Speakers include Russell Moore, Matt Carter, Rosaria Butterfield, Jim Richards, others
Only a few days remain for college and seminary students to sign up to be part of this summer’s SBTC Engage teams that will take the gospel to churches and communities across Texas. Engage teams, made up of one preacher/team leader, a worship leader and a children/youth leader, will spend June and July traveling to churches across the state to lead revival services, provide evangelism training and hold sports camps and youth rallies. Last year Engage teams led 112 people to accept Christ as savior. The deadline to sign up to be on a team is March 27.
Engage team members will receive a weekly stipend and have all expenses, including mileage, paid. They will also receive a portion of any love offerings given by the churches at the conclusion of the summer.
Garrett Wagoner, an SBTC student ministry associate and Engage ministry organizer, says his involvement in Engage as a student made a lasting impact on him and his ministry trajectory.
“I was a part of an Engage team for two summers while I was in college, and it was a life-changing experience for me as God launched me into what He has me doing now,” Wagoner said.
Chad Davenport served as a team leader in 2014 and said while the ministry served a plethora of Texas churches, it also ministered to him.
“I was expecting to minister to everyone else, but God revealed some things to me about his character and about his plan for my life,” Davenport told the TEXAN at the end of the summer. “I expected it to be a spiritual high and a mountain top experience. It was more than that. It grew my faith in God and solidified his calling on my life.”
EULESS—The Southern Baptists of Texas awarded evangelist Ronnie Hill with the Roy Fish Lifetime Achievement in Evangelism Award at the Empower Conference, Feb. 24.
Hill, who was saved at age 8 and baptized into First Baptist Church in Brazoria, learned the power of prayer and evangelism at an early age as he saw his father come to faith in Christ. Hill surrendered to a call to ministry as a teenager and began traveling with the Kelly Green Evangelistic Association (KGEA) while a student at Oklahoma Baptist University. He later transferred to the University of Mobile, graduating with his bachelor’s in 1990, and then earned his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
After 10 years with the KGEA, Hill launched Ronnie Hill Ministries and continued to serve as a full-time evangelist.
Hill thanked the SBTC for the honor, noting his relationship with Roy Fish while a student at Southwestern.
“Dr. Fish kept me accountable in my personal walk with the Lord and also in sharing my faith, so it’s a huge honor,” Hill said.
EULESS—The Southern Baptists of Texas awarded pastor Mark Moore with the W.A. Criswell Lifetime Achievement Award in Pastoral Evangelism at the Empower Conference, Feb. 25.
Moore has served as pastor of Lakeside Baptist Church in Canton since 1989. An East Texas native, Moore graduated with his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Tyler. He later earned his master’s degree at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctorate at Tyndale Seminary. Prior to his pastorate at Lakeside, he served as a minister of education and youth at First Baptist Church in Dayton; as minister of education/administration/evangelism at First Baptist Church in Humble; and minister of education and administration at First Baptist Church in Corsicana.
“To receive an award with Dr. Criswell’s name attached to it, to be honest, I can’t wrap my brain around it,” Moore said as he accepted the award. “I receive it on behalf of the church that I serve, a great group of people who understand the purpose of the church—to glorify God in all things.”
Forbes announced recently that NBA legend Michael Jordan has become the first billionaire professional athlete. Jordan’s net worth certainly can be attributed to his prowess and accomplishments on the basketball court, but what really made him a billionaire is his ownership stake in the Charlotte Hornets and, more importantly, his brand.
Jordan was arguably the first and most successful athlete to leverage his name as a brand. His partnership with Nike to create the Jordan line of athletic apparel was a game changer in its day and has paved the way for a myriad of superstars to follow in his wake.
Today, celebrities, athletes and business professionals alike seek to advance their personal brands and build their platforms in order to increase influence and affluence. Where entourages used to consist of trainers and accountants, they’ve now been replaced by “brand strategists” and “platform gurus.”
Social media has become one of the primary vehicles to accelerate one’s brand. Twitter and Instagram followers represent influence, and self-promotion is the name of the game. In fact, the very idea of social media carries with it at least a slight hue of narcissistic presumption.
Of course the church is not immune to the cult of personality and the culture of self-promotion. High-profile Christian celebrities and pastors are easily criticized for manipulating book sales, buying Twitter followers and using speaking engagements to promote their brands.
But what if I told you this allure toward pride is not limited just to the big shots? At the root of this is every man’s sinful desire for self-importance. Each of us seeks his own way. Each of us craves attention, significance and recognition. Even in a wholesome desire to serve the Lord and to make a difference for his kingdom, we can be easily sidetracked to make much of ourselves, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
I don’t think most Christians have a calculated, self-conscious plan to build their brands. At first blush, we recoil at the thought of pride and self-promotion. But the incipient nature of pride works its way into our thoughts and actions quietly. What we think are noble aspirations to build his kingdom can sometimes be tainted with a desire to build ourselves up. It’s a vice we must all fight.
Added to this is the relative newness of social media. For most of us, we’re still evaluating this phenomenon’s virtues and vices. This article is not a knock on social media. I’ve used Facebook and Twitter for years. I enjoy the personal interactions afforded, and I’m fascinated by the way it’s woven into the fabric of our relationships. Social media can be a powerful and helpful tool, even for Christians. As with any tool, we must be wise how we use it.
Simply stated, Christians are not brands. We are disciples. And as disciples, we should emulate our Lord. In Philippians 2:3-5, Paul exhorts believers to reflect Christ through humility, doing nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
The Bible is clear that God is the one who raises up individuals to places of influence. In his sovereignty, he often gives us platforms, but they’re to be used for his glory, not our own. I’m always encouraged to see Christians who get this. The Lord obviously has his hand on them and has given them a strategic voice, and they aren’t trying to leverage it for their own glory.
How do we guard against pride in our uses of social media? How do we emulate our Savior’s humility across a medium that tempts us toward self-promotion? To some degree, this is a matter of conscience, but here are a few places to start.
- Check your motivations. Before you tweet something, stop and consider your goal. Are there any hidden desires to make yourself look good or important?
- Take inventory of your social media posts. Occasionally, I look over the last six months of Tweets, Facebook posts and Instagrams and ask the questions, “If someone only knew me by what was posted here, what would they think? Is this an accurate portrayal of my life, or is it what I want people to think about me?”
- Avoid sharing or retweeting good things about yourself. If someone posts something nice about you, it’s OK to like or favorite it or even to reply with a thank you. But reposting kudos is self-congratulatory. This includes putting a period in front of the reply or quotes around it followed by “//Thanks” so others will see it.
- Beware of the humble brag. This may be a new term for you, but it’s basically when someone publicly pats himself on the back in a seemingly humble way. For example, someone may tweet, “Grateful to give $1 billion of my own money to a local charity.” The line here between thankfulness and false humility can be fuzzy. He may be genuinely thankful, or he may just want to tell everyone how awesome he is.
Honestly, I’ve been guilty of all of these. Pride knows no bounds in our self-conscious, depraved hearts. But by God’s grace we can guard against pride and build the kingdom instead of building our own brands.
GRAPEVINE—Sexual abuse of children in churches and ministries is a pervasive yet little discussed problem with devastating moral and legal ramifications. The SBTC, in conjunction with Fort Worth-based Ministry Safe, will offer four Safeguarding Church Ministry conferences in 2015 geared toward educating church pastors, leaders and children’s ministry workers in sexual abuse awareness and prevention.
“The reality for many churches is that they don’t think they have an issue, but statistically speaking, many abusers come from within the church—up to 94 percent,” said Lance Crowell, SBTC ministry associate, citing evidence provided by Ministry Safe. “We want to raise awareness for our churches that we are in an age when you have to do due diligence for everyone. Up to 90 percent of sexual abusers do not show up in routine background checks.”
“We want to help our churches and their children avoid heartache,” said Mark Yoakum, SBTC Director of Church Ministries. “We want to be proactive rather than reactive.”
“Primarily, each conference will focus on security in the preschool, children’s and youth ministry areas. The SBTC is providing this training led by attorneys Greg Love and Kimberlee Norris,” Yoakum said.
The first training session is scheduled for March 26 at First Baptist Church in Colleyville. Subsequent conferences will be held Aug. 15 at Fallbrook Baptist Church in Houston, Sept. 24 at Flint Baptist Church near Tyler, and Oct. 8 at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin. Each conference will run from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. with lunch provided. Cost per attendee is $10.
Yoakum recommends churches participate in the sexual abuse awareness training for the following reasons: insurance companies often require such training, plans must be in place to protect workers and members, churches are increasingly involved in lawsuits over incidents, and the church’s children deserve to be protected. “The last reason is the most important,” Yoakum added.
Love and Norris are practicing attorneys who specialize in litigating child abuse cases. They founded Ministry Safe to assist churches and other organizations in prevention.
Ministry Safe maintains that 60 million people—one in five Americans—suffer childhood sexual abuse, most of which are not reported until the victims are adults, if ever.
The definition of child sexual abuse is broader than most people think, according to the Ministry Safe website, ministrysafe.com. In most state penal codes, child sexual abuse is typically defined as the following: “Any tricked, forced, manipulated or coerced sexual activity for the pleasure of the abuser,” Love said.
Sexual abuse need not involve physical touch. With broad legal definitions geared toward protecting the child, abuse can conceivably occur via a Facebook posting, instant messaging, even a text message, according to Love.
Legal codes continually tighten and require the reporting of incidents of child sexual abuse.
“The SBTC seminar will also cover regulations in the state of Texas,” Yoakum said. “Reporting systems and requirements have changed. There are liability issues for churches to consider. Childcare workers are under legal obligation to report incidents. Some pastors have even been jailed for failure to report incidents of child abuse.”
For more information and to register, go to sbtexas.com/children.
NEW WAVERLY—Texans who speak the language of hunting and fishing, bluegrass music and “gun barrel straight preaching from God’s Word” have found a place to grow in the gospel at Waverly Station Cowboy Fellowship in New Waverly.
The church, which launched last fall, has averaged 85 people on Sundays since the New Year. They’re reaching, among others, a demographic that struggles in traditional churches: men.
“We’re seeing as many men coming to Waverly Station as we are women,” Tim Byrd, the pastor, told the TEXAN. “I believe it’s because of the atmosphere and the setting that we’re in.”
The cowboy fellowship meets at Gospel Lakes Ranch, which ministers to children and youth through camps and features particularly beautiful landscapes of lakes, ponds and trees. In good weather, the church gathers in a pavilion, while a dining hall serves as a refuge in bad weather.
“We have some real comfortable chairs. We don’t sit in metal folding chairs,” Byrd said. “There are no flowers. There’s really no intimidation by the building itself, and even when we move inside, it’s not threatening to men. It doesn’t make them uncomfortable.”
Byrd gives an invitation at the end of every service, but they don’t take up an offering, he said.
“We have a handshaking, neck-hugging time. We have greeters out on the property when folks come in. It’s a very relaxed, friendly atmosphere.
“The majority of the people that we have reached have been de-churched or unchurched people who’ve been out of church for a long time,” said Byrd, who rode rodeos in his younger days and admits he once ran from God.
The pastor described the church’s worship music as having a country bluegrass sound, “which is mandolin, guitar, bass.” It’s a blend of hymns and contemporary songs “with a country flair.”
All of that helps reach men who prefer the outdoors, and if he can reach men, Byrd knows that’s a big step toward reaching families. He recalls a study he heard about years ago that said if you reach a child first, you have a small percentage of reaching its parents.
“But if you reach dad first, the percentage is a lot higher to reach the rest of the family,” Byrd said. “That’s always kind of stuck in my mind.”
Waverly Station is seeing men come to Christ, and they’re building strong relationships with other men in the fellowship by hunting and fishing together and having clean up days on the ranch.
“We have a little restaurant there in the town, and we usually get together at least one Saturday morning a month and just sit and have breakfast and talk, and they feel like they can just be themselves but also hear some of the things that are going on—some of the hardships, some of the difficult things they’re going through,” Byrd said.
Through Bible studies and preaching, “We’re teaching them the Word,” he said. “The Lord just keeps sending folks to us.”
TACLOBAN, Phillippines—For Carl and Suzie Miller, two IMB missionaries with Texas ties, bracing for Typhoon Hagupit in December 2014 was nothing new. They have been in the islands for almost 30 years and weathered the devastation of Haiyan the previous November.
Hagupit, known locally as Ruby, proved less damaging than Haiyan and was downgraded from a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph to a tropical storm before exiting the islands following at least four landfalls Dec. 6-10, stated PAGASA, the Philippine national weather agency.
The Philippines National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported that over 4 million people in 944,000 families were affected by the storm.
Much damage occurred in the province of Eastern Samar, in the eastern part of the Visayas islands where Carl and Suzie Miller work.
“We visited the area shortly after the typhoon struck. In fact we even beat some of the NGOs arriving because they came the southern route and used the capital of Borongan as their staging area,” Carl Miller said. The delay was caused by a bridge that had washed out north of the capital. “The NGOs had to go back the way they came, follow our route up the western side of Samar and then cross over the mountains in the middle of the island the next day.”
The Millers found extensive damage but little loss of life in Eastern Samar in Ruby’s wake. “We have a hard time ourselves making any kind of objective assessment, having come through Typhoon Haiyan the year before,” Miller said. “We had a three-person team of experienced Filipinos come and do an assessment of six different villages on two different rivers where we have work.”
As representatives of other NGOs also busily worked, the Millers delivered food and aid to four villages, an effort sponsored by Baptist Global Response.
“Through funds from BGR, we were able to bring food packs to 460 families on two different rivers in Eastern Samar after Typhoon Ruby struck,” Suzie Miller noted.
The largest of the villages helped was the barangay of Aroganga in the municipality of Dolores, the site of an IMB training center and the home of two Filipino national partners and their son. Dolores was in the eye of the storm; Aroganga is located 1.5 hours up river from the center of the municipality.
“BGR is also working on our island of Leyte with housing reconstruction in a town south of us damaged by Typhoon Haiyan. We are still finding some people living in tents,” Carl Miller said. To date, BGR has constructed 56 houses and donated 31 computers to a local branch of Visayas State University, Suzie Miller added.
While Typhoon Hagupit proved less damaging than expected, the low pressure system that lingered over the Philippines for days afterward washed out bridges and caused massive mudslides, said the Millers.
No sooner had the winds and rains from Hagupit diminished than another tropical storm hailed the visit of Pope Francis to the predominantly Catholic region in January.
“The pope’s visit to Tacloban was quite eventful,” Suzie Miller said. “He arrived in the middle of a tropical storm and was able to leave town before the brunt of the storm hit!”
The pope’s five-day Philippines visit was accompanied in Tacloban, the capital city of Eastern Visayas, by prayers from what the Vatican might deem an unexpected source.
“The president of the Women’s Missionary Union for Central Visayas came to Tacloban to lead some of the women in a 14-kilometer prayer walk,” Suzie Miller explained, adding that the women prayed along the pope’s scheduled parade route the day before his visit to the city and prayed for the pope from assigned stations as he passed the next day.
“Thousands turned out in pouring rain under storm warnings to see Pope Francis and hear what he had to say,” said Suzie Miller who called the papal visit “a very meaningful time for our city” which had lost so many only 14 months before in Typhoon Haiyan.
The Philippine islands are a long way from Texas, since 2000, the stateside home of the Millers.
Carl was born in Oklahoma but raised “all over” in an Air Force family; Suzie hails from South Carolina. The pair met at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, became engaged and deployed with IMB to the Philippines after Carl pastored five years in Indiana.
On furloughs, the Millers visited his parents, who had relocated to Texas, at Tate Springs Baptist Church in Arlington. In 2000, the couple moved their stateside church membership to Tate Springs, staying in the church’s mission house twice until a church building expansion required the house’s demolition. Since then, the Millers have stayed in a mission house belonging to Woods Chapel BC, near Tate Springs. The Millers’ son Steven and his wife, Rachel, are active members of Tate Springs and Carl and Suzie remain members of the church.
“We have a very good, close relationship with Tate Springs and Woods Chapel,” Carl Miller said. “Both churches have sent mission volunteers to help us before and after Typhoon Haiyan. More are scheduled to come in 2015.”
The Millers have six children: five boys and one girl, two of whom currently live in Texas.
Having served para-church organizations Compassion International and American Bible Society, among others, and having owned his own financial planning firm, Mac Vaughan comes to the Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation team equipped and passionate about helping Texas churches. While Vaughan had decided to retire, SBTF Executive Director Bart McDonald asked the financial planner and licensed minister if he would consider serving Texas churches through the foundation. Vaughan said he would, seeing the opportunity to use his skills to help others further the gospel and the kingdom.
“I’m here to help them maximize the impact of the resources God has given them for the church and the kingdom,” Vaughan said.
Vaughan, who has vast experience in private sector financial planning ranging from a 12-year stint with Compassion International as the national director of planned giving and major donor relations to his service of the International Bible Society as group vice president, says he envisions the great strides churches can make when they begin to bring legacy giving strategies into their discussions. When sitting down to meet with a church, he often asks the leadership, “If money were no object, what ministries would you be doing?” Those larger and long-range goals can cast a vision about which church members can get excited, he says. When they see that the church and the Lord’s work could benefit from decisions they make in estate planning, Vaughan explained, they will likely include the church in their plans.
Often, churches simply haven’t been asked or haven’t thought of how the church could use the funds. Para-church organizations, Vaughan said, hire people like him to help churches think through these issues. Because financial planning for large organizations or for individuals can be expensive, churches often find themselves the loser in the equation, missing out on potential gifts and endowments that could be made to further ministry.
Because of Baptists’ faithful giving through the Cooperative Program, the Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation offers these services at no charge to churches and church members—something that inspires Vaughan’s passion even more.
Before going to work for Compassion International, Vaughan ran his own financial planning firm. After some time, the work began to feel “empty,” he said. After a few months, he felt drawn toward serving in Christian ministry and decided to meet with his pastor about it. The pastor encouraged Vaughan, who did not feel led to preach or pastor, to see how the Lord might use his skill sets for his glory. A short time later, the opportunity to work for Compassion International arose and gave Vaughan the perfect combination of using his financial acumen for Christ’s kingdom.
Vaughan sees this new opportunity to serve the SBTF and Texas churches as the perfect continuation of merging his skills and passion for Christian service.
For more information on the Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation, call 817-552-2500 or visit sbtexasfoundation.com.
LAS VEGAS—Dave Earley remembers the moment he felt drawn to plant a church in Las Vegas. Teaching church planting to a master’s level class at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., he read Matt. 16:18, “I will build my church and the forces of Hades will not overpower it.”
Challenged by the Holy Spirit as to whether he believed the truth of the Scripture, the professor sensed God leading him to find the gates of hell and plant a church there. In his study no place fit the description better than Las Vegas. As he and his wife began the process of making the move, 15 young adults signed up to join them in June 2012 to reach the community known as Paradise, just off the Las Vegas Strip.
The group began praying through a chapter of the Bible each day, meeting for more than six hours at a time in search of God’s direction. During their second month they began reaching out to homeless people, prostitutes and drug addicts, offering food at weekend block parties.
Over a two-year period Grace City Church has grown to the point of meeting on two campuses, providing an Outreach Center that distributes food and clothing, sponsoring Good News clubs in several elementary and middle schools, and training church planting interns and semester missionaries in urban ministry.
“This is a lot better environment for training than a classroom,” Earley told North American Mission Board trustees who toured church planting sites Feb. 2. “Our motto is, ‘Do very hard things in really tough places so God gets all the glory.’”
To the west of the city, Jim Collins began his ministry in a church planting residency with Hope Church of Las Vegas. After a year filled with opportunities to preach, teach and counsel, Collins said he learned, “One of the most effective ways to reach people in a city is through church planting.”
Eight families from the sponsoring church joined Collins and his wife as they met for a Bible study, transitioned to a storefront facility and launched Discovery Church in an elementary school last Easter.
In a diverse community with a mix of blue-collar and white-collar households, the new church plant gained attention by hosting games during a school’s fall festival event. Collins befriended a couple who had separated but eventually prayed for reconciliation and found redemption in Christ.
“We want to be a gospel-proclaiming, disciple-making presence in Las Vegas,” Collins told trustees. “I am so thankful for the partnership in the gospel by Southern Baptists that has made this happen.”
On the south side of town Heiden Ratner remembers leaving Las Vegas in pursuit of a basketball career. Recruited by James Madison University, Radner thought he was seeing his dream come true in Virginia, only to find the experience unfulfilling.
“Basketball was my god,” Radner told trustees visiting a classroom of Silverado High School where he got his start. Through the influence of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, he accepted Christ and felt burdened to share his faith with friends from earlier days while home for the summer.
“I saw the gospel work its way into the hearts of people who were working the strip, selling drugs,” he remembered. “That summer of 2008 gave me a fresh passion for the city of Las Vegas.”
After playing basketball professionally for a year in Israel and coaching as an assistant while earning a master’s degree in Christian leadership, Ratner entered an apprenticeship with NAMB to prepare to launch Walk Church.
That training helped him identify 30 of the 70 people attending the Bible study he was leading to develop a core group. He and his wife are seeing the fruit of small group discipleship, encouraged by the participation of other NAMB interns.
“We don’t have people with a church background coming. It’s Jesus working his life into them,” he explained. “This isn’t the city of sin. This is the city of him.”
Seventy percent of the population of Nevada resides in Clark County where Las Vegas dominates the culture. NAMB missionary Ben Barfield shared, “In this city that often shatters dreams, people have been finding hope in several churches in the last 20 or so years.”
With only one Southern Baptist church for every 19,499 people, Barfield is quick to point out the need for more help. Through a partnership with key churches, the Nevada Baptist Convention and NAMB, Barfield looks forward to a day when Las Vegas will be known for “true light and true hope.”
NAMB’s Send North America strategy prioritizes the planting of new evangelistic churches—especially in the unreached and underserved areas like Las Vegas. Half of the 14 churches being planted there are ethnic plants, reaching Hispanics, Koreans and Filipinos.
After traveling around the city to hear the testimonies of church planters, Texas trustee Zoila Lopez from First Baptist Church of Forney told the TEXAN, “We get to see the need that there is for Christ in other places that you’re not accustomed to seeing. It’s wonderful to see how these men and women of God are just working for the Lord with everything they’ve got.”
Grateful that Southern Baptists are able to cooperate together to fund church planting, she added, “I’m flabbergasted that we’re such a big part of that, to be able to send these men and women to do God’s work. It’s just awesome to see them do it.”