Month: September 2017

FBC Madisonville Pastor Joshua Crutchfield to be nominated for SBTC VP

GRAPEVINE—Jared Wellman, pastor of Tate Springs Baptist Church in Arlington, announced Sept. 20 that he plans to nominate Joshua Crutchfield, pastor of First Baptist Church in Madisonville, for vice president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention at the annual meeting in November.

“I had the privilege of meeting Josh during our time together at Criswell College, where the Lord gave me a friend and a contemporary in the ministry,” Wellman told the TEXAN. “Since then I’ve not only seen how God uses Josh, but I’ve heard how God uses Josh—his remarkable pastoral ability is an open secret, which is evidenced by the churches in which he’s served. He leaves churches better than he found them, and the emphasis of the Great Commission is obvious, even from an outside perspective. I believe the SBTC will be well served were Josh to serve as its VP. He is one of our great young leaders who will serve and love the convention well.”

Crutchfield began serving as pastor of FBC Madisonville in 2016, having previously served at First Baptist Church of Trenton and Parkview Baptist Church in San Saba. In 2016, FBC Madisonville gave $128,052.97 through the SBTC to Southern Baptist causes, including $81,001.16 through the Cooperative Program.

He received a Bachelor of Arts in biblical studies with a minor in preaching as well as a Master of Divinity from Criswell College, and he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Dallas Theological Seminary. Additionally, he served on the SBTC executive board from 2012 to 2016 and received the Paul Pressler Award for Distinguished Denominational Service from the convention in 2015.

In August, it was announced that Juan Sanchez, pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, would be nominated for SBTC president at the annual meeting.

How to Build a Church-wide Prayer Culture

Building a consistent foundation of church-wide prayer into a congregation is one of the great challenges of leading a church. 

In the vein of sharing strategies currently working for a particular church, I’d like to share with you a little about my congregation’s imperfect, multifaceted, church-wide prayer effort. 

There are three intentional components to the church-wide prayer life of our congregation: the main prayer time in our Sunday morning services, the main prayer time in our secondary weekly worship service, which takes place Wednesday nights, and our Sunday evening weekly prayer meetings. 

The main prayer time in our Sunday morning services lasts five to seven minutes and is led by one of our pastors. We often encourage people to kneel at their seats or come to the altar area. The prayer time usually takes place right before the sermon to ensure as many people are in the room as possible. We generally use Acts 1:8 to structure the prayer time, praying for our city, our nation, the world, and then back to our local church. This paradigm both helps the pastor leading in prayer with his preparation and helps the congregation follow along as they listen to the prayer. We pray for the spread of the gospel in each category as well as addressing specific issues raised by each category. For example, under the “city” section, the pastor is forced to consider whether there are major issues in our city that are either on our congregation’s mind or that should be. The “nation” category is where we pray for any major current events related to social justice issues, natural disasters and elections. The “global” segment ensures we raise the issue of international missions and UPGs in our members’ minds every single Sunday. Finally, we use the section on our local church to pray for a specific ministry or segment of our congregation, such as single parents or college students. 

In our secondary weekly worship service, which takes place Wednesday nights, we pray in small groups for five to ten minutes. The pastor leading the service will present three or four major prayer items to the entire congregation, then ask for members willing to lead a small group in prayer to stand up. We then circle around those members standing in groups of five to fifteen people. The members who volunteered to lead will pray first to break the ice, lifting up one or two of the issues the pastor presented, and then open it up for others in the group to pray. When it’s time to close down the prayer segment of the service, the pastor leading the service will start praying over the microphone to the entire room. 

Our weekly prayer meeting takes place on Sundays from 5-6 p.m. in our worship center. Depending on the Sunday, 4-7 percent of our Sunday morning attendance comes to prayer meeting. We do not offer childcare, singing or a Bible study. We simply pray for an hour. A few members come almost every week, but most attendees come periodically. I’d estimate 10-12 percent of our congregation comes to prayer meeting more than one time over the course of a year. Our adult small group Bible studies “sponsor” prayer meetings on a rotating basis. For example, if we had 10 small groups, each small group would have an internal push to attend every tenth prayer meeting together. Here is the prayer meeting format we generally follow: 

5:00-5:05 p.m. The prayer meeting leader (usually me) welcomes attendees, reads a passage of Scripture, and then provides either a few big prayer requests or tips for praying well in small groups. We provide a prayer guide. but do not take prayer requests from attendees. 

5:05-5:55 p.m. Attendees break into groups of five or six around the worship center to pray. 

5:55-6:00 p.m. The prayer meeting leader prays aloud over the entire worship center to indicate each group should wrap up their praying. Then everyone meets at the altar area at the front of the worship center where we stand in a circle, hold hands, and sing one of the songs our church family knows well. Then we are dismissed. 

I measure the value of prayer meeting in terms of man-hours of prayer. 

Pastor, if 12 people in your church gather to pray for one hour, that’s twelve man-hours of prayer for the ministries of your congregation. If 24 people pray together for an hour, that’s a full 24-hour cycle of prayer coverage. Have you ever tried to fill up a 24-hour cycle with volunteers committing to pray for a half hour each? It’s incredibly difficult. But if just 24 people show up for one hour, it’s a full 24 man-hours of prayer undergirding your church for the week! What if 48 people show up, or even 72? 

Building a consistent foundation of church-wide prayer into a congregation is one of the great challenges of leading a church. The aforementioned three components working together over time have laid a foundation of prayer in our church. It has not been easy. It requires constant work and the strategy has never worked perfectly, but our congregation is consistently praying together in a meaningful way. I’d love to hear what is working in your church in terms of a congregation-wide prayer life. May the Holy Spirit grant us wisdom as we seek to build a strong, church-wide prayer into our various congregations. 

The blind spots of slavery

local newspaper interviewed me for a special feature several years ago, asking me, “Who is your favorite preacher of all times?”

Having studied church history, the names of George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards immediately came to my mind. Choosing between the two was difficult because I appreciated the theatrical delivery styles of both theologians whereby every word held a convicting punch that compelled the unchurched to find Jesus. For the newspaper article, Whitefield made the top of my list for favorite preacher of all times.

Whitefield and Edwards, without doubt, are two of the most noted theologians in history. But it would take 25 years of formal Christian education before I would learn that these two preachers supported the enslavement of African-American people.

Why is this a subject worth the time and effort for modern discussion when American laws no longer make slavery a legalized institution? I can propose two very important reasons: one secular and the other theological.

First, on the secular side, the subject of who owned slaves and how this is left out of history books should remain a subject for study. The confusion over racism in 2017 serves as an example of how the common history of whites and African-Americans in this country typically has left out the historical contributions of black Americans. If American history would have honored the labor and contribution of slaves in the building of this country, it would have rewarded their descendants for the suffering endured by their ancestors, and the perception of slavery over the generations would have an entirely different outlook today.

In contrast, many in America have chosen to honor those who fought to keep African-Americans enslaved by building statues in their honor and placing memorial inscriptions on the images such as “A Hero of the Confederacy.” These recognitions of praise are the problem, not the statues, especially when slavery and the Civil War are considered the darkest part of American history. America has historically praised its slaveholder heroes and not the economic and moral contribution of its African-American slaves. Among the real heroes are the forgotten slaves, a story that is omitted with every Confederate memorial.

America should commit to telling the whole truth at these statues. Tearing them down does not change a single event of our troubled history, but erecting statues of the unknown accomplishments of slaves at their side could help the healing. African-Americans already consider each slave ancestor a hero, and America should honor these descendants for surviving the atrocities of slavery.

The divisiveness on our American streets today is the result of a history filled with erroneous teachings about the anthropological differences between races. Philosophical teachings designed to divide the races remain a blind spot in much of America, and only those committed to finding a solution will see through the racial problem.

Second, for Christians, this is a subject worth the time and effort for discussion because the blind spots of racism also are evident in how Christian literature typically has avoided the subject in its exploration of theology. Many of the past and present racist movements in their development called themselves Christian organizations. These groups have claimed their interpretation of Scripture gives them the right to be considered Christian. While Whitefield and Edwards are two of the purest Christian thinkers in history, on the subject of slavery these spiritual giants justified their positions on Bible interpretation to keep African-Americans enslaved.

Let’s be clear, the Bible does not directly condemn slavery as sinful, but, rather, the mistreatment of slaves. Slaveholders are commanded to follow the same spiritual principles of love and kindness as those given to slaves when serving the Lord. “Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him,” the apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:9.

The slavery experienced by African-Americans was not the same as many who were enslaved in biblical times. The Bible never defines slavery based on race hating, and never before in world history had slavery been determined by skin color. This is the nightmare in America today. We are required to live with a history of a physical, mental, abusive racial slavery—the likes of which only Christian love can heal.

An understanding of history has helped me realize that theologians during slavery were subject to the influences of their day. Although Whitefield and Edwards theologically impacted American Christianity in its infancy, they failed to condemn slavery as the evil it is. To their credit, they preached that slaves should be treated with respect, urging slaveholders to stop their inhumane treatment.

The hate movements of our day that call themselves Christian have defamed the name of Christianity. If the hateful climate in America today is to be reversed, all true Christians must become intentional and take a stand to follow the words of our Savior: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). 

From Transgender to Transformed: “Prodigal” daughter”s return answers mother”s prayers

BARTLESVILLE, Okla.  Francine Perry and her daughter Laura recently sat down to look at family photos. As they reflected on the good times, they also could see how God was at work, especially through the difficult times—and there were many of those.

On the heels of rebellious teenage years, Laura lived as a transgender man for nearly a decade of her adult life. Other than her family and select friends, though, most people just knew Laura as “Jake.”

Laura was living with a partner who also identified as transgender and had become estranged from family members and the church.

Laura had grown up in a Christian home. Her parents, Paul and Francine, were and are active members of First Baptist Church of Bartlesville, Okla., where they took Laura and her siblings to church nearly every time the doors were open.

“I grew up going to church constantly,” Laura said. “I was in Sunday School, children’s choir, GA’s, Bible Drill, VBS and more. But ultimately I lacked a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Growing up, Laura constantly struggled with her sexual identity and did not “feel” like a girl. She experienced other various challenges through childhood, which culminated in poor choices in her teen years and later embracing a transgendered life during her 20s.

When they found out about Laura’s choice to embrace a transgender male identity, Laura’s parents were devastated.

“At first I said, ‘how could you do this to us, after all we have done for you?’” Francine said. 

Though she had support from friends in church and in her ladies Bible study, Francine felt depressed and isolated because of the family’s plight. Out of a sense of desperation and hopelessness, she began to dive deeper into God’s Word. 

“I realized, through our ‘prodigal child’ experience, that I had a more works-based faith in Christ, a more legalistic mindset,” Francine acknowledged. “I was Pharisee-like in so many ways.”

God, though, began to soften Francine’s heart. Her ladies Bible study group began to lift up Laura in prayer. Yet things got worse before they got better.

Laura once wrote a letter to her mother that said, “This is what I was supposed to be. Please accept me.”

Francine and Paul began to become more open in sharing their struggles. The Perrys also refused to believe that God would leave Laura in the transgender life. They asked people to pray.

Meanwhile, Laura had delved deeper into the transgender life, attending pro-LGBT support groups and even taking hormonal and surgical steps to become less feminine and more masculine.

“I bought into the lies of Satan, believing that my sinful choices would make me happy,” Laura said. “Inside, I was miserable and searching for real peace.” 

Laura’s transgender partner happened to be a staunch political conservative, which exposed Laura to various talk radio and teaching programs. 

“I got fascinated with the idea of absolute truth,” she said.

Her interest in politics led her then to listen to biblical preaching on the radio. 

One day a co-worker asked if she was a Christian. Laura said, “Yes.”

“That was the first time in a long time that I said I had anything to do with Christianity,” she said. 

It would be a long road leading home, but God began to awaken faith and belief in Laura.

“I always knew about Jesus and believed. But I never knew Jesus personally or made him Lord of my life,” Laura said.

Eventually, the truth began to get through, bit by bit. And Laura reached a breaking point. 

“God opened my eyes to the truth. He made me realize that the transgender life was not his will for my life, that it was a dead end. But I was still conflicted.”

One day, through tears and much struggle, Laura prayed and asked God for help. She was, however, still in a transgender lifestyle and relationship. God continued to work on her heart.

Francine and Paul kept the lines of communication open and met with Laura from time to time. 

Francine said, “It was as if God said to me, ‘If you keep trying to fix Laura yourself, I will not. If you just sit down and leave Laura to me, I will work.’“

That began the change, not only in Francine’s life and heart but Laura’s as well.

Laura asked her mother one day, “Is it OK if I come to church?” Francine, who was the church pianist, struggled with the idea of Laura coming to church. 

“I thought if she showed up to church looking like a man, she only would embarrass us. That shows you how far I still had to go in my walk with Christ,” Francine said. 

Laura did come to church that day, and the message was on the prodigal son. The person to feel convicted by the sermon, though, was Francine.

“Satan whispers in your ear along this dark road, but God’s grace won out,” Francine said.

Laura eventually made the hard, painful decision to turn away from her transgender life, leaving her partner, and made the step home, moving back home with her parents.

“I didn’t know what came next,” Laura said. “But I was clinging to God’s promise that He would take care of me. I experienced such love and acceptance from my mother’s Bible study group. It was hard, but I had never experienced such peace and love as when I came back to the church.”

The ladies group helped Laura acquire a new wardrobe, including earrings and dresses. Members of First Baptist have continued to walk alongside Laura.

Brandi Biesiadecki, wife of pastor James Biesiadecki, has mentored Laura. 

“It is so encouraging to see the true repentance and restoration Laura has undergone,” she said.

Last August, Laura made her decision to follow Christ public in front of the church and was baptized the following month.

Today, Laura has fully embraced her God-given sexuality as a woman, and she is active in the church.

The journey home, which took place a year ago, has led to both restoration and reconciliation. Francine and Paul believe God answered their prayers, and they believe that parents should never stop praying for their “prodigal” child or
children.

They give all glory to God. “Only God could have done this,” Francine said.

Pastor James also sees God’s grace demonstrated in the Perry family. 

“Laura’s testimony, and the testimony of the Perry family, is proof that Jesus is the answer to sin and life’s struggles,” he said. “I am so thankful for this dear family, and I pray Laura’s testimony of salvation and new life in Christ will continue to inspire many people.”

In addition to co-teaching a Sunday School class at church, Laura has been able to share her story in front of audience, as well as on Tony Perkins’ national radio program.

“I am living proof that God’s love is greater than the devil’s lies,” Laura said with a smile. 

Collier to pastor FBC Groesbeck

GRAPEVINE—TEXAN Managing Editor Keith Collier has been called to be the pastor of First Baptist Church of Groesbeck, in central Texas. Collier has been with the TEXAN for three years, during which he completed his PhD. in preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Collier came to the SBTC staff from Southwestern, where he served as news director for the seminary.

 “Keith has an organized mind and real talent as a newsman and editor, but he also has a pastor’s heart,” said TEXAN Editor Gary Ledbetter, “We will miss seeing Keith every day, but I am excited for him and for this fine church as he begins this new phase of his ministry.”

 Keith is married to Amy, and they have three children. He will begin his tenure at Groesbeck on Oct. 1. 

An Outpouring of Relief Following Harvey

Harvey was an unwelcomed visitor who took lives and ruined property all along the Texas coast. For those who lost loved ones, there will be no recovery. For some it will take years to rebuild their lives. I traveled from Corpus Christi to Port O’Conner along the coast. My trips to Houston and Southeast Texas broke my heart as I saw the suffering. Theological facts are not enough to comfort the hurting. Faith in action is necessary.

God used the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention family to respond immediately. SBTC Disaster Relief was on the ground cooking food, clearing debris, cleaning houses and washing laundry. Your staff at the SBTC offices in Grapevine attempted to contact every single one of the 764 impacted churches within days of the storm’s landfall in order to pray with them and see how we could assist them. 

The greater Southern Baptist family also rallied to Texas. Many state conventions sent their disaster relief teams. The North American Mission Board with the new SEND RELIEF effort came alongside the SBTC. Churches by the hundreds in Texas and beyond came on their own. I heard over and over about being the “hands and feet” of Jesus. First responders, government agencies and the National Guard were used of the Lord as well. I am grateful for everyone who helped.

Generous giving toward Harvey victims has been amazing. Truckloads of supplies have poured into the affected areas. Clean-up materials collected by churches through the SBTC “Buckets for Harvey” have blessed thousands. People from across the United States have given online at www.sbtexas.com. SBTC churches and individuals sent checks. Several state conventions provided funds. Alabama Baptists under the leadership of Executive Director Rick Lance sent over $100,000. Every penny designated for Harvey will be invested in the lives of those impacted. Not one cent will be used for administrative costs.

The financial impact of this disaster on our churches and convention will be significant. Six of the top 10 Cooperative Program (CP) giving churches (in dollars) are in Houston. If their facilities were not damaged, they had members who lost their homes or jobs. Those churches may experience some financial difficulties. It is crucial that other SBTC churches continue with regular Cooperative Program giving. For those who are not participating in CP giving, now this is a good time to start. The infrastructure of Disaster Relief is dependent on CP. Having personnel in the field touching lives is possible because of the Cooperative Program. Because of CP, church planters in the storm area will not miss a support check and pastors who were in Harvey’s path will get help. We are in kingdom work together.

Just days after Harvey, SBTC President Nathan Lino tweeted a profound statement. He said in essence, “Houston’s greatest need after Harvey is the same as it was before, lostness.” I wholehearted concur. We came together to alleviate suffering because of a storm. Let’s continue together to reach Texas with the gospel. 

Parents incensed by San Antonio ISD”s quiet approval of gender identity policy changes

SAN ANTONIO—The San Antonio Independent School District amended its nondiscrimination policy to include “sexual orientation and gender identity and expression” just days after a bill that would have prohibited such policies died with the close of the Texas Legislature’s special session Aug. 17.

Supporters of the Privacy Act, House Bill 46, cried foul and “I told you so.” The bill would have rescinded existing school district and municipal sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) laws and prohibited the creation of new ones. Although passed twice by the Senate—once in the regular session and again in the special session—the bill never made it out of the House State Affairs committee chaired by Byron Cook, R-Corsicana. Speaker of the House Joe Straus, whose district includes part of the San Antonio school district, pledged he would never allow a vote on the bill. Supporters said the bill had the votes to pass the House and Gov. Greg Abbott said he would have signed it. Now pastors and parents are back to fighting SOGI ordinances one city, one school district at a time.

Opponents of SAISD’s new policy accused the school board of intentionally using vague language on the Aug. 21 agenda to avoid drawing attention to—and therefore debate of—the SOGI amendment. The agenda action item read: “Consent Agenda A: Approval of Revisions to Board Policies DIA(LOCAL), FFI(LOCAL), and FFH(LOCAL) nondiscrimination policy.”

Using a consent agenda or consent calendar allows governing bodies, like school boards, to package several routine and noncontroversial items into one vote without debate. Several other items listed under the consent agenda gave brief descriptions of the issue being voted on.

Once the newly approved policy came to light, parents of the 54,000-student district said they felt deceived and took the SAISD school board to task during its Sept. 11 meeting, demanding the policy be rescinded. They argued SOGI policies discriminate against students and staff who hold a biblical view of marriage and human sexuality and open the door to biological boys and girls being forced to share private single-sex facilities with someone of the opposite sex.

“This updated policy does not change how our facilities are used,” Leslie Price, SAISD chief communications officer, told the TEXAN. “If we have a request for special accommodations, we will work with a student on a case-by-case basis to provide a single-occupancy restroom as well as provide private areas for changing and showering, as much as possible.”

But private accommodation allowances are maligned by LGBT activists who push for full access to private facilities based on gender identity.

Earlier this year the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case from a Virginia school district, Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., about this issue before President Donald Trump rescinded a Dept. of Education guidance letter that supported the transgender student’s request to use the private facilities that aligned with her gender identity.

“[Lawmakers] are concerned about the impact these policies have particularly when they are rushed through and they are done in a way that the public is not allowed to participate,” Jonathan Saenz, attorney and Texas Values president, said in a press conference prior to the Sept. 11 board meeting. “Regardless of how people feel one way or the other on this issue, we should all agree that the parents and the public and the taxpayers should not be shut out of this process.”