Month: May 2017

Committee on Resolutions named for 2017 SBC

PHOENIX Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines has named the members of the Committee on Resolutions for the June 13-14 SBC annual meeting in Phoenix.

Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church, appointed the committee in keeping with the provision in SBC Bylaw 20 that its members be named 75 days prior to the start of the annual meeting.

Gaines named Barrett Duke of Montana as committee chairman. Duke is the newly elected executive director of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention and a member of Weems Creek Baptist Church in Annapolis, Md.

The other committee members are Ken Alford of Valdosta, Ga.; Felix Cabrera of Oklahoma City; Linda Cooper of Bowling Green, Ky.; Jason Duesing of Kansas City; David Leavell of Millington, Tenn.; Matthew McKellar of Dallas; Jeffrey Riley of New Orleans; Rolland Slade of El Cajon, Calif.; and James Smith of Fredericksburg, Va.

The committee’s composition, according to Bylaw 20, must include at least two members who served the previous year, with Cooper, Duesing, Slade and Smith meeting this requirement. Bylaw 20 also stipulates that the committee include at least three SBC Executive Committee members. This year they are Alford, Cooper and Slade. The committee’s composition, according to Bylaw 20, must include at least two members who served the previous year, with Cooper, Duesing, Slade and Smith meeting this requirement. Bylaw 20 also stipulates that the committee include at least three SBC Executive Committee members. This year they are Alford, Cooper and Slade.

The procedure for submitting resolutions is as follows according to Bylaw 20:

  • Proposed resolutions may be submitted as early as April 15 but no later than 15 days prior to the SBC annual meeting, giving the Resolutions Committee a two-week period in which to consider submissions. The committee also may propose resolutions for consideration during its deliberations. Resolutions may not be submitted during the annual meeting.
  • Proposed resolutions must be accompanied by a letter from a church qualified to send a messenger to the SBC annual meeting certifying that the individual submitting the resolution is a member in good standing.
  • Proposed resolutions preferably should be submitted by email or mailed to the Committee on Resolutions in care of the SBC Executive Committee, 901 Commerce St., Nashville, TN 37203. The drafts must be typewritten, titled, dated and include complete contact information for the person and his or her church.
  • No person will be allowed to submit more than three resolutions per year.
  • If a properly submitted resolution is not forwarded by the Committee on Resolutions to the SBC annual meeting, a two-thirds vote of messengers would be required to bring the proposed resolution to the convention floor.  

Advisory council surveying young Baptist leaders

ATLANTA A newly appointed advisory council is drafting recommendations to foster vibrant participation within Southern Baptist life among young leaders including pastors, denominational servants and others.

The diverse 22-member Young Leaders Advisory Council, appointed by SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page, is conducting an online survey ( of young leaders to help accomplish its goal.

Ken Weathersby, SBC Executive Committee vice president for convention advancement, serves as EC liaison for the group, and is assisted by Ashley Clayton, SBC Executive Committee vice president for the Cooperative Program and stewardship development.

“The council is working to provide concrete ways for young leaders to actively be involved in the life of the convention,” Weathersby said. “We want to know what steps we need to take to make sure their voices are heard and that they are providing leadership in every aspect of the convention.”

Assimilating new pastors into SBC life, explaining the Cooperative Program, and explaining the structure and functionality of the SBC in relation to regional associations and state conventions were among the top concerns voiced at the advisory council’s winter meeting Jan. 19–20 in Atlanta. There, the council heard comments from Page, Weathersby, and Clayton, and conducted roundtable discussions.

Jordan Easley, pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn., chairs the council. The council hopes to complete its assignment this year and present a comprehensive report to Page.

Other council members are Daniel Akins, pastor of Taylor Road Baptist Church in Mobile, Ala.; Devon Bartholomew, member, Northside Baptist Church, Syracuse, N.Y.; Davin Benavidez, pastor, Cross Point Church, Bonaire, Ga.; Victor Chayasirisobhon, pastor, First Southern Baptist Church, Anaheim, Calif.; Donald Choi, homeschooling director, Antioch Baptist Church, Boston, Mass.; Joshua Clayton, member, Travis Avenue Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas; David Evans, evangelism strategist and interim leader of the Baptism Task Force of the Tennessee Baptist Convention; Barry Fields, pastor, Hawesville Baptist Church, Hawesville, Ky.; John Freeman, pastor, H2O University Church and City Church, Pittsburg, Pa.; Nick Floyd, campus pastor, Cross Church, Fayetteville, Ark.; Noe Garcia, pastor, North Phoenix Baptist Church, Phoenix; John Green, pastor, Schindler Drive Baptist Church, Middleburg, Fla.; Steven Harris, director of advocacy, Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; John Mark Harrison, pastor, Apex Baptist Church, Apex, N.C.; Andrew Hebert, pastor, Paramount Baptist Church, Amarillo, Texas; Jeremy Roberts, pastor, Church of the Highlands, Chattanooga, Tenn.; Adam Sewell, pastor, The Well Church, Pittsburg; Andrew Spradlin, executive pastor, Valley Baptist Church, Bakersfield, Calif.; Walter Strickland II, theology instructor, special advisor to the president for diversity, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C.; Jean Ward, pastor of East Atlanta Church in Atlanta; and Michael Wood, pastor of First Baptist Church in West Monroe, La. 

REVIEW: Is “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” OK for kids & teens?

Arthur grew up on the city streets in medieval England as the son of a prostitute, with little hope for the future.

Or so he thought.

Then one day the evil King Vortigern ordered the nation’s young men to line up and try to remove the mythical and supposedly magical Excalibur sword from a boulder, a seemingly impossible task since only a direct descendant of Vortigern’s brother, Uther, could do so.

One by one the region’s men fail to pull the sword from the stone, and one by one they are sent home. Arthur, though, is no ordinary subject of the king. When he touches the sword, its handle lights up, and when he grasps it with both hands, it begins to emit power. Soon, he is holding the sword over his head and his countrymen are left wondering: Who is this?    

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (PG-13) opens in theaters this weekend, giving us yet another film about the legendary king by spotlighting the one thing most people remember about the tale: Excalibur. The 2017 version stars Charlie Hunnam as Arthur and Jude Law as Vortigern, and is directed by Guy Ritchie, who is perhaps best known for his work on the film Sherlock Holmes (2009).

Historians still debate whether King Arthur ever even existed, and Hollywood’s infatuation with the legend is quite puzzling, since there are dozens of British kings throughout the centuries we know did exist and also have fascinating stories. (One example: King Alfred.) Of course, those other kings didn’t have a magical sword. And their kingship wasn’t stolen from them. And they weren’t friends with wizards and sorceresses—all of which is the case in the newest King Arthur.

Still, we have to ask: Is it family-friendly? Let’s take a look …

Warning: minor spoilers

The Good

Arthur is a fighter and rugged survivalist, but he nevertheless displays a great deal of humility throughout the film. “I’ve never had any power or any desire to achieve it,” he tells Vortigern. Later, when he sees his countrymen die in battle due to his possession of Excalibur, he tosses it into the ocean. This provides a stark contrast with Vortigern, who has killed many people to possess it. “When people fear you,” Vortigern says, it’s the “most intoxicating” feeling “a man can possess.” Arthur also protects the vulnerable, including a prostitute who is getting beaten.

The film carried a $175 million price tag, and it is evident on screen with backdrops and special effects that give it a genuine magical, Middle Age feel.  

The importance of family is upheld, first with Arthur when he has flashbacks to his parents and then later during a scene involving a little boy and one of Arthur’s companions.

The movie’s first 30 minutes were among the most confusing and dreadful half hours I’ve seen in a film, but it recovered quickly and sucked me into the plot.

The Bad

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword has no sexuality and only a handful of coarse words, but it earns its PG-13 rating with violent and disturbing content.

Twice, we see a man stab and kill a woman. We see a woman slapped (presumably a prostitute, who is dressed). We watch boys, teenagers and men involved in street fighting, and we see kids being bullied. There are multiple battle scenes with swords and arrows, although they remain largely bloodless compared to similar films. Finally, one scene includes a man cutting off another man’s ear and slitting his throat (which we don’t actually see). Throughout the two-hour film, we see hundreds of bodies.    

Disturbing scenes involve Arthur fighting a skull-faced (and scary-looking) creature and a sorceress character named The Mage, who is on Arthur’s side, going into a trance-like state so that she can magically turn animals into warriors. The most disturbing scenes revolve around Vortigern, who conducts human sacrifices and offers his victims to demon-like creatures that look a lot like giant eels with human faces. (Some of the eels are females who are essentially nude, although everything is covered.)

I counted seven coarse words: ba—rd (4), a– (2), f-word (1).

Spiritual Content

In the real world, there were plenty of Middle Ages battles that involved religion, including Christian armies battling Vikings, but God is nevertheless absent from King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. This is a magical fantasy world (even if “the devil” is briefly mentioned.)

The Worldview

Moviegoers who walk into this film expecting a semi-historical tale will be disappointed. From the get-go, it’s apparent that sorcerers and sorceresses rule this kingdom, particularly when animals do their bidding. (They even can magically grow into giant animals!) God is never mentioned. (Arthur is told at one point: “Like it or not, this is your lot.”)

Still, Scripture’s warning against being lured by the “desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes” (1 John 2:12)—in this case the power of Excalibur—is evident throughout the movie.

The Verdict: Family-Friendly?

This one is quite violent and disturbing. Leave the kids at home. (They’d also likely be bored.) But it’s OK for most teens.

Discussion Questions

1. Did you think Arthur was humble? Were there moments when he was not? What other positive traits did he exhibit?

2. Why was Vortigern willing to go to such great lengths to capture Excalibur? What can we learn about temptation and the desire for power from his story?  

3. Compare and contrast Excalibur and the ring in The Lord of the Rings

4. What does Scripture teach about magic? What are we to think about films that have good and bad magic? What can we learn from such movies?

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some suggestive content and brief strong language.

Entertainment rating: 2 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Invest & Invite

Our heavenly Father glorifies himself by taking rebellious sinners and transforming them into spirit and truth worshipers (John 4:23-24), those who worship him based on the truth of who Jesus is. It is our joy and privilege, as Christians, to join the Father in the gathering of these genuine worshipers into the body of Christ. We must, therefore, take the gospel of Christ to unbelieving and unchurched family members, neighbors, co-workers, friends. 

But let me remind you of a simple, biblical pre-evangelism strategy that every church member should be participating in: “Invest & Invite.” Let’s do what no one else can do: invest YOUR time in YOUR unbelieving and unchurched family, friends, co-workers and neighbors; then invite them to come to church with YOU. Notice that I said pre-evangelism. Simply investing time with unbelievers is not evangelism. Simply inviting them to church is not evangelism. Evangelism is declaring God’s message about his Son—God created everything good; we rebelled against God; we deserve God’s justice/wrath, but instead, he sent his beloved Son, Jesus, to live the righteous life he expects of everyone and to receive the penalty of death on behalf of sinners; and all who respond in repentance and faith receive forgiveness of their sins, inherit the promises of eternal life, and become spirit and truth worshipers of God. This is good news, indeed!

I get it. Many of us struggle to share this good news with unbelievers. But if you’re a Christian, you should want to understand this gospel and work on knowing it in order to share it with those who do not know Christ. Pray that God may bring you opportunities to share this gospel. Sure, this is a big step for many Christians. So, let’s start with baby steps. First, get to know your unbelieving family, neighbors, friends and co-workers. Invest time in their lives. Second, invite them to go to church with you on a Sunday. A study of the formerly unchurched by Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, shows that those who were closest to the unchurched were the most likely to reach them with the gospel. Of all relationships, family relationships proved the most pivotal. Rainer found that “of the different family members, wives were the most often mentioned as important in influencing the formerly unchurched to Christ and the church” (Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, 49).

The same is true in other relationships. Christians who invest in the lives of unbelievers are in the best position to introduce their friends, neighbors and co-workers to Christ and the church. Many of the visitor cards we read each week at High Pointe in Austin are filled out by those who were invited to attend by a friend or family member. Invest in the lives of unbelieving and unchurched family members, neighbors, friends and co-workers. When you do, you will have opportunities to share Christ with them that others will likely never have.

But don’t be afraid to invite your unbelieving, unchurched family, friends, neighbors and co-workers to come to church with you. You don’t need any special evangelistic training to invite people to church. In the same way that Andrew followed Christ, then invited his brother Simon Peter to come, and in the same way that Philip followed Christ, then invited Nathanael to follow Christ (John 1:35-51), I want to encourage you to find those with whom you have relationships and invite them to come to church with you. Pastors, let’s be sure to pray, plan and prepare for worship gatherings that will honor God, exalt Christ and present the gospel. And let’s be sure to provide free gospel resources that our members can give to their unbelieving, unchurched guests. Together we can invest in the lives of unbelievers and invite them to come and see what God is doing at your church!  


Pray4Officials urges continued prayer for leaders at all levels

GRAPEVINE The Texas Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee has initiated a strategy to enlist churches and their members to pray for political leaders from the president to the local school board. The idea for Pray4Officials comes from 1 Timothy 2:1-2, which urges believers to pray for political leaders so that we might “lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way,” according to the introductory brochure. 

“The plan is to provide a sort of chaplaincy ministry for those God has placed in elected leadership over us,” said Gary Ledbetter, SBTC staff liaison to the TERLC. “The committee hopes that in some cases a church or individual can form a personal relationship with an elected official that God might use powerfully in his or her life.”   

The Pray4Officials packet consists of a brochure explaining the plan, a response card, a sample prayer list with contact information for some elected officials and a sample prayer card. 

Interested churches or individuals can request a Pray4Officials packet by calling Gayla Sullivan at 817.552.2500 or email her at Follow the Twitter handle @pray4officials, which will include suggested prayer requests as participants learn of specific needs in the lives of elected officials. All these pieces may also be downloaded at


Conference strengthens pastors, wives who feel more like Andrew than Peter

COLLEGE STATION—Acknowledging the elephant in the room, speakers at the Encourager Conference agreed that seasons of discouragement in the pastorate are not a matter of “if,” but “when.” Even so, pastors and their wives can weather storms of doubt, conflict, criticism, and loneliness and experience fruitful ministry that brings glory to God.

“Last year, five pastor couples of the same heart felt like the Lord called us to provide an opportunity for pastors and wives to come and receive deep spiritual encouragement and equipping,” Northeast Houston Baptist Church pastor and Southern Baptists of Texas Convention president Nathan Lino told a crowd of pastors and wives.

The five couples included Lino and his wife, Nicole; Chris Osborne, pastor of Central Baptist Church in College Station, and his wife, Peggy; Matt Carter, pastor of The Austin Stone Community Church, and his wife, Jennifer; Kevin Ueckert, pastor of First Baptist Church in Georgetown, and his wife, Lynlee; and Josh Smith, pastor of MacArthur Blvd Baptist Church in Irving, and his wife, Andrea. The conference was hosted by Central Baptist in College Station with support from SBTC.

Ueckert opened the conference with a message from Mark 3:13-19, when Jesus called 12 men to follow him and preach the gospel. Ueckert wondered aloud about the ministry trajectory of the Apostle Andrew, who was one of the first to follow Jesus and introduced his brother Peter to Jesus but always seemed to be “on the outside looking in.”

Jesus gave Peter a new name, but not Andrew. Peter and the other pair of brothers, James & John, were part of Jesus’ inner circle, but not Andrew. Peter, James and John went up with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, but not Andrew; he and the other disciples were left in the valley, where they failed to cast out a demon.

If any of the disciples had reason to be resentful or discouraged, it would have been Andrew, Ueckert said.

“I don’t know what Andrew felt like, but I can imagine what I would feel like,” Ueckert admitted. “I can imagine what I have felt like when someone else got the position that I wanted and thought I was supposed to get, when somebody else’s situation sounded far better than my own, … (times when) I felt like I was in the valley while they were on the Mount of Transfiguration.”

Experiences like this can cause a pastor and his wife to feel “less than ordinary,” Ueckert said, but he explained that the Bible never reveals how Andrew felt about his position among the 12. And in the end, it doesn’t matter, Ueckert said, because Andrew had that same invitation and commission as his brother Peter and the rest of the disciples.

“Andrew received the same invitation and the same commission, but Andrew’s experience was unique to him because Jesus wanted him to be with him and to preach about Jesus. There was nobody in all the world that could do what Andrew could do by being with Jesus and preaching the gospel for Jesus.

“The encouragement we need this weekend is found in Christ. We need to realign our hearts with the reality that God has called us to be with him, and by being with him, we then preach the gospel. That’s what matters; that’s what makes life worth living; that’s what gives us the ability to walk through every moment of discouragement. Jesus wants you to be with him and to preach the good news to the piece of the world in which he’s placed you.”

The two-day conference, April 21-22, featured times of worship and teaching from God’s Word as well as breakout sessions to address specific topics. Friday evening breakouts were led by the five couples and addressed common struggles such as jealousy, resentment, loneliness, extraordinary personal trials, and maximizing the final years of ministry. Saturday morning offered a pastor wives session with national speaker and writer Susie Hawkins, while specific pastor breakout sessions gave best practices on preaching, handling criticism and conflicts, managing workflow, casting vision, and leaving well.

Osborne concluded the conference with a charge from Jeremiah 15:15-21, which he said helped him through one of his most difficult seasons of ministry. God’s Word and his ministry call can sustain pastors even in the darkest times, he said.

“You have to come to a place where the only thing that matters is discipleship, not church growth,” Osborne said. “You can disciple anywhere you are; it doesn’t matter what your church size is.”

Osborne warned against living in fear of criticism as well as living to hear praise. He challenged pastors to simply walk with the Lord in humility and fulfill their ministry.

“Ministry is hard, but Jesus is not,” Osborne said. “You stay with him, you win. You step away from him, you lose.”


SBTC DR chaplains convey hope along path of East Texas tornadoes

CANTON—SBTC disaster relief teams converged upon East Texas May 1, bringing spiritual encouragement in addition to chainsaws and tarping equipment to assist victims of six tornadoes that devastated parts of Van Zandt, Henderson and Rains counties the previous weekend.

SBTC DR chaplains in East Texas saw six professions of faith and made dozens of spiritual contacts and presentations of the gospel in the early days of the deployment.

Chaplains John and BJ Fuller didn’t have to travel far to respond to the emergency. They have lived between Canton and Grand Saline since 1992 and attend Crossroads Church, the site of the SBTC DR command center. The tornadoes hit close to home, affecting neighbors and friends.

John and BJ invited the TEXAN to ride along Tuesday, May 2, as they assessed damage, filled out work orders and shared the hope of Christ.

The Fullers’ road to involvement in DR came through their work in prison ministry were they met Darryl Cason, then SBTC director of chaplains, who asked them to attend the first SBTC DR chaplain training, BJ said.

The couple’s early joint deployments ranged from work as shelter chaplains for evacuees from Hurricane Ike to work in Tuscaloosa, Ala., following tornadoes.

“We do everything together,” BJ said.

As John drove along Van Zandt County Road 2318, he stopped the truck at a manufactured home. The homeowner, Todd Gamel, waved from the backyard as his wife, Peggy, walked onto the front porch.

“You don’t have a tree on your house, you have a tree through your house,” John humorously told Peggy after an initial visual inspection.

Inside, the Fullers saw an enormous tree trunk jutting through a gaping hole in the roof. Stepping over shredded insulation, BJ assessed the damage as the two couples chatted. The Gamels said they attend a local cowboy church.

“God smiled on us,” Todd remarked, explaining they were not home during the twister. BJ and John prayed with the couple and continued along VZCR 2318.

The Fullers stopped at an address supplied by a woman who earlier visited the command center. Her extended family sat in the yard beside a gray brick house, its red shutters still affixed to walls askew like so many toppled children’s blocks. The roof was a matchstick jumble of cracked rafters and joists.

BJ filled out a work order and talked to the homeowner before both Fullers prayed with the family.

The Fullers were next directed down the street to the home of Vicky Germany. Here the damage was minimal, and BJ noted a small tarp job as a top priority, with rain in the forecast. Germany explained neighbors had already repaired fencing to contain her cattle, chickens, hogs and goats.

Germany’s relative, a woman whose mobile home down the street was destroyed, told her story. The woman’s three children, ages 6-13, were in the trailer only moments before the tornado struck. Germany, a vendor at First Monday Trade Days, said she was huddled in the fairground’s restroom when her grandson rushed to bring the children to her brick home. The tornado hit four minutes later.

“I texted my mom and grandma, ‘I love you. I’m gonna die,’” said 10-year-old Elizabeth Ball, admitting she was screaming too loudly to hear the tornado.

A final stop down a nearby county road occurred when BJ spied Margie, a middle-aged Hispanic woman in T-shirt and jeans working in the yard beside a modest home. A massive tree blocked the doorway.

As they stopped the truck, BJ explained to Margie that DR chainsaw crews could remove the tree at no charge and offered to create a work order.

Margie told the Fullers she has three children, all in college. She said she loves God and knows she can pray directly to him.

John presented the gospel: “Me, you, the preacher, the Pope, we’ve all sinned. And the wages of sin is death.” Margie agreed.

BJ asked to pray for Margie, closing with, “Father I pray blessings on this family, on this home. We might not see each other again on this earth, but one day we rejoice that we will be with you.”

The Fullers’ counterparts, veteran DR chaplain assessors Wayne and Ann Barber, drove out Wednesday morning in search of victims to assist.

“We go where the Holy Spirit leads,” Wayne said.

The Barbers stopped along Highway 64 at the home of a man who said he sometimes attended church. The man and his wife were home during the tornado, which carried off his carport.

“It happened so fast, I didn’t have time to think,” he said.

“Can I ask you something personal? If you lost your life in this tornado, where would you spend eternity?” Wayne asked. This question led to a gospel presentation, and the man prayed to receive Christ.

Another stop took the Barbers to a damaged house where the homeowner gave Wayne permission to give her granddaughter a Bible.

Along a private road, they struck up a 30-minute conversation with a homeowner, a veteran recovering from a motorcycle accident who received a Bible, prayer and encouragement as he shared his story, adding, “I need a little help for this hard time.”

“We’re out here because we love Jesus and Jesus loves us. He loves you,” Wayne told him.

DR teams and chaplains will be rotating in and out over the next couple of weeks and currently have more than 40 volunteers on site in the areas of recovery, chaplaincy, assessments, shower/laundry, communications, and an incident management team.

For more information on how to give or volunteer, visit

Is “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” OK for kids & teens?

Peter Quill always wanted to be like the other boys on Earth—playing ball with his father in the backyard while laughing and enjoying a normal life.

But space pirates abducted him as a young boy, and ever since, he’s wondered about his origins. He remembers his mother, but who was his father?

Other people seem to know.

One particular space alien—the queen of the “Sovereign race”—believes he has “unorthodox genealogy” and is likely a hybrid, meaning that his father may not have been human.   

Quill initially rejects her suggestions, yet when a man with superhero powers shows up claiming to be his dad, Quill begins wondering. Could this be his father, and if so, what are his motives?

It’s all part of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (PG-13), which opens this weekend and follows Quill and his four motley band of superhero friends as they defend the universe from the bad guys and Quill solves his ancestry puzzle. 

Chris Pratt stars as Quill; Zoe Saldana as Gamora, a green alien orphan; Dave Bautista as Drax, a Hulk-like warrior; Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket, a genetically engineered raccoon; and Vin Diesel as the voice of Baby Groot, a tree-like humanoid. Sylvester Stalone and Kurt Russell also play key roles.

The movie is being released three years after the first Guardians of the Galaxy gained a large following among kids and teens while grossing $333 million to finish the year No. 3 at the box office. This year’s film carries partnerships with Dairy Queen, Geico, Ford and Go-Gurt—virtually guaranteeing that kids will know plenty about the film without even seeing it.

I typically enjoy superhero movies, and I really wanted to enjoy Guardians of the Galaxy 2. But, for the most part, it’s marred by crude jokes, sexual innuendo, put-downs and tons of coarse language (Not to mention lots of violence and disturbing images). It’s as if the writer picked the 20 jokes that made him laugh in junior high—the ones he couldn’t tell at home—and built a movie around them. That’s sad. And it also displays a lack of creativity.

So, what age is appropriate for this one? Let’s examine it in more detail.

Warning: spoilers!

The Good

Despite the rough spots, the film has two strong familial storylines. First, Quill does find his father, who tells him, “I can finally be the father I’ve always wanted to be.” (We see them play ball, with a “glow light,” together.) There’s an even stronger parenting storyline with Quill in the final few scenes. The second family-centric storyline involves Gamora and her estranged sister, who initially hate one another but eventually put their differences aside. It’s a nice forgiveness angle.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is at its best when it’s not in the gutter. Baby Groot is hilarious, and Drax—if he’s not making sex jokes—is, too.

The Bad

It’s difficult to know where to start.

Bodily/sexual jokes—implicit and explicit—clutter the film. Drax jokes about his “nether regions.” Quill says he would have won a space battle if “what’s between my legs had a hand.” There are multiple jokes that include crude references to the male anatomy (see details below). There’s one lengthy exchange about “turds.” A character who can sense emotions says Quill has “romantic sexual love” for Gamora—and Drax laughs wildly. One character urinates loudly in the forest, and we’re (I guess) supposed to laugh. And that’s just a sample.

There’s also an alien space bar scene where we see robotic prostitutes (and a man buckling his belt, post-encounter). Some of the female aliens are scantily dressed.

I counted about 40 instances of coarse language: a– (10) d–n (9), he– (5), s–t (4), OMG (2), dou—bag (2), d–k (2), misuse of “God” (1), SOB (1), p-ss (1). “Turd” also is said three times, and “penis” twice.

Rocket calls Quill “orphan boy.”

The violence is heavy for a superhero film aimed at children and teens. We see the superheroes battle a giant octopus and cut it open, with green blood oozing out. Later, people get shot in the face with darts. Rocket electrocutes about 20 people. A guy gets shot in the back of the head and falls over, dead. A villain is shoved into space, and we watch him die. A magical dart sails through the chests of dozens of men, killing them. Additionally, there are lots of fisticuffs and laser gun battles.

There’s also a scene where Baby Groot is bullied, kicked and dowsed with alcohol. Sure, he’s a superhero, but he’s also a baby. It made me uncomfortable. 

Spiritual Content

Not surprisingly, this one doesn’t have any Christian content in the strict sense. Still, it does deal with otherworldly matters (see Worldview, below).

Worldview (major spoilers!)

The God of the Bible isn’t God in this fictional universe, but we do learn of other god-like beings. A race of beings called the “Sovereign” have learned to make creatures without the act of sex. But the most significant worldview matter involves Quill’s father, a man named “Ego.”  Ego, we learn, doesn’t know where he came from and he has lived for millions of years.

Eventually, he created a planet—and he wants Quill to rule the universe with him. He’s a “god.” Quill has these god-like powers. “I’m immortal?” Quill asks.

It gets stranger. Ego tells us he is the planet and that his powers are the same as its power. Thus, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 gives us a blend of pantheism in a polytheistic universe.

The Verdict: Family-Friendly?

This film and franchise has so much promise, with a talking tree and a sarcastic, crime-fighting raccoon. A lighthearted superhero series was a great idea, simply because so many movies in the genre have turned too dark and too serious. It’s just too bad I can’t take my 9-year-old and 5-year-old kids to this one, though. So, what age is appropriate for this one? That is going to depend on a teen’s maturity level. Some will be able to overlook the bad stuff, while others will walk out quoting every low-brow joke.

Discussion Questions

1. How did Peter Quill’s background impact his behavior? Is he to blame for his actions?

2. Why didn’t Gamora and her sister get along? Who initiated the reconciliation? Did it matter who initiated it?

3.  Mantis could read emotions; how can we do a better job of “reading” other people’s emotions?

4. One character says at the end, “He may have been your father, but he wasn’t your daddy.” Did you agree with that statement? Why?

5. Did you think the film was too violent? Do you think film violence leads to real-world violence?

6. Why is it biblically and logically wrong to believe in multiple gods?

7. What did you think of all the put-downs and barbs? What happens when similar things are said in real life?

Entertainment rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content.

Lessons in the school of hard knocks

On May 4, 2016, I had an aortic valve replacement and an aneurysm repair. During the immediate time of recovery and over the past year my journey has allowed me to learn some new truths and reinforce some old ones.

1. Death is certain. The Bible says, “it is appointed for men to die once” (Hebrews 9:27). We know it. We preach it. But the reality of death is often pushed from our consciousness. Life gets moving so fast we cease reflection on the fact that life will come to an abrupt end one day. As sobering as it is, I need a constant reminder that mortality is just around the corner. Life is like a vapor. It appears for a little time then it is gone. Whatever I am going to do for the Lord Jesus needs to be now.

2. Health is a gift. In God’s sovereignty he chooses to allow some people to suffer physically. Others have little pain or disability. God’s grace is on display in both cases. I have returned to better physical condition than I was before the surgery. I am able to run three miles, three days each week. I lift weights and do specific stretching on alternating days. Age brings its challenges, but many people are not able to do strenuous exercises. One day my health may not allow me to do these things. Every day with the strength to be physically active is a blessing.

3. God’s grace enables me to live each day in his power. When I was lying in the hospital bed, my total dependence was on God. This is true every day whether I’m facing a trial or whether I’m working at the office. The Holy Spirit’s presence should be something we sense continually. He is with us. He empowers us. He comforts us. When we are helpless, the Helper is there.

4. Time is required to see results. The first month after surgery I was greatly limited in what I could do. I did have a walking regimen. Soon, I began walking on a treadmill and riding a stationary bike. It was well over six months after surgery before I even attempted to run. Eventually, I was able to do virtually whatever I wanted to do. God works on his timetable. In spiritual matters it is no different. We need to wait on God to show himself mighty in the situations of life. We are to do what we know he wants us to do and leave the rest to God’s timetable.

5. You can always learn lessons. We never get to the place where we know it all. We never arrive. We are always on a journey. An essential quality for spiritual vitality is to have a teachable spirit. Some lessons I have had to relearn. It is never pleasant to repeat a test, but God’s gracious favor has allowed me to enjoy his blessings even when I fail. 

Being in my 65th year is almost incomprehensible for me. I don’t consider myself an “old” man, but I suppose I am. If God gives me 20 more years, I want to be a life-long learner. Join me in letting the Spirit of God take the Word of God and teach truth through the circumstances of life. We can then be the comfort and coach to those who embark on their own learning experiences. 


Key leaders lend support to Pastors” Conference

PHOENIX Celebrating smaller membership churches in the Southern Baptist Convention is a key aspect of this year’s Pastors’ Conference. However, key leaders are calling for broad participation by pastors regardless of the size of their church.

“The core of the SBC has always been faithful men and women living out the Great Commission in local churches without the benefits of large platforms, big budgets or headline recognition,” J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., noted.

The Pastors’ Conference is slated June 11-12 prior to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, June 13-14 in the Phoenix Convention Center. The conference’s theme, “Above Every Name,” is taken from Philippians 2:9.

While the SBC has a number of large, prominent churches, nearly 90 percent of the convention’s 47,000 churches average 250 or less in worship, with pastors of smaller membership churches often underrepresented at events like the Pastors’ Conference.

This year will be different. An ethnically diverse group of speakers, all pastors of smaller to average-sized SBC churches, will share 12 expository messages from the book of Philippians. Leaders like Greear are joining the effort to acknowledge and encourage the work of smaller membership churches throughout the SBC.

Greear is joining current SBC president Steve Gaines as well as past SBC presidents Fred Luter and Johnny Hunt to promote attendance at the conference. Each of the men also will share a “common ground” testimony of how smaller membership churches shaped their lives and ministries. Luter will share his testimony during the Sunday evening session; Greear, Hunt and Gaines will share Monday morning, afternoon and evening, respectively.

“I was reared in [a smaller membership church] and served my first eight years of pastoral ministry in churches of less than 400 in weekly attendance,” Greear said. “Everything essential I needed to know about ministry I learned there—the power of the gospel, the primacy of prayer and the preeminence of the Word.

“I am excited to be with brothers and sisters from all across our convention in Phoenix this June as we re-examine those core principles of ministry that do not change, whether we serve in churches of 100 or 1,000,” Greear said.

Luter, pastor at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, sees the Pastors’ Conference as a way to encourage younger pastors.

“I look forward to supporting and hearing these young pastors from across the SBC,” Luter said in written comments to Baptist Press. “I encourage messengers from all over to attend, pray for and be inspired by the sermons and the music.”

Luter’s common ground testimony will tell of his early ministry at Franklin Avenue. While the church has experienced exponential growth under Luter, it was an average-sized congregation with approximately 65 members, giving Luter firsthand knowledge of the challenges and joys of the smaller church pastorate.

First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., was not a large church when Johnny Hunt arrived as pastor. With about 200 members at the time, the church was only a little larger than the average Southern Baptist church. In fact, during his 40-year ministry career, Hunt has pastored only four churches. All were smaller membership churches when he arrived (35, 37, 90 and 200 members respectively).

“I’ve never really gone to a large church, but I have been part of seeing each church become healthy and as a result grow,” Hunt said. “I look forward to sharing my story of pastoring a small church that became vibrant.”

Contemporary hymn writers Keith & Kristyn Getty will lead worship through music at the Pastors’ Conference. For a complete list of speakers and more information, visit