Month: January 2015

SBTC DR teams aid Oak Cliff church destroyed by fire

OAK CLIFF—Southern Baptists of Texas Convention disaster relief volunteers deployed January 14 to clear rubble and debris left after a fire destroyed Deliverance Missionary Baptist Church in east Oak Cliff. The DR team came in after city crews had torn down what remained of the charred building after the blaze was extinguished.

The cause of the Jan. 9 early morning fire remains unknown, said Kenneth Andrews, senior pastor of the SBTC congregation.

A team of four led by Doug Scott, with volunteers from Atlanta, Leonard and Dallas, worked throughout the day, moving debris to the curb by skid steer. Scott’s crew was joined at noon by a new SBTC DR unit from Mansfield on its first deployment.

“The church doesn’t have the funds to have a dumpster there or trailers to haul it off,” Scott said, noting that Andrews, who came out to the site to greet the DR volunteers, remained “upbeat, wondering what the Lord was going to do with the situation.”

“A large pile 10 or 12 feet tall is left, but it’s all in one place,” Scott added.

The area surrounding the church at 2600 East Ann Arbor Avenue is low income.

“Twice a week, we fed 65-70 homeless and hungry at our church during the lunch hour,” Andrews told the TEXAN.

“This is the type of area Jesus ministered to when He was on earth,” Scott said. “It’s a big challenge. That’s why we go. We end up interacting with people, and they either tell us something that blesses us, or we tell them something that blesses them. It is a mutual thing.”

With the debris cleared, the church’s future remains uncertain.

“We don’t know our plans,” Andrews told the TEXAN. “We’ve been on the news across the nation. Our insurance was canceled. We have no money to rebuild. We are hoping to rent a building, buy a building or find funds to rebuild where we were.”

Andrews, the church’s senior pastor since 2003—and only the second in its 51-year history—has been involved with Deliverance MBC since 1992.

Donations to help the church have started coming in, Andrews said. African-American churches and employees of DeSoto Independent School District, where Andrews has worked part time for the past nine years as a crossing guard, have made inquiries.

Meanwhile, the Deliverance MBC congregation of 80 is worshiping with another Baptist church in Oak Cliff, Greater St. John Primitive Baptist Church. Andrews was scheduled to preach and the Deliverance choir to sing Sunday, Jan. 18, at Greater St. John PBC.

A special service to support Deliverance will be held Saturday, Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. at Greater New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, an SBTC church located at 2654 Kilburn Avenue, Dallas.

Texas, La., Miss. marriage law cases presented to Court of Appeals

NEW ORLEANS—The U.S. Court of Appeals 5th Circuit heard challenges to marriage laws in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, Jan. 9. The similarity between the contested laws—defining marriage as a union only between a man and a woman and the prohibition against recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states—led the appellate court to hear the cases together. Each case was heard separately, but a common thread of questioning wove its way through the hearings.

“The laws that are at issue are naturally the same, and the 14th Amendment challenges to these laws are identical,” Justin Matheny, attorney for the State of Mississippi told the court in his opening arguments. “The question is, ‘Does the 14th Amendment prohibit the state from defining marriage as between a man and a woman?’”

Attorneys for the plaintiffs—same-sex couples seeking to be married or have their out-of-state marriages recognized in the three states—argued the same amendment protects homosexuals as a “suspect class” of citizen countermanding the state’s ability to discriminate against them in matters of marriage law.

Gay and lesbian couples contend there is no distinction between same-sex and opposite-sex marriage relationships. But Jonathan Mitchell, Texas solicitor general, called that a “value judgment” not rising to the level of equal protection.

“Equal protection of the laws does not require a state to confer equal treatment on things that are different,” he said, noting the differences in the contested marriage relationships are rooted in biological reality.

“The 14th Amendment does not say that states must convey equal treatment on whatever federal judges think should be treated equally,” he said.

Spectators lined up outside the New Orleans court house before proceedings began, vying for a seat in the chamber. Overflow seating with a remote audio feed from the courtroom was established to accommodate the anticipated large media and public interest in the case. Judges Patrick Higginbotham and Jerry Smith—both President Ronald Reagan nominees—and James Graves—a President Barack Obama appointee—were seated to hear Campaign for Southern Equality v. Phil Brya (Miss.), Robecheaux v. Caldwell (La.), and De Leon v. Perry (Tex.).

Attorneys for the states argued legal precedent gives states the authority to define marriage, repeatedly citing Baker v. Nelson, the 1971 Minnesota Supreme Court ruling denying homosexual couples had a right to marry. A year later the U.S. Supreme Court upheld that case and the ruling still stands.

But plaintiffs’ attorneys argued state sodomy laws prejudiced jurists against homosexuals seeking marriage licenses 42 years ago and that time, public opinion and the trajectory of court decisions affirming a fundamental right of marriage annuls Baker v. Nelson.

“It was a different world, and it’s changed now,” Daniel Lane, attorney for the Texas plaintiffs in De Leon v. Perry, told the judges.

But Judge Higginbotham disagreed.

“No. There has been no other Supreme Court case even nearly on point on that specific question, which was whether it’s constitutional for a state to limit marriages to heterosexual couples. The court will let us know when it’s changed its mind,” he told Lane.

Higginbotham often queried attorneys about the state’s authority to define marriage.

Attorneys on both sides frequently cited the 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor to advance their case. The New York lawsuit challenged Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which stated the federal government would only recognize marriages between a man and a woman. The provision was struck down, and that ruling was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

States’ attorneys argued the Supreme Court decision did not define marriage and left that prerogative to the states.

And although plaintiffs’ attorneys did not dispute that fact, Roberta Kaplan, attorney for the Mississippi plaintiffs, said, “The logic of Windsor says that gay people have a dignity that’s equal to everyone else. Once you accept that gay people are equal to everyone else, then all these reasons make no sense.”

Promoting procreation and the raising of children within marriage was the salient argument presented by states’ attorneys. Laws and benefits proffered by the state are often inherently discriminatory, Mitchell said. Legal precedent allows for the imperfection of laws as a means to an end that advances state interests; in this circumstance the raising of children by their biological mother and father which research indicates is the best environment for producing healthy productive children.

But plaintiffs argued gay and lesbian couples can effectively raise children and charged the marriage laws were grounded in animus.

“If the rationale is not logical, it only leaves animus,” Kaplan said. “It is not necessary to show overt hatred in order to show constitutionally admissible animus.”

The marriage laws represent moral disapproval of homosexuality, the plaintiffs’ attorneys argued.

But Mitchell argued a distinction between groups of people does not equate to animus-rooted discrimination. If it were so plaintiff’s attorneys would have to argue that “the common law background, which predates these enactments and has existed since time and memorial, was also rooted in animus,” he said.

Attorneys for the states recognized the societal shift in its consideration of same-sex marriage but noted it has only been legally recognized anywhere in the world for just over 10 years. Because of that, they asked for judges to take a “wait and see” approach before dismantling the traditional institution of marriage.

Mitchell, who argued the Texas case last, closed by reminding the judges that Texas’s marriage law does not conflict with any holding of the Supreme Court nor does it contradict constitutional language.

“The court must uphold the law regardless of how much a judge disagrees with them as a matter of policy,” Mitchell concluded.

As state laws defining marriage as a union between a man and woman are struck down at an overwhelming rate by federal and appellate courts, advocates on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate anxiously await as the 5th Circuit Court considers the arguments. A ruling is not expected before April.

Court of Appeals hears arguments on Texas abortion regulations bill

NEW ORLEANS — In what could be a precedent-setting case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit heard arguments in Whole Woman’s Health vs. Lakey, Jan. 7, part of the ongoing legal challenges contesting the 2013 Texas abortion regulations law, which observers agree is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court later this year.

“Texas, in many cases, will be a case of first impressions,” said Denise Burke, vice president of legal affairs for Americans United for Life.

But it wasn’t the first time the appellate court heard arguments against House Bill 2, an omnibus piece of legislation establishing strict standards of operation for Texas abortion providers. In 2013 the court overturned a ruling by Federal Court Judge Lee Yeakel. But in this latest lawsuit—in which two provisions, again, were declared unconstitutional by Yeakel—Stephanie Toti, senior counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights, argued HB 2 simply targets abortion clinics for closure with the “imposition of burdensome requirements.”

At issue are provisions requiring abortion clinics meet the same ambulatory service center (ASC) regulatory standards as other outpatient medical clinics and that abortion physicians receive admitting privileges to hospitals within a 30-mile radius of the abortion clinic.

Of the five states with ASC laws, Texas’s is the first to be challenged at the appellate level. Admitting privileges have been upheld on appeal in Texas and other states.

Burke noted that abortion rights advocacy began in Texas with Roe vs. Wade, so it is only fitting that a pro-life law passed in Texas challenge the status quo.

In the lawsuit, plaintiffs contend the combined application of the two provisions forced the closure of clinics in El Paso and McAllen thus requiring women to drive 550 miles and 250 miles, respectively, to the nearest Texas abortion clinic. That created an undue burden according to the plaintiffs, who sought an exemption from HB 2 compliance for the two far-flung clinics.

But it is the enigmatic “undue burden” test that has lead appellate courts across the nation to quantify the term relative to their own jurisdictions. Prescribed but not defined in its 1992 Planned Parenthood vs. Casey ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court declared states could regulate the abortion industry but not to the point of creating an “undue burden” for a woman seeking an abortion.

This spring, U.S. 5th Circuit Judges Catharina Haynes, Edward Prado, and Jennifer Walker Elrod—all President George W. Bush appointees—will determine if Texas law crossed that invisible line.

In doing so there may be one line the court could consider crossing—the Texas-New Mexico border. In a 2014 ruling, the 5th Circuit Court blocked the enforcement of a Mississippi admitting privileges law that would have closed the only abortion clinic in the state. The court determined Mississippi’s obligation to provide abortions could not be foisted onto a neighboring state.

Toti argued the same applies to Texas. With the closing of the El Paso clinic, West Texas women seeking an abortion must travel 550 miles to San Antonio—an obvious undue burden, Toti said.

Judge Haynes conceded the point.

“So we have women driving 150 miles, 200, 500 … and the problems stemming from an abortion arise, maybe down the road. And that might be, literally, down the road … in the middle of nowhere. Isn’t that a problem?” Haynes asked Texas Solicitor General Jonathan Mitchell.

Mitchell said the scenario justifies “as applied” relief specifically for the El Paso clinic, which has remained closed since implementation of the law. But even that relief should be denied, he argued, because El Paso women can go to a clinic 17 miles away in Santa Teresa, N.M.

Judge Elrod agreed that Texas cannot “export [its] constitutional obligations” but asked Toti to explain why Texas law should be bound by the court’s Mississippi ruling when the circumstances are different. Mississippi had one abortion clinic. Texas has seven or eight.

As Toti began to respond, Haynes interrupted.

“We know no one is going to drive 550 miles. They’re going to go to New Mexico, and you’re asking us to ignore that,” Haynes said, calling the New Mexico clinic an adequate remedy to the undue burden test.

Toti said “shuttling” Texas women to an abortion clinic across the border defeats the purpose of HB 2 in providing quality abortion services. Haynes told Mitchell his use of the New Mexico clinic as a defense against the need for “as applied” relief seemed hypocritical.

But Mitchell said women can—and do—go anywhere they want for abortion services, noting a New Mexico abortion doctor testified that most of his patients came from Texas even before HB 2 was passed.

Mitchell also said the closure of the lone Rio Grande Valley abortion clinic defies plaintiffs’ undue burden challenge. A previous HB 2 decision by the 5th Circuit ruled the drive from McAllen to the closest clinic in Corpus Christi 153 miles away was not an undue burden.

But the Corpus Christi clinic has closed since that decision, making the San Antonio clinic the closest abortion facility for McAllen women. Mitchell told the court the additional 80 mile drive did not pose a burden.

In another line of questioning put to Toti, Haynes seemed exasperated, not with the plaintiff’s attorney but the federal court decision she was forced to defend.

In his Aug. 29, 2013 decision, Yeakel wrote HB 2 created an “impermissible obstacle” and an “undue burden” on Texas women seeking an abortion and allowed the exemptions for El Paso and McAllen. But he then disqualified both provisions as unconstitutional and unenforceable statewide.

“Wouldn’t you agree that the district court’s order is overbroad?” asked Haynes.

Toti disagreed. All the regulations flow from a single statutory mandate that plaintiffs argued failed to “advance a valid state interest, and because the district court found it was motivated by an improper purpose, it’s invalid in all of its applications.”

Sounding frustrated, Haynes responded, “But there was no effort to parse that at all.”

Instead of dismissing the ASC provision as a whole, Haynes asked if the plaintiffs’ case would not have been better served by analyzing the measure for elements that do not meet a rational standard.

“That kind of decision is much harder for an appellate court to say is improper,” she said.

But Toti said Supreme Court precedent prohibits a district judge from “rewriting law” even in an effort to save it.

When making its ruling, the appellate court must take into consideration its own precedent, that of other appellate courts and whether the Supreme Court will overturn their decision. Elrod listed the disparity of appellate decisions on undue burden alone.

“The courts are all over the map on this,” Mitchell said. But, he added, whatever standard the Supreme Court chooses to use, Texas “clearly wins on the facial challenge, and the only difficult question becomes what’s the status of the ‘as applied’ claims in El Paso and McAllen.”

Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, which has abortion centers in San Antonio and Las Cruces, N.M., attended the hearing. In a written statement posted afterward, Miller said her case received a good hearing from the judges, but she was not hopeful for a favorable outcome.

“We will anxiously be awaiting the Fifth Circuit Court’s decision and actively preparing to mobilize either through the legal process or in our communities to keep our doors open,” she wrote.

The court could have a decision by April or May.

Churches reunite after 30-year split

CEDAR HILL—Church splits are all too common; reconciliations too rare. Yet reconciliation has come to Hillcrest Baptist Church and Colonial Hills Baptist Church after 30 years of separation. A special reunion service held Sunday, Sept. 28, marked the event.

“God has done something that I have never heard done before. He has brought two churches back together after 30 years,” Hillcrest pastor Mike Simmons said from the pulpit, calling the reunion “absolutely phenomenal.”

Some 1,100 were in attendance as Simmons welcomed 50 “brothers and sisters from Colonial Hills,” inviting them to stand for recognition.

Simmons then introduced Jerry Keen, president of the trustees of Colonial Hills, and Bobby Fletcher, chairman of the trustees of Hillcrest. King, a University of Texas Longhorn, and Fletcher, a Texas A&M Aggie, bantered pleasantly about their respective university loyalties.

“That will never be reconciled,” Pastor Simmons joked of the men’s college rivalry.

Keen, representing the membership of Colonial Hills, presented Simmons and Fletcher with a check for $500,000 and the keys to the Colonial Hills property, terms agreed upon by the two churches.
Quoting 1 Samuel 9:25—“And when they were come down from the high place into the city, Samuel communed with Saul upon the top of the house”—Keen affirmed the reborn unity of Colonial Hills and Hillcrest.

“We are now us,” Fletcher said.

“It is God’s will for us to be back together as a community. I look forward to seeing what God has wrought. Great things will happen.”

Following prayer, hymns and greetings, Simmons preached the reconciliation sermon from Ephesians 3:20-21, verses inscribed on the cornerstone of Hillcrest. Interweaving the account of the reconciliation with an exposition of Scripture, Simmons began with an affirmation of God’s greatness and power with illustrations of creation, redemption and reconciliation.

“God has brought back together two churches, a remnant of his people. Just as he has done something of that magnitude, so does he want to work in individual lives and families,” Simmons proclaimed.

“God is able. He is able because he is great,” Simmons continued, noting that his own research had not revealed any other pair of churches reunited after 30 years. “We have witnessed today a mighty work of God.”

Praising the ministry of Colonial Hills in many areas, including benevolence, Simmons stated, “All of a sudden, in God’s economy and sovereignty, he chooses to bring us back together.”

The September official reconciliation services occurred after months of negotiations and years of prayer. Healing began two decades earlier with a 1995 celebration of Hillcrest’s 75th anniversary to which Colonial Hills staff and members were invited.

“Bill Strawn, a Hillcrest deacon, suggested we invite Colonial Hills, and 250 came,” Simmons recalled.

 Truett Huffstutler, then Colonial Hills’ minister of music and education and former education and worship pastor of Hillcrest, was invited by Simmons to lead the worship at that 75th anniversary celebration, leading to a growing friendship between the two men.

 “At the anniversary service, I shared from Acts 15,” Simmons recalled. “Paul and Barnabas separated and went their different ways, yet Scripture indicates that they were reconciled. God wanted us to forgive, and he wanted to bless each congregation.”

Years later, Simmons and Hillcrest leaders began praying in earnest for Colonial Hills, which had begun to decline in membership and attendance.

A more recent event God used to move the churches to reconcile was the death in fall 2013 of Hillcrest deacon Thurston Bridges after a long battle with cancer. Simmons met Bridges’ cousin, Jerry Keen, during one of many hospital visits with Bridges.

Keen had been part of the 500 who originally separated from Hillcrest in 1984. Simmons asked Keen to give the eulogy at Bridges’s funeral.  Keen did so from the pulpit of Hillcrest, the church from which he had separated years before.

“Only God could orchestrate something like that,” Simmons said.

In subsequent months, “God began to lead us together,” Simmons remarked. Colonial Hills had continued to decline and leaders were praying about the direction the Lord would have them to move.  During that time, Huffstutler, who had moved to East Texas, recommended the church contact Simmons while exploring options.

In March 2014, Keen and Cecil Smith, chair of the Colonial Hills deacons, asked if Simmons would bring Hillcrest representatives to meet with Colonial Hills deacons. Simmons agreed, unaware that part of the purpose of the meeting was to gauge the level of interest in reuniting.

Exploratory meetings followed with news of the potential merger kept quiet until a formal invitation arrived for Hillcrest to send representatives to Colonial Hills for what Simmons called “serious talks.” At a special Wednesday night business meeting on May 7, Hillcrest members voted to send a fact-finding team to Colonial Hills. By then, Simmons noted, “God had begun to meld our hearts together.”

On June 22, Simmons preached at Colonial Hills on divine guidance from Acts 15:36-16:10, Paul and Barnabas, the same subject to which he had referred at the 75th anniversary service and to which he would allude in the Sept. 28 reconciliation service.

A week later, knowing that Colonial Hills intended to vote on the merger the following day, Simmons hosted some 70 members of both churches who had been at Hillcrest in 1984, at the time of the division, to come together for a special meal.

“Merger is one thing, but the foundation to all this is reconciliation,” Simmons told the remnant from the original split. “Paul and Barnabas were both right and both wrong. Tonight around these tables we must seek forgiveness and offer forgiveness.  When we leave here tonight we will forget about the split.”

The dinner was a testimony to God’s faithfulness.

“People picked up like they had never left off 30 years ago. They prayed around tables, wept and shared. Most did not want to leave that evening,” Simmons recalled.

On June 29, Colonial Hills members voted to merge churches; on July 20, Hillcrest confirmed that move with a unanimous vote at its quarterly business meeting.

The last official vote regarding the reconciliation came at the Sept. 14 business meeting at Colonial Hills, where members voted for the dissolution of the church and the turning over of the property to Hillcrest. The amount of a half-million dollars was also agreed upon to enable Hillcrest to operate the Colonial Hills facilities while integrating the new campus into its budget.

Simmons praised the facilities. Plans include moving the church’s K-4th grade Hillcrest Christian Academy, in its second year, to the 15-acre former Colonial Hills property this fall. The campus is ideal for a school, with its 54 Sunday school rooms, large gymnasium and commercial kitchen. With the growth of Hillcrest Espanol, that ministry may move to the new campus next spring or fall.

Reconciliation is an answer to prayer few expected. Simmons closed the Sept. 28 reconciliation sermon, saying, “Who would have thought? Who would have asked God? Who would have imagined?  Only God could do something like this, and it will be a testimony to a lost world, to my children, their children, their grandchildren. God has done a work that only he can do.”

Resources help churches plan a January “Sanctity of Life” emphasis

Texas is peppered with churches filled with people who say they’re 100 percent pro-life. Texas is also peppered with pro-life ministries and events, but many of those ministries and events see only a few pro-life Christians involved, serving and attending.

Perhaps the breakdown lies in waning awareness of opportunity or even information that is just “too little, too late.”

January marks Sanctity of Human Life month, so here are a few resources to help pastors, churches, leaders, businesses and Christians:

1. Local pregnancy resource centers: The Heidi Group and Ramah International both offer online directories to help locate pregnancy resources across Texas and in other states.

The Heidi Group:
Ramah International:

Resource centers typically welcome volunteer help in a myriad of capacities and both monetary and tangible donations to help expectant mothers care for themselves during pregnancy and their babies after delivery. Resource centers often provide classes to prepare parents to care for their children and to teach life skills that will help parents give children the best life possible.

The Austin Pregnancy Resource Center, specifically, has also made a ready-to-print bulletin insert and a two-minute promo video that churches can use free of charge to promote the January emphasis on the sanctity of life. To access the bulletin and video, visit

2. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention: The ERLC offers a host of resources on its website, including a three-minute video message from President Russell Moore, a potential sermon outline and a bulletin insert. These resources are available at

3. Texans for Life Coalition: Kyleen Wright’s organization serves as a hub for all things pro-life, listing links to all sorts of organizations, from ministries and political action groups to pregnancy centers and research and statistics sites. Frequent news updates are posted on the Texans for Life website as well as a Twitter feed for quick bits of information. Find Texans for Life at

4. North Texas March for Life: Roe v. Wade was first filed in Dallas’ Earle Cabell Federal Courthouse in 1970 before the Supreme Court issued its decision on the case in 1973. Jan. 17, 2015 will mark the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision, and thousands will gather that day in downtown Dallas to march for life, praying to end legalized abortion in America. Visit for details.

5. Surrendering the Secret: Pat Layton wrote this Bible study to minister to women who have had abortions and desire healing and restoration. Bible studies are offered in churches across the nation, and the website offers a host of resources for churches to use in ministering to women who desire to “heal the heartbreak.” Find videos, books, articles, bulletin inserts, brochures, contact cards, pastor packets, gift sets and information about hosting a Bible study on their website at

Churches discover power of collegiate internships

Ministry to college students can be enigmatic for churches, especially those in traditional college towns. Fresh out of the youth department and deposited into adult Sunday school classes, college students may struggle to find their niche.

When churches consider the students’ busy schedules, limited finances and potential to be around only for a few years, the temptation surfaces to ignore this demographic in the church. But in spite of these obstacles, college students are an incredible church resource for the present and an investment in the future.

“If we don’t invest in them now, they will not grow to be people who will invest in the church later,” said James Martinez, student minister at First Baptist Church in Brownsville.

In recent years, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has retooled its collegiate ministry strategies to provide pastors like Martinez with the help they need most—someone to share the ministry load.

Until 2013 when Steve Maltempi came on as SBTC lead collegiate and student ministry associate, the convention’s support of church collegiate ministries was spread rather thin. Reaching college students with the gospel via local churches, though laudable, was formidable.

So Maltempi spent 2013 praying and speaking with collegiate ministry pastors and leaders across the state. They told him what they needed most was not another retreat or camp but more workers. From those conversations came the realization that help was closer than anyone imagined.

Through a strategic collegiate internship program, college students themselves can help solve the manpower shortage in churches that want to make an impact on local campuses.
“We’re looking for the kind of student who has a real heart to mentor and disciple students,” said Maltempi.

Churches qualifying for the SBTC internship program can hire a college student from inside or outside their church. The SBTC provides the $1,800 per semester grant and required training. Student interns must keep a log of their work and submit it to the convention.

The internship program is off to a strong start, with 29 interns in churches of all sizes. Maltempi eventually hopes to have 100 interns ministering on campuses across the state. For students who sense a call to ministry, the internship provides  an opportunity to develop ministry skills.

One such student is Enrique “Ricky” Gomez, a senior finance major at UT Brownsville and intern at FBC Brownsville.

Martinez, who is married with children, admits he does not click as immediately with college students the way Gomez can. Besides, he jokes, college students stay up way too late for him.

“You get me around a bunch of college kids, and I can be a help and provide wisdom, but I don’t go through the things they do,” Martinez said.

Before bringing on Gomez, FBC Brownsville’s efforts to establish fellowships on the UT Brownsville campus alternated between flourishing and floundering for two years due to lack of consistent leadership. Martinez managed to keep a small presence on campus in the form of a Bible study, one of only three or four Christian groups on the campus of nearly 9,000 students.

When Martinez heard of the internship program, he jumped at the opportunity to bring on help, and Gomez was his top consideration. Gomez has taken full ownership of his role as a “man of peace” among the college students, shoring up and expanding the collegiate ministry of FBC Brownsville.

Having cut his pastoral teeth as a North American Mission Board student minister in Las Vegas 14 years ago, Martinez recalled learning how churches squandered natural resources in their congregations by not discipling their college-aged students.

“This weird time of life is prime. It’s a four-year investment,” Martinez said. “When they become adults, you’ll see the return. And they’ll remember.”

One oft-repeated statistic indicates that the majority of students fall away from the church once they leave high school. Maltempi recognizes these statistics but said the collegiate demographic cannot be counted like the preschool department. Some college students go to church, while others attend Bible studies and fellowships sponsored by parachurch organizations.

But the bottom line is many do not attend church.

Making seamless transitions from grade school to youth department to “big church” begins with weaving the concepts of church membership and service at an early age, Maltempi said. When young church members have a vested interest in their church—when they see the impact of ministries on the life of the church and the surrounding community—they are more likely to remain connected even during that difficult transition to adulthood.

“We have to equip the saints and let them loose to do (ministry),” Maltempi said.

And what they lack in financial support, college students make up for in enthusiasm and energy. Utilizing the SBTC collegiate internship program helps churches tap into that resource.

The Irresistible Future

I love the thought of a new year. For me it represents the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start anew. Maybe I like the thought of New Year so much because I am in much need of a fresh start every year!

There have been some years that I have been overly delighted to bid goodbye. Others I would have liked to have extended. Either way, Oswald Chambers catches a great stance as we begin this year in My Utmost For His Highest:

Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true we have lost opportunities which will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ. Leave the irreparable past in His hands, and step out into the irresistible future with Him.

I pray that we will view this New Year as our opportunity to step into an irresistible future with our Lord Jesus Christ. An important part of this year will be regional prayer meetings for spiritual awakening. Spiritual awakening must not be acknowledged merely as the theme of our recent annual meeting but as the heart cry of our soul. The days are desperate, and the desperation of our days must be matched by the intensity of our prayers. Some of these gatherings will occur in January with others to follow. When we come to your area, clear the calendar and invite everyone in your sphere of influence to attend.

Brothers and sisters, if we as leaders in our state do not come together in these trying days to pray, then who will? And if this is not the time, then when will the time come? We are the people, and this is the time. Let’s step out into God’s irresistible future praying together for spiritual awakening.