Month: August 2016

Take your evangelism to another level

If you’re like me, it’s rare to go through a single day without seeing a plea on a friend’s social media for the latest multi-level marketing health and fitness product. Whether it’s Plexus, Advocare, Beachbody, Amway, essential oils, Isagenix or any of the other wonderful products made available to consumers desperately desiring to make a major change in their lives, there is no shortage of people championing these products. 

A few years ago, my wife and I decided to join the next big health product weight loss shakes company. I can tell you this, they were the best protein shakes I have ever tasted, especially if you added ice cream to them. We knew that we would need to utilize every opportunity in person and through social media to share of our new found love. We began to influence people to join our cause. It didn’t take long for us to meet our first goal—get enough people on board to receive our product for free. We were well on our way to influencing people, becoming healthier, and having some financial freedom. That all came to a quick halt because we realized we were spending way more time talking to people and posting on social media about these shakes and their benefits than we were talking to people about Jesus. It is so easy to get consumed with desire, passion and a good thing, that we let it overtake the main thing in our life. We made the decision to make Jesus the subject of our passion in person and online. 

I know a lot of great people who work for these companies, are passionate about the products and weave their faith into their business, and I am so grateful for that. However, what if we worked that hard to make Jesus known and have the gospel shared? We must remember that as Christians, we are not called to build up to the next level of gold, ruby or platinum, but instead we are to lay our crowns down at the feet of Jesus. I believe that if we were as diligent for the gospel to advance as these companies are, we could see a fresh movement of God sweep our nation and the world. As Christ followers, let us learn four concepts from these companies about how they get their message out, and let us apply them to our own lives:

1. Those who invest their lives and money into these companies believe in their product! They are not just heralds but also practitioners. They do whatever it takes to get the product out because the product has made a difference in their own lives. As Christians, we have the best thing to believe in that man has ever known. The gospel of Christ transforms us from the inside out. Let others know how much you believe in what Jesus has done for you.

2. They are not ashamed of the product. The sales people are not afraid to tell you about their product. They are proud that they work for these companies and the products that they use. I wonder if that could be said of Christians today? Often our faith is the last thing we want to talk about. The reason these companies grow so rapidly is because the representatives are unashamed in their sharing. This reminds us of the method of the early church we see in Acts—they were unashamed and very active in preaching Jesus. 

3. They are not easily discouraged. If you have ever told someone no about joining in on their journey, you will realize that they do not go away defeated. They believe that if they keep modeling what the products can do and keep asking that eventually you will want to join them. This is a contrast to many evangelicals today. Many who try to share their faith and are rejected walk away feeling defeated and reluctant to try again. What if we continued to model what Christ has done in us and were steadfast to share the good news of the gospel? 

4. They desire to involve their family, friends and neighbors. These enrepreneurs desire for those closest to them to experience the benefits of the product and join them on the journey. If you are somehow connected to a follower of one of these products, it is only a matter of time before you know what it is all about. I can only imagine how transformative the gospel would be if believers would be as passionate that their family, friends and neighbors hearing the gospel as these folks are about their products. 

I love seeing before and after pictures of people on their health journeys. However, more than that, I love to see people’s lives change through the gospel. These products and companies are great; however, they are just for a temporary body that will soon wither and fade away. Our passion to advance the gospel will have eternal ramifications that will outlive and outlast every one of us. 

Dozens of Louisiana flood victims turn to Christ through SBTC Disaster Relief efforts

LAFAYETTE, La.—“I would go to hell,” a man replied honestly when Wayne Barber asked him where he thought he would be if he died.

But the man, who was helping his sister with her flooded Louisiana home, changed his demeanor as Barber, a chaplain with Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief (SBTC DR), explained the gospel to him. At the end of their conversation, the man prayed to receive Christ.

“You could just see the Holy Spirit working,” fellow chaplain Laquita Hunter said. “The man became cooperative.”

He spoke of his intentions to tell his wife, a Christian, what had happened to him, noting, “She is probably not going to believe it at first!”

This man represents one of around 40 professions of faith SBTC chaplain teams have recorded as of Aug. 28 during their relief efforts in a 50-by-50-square mile section of Louisiana, stretching from Crowley east to Beaux Bridge and from Opelousas south to New Iberia, according to SBTC DR white hat Mike Jansen of Linden, Texas.

Housed at The Bayou Church in Lafayette, SBTC teams have prepared as many as 9,700 meals per day, which are then delivered by the Red Cross to families and individuals in need. Additionally, mud-out and clean-out operations have started and chaplains are offering the hope of salvation to all who will hear.

SBTC DR deployed rapidly after Louisiana DR requested assistance. Jansen arrived on August 18 to take over white hat duties from Marvin Leleux of Louisiana DR. Wally Leyerle of First Baptist The Colony assumed white hat duties from Jansen on August 22.

Some 30-40 SBTC volunteers are working daily alongside teams from Louisiana, Jansen confirmed, adding that the number of actual volunteers varies daily as individuals rotate in and out.

Cleanup efforts have included assisting at least two churches, the Lafayette Korean Church and First Baptist Church Broussard, so those congregations could hold Sunday services. DR teams also focused on affected pastors’ homes to free preachers to minister to their congregations.

“We are doing mud-outs and clean-outs, a little bit of tarping of roofs,” Leyerle said. “We are sending out our chaplains with assessors, and they are telling people about the love of Christ…. The Lord seems to be directing our people right where they need to go.”

Barber and his wife, Ann, along with Hunter have experienced divine guidance as they drove through affected neighborhoods.

“God turned us around,” Wayne Barber said, explaining a day he sensed the Lord telling him to “go back” and stop at a home they had passed.

As they pulled into the driveway, a man in his 30s strode out to meet them.

“I saw y’all drive by, and I saw y’all turn around,” the man said. “I knew you were coming back to talk to me!”

Wayne Barber did talk to the man, and the man prayed to receive Christ. The man’s mother, a Christian who had long prayed for her son to come to faith, walked over from next door.

“Every day before we go out, we pray for divine appointments,” Barber said.

On another occasion, a woman in her 30s claimed that a negative experience with a pastor’s wife as a youth “turned her away from the church.”

“She thought Christians were hypocritical,” Hunter said.

Hunter presented the gospel to the woman, urging her to forgiveness. “We talked and she cried, then she accepted Christ.”

Like so many flood victims, the woman had lost her home and possessions, but she found hope in the Lord. “We could tell, when we left, that her life had changed and was going to be different,” Hunter said.

Names and contact information about all who pray to receive Christ are recorded and given to area churches for follow up, Barber said.

Jansen described the work of SBTC feeding teams as exhausting, stretching from 3:00 a.m. till the evening to prepare lunches and dinners for pickup and delivery by the Red Cross to shelters and the community. “You know, it’s just an awesome thing to see the volunteers giving all of their time and energy to produce the food to see that the people of Louisiana have a hot meal.”

Even the simple presence of helpers in the midst of disaster’s aftermath brings encouragement.

“Every time I go out in public and people see me wearing the SBTC DR shirt, I am constantly being told thank you for being here,” Leyerle said. “We are able to minister to people just by being here.”

DR teams from Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas Baptist Men are working in other designated sections of the state.

“It appears we will be there some time.” SBTC DR director Scottie Stice said, urging all available SBTC DR volunteers to consider deploying.

To learn more about how to sponsor a church or pastor’s home affected by floods in Louisiana, donate to SBTC DR work in Louisiana, or volunteer, visit bit.ly/LAfloods.

Estate planning benefits San Antonio church

SAN ANTONIO Because of estate planning, a Texas businesswoman was able to leave a multimillion-dollar gift to her local church upon her death, placing the congregation in a strong financial position for launching a new campus.  

Castle Hills Baptist Church in San Antonio took advantage of a free service offered by the Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation—a “House in Order” seminar that encourages believers to leave kingdom-focused financial legacies by tithing their estates to ministry.

“The House in Order seminar lays a biblical foundation for how to be good stewards of what God has given us over the years,” Jeffrey Steed, director of planned giving at the SBTF, told the TEXAN. “We talk about wills, power of attorney documents, living trusts and living wills.”

Representatives from the foundation also discuss planned giving during the seminars, which last 45 to 60 minutes. 

“I always encourage individuals to at least tithe their estate to their local church or whatever ministry,” Steed said, adding that churches can host the seminars during Sunday School, on a Sunday evening, a Wednesday evening or as a special event.

“Some churches will have it in Sunday School with all the adults pulled into one room because it is something that every adult should consider. I talk about guardianships for children too, so it applies to all ages—to protect family and to benefit ministry,” Steed said.

Estate planning helps a person plan for how an estate will be distributed after death, Steed said. It involves wills and other documents to ensure a smooth transition of assets from one generation to the next. Particularly for a person living with kingdom focus, estate planning should include not just family but ministry, Steed said.

“Estate planning is, for most individuals, the most important and impactful stewardship decision of our entire lives because that’s when the majority of our wealth is going to transfer,” Steed said. “Most people don’t do much planning, if any.”

Castle Hills in San Antonio hosted a House in Order seminar in 2004 and again in 2012. During the first seminar, a single businesswoman made plans to distribute part of her estate to the church. When she died last fall, the church received roughly $2.75 million, according to Mark Hogan, an elder at Castle Hills.

“Our church is in the planning and executing stages of adding another church location, and this has been an incredible blessing to our church,” Hogan, a financial advisor at Wells Fargo Advisors, told the TEXAN. “When you’re looking to buy land or remodel a building, a gift like that is an incredible blessing for capital to start with.”

The plan for the new location was in place before the church knew about the gift, Hogan said.

“We had no clue how we were going to get the money to do this, but God knew exactly when we would need it,” Hogan said. “These kinds of gifts help us to spend far more time reaching out to the community instead of trying to find where the funds are going to come from. Even though it may take years before the blessings come in, God’s perfect timing certainly was in place for us.”

Hogan encourages Texas churches to consider hosting estate planning seminars. 

“I think we’re in tune with tithing on our current income, but sometimes God grows assets that we’ve really never tithed on because they were never current income—especially land or businesses,” Hogan said. 

“When you’re getting ready to pass an estate on, I think it’s a great idea to consider tithing back to your church off your estate and consider giving an offering off that estate to charitable organizations that are near and dear to your heart, to include the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention or the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Churches interested in hosting estate planning seminars can contact the Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation at 817-552-2500 or visit sbtexasfoundation.com.

“We would love the opportunity to be in churches and educate members on estate planning,” Steed said.  

Unified theme, sermon series highlight annual meeting

AUSTIN SBTC President Nathan Lino is excited about the upcoming Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) annual meeting at Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, Nov. 14-15. Lino shared his reasons for enthusiasm with the SBTC executive board during their summer meeting, Aug. 9.

Chief among his reasons is the unified theme—The Holy Spirit—between the annual meeting and the Bible conference, which will be held in the same location prior to the annual meeting, Nov. 13-14. 

“Starting last winter, Danny Forshee, who is president of the Bible conference, and I began talking and praying, and we earnestly sought the face of God to try to find what he wanted the theme for this coming November to be. We are convinced that God wants us to focus on and talk about the Holy Spirit,” Lino said.

Additionally, Lino said the annual meeting program will be streamlined similar to the way the Southern Baptist Convention schedule has been arranged in recent years, with business items grouped together. This will create more time, Lino said, for compelling reports and presentations on what God is doing among SBTC churches. 

“The Lord is doing staggering things through our convention and the members of our churches—1.2 million people are members of SBTC churches—need to know that they are a part of a special movement of God.”

Nathan Lino, SBTC President

“The Lord is doing staggering things through our convention,” Lino said, “and the members of our churches—1.2 million people are members of SBTC churches—need to know that they are a part of a special movement of God.”

Lino also explained his approach to the six preaching slots throughout the annual meeting, which will model expository preaching sequentially through a chapter in the Bible. He asked David Allen, dean of the School of Preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, to break down Romans 8 into six passages, and six different pastors will preach them in order.

The annual meeting will conclude Tuesday evening with a worship service designed to refresh and renew church leaders and members. Lino said they are inviting all Austin-area evangelical churches to join in the service, which will feature music, a guided and intentional prayer time, and a sermon by Gregg Matte, pastor of First Baptist Church in Houston.

The Day of Fasting and Prayer for the annual meeting is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 23. Churches are invited to join together with others in praying for the annual meeting. 

Week of Prayer and Emphasis for Reach Texas Offering set for Sept. 18-25

“Who is my neighbor?”

That’s the question a lawyer asked Jesus, which prompted the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. It’s also the question Christians should ask themselves as they seek to reach their neighbors with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

According to a 2015 article in New York magazine, 1 out of 3 Americans have never spoken to their next-door neighbors. In light of this, SBTC Director of Missions Shane Pruitt believes many Christians miss out on the gospel opportunities right at their own doorsteps. Added to this is the fact that more and more people from other countries are moving to Texas, making neighborhoods fields ripe for harvest.

And that is where the annual state missions ministry offering of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention can help. The Reach Texas offering, which runs from September through August each year, helps fund evangelistic endeavors in the Lone Star State.

“The Lord has brought the nations to Texas,” Pruitt said. “We believe the Lord is using the Reach Texas Missions Offering to literally impact the world because every penny goes towards church planting, evangelism, missions, and disaster relief right here in Texas. If we reach Texas, we’ll touch the world.”

The statewide challenge goal for 2016-2017 has been set at $1.45 million, and the Week of Prayer and Emphasis is September 18-25. Resources to promote the Reach Texas Offering in your church, including videos, bulletin inserts and Bible study curriculum are available for download at sbtexas.com/reachtexas. Churches can also order printed copies of this year’s prayer guide at the website.

Total Dependence on God

want to thank all of you for your prayers. You unleashed the power of God through prayer. God is able at all times; yet, in his economy, he asks us to come before him with petitions. So I am very grateful for your prayers and lifting up me and my family during my time of surgery.

I want to thank Joe Davis for serving so ably in my absence and the staff for continuing to serve the churches while I was out. It does disturb me a little how well it went without me. It truly was a blessing to see God’s work go forward. 

I was born with a heart defect–a bicuspid aortic valve. The doctors predicted I would have to have it replaced by age 55 and I’ve made it to 63, so the Lord gave me eight extra years. I developed an aneurysm about 15 years ago.  

It became apparent to me, late last fall, that I had diminished stamina. I was still trying to run and work out. In February, after completing a run, I passed out.  

As soon as I could, I saw a cardiologist. His tests revealed the aneurysm was at a danger point. My aortic valve was shutting down as well. On May 4, I had a double surgery.

I was prepared to see Jesus, but the Lord chose to give me more time on earth. I woke up in ICU. It is a helpless feeling, lying in a hospital bed. You can’t do anything for yourself. Lying there in ICU, I became aware of the presence of God in a fresh and new way.  

After three days, I developed a complication. I had arterial fibulation that caused me to feel like I was running a marathon while lying in a bed. Medicine was not controlling it. The doctor decided to use the paddles on me. The shock treatment did not work and my condition worsened. They scheduled the shock procedure again Monday. 

I was told 1 out of 1,000 die from that shock treatment. My odds were only 1 in 500 on the second try, so I wasn’t real excited about having it again. A small circle of prayer warriors prayed for me. 

The next morning, the anesthesiologist had the syringe in his hand, ready to insert it in my IV. The doctor came in and he said, “It’s called off. He’s not going to have to have the shock treatment. He’s been in normal heart rhythm for about an hour.” So that was a direct answer to prayer. 

For the next month, I continued to go in and out of extreme afib. I was very concerned about whether I would ever get back to normal activities. Then the afib went away. At three months after surgery, the Lord is seeing me through my recovery. I’m not 100 percent but I’m getting there. 

“Total dependence on God is one thing. An unusual sense of God’s presence is another. All believers have the Holy Spirit living within us, but there is uniqueness about the presence of God when we are totally and utterly dependent upon him.”

What did I learn during this experience? Total dependence on God is one thing. An unusual sense of God’s presence is another. All believers have the Holy Spirit living within us, but there is uniqueness about the presence of God when we are totally and utterly dependent upon him. 

Our nation, our churches, our families and individuals need to recognize total dependence on him. The Holy Spirit resides in every believer, but there is a special sensing of his presence when we are filled with the Spirit.

Isaiah 44:3 is a verse about God’s promise to us for his presence in our dependence.  He said, “I will pour water on him who is thirsty.” 

Every Scripture verse has a primary interpretation. So when you look into the Bible, not all the Bible is to you, but all the Bible is for you. In that, we understand the primary interpretation is that God was speaking to the people of Israel. He was speaking about his blessings and relationship with them. There is also a prophetic revelation. This passage of Scripture could have an eschatological vision of Jesus’ return as king. 

Every Scripture verse has a practical application. We can receive a word from God in every Scripture verse, “What is God saying to me from that verse at this time?” In the dependence of his presence, I hear God speaking some insights from this verse: “I will pour water on him who is thirsty.” 

“I” is God’s person; it’s wrapped up in Jesus. Jesus said, in John 7:36, “If any man thirst, let him come and drink from me and I will give him living water.” As the Scripture says, from his heart shall flow a river of living water. The Holy Spirit comes inside of us at the moment we receive Jesus. He is the God who can satisfy our thirst at the moment of salvation, at every daily experience and throughout the rest of our lives. It’s just simply whether we’re willing to drink of the well God has provided in the person of Jesus.

He said, “I will.” That’s God’s prerogative. God is sovereign. He is not a cosmic bellboy who can be ordered around like some of these name-it-and-claim-it preachers preach. Psalm 115:3 says our God is in heaven and he does what he pleases. I love that verse because God is not caught off guard. He’s not surprised or strained by our difficulties. It is his prerogative to move in our lives. It is our part to plead and pray so we can get thirsty. 

“I will pour” is God’s power. God has the ability to do a work in our lives. He is present in our lives in a mystical way. Some are afraid of that, but I’m not afraid of the mystical presence of God and his power. In Ephesians 3:20, “Now unto him who is able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us.” We have the power available to us to live for him, honor him. 

“I will pour water.” That’s God’s provision. The water is a symbol of the Holy Spirit throughout the Scriptures. We have the provision of God in the person of his Holy Spirit. He is the one who has an abundant supply that never runs dry. In Philippians 4:19, “But my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  Now, it’s according to our need, not according to our greed. 

“I will pour water on him who is thirsty.” This is God’s prerequisite; we have to get thirsty. 

I must confess to you that I’m not thirsty every day like I should be. I don’t hunger for him like I did in the hospital when I couldn’t get my heart regulated, when I was thinking, “Will I ever have the quality of life I once had?” Only God can give life. Only God can give us that power of the Spirit. God’s prerequisite is for us to realize we’re a zero with the rims knocked off. We’re nothing without him.

Thank you for letting me share my journey with you. Finally, I want to give a special “thank you” to my wife and family for their loving care. All glory to God!

Reaching the Marginalized: Ministry brings gospel to San Angelo strip club

SAN ANGELO When Sent Church in San Angelo was founded three years ago with an emphasis on missional communities, pastor and church planter Josh Lilly never envisioned involvement in ministry to a local strip club. 

But after meeting Judy James, founder of LACE Ministries (Ladies Achieving Christ’s Excellence), Josh realized his church had a unique opportunity to reach women caught up in the industry. 

LACE began as an outgrowth of James’s master’s level studies. A social worker with an undergraduate degree in criminology, a background in adult and juvenile probation and experience working at a rape crisis center, James researched an international network of strip club ministries and an anti-pornography ministry for graduate work in urban ministries.

“The more I found out, the more I knew I wanted to do something like that,” she said. “I never expected it to take off like it has. … I know I am right where God wants me to be. I know that this has been his plan all along.”

God’s plan has taken James and a few volunteers into San Angelo’s only strip club at least once a month since December 2015. Research indicated gaining entry to a club would be difficult, but this proved not to be the case for LACE.

“The first time we went, we didn’t know if we would get in,” she recalled. Carrying gift bags of cosmetics and sundries, James and a volunteer nervously approached the club’s bouncer, who called the owner.

“The owner said, ‘Go on back. You can go anypLACE,’” James said. “We walked in and started passing out bags. Girls came off the stage and out of the dressing room to get a gift bag. … Not only did we get in, but we were given free rein to talk to anyone we wanted.” James called such immediate access “unheard of” in strip club ministry. 

““They begin to ask questions like ‘Why do you do this?’And it gives us an open door to share the gospel with them.””

LACE emphasizes developing friendships with the dancers. “We are meeting a basic human need. Some agencies provide food and clothing. We provide love and acceptance,” she explained.

LACE volunteers’ initial goal is “just to be their friend and tell them that Jesus loves them,” James said. “They begin to ask questions like ‘Why do you do this?’ and it gives us an open door to share the gospel with them.”

In addition to monthly visits, LACE celebrates dancers’ birthdays with cakes made by a volunteer. Gift bags may include devotionals, copies of the Gospel of Mark and T-shirts emblazoned with “Jesus Loves Strippers.” 

On Easter, LACE provided an entire Sunday dinner to the club. Dancers and employees enjoyed the meal and heard a brief gospel presentation. “God was in the strip club,” James said, adding that Sent Church paid for the dinner.

“I couldn’t do this without Sent Church,” she said. She approached Pastor Lilly early on with her fledgling idea and asked if a strip club ministry was “something that Sent Church would do.”

“YES!!!” Lilly replied.

“I am loving what is going on right now with LACE,” Lilly said. “Judy has a great passion for the marginalized and ostracized of our community, specifically as it relates to women in the sex industry.” 

“We do have a missional community set up to receive those people,” Lilly continued, adding that only women accompany James to the club.

Sent Church members also provided funds to help one dancer exit the industry and return to her family in Dallas.

“We help where we can,” Lilly said. 

For Judy James, loving the ostracized also means fielding phone calls at 2 a.m. The dancers, a largely transient population, “know how to contact us,” she said. And many do, reaching out for prayer and a person to talk to. 

Prostitution is often associated with strip clubs, but the San Angelo club does not permit this, James said. However, with its highways and proximity to Mexico, San Angelo is a hub of human trafficking, she added. Thus LACE also focuses on education. 

In all aspects of the ministry, the goal is to introduce women to the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ. 

For more information on LACE Ministries, visit laceministries.org

O. S. Hawkins and Barrett Duke honored by ERLC trustees

NASHVILLE—Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission trustees meeting Sept. 24-25 in Nashville voted to honor two men with Texas ties, approve a $4.09 million budget and affirm a longstanding policy opening their proceedings to the news media.

Efforts to push back against an “overreaching government” in the area of health care prompted trustees to select GuideStone Financial Resources President O. S. Hawkins as this year’s recipient of the John Leland Religious Liberty Award.

Under Hawkins’ leadership, GuideStone filed a lawsuit against a mandate in the 2010 Affordable Care Act that would have forced the funding of abortion-causing drugs through its health insurance plans. Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a lower court decision by ruling that the government cannot fine objecting religious organizations, including GuideStone and the ministries it serves, and ordered the government to work out a solution in the contraceptive mandate cases to protect religious beliefs.

The ERLC award is named for a Baptist preacher who helped secure a constitutional guarantee of free religious expression within the First Amendment. Hawkins was recommended for “his steadfast commitment to protecting Southern Baptists and others from the incursions of a state bent on breaking our God-given right of conscience and religious liberty,” Moore explained.

Trustees also recognized ERLC Vice President Barrett Duke with the Richard D. Land Distinguished Service Award. Duke served ERLC for the past 20 years in the areas of public policy and research and has directed the Washington, D.C. office since 2003. He was enlisted for the job by the former ERLC president for whom the award is named.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Criswell College in Dallas, Duke earned a Master of Arts from Denver Seminary and a Ph.D. from the Illiff School of Theology. A former pastor, he is also active as a teacher, preacher, speaker, writer and editor.

Moore commended Duke as “a prophetic voice speaking up for the least of these,” referring to his advocacy for the unborn, immigrants, prisoners, widows and orphans.

Duke told trustees he had been blessed in being a part of “what God is doing on the front lines of culture” at the ERLC, praising the staff with whom he has worked. Recently nominated to serve as executive director of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention, Duke told trustees, “God is in control and at work, and I am grateful for the way he has led in my life.”

Trustees met at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Conference Center just prior to the ERLC’s national conference addressing gospel-centered cultural engagement. They approved the 2016-2017 budget proposal of $4,098,948, a slight increase over the current year.

In response to a motion presented by a messenger to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention seeking clarification from all entities, trustees and staff affirmed an open media policy “grounded by the recognition of our responsibility to keep Southern Baptists informed of the work of the ministries it sponsors through its sacrificial giving to the Cooperative Program.”

Texans serving on the 34-member board are Barry K. Creamer, a member of Lake Highlands Baptist Church in Dallas and president of Criswell College, and Kelly Hancock, a member of North Richland Hills Baptist Church, local businessman and state representative.

EQUIP conference trains more than 1,100 pastors and lay leaders

NORTH RICHLAND HILLS When keynote speaker Johnny Hunt’s second flight was canceled at 3 a.m. the morning of SBTC’s EQUIP conference, Mark Yoakum knew just who to call to pinch-hit for the convention’s annual church ministries event. 

Yoakum, director of church ministries for SBTC, called longtime pastor and former LifeWay Christian Resources president Jimmy Draper, who was already scheduled to lead breakout sessions at the Aug. 13 event. Draper gladly agreed and delivered a passionate keynote address a few hours later.

“In the church, there are no insignificant people,” Draper told the more than 1,100 church pastors and lay leaders in attendance. 

Despite growing biblical ignorance in many churches today, he said, “This is a day of unprecedented opportunity for us.” 

Specifically, Draper said, Bible study and Sunday school teachers have the ability to make a significant impact in the discipleship of the church as long as they explain God’s Word to his people.

“We don’t bring life to the Word,” Draper said. “The Word brings life to us.”

This year’s EQUIP conference, held at North Richland Hills Baptist Church, included 228 breakout sessions led by 61 different speakers on topics related to discipleship, evangelism, age-graded ministries, worship, communication, men’s and women’s ministries, leadership, etc. Next year’s conference will be held at Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston on Aug. 12, 2017.