Month: July 2017

Pro-life, privacy legislation among key issues in special session of Texas Legislature

Texas capitol building image

AUSTIN—Texas lawmakers, called to a special session by Gov. Greg Abbott, will begin hearing testimony Friday (July 21) on pro-life and privacy legislation that died in procedural gridlock during the regular session. The 85th Texas Legislature’s special session began July 18 where the regular session ended: with loud demonstrations by pro-abortion and LGBT activists alongside calls for prayer and support from the state’s pastors.

In a 20-point call of action Gov. Greg Abbott listed legislation he expects lawmakers to pass before the special session ends after 30 days. Legislators quickly passed the priority bill that extended the life of the Texas Medical Board, which was due to expire this year. With that out of the way Abbott released the remaining 19 issues he wants addressed, including teacher salary increases, property tax and school finance reform, and limitations on private property regulation by local governments. Of special interest to the SBTC and other conservative Christians are resurrected pro-life bills, the privacy act and school vouchers for disabled children.

Each of the Senate pro-life bills is scheduled for a committee hearing Friday, July 21, in the committee noted. Times and locations were not available at deadline.

HB 163/SB 4: Prohibits the use of state and local taxpayer money to subsidize clinics that provide abortions. Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

HB 214/SB 8: Requires the purchase of a separate policy to cover non-emergency abortion so premiums paid by all do not go toward funding abortions. Senate Business and Commerce Committee

(No companion House Bill)/SB 85: Enhances the reporting requirements of complications due to abortions. Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

HB 12/SB 11: Strengthens Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders requiring doctors and hospitals to confer with a patient’s advocate (i.e. a family member) before putting a DNR order on the medical documents of an incapacitated patient. Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

Texas Right to Life representatives championed the bills during the regular session only to see them die in the House State Affairs Committee for lack of a hearing. Procedural wrangling gave them new life on the House floor but without enough time for passage. Emily Horne, Texas Right to Life senior legislative associate, said pro-life advocates must press for passage and urged supporters to go to the Capitol and either register their support or testify.

The DNR legislation has bipartisan support. But, with the exception of the consistently pro-life Sen. Eddie Lucio, D – Brownsville, few if any Democrats are expected to support legislation that restricts abortion funding or requires more scrutiny of complications.

“They tend not to like any supposition that abortion is dangerous,” Horne told the TEXAN.

To the contrary, on the session’s opening day abortion rights activists demonstrated their demand for unrestricted abortion access by sporting t-shirts declaring “I [heart] abortion” and “Fund abortion.” Cindy Asmussen, advisor to the SBTC Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee and a long-time pro-life advocate, said she was not surprised by the demonstration but found the messages jarring.

Transgender activists, many of them presenting themselves as the gender that does not correspond with their biological sex, joined forces with the abortion advocates at the Capitol Tuesday to create an odd alliance of opposition to the privacy act.

Supporters of the original Texas Privacy Act (SB 6), authored by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, gave tepid support to her latest iteration (SB 3) and its House companion bill (HB 46), authored by Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton. Critics contend the bills’ broad language, which gives deference to federal law, is problematic and does not specifically address the issue of Texans’ privacy and safety. Asmussen said while the SBTC supports the two privacy measures, it questions the need to change the language of the original bills that received majority support in both chambers.

“We have concerns with the new version of the bill, but this is an evolving process,” said Asmussen who has discussed possible modifications to the bill with grassroots supporters.

Dave Welch, Texas Pastors Council director, put out a call for pastors to testify Friday saying their “strong, biblically grounded, Christ-centered, reasoned and compassionate voices” will be vital for the bill’s passage.

Asmussen will testify Friday morning before the Senate State Affairs in support of SB 3. She said her remarks will include the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2014 resolution on transgender identity.

The SBC affirms “God’s good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one’s self-perception—a perception which is often influenced by fallen human nature in ways contrary to God’s design.”

The resolution condemns bullying and abuse of “our transgender neighbors as image-bearers of Almighty God” but opposes efforts by governing entities to validate as praiseworthy transgender identity.

The original Texas Privacy Act easily passed the Senate during the regular session only to die along with the pro-life legislation in the House State Affairs Committee chaired by Byron Cook, R-Austin, which would not put it up for discussion and vote.

Lawmakers have 30 days to pass the 20-point call Abbott issued. The governor has not ruled out a second session if the Legislature fails to act on all measures.

Eugene Peterson sparks controversy with same-sex marriage comments

Bestselling Christian author Eugene Peterson, known for “The Message” paraphrase of Scripture, caused a stir within the evangelical community in July by stating he would perform a same-sex wedding. But one day after the interview was posted, he backtracked.

Peterson, 84, is the author of more than 30 books and a former professor at Regent College in Canada.

“I wouldn’t have said this 20 years ago,” he told Religion News Service in the initial statement, “but now I know a lot of people who are gay and lesbian and they seem to have as good a spiritual life as I do. I think that kind of debate about lesbians and gays might be over. People who disapprove of it, they’ll probably just go to another church.

“So we’re in a transition and I think it’s a transition for the best, for the good. I don’t think it’s something that you can parade, but it’s not a right or wrong thing as far as I’m concerned,” Peterson said.

In response to a question from RNS, Peterson said he would perform a same-sex wedding if asked to do so.

The day after the story was posted, Peterson released a statement saying: “I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm a biblical view of everything.”

“With most interviews I’ve done,” he said in his follow-up statement, “I generally ask for questions in advance and respond in writing. That’s where I am most comfortable. When put on the spot by this particular interviewer, I said yes in the moment. But on further reflection and prayer, I would like to retract that. That’s not something I would do out of respect to the congregation, the larger church body, and the historic biblical Christian view and teaching on marriage. That said, I would still love such a couple as their pastor. They’d be welcome at my table, along with everybody else.”

Peterson also told RNS of pastoring a congregation that was willing to consider hiring an open homosexual as minister of music.

“We didn’t have any gay people in the whole congregation,” Peterson said. “Well, some of them weren’t openly gay. But I was so pleased with the congregation. Nobody made any question about [the applicant’s sexuality]. And he was a really good musician.”

—compiled from reports from Christianity Today and Baptist Press

Lorick elected executive director of Colorado Baptist convention

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo.—Southern Baptists of Texas Convention evangelism director Nathan Lorick was elected executive director of the Colorado Baptist General Convention (CBGC) during a special called session at Applewood Baptist Church in Wheat Ridge, Colo., July 15. Lorick, 36, becomes the youngest executive director among the state conventions associated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

According to a Baptist Press article, the CBGC search team selected Lorick from a pool of 20 applicants. Lorick traveled the state July 11-14 to meet with pastors before being approved by Colorado messengers by a nearly unanimous vote of 75-1.

“We are excited about Dr. Lorick’s election,” Calvin Wittman, search team chairman and pastor of the Denver-area Applewood Baptist Church, told Baptist Press. “We look forward to what God is going to do here in Colorado.”

“When we put it all together, we wanted somebody that understood the past and was connected to the future,” Wittman said. “We had some good candidates, but we really sensed that this was God’s man. We believe that God wants to do something great in Colorado.”

Lorick told the TEXAN that he is grateful for what God has accomplished during his time with the SBTC.

“My time at the SBTC has been an incredible opportunity to link arms with churches all across Texas to take the gospel from one end of the state to the other,” Lorick said. “Alongside a great team, we were able to see God do some incredible things through our 1Cross app, the Gameplan, our One in a Million emphasis, and many other aspects of our evangelism ministries.

“I could not have asked for a better team to work with as we sought to help churches fulfill the Great Commission across the state. I also understand that some people dream of meeting their hero, but I’ve had the privilege and honor of working for mine over the last five years under the leadership of Dr. Jim Richards.”

Lorick also noted his desire to see a movement of God among Southern Baptist churches in Colorado.

“We’re really excited about what God wants to do in Colorado through intentional evangelism, church planting and church revitalization,” Lorick said. “We are believing that God will use us to help spark a fresh movement of his Spirit in the West. We would love prayers as we seek the avenues of ministry ahead and ask that people would not only pray for us but come join us in what God’s doing in Colorado.”

SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards praised Lorick’s leadership of evangelism ministries for the Texas convention over the past five years and expressed excitement for how God will use him in his new role in Colorado.

“Nathan has God’s hand on him,” Richards told the TEXAN. “He pastored a strong Cooperative Program giving church. When the SBTC evangelism director position came open, I knew he was the one to lead us forward. Now as he leaves for a new assignment, I count it a privilege to have served with him. He will do well serving Southern Baptist churches in Colorado. I pray God’s best for him.”

Lorick joined the SBTC staff as director of evangelism in 2012. Prior to that, he pastored two Texas churches—First Baptist Church of Malakoff and Martin’s Mill Baptist Church—as well as serving as student minister at Sylvania Baptist Church in Tyler and First Baptist Church in Waskom. He earned Doctor of Ministry and Master of Divinity degrees from Liberty University and a bachelor’s from East Texas Baptist University.

Lorick begins his role as executive director of the CBGC on Aug. 1.

Perdue commissioned as “missionary” to Trump cabinet

WARNER ROBINS, Ga.—U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue was commissioned as a “missionary” to Washington D.C. by Second Baptist Church in Warner Robins, Ga., July 9

The previous week, Perdue preached at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., and told how he and his wife Mary believe “God spoke” to them and called them “to serve President Trump in his cabinet.” Seven people made professions of faith in Christ following the message, First Baptist told Baptist Press.

Currently a member of Second Baptist where his son Jim Perdue is pastor, Sonny Perdue was a member of First Baptist for eight years while he served as governor of Georgia. He has taught Sunday school at both churches.

Perdue was sworn in as secretary of agriculture April 25.

Jim Perdue said the term “missionary” can be applied to his parents.

“A missionary is someone who … listens when God calls,” Jim Perdue said. “So what we’re doing tonight in this commissioning service is certainly praying for mom and for dad. But we are commissioning two more missionaries out of Second Baptist to Washington D.C., to the cabinet of the president, to the United States Department of Agriculture.”

Jim Perdue added, “When you think of the word ‘missionaries,’ don’t just think of those that carry the Bibles into China or those that take the gospel to the tribes of Africa. But put people like Sonny and Mary Perdue on your prayer list as they serve as missionaries in D.C.”

The previous Sunday, at First Baptist’s Fourth of July service, Sonny Perdue said he was not expecting God’s call to Washington.

“People used to ask me, ‘When are you going to Washington?’ I said, ‘When they move the capital to Bonaire, Ga.,’“ Perdue said. “Nonetheless, God spoke to us again and changed our hearts to go to serve President Trump in his cabinet, and it has been an absolute thrill to get to know the men and women he has appointed.”

Perdue said he meets every Wednesday morning for Bible study with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price as well as other cabinet members.

CBF seeks direction amid diverse views on LGBT issues

ATLANTA—A committee charged with recommending how the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship can “strengthen [its] unity” despite “differing beliefs and practices in matters of human sexuality” has said it hopes to propose in the next six months “a more faithful path forward” in the CBF’s discussion of homosexuality.

The six-member Illumination Project Committee was appointed in June 2016 by then-CBF moderator Doug Dortch to, among other tasks, recommend whether the CBF Governing Board should amend the Fellowship’s hiring policy. The policy currently “does not allow … for the purposeful hiring of a staff person or the sending of a missionary who is a practicing homosexual.”

The CBF was founded in 1991 as a fellowship of churches that objected to the ideology and methods of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Conservative Resurgence.

The committee’s interim report, delivered June 29 during a session of the CBF General Assembly in Atlanta, did not include any specific policy recommendations but noted the committee’s general thoughts as it prepares a final report to be delivered in September 2017 or January 2018.

The Governing Board, which has full authority over the hiring policy, must then decide whether to amend that policy.

The Illumination Project—an emphasis broader than the committee—was launched in June 2016 by the Governing Board “to create a framework to seek out unity on issues where we may not all be of one mind,” according to a video shown as part of the report.

The committee said its work thus far has consisted largely of listening to the stories of Baptists involved in CBF life through a series of 31 two-hour “extensive interviews.” The report noted five personality profiles representing some types of people who participate in the fellowship:

— Those who hold traditional views of human sexuality but want the CBF to emphasize other matters.

— Those who believe “God defined marriage very clearly in Genesis” and the CBF should not allow practicing homosexuals as employees or missionaries.

— Those who self-identify as homosexual and want “peace through affirmation” in the CBF.

— Those who sense tension between the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality and its command to love our neighbors. Fellowship Baptists with this personality profile are not comfortable with advocacy by either side in the homosexuality debate and want churches of differing views to cooperate.

— Those who believe the homosexual lifestyle is morally legitimate and think changing CBF policies to permit that lifestyle among employees and missionaries “will be hard, but it has to happen.”

Illumination Project Committee member Rebecca Wiggs, a Jackson, Miss., attorney, said the personality profiles “serve as witnesses to the profound diversity among us on these matters.”

“Every word” and “every experience” depicted in the profiles was drawn from a Baptist active in the CBF, Wiggs said.

Committee member Paul Baxley, senior minister at First Baptist Church in Athens, Ga., said the early church’s discussion in Acts 10-15 of whether Gentile believers must be circumcised is a model for the CBF to follow in navigating the issue of homosexuality.

“The early church did not rush to a resolution,” Baxley said. When a resolution was proposed, “James [Jesus’ half-brother and a leader in the Jerusalem church] does not ultimately offer an either/or solution. Instead, a way forward emerges that allows the early church to experience a unity strong enough that the mission can continue.”

Applying Acts to the CBF, Baxley stated, “Our committee lives each day in the hopeful waiting for the emergence of a more faithful path forward. We stand before you today not in fear, but rather in the hopeful conviction that together we will see a still more excellent way when the Holy Spirit reveals it to us.”

The CBF must learn from the early church as the fellowship considers human sexuality, Baxley said, because “many believe these matters will be divisive for us and threaten our global mission efforts.”

The committee said it will continue listening to the stories of fellowship Baptists in anticipation of a final report.

Committee chair Charlie Fuller, executive pastor of First Baptist Church in Washington D.C., said the group is “seeking to hear Holy Spirit speak from all of us and to all of us.” The Illumination Project, he added, “will not be telling any church what they are to do regarding this matter or any other.”

Fuller said “the overall objective of the Illumination Project is to develop a toolbox of possible methods that churches and organizations can use to deal with contentious issues. While we develop these approaches, we are also exploring a specific question: How can Cooperative Baptists strengthen our unity in the face of differing beliefs and practices in matters of human sexuality?”

The committee’s written report states, “The Illumination Project is not convened to make affirming statements or take other actions that would disrupt the balance of cooperation among CBF churches and global missions partners.”

Both a video of the committee’s report at the General Assembly and a copy of its printed report are available through the CBF website.

REVIEW: What parents should know about “War for the Planet of the Apes”

Caesar is like most other intelligent, genetically enhanced apes living in the forest. He just wants to be avoid all human contact.

Ah, if only those pesky humans would allow that.

Every time Caesar and his ape clan find a new home, soldiers from a renegade army – known as Alpha Omega—hunt them down. These human monsters even wear headgear with insignias proclaiming “monkey killer” and “bedtime for Bonzo.”

Caesar seems destined to live a life on the run. That is, until the Alpha Omega leader, known simply as the Colonel, invades the apes’ village and kills Caesar’s wife and oldest son. Suddenly, the quick-to-forgive Caesar wants revenge, and he sets out on horseback to find and kill the murderer.

It’s all part of War for the Planet of the Apes (PG-13), which opens this weekend and is the third installment in the popular science fiction franchise, following 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes and 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

The movie is set in a dystopian world in which apes accidentally acquire intelligence thanks to a human drug that was intended to cure Alzheimer’s. That would be crazy enough, but a pandemic simultaneously wipes out most of the world’s human population. The pandemic then mutates and causes other people to grow mute. They become ape-like!

The question soon becomes: Who will rule the planet?

Andy Serkis gives us the voice of Caesar, Woody Harrelson plays the out-of-control Colonel, and Steve Zahn provides the voice for a good ape who calls himself “Bad Ape.”

War for the Planet of the Apes is set 15 years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. In the newest film, Caesar does find where Colonel is hiding out, but it’s a heavily armed fortress that has been turned into a labor prison camp for genetically enhanced apes.

That’s the plot. Here’s what families need to know:    

Warning: minor spoilers!

Violence/Disturbing Images: Extreme. The movie begins with a battle in which apes are shot and bodies fly through the air. Explosions are common. Apes shoot and violently beat humans. An ape suffocates another ape to death. A human commits suicide off-screen. We see three bloodied human bodies on the side of a snowy road. Apes are whipped in the labor camp. Apes fight one another. A violent battle scene ends the film.   

Sexuality/Sensuality/Nudity: None. Unless you count ape “nudity.”  

Coarse Language: Minimal, although the words aren’t tame. I counted four coarse words: JC (1), misuse of God (1), GD (1) and h-ll (1).

Christian Images/Dialogue: Nothing explicit, but it’s worth noting that Colonel speaks of a “holy war” between the humans and apes. He even uses Christ-like language when he says he had to “sacrifice” his “own son so humanity could be saved”—a reference to a son who was killed because he had the pandemic. Colonel, though, is far from Christ-like.

Life Lessons

Caesar, the movie’s protagonist, provides several lessons on forgiveness and grace. When he has a chance to kill four human soldiers who were caught in battle, he instead sends them back to Colonel with a pro-peace message. When the apes find a young human girl whose father was killed, Caesar and another ape agree to watch over her. Still, Caesar isn’t perfect, and in one instance he does kill someone.


The apes are the good guys—loving, gentle and slow to anger. The humans are the bad guys—filled with rage, a lust for domination and a desire for war. On its own, War for the Planet of the Apes has a problematic worldview by affirming the evolutionary belief that humans and apes are cousins; with a few genetic tweaks, we could switch roles. The Colonel even warns that if the humans lose the war, they’ll become “cattle” to the apes.   

When viewed in the context of the entire film series, though, the story can become a cautionary tale about man’s depravity (and also the scientific world’s lack of ethical boundaries). In other words, are we already acting like apes?  

Scripture teaches that humans are the pinnacle of creation and are to be caretakers of Earth. If only the humans in this make-believe world had affirmed that.


This one is too violent for little ones, but for teens, it’s mostly family-friendly.

Movie Partners

For kids, Red Robin is the most well-known partner.

What I Liked

Bad Ape, who once was a zoo animal, provides some much-needed color and humor in the second half of the movie. I hope he’s back for the fourth film in the franchise. 

What I Didn’t Like

This movie’s not for people who haven’t watched the first two films. It’s also not for moviegoers who hate reading subtitles. There’s a lot of them (used for the apes who speak sign language). At times—with little human dialogue—the movie moves at a snail’s pace.     

Thumbs Up … Or Down?

It’s not great, but it’s not awful, either. It narrowly gets a thumbs up.

Discussion Questions

1. Mainstream science teaches that humans and apes are close relatives. Does that fit within a biblical framework?

2. Could you have forgiven others, like Caesar did?

3. Do movies like these change the way you view real-life apes and animals? Should they?     

4. From your perspective, what is the main theme of the movie?

War for the Planet of the Apes is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, thematic elements, and some disturbing images.

Entertainment rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

REVIEW: What parents should know about “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

Peter Parker is like many other high school students: insecure, easily embarrassed, and a little awkward. Of course, there’s one thing that sets this 15-year-old apart: super-duper strength and an uncanny ability to scale skyscrapers with spider-like webs.

Other teenagers would be thrilled to have his powers, but Parker isn’t content with catching run-of-the-mill thieves in the big city, even if Tony Stark – that’s Iron Man – encourages him to “build up” his game.

“I’m ready for more than that!” Parker says.

Will Stark allow Parker to trade algebra classes for a slot on the Avengers?

Spider-Man: Homecoming (PG-13) opens this weekend, giving us the second reboot of the popular Marvel franchise in the past 15 years, not to mention the third actor in the main role. This new “Spidey” film — No. 6, if you’re counting – spotlights Parker’s high school days in ways that the previous movies did not, showcasing his growth not simply as a teenager but also as a budding superhero.

In Homecoming, Spider-Man (Tom Holland) tries to stop a villain named Adrian Toomes/Vulture (Michael Keaton), who is using alien stuff (from the “Chitauri” race) to build and sell dangerous weapons on the black market. That’s bad enough, but these weapons are so powerful they could destroy Spider-Man and perhaps the Avengers, too.  

Spider-Man: Homecoming is my favorite superhero film yet of 2017, although it has quite a few content problems. Here’s what parents need to know:


Moderate. Like all Avengers-realm films, there’s plenty of punching, kicking and shooting, but it’s mostly of the comic-like bloodless variety. And the bad guy (Vulture) is a man dressed up in a costume with wings; for young families, that keeps the disturbing element low.


Moderate. Stark jokes that he wants Parker’s aunt to wear “something skimpy” (she’s not around when he says this). Another man says Parker’s aunt is a “hot Italian woman.” Parker, in an alley, strips down to his boxers and dons his costume. We see Parker’s crush in a one-piece swimsuit. A man and woman share a brief kiss. Parker’s friend, caught in a computer lab helping Parker catch the bad guys, covers his antics by telling a teacher: “I’m looking at porn.”  

Coarse Language

Moderate/excessive. I counted about 30 coarse words: he– (10), a– (5), da– (4), OMG (4) sh– (2), misuse of “God” (2), ba—rd (2). Parker is among the characters who curse. There’s also one unfinished f-word. Finally, there’s a scene in which a DJ leads a chant mocking Parker but instead uses the common name for the male anatomy (pe–s Parker).

Christian Images/Dialogue


Life Lessons

Parker’s not happy with the daily grind. He wants to go to the “big show.” But we’re all like that, aren’t we? We’re not happy with the mundane. We want something better. Our goal should be that of the Apostle Paul: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11).

Parker also provides us a positive lesson on vengeance. When given the option of killing bad guys, he doesn’t.  


Even though Christianity isn’t referenced, this is a world where good triumphs over evil and the two are clearly delineated.


There were a few moments that would have made me squirm if I had brought my young ones. (“Daddy, what’s porn?”). Most families would consider this one OK for teens, but for little ones, it’s probably not family-friendly.   

Movie Partners

Pizza Hut and General Mills are two of the corporate partners.

What I Liked

Everyone wants to know: Who is Spider-Man? The movie goes from good to great when one of Parker’s school friends – Ned (Jacob Batalon) – finds out. The two form a hilarious regular person-superhero duo that many other superhero films lack. More, please.

What I Didn’t Like

Movies shouldn’t assume too much knowledge on the part of moviegoers. In Homecoming, we are expected to know why glowing alien stuff is all over Planet Earth. I did know, but it’s never explained.  

Thumbs Up … Or Down?

Rarely do I watch a two-hour movie and want it to continue. But that was the case with this one. Parker’s interaction with his high school classmates is quite enjoyable, and the story has enough twists and turns — some shocking – that I didn’t want it to end. Thumbs up.    

Discussion Questions

1. Why do we have so much trouble being content in life?

2. Did you see any bullying in the film? If so, what would you have done in that situation? How can you help prevent bullying?

3. Should Spider-Man have killed the bad guys? Why or why not?  

4. What do you like more – Marvel or D.C. Comics superheroes? Why?

Spiderman: Homecoming is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments.

Entertainment rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Field Ministry Strategists: Point Men for the SBTC

GRAPEVINE They have been called “boots on the ground” and the “point men” of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention: 18 field ministry strategists (FMS) spread across 18 state zones who provide support, information, encouragement and resources to pastors and churches. 

To many, they are the face of the convention.

“The field ministry strategist is tasked with building long-term, healthy relationships between the SBTC and pastors and churches and connecting them to the resources of the convention,” said Ted Elmore, SBTC pastor/church relations associate.

Elmore, who oversees the FMS program, praised the team: “These men are all self-starters and very good at what they do. Some are retired pastors, some bi-vocational pastors, all with local church experience. They are vital to the mission of the SBTC.”

The strategist’s job can be fluid. Needs vary among churches and accelerate in times of crisis.

Gilbert Chavez, FMS of the Central Texas zone that encompasses 200 churches from Waco to San Antonio, contacted Pastor Brad McLean of First Baptist New Braunfels when news broke of the April traffic accident claiming the lives of 14 senior adults from the congregation. 

“I let him know we were praying for them,” Chavez said, explaining that he went to the church to help after the accident, worshiped with the congregation on Sunday, attended most of the 14 funerals and later returned to pray with the staff. “The main thing was to make our presence known as a show of support, and to be available for what the pastor needed,” Chavez said.

Glen Pearce, strategist for the North Texas zone from Bonham south to Burleson, intended to pursue FMS work after retiring from full-time ministry, but “God opened the door early” to serve the region’s 170 SBTC churches last November.

Pearce, pastor of First Baptist in Iowa Park, said he has enjoyed building relationships with church leaders but considers his work with the region’s six pastorless churches significant. 

“I’ve been involved with some of the training of search committees,” Pearce said, explaining that he makes available SBTC resources to facilitate such searches.

When the 46-year-old pastor of First Baptist Church in Lillian died unexpectedly in early May, Pearce stepped in to help the congregation navigate the loss.

“I have tried to help them walk through the struggle and grief and helped them make adjustments: what to do, how to minister to the widow. The church is grieving just like the family. Part of my job is to connect them to people in the state convention who can help,” Pearce said.

Alex Gonzales, pastor of Hickory Tree Baptist Church in Balch Springs and strategist for the zone that covers more than 250 SBTC churches in the Dallas area, considers encouraging his fellow pastors paramount. 

“My job is to try to have face time with the pastors at least once a year,” said Gonzales, at 43 the youngest FMS, who assumed the job in 2014.

Gonzales said he finds satisfaction in helping pastors by offering “the comfort” of a “likeminded pastor who lends an ear and who can relate.” 

“We exist for the churches,” Gonzales said, adding that he informs fellow pastors about the “depth of resources” available through the SBTC. 

Like Gonzales, Wayne Livingston, strategist for what he calls the “Near East Texas” zone, felt called to minister to pastors. 

“I’ve been there. I do understand,” Livingston said.

At times natural disasters such as the spring tornadoes that hit Van Zandt, Rains and Henderson counties require a quick FMS response. Livingston recalled texting Pastor Mark Robinson of Canton’s Crossroads Church on Saturday, April 29, when the first of four tornadoes swept through. “Mark said, ‘Gotta go, there’s a tornado by my house!’” 

With his location in the area, Livingston became the first line of the SBTC’s response to the emergency, conveying raw data and helping find a headquarters for the SBTC DR effort, which Crossroads Church hosted.

While most strategists communicate via email and texts, retired pastor Bill Collier, who covers 170 SBTC churches stretching from Conroe to the Golden Triangle in Southeast Texas, called himself “old school.”

“There’s something about when you sit down that you make a connection. Even with a phone message, you hear a voice,” Collier said. 

Collier said he also becomes acquainted with office staff and other church personnel and ministers.

“Most of what we do is legwork, making the visits,” Collier said. “We are always trying to be an encouragement, reminding pastors of things going on in the state convention,” he said, adding that strategists also encourage participation in SBTC events. 

“The strength of the convention comes from the local churches and active participants. Bottom line, it’s all about the kingdom and what we can do in evangelism and discipleship,” Collier said.

Gilbert Chavez summed up the work of the FMS: “Three things we do: pray for our pastors and churches, encourage them, and connect them with those in our convention to help with a particular ministry need such as deacon training, Sunday school training, finances or building programs.

“We let them know they are not alone.”