seattle and Philadelphia in the next two years. He warned the pastors that some may have to leave their comfort zone to meet the challenge and they must be willing to accept change so the gospel may be spread.
     "God loves us where we are, but he loves us too much for us to stay there," Reccord said.
He said a study recently completed by researcher George Barna for NAMB showed that while Southern Baptists were not viewed negatively by the majority of those surveyed, they also were viewed as not relevant.
     Reccord said the Barna study revealed another disturbing fact: Of people who regularly shared their faith, 25 percent said they don't believe the Bible is thoroughly accurate, while 33 percent believe people can earn their way to heaven. The full results of the survey will be released later this year.
     Jesus told the disciples what he is telling us, "You'd better know what you believe, and what you believe had better be in the book (Scripture)," Reccord said.
     Reccord challenged the pastors to "shove forward the throttle of urgency, salute our Lord with an absolute aversion to complacency, then thrust off the desk with a commitment ... that brings victory. The victory is not the call. Obedience is the victory."
     IMB President Jerry Rankin said in 1998 his agency commissioned 885 new missionaries and overseas baptisms rose from 300,000 to 348,000. He said the IMB is halfway toward the goal of having 1,000 new missionaries this year and expects the number to reach 5,000 in the year 2000.
     "Jesus has given us the mandate to go unto all the world and disciple all nations," Rankin said. "We go only in the power of the gospel and with a vision of winning the lost nations of the world to Jesus and to the glory of God.
     "What we have in our hands and what can respond to the problems is not humanitarian sociologists or the NATO peacekeepers, but only the ... message that Jesus died and rose again ... and that Jesus saves," he said.
     Annuity Board President O.S. Hawkins reminded the pastors that his organization exists to "serve those who serve the Lord."
     "Most of you think you will only need us when you are 65," Hawkins said. "But we want to change the way you look at us. Don't think of us as your retirement agency but as a life partner."
     Hawkins said he would like to see third-party investments increase to the point where church planters are taken care of for the first two years of their service. He also wants to see professors placed at all six SBC seminaries who will teach future pastors financial responsibility, not only for their churches, but for themselves.
     He told the pastors that of the 28,000 retired ministers, denominational workers and their spouses who receive Annuity Board retirement benefits, 10,000 get less than $200 a month. On June 27, he said the denomination will observe the first Adopt an Annuitant Sunday. Churches will be asked to contribute $900 a year so that one aged minister or widow can receive an additional $75 supplement each month.
     "We want to be a life partner with you, so 20-30 years from now when you're retired ... you can do so with dignity while you continue to serve Christ in your retirement years," Hawkins said.
     ERLC President Richard Land warned moral degradation is rampant in America.
"We are in a time of moral crisis that is unprecedented in America," he said. "Our only hope is our directions from above, from God's Holy Word. The corridor of escape for America, ourselves and our families is a vertical corridor to our Savior, Jesus Christ. If we are going to preach the reconciling message of Jesus, we must do so with the heart of our Savior."
     Land criticized President Clinton, describing him as a reflection of the nation's moral character.
     "Bill Clinton and I are the same age, but I'm an adult," he quipped as the 5,000 attendees roared with laughter.
     He then held high a White House proclamation declaring June as "Gay and Lesbian Pride Month."
"An appropriate prayer is that God will stay his judgment on this country until this man is no longer our president," Land said.

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