Month: August 2015

Josh Duggar, Ashley Madison, and the Rush to Judgment

When news broke out recently that former “19 Kids and Counting” star Josh Duggar had not one but two accounts with Ashley Madison, a website that promotes extramarital affairs, the finger-pointing began.

Some fingers appropriately pointed at Josh. Others blamed his parents and their “oppressively strict religious upbringing.” Some criticized his wife for being too submissive and wanting to stick it out in their marriage rather than divorce his sorry self. Still others blamed “culture” for creating an atmosphere of acceptance that would allow a website the likes of Ashley Madison even to exist.

Let’s be clear, the sole blame for this sad tale belongs to Josh, who succumbed to his sexual temptations and willingly sought out adulterous relationships under the assumption that he would never be caught. The “secret sin” of pornography chipped away at his resolve for years, and then he deliberately acted on those fantasies. (James 1:14-15)

As the Scripture says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.“ (Galatians 6:7-9)

It’s easy to rush to judgment. Many gloat as Josh reaps what he’s sown—a confirmation of their distaste for his seemingly wholesome upbringing. Even Christians are tempted to self-righteously wag their fingers. But our genuine response should be brokenness for him and his family. Even though he issued a public apology, life will never be the same for his family.

Yet, Josh Duggar is not alone. The Ashley Madison data leak is not just a distant, pop-culture story. More than 30 million accounts were exposed, sending shockwaves around the country, as chilling reports surfaced of some who chose to end their lives rather than face the guilt, shame and consequences of their sin.

Painfully, the embarrassing ripple effects have also splashed against our churches, as the accounts of self-professing Christians are brought to light. LifeWay Research Executive Director Ed Stetzer even estimated that at least 400 church leaders (pastors, deacons, staff, etc.) would be resigning on one Sunday as a result—some publicly, some quietly.

Families wrecked. Ministries ruined. Churches broken.

Actually, this could be a lot worse. What if it wasn’t just Ashley Madison accounts that were exposed? What if Internet browsing histories, Netflix viewing records, texting conversations and flirtatious work relationships were broadcast for the world to see? I fear that an exponentially larger number of church members and pastors would be implicated.

Sexual sin is a pervasive evil. Internet pornography and websites like Ashley Madison promise anonymity but those promises are empty. As the Scriptures say, “your sin will find you out.” Any of us is susceptible to such sin. If you think you’re impervious, you might be the most in danger.

So how should Christians respond? Here are at least five ways:

  1. Examination – Scripture is clear that we must constantly be on guard against sin getting a foothold in our lives. Every one of us needs to ask the Lord to search our hearts and reveal any areas of sin.
  2. Repentance – If you have an Ashley Madison account or are caught up in some other “secret sin,” you need to repent immediately. You also need to confess it to others—your spouse; your pastor; your church, as appropriate.
  3. Forgiveness – You may find yourself on the other end, bearing the pain of a friend, a pastor, a spouse or a family member who has fallen to sexual sin. If they are truly repentant, you must forgive them as God forgives them. Yes, there are consequences. Yes, it will take time to rebuild trust. But Christlike love demands grace.
  4. Accountability – Those who fall must be held accountable for their actions. At the same time, Christians must establish accountability relationships with one another, where we dig into one another’s lives, in order to encourage holiness and protect against sin.
  5. Prayer – Pray diligently for yourself, your family, your friends, your pastor and your church. Satan is prowling around, seeking to take down believers. We must stand in the gap for one another and ask our Father to “deliver us from the evil one.” Prayer is our greatest tool against the lure of sin.

IMB to reduce personnel by 600-800, reset the organization

RICHMOND, Va.—International Mission Board President David Platt, along with other senior IMB leadership, presented a plan to address significant revenue shortfalls and “complete a reset of the organization” during a town hall meeting with missionaries and staff, Aug. 27. The plan includes reducing missionary and staff personnel by 600-800 and restructuring its Support Services and Mobilization divisions.

“Words can’t really describe how difficult a reality that is to communicate to our IMB family. These aren’t just figures; these are faces,” Platt told members of the press in a conference call later in the day.

“These are brothers and sisters who have spent and are spending their lives in various capacities to spread the gospel among those who have never heard it.

With a desire to “move forward into the future with innovative vision, wise stewardship and high accountability,” Platt said IMB expenditures since 2010 have exceeded revenue by $210 million. The 170-year-old missions agency has offset those imbalances with global property sales and reserve funds, but leadership understands this cannot continue.

In response to a question from the TEXAN, Platt assured media members that IMB wants to walk in transparency before Southern Baptists through this process. In addition to continuing their practice of making all trustee meetings open to the public, Platt said, “meetings of any trustee standing committee and any trustee affinity group committee are also open to any member of the media on a background rules basis.

“I know the personnel and the trustees in the IMB, and we have policies in place just to say we want to work with members of the media to enable them to do accurate, complete, well-balanced reporting.”

Despite slight increases in the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering as well as Cooperative Program giving over the past four years, Platt said there remains an “inability to financially support our current mission force in the field.”

Platt noted that prior to his election as president in 2014, IMB recognized these trends in previous years and had already set a plan to reduce the missionary force from its height of 5,600 missionaries in 2009 to its present number of 4,800, with the ultimate goal of reaching 4,200 “through normal attrition and limited appointments.

“I want to be clear,” Platt said, “that my aim is in no way to question decisions by previous leadership across the IMB during these years. As I mentioned, previous leadership put in place a plan to slowly reduce our number of missionaries … while using reserves and global property sales to keep as many missionaries as possible on the field.”

Platt said he praises God for that strategic vision, which has resulted in more unreached people groups responding to the gospel.

“What we’ve come to now is the realization that that plan is no longer viable in light of current realities,” Platt said. After describing the numerous options they evaluated, he said, “We believe the only viable way forward for us involves a significant reduction in our number of both staff and field personnel.”

Because personnel comprises approximately 80 percent of IMB’s budget, Platt said, “we won’t be able to get to short-term financial responsibility and long-term organizational stability without making a major adjustment in our number of personnel now.”

This year alone, IMB expects to receive $21 million less than it budgeted

IMB leadership has decided the best way to reduce staff is to begin with a voluntary retirement incentive that will be offered to all eligible employees, including both missionaries and staff. While the parameters defining who is eligible are still being finalized, details of the incentive will be announced Sept. 10, 2015, and those eligible will be notified in the days following the announcement.

“Whether to accept the incentive is a voluntary decision completely up to the discretion of eligible individuals,” Platt told missionaries and staff, who attended the town hall meeting either in person or through digital communication. “This offers personnel who may already be considering a transition in their lives an opportunity to make that transition.

“We want to be as generous as possible, and we want to honor every brother or sister for his or her service. We know that taking a voluntary retirement incentive does not mean stepping onto the sidelines of mission, but moving into a new phase of involvement in mission.”

IMB is sending approximately 300 new missionaries in 2015 and expects to send a comparable number in 2016.

As phase one of the plan (the voluntary retirement incentive) is being implemented, phase two of the plan will focus on concluding a reset of the organization. Platt said that phase would include consolidating support services, recalibrating mobilization, assessing global engagement and re-envisioning training.

During the phone press conference, the TEXAN asked if there were plans to coordinate with the North American Mission Board to place retiring IMB personnel into stateside SEND cities or other positions with UPG cross-cultural opportunities.

“We have had numerous conversations on a big picture level with the North American Mission Board about increased partnership on a variety of different levels, (but) not specifically about this,” Platt said.

“We’ve already heard from one of our personnel who just recently made a similar move—things were going well but (they) sensed the Lord was leading them into a place of ministry in North America and accepted that role. It was encouraging to us as leadership as we think through the difficulties with a step like this but also the opportunities that are going to open up in work among unreached peoples in North America and work in churches in North America.

“I trust in all kinds of ways that God will creatively and sovereignly lead and direct 600-800 people in the days to come. And because of our ongoing and growing partnership with NAMB, I’m certain there are possibilities that may unfold along those lines, (but) we don’t have a formal plan for integrating certain people into certain positions with NAMB.”

—with reporting by IMB staff. Read the board’s full press release and FAQ here.

Homemaker and minister”s wife, Sherri Allen, dies following battle with cancer

IRVING—Sherri Allen of Irving, 55, died Aug. 26, following a four-year battle with cancer. The 57-year-old wife of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Dean of Theology David Allen served faithfully alongside him in ministry for 37 years while he completed his education, pastored Audelia Road Baptist Church in Garland and MacArthur Blvd. Baptist Church in Irving, and served in numerous interim assignments.

A native of Georgia, Sherri was a homemaker and more recently coordinated volunteers for the USO and studied special education and history at the University of Dallas.

Her children posted the news of her passing on Facebook, stating, “By God’s grace, our precious mother went home today. Most of you know that she has bravely battled cancer for almost 4 years. These last few months and weeks and days have been a mixture of great sorrow and great anticipation of her home going. She chose many years ago to put her trust and faith in Jesus Christ the Lord and Savior. Because of this, she rests with her loving Father and precious Savior with joy unfathomable to us.”

Survivors include her husband, David, four children Jeremy Allen; Jared Allen and his wife, Joelle; Melody Allen; and Kali Geddie and her husband, Justin; as well as four grandchildren—Judah, Lydia, Hudson and Ishmael.

The funeral service is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 29 at 11 a.m. at MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church in Irving with a brief visitation period from 10:00-10:45 a.m.

Many friends posted tributes to her, praising the joy with which she endured recent years of illness, and the contributions she made to ministries she and her husband served.

We”ll understand it, farther along

think most Christians do understand that we have reason to hope, even in the midst of personal and cultural storms. But it’s not a vague hope, not that useless kind of “I’m sure things will be all right,” hope. It’s observable and experiential for us all. 

Let me explain what I mean from the simple to the complex. My grandson is almost 3 and his sister is about a month old. Caroline will very soon be obsessed with what things taste like—her toes, bugs, toys, the dog and so on. Daniel will consider that silly because he has either answered such questions to his satisfaction or has moved on to more significant questions of building things and knocking them over. He’s no longer curious about the taste of shoes. One day he will care less about the levers and buttons on a vacuum cleaner, but for now it’s big stuff. 

The complex end of the spectrum is the several friends of mine who are facing deadly illness. I’ve been impressed with the strength and faith they’ve shown in the midst of a terrible storm. They are less obsessed with movie reviews, petty church dramas and doctrinal debates than they might have been a year or so back. To some degree, they have a satisfactory answers to such questions and to a greater degree, they’ve become more focused on truly ultimate things—things they’ll care about forever. 

“We progress as individuals and as the body of Christ, today’s understanding building on yesterday’s. That’s observable among the first generation of believers (in the book of acts) and in later church history, even as we can see it in the past few decades.”

This progressive understanding comes with maturity as we see the significance of things God revealed of himself long ago. Granted, there is a time when elementary things must be our main focus, but there is also a fit time to move beyond childish things to the questions of adulthood, and even beyond those in rolling waves of maturity. “Elementary” is a bit of a relative term we usually ascribe to something in the past. 

We can observe the same kind of progression in the life of God’s people. In the Old Testament, the saints moved from a hope that God will send a redeemer to a clearer understanding that the redeemer would be a suffering servant. In the New Testament, believers moved from fascination with Jesus to fear of him as God in the flesh to faith in him as the hope for all men and women. After Jesus’ ascension, the disciples’ empowered faith still sorted out doctrinal matters such as Judaizers, Gnostics, the canon of Scripture and the Trinity. God’s Word did not change as Christians corporately matured in their understanding of what God said and how it applies to changing contexts. 

Most of those “aha” moments are in the past for biblically based Christianity. The doctrinal questions about the nature of Christ and even the sanctity of human life will plague those who still wonder if God has really said anything authoritative but are either arrested in their development as believers or not believers at all. Among those for whom a belief in the God who has spoken is life-changing we need never again ask if believers must become Jews before Christians or if Jesus is fully man and fully God or if all men are precious bearers of God’s image. Those of us who believe that God speaks into today’s events should never again be fuzzy on the value of unborn children or of those born 80 years ago. We progress as individuals and as the body of Christ, today’s understanding building on yesterday’s. That’s observable among the first generation of believers (in the book of Acts) and in later church history, even as we can see it in the past few decades. 

Is it possible that there is an inversely proportional growth of Christians’ understanding of God as human society moves toward its vanishing point? It works that way in our lives. Whether we are a newborn in Christ or a 40-year saint, we understand some things about God we never imagined as important or knowable a short time ago. Our flesh is nearer the end and more tiresome to us, but our life is developing. 

Consider the way the apostles faced shipwreck, arrests and martyrdom for the Lord. They didn’t welcome it as lunatics, but they did look for meaning in the things being allowed in their lives. They looked for the purpose of God and opportunities for service because they knew that he was sovereign in the events they faced. They assumed purpose from that fact. I believe they understood important things better when the issue came down to only them and only God. 

That’s what I see in the lives of beloved friends now facing harsh trials in their personal lives. What genuinely did matter a decade ago is no longer worthy of consideration. The thing they looked on with dread is now upon them, and God is giving grace sufficient for the day. I think that is the point. Whether we are toddlers learning a new hard thing or mature saints facing end-of-life issues, there is a next step and it will be difficult in its way, but it will also give us something we couldn’t have any other way. 

It’s my experience, and the testimony of those who walk the path ahead of me that we do understand God better “by and by.” Part of that understanding is when God mercifully answers our pressing questions, but often God’s gift is greater when he shows us more important things than we ever thought to ask.  

Texas Supreme Court orders City of Houston to change Equal Rights Ordinance ballot language for Nov. election

HOUSTON – With only days before an Aug. 24 deadline, Houston Mayor Annise Parker and City Council were ordered Aug. 19, again, by the Texas Supreme Court to comply with its city charter and draft proper ballot language for the fall election that will decide the fate of a long-contested and controversial ordinance. Parker said that although the court’s decision was politically driven she would comply with the order.

Houston City Council voted Aug. 5 to put the Equal Rights Ordinance (ERO) on the Nov. 3 ballot after a vote to repeal the law failed. That action came only after the high court, in a July ruling, ordered council to perform its duty and comply with the law. After the council’s repeal vote, a heated debate arose over the ballot language when Andy Taylor, the attorney for the coalition opposed to the ordinance, warned the council the ballot would be “dead on arrival” if passed with the proposed wording. Four council members urged Parker to change the language, claiming if she did not the city would again find itself on the losing end of a legal battle with the state’s high court.

Parker refused to acquiesce, and Taylor filed another emergency plea with the high court on Aug. 7 asking them to intervene. And for the second time in less than a month, the Texas Supreme Court ruled against the mayor and the Houston City Council.

“Our decision rests not on our views on the ordinance—a political issue the citizens of Houston must decide—but on the clear dictates of the City Charter,” the Texas Supreme Court wrote in its Aug. 19 unanimous decision. “The City Council must comply with its own laws regarding the handling of a referendum petition and any resulting election.”

Those laws dictate council create ballot language asking voters to either vote “For” or “Against” a proposition. Instead council, at the behest of Parker, approved ballot language asking voters if they were for or against “repealing” the ordinance. That language, the court ruled, was not an option and a violation of the council’s ministerial duties.

City of Houston attorneys had argued the Texas Supreme Court had no jurisdiction in the ballot language case and the plaintiffs must follow standard appeals processes. But the justices said the imminence of the election places the appeal within a narrow class of cases requiring immediate relief. State law requires all ballots be set by Aug. 24 prior to the Nov. 3 election. Houston ballot language must be set by Aug. 31 for printing and overseas distribution.

The court’s latest decision follows a year-long battle between Parker and the pastors who spearheaded the ERO’s repeal. The ordinance gives protected class status to LGBT individuals. But opponents contend the ordinance goes beyond that, creating special rights for LGBT people, superseding the constitutional right of religious expression.

Especially egregious to the pastors is a provision in the ordinance allowing biological men and women to use public bathrooms and locker rooms of the sex with which they identify.

Still stinging from a June Texas Supreme Court ruling that overturned a 2010 ballot initiative due to improper wording, four council members urged due diligence in drafting ballot language about the ordinance. But what Parker and the remaining council members dismissed as splitting hairs, Taylor warned was the letter of the law in his Aug 4 statement before council.

“Legally, this will be dead on arrival if you do it the way the mayor just explained,” Taylor told council.

His comments were met with open derision by Parker as she told the council, “Our belief is he is incorrect—as he is in many things.”

In addition to being the attorney for the No UnEqual Rights Coalition, a racially and politically diverse group of pastors and civic leaders organized to lead the referendum petition drive, Taylor also represents a group of pastors from the coalition who filed a civil rights lawsuit against Parker, accusing her of voter suppression and intimidation. The lawsuit was filed two days before the council’s ballot language vote.

In defense of the ballot language, Parker said the text is perfectly clear and in keeping with the city charter. The ballot language approved by the city council Aug. 5 stated: “Shall the City of Houston repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, Ord. No. 2014-530, which prohibits discrimination in city employment and city services, city contracts, public accommodations, private employment, and housing based on an individual’s sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy?”

But council members C.O. Bradford, Dave Martin, Michael Kubosh and Brenda Stardig maintained the November election is not about repealing the ERO and voted against the ballot measure.

“The voters in November cannot vote to repeal anything,” said Bradford, an attorney and one of the most outspoken critics of the ballot language during the Aug. 4 council meeting. “If the ballot language says anything about the voters repealing something, it’s wrong!”

Bradford voted for the ordinance last year but opposed the ballot language because he wanted “the ballot to be right.”

During debate, Parker insisted the language on the ballot was consistent with the petition calling for the repeal of the ERO. Dave Welch, executive director of the Houston Area Pastors Council (HAPC), said that reasoning may make sense but was inconsistent with the Supreme Court directive and the city charter.

The charter, not the petition, Martin said, dictates the ballot language, which in its current form is a “purposeful attempt to mislead voters.” Martin’s Aug. 5 allegation continued a tone of acrimony between Parker and those who disagree with her ideologically or managerially.

During Taylor’s Aug. 4 public testimony, Parker took an unprovoked jab at Taylor. Just before calling on a council member to speak, she turned to Taylor and said, “I like the new hair color, by the way.”

Bradford chided Parker for her snide remarks, but Martin made it clear Parker, a lesbian, was operating by a blatant double standard.

Referring to himself, Martin said, “If Dave Martin had criticized a transgendered individual for the color of their hair my name and my picture would be on the first page of the paper and people would be calling for me to resign – immediately!”

Turning to Taylor who stood at the podium for addressing council, he added, “So for that, sir, I apologize. It’s not fair.”

Welch, who attended the Aug. 4 and 5 city council sessions said in his more than 30 years of work as a pastor and advocate for church-lead civic reforms he didn’t “recall seeing a more grotesque display of childish behavior.”

But that, he said, speaks to the “bigger narrative” of the year-long struggle—the spiritual nature of the work at hand.

“The pastors in this coalition representing every walk of life serve, minister to and are for what is best for the people in this great city,” the HAPC wrote in response to the ruling. “We are called to love and also to speak the truth that sets us free from that which would harm or destroy those God created in His image.  We also have and will oppose any words or actions that in any way diminish the humanity and dignity of the individual, even those with whom we disagree.”

SBC Parliamentarian becomes Southern Baptist, joins SWBTS preaching faculty

ATLANTA—If the Southern Baptist Convention annual meetings were college or NBA basketball games Barry McCarty would be the leader in minutes played. For nearly three decades no one has accumulated more platform time in the SBC annual meetings than the well-known chief parliamentarian.

In the course of 29 annual convention meetings, McCarty has probably logged 540 hours on the platform in addition to the significant amount of time he spends with the SBC presidents in preparation for the convention business sessions.

McCarty has now served under 16 different SBC presidents. His prowess as a parliamentarian has been invaluable in helping convention leaders navigate through some rather stormy business sessions, particularly during the Conservative Resurgence.

While McCarty is known as Southern Baptists’ chief parliamentarian, he is also a preacher, teacher, pastor and educator. He earned his Ph.D. in rhetoric and argumentation from the University of Pittsburgh and has served as president of Cincinnati Christian University and until recently pastor of Peachtree Christian Church in Atlanta.

Throughout his ministry McCarty has served the Lord in the Stone-Campbell tradition, which sought to restore Christian unity through abolishing creeds and returning to the principles of the early churches described in the New Testament.

McCarty explained, “In reading Baptist history, I discovered that the desire to recover New Testament Christianity was also what the Anabaptists were striving to do during the Protestant Reformation.”

At the SBC annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, McCarty was asked, “Barry, when are you going to become a Southern Baptist?”

“Well, it may be sooner than you think,” McCarty responded.

Began with 2000 BF&M

Through the years the affable parliamentarian developed a deep love for Southern Baptists and a growing appreciation for the Baptist Faith and Message as a confession of sound biblical doctrine. He is a man of deep convictions and great faith, holding tenaciously to the infallibility of God’s Word.

“My confidence in the BF&M 2000 began 15 years ago when I assisted the SBC in its adoption,” McCarty explained. “Paige [Patterson], who was the convention president in 2000, and I had numerous conversations about that confessional document and how it would be presented to the messengers at the Orlando convention.

“I immersed myself in the content of the Baptist Faith and Message and grew to love the way it summarized the Christian faith. I especially appreciated its clear statement on salvation by grace through faith, while also affirming believer’s baptism as the biblical testimony of a saving faith in the work of Christ.”

McCarty cited three primary reasons for his decision to become a Southern Baptist.

“First,” he said, “while Southern Baptists are not a creedal people, they are a confessional people; and at this point in history the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is the best statement of faith I know of.

“Second, right now no one is speaking to our culture on the great moral issues with as much clarity or biblical integrity as Southern Baptists.

“Third, at this point in history no one is doing more to penetrate lostness around the world than Southern Baptists.”

McCarty said that his journey to becoming a Southern Baptist reminded him of the sojourners who were adopted by the tribes of Israel in Ezekiel 47:23, which says, “And it shall come to pass, that in what tribe the stranger sojourneth, there shall ye give him his inheritance, saith the Lord God.”

McCarty reasoned, “I am a long-time sojourner who wants to claim my inheritance in this tribe, among the people known as Southern Baptists.”

‘We want in’

On August 16, Barry and his wife, Pat, were baptized and welcomed into the membership of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga. The McCartys selected Sherwood because of their deep relationship with Pastor Michael Catt, the influence of the Refresh Conferences provided by the church, and the prayers the church has offered to God on their behalf.

McCarty told The Christian Index that he would give four offerings on his first Sunday at Sherwood—his tithe for the local church and three additional offerings to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and Georgia’s state missions offering.

“We understand how our Convention works, and we want in on all of it,” McCarty said.

Pat McCarty is also familiar with Southern Baptist life. When Barry served as a pastor in Dallas, she worked at GuideStone Financial Resources. During his pastorate in Atlanta, Pat served Southern Baptists as an employee of the North American Mission Board.

This fall, Barry will have the opportunity to serve Southern Baptists in a new way—as a professor of preaching and rhetoric at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth.

“Everyone knows the prowess of Barry McCarty as a parliamentarian,” Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson said. “But his greatness as a preacher and a rhetorician has been unknown to most Southern Baptists. He is a gracious pastor, a powerful preacher and a consistent witness for Christ.”

Becoming a part of the Southern Baptist voice

In speaking of his transition, McCarty said, “I would like for evangelicals across the nation to know my reasoning for becoming a Southern Baptist; and I would say to them, ‘If your church is having a love affair with the culture rather than lovingly speaking truth to the culture you may need to become a Southern Baptist.

“Southern Baptists are the strongest voice for New Testament Christianity in our generation. I want to be part of that voice.

“When the seminary presidents gave their report at this year’s convention in Columbus, Southern Seminary President Al Mohler said, ‘Ground zero for where we will be standing in 30 years is the seminary campuses right now.’ That is why I want to pour myself into the next generation of pastors and missionaries as a professor at SWBTS.”

Mercy Clinic: Free medical clinic connects church with neighbors

FORT WORTH—Rebekah Naylor devoted 36 years of her life to serving as a medical missionary in India through the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. When she retired in 2009 and returned home to Texas, though, she saw that the Lord was not finished using her skills for his glory.

In India, Naylor had seen firsthand what James wrote in the second chapter of his epistle: 

 “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:15-17)

“I understood well how meeting physical needs and sharing the gospel, leading people to faith, go together,” Naylor said.

She also noticed that the neighborhoods around her home church, Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, had grown increasingly populated by low-income families, many of whom spoke only Spanish. Naylor realized their access to health care, like many other basic needs, was lacking or non-existent—a situation not altogether different from that which she encountered in her international mission work. 

“I felt that the church had an opportunity to meet health care needs even as they were already helping with food and other benevolence ministries,” Naylor said. “Thus, the vision of Mercy Clinic was born.”

Today, the Mercy Clinic, located on the Travis Avenue campus, has been fully operational for more than two years, offering free medical services and medications to residents of the 76110 zip code.

Adult residents can make appointments or walk in for care two nights a week for everything from diabetic issues to tooth aches. There is no cost to residents for the services, and clinic volunteers have the opportunity to share the gospel with patients after care has been administered.

Registered Nurse Peggy Leitch serves as the clinic’s executive director and echoed the idea that often the Lord leads Christians to minister to physical needs before explaining that Christ is the salve and answer to spiritual needs.

“You can hardly talk about Jesus when your mouth hurts so bad,” Leitch said, recalling a patient who came to the clinic with a bad toothache that left her unable to eat. “Once you’ve addressed that, they’re much more open to hearing from the Lord.”

In the office, patients not only hear the gospel from clinic workers but also receive Bibles, tracts about knowing Christ and invitations to church and to the Spanish service, Travis en Español. Patients were also invited this summer to bring their children to Travis Avenue’s Vacation Bible School, which was offered in both English and Spanish.

Neldalicia Calpillo has been living in Fort Worth since she was 6-years-old and says the Mercy Clinic has become a vital part of her community. She, along with a handful of other people from the neighborhood, had gathered on the clinic’s porch an hour before it opened in order to be seen by a doctor.

“It’s really important because not everybody can afford the insurance,” Calpillo said. “It’s a great opportunity to help a lot of people in need.”

Members of Travis Avenue find it an important ministry as well, and Leitch says a wide array of them have stepped up to serve at the clinic and at health fairs held throughout the year. Volunteers, she said, include the young, the old and the middle aged, those with doctorate degrees and those with life experience, those who work at home and those who work in the marketplace. 

“It brings all these people together,” Leitch said. “It has been a great encouragement for a growing ministry to have such support from the congregation.”

The ministry also has the full support of the church’s leadership.

“Thousands of people around our church do not have access to basic healthcare,” Travis Avenue Pastor Michael Dean said. “The Mercy Clinic is one way for us to touch them with the loving heart and hand of Jesus. Through the clinic, we hope to be a blessing to our community.”

Naylor, who would encourage other churches to prayerfully consider similar ministries if the Lord leads, said the efforts put forth and resources pooled to establish the Mercy Clinic have proven fruitful and blessed of God. The most joyous aspects of the clinic’s development, she says, have been people professing faith in Christ, the church growing in unity, and patients displaying heartfelt gratitude. 

“It has been more than worth the investment of time and money as we see people who are helped physically and experience the love of Jesus and then hear the gospel,” Naylor said.