Month: November 2016

Interim pastors ministry connects retired American pastors with British churches


At 77 years old, Jim Booth may be retired from the full-time pastorate, but he’s not retired from ministry. And he’s certainly not retired from the pulpit. 

In March, Booth returned to the United States following a six-month voluntary assignment in the United Kingdom, where he served as interim pastor of Stow-on-the-Wold Baptist Church, a small congregation in a historic village about 90 miles west-northwest of London. He is among 36 Americans who have served in the U.K. as part of a partnership between American Interim Pastors Ministries, Inc., and the Baptist Union of Great Britain that assists British Baptist churches that need help and often cannot afford a full-time pastor.  

“I am in excellent health, and I wanted to do something for the Lord,” Booth told the TEXAN. “I don’t want to sit around and do nothing for the Lord because the Lord has done so much for me.”

Booth served as minister of a church in Galveston for more than 30 years, and upon retirement in 2014 he moved his membership to Sagemont Church in Houston. When he was asked if he would be interested in assisting a church in the United Kingdom for six months, Booth didn’t hesitate, for several reasons. The idea of living and preaching in such an historic setting was attractive. 

“I’m a student of history, and if you look at history, they have produced some of the greatest theological minds in the last 300 years,” Booth said. “One of my ancestors came over here in 1695 from England. He indentured himself for five years. I trace my roots back that far.”

Booth also “wanted to see what the people were like and how they lived over there” and to preach the gospel in an area of the world that direly needs it. His church, Stow-on-the-Wold, had about 25 people in a building that seats 200. 

“I went over there with the idea of getting the church built up, and of course, that’s what we want to do. But what I realized when I got there is that the people themselves at the church I was at—and this is the case at many of the churches—need to be fed and re-educated with the Scripture,” Booth said. “They were there because they love the Lord and they want to follow him, but they didn’t necessarily know how to follow him. So I just began to teach and preach the Word of God. I think it was very fruitful, and I saw some changes in their lives.”

Under the partnership, Booth and other ministers and lay people who serve in the U.K. receive, for free, an airplane ticket, housing and car. They do not receive a salary and are responsible for their food. 

He labeled the experience “life-changing.” The church itself was built in the 1660s—less than a decade after Oliver Cromwell died and more than 40 years before George Whitefield and John and Charles Wesley even were born. The village of Stow-on-the-Wold was the site of several battles during the English Civil War.  

The British people, he said, are “very kind.”

“I was over there for six months, and never once did anyone speak unkindly to me,” he said. 

But despite the country’s rich Christian heritage, most people know very little about the gospel, Booth said.

“The thing that struck me was the indifference of the people of England toward the Bible and God and the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. “It seems to me that the majority of the people in England are agnostic. As the saying goes, ‘There may be a God, but I don’t care if there is or not.’ In that sense, they need good preaching and the gospel.”

The good news, Booth said, is that the Christians in the U.K. “live in such a way that people would know they’re a child of God.”

Chuck McComb, who leads American Interim Pastors Ministries, said there are four specific qualities about American pastors and their wives that British churches enjoy: 1) Bible preaching, 2) boldness to invite people to church and other functions, 3) willingness to visit people in the home, and 4) hospitality. 

Booth called the U.K. a “semi-mission field.” 

“When it comes to missions and unreached people groups, I would put England near the top,” Booth said. “Many of them have never heard of Christ. So, yes, I would put England up there among the countries that need to be evangelized for the Lord Jesus. I have a great admiration for the people. They’re good people. If God wills it, I will go back again someday. They need the Word of God in a mighty, mighty way.” 

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Panhandle church feeds community via Love in Action ministry

PANHANDLE Teaching about the sheep and the goats, the Lord Jesus said to his disciples, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 37:40)

Today the “least of these” may mean single parents, seniors on fixed incomes, the unemployed, the disabled—the “widows and orphans” of the 21st century.

For the past 30 years, First Baptist Church of Panhandle, Texas, has been addressing the needs of the underserved in its community with its Love in Action ministry.

Love in Action started as a meal for senior adults served during the 1986 Lottie Moon week of prayer, said Josh Light, FBC Panhandle pastor. The elderly guests took home a sack of groceries. 

Over three decades, the ministry has grown and is overseen by an FBC Panhandle members Neil and Susan James. Some 20 volunteers pack donated groceries, distribute boxes and bags of food, and prepare a meal for clients and workers on the fourth Tuesday of each month.

“Currently, we provide food for 67 individuals and 28 households,” Neil James said. “Clients fill out applications. We partner with High Point Food Bank of Amarillo and get most of the food from them.”

“Non-perishable foods—cereal, fruit juice, pasta—come to us sealed from the food bank,” Susan James added. “We pack other items such as eggs, meat, produce, dried beans, peanut butter, jelly … like you went to the grocery store.”

A canned food drive held in December at local schools provides supplies for the year.

The monthly food giveaway comes with a meal prepared by volunteers. “We cook the meal with the same food we give out to the people,” Susan James said. 

“The pastor gives a devotional, too,” Neil James noted. 

For those physically unable to pick up their food, members of the ministry deliver to their homes. Even the choice of the last Tuesday of each month is deliberate. “At the end of the month people’s money is about to run out, [especially] the older people,” Susan James explained. “But our clientele has changed, evolved over the years. Now we serve every group of people.”

About half of the clients are seniors, Neil James said.

Involvement in Love in Action spans generations. Susan James’s mother, now 96, worked in the ministry in its earlier days. 

“Love in Action has been blessed with good volunteers, organizers, people qualified to work with our clients,” Susan James said. “If we didn’t have lots of helpers, there’s no way to do what we do. It is a valuable thing for Panhandle. People are hungry.”

2016 Annual Meeting Stories

Prayer rally, emphasis on Holy Spirit highlight 2016 SBTC annual meeting in Austin


Resolutions address racial reconciliation, civil discourse, human dignity issues


Six-part sermon series through Romans 8 highlights role of Holy Spirit


Holy Spirit rewires heart of believer, Lino says


Irrevocable love of God gives Christians victory and intimacy, Matte says


‘You are not alone’: Panel discusses reality of discouragement in ministry


President’s Lunch addresses common issues for pastors and wives


Multiplication and reconciliation topics of Advance Now panel


Election Aftermath: Pastors discuss how churches should move forward


Panel on religious liberty focuses on opportunities to advance gospel


Holy Spirit must not be neglected, Bible Conference speakers say


Ministry Café panel fields questions on ministry


Empowerment of Holy Spirit facilitates Christian witness

Panel on religious liberty focuses on opportunities to advance gospel

AUSTIN  The recent political season left many Christians and Americans of various faith backgrounds questioning the nation’s future on issues of religious liberty, making a panel on the subject at the SBTC Annual Meeting in Austin, Nov. 14, especially relevant.

Among the panelists was Erik Stanley, an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom. Stanley was among council that defended a group of Houston pastors whose sermons were subpoenaed in 2014 following their opposition to a city ordinance allowing people of the opposite sex to use each other’s restrooms.

The case, which garnered national attention, reflected how many government officials at the local, state and federal levels view religious freedom, Stanley said.

“(They) seem to have this idea that religious liberty is just not that important today,” he said.

“Things like what happened in Houston alerted people,” said panelist Kie Bowman, pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin. “When it starts getting that close to home, it moves from political theory to this is where we live.”

But despite these apparent threats to religious liberty, Stanley said churches have great opportunities to advance the spread of the gospel, but Christians cannot back down in such matters.

“Now is not the time to let up. We have to continue to speak about the importance of religious liberty today,” Stanley said. “We are locked in a great battle right now over how religious freedom is going to be handled in this country. Is there going to be room for people of faith to exercise their right to live their faith and to share their faith freely, or is that going to be silenced and squelched?”

Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary in California, said his state is on the “leading edge of what’s happening in our country, in terms of opposing religious conviction,” but he encouraged Christians to resist a response to panic and antagonism as such cases move across the country.

“What I would challenge you to do is to move beyond that fairly quickly and recognize the incredible opportunities for ministry that are presented to you. We still have the same gospel and the same responsibility to make disciples,” he said.

Iorg also urged pastors and leaders in Christian higher education to train up young people to fight on the front lines of religious freedom battles.

“We need people that are in business and finance and law and politics that represent who we are and bring those values to the table in those settings.”

Christmas, at Last

My colleague, Keith Collier, is a proud “Post-Turk” theologian—no Christmas music or decoration until after Thanksgiving turkey. I cheated on that this year as I listened to music in preparation for our church’s early December Christmas program. I must say that a pretty steady diet of “Joy to the World,” “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen,” “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” and “O’ Come Immanuel” did wonders to my late October and early November attitude. I needed that after a tough 2016. Maybe you need that also this year. This being our December issue of the TEXAN, you are entitled by even Keith’s standards to let the best songs in Christian hymnody minister to your heart. 

It seems right that after a year of alarms, upsets and even disagreements within the body, that we would have a season of peace. Isn’t that a small version of the historical context for the first Christmas? 

If you’ve said “how long, Lord?” this year, imagine Israel in 6 B.C. God’s people were led by religious leaders who’d grown cold and legalistic. The king, a vassal of Rome, taxed the people heavily, offended the religious of all parties, and murdered his wife and her mother and two of his sons in his mad paranoia. The nation was in fact occupied by one of the most brutal empires in history. The differences between the rich and the poor were vast, and starvation was a real possibility for those who fell ill or were orphaned. Thus, we read of the joy of the shepherds and the gratitude of Anna and Simeon, who counted it an unspeakable honor to merely see the beginning of the Redeemer’s human life. I don’t know that we can imagine it, but perhaps if we visited a poor and brutal third-world dictatorship we would get a picture of it. And these were God’s people, and Jerusalem was his city. The Lord had not spoken to Israel in 400 years, a span nearly as long as the entire period of the Judges, during which he provided 16 deliverers for the nation. Israel faced the invasion of the Greek Empire, the fragmentation of that empire, a successful rebellion against the Greeks, a period of independent monarchy and the conquest of the land by Rome—all without a prophet or a word from the Lord. 

Our nation has had a troubling year. 2016 was a year in which the two major political parties fielded more than 20 candidates and then selected two that many people found unacceptable. We’ve seen devastating tragedies in cities across the nation and the re-opening of racial tensions that many hoped we were moving past. The death of Antonin Scalia last spring caused anxiety across the board as the court considered culture-altering issues. And then came Election Day. Nearly everyone was surprised and many were outraged and disappointed that 60 million of their neighbors, and fellow church members, voted for a man they found so offensive—they made him president.

I think even this horrible, terrible, no-good year looks bearable compared to the epoch into which Jesus was born. But it’s fine to desire a respite. I desire a season of peace, of healing. As we consider the Romans 5:20 nature of God’s redeeming grace (“where sin increased, grace abounded all the more”) celebrated at Christmas, we are reminded to lift our eyes from our mobile devices, away from outrageous headlines … up from outrage itself, to that holy night of peace and promise. 

Whether accurate or not, I’ll always think of that first Christmas as a cold and clear night—a night when the stars shone brightly and the world was quiet. That’s what peace looks like to me sometimes. Of course many significant things happened during that quiet night when “How long, O’ Lord?” became “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” This year, that story seems to be written small during these 12 challenging months.  

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe portrays the fallen world as a place where it is “always winter but never Christmas.” When the Savior, a great lion in that story, begins to move across the land, things begin to sprout and ice begins to melt—the promise of justice restored and life renewed. For us that promise was just as certain in June as it is in December, but the Christmas season is uniquely focused on redemption and hope. I look forward to it especially this year. 

I wish you joy as you celebrate the Savior this year. May he fortify us with faith that he is strong each day in the lives of those who trust him, regardless of what alarms arise in the coming months.  

Election Aftermath: Pastors discuss how churches should move forward

AUSTIN—Several pastors and public policy experts evaluated the outcomes of the November election and considered the response churches and Christians should have in the midst of a polarized and sometimes hostile American society, during the 9Marks at 9 panel discussion Nov. 15. Moderated by Juan Sanchez, pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, the event took place in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention at Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin.

Sanchez opened the dialogue by asking panelists what they learned or what surprised them over the past year’s election cycle.

“Evangelicals, and Southern Baptists in particular, have been doing a better job building bridges to our our non-Anglo brothers and sisters. We’ve been making steps, but we still have a long way to go,” Ben Wright, pastor of Cedar Pointe Baptist Church in Cedar Park, responded.

“We [also] have a long way to go in reaching out to Anglos who are not on the same socio-economic rung of the ladder that a lot of us are on. There’s another set of bridges and people who we don’t understand and have not reached out to well.”

SBTC President Nathan Lino, pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church, said the election cycle was new territory for Christians, which forced individuals and churches to navigate uncharted waters.

“It was confusing, and it was hard, and we were all trying to figure it out, all seeking the leadership of the Spirit as best as we knew how,” Lino said. “We can all look back on it and see things we’re really proud of, and we can all look back on it and see things we could have done differently.

“We’re still learning what it means to live as exiles in a foreign land. We’re not as advanced in that area as we think we are, and I think the Lord gives us great grace, I think we should give each other great grace.”

Paul Miller, associate director of The Clements Center for National Security at University of Texas and an elder at City Life Church in Austin, noted that the “culture of a free and open society is a bit more fragile than I thought it was. Now, I’m wondering what we can do as Christians to love our neighbors by upholding that culture of a free and open society.

“The second take away,” he said, “is that by the numbers, by the voting patterns, it seems very evident that white Christians have one set of political concerns and non-white Christians, by and large, have a different set. That difference is real, and it has been the occasion for some hurt and some disagreement.”

Phillip Bethancourt, executive vice president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, likened the election season to “a magnifying glass on our own hearts, nation and churches in such a way that it didn’t create new challenges that weren’t already there, it brought those things into greater clarity and often times with greater tension, angst and social media drama.

“In one sense, that’s really discouraging when you see the blemishes and the points of frustration; but on the other hand that’s good news for us because it gives us a better sense of our mission field and our churches and exposes some things on our own hearts that once we get back to some of the normalcy of a non-election season can enable us to advance the gospel in our communities and in our own families in a way that is pleasing to the Lord.”

The panel discussed how President-elect Donald Trump’s victory has affected cultural trends, including a breakdown in civil discourse and empathy for others, and the effect the presidential transition will have on domestic and foreign policies.

Using Scripture’s description of Christians as citizens of the kingdom of God, with churches serving as embassies in a foreign land, panelists examined how Christians should live out this reality in their public and private lives. They also encouraged pastors to teach their congregations to see themselves in this light.

In their concluding remarks, panelists offered helpful resources and issued a few cautions. Wright, for example, said Christians must view religious liberty as a gift to be exercised but never at the expense of gospel truths.

Miller said calls for church unity are important and necessary, but he also cautioned against “pursuing a cheap and shallow version of church unity” that is nothing more than “the unity of a shared consumer experience.” Rather, unity should be based on “our walk with the Lord and what we believe,” which should allow for church members to discuss their differences clearly and honestly.

Lino, who grew up in South Africa and watched serious religious persecution and police brutality against his family as a result of his father’s preaching against Apartheid, said, “I think American Christians are really weak, fearful and insipid. We’re weak, and we need to grow up. We have it good. This is a great country; it’s so free, so safe. It’s not perfect, but it’s an amazing country.

Lino painted the picture of religious persecution overseas, where Christians must smuggle Bibles and meet in darkness to avoid being killed for their faith. If American Christians experienced that, they would “see what real fear actually feels like, see what harshness actually tastes like,” he said.

“We have it so good, and we whine and complain, and we’re weak. The Lord said it would be this way. What we’re headed to as a country, that’s what the Lord said we’d be in for. What we’ve been experiencing these last 200 years was the exception, not the rule. What’s coming is the rule, and we’re not ready for it.

“We’re weak and overly sensitive and so easily offended. It’s not perfect; things are bad. There are heinous things going on [in the United States]; there are grossly immoral things going on. I’m not saying it’s excusable, but Jesus said it would be this way and way worse.”

Prayer rally, emphasis on Holy Spirit highlight 2016 SBTC annual meeting in Austin

AUSTIN—A three-day emphasis on the Holy Spirit concluded with a worship service that included a citywide prayer rally, music led by Christian recording artist Jeremy Camp and the final sermon of a six-part series through Romans 8 during the 2016 Bible Conference & Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, Nov. 13-15. The meeting, with the theme of “The Holy Spirit,” was hosted by Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin.

An inter-denominational group of pastors from local churches in Austin led convention messengers and guests in focused times of prayer during the service. Prayers focused on repentance, pleas for revival and spiritual awakening, government leaders and healthy churches.

Throughout the course of the annual meeting, six different speakers preached expositional sermons sequentially through Romans 8, emphasizing the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. In the final session, Houston’s First Baptist Church pastor Gregg Matte served as the anchor leg as he preached from verses 31-39 to describe how victory over death gives way to intimacy with God. [Read full story of the sermon series through Romans 8 here.]

In addition to the sermons, convention messengers approved resolutions, offered motions, re-elected officers and approved the 2017 convention budget.


Messengers passed seven resolutions during the meeting. Resolutions addressed racial reconciliation, prayer for government leaders and civil discourse, religious liberty, orphan care, meeting needs of those with disabilities, emphasis on prayer and evangelism, and appreciation to Great Hills Baptist Church for hosting the meeting.

[Read the expanded story on resolutions and full text of the resolutions here.]


James Jordan, a messenger from Northeast Houston Baptist Church, presented a motion, asking the convention to “explore the process and changes which would need to occur in our structures and bylaws in order to permit the use of video venue locations for our annual meeting to include full participation from remote locations around the state, including motions, resolutions, voting and every other aspect of the SBTC annual meeting.” The Committee on Order of Business’ referred the motion to the convention’s executive board.

Election of Officers

All three officers were up for re-election and ran unopposed. Nathan Lino, pastor of Northeast Baptist Church in Humble was elected convention president. Dante Wright, pastor of Sweet Home Baptist Church in Round Rock, was elected vice president. Juan Sanchez, pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, was elected recording secretary.


Messengers approved a 2017 budget of $28,159,810, which represents a 1.5 percent increase from 2016. This budget is funded by $27,807,810 in Cooperative Program gifts and $352,000 from partnerships with the North American Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources.

The convention continues to send 55 percent of its budget for SBC Cooperative Program ministries—the highest percentage of any Baptist state convention—while designating 45 percent for Cooperative Program ministries in Texas.


Final attendance numbers included 823 registered messengers and 386 registered guests for a total of 1,209 registered in attendance.

2017 Meeting

The 2017 SBTC Annual Meeting will be held Nov. 12-14 at Criswell College in Dallas. Messengers at this year’s meeting approved Steven Smith, vice president and preaching professor at Southwestern Seminary, to deliver the convention sermon, with JR Vassar, pastor of Church at the Cross in Grapevine, as the alternate.

President”s Lunch addresses common issues for pastors and wives

AUSTIN—While preparing for the SBTC Annual Meeting, convention president Nathan Lino felt two burdens from the Lord, he said.

“One was for us to focus on the theme of the Holy Spirit, and secondly was for us to focus specifically on encouragement and the ministry of encouragement.”

The latter was the focus of the president’s luncheon Nov. 15 at the meeting, which included five encouraging talks for ordinary pastors and their wives by addressing common issues.

With more than two decades in ministry under his belt Matt Carter, pastor of The Austin Stone Community Church, opened the segment with a sobering statement for fellow ministers.

“I think discouragement is as inevitable as death. It’s as inevitable as taxes. It’s not a question of if you’re going to be discouraged in your ministry, but it’s really a matter of when it’s going to happen,” he said.

But he also offered hope for those, who like himself, are currently walking through such a season.

“I am in very good company, and that is namely Jesus Christ. … Jesus was able to endure discouragement in ministry because there was a joy that was set before him. That’s what we’re called to do. We can endure because of the joy that was set before us,” Carter said.

Josh Smith, pastor of MacArthur Blvd Baptist Church, Irving, cautioned pastors to remember the importance of taking care of their own souls.

“Pastors don’t fall. Pastors drift,” Smith said. “If we’re not careful, we find ourselves farther than we ever thought we could be.”

To combat the slow drift away from walking in the Spirit, Smith encouraged pastors to reach out to each other and to stay connected.

“We need each other. The only way we’re not going to be another one of the guys who fell and slowly drifted away is if we’ve got each other and we’re finding ways to get involved in each other’s lives,” he said.

Lino’s wife Nicole offered a personal perspective for pastors’ wives struggling with often-unseen discouragement.

“We all know this woman. She sits on the second row with a smile. … She really loves the Lord, and she wants to serve him with all of her heart; but what we don’t see is that you’re crying yourself to sleep at night, and you’re wondering if this is really what God called you to.”

Like Smith, she urged wives of pastors to seek relationships with each other and also to stay rooted in Scripture instead of believing the lies of the world.

“We are bombarded with voices from our culture about what our life has to look like and what role we have to play. … Allow his Word to cleanse you, and let that voice speak into your life,” she said.

For pastors struggling with resentment of other pastors, Kevin Ueckert, pastor of First Baptist Church in Georgetown, offered a reminder from Scripture. The book of Acts gives an account of Jesus’ disciples searching for a candidate to fill the vacant position of the 12th disciple. The 11 cast lots to choose between two candidates—Matthias and Barsabbas—and they selected Matthias.

“What in the world would it have felt like in that moment to be Barsabbas?” Ueckert asked.

“Barsabbas was nominated as an apostle, a disciple, because of who he was. He was a follower of Jesus Christ, and that ought to tell us what he did when he wasn’t chosen. He kept following Jesus Christ, no matter what.”

Closing out the luncheon, Chris Osborne, pastor of Central Baptist Church in College Station, gave a charge for pastors to prepare now for the finish line by guarding their lives and not merely coasting.

“I have a heartbeat that I have the same passion and drive in my last sermon at Central that I did the first day,” he said.

Six-part sermon series through Romans 8 highlights role of Holy Spirit

AUSTIN—Working sequentially through Romans 8, a series of six speakers emphasized the role of the Holy Spirit over the course of the Southern Baptists of Texas Annual Meeting in Austin, Nov. 14-15. Steven Smith, preaching professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, led off with the first eight verses, citing earlier chapters to reveal God’s response to man’s inability to escape God’s judgment.

“Based on the fact that we’re justified and are being sanctified, we do not have to fear for our future what Christ has taken care of in his past,” Smith shared, describing a “no condemnation” status for the believer.

From verse two, Smith focused on the Holy Spirit’s role in accomplishing the promise of verse one, stating, “Not only has he set you free from the ultimate penalty of sin, he also set you free from the immediate power of sin.”

He offered praise in knowing “that even my worst day for Jesus has been covered by his best day for me.”

SBTC President Nathan Lino, pastor of Northeast Baptist Church, spoke from verses 9-11 to describe the radical transition for Christians from life in the flesh to life in the Spirit. “The old person that used to live inside your body was God’s enemy, but the new person living inside your body is God’s son or daughter, heir to the divine fortune.”

Describing the Holy Spirit’s role in rewiring the heart of a believer, Lino said, “When you believed in Jesus with the kind of belief that saves you, God took you out of the kingdom of man and put you into the habitat of the kingdom of God.” [Read expanded story on Lino’s sermon]

In the next message, Chris Osborne, pastor of Central Baptist Church in College Station, spoke from verses 12-17 of the obligation to live according to the Spirit, challenging believers to begin each day committed to that choice.

“Here’s what most of us will do,” Osborne warned. “We make the consequences the purpose. We will go home and say, ‘Okay, God, I want you to fill me with the Spirit, here’s what I’m going to do,’“ describing efforts to pray more, read the Bible longer, go to church more often and avoiding secular influences.

“Those are things that happen when you are filled with the Spirit,” he said. “There are only two ways to pray. I pray my will, or I pray his will,” Osborne said, explaining that spiritual disciplines naturally grow out of that commitment.

“When you possess the Holy Spirit, trials will only deepen you,” Osborne declared, adding that with the promise of suffering comes the opportunity to glorify God.

SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards spoke from verses 18-27 of “three groans that end in glory, stating, “We’re going from that heaviness of spirit to the heights of the presence of the Lord Jesus.”

He described creation’s groan for release from the curse of sin, explaining, “A new heaven and a new earth and the created order will no longer be under the shackles of this curse that it is living under today.”

As believers groan for the resurrection body, Richards said, “The Holy Spirit living inside of us points us to the day of the completion of our salvation.”

As the Holy Spirit “groans for the righteousness of the saints,” Richards said God doesn’t always deliver believers from trials but “delivers us through them with the Holy Spirit’s presence.”

Grateful for the Spirit’s help, he added, “Your most eloquent prayer may be a groan in your soul, and he is the one who sighs with us in his inaudible offerings before the Father on our behalf.

SBTC Vice President Dante Wright, who pastors Sweet Home Baptist Church in Round Rock, spoke on verses 28-30 of how God’s work can be seen in his certainty, activity and purpose for the believer’s life.

“God’s sovereignty provides certainty for the believer,” Wright said. “Paul does not give us some polysyllabic language about what God is. Paul says without a shadow of a doubt, ‘And we know.’”

Describing God’s sovereign hand producing activity in the life of the believer, Wright said, “He’s working as a conductor of an orchestra,” with believers serving as “participants in a wonderful melody.”

Houston’s First Baptist Church pastor Gregg Matte served as the anchor leg as he preached from verses 31-39 to describe how victory over death gives way to intimacy with God. [Read expanded story on Matte’s sermon]

“If Jesus Christ didn’t give you or me one other thing in our lives, he’s already given us too much,” he said. “Therefore, I walk in gratitude with God, not with arrogance, but submission and say, ‘I give you my life.’”

Matte said the intimacy of God’s love is revealed as Paul states that nothing can separate a believer from God’s love, calling the closing verses “the home run over the fence.”

Using the account of the prodigal son as an illustration of God’s irrevocable love, Matte said, “God has given us victory in the cross and that victory is to bring intimacy so that you and I, the elder brother or the prodigal, can come into the embrace of the father and realize on bended knee that we can put our head against the breast of the father and hear God’s heartbeat for our lives and for the world.”

Multiplication and reconciliation topics of Advance Now panel

AUSTIN—In keeping with the theme of the Holy Spirit at the SBTC Annual Meeting, a panel discussion sponsored by the SBTC missions department focused on the role of the Spirit in the work of growing the church and in creating an ethically diverse body.

“The Holy Spirit is playing a special function in this particular period of time, where he’s drawing people to Christ, and he’s empowering those who come to Christ to carry out his mission in the world,” said panelist Tim Hawks, pastor of Hill Country Bible Church in Austin.

As church leaders and church planters are seeking and being empowered by the Holy Spirit, the natural result should be growth, said Bob Roberts, pastor of Northwood Church in Keller.

“Church multiplication should be the most natural thing for a living church,” Roberts told the crowd at the Advance Now dinner. “Healthy things reproduce, and healthy things multiply.”

To pastors attending the panel discussion, Roberts said, “It has to start with you.”

Though many churches today define successful multiplication in terms of size and numbers, Von Minor, pastor of Restoration Community Church in Dallas, reminded leaders that it is the Holy Spirit who will add the increase, and the role of church planters and pastors is to be faithful.

“There seems to be this thirst to compare yourself to what’s happening at this church or that church, but I’m learning from my mentors to just do what God’s calling me to do and the rest will work out in his perfect will,” Minor said.

As conversations about racial reconciliation sweep across the nation, the panelists agreed that churches need to be examples in their communities of unity by reflecting the diversity around them.

“God is doing a work of exalting his son, drawing a multi-ethnic people to himself through the gospel preaching, the Spirit attending that,” said Juan Sanchez, pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin.

“What we need to understand is that the triune God is building together this multiethnic assembly, so our role is to preach this Christ and the Spirit’s role is to draw this multi-ethnic assembly.”