July 28, 1999

Convocation explores kingdom of God
___By Mark Wingfield
___& Dan Martin

___SAN ANGELO--Christians talk about the kingdom of God more than they are willing to do what is demanded to advance the kingdom of God, speakers said during the annual convocation of Texas Baptist Committed July 16-17 in San Angelo.
___Striving to bring about the kingdom of God requires Christians to be willing to let the king's feather fall on them, Garland pastor Dean Dickens told the crowd in a closing message.
MILLIE BISHOP of Austin speaks during a session at the Texas Baptist Committed annual convocation at the San Angelo Civic Center as Bob Stephenson of Norman, Okla., makes notes.
___He referred to a fable about a respected king whose people loved him dearly, to the point they said they were willing to die for him. However, the king said it would not be necessary for all his people to die for him, but only for one to take his place. So the king went to his balcony and dropped a feather, declaring that whoever the feather fell upon would be the one to die in his place.
___All the people cheered, Dickens said, and declared their devotion to the king as the feather fell. But as it dropped within inches of their heads, the royal subjects beneath the feather turned their heads upward and blew the feather away in a mighty puff.
___ That's like the experience he had growing up in a Baptist church in Arkansas, he said. Many people there often said they were praying for his alcoholic father, but no one from the church ever visited his father, he explained.
___"There's a lot of feather-blowing when it comes to kingdom business," Dickens said.
___The he took the story to a more personal level, relating how for two years he has admonished his suburban Dallas congregation about the need to start a new Baptist church in a fast-developing area. The church has studied the idea and prayed about the idea repeatedly, he said, but nothing was happening to start the new church.
___Finally, after several friends outside the church suggested Dickens himself ought to resign and become pastor of the yet-to-be created church, he determined that's exactly what he should do.
___"Sometimes you have to stop blowing feathers," he explained.
___Defining and understanding the kingdom of God is "like someone with small hands and stubby fingers trying to pick up a basketball one handed," suggested James Shields, retired professor of theology at Hardin-Simmons University. "There are so many perspectives, and it is still too large to grasp."
___This problem is compounded, he said, because "modern people are far removed from any experiential concept of kingship."
___Yet the church has a primary role in extending, commending and defending the kingdom of God, said Paul Powell, retired president of the Southern Baptist Annuity Board and a former Texas Baptist pastor.
___"The kingdom of God exists wherever and whenever a person bows before Jesus Christ as king," he said. "It is wherever Jesus is proclaimed as both Lord and Christ and that Jesus is the King."
___Yet the church is not called to preserve traditions like a mausoleum nor to entertainment people like a coliseum, Powell declared. "The church is the place to go to meet God."
___He admonished Texas Baptists to "become the faith, live the faith and preserve the faith."
___That is exactly what happens on the campuses of Texas Baptists' universities, said Gary Cook, president of Dallas Baptist University.
___He related his own experiences as a student at Baylor University, saying the his time there "changed my life" for the better. "The secret to joy and happiness in life, I found at Baylor."
___Baptist universities like Baylor and DBU change lives through their Christian environment, classrooms, faculty and staff, missions activities and ministries, and the opportunity for socialization with Christian friends, Cook said.
___The kingdom of God can grow on Baptist campuses, he reported.
___Beyond the campus, God's kingdom is seen in the faces of many selfless pastors and missionaries, said Patty Lane, director of intercultural work for the BGCT's Church Starting Center.
___She told stories of several Texas Baptist missionaries and church leaders who embody the principles of the kingdom, including one pastor of an ethnic mission who had waited for months to receive copies of the Bible printed in his people's language.
___When the Bibles finally arrived, he opened one box and took out only a few Bibles, then closed the box again. Thinking the pastor didn't understand that he could take all the Bibles, Lane urged him to put the few Bibles back in the box for easier transport.
___No, he replied, he would take only a few Bibles. His congregation had learned that a brand-new mission serving the same language group in another part of the state had no Bibles at all. They had determined to send this box of Bibles to their sister church, and they would wait again for a new box of Bibles.
___The reason, he said, was that the younger congregation needed the Bibles much worse than his congregation.
___"That's really part of being the Texas Baptist family, when we're willing to sacrifice something we want because someone else needs it," Lane said.
___"The kingdom of God is many faces, but it really has only one heart, God's heart," she concluded.
___All God's creation was created for relationship, added Ellis Orozco, pastor of Corpus Christi Baptist Church in Corpus Christi. "Jesus had the ability to create community Ö community which reflected the image of God.
___Orozco told a number of stories, including a paraphrase of the Prodigal Son, which he called the story of the "Searching Father." The father, he said, remembered not the harsh words of separation but the little boy he bounced on his knee, whom he threw up into the air.
___"'I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you,' he said over and over again. He never stopped loving him," Orozco said, noting that the story "shows the agony of a heart that really cares, no matter what."
___Thus, the role of the family in the kingdom of God, he said, is "to reflect the image of God in intimate community, reflecting the care, creativity and consistency of his character. To reflect it and reflect it and reflect it."
___While the kingdom of God is about more than being a Baptist, it connects solidly with Baptist principles, Gary Parker said in a breakfast sponsored by the Texas chapter of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
___"God's kingdom began before any Baptists existed, (and) Ö if all the Baptists disappeared from the face of the earth, God's kingdom would survive," said Parker, coordinator for Baptist principles with the national Fellowship organization.
___However, some important characteristics of the kingdom of God that Baptists historically have championed might not survive without the Baptist influence, he quickly added.
___Chief among those are the principles of religious liberty and the priesthood of the believer, Parker said.
___He drew upon the biblical account of the two thieves dying on crosses beside Jesus to illustrate his assertion that these Baptist principles are biblical principles given by Jesus. One thief mocked Jesus, while the other cried out for mercy.
___"Jesus coerced neither of the men into the actions they chose," Parker said. "Both had a choice. One man took it; the other didn't. Faith, to be genuine, must always breathe from the air of free choice."
___The kingdom way demonstrated by Jesus is conversion rather than coercion, Parker said.
___Further, Jesus demonstrated that immediate access to the kingdom of God is available for all who call upon the name of Jesus, he said, noting that Jesus told the thief on the cross, "Today you will be with me in paradise."
___"God allows no distinction between God's people," Parker said. "We all have equal access and we all are equal recipients."
___During the breakfast, the Texas CBF chapter, which is a distinct entity from Texas Baptists Committed, announced plans to fund its first direct missions grants for projects in Texas this year. A total of $7,500 will be shared equally by Gloria al Padre, a Mexico mission project; First Heritage Baptist Church of Houston; and CityChurch, a new congregation in Dallas.

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