Month: September 2015

What We Owe Caesar

In a conversation about Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who made news for going to jail rather than issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, a friend asked me, “What do we owe Caesar?” I gave a hasty answer, but the question has stuck in my head. Here’s an effort to answer more thoroughly.

We owe Caesar respect. This is biblical as stated in 1 Peter 2:17. In this description and the one in Romans 13, we have governmental leaders praised as those who punish evil and praise what is good. The implication is that respect, honor and subjection are in service of order, lawfulness and justice. 

We therefore owe Caesar obedience, to a point. Because we do not owe any man power over our consciences, there is a limit to what we may be compelled to do. Peter and John specified limits on obedience to even legitimate authority in Act 4, placing the rule of God above the rule of those he places in authority. But God’s servants did not claim the right to steal or destroy based on their submission to Christ.

We owe Caesar taxes. This was part of Jesus’ two-fold message in Mark 12:17—it is right to pay taxes, but the sovereignty of God is over all things. He does not say what a fair tax is, nor does he question whether those taxes are being used for wicked purposes. I assume Roman taxes were used as least partly for things we would not call righteous.

The larger question is, “Who is Caesar in 21st-century America?” Of course, the people rule in some very real ways, though often indirectly. You could say our elected officials, who represent us day to day, stand in the role of Caesar as they make laws, define public good and levy taxes. I’d even give a nod to law itself as having a Caesarean role in our lives. Law has some claim on representing the definition of good and evil as determined indirectly by the people who vote.

Where in this scheme can we fit what is arguably judicial overreach? The Kim Davis case raises some questions not yet answered in the aftermath of the Obergefell case, in which the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal in the entire nation. This overturning of state law from coast to coast was not a legislative action, as least not officially, but it is misunderstood as having the status of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a law enacted by a legislature. Justice Kennedy acknowledged this shortcoming when he said that the court needed to act because those wishing to marry outside the recognized definition of marriage had exhausted legislative remedies. Understand that to mean that they could not win elections quickly enough or in enough places to get what they thought to be their inherent rights, so the court needed to accomplish what neither the U.S. Congress nor more than a dozen state legislatures would do. If the people are Caesar, and if elected representatives and even legislation have some claim to the title—the Obergefell decision can claim no such legitimacy.

So back to Kim Davis. The governor of Kentucky does not consider her claim of religious freedom legitimate, and several smart Christian people have said that she should either obey the law or resign. Maybe so, but some questions seem pertinent before we throw her to the tender mercies of the “Love Wins” mob.

Was President Obama equally wrong and should Attorney General Eric Holder have been arrested for declaring that the Justice Department would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in 2011 because the president believed it to be discriminatory? DOMA was a law, by the way, not the interpretation of a law. Is Kim Davis more of a scofflaw than Eric Holder because she’s a county official or because she is conservative?

Did Gavin Newsome, the mayor of San Francisco, go to jail for ordering clerks to ignore California law and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples? Should he have?

I confess; I disagree with the Obama-Holder position on DOMA. I considered it nonfeasance. I also believe Gavin Newsome committed a malfeasance when he disdained his state’s law. I’m more sympathetic with Kim Davis’ stand. I recognize the hypocrisy of this sentiment.

So let’s start the discussion over. Who makes law, the courts or the elected legislature? Is nonfeasance, even malfeasance, a crime, without regard to the actor? Is the conscience of a conservative as sacrosanct as that of a liberal? Once we agree on the rules, we can have a little talk about these things.

La Reunión Anual Se Aproxima

Iglesias Hispanas de la Convención Bautista del Sur, hagan planes para asistir a la Sesión en Español de la Convención de los Bautista del Sur de Texas. Se celebrará en el FL Worship Center el domingo, 8 de noviembre de 2015 a las 6 pm en la iglesia bautista Champion Forest, 15555 Stuebner Airline Rd, Houston, TX 77069.  El orador será el humorista José Ordóñez de Colombia. Este año el tema será, “Caminando en Unidad” basado en Efesios 4:1-3. Tendremos momentos de alabanzas y adoración por los grupos de alabanza de Champion Forest y Sagemont en Español y después de la sesión tendremos un tiempo de compañerismo.

Esta reunión anual es un tiempo para que las congregaciones de habla hispana puedan celebrar y ser inspirados por la Palabra de Dios y ser animados para alcanzar a un pueblo perdido.

También hagan planes para asistir a la Reunión Anual de la Convención de los Bautista del Sur de Texas (SBTC) que serán los días 9 y 10 de noviembre, el lunes después de la Sesión en Español.

Houston mayoral candidates answer pastors” questions

HOUSTON—Eight of Houston’s 13 mayoral candidates answered questions about the city’s homeless, taxes, mayoral power, fiscal responsibility and the controversial pro-LGBT ordinance during a forum presented by the Houston Area Pastors Council as a means of vetting the candidates for the upcoming November election.

“That was our first objective of the day, to find where they are on these issues. Are these convictions, preferences or … political leanings? And ultimately who’s the best candidate?” said Dave Welch, HAPC executive director.

The candidates were divided into two groups and asked the same questions in two separate sessions by a panel of four pastors closely involved in the Equal Rights Ordinance repeal effort. A local news reporter moderated the Sept. 17 forum hosted by Houston’s First Baptist Church. About 200 pastors and civic leaders attended the event.

The first session panelists—Rafael Munoz, Victoria Lane, Demetria Smith and Dale Steffens—touted what they would do as mayor, including end corruption, end discrimination and get the city’s finances in order.

Responses from the second panel of Chris Bell, Ben Hall, Bill King and Marty McVey revealed a divergence of views, especially on the divisive Equal Rights Ordinance, which gives civil rights status to individuals based on their gender identity and sexual orientation and is up for public vote in November.

Opposition to the ordinance is based, in part, on the presupposition that male sexual predators could take advantage of the law to gain access to women and children in public facilities. Bell and McVey, who support the ordinance, dismissed the notion.

McVey said, “I grew up in church, and I love the Lord. But I will not stand in judgment of another human being.”

Bell, an attorney and Episcopal Sunday School teacher, asked the pastors where a transgender woman (a man presenting himself as a woman) was supposed to use the bathroom? But when pressed by the TEXAN after the forum to consider how women and children would feel under the same circumstances in the women’s bathroom, Bell dismissed the questioned as being a non-issue.

But Hall, an ordained minister and former Houston city attorney, adamantly disagreed.

“Not only does [a man] have the right under this ordinance to go into the restroom, but he has the legal protection not to be removed from the restroom,” Hall said. “[He] has not only the right to sit right next to you on your bench but to watch you as you’re undressing as well as go in the shower with you. No one can insist that he be removed.”

He said Harris County has 8,425 registered sex offenders and, turning to Bell, added, “You can’t play politics with people’s public safety.”

King, who admitted he had not paid much attention to the yearlong legal battle over the ERO until the Texas Supreme Court ruled in July, called the law “troubling” and, although he opposes discrimination, said, “this law goes too far.”

Asked whether an unborn child has protections afforded all citizens under the 14th Amendment, the four major candidates noted Roe v. Wade was the law of the land. However, Hall and King said they believe life begins at conception. Hall said he would support defunding Planned Parenthood.

McVey and Bell support abortion on demand.

The candidates also agreed that a restrictive no-feeding ordinance established under Parker should be rescinded or revised allowing churches and other charities to feed Houston’s homeless population.

Candi Finch installed to Dorothy Kelley Patterson Chair of Women’s Studies

FORT WORTH—Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary inaugurated the Dorothy Kelley Patterson Chair of Women’s Studies in the School of Theology during its chapel service, Sept. 16, and installed assistant professor Candi Finch into the position. The academic endowment was established to honor Dorothy Patterson, wife of Southwestern’s president, Paige Patterson, and professor of theology in women’s studies at the institution.

Southwestern Executive Vice President and Provost Craig Blaising described Dorothy Patterson’s most cherished roles as wife, mother and grandmother before explaining the contributions she has made toward recovering a biblical understanding of womanhood.

“As she was a supporting wife to Dr. Patterson and all he has done in theology, it became very apparent to her over the years that this issue of women’s studies, this issue of femininity and masculinity in our culture and society, is a critical issue in the churches and must be addressed. And the Lord put it upon her heart to do that,” Blaising said.

Dorothy Patterson earned her bachelor’s degree from Hardin Simmons University before pursuing a Master of Theology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and two doctorate degrees—a Doctor of Ministry from Luther Rice Seminary and a Doctor of Theology from the University of South Africa. She was a founding member of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and has authored and edited more than a dozen books, including the Old and New Testament volumes of the Women’s Evangelical Commentary, The Christian Homemaker’s Handbook and The Study Bible for Women.

Her husband, Paige Patterson, preached a sermon from 1 Corinthians 11 during the chapel service, explaining that the biblical model of womanhood is not demeaning to women, as some have suggested. Just as Jesus is one in essence with the Father yet has a different assignment within the Godhead, Patterson said, women are equal in essence with men yet have been given different roles.

“The Bible is the very first book ever written to openly and fully declare the full equality of women with men,” Patterson said. “Don’t you believe what the press says, that ‘You evangelical Christians believe that women are subordinate to men in essence and that they simply ought to sit still, be quiet and say nothing.’ … You read the history of evangelical Christianity, and wherever you find the gospel preached, you’ll find great women serving the Lord magnificently. On the other hand, the assignment is not the same.”

Patterson praised his wife for her desire to fulfill “the highest calling of wife and mother,” while also strengthening her academic skills to counter the impact of secular feminism on churches.

Janice Crouse, executive director of World Congress of Families and a friend of the Pattersons for nearly two decades, attended the inauguration.

“I’ve been so impressed with the way the vision for this women’s studies program has developed,” Crouse said, adding that she is thankful to link “arm-in-arm in this battle for women to have a clear vision of all the potential they have.”

Barbara O’Chester, who has led a retreat ministry for women for more than 45 years, was also in attendance.

I’m so thankful for this chair and for what it’s going to mean for women’s ministry,” O’Chester said.

“I agree with (Dorothy) totally with regard to submission to authority and the whole nine yards—I’ve lived it; I’ve taught it—but I also know God uses women in a miraculous way. To have a place where women can come and learn the biblical principles and see how God can work those out in their lives and their ministries is very exciting.”

Funding for the endowed chair came from James and Dorothy Merritt of Easley, S.C., as well as from the estate of Charles and Doris Kelley, the parents of Dorothy Patterson. The Merritts also endowed a women’s studies scholarship.

Candi Finch studied under Dorothy Patterson during her time at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and then completed both her Master of Divinity and Ph.D. in Systematic Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. As assistant professor of theology in women’s studies at Southwestern, she teaches courses such as Biblical Theology of Womanhood, Feminist Theology, Intro to Women’s Studies, Communication for Women, Women in Church History, and Girls Ministry. She has also contributed to several books, including the Old and New Testament volumes of the Women’s Evangelical Commentary and Adoniram Judson: A Bicentennial Appreciation of the Pioneer American Missionary.

During a luncheon following the chapel service, Finch shared about her Ph.D. dissertation, which refuted the hermeneutic of feminist theologian Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza. She also expressed her excitement to serve alongside other women on faculty who “believe it’s important to equip women to have a biblical foundation for whatever sphere of ministry God has called them, to know how to not only handle the Bible correctly and apply it, but (also) help women to understand how to engage the culture for the things that we’re facing today.”

Support for World Missions

Many Southern Baptists have heard about the impending reduction of our missionary force by the International Mission Board. After years of unprecedented advancement in numbers, there will be a large reduction of somewhere around 600-800. Our missionary count will be well below 4,000. My heart is saddened to hear the necessity of this move.

All of us want the gospel to reach the unengaged peoples of the world. We have open doors that could shut at any time. Now is the time to be ramping up our involvement not pulling back. Financial reality dictates that we live within our means. Continuing as we have at IMB is not an option.

The IMB is the 900-pound gorilla in Southern Baptist life. When the IMB sneezes, all Southern Baptist ministries catch a cold. Questions have come to me about how did we get into this dilemma, is this the best way to handle the situation, and can we have confidence in what will happen next.

Being heavily invested in IMB yet being an outsider allows me to comment from a personal perspective. Here’s my take on how we got in this situation. I believe a wrong-headed eschatology drove our missiology. Thinking that once every people group (ethno-linguistic) had the gospel that Jesus would come back caused a short-sighted strategy. Spending reserves and selling property caused the IMB to divest itself of resources badly needed today. While gospel advance is the priority of the IMB, it should have been done without jeopardizing future needs. These steps were not taken in secret. For several years the IMB told Southern Baptists there was a shortfall. We can point fingers at administrators or trustees, but that will not change the past. Even though a leader is a biblical inerrantist, he still needs the oversight of a policy-making body. Trustees must take their fiduciary responsibilities seriously. We cannot look back, but we can learn a lesson as we look to the future.

This crisis can make Southern Baptists stronger. Americans have a short attention span with a penchant for immediate relief. There are no quick fixes. Pastors and churches must decide if they have the heart for this spiritual battle. It will take a realignment of priorities. Administratively, IMB personnel and trustees have to work through the best solutions. Financially is where we have a part. Tithing has fallen on hard times, (read Ronnie Floyd’s blog on tithing here). The average church member lives under a burden of debt. Tithing is seen by some as an Old Testament practice. If that is so, then New Testament Christians should start giving above 10 percent! Believers must be challenged to give. Churches are enslaved to debt as well. Some, who are able to give, develop a myopic ministry that fails to invest beyond their influence. If churches were to give 10 percent through the Cooperative Program, there would be no missionaries called back from the field. Ten percent through the Cooperative Program may be an arbitrary figure, but it will provide the funds necessary to enable our missionaries to keep pushing back the darkness. State Conventions have come a long way in a short amount of time relative to giving past their borders. Sending 50 percent or more on to the Southern Baptist Convention is becoming the standard for many state conventions. The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention leads all state conventions in percentage giving (55 percent) to the SBC’s Cooperative Program budget. The SBTC is third in total dollar giving behind Alabama and Georgia. With members tithing, churches giving 10 percent, state conventions at 50/50 or better, we will see more missionaries, not fewer. Speaking with one voice Southern Baptists can see God provide the resources.

I have confidence in where we are going. David Platt was handed a difficult job. He had to right the ship or it would have sunk. Let’s pray for him. By telling the truth and taking action, IMB gives us confidence that the right steps are being taken. We may go down in missionary number now, but we can build on a solid foundation. Retirees, students and professionals who go at their own expense can augment the missionaries on the field. A new strategy coupled with a proven path of funding through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, the IMB has better days ahead.

Now is the time for Southern Baptists to stick together. God does not need our convention. We need him. Obedience in personal giving, church giving and state convention giving will bring about a resurgence of gospel advance in America and around the world.

Please join me at Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, November 9-10, for the annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Encouragement, information and inspiration are all on the agenda. Pray for God to move in our midst. We need him! We need each other!

Inner-city church reflects multi-ethnic neighborhood, experiences revitalization

HOUSTON – Faith Memorial Baptist Church was a small country church in a large urban area. And it was dying.


Within his first eight months as pastor, Andrew Johnson presided over 14 funerals. Two years later, 14 more died to sin and death and publicly proclaimed their Christian faith in a makeshift baptistry in the church parking lot.

In its almost 75 years of existence, Faith Memorial has seen the ebb and flow of membership. At its peak, between the 1950s and ’70s, the rolls held as many as 1,200 names. But when Johnson arrived in 2012 at age 22 with a freshly minted bachelor’s degree from Houston Baptist University, only between 60-80 people remained in the half-Hispanic, half-white congregation.

The pews could hold a lot more, Johnson thought. And the congregation should look more like the inner-city Houston neighborhood it served.

Since then membership is up to around 300, and the faces in the congregation and behind the pulpit look like those across the street and around the block.

“All things have become new,” said Sherman Nong, following a worship service in late May, paraphrasing 2 Corinthians 5:17 and its relation to the changing complexion of Faith Memorial Baptist Church.

Gathered to share their unique perspective on the growing pains at Faith Memorial were Nong; Frankie Atkins, a 72-year-old African-American retired postal worker; and her 93-year-old friend Derwood Radican, who is white and also a retired letter carrier.

“There is something special about this church,” said Nong, the lone Asian in the rapidly growing and changing congregation. “What’s special about this church is everybody is really warm. They try to get to know you. I have a lot of people supporting me in prayer.”

Raised in a local Vietnamese Baptist church, Nong—a 2015 HBU pre-med graduate—wanted to broaden his perspective of Christian fellowship and worship beyond what he knew in a Vietnamese-centric expression of that same faith.

Atkins could relate. More than 40 years ago she transferred her membership from an all-black church to the nearly all-white Faith Memorial in 1972. Aside from her husband and their children, only one other black family graced the pews back then.

Some members were not as welcoming, Atkins recalls, but her family was grateful for those who were especially loving. An admitted “hugger,” she said, “There were a few who weren’t having any of that.”

But a mutual love for the Lord and his people transcended the racial tensions—a reality that still holds true today, Johnson said.

Atkins and Nong agreed that individual Christians willing to immerse themselves in a congregation where they are not the majority—where the only commonality is a shared faith in Christ—have so much to learn.

“True learning happens when we have little to no comfort or control,” Johnson told the TEXAN. “This can’t just be a cute, pithy idea—a tip of the hat to multi-ethnic churches.”

He noted the gospel united a fiercely divided culture in first-century Jerusalem as Jews and Gentiles found common ground in their mutual faith in Jesus Christ.

“It proved that the gospel was for the whole world. If we fail to see that, we’re going to miss out on how big our God is,” Johnson said.

Having served as youth pastor at an all-black church Johnson understood, like Atkins and Nong, what it was like to be the odd man out.

“It was intimidating at first,” he said of his two-year stint with Alief Baptist Church while in college. “I was the only white face in the crowd. You learn something when you’re the minority.”

Although the doctrine was the same, the worship was very different for a boy raised in a white Southern Baptist church in Luling. Empathy for those in the minority and an appreciation for the differences in worship were significant takeaways for Johnson.

The lessons from Alief guided Johnson at Faith Memorial. Although he felt called to pastor a multi-ethnic church and believed the rejuvenation of Faith Memorial would require such a course, Johnson recognized his place as the new pastor—only the third in the church’s history. Some members had been there even longer than Atkins and had grandchildren older than the new pastor. So he gave it a year, preaching and establishing relationships in order to create a unified vision for the whole church.

And as expected, when this change came, not everyone was pleased. However, Johnson was fueled by the reality that creating a multi-ethnic church was not simply change for change’s sake. The survival of the church depended on the congregation reaching out to their predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhood, which is steeped in poverty and entrenched in self-destructive ways. Still, Johnson believed, the church would be better for it.

Some of his opponents—his “biggest headaches”—became his greatest allies during the course of the transition that began in 2014 with building renovations that included removing barbed-wire fencing around the property, repairing broken windows and painting an exterior wall with art unique to the neighborhood.

“We invested in a graffiti art mural, something that looks like a calling card to the community,” the pastor said.

And it served its purpose. The once nondescript, drab-grey building caught people’s eyes, and their curiosity drew them inside.

But most of the new members came because of family.

“Being an old church we are filled with grandparents. Their kids started coming back,” said Johnson.

After the May 31 worship service, Atkins and Radican joked about the changes. Different people. Different music. And the differences between the two of them.

“That was one of the most healthy things—to laugh at your differences,” Johnson said. “It was one of those things that put people at ease.”

The neighborhood of Atkins’ youth was half-black and half-Hispanic (she speaks fluent Spanish) so the transition came a little easier for her as the congregation began to reflect the neighborhood—race, ethnicity, tattoos, piercings and all.

Radican, too, seems nonplussed by the shakeup. For almost three decades he drove one of the church buses through the neighborhoods of the historically black 5th Ward and predominantly Hispanic Denver Harbor picking up all who wanted to learn about the “risen Savior.” The spritely men’s Sunday school teacher took all the changes in stride, even offering to pitch in to pay for a new graffiti mural.

Staff members brought on since Johnson’s arrival also reflect the faces of those in the congregation and the community. Music director Moses Gonzalez is Hispanic and works to blend contemporary choruses with hymns and black gospel music. Andre Turner, who fills in with preaching and plays keyboard in the praise band, is black and coming into his own right as a preacher according to some members. Luke Dorr is white and works with the youth. All three men work full-time outside the church and are compensated with a small stipend from the church each month. Johnson is a part-time employee and is working on his master’s in theological studies at HBU.

Although the congregation was small upon Johnson’s arrival, there was a deeply rooted bond of care and affection for one another perhaps because of and not in spite of their differences. Members demonstrated that love for believers from differing backgrounds cannot be devoid of an appreciation for their cultural differences. “If you can speak their [cultural] language,” Johnson said, “that’s the power of the Holy Spirit. Don’t let their culture be the line you can’t cross.”

Criswell counseling degree recognized among 25 most affordable in U.S.

Criswell CollegeDALLAS—An online directory has listed Criswell College as 13th among the top 25 most affordable providers of pastoral care counseling degrees. The survey of 206 schools offering graduate degrees in clinical pastoral, pastoral counseling and pastoral studies was narrowed to the 118 that are regionally accredited and provide pastoral or biblical counseling degrees or emphases. The top 25 most affordable providers include schools ranging in cost from $4,590 to $10,674 and are listed at the website

Criswell College offers a Master of Arts in Counseling to prepare graduates to counsel individuals, couples and families from a Christian worldview. An emphasis is placed on developing research-based skills and counseling theories while supporting students in developing their Christian faith.

According to Russell Marriott, vice president for enrollment services, graduates are prepared to work in numerous settings from Christian counseling ministries to mental health organizations with both licensure and non-licensure tracks, the latter offered on campus and online.

Pray for Police campaign launched in Houston following deputy”s murder

HOUSTON—Dozens of law enforcement officers, clergy, and local and state representatives gathered Sept. 8 at the Houston Police Officers Union headquarters to launch an unconventional campaign—Pray for Police—that they hope will heal the city and unite the nation in support of those sworn to protect and serve.

The Pray for Police campaign runs 6 a.m. Sept. 9 through 6 a.m. Sept. 10 at the HPOU offices in downtown Houston. Police chaplains and volunteer clergy will be available for prayer during those hours while others distribute 30,000 blue wristbands with the slogan Pray for Police and #P4P. The wristbands serve as a reminder to pray and as a sign of encouragement to police officers. Organizers hope the prayer support will continue far beyond Sept. 10 and Houston and Harris County.

The campaign has been endorsed by Houston’s eight mayoral candidates and former President George H.W. Bush, a Houston resident.

In a letter addressed to Floyd Lewis, presiding bishop of the International Church Fellowship, who championed the “Thumbs Up! Domestic Soldiers” campaign, which predated the Pray for Police movement, Bush said, “At a time when it seems to be fashionable to attack the motives and character of the men and women who comprise our law enforcement agencies across America, I think the work you and your colleagues are doing may be more important than ever.”

The call to prayer comes in the turbulent wake of the murder of Harris County Sheriff Deputy Darren Goforth who was shot and killed Aug. 28 at a gas station while filling his patrol car. The man charged in the shooting, Shannon Miles, appeared to have targeted the uniformed deputy simply because he was an officer, shooting him 15 times in the back.

The incident shocked and galvanized this Southeast Texas region of 4.3 million residents, prompting marches and prayer vigils at the site of the shooting and an outpouring of sympathy that drew more than 11,000 people to Goforth’s funeral at Second Baptist Church in Houston last week. His murder was the most recent and brutal manifestation of tensions between some citizens and law enforcement nationwide. Pray for Police campaign organizers admitted the call for prayer flows from the recognition that the problem and the solution transcend human comprehension.

Drawing from 2 Chronicles 7:14, Monty Montgomery, Houston Police Department senior police officer and chaplain, opened the press conference with prayer surrounded by law enforcement officers, clergy and elected officials—some with hands raised and all with somber faces.

Montgomery, who also pastors a local church in Houston, told the TEXAN Goforth’s murder has impacted the way many officers do their jobs.

“Goforth was doing something we all do every day. It changes the focus of our officers,” Montgomery said. “We are reacting to calls differently than we did before.”

Officers recognize the inherent danger associated with their work, but the blatant and seemingly unprovoked shooting of Goforth raises fears not for themselves but their families should they be killed in the line of duty Montgomery said.

“Every single day they don’t know if they’re going to be able to come home to their families or not,” Devon Anderson, Harris County District Attorney, said during the press conference. “Every car they pull over, every door they approach, they know that may be the last person they see on this earth. So we need to pray for them. They deserve our prayers.

Anderson said she will lead the prosecution against Miles, who has been charged with capital murder.

Mayor Annise Parker spoke of the funerals she has attended during her 18 years of City of Houston public service. “Never again” was Mayor Annise Parker’s commitment following every meeting with the families of police, firefighters and other public employees killed in the line of duty. But, sadly, there was always another funeral.

Echoing the hope that the Pray for Police campaign take on a life of its own, Parker said, “Let it start here. Let it start now. Let it start in Houston.”

Charles McClelland, Jr., HPD police chief, said, “This showing here today reaffirms in my mind the commitment and the support of this community. And I know the silent majority has always been in the corner of law enforcement.”

“This is uniting our community,” said Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman. “We have a ground swell of support unlike anything I’ve seen in decades. It’s so assuring and reaffirming to be supported by our local communities.”

McClelland and Hickman spoke of their faith when addressing reporters. Each noted they keep a Bible in their offices. Hickman said, “In the past few weeks it’s gotten a little use.”

Prayer, evangelism yield explosive growth in Rockdale student ministry

ROCKDALE—Through intentional prayer and evangelism, a group of teenagers from Meadowbrook Baptist Church in Rockdale, Texas, used brought the gospel to one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Baton Rouge, La., this summer. One of several activities for the group’s mission trip to the area, July 20-26, evangelism efforts saw students boldly approach gang members and prostitutes and pray for them as they had need, preaching the good news of Christ in the process.

What makes this even more significant is the fact that the majority of these students are “newborn Christians,” having become believers within the last 10 months. Previously characterized as alcoholics and drug abusers who were distant from the faith, these students, under the leadership of Meadowbrook student minister Cody Landers, have discovered that Christ is better than these worldly practices, and they are now confident and excited about sharing Christ with others.

Summing up the last 10 months, Landers says, “Our youth group is nothing short of a testament to the power of the gospel.”

When Landers arrived at Meadowbrook in September 2014, the youth group comprised only four students. He set about to revitalize the ministry in three ways: build strong relationships with students; preach Scripture verse-by-verse during their Wednesday night services, particularly emphasizing the centrality of Christ; and assemble a worship team that performs theologically rich songs.

“I have found that students want to hear what actual truth is,” Landers says, “and when the Word of God is sung, prayed and proclaimed, they gravitate toward it.”

In the 10 months since Landers’ arrival, Wednesday night attendance has grown to more than 90 students. Furthermore, 37 students have prayed to receive Christ, and 27 have been baptized.

Landers says the church’s prayers, the help of his adult volunteers and clearly communicating the gospel have all been central to this numerical and spiritual growth. He also stresses the need to understand that students are sinners and that transformation does not happen overnight.

“There have been multiple times [that] I have picked up kids from parties and lectured them but let them stay the night to sober up and go to church with us on Sunday,” he says. “This allows them to see the grace of God at work. They began to realize that Christ is better than the parties, the drugs and anything else that is a god in their lives.”

Many students come from families who are opposed to their attending church, but they continue to attend and have grown in their knowledge of biblical truth and understanding of Baptist doctrines. Many students, previously regarded as “the worst of the worst,” are now leaders in their schools, much to the surprise of their teachers and principals. Also, Meadowbrook has implemented “youth Sundays,” which allow students to serve in various roles in the church.

Discerning that they were spiritually mature enough to go on a mission trip, Landers brought a group of 23 students to Baton Rouge, La., this summer. Even though the 5 a.m. – 8 p.m. schedule would be exhausting, he believed that communicating the gospel and seeing it go forth would strengthen their faith.

During the one-week trip, the group evangelized in two “rough” neighborhoods, fed and preached to the homeless, completed service projects at local churches, and hosted sports camps in two neighborhood parks. In addition, some female students visited a domestic shelter and presented the gospel to women and children through their testimonies.

“One of the girls gave a passionate plea to accept Christ,” Landers recalls. “My adult volunteers interacted with the older women while my students shared with the kids. There was not a dry eye in the room. The younger girls asked for Bibles and were receptive toward Christ.”

In total, the group saw four people come to faith in Christ, one student sense a call to ministry and four others get baptized upon returning home.

Reflecting on the experience, Landers says he could not be prouder of his students. “These students’ lives have been transformed over the past 10 months in such a radical way that everywhere they went, from feeding the homeless to ministering at the domestic women’s shelter, they were able to communicate the gospel in an effective way.

“I could not have ever imagined the growth, the amount of salvations, or the baptisms that have happened in the past 10 months. … The greatest [reward of ministry] is watching God work on students’ hearts and realizing that I have no control in what he is doing in their lives.”