Month: May 2017

SBTC DR volunteers serve in wake of deadly East Texas tornadoes

CANTON—Even before the last of six tornadoes hit Van Zandt and surrounding counties east of Dallas on the afternoon of Monday, May 1, SBTC disaster relief teams assembled in Canton under the supervision of white hat, or incident commander, Daniel White. 

Crossroads Church of Canton is hosting SBTC volunteers, providing accommodations, meals, and a highly visible place to park the DR command center, communications trailer, laundry and shower unit, and other equipment.

The National Weather Service confirmed four tornadoes—two EF-0s, with winds from 65 to 85 mph, and two EF-3s, with winds from 136 to 165 mph—cut a deadly swath through parts of Van Zandt, Henderson and Rains counties on Saturday, April 29. The following Monday, an EF-0 tornado struck near Cumby, Texas, and an EF-2 again hit portions of Van Zandt county. Four people were killed and dozens injured during the storms.

One area man stopped off Tuesday with a donation of nearly $200 for victims, which White delivered to Crossroads pastor Mark Robinson to dispense to those in need.

“The man said, ‘We took this up in our community. Use it where it is needed,’” said SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice, adding that they’re grateful even for “a widow’s mite kind of gift.”

Stice confirmed 36 SBTC volunteers were on site in Canton by Tuesday. A 10-member chainsaw, rigging and tarping team from the Harmony Pittsburg Association led by Paul Easter started work on jobs Monday. Monte Furrh’s five-man team from Bonham arrived Tuesday and began tarping houses. Other volunteers in communications, assessment, chaplaincy, shower and laundry and administration assembled as well.

“This is one of the quickest responses to a disaster we have ever seen,” White told the room full of yellow-shirted volunteers gathered after Tuesday’s dinner at Crossroads. “So much came together so fast.”

Encouraging the volunteers, White added, “It’s not about how many trees we cut but about people, telling them about the love of Jesus Christ.”

White and Stice confirmed that work orders, which numbered 25 by Tuesday evening, are expected to increase over the weekend, and the deployment is likely to be both lengthy and widespread.

Alluding to the latest estimates from Gov. Greg Abbott’s office that 5,000 homes and structures were affected by the tornadoes, Stice said he believed many of these addresses would be throughout Van Zandt and neighboring counties. “We are going to have to go out in the rural areas and find the work,” Stice explained.

“This situation in the first week of a disaster is very fluid,” White noted. “Many homeowners will have gone to stay with friends and relatives; they have jobs. Typically, we would expect the numbers to jump over the weekend as people return from jobs to their homes.”

Teams are expected to rotate in and out over the weekend and next week, White said, noting that Mike Jansen will assume white hat duties over the weekend.

For more information on how to give or volunteer, visit

Volunteers needed for Crossover

PHOENIX The goal of this year’s Crossover is to “Engage Phoenix with the Gospel” through a partnership with Harvest America. 

North American Mission Board and Arizona Southern Baptist Convention leaders are praying for more than 5,000 salvation decisions through this summer’s Crossover activities prior to the 2017 SBC annual meeting in Phoenix. 

But for that to happen, they need the help of Southern Baptists to come and serve as volunteers, according to Eddy Pearson, evangelism director for the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention. 

This year’s Crossover efforts will center on a June 11 Harvest Crusade at University of Phoenix Stadium led by Greg Laurie. Leading up to that event, organizers need volunteers to help local churches conduct door-to-door visitation across Phoenix, engaging residents in gospel conversations and extending personal invitations to attend the crusade.

“We can’t do this if Southern Baptists don’t show up,” Pearson said. “We are not having the typical 50 or more block parties [for Crossover], but we are focusing on inviting the community to Harvest America and sharing the gospel as the Lord provides opportunities.” 

Pearson said they need 4,000 to 6,000 volunteers to fully staff the evangelistic outreach event. Many of those volunteers will come from Arizona churches—both Southern Baptist and other churches—but not all of them will. 

In addition to Friday night training and Saturday outreach, volunteers will participate in a variety of roles at the Harvest Crusade on Sunday evening, including decision follow-up workers, prayer support, security and ushers. Volunteers must sign up through the Harvest Crusade online portal (see below). Once they sign up, they will receive instructions for training in preparation for the crusade. 

Organizers hope more than 50,000 attendees will participate in the crusade. Pearson says Harvest Crusades typically see 8 to 10 percent of attendees make professions of faith. 

The crusade will be simulcast online and include a gospel message by Laurie and music by top-name Christian artists, including Needtobreathe, Trip Lee and Phil Wickham. 

More than 100 Southern Baptist seminary students will take part in on-the-ground evangelism in the area around the crusade the week prior to the event. Pearson hopes these students will invite 20,000 homes to the crusade during the week. 

“I think people see the great potential of this crusade,” said Joel Southerland, NAMB’s executive director of evangelism. “In years past we’d have 300, 400 or 500 people come to faith in Christ. With this crusade, we could have 4,000, 5,000 or 6,000 people come to faith in Christ.”

Greg Laurie, who serves as pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., has been leading Harvest Crusades since 1990. More than 5.7 million people have attended Harvest Crusades since that time. 

Those who come to faith through this summer’s crusade will be connected to local churches for follow up. Each participating local church will have a follow-up coordinator who will lead the congregation’s follow-up efforts. 

Every person who makes a commitment to Christ will be connected with a person to pray and follow up with them that night. They will receive a new believer’s Bible and a copy of their commitment to Christ. 

Monty Patton, who serves as NAMB’s city missionary for Phoenix, says the spiritual need is significant in Phoenix. According to NAMB, only 12.6 percent of Phoenix residents are affiliated with evangelical churches. 

Patton says that new church plants in the central and west sides of the city are particularly excited about the potential of new believers coming into the congregations through the event. 

“Phoenix has not seen this kind of crusade or a gathering of like-minded churches since I’ve been here,” Patton said. “It’ll be great.”

North Phoenix Baptist Church will host a “Day of Evangelism” on June 9 at 7 p.m. to help train Christians in evangelism and prepare them for the June 10 evangelistic blitz of the city preceding the next day’s crusade. 

For more information about Crossover and how you and your church can be involved, visit 

SBTC missions director, Mesquite pastor talk race relations in the church

In light of ongoing racial tension throughout the state and nation, Caleb Turner, an associate pastor at Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church and SBTC missions director Shane Pruitt sat down to discuss the role of racial reconciliation in the church. 

When asked how the church should be engaging in this important issue, Turner said Christians should first begin by remembering the role Christ gave the church when he charged his early followers with the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). 

“(Jesus) didn’t say, ‘go and make disciples that look like you.’ He didn’t say, ‘go and make disciples that you feel comfortable being around,’” Turner said.  “Our purpose, our mission, and the underworking of everything that we’re doing is to go out and to bring others in, and I think the purpose of that becomes limited when we choose who we disciple and who we evangelize. The church first and foremost has to go back to the beginning and realize the importance of what Christ has laid out for us.”

Even in his lifetime, Turner said he can recall instances when he’s been the victim of prejudice as an African-American man. Both he and Pruitt agreed that Christians have to acknowledge that this present-day racism still exists in our communities and be willing to reach across the aisle to engage with fellow believers from different ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. 

“So often we are divided, even on Sunday mornings. … In order to really get the church going in the right direction, relationships have to be formed,” Turner said. 

Pruitt added that Christ followers should empathize with one another and remember the thing that connects them, rather than what divides.

“If the church would see a common bond in grace and then walk in each other’s shoes, that would go a long way,” Pruitt said.  

The men also discussed how social media has shaped race relations in modern culture and how networking applications might be hindering the reconciliation process. 

Turner said ignorance is often to blame for social media posts that stir up dissention, so he suggests taking a moment to evaluate how comments might be perceived by those of a different cultural perspective before posting them to Facebook or Twitter. 

Pruitt agreed, adding that everything Christians do should reflect their identity in Christ.

“If we’re new creations then that means we must see everything as our creator sees it,” Pruitt said. “I need to post as though I’m a new creation. I need to tweet as though I’m a new creation. I need to blog as though I’m a new creation.”

Because of man’s brokenness, Turner said division between people will likely always exist, but for the believer, there is hope so Christians must constantly make an effort to improve in race relations. 

“It’s a process,” Turner said. “We all know that each and every day we’re going through our sanctification process, trying to be more and more like Christ. Ultimately, we’re not going to get it here on earth, but eventually we will get it.”

To view the full conversation on racial reconciliation in the church, visit

Behind Closed Doors: Coppell school continues gender-inclusive bathroom policy while lawmakers delay action

COPPELL—Parents in a north Texas school district learned last week that for almost a year their district has allowed students to use the bathroom that conforms to their gender identity. It is the latest revelation in the gender-inclusive restrooms controversy that has kept parents in the dark and legislators seeking remedies.

Reports of a 5-year-old biological boy dressed as a girl and using the girls’ restroom at a Coppell Independent School District campus prompted local and state representatives to take the district to task. Proponents of legislation that would prohibit the establishment of gender-inclusive policies in Texas public schools used the revelation to demand action on two bills currently stalled in the Texas House.

“There’s no justification for this,” Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Farmers Branch, told the TEXAN.

A mid-April call from the mom of a kindergartener brought the issue to his attention. The woman recounted an exchange with her daughter about a female classmate who “has a penis.”

That discovery reportedly occurred in the girls’ restroom when the daughter saw the classmate—who had not closed the stall door—urinating while standing.

Rinaldi said Superintendent Mike Waldrip and the school board allowed the practice without informing parents. District administrators told him the policy complies with the President Obama May 2016 guidance letter recommending all public schools create gender-inclusive bathroom policies or lose federal funds.

That guidance has been rescinded, but CISD will maintain the policy until further guidance is provided, Rinaldi was told.

The TEXAN contacted CISD spokesperson Amanda McCune for comment but did not receive a response before deadline.

Coppell ISD is in Rinaldi’s district and skirts the boundaries of Rep. Ron Simmons, R- Carrollton and author of House Bill 2899, which would establish a uniform policy governing private facility use in public buildings including schools.

Rinaldi supports the stronger language of the Senate Bill 6, often called “the bathroom bill,” but would support a House floor debate on either one, but both are languishing in the House. SB 6 passed the Senate March 16 but has not been assigned to a House committee. HB2899 had a public hearing April 19 yet has not been voted out of committee.

Supporters blame the lack of action on House leadership, specifically Speaker of the House Joe Straus, who has publicly opposed both bills as bad for Texas business. The National Football League and the National College Athletic Association have threatened to pull events from Texas if the legislature becomes law.

Rinaldi said the sporting organizations are entitled to their opinions but not to any share of the state’s special grant to fund for future events should they follow through with their threats.

The May 6 CISD school board election could force board members to address the issue. Ron Hansen, candidate for CISD school board Place 4, said he would repeal the policy if elected. Hansen’s challenger incumbent Thom Hulme has served on the board for nine years. According to Rinaldi, the school board knew about the policy.

Advocates for a state-wide policy that standardizes the use of public restrooms point to Coppell ISD as the latest example in a growing list of rogue school districts that will continue to establish gender inclusive policies, without parental consent, effecting the privacy and safety of all its students.

“It’s ironic that the school district only cares about the privacy of the identity of some students but not the bathroom and locker room privacy of everyone else,” said Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values. “Laws designed to prevent discrimination should not be interpreted in a way that puts children in harm’s way.”

Texas Board of Education revises science standards, adopts “compromise-language” on evolution

AUSTIN—The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) approved streamlined Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) science standards for grades K-12 at its April 21 meeting, a move that placated both conservative and progressive constituencies concerned with the teaching of evolution in Texas public schools.

“It’s pretty interesting that people on both sides of the issue like the revised standards,” Barbara Cargill of The Woodlands, SBOE member for District 8 and former board chair, told the TEXAN.

In the second of five scheduled meetings this year, the 15-member elected board adopted “compromise-language on two high-profile standards,” after considering comments from teachers and a variety of speakers, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) posted on its website.

Changes to TEKS biology standards (4)(A) concerning cellular complexity and (6)(A) concerning DNA and scientific theories of its origin occasioned the compromise.

Instead of “evaluating” scientific theories, Texas students must now “compare and contrast” theories regarding cellular complexity. Rather than “evaluating” scientific explanations for the origin of DNA, students now must “examine” them.

Scientific explanations include “theories and hypotheses,” Cargill said, adding that the 2009 requirement that students examine “all sides” of scientific arguments was found “confusing” and dropped from TEKS standards.

The new “compromise” language addresses “both the need to streamline content while encouraging critical thinking by students,” SBOE chair Donna Bahorich said in a statement cited by TEA.

Streamlined standards go into effect in the 2018-19 school year.

For proponents of evolution, the changes signaled victory. The Texas Freedom Network posted on Twitter: “SBOE votes & for the 1st time in 30 years, standards are free of junk science designed to cast doubt on evolution. No, for real!”

The Austin Chronicle reported that Southern Methodist University evolutionary anthropologist Ron Wetherington, a member of the SBOE’s science review committee tasked with recommending changes, praised the deletion of the term “evaluate,” which he deemed a “dog whistle” enabling creationist agendas.

The Houston Press hailed the changed language as a sign of “real progress,” since students must no longer “evaluate evolution and creationism” but “compare and contrast” them, ending years of controversy by allowing students to “learn high school biology without being required to challenge evolution.”

Nonetheless, the terms “analyze, evaluate, and critique” have not gone away.

The streamlined TEKS biology process standard (3)(A) requires students in all fields of science to “analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student.”

Sarah Chaffee of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute discussed the SBOE changes in an April 26 article posted on, pointing out that the SBOE kept requirements emphasizing “critical inquiry on such topics as the origin of DNA—life’s code—the intricacies of the cell, natural selection, and other subjects relating to biodiversity and evolution.”

Furthermore, TEKS biology standard (7)(B) calls for students to consider extra-evolutionary theory: “Examine scientific explanations of abrupt appearance and stasis in the fossil record.”

Claiming such concepts were “developmentally inappropriate” for ninth graders, the biology review panel initially recommended deleting the subjects of stasis, sudden appearance, cell complexity, and origin of life from the standards entirely, Cargill said, adding that SBOE reinserted these concepts following input from teachers, the public, and scientists.

The hotly-contested “analyze and evaluate” phrase was also retained in TEKS standards dealing with natural selection and common ancestry, Chaffee and Cargill confirmed.

Noting that many media outlets have given “erroneous information about the revised standards,” Cargill explained in a written statement that the “streamlined TEKS in biology continue to call for critical thinking in the study of theories such as evolution.”

The use of the word “examine” is meant to encourage students to “take a deeper look at scientific evidence and to analyze, evaluate and critique theories, whether that theory is evolution or any other theory,” Cargill stated.

Before the April vote, the SBOE heard from concerned Texas parents, educators, scholars and scientists.

The science review committee included fellows from the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture as well as teachers, university professors and evolutionary biologists.

Despite much ado from proponents of evolution, the words “creation theory” and “intelligent design” do not appear in TEKS standards.

Even the Discovery Institute’s science education policy calls for a “common ground approach” for public school science curriculums emphasizing the “strengths and weaknesses of neo-Darwinian and chemical evolutionary theories” rather than the teaching of alternative theories such as intelligent design, Chaffee stated.

“Science should be open to close scrutiny and debate, no matter where the evidence leads,” Cargill argued. “Only then can we hope that our students will become great thinkers.”

Tony Wolfe named new director of pastor/church relations

SAN ANTONIO—A new director of Pastor/Church Relations begins serving the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention this month after the Executive Board approved the action April 25 in San Antonio. Tony Wolfe comes to the new assignment from Antioch Baptist Church in Lovelady, where he pastored for the past five years.

 “We commit them to you for a new vision, a new empowerment for the duties incumbent on their responsibilities as they look to encourage the pastors,” prayed SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards after the unanimous vote was taken.

Previously, Wolfe led music ministries at Calvary Baptist Church in Rosenberg, First Baptist Church in Littlefield, Ridgewood Baptist Church in Port Arthur, and Northside Baptist Church in Denham Springs, La.

He received his D.Ed.Min. in educational leadership from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, writing his dissertation on developing a curriculum to assist believers in evaluating spiritual growth. Wolfe also received a M.A. in religion with a specialization in pastoral counseling from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, and a B.M. from Lamar University in Beaumont. He has authored books on spiritual maturity and effective small group leadership, and has been active in associational leadership, served on the board of Pineywoods Baptist Encampment and SBTC Executive Board.

Wolfe and his wife, Vanessa have been married 16 years and have two sons. He is the youngest son of former SBTC Church Ministries Director Jim Wolfe, who now pastors in Louisiana.

In letters recommending Wolfe, several Texas pastors commended his devotion to prayer, evangelism and biblical conviction. Joshua Crutchfield of Madisonville described Wolfe as “a man of doctrinal fidelity that motivates an evangelistic mission so that God would be praised and glorified.”

Neches River Baptist Association Director Bill Jones spoke of Wolfe’s use of his gift of encouragement “to come alongside those who are willing to be trained and deepen their love for God and his Word,” while Russ Ponder of Farwell observed the candidate’s demonstrated commitment to pray for pastors faithfully.

With the departure of Heath Peloquin, who resigned to direct the North Texas Baptist Association, SBTC Associate Ted Elmore shared the Pastor/Church Relations report, explaining the significance of the department’s interaction with affiliated churches.

Noting that 80 percent of SBTC churches have fewer than 75 people in worship and 172 churches are currently pastorless, Elmore underscored the importance of the SBTC field ministry strategists serving in 18 field ministry zones across Texas. Those men develop relationships with pastors, church staff, and directors of missions, he said, encouraging them to take advantage of SBTC ministry resources.

Credentials Committee chairman Juan Sanchez of Austin received approval for affiliation requests from 38 churches spread across Texas. The Board also removed 18 churches from affiliation, 10 having disbanded, five having merged with another congregation, and three that no longer wish to be involved. The current number of affiliated churches stands at 2,630.   

CFO Joe Davis reported a net operating income of $856,535 in 2016 with a net worth of $16.8 million.  At the end of March of the current year, Cooperative Program receipts are slightly ahead of budget, though less than 2016 receipts for the same first quarter period. 

Giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions by SBTC churches is $52,503 higher at $909,119 for the first six months of the reporting year when compared to the previous year. However, giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions lags $1.9 million behind at $8,260,578 for the comparable 10-month time frame of the previous year. Gifts to the Reach Texas Offering for State Missions are slightly down this year with seven months reported.

In other business, the board received a clean audit report for both the SBTC and the Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation, reviewed compensation and benefits for staff, and agreed to a grant to fund the 2018 Breathe Deep Conference to provide “a time of fellowship, rejuvenation, encouragement and worship for associate ministers and their spouses.”

SBTC staff was asked to gather information regarding the potential process and requirements necessary in order to provide venue locations for the SBTC annual meeting. The action came in response to a motion at the 2016 annual meeting requesting the study as a means of expanding “full participation from remote locations around the state including motions, resolutions, voting and every other aspect.”