Month: October 2016

BUYING PROPERTY? Churches Have Negotiating Power

Is your church in the market to buy property? A church may be acquiring land for a new building, acquiring land and/or houses around the church to expand its campus, or acquiring property for other ministry purposes. Churches have negotiating power at the bargaining table when working with sellers. 

When the seller is willing to receive a discounted price on the property, the difference in the qualified appraisal value and the sales price can be a charitable income tax deduction. If the seller has a capital gain on the property (qualified appraisal value is greater than the cost basis), then the seller can also bypass some of the capital gains tax. The bottom line is a church can offer some tax benefits to a seller to help at least partially offset a discount on the asking price. The seller receives the sales price from the church plus the tax benefits and the church saves money by paying less for the property.

For example, a seller is asking $250,000 for a piece of property. A church offers $175,000 and can provide a charitable deduction for the difference in a qualified appraisal obtained by the seller and the actual sales price. A sales contract is signed by both parties that includes wording referencing this pricing difference for the sake of helping to document the charitable income tax deduction. If the seller does not already have a qualified appraisal on the property, he/she obtains the appraisal. The appraisal value provided by the appraiser is $275,000. The difference in the appraisal value ($275,000) and the sales prices ($175,000) is considered a charitable income tax deduction to the seller. If the amount of $275,000 is greater than the seller’s cost basis, he/she can also bypass some of the capital gains tax for an additional benefit. 

For a charitable bargain sale, it is crucial to have the proper wording in the sales contract for the charitable income tax deduction. There is also follow-up paperwork that needs to be provided to the seller. For help with these steps, please contact Jeff Steed at the Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation,

Churches have negotiating power when buying property that can save them money and help them to be better stewards with God’s resources. Those savings could be used for other ministry efforts to advance the kingdom! 

The Value of Our Annual Meeting for Kingdom Advance

President Nathan Lino in his TEXAN column lists five reasons to be at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. I will not enumerate them again but simply will voice a hearty “amen.” 

We enjoy worship, fellowship, hear ministry testimonies and make ministry decisions. Perhaps the least exciting and smallest part of the entire time together is consideration of the budget. The 2017 Cooperative Program budget will be presented to the messengers for approval. The messengers have the final say in how the funds are directed. One of the most remarkable aspects of Baptist life is how we fund our work. Churches put the greater need ahead of their personal interests to invest in a collaborative ministry.

The SBTC is made of a diverse constituency. Membership of the churches is heavily weighted toward smaller congregations, with about 80 percent of SBTC churches averaging less than 200 in attendance. Sadly, the majority of all SBC churches are plateaued or declining. As the population of Texas is largely on I-35 and eastward, so are the majority of churches. Leadership in churches is changing rapidly from my generation to a younger age group. Ethnically, about one-fourth of the churches are non-Anglo. Some churches are traditional in worship style, while many are considered “contemporary.” We are a different assortment!

Two factors enable us to work together: doctrinal accountability and the Cooperative Program. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 sets the parameters for fellowship in the SBTC. Churches affirm the framework of the BF&M 2000 as our basis of ministry together. This statement enables us to have a lot of latitude in our individual congregations but provides a safeguard against departure from our agreed-upon boundaries when working as a convention. 

The Cooperative Program is the second factor unique to Southern Baptists. While there is no connectionalism in Baptist life, we voluntarily cooperate to accomplish the massive task of kingdom advance by pooling our financial resources. The SBTC sends 55 percent on to the Southern Baptist Convention for national and international work. No other state convention participates at a higher percentage.

The budget presented to the messengers represents our collective work. With such a divergent group of churches having competing philosophies, it is the amazing grace of God that we are able to accomplish the work of kingdom advance. 

The SBTC staff seeks to serve the churches with a Christ-like spirit. We are aware that the SBTC exists at the pleasure of the churches. The lion’s share of the budget approved at the annual meeting will go to missions and evangelism. This is true in Texas and beyond. There may be some things some of us prefer more than others in the line items, but virtually all of us agree that the main emphasis must be on kingdom advance.

If you have questions about the Cooperative Program or how your investment is being used, your SBTC staff stands ready to give testimony of the lives changed through your giving.  

Preach about the church to the church

Many would say the conservative evangelical church has entered a golden age of expository preaching. A genuine commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture has led to a genuine commitment to expositional preaching.

But despite this trend, what if a blind spot—a byproduct of 20th-century evangelicalism—exists in our preaching? Put plainly, an overemphasized Christian individualism may be eroding our churches and our preaching. What I mean is that we have focused on the Christian life as an individual pursuit of God and devalued the role of the local church in the life of the believer. 

The Christian life runs on twin engines—both our individual relationship with the Lord and our congregational relationship with other local believers in a covenant community, a local church. Certainly, we must emphasize the individual nature of the Christian life, but that’s often where we stop. The congregational nature of the Christian life appears to be an optional add-on or at least a minor aspect of Christian discipleship. That’s why we hear the common refrains, “You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” or, “I love Jesus, but I’m just not that into the church.” Because the church is Jesus’ bride, that’s like telling me, “Keith, I really like you, but I can’t stand your wife.” Our relationship won’t be the same.

Our preaching has inherited this imbalanced Christian individualism, resulting in weakened local churches. Today’s preaching largely aims at the individual Christian and neglects a congregationally shaped view of the Christian life.

Ironically, this misses the whole objective of expository preaching. The Bible is a congregationally shaped book. It is written about God’s people, to God’s people, for God’s people. The Old Testament is written to the people of God—Israel. The New Testament is written to the people of God—local churches. Even the New Testament letters written to individuals (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus) are written to pastors of local churches, instructing them on how to lead God’s people. 

Expositional preaching exposes God’s Word to his people and helps them live out the truths found in the Bible. Because the Bible is congregationally shaped, our preaching must be congregationally shaped; it must be ecclesiological. In fact, if your preaching is not ecclesiological, you’re not truly doing exposition.

Again, I’m not advocating a push of the pendulum to the opposite side and neglecting the individual aspect of the Christian life. We must maintain a balance between the two.

So what’s the remedy? Ecclesiological exposition, or what Mark Dever describes as preaching about the church to the church. While modern expositional preaching tends to be sermons to a group of individuals, ecclesiological exposition helps Christians grow in their individual walks with the Lord while also helping them relate to one another and fulfill Christ’s mission in the local church. After all, God’s vehicle for complete Christian maturity is not just quiet times; it’s the local church (Eph. 4:1-16). Congregationally conscious preaching creates a compelling community of believers who disciple one another, exhibit genuine love and care for one another, and display the glory of God to a watching world.

Like bifocals enable someone to view close up as well as far away, ecclesiological exposition keeps both the individual and congregational in focus. When we read the Bible, we will surely find applications for individuals, but we must also view the Scriptures through a corporate lens, asking, “What does this passage mean for our life together as a church?” 

On a practical level, such a paradigm shift in preaching affects the explanation, illustration, and application of the text of Scripture, as the sermon explains the corporate implications of the text, illustrates the text by highlighting its expressions in local bodies of believers, and applies the text to the congregation as a whole. As a result, a culture of discipleship and Christlike affection develops as church members see how they relate to one another, and the corporate witness of the church is broadcast to the surrounding community.

Pastor, as you prepare this week’s sermon, continue to examine what the text means for each individual Christian in the room, but don’t forget to also consider how that individual might understand and live out that passage in the context of your church. Consider what ways your congregation is, or should be, obeying the commands of Scripture as a corporate body.  

Texas pastors discuss the discipline of sermon planning & preparation

With so many ministry demands vying for pastors’ attentions each week, sermon preparation can prove daunting. For this reason, careful planning helps pastors maximize their ministry and strengthen their week-to-week preaching. 

The TEXAN interviewed five pastors of varying church sizes across the state to understand their approaches to sermon preparation. While each one has found certain methods and habits that work for him, they all agree that preaching is one of their primary ministry responsibilities and requires intentionality to be most effective.

Long-range Planning

Rather than attempting to come up with a new sermon topic the week before preaching it, most of the pastors interviewed plan their sermon series out several months in advance.

Gregg Matte, pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church, typically begins working on his fall sermon series in the spring. He typically preaches expositionally through books of the Bible, so he outlines the book and sequence of messages in the spring and shares it with the worship and creative teams in his church so they can begin their own preparations. 

After the series is organized, Matte continues to study for the series during his annual summer sabbatical and then meets with a creative team every couple of months to brainstorm titles, illustrations and videos for upcoming sermons. Additionally, he sets aside one Thursday per month to get away and pray and think about the upcoming month’s worth of sermons, which allows him to “work on the ministry, not in the ministry” and gives him a “bird’s-eye view” of where he’s going with his sermons over the next several weeks.

With this roadmap in place, he simply has to work through the passage and prepare the sermon during the week of the message.

“What I like to say is that I try to go to the grocery store and fill the pantry, and then every week I’m cooking a fresh meal instead of every week running to the grocery story trying to get all the stuff to put in the pantry to cook that same day,” Matte said.

Similarly, Tony Mathews, pastor of North Garland Baptist Fellowship in Garland, plans his series out eight months to a year in advance. 

“Though I think retreats for planning messages is a very good approach, I’ve found it helpful for me to plan in my offices at church and home where I have all the tools at my disposal,” Mathews said. “However, I recommend that the preacher goes to the place that works best for him. I will spend much time praying as I seek God’s direction for message topics. I will take a week at a time to do nothing but plan series and individual messages.”

Mathews typically sets aside one week in September, October and November to prepare for the following year. If he’s only able to plan part of the year’s sermon schedule, he adds a week in January or February to finish planning.

Josh Smith, pastor of MacArthur Blvd. Baptist Church in Irving, takes two weeks every summer for what he calls “study leave,” which is separate from vacation and designed for “long-term sermon preparation.”

“Normally during that time I am doing background study and not study for individual messages,” Smith said. “I only write individual messages week to week. I have never found it helpful to get too far ahead in sermon preparation. The freshness of the message in my own heart is significant for me.”

Similarly, Jared Wellman, pastor of Mission Dorado Baptist Church in Odessa, sets aside a week two times a year to plan out the next six months of sermon series. 

“I usually bring in a speaker who preaches for me that weekend. This relieves me of the sermon preparation time that week and provides me with a time of refreshment and encouragement. I intentionally have the pastor in my home for dinner and ask him questions about the ministry and about sermon preparation. 

“Most of the time I already have the series listed and my ‘retreat weeks’ in my office tend to be a time of branding the series with a title and graphic that reflect the overall message of the book, sorting out the series on the calendar, and working through the books in order to plan out the texts I will preach each week.”

Chris Osborne, pastor of Central Baptist Church in College Station, has a less formal approach to long-range planning. He preaches expositionally, verse-by-verse through books of the Bible, but he does not plan out the series months in advance. 

Prior to preaching through a book of the Bible, especially longer books, Osborne uses commentaries to get an overview and general breakdown of the chapters in order to “look at the forest before I step into the trees.” Then, once he begins preaching through the book, he is week-to-week in the text, picking up where he left off the week before until he completes the book. For longer books, this may take many years. For example, Osborne said some former church members who attended during their time at nearby Texas A&M University joke with him that he was preaching in the Gospel of Matthew when they started college and was still in the book when they graduated four years later.

Osborne has preached through more than 30 books of the Bible during his 30 years of ministry at Central Baptist, and he has always tried to alternate sermon series between Old and New Testament and short and long books.  

Weekly Preparation

As for preparation during the week, the pastors said they maintain a structured schedule with intentionally planned time to work on the sermon.

Osborne said he follows the model he learned from W.A. Criswell. He built a “man cave” in his back yard, which is basically a library where he works on his sermons every morning from 6 a.m. to lunch. Monday through Thursday, he studies the text and researches sources. Then on Friday and Saturday, he works on illustrations and applications before practicing the sermon by preaching it out loud. 

“I’m coming up with the content Monday through most of Thursday morning, and then about half of Thursday morning, Friday and Saturday, I’m figuring out how to stick it into their lives.”

Matte also devotes his mornings to sermon preparation but begins working on the sermon Tuesday morning and finishes by Thursday. 

“I heard this from Jerry Vines: ‘Give your mornings to God, give your afternoons to the church, and give your evenings to your family.’ And that’s what I try to operate on,” Matte said.

Matte maximizes his time by using a volunteer research team made up of five to seven members of his church. Each volunteer will read a number of good commentaries on an assigned chapter of the Bible and sends Matte “gleanings of the best stuff.” 

“That does two things,” Matte said. “One, it maximizes my study. I don’t have to read five different things and then figure it all out. I can glean from it, and if I want more information, I can go look for it because I have the commentaries and can look at it myself. 

“Two, it puts together folks in our church that are good theological minds. They’re giving me some really good stuff. It makes them feel involved, and I’m equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry even with my sermon preparation. So I take that and read that, but they’re not giving me my message. They’re just giving me the historical aspects and commentary aspects of it.”

Smith guards his mornings as well, typically working on his sermon Monday through Thursday.

“I guard my morning study time and make sure my staff guards that time for me, and then I try to delegate as much as possible,” Smith said. “I have set aside time on my calendar every week for counseling. When those are full, I schedule people for the following week. I really try to stay out of as many administrative decisions as I can.”

With each of these pastors, they realize their schedules sometimes have to change due to circumstances like funerals or emergencies, but when this happens, they attempt to gain that time back in their schedule in the afternoons. 

The Process

Regarding the specific steps each pastor takes in the preparation of a sermon, their approaches vary slightly, but a few major steps are consistent.

Each pastor said he always begins sermon prep with prayer and then reads through the passage carefully, noting insights and questions along the way. 

“Prayer is the most indispensable resource at my disposal because it draws on the power and favor of God,” Wellman said. “Preparing a sermon without praying is like snorkeling without a snorkel.”

As Smith reads the text multiple times and prays through the text, he said he “thinks about the intent of the author, context, the emotion of the text, the call of the text.” 

“Before any specific study I simply try to get as much out of the text as I can. I then do the exegetical work. Normally I outline the text and then consult commentaries.”

Mathews follows a similar process, studying the text to determine its meaning and theological emphases.

“After interpreting the text, I go through the process of contemporizing the text. This involves taking what was discovered regarding the ‘them,’ ‘there,’ and ‘then’ and applying it to the ‘here,’ ‘us,’ and ‘now.’”

These pastors then outline the text and work on illustrations and applications. Both Osborne and Matte noted that when preaching expositionally through books of the Bible, the text of Scripture itself provides the outline for the sermon. 

“If you’re doing textual preaching, if you’re really honestly staying in the text and not jumping all over the Bible,” Osborne said, “you have your notes and your outline right there in the text.”

Osborne and Matte prefer to use illustrations from personal experiences or observations from everyday life and current events.

“I’m always cultivating illustrations; everywhere I go I’m thinking about that,” Matte said. 

Osborne, who regularly reads news sites online and occasionally uses examples from the lives of church members if they give permission, said, “If they remember the illustration but not the point, then I’ve probably failed with the illustration.”

In terms of application, Mathews said he tries “to narrow down the goal of the message, which asks and answers the question, ‘What do I want my hearers to do?’”

Once all the study is complete and the pieces of the sermon are developed, some pastors create an outline to preach from while others write out a manuscript. 

“I prefer manuscripting my sermons because it helps me with the flow of thought as well as how it might be delivered (and I also have aspirations to publish the sermons for our church library), but I never read the manuscript in the pulpit,” Wellman said. “If I preach with my manuscript, I preach from notes I’ve jotted in the left margins that summarize the major ideas. I wait until Saturday to jot down these notes, but I prefer not to preach from them and instead to go to the pulpit noteless.”

Wellman also benefits from discussing his sermon with others, which allows him to understand how the message might be heard and what questions might be raised. 

Managing Time & Distractions

Of course, sermon preparation can be derailed buy any number of distractions, including ministry responsibilities, emails, text messages, social media and lack of motivation. For the pastors interviewed, a regular schedule helps eliminate many of these distractions.

“Sermon preparation is a creative art,” Matte said. “You can’t just decide that you’re going to do this and force the square peg in a round hole. At the same time, you have to be disciplined to get after it even when you don’t feel like it.”

Matte intentionally removes distractions during his study time, preparing his sermons at a desk separate from his computer and leaving his phone off or giving it to his secretary. Likewise, his laptop has Bible software but does not have an email program.

“You just have to get that place away where you’re getting more than just regurgitated commentaries into your message; you’re getting a word from God,” Matte said. “I can’t be watching emails come in while I’m in my Bible program.” 

Additional Advice

When asked for any additional advice for planning and preparing sermons, pastors drew from their wealth of experience.

“Plan ahead,” Mathews said. “This will ease the stress and demands of one’s ministry load.”

Wellman noted that when he seems to hit a wall, he takes a break from sermon preparation. 

“If I am stuck on something, I’ll intentionally leave my office to run an errand, or close up my sermon preparation altogether,” Wellman said. “Sometimes even walking to the bathroom will allow me to grasp an issue I couldn’t quite figure out while sitting at my computer. On several occasions I was immediately able to figure it out before I even pulled out of the church parking lot.”

Osborne offered a reminder about the personal joy of discovery in sermon preparation. 

“I’ve been pastoring since 1977, and I’ve always been a textual preacher. I can honestly say that I have never come to a Sunday in the pulpit when I didn’t know something new that I didn’t know before I started the text,”
Osborne said. 

“That’s what keeps me fresh and excited. There’s always something I didn’t know was in the text, but after studying it I’ve found something and can’t wait to share it with my congregation. That, for me, is the genius of textual preaching.”

Access preaching resources by searching “preaching” at

Annual Meeting sermons to walk through Romans 8

AUSTIN In planning for this year’s annual meeting, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention President Nathan Lino wanted the sermons preached during the event to not only be inspiring but also instructive.

Since the meeting’s theme is “The Holy Spirit,” Lino chose for the six messages to work sequentially, systematically through Romans 8, and he enlisted David Allen, dean of the Southwestern Seminary’s School of Preaching, to analyze the chapter in Greek and then break it up into six sections. These sections will be preached expositionally in order throughout the two-day meeing, Nov. 14-15, at Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin. Lino noted that not only will these sermons be timely and encouraging, but they will also give pastors the foundation for a six-part series on the Holy Spirit through Romans 8.

“I’m fired up about the Romans 8 preaching relay team after our preparation meeting with David Allen,” Lino told the TEXAN. “I was excited about it conceptually before, but now that the six preachers have met and I saw their insights and enthusiasm, I think it will be a significant time in the life of our convention. You will not want to miss it.”

Read Steven Smith and Nathan Lino’s article explaining the sermon series through Romans 8.

On Monday evening, Southwestern Seminary preaching professor Steven Smith will deliver a biblical exposition on Romans 8:1-8. Later that evening, Lino, pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church, will preach from Romans 8:9-11 in his president’s address.

On Tuesday morning, Chris Osborne, pastor of Central Baptist Church in College Station will deliver a biblical exposition from Romans 8:12-17, and SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards will preach from Romans 8:18-27. That afternoon, SBTC Vice President Dante Wright, who pastors Sweet Home Baptist Church in Round Rock, will focus his sermon on Romans 8:28-30.

During the final session of the annual meeting Tuesday evening, Gregg Matte, pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church, will deliver the convention sermon as he preaches expositionally from Romans 8:31-39.

Church gets creative with western-themed fundraiser for state missions

GILMER, Texas—When Tim Smith became pastor of East Mountain Baptist Church in 2012, he challenged the congregation to embrace the Reach Texas Missions Offering, and the church responded enthusiastically.

While Smith served as the catalyst, ideas for how to fundraise for the state missions offering of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention were “totally driven by the congregation,” he said. The following year, church members organized a western-themed “Reach Texas Roundup,” which has been an annual mainstay ever since. The event includes a “Walk across Texas” cupcake walk, a Longhorn ring toss, a “Faces of Texas” sponge throw, and a face painting table, along with several other games and booths.

Susan Breitenberg has been a lead organizer of the event since the beginning. “My favorite part about the Texas Roundup is seeing everyone work together to make [it] happen,” Breitenberg said.

To get their congregation excited about the Reach Texas offering they utilize the promotional materials provided by the convention. EMBC also creates their own video announcements and provides a visual aid for their congregation to track the status of the money being raised.

“The Reach Texas Roundup is the way we cap off the month of September and the offering,” Smith said. This year EMBC raised $1,000 the night of the event and came just under their goal of $5,000 for the Reach Texas Offering.

EMBC has anywhere from 200 to 300 guests that attend the event. The most popular game of the evening is the jail and bail in which they “charged $2 to buy a warrant which they could fill out with the name and ‘crime’ of the person they wanted arrested,” Breitenberg said. “The cashier would give it to one of the three sheriffs who would go ‘arrest’ the person. When brought to the jail they were supervised and sometimes harassed by the jailer! Then some kindhearted soul had to pay $3 to bail them out.”

The rest of the booths and activities were free, and they placed a freewill offering jar on the tables.

EMBC’s pastor and church body are excited about missions and promoting working together as a congregation.

2016 study of pastor salaries, benefits available

NASHVILLE Compensation for full-time Southern Baptist church staff members has exceeded the cost-of-living increase over the past two years. However, health insurance coverage continues to decline, according to the 2016 SBC Church Compensation Study.

The biennial study is a joint project of state Baptist conventions, GuideStone Financial Resources and LifeWay Christian Resources. Compensation and congregational data is collected anonymously from ministers and office/custodial personnel of Southern Baptist churches and church-type missions.

Compensation increasing

Compensation (salary plus housing) increased 3.4 percent for full-time senior Southern Baptist pastors over the last two years, 4.3 percent for full-time staff ministers and 2 percent for full-time office personnel. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the same two-year period increased only 1.1 percent.

Factors correlating with compensation for senior pastors include education level, weekly church attendance and tenure at their current church, as well as total years of experience. Those with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $4,040 more than otherwise equivalently qualified pastors without a college degree. Master’s and doctorate degrees correspond with incremental compensation increases of $2,171 and $11,151, respectively. Seminary graduates have an additional increase in average compensation of $4,706.

Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, pointed out that despite increases in compensation, fair wages take into account wages at comparable churches, increased experience and education, and cost of living. 

“While inflation has been lower this last year, it is still true that the dollars churches paid last year don’t buy as much,” McConnell said. “Without a raise, you are actually paying less.”

Benefits declining

Overall, the value of the entire pay package (salary, retirement, housing and other benefits including insurance) for senior pastors (0.9 percent) has not kept pace with inflation, even though the pay package for full-time staff ministers (2.5 percent) and office personnel (1.5 percent) has exceeded inflation.

Only half of churches participating in the survey provide health insurance coverage for senior pastors, down from 60 percent two years ago and 64 percent in 2012. 

“While recognizing these trends, and the impact of Obamacare, GuideStone continues to advocate for churches to support all staff members with this important benefit,” said Scott Charbonneau, GuideStone’s managing director of insurance plans. “Further, GuideStone has reduced the access point for its insurance plans down to a minimum group size of only two employees with multiple plans available, including a low-cost value plan.”

One-fourth of churches pay for medical insurance for the senior pastor and his family, 15 percent provide for the pastor and his wife, and 10 percent provide only for the pastor.

Although a larger weekly attendance correlates with churches providing senior pastors with health insurance, one-fourth of churches with 250 or more average attendees do not provide health insurance. Conversely, nearly one-third of churches (31 percent) with less than 50 in weekly attendance do provide their pastor with medical coverage.

Some churches also provide additional insurance benefits to senior pastors including life and/or accidental insurance (29 percent), disability (26 percent), dental (24 percent) and vision (10 percent), although each is a few percentage points less than reported in 2014.

A number of factors also impacts the amount of vacation senior pastors receive. Larger churches tend to give pastors more vacation, with otherwise equivalently qualified pastors averaging one additional day for every 448 attendees. Pastors with a bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degree add an average of one, two or four vacation days, respectively, over those with some college or an associate degree. Seminary graduates, on average, also receive one additional vacation day.

The 2016 online survey was open from December 2015 through May 2016. Data from more than 8,000 full-time Southern Baptist respondents is available at

The survey also obtained compensation data for bi-vocational pastors and part-time custodial and office personnel. This data is standardized by the median number of hours worked to allow churches to more easily compare their part-time employees with these averages.

GuideStone provides many resources for churches seeking to establish, restructure or evaluate pay and benefit packages for ministers and other staff. The free resources can be found at

Methodology: Southern Baptist state conventions invited each church’s staff to respond to the survey; 14,076 completed surveys are available including 8,164 full-time staff analyzed for this article. For the purpose of this article, senior pastor responses were weighted to account for lower response rate among smaller churches and to match the distribution of the size of Southern Baptist churches. When using the online tool, national totals may be somewhat higher than these weighted totals. Viewing the results by church-size categories within the online tool minimizes this impact. When running customized reports online, errors can be minimized by selecting criteria that allow for larger numbers of participants. 

Former IMB missionary receives national award for surgical service

WASHINGTON, D.C. Long-time medical missionary and Fort Worth resident, Dr. Rebekah Naylor, was honored recently by the nation’s surgical community for her career of service to people lacking adequate medical care overseas, as well as in Texas. 

Naylor was presented by the American College of Surgeons with the Pfizer Surgical Humanitarian Award Oct. 18 in Washington, D.C., at a reception hosted by the Board of Governors at the Clinical Congress 2016.

The annual award is given to surgeons who dedicate their careers to providing surgical care to underserved populations.

“I am very humbled by this recognition by the American College of Surgeons, a professional secular organization,” Naylor said.  “I am so amazed that I would be considered for the award recognizing a career in missionary service. I feel that God has so blessed me in this, and I want to be a good steward of the opportunity to give witness before them of my faith in Jesus Christ.”

Naylor completed her surgical training at Southwestern Medical Center and Parkland Hospital in Dallas in 1973, and went on to begin her medical career serving with the International Mission Board at the Bangalore Baptist Hospital in Karnataka, India. 

During more than three decades of serving in India, Naylor expanded patient care at the Bangalore Baptist Hospital, set up training programs for physicians, and established a nursing school there. In addition to her medical service, Naylor also dedicated much of her time to growing the local church in the state of Karnataka, where she was involved in establishing 900 churches.

“In its earlier years, I tried to lead the hospital setting standards of professional excellence and bold witness for Jesus, leading to many churches. I pray that the hospital will continue to be a place of physical healing and a place of spiritual healing as people hear about Jesus and choose to follow him,” Naylor said. 

Naylor returned to Texas in 2002, where she taught at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas until retiring in 2010. The following year, she led the founding of Mercy Clinic in south Fort Worth, which treats the underserved and uninsured. Today, Naylor serves as the global health care consultant for Baptist Global Response and continues to travel to India, where she remains involved in the ministry there.  

Click here to read a Q&A interview with Dr. Naylor and IMB writer Eliza Thomas.

Citywide worship gathering to conclude annual meeting in Austin

AUSTIN This year’s Southern Baptists of Texas Convention annual meeting in Austin will conclude Tuesday night, Nov. 15, with a citywide prayer and worship gathering designed to refresh and renew church leaders and members. 

The free event, starting at 6:40 p.m. at Great Hills Baptist Church, will feature a prayer emphasis, musical worship led by Christian recording artist Jeremy Camp and a message by Gregg Matte, pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church. 

SBTC President Nathan Lino said the event is open to all Austin-area evangelical churches and “has the potential to draw many believers from all over the city for encouragement in kingdom work.”

“We want the kingdom of light to be greater and the kingdom of darkness smaller as a result of the SBTC annual meeting coming to town,” Lino said.

The prayer emphasis will be led by Kie Bowman, pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, and the Austin Prayer Network. Jeremy Camp will perform a free concert following the evening session.


Two panel discussions during the annual meeting, Nov. 14-15, will address the challenges of pastoral ministry and growing concerns surrounding religious liberty in America.

On Monday, following the evening session, a late night panel discussion moderated by FBC Georgetown pastor Kevin Ueckert will focus on “Real Talk: The Struggle to Stay Encouraged in Life and Ministry.”

Panelists will include pastors David Fleming of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, Matt Carter of The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, and John Powell of Northeast Houston Baptist Church in Humble.

During the Tuesday morning session, there will be a special panel on religious liberty with pastors and denominational leaders discussing ways individuals and churches can engage the culture on this vital issue. Phillip Bethancourt, executive vice president for the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, will moderate the panel. Joining him will be Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary; Erik Stanley, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom; and Kie Bowman, pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin.

For more information on the 2016 SBTC Bible Conference and Annual Meeting, visit  

Houston Apologetics Day equips Christians to defend their faith

HOUSTON What would inspire 400 people to ignore the first flush of fall weather and high-stakes football games to spend a Saturday holed up in a church auditorium listening to a series of speakers address a subject they already understand and believe—Jesus lived, died, and rose again according to the Scriptures? But, as participants in the Houston Apologetics Day admitted, believing the gospel does not make communicating that truth to a skeptical culture easy.

Houston Baptist University’s (HBU) inaugural Houston Apologetics Day drew a racially and generationally diverse crowd to Champion Forest Baptist Church Oct. 8. The day-long lecture series featured Christian apologists from the university and church in a first-time partnership for the event. Participants, ranging in age from intermediate school students to retirees, said the conference encouraged them to study more and fear less.

“Partnering with Champion Forest was a great experience, and we are always on the lookout for ways to serve the local church,” said Jeffrey Green, HBU graduate school dean. “We’ll see what next year brings; I’m certainly encouraged by the success this year.”

Sponsored by the HBU School of Christian Thought, the conference featured the school’s internationally renowned Christian apologists offering critical perspective and evidence on a variety of issues. Sessions included “Conversational Apologetics” by Mary Jo Sharp, assistant professor of apologetics; “Unanswered: Lasting Truth for Trending Questions” by Jeremiah Johnston, associate professor of early Christianity; “The Reliability of the New Testament” by Craig Evans, professor of Christian origins; and “The Resurrection of Christ” by William Lane Craig, research professor of philosophy.

Representing the host church on the speakers’ list were Champion Forest pastor David Fleming and Sunday School teacher and Houston attorney Mark Lanier. Fleming’s session answered the question, “Who is Jesus?” while Lanier’s answered, “What really happened at Jericho?”

Champion Forest member James Price, 56, couldn’t wait to get to the Houston conference. When he began sharing his faith with a Muslim friend 15 years ago, he felt ill-equipped for the task. But after years of faithful testimony, Price said he had the honor and privilege recently of seeing his friend and the man’s son trust Christ and get baptized.

“So when that started [15 years ago], I knew I needed to work on it,” Price said. “I wanted to become better at presenting the gospel to whoever I meet.”

Mike Woltemath, 63, agreed. And both men said they must be more intentional about sharing their faith and working through the “fear of telling others.”

Price and Woltemath noted Sharp’s admonition for Christians to know why they believe and how to carefully listen, question and respond to skeptics or people of other faiths. That, Price said, will help him be more deliberate and skillful in his conversations.

Mature Christians were not the only ones paying attention to how a conversation should be tempered.

Jalen Ontoy, 15, a sophomore at Westside Baptist Academy, said he sometimes snaps at people who disagree with him. Sharp’s lesson reminded him the method of conversation is just as critical as the content. He wants to take what he learned back to his peers, too many of whom are quick to believe and repeat popular memes without assessing their truth claims.

“Kids today lack critical thinking skills,” said Jez Ontoy, Jalen’s father. “Truth claims can be tested.”

Jalen said many teens are afraid of what people will think of them so they don’t push back against challenges to the gospel. But learning how to test arguments against the veracity of the Old and New Testaments and the reality of the historical Jesus and his resurrection will help Jalen and his peers stay engaged when confronted with alternative truth claims. 

Even educators well-versed in apologetics gleaned new insight at the conference.

“It’s always good to hear these guys,” said Brad Finkbeiner, who teaches apologetics to high school seniors at Providence Classical School. Finkbeiner brought his eighth-grade son, Bradley, specifically to hear Craig’s presentation.

The senior Finkbeiner said he’ll reiterate to his students Lanier’s message emphasizing the importance of primary over secondary sources when seeking reliable evidence to undergird any argument.

But it was Evan’s presentation on the reliability of the New Testament that especially got the attention of Finkbeiner and fellow educator Sean Diskard, who teaches biblical hermeneutics at Providence.

Diskard’s course includes a primer on the reliability of the modern Bible, demonstrating how the original texts, or autographs, were transmitted from the first century writers to contemporary readers.

Evans, HBU dean of the School of Christian Thought, said archeological evidence combined with extant second- through fourth-century manuscripts provide strong evidence that the original New Testament writings remained in circulation or careful preservation for more than 200 years.

With that new information about the reliable transmission of the original scriptures Diskard said he owes his students an apology.

“I need to go back and tell them I was wrong. It’s even more reliable!” he said.