Month: November 2018

REVIEW: “Instant Family” is a tear-jerking movie about foster care, wrapped in PG-13 content

Pete and Ellie are a work-centric couple who have voluntarily chosen not to have children, even though everyone around them does.

But they’re starting to doubt their decision.

It all started when Peter made a joke about adoption and Ellie followed by researching “foster care” on the web. Soon, they were staring at internet pictures of cute children who need a loving home. That led them to attending an orientation, which led them to fostering three children in their home, which led them to facing a difficult question: Should they adopt the trio of kids and make the adoption permanent?

The comedy Instant Family (PG-13) opens this weekend, telling the story of a couple who take in a teenage girl and her two younger siblings and see their lives transformed overnight. It was inspired by a true story and stars Mark Wahlberg (Transformers series) as Pete, Rose Byrne (Peter Rabbit) as Ellie, Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures) as a social worker named Karen, and Tig Notaro (Dog Days) as another social worker, Sharon.

The movie mixes humor and drama to discuss a serious subject—foster care—in a way that works well on the big screen. An estimated half-million children and youth are stuck in the foster care system at any one moment, looking for a permanent home.

Instant Family was inspired by events in the life of writer/director Sean Anders, who along with his wife adopted three siblings from foster care about seven years ago. He was surprised by the misconceptions about foster care and thought that a film could help families better understand the subject. A comedy rather than a drama, he believed, would make it easier to showcase the hills and valleys of foster families.

I laughed a lot and cried some, too, while watching Instant Family. But it’s not a family-friendly movie in the traditional use of the phrase.        

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)


Minimal. In a scene played for laughs, Pete and Ellie beat up a man who was dating their teen daughter.


Minimal/moderate. Pete learns that his teen daughter has been taking nude selfies on a smartphone. She dresses immodestly in one scene and is sent back to her room to change. The film includes a couple of jokes about sex.

Coarse Language

Moderate/extreme. About 70 coarse words: s–t (18), a– (10), OMG (10), h–l (7), d–k (6), p-ss (5), d–n (2), misuse of “Jesus” (2), misuse of “God” (2), GD (2), JC (1), f-word (1), b–ch (3), p—y (1).

Other Positive Elements

Pete and Ellie may not view themselves as the model foster care parents, but they are. They display the courage, patience and unconditional love that is needed to foster and adopt. We also see them pray at the table before eating.

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

A male gay couple is part of the orientation and then parental support group that Pete and Ellie attend. The couple is secondary in the plot but still plays an important role. A Christian couple is part of both groups, too.

Life Lessons

Instant Family provides multiple positive lessons related to adoption and foster care. Among them: lessons on selflessness, courage, patience, determination and perseverance. The movie, though, doesn’t sugarcoat the foster care process. We see the teen girl rebel, the awkward boy have accident after accident and the young girl throw temper tantrums. We also see the family have challenges unique to adoptive families.      


Adoption is a picture of the gospel (Romans 8:15). Scripture depicts God adopting us as children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3-5) and transforming us into children of God (Ephesians 1:5). In earthly adoption, a child is given a new name and a new home, and is often saved from a horrible situation, too.

Instant Family portrays that image through the actions of Pete and Ellie, even if it is couched in PG-13 content.

The movie also succeeds in helping us have compassion for all three parties: the birth mom, the children and the adoptive parents. At times, you’re not sure which situation would be best for the kids.

Not surprisingly, Instant Family also depicts all parenting structures—a mom and a dad, a gay couple, and a single parent—as being equally beneficial for a child. Scripture (Genesis 1:28, Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4-6), nature and common sense tell us otherwise. Ideally, children need a mother and father.      

Discussion Questions

  1. Why didn’t Pete and Ellie already have children? What caused them to change their minds?
  2. Do you think the movie offers a balanced portrayal of the difficulties of adoption?
  3. What do you think the answer is to addressing the problem of 500,000 children and youth in foster care?
  4. How can you personally make a difference in foster care? (By adopting? Volunteering? Giving? Praying? Encouraging?)

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

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual material, language and some drug references.

REVIEW: “Fantastic Beasts 2” is a confusing mess, unless you”re a “Harry Potter” expert

Newt Scamander is an awkward-but-brilliant good wizard living in a country — the United States — where there are two classes of people: the magical and the non-magical.

They’ve lived in peace for more than century, but times are changing. That’s because an evil wizard named Grindelwald has escaped from prison with the goal of leading an uprising among the magical people and ruling over the non-magical people. His ultimate goal, though, involves eliminating them.

For the timid Scamander, such news is alarming.

“The time is coming,” his brother tells him, “when everyone” will have to pick a side.

Scamander eventually agrees to help stop Grindelwald, but will it be enough?

The movie Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindelwald (PG-13) opens this weekend, starring Eddie Redmayne (Les Miserables) as Newt Scamander, Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean series) as Grindelwald, and Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes, Hugo) as Albus Dumbledore.

It is the second film in what is scheduled to be a five-part Fantastic Beast film series. They’re written by J.K. Rowling and are considered a prequel to her popular Harry Potter book and movie series.

I enjoyed the first Fantastic Beasts film. But this second film is among the most confusing and poorly developed big-name films I’ve seen. The movie’s supposed main story — Grindelwald against the world — takes a backseat. In its place are a series of scenes and angles without obvious connection. There’s a romance angle, a circus angle, a wizarding school angle and an adoption angle. Additionally, there are too many characters, and they’re introduced with little explanation of their role. Unless you are a Harry Potter expert — or unless Rowling is sitting in the next seat explaining everything — you’ll likely be lost.

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)


Moderate. Grindelwald is an eerie-looking guy who uses magic to escape from captivity. He kills a few people (mostly off camera). Later, we see him and his companions in a house, making non-magical people disappear. A toddler is among his victims. Magical beasts make several appearances, although the scariest one (which looks like a dragon) can be easily tamed. We see a woman morph into a snake. A person falls dead. We see a lady on the floor dead. A bug-like creature is pulled from someone’s eye. The movie ends with a magic-filled battle between Grindelwald and others.    


Minimal. A man and woman kiss in public. A couple of women wear low-cut dresses. We also see a marble female nude statue.

Rowling and the director were quoted in media reports as saying Grindelwald and Dumbledore are gay. This film, though, doesn’t depict that in any obvious way.

Coarse Language

Minimal. H–l (2). Also one “geez.”

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

A character tries to find his birth mom.

Life Lessons

Unlike other people, Newt is a humble person who chases after the good. As his friend says, “You don’t seek power or popularity.” There are multiple lessons within this pretend world’s division between magical and non-magic people. Among them: a lesson on not judging people based on their appearance and a lesson on loving people despite your differences. (A magical woman plans on marrying a non-magical man — something that is against the law.)    


Fantastic Beasts 2 is a world with “good” magic and “bad” magic. Scripture, though, doesn’t make such divisions. In the Bible, it’s just “magic” — and it’s bad.

Still, it’s worth considering: Why are movies about magic and the supernatural realm so prevalent and popular? Perhaps it’s because humans are naturally intrigued by supernatural things — that is, by non-material things that exist on the other side of death. The irony, of course, is that such a world does exist and that it’s more spectacular than anything our moviegoing friends will witness on the big screen. It’s a world of angels and demons and an all-powerful God. And it’s detailed in the pages of the Bible. That’s a conversation worth having with your Harry Potter-loving neighbors, no matter your opinion on the popular franchise. They’re enamored with a fake supernatural world. But we know the God of a very real supernatural world — a God who loves them.    

Discussion Questions

  1. Did you watch and like the Harry Potter series? Why or why not?
  2. What is your view of magic in movies? When, if ever, is it OK?
  3. Are there situations in our world similar to the divisions between the magical and non-magical people? Explain.      

Entertainment rating: 2 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Rated PG-13 for some sequences of fantasy action.

Sanchez evokes past, exhorts SBTC pastors to stay faithful at 20th anniversary annual meeting

At 20th anniversary meeting, Sanchez exhorts SBTC pastors to stay faithful

By Jane Rodgers

KINGWOOD Southern Baptists of Texas Convention President Juan Sanchez, pastor of Austin’s High Pointe Baptist Church, challenged messengers to the SBTC’s 2018 annual meeting to remember its faithful past and to endure to the finish. Sanchez drew from 2 Timothy 2:8-13 in his address to some 1,300 pastors, messengers and guests assembled during the opening session Nov. 12 at Second Baptist Church Houston’s North Campus in Kingwood.

Reminding the audience of the SBTC’s 20th anniversary, Sanchez said he was “overwhelmed by God’s grace in this moment.” As many stood and applauded those in attendance who were part of SBTC’s founding in 1998, Sanchez referred to the meeting’s theme, “Entrusted,” announcing, “We who are younger want to build on the good foundation that you have laid and are entrusting to us.”

Sanchez recalled his own early days in ministry, when at one difficult point he asked the Lord to “release” him from the ministry he was serving. God’s answer was no.

“Ministry is hard, but we don’t have to walk it alone,” said Sanchez, noting that young pastors must learn from the experience and wisdom of those who have gone before and upon whose shoulders they stand.

Turning to his text—Paul’s message to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:8-13—Sanchez explained that the apostle at times felt abandoned, yet he offered wise counsel to his younger protégé to continue the fight and run the race so that Timothy might also “gain a crown of righteousness.”

Sanchez identified four sources of encouragement that Paul gave Timothy for perseverance, explaining that all Christians should heed these words because “every single one of us must endure faithfully to the end.”

To remain faithful, Paul first urged Timothy to “remember Jesus Christ.” Sanchez noted that the apostle emphasized Jesus’ humanity in the text by calling him “Jesus Christ”—instead of Paul’s more common “Christ Jesus”—and described Jesus as the “offspring of David” and “risen from the dead.”

By stressing the humanity of Jesus—who, as Sanchez noted, forsook the “wealth and glory of heaven” to assume human flesh, born of a virgin, lying in a humble manger, helpless in his “human nature” while “upholding the universe” with his divine nature—Paul reminds believers that their identify is in Christ.

To his fellow pastors, Sanchez urged, “When you are criticized, remember he was crucified.”

Timothy was also encouraged to remember Paul’s ministry and to neither be afraid nor ashamed of the apostle’s imprisonment, Sanchez said. “God’s Word is not imprisoned” or “bound,” he added.

Referencing the end of Colossians and the beginning of Philippians, Sanchez exhorted pastors to labor with a long-term view, confident that “God’s Word will do its work.”

“Hell cannot stop the church,” Sanchez said. In fact, everything that “Satan throws at the church only serves to cause the church to grow.”

Citing verses 11-12, Sanchez asked the audience to likewise remember their “union with Christ.”

“If we endure, we will also reign with him,” he said, reminding messengers that Paul was willing to suffer so that unbelievers might come to faith.

“If you are not willing to suffer so that unbelieving people might come to faith in Jesus Christ, go find something else to do,” Sanchez told pastors while reminding the audience that Christians are new creations, with the Holy Spirit as the “down payment” of an eternal inheritance.

“We are in the place of the firstborn son who inherits everything,” he added. Even so, ministry is neither easy nor comfortable but is instead “war” against powers and principalities.

The church ordinance of baptism, Sanchez noted, portrays that “by faith we have been united with Christ in his death, his burial and his resurrection to walk in a new life.”

Finally, Paul urged Timothy to endure to the end because of God’s coming judgment.

“There will be some who leave us because they are not of us,” Sanchez said, referencing Matthew 10 and explaining that God, like any loving father, “gives us warnings” to help us stay the course.

Calling bivocational pastors and pastors of smaller churches “heroes” because they often carry the burdens of ministry alone, Sanchez called on all pastors to continue to preach the Word faithfully.

Justice reform, pastoral political engagement resolutions adopted by SBTC messengers

KINGWOOD, Texas—Following a vigorous mid-term election season, messengers of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention approved resolutions on justice reform, pastors and political engagement, and demonstrating a spirit of civility in public and private venues during the convention’s 20th annual meeting, Nov. 13.

In all, eight resolutions were adopted during the meeting held at Second Baptist Church of Houston’s North Campus in Kingwood. A full transcript of adopted resolutions appears below this story.

Regarding justice reform, the resolution expressed appreciation for law enforcement and government officials in addition to calling on “decision-makers at every level in the United States judicial system to apply the law equally, irrespective of race or socio-economic status.” Christians were urged to pray for those in authority and to work toward ending injustice through supporting “bills, policies, practices, and organizations in the state of Texas and beyond that work toward prudent justice reform.”

Pastors and Political Engagement

Messengers also recognized the tumultuous nature of the nation’s current political climate, adopting a resolution that balanced a caution to pastors not to let political engagement distract from the priority of gospel ministry and the Great Commission while also discouraging any level of disregard or disengagement from their rights as American citizens.

The resolution affirmed “our confidence in the sufficiency of prayer and proclamation of the Word to accomplish God’s purposes among his people” in addition to a commitment “to model and encourage voices of truth, kindness, and gentleness, rather than those that stir up hostility, strife, dissensions, and factions.”

Call for Civility

Whether in political or public arenas, Christians should “always be careful to act in the spirit of love without compromising our loyalty to Jesus Christ and His truth,” another resolution said. Following Scripture’s mandate to seek peace with all men, messengers agreed that even in the midst of discussions and disagreements over controversial issues, Christians must remain committed to the priority of the gospel and the supremacy of Jesus Christ.


One of the foremost issues during the mid-term election season related to refugees and border security. Messengers responded to this crisis with a resolution “repudiat(ing) any and all assaults on the dignity and humanity of God’s image-bearers, regardless of refugee status.” Although the resolution recognized inadequacies in the U.S. refugee system, it also expressed appreciation to those who enforce the law “faithfully, justly, and compassionately.”


A resolution condemning all forms of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse called for repentance by those who commit abuse and decisive action by all persons to intervene and report abuse allegations to civil authorities. Additionally, churches should create safe environments, policies, and procedures that protect against abuse. The resolution demonstrated compassion toward abuse victims, affirming their value as ones made in God’s image and encouraging them to seek help and report their abuse to authorities.

History and Trajectory of the SBTC

Recognizing the 20-year anniversary of the founding of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, messengers approved a resolution that praised God for blessing and growing the “confessional fellowship of churches” from 120 churches in 1998 to more than 2,700 churches today. Looking back on the accomplishments of the state convention, the resolution also looked forward to “commend to future generations of this fellowship of churches the core values of theological agreement, missiological focus, and shared methodological approach.”

Other Resolutions

Remaining resolutions expressed appreciation to Second Baptist Church of Houston for hosting the annual meeting and called on Christians to be faithful stewards of their physical health for the glory of God. All resolutions were overwhelmingly affirmed by messengers with no discussion or amendments.


Southern Baptists of Texas Convention


WHEREAS, the essence of the church’s mission, as defined by the Great Commission, is to spread the gospel and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-21; Luke 24:46-49); and

WHEREAS, John the Baptist confronted Herod over his sin and called for repentance, prioritizing his mission and Herod’s soul over his own freedom and ultimately his life; and

WHEREAS, the church’s gospel-spreading, disciple-making mission is in many cases accelerated by religious, cultural, and governmental opposition; and

WHEREAS, Paul consistently defines the role of the pastor in his letters to Timothy and Titus in terms of preaching and teaching the Word (1 Timothy 2:7; 4:13, 16; 6:2b-6; 2 Timothy 1:13-14; 2:1-2, 14-15; 3:14-4:5; Titus 2:1, 11-15); and 

WHEREAS, Paul prescribes prayer as a first step toward living peaceful lives and gospel advancement in society (1 Timothy 2:1-6); and

WHEREAS, political engagement by marked by hostility, strife, dissensions, and factions, rather than kindness and gentleness, displays works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21), not fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-2); and

WHEREAS, The Baptist Faith & Message 2000, Article XV “The Christian and the Social Order” summarizes well the Christian duty to “make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society,” while acknowledging that these efforts will be “truly and permanently helpful only when they are rooted in the regeneration of the individual by the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ”; and

WHEREAS in our political system, the biblical responsibility of government to encourage good and restrain evil (Romans 13:1-4) falls ultimately to all citizens, and loving our neighbors (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31-33; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9-10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8) includes seeking their good by all means, including engagement in the political process; and

WHEREAS the worthiness of specific policies and candidates is often difficult to assess, but biblical principles are worthy of unqualified affirmation and defense; and 

WHEREAS, our experience of religious freedom and public policy in our society that reflects the will of Christ is, in large part, fruit of public engagement by Christian leaders who exercised influence without compromising the priority of our gospel-spreading, disciple-making mission; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that we, the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, meeting in Houston, Texas, November 12-13, 2018, enthusiastically affirm our appreciation for those Christian leaders who have secured our liberties and advanced biblical principles in government and simultaneously demonstrated primary commitment to the church’s mission; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we deny dependence upon the support of government officials to accomplish our gospel-spreading, disciple-making mission; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we acknowledge the danger of political engagement overwhelming the priority of our mission; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we acknowledge the opposite danger of disengaging from public issues and disregarding our obligation as citizens to encourage good, restrain evil, and thereby love our neighbors, and be it further

RESOLVED, that we refuse to compromise the reputation of Christ and the clarity of the gospel message, regardless of perceived political implications or potential loss of religious liberty; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we commit ourselves to model and encourage voices of truth, kindness, and gentleness, rather than those that stir up hostility, strife, dissensions, and factions; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we repudiate as unworthy of Christian leadership any political engagement characterized by works of the flesh rather than fruit of the Spirit; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we guard against binding the consciences of believers to support policies, vote for candidates, or engage politically in ways that exceed what Scripture requires; and be it finally

RESOLVED, that we reaffirm our confidence in the sufficiency of prayer and proclamation of the Word to accomplish God’s purposes among his people as we teach them to obey all Jesus’ commands and equip them to serve as salt and light in society. 

Resolution 2: On a Call for Civility in these United States

WHEREAS, article XV of The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 exhorts “all Christians are under obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society” (Matthew 5:13-16, 43-48; Luke 4:18-21; Colossians 3:12-17); and

WHEREAS, article XVI of The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 speaks of the “duty of Christians to seek peace with all men on principles of righteousness” (Matthew 5:9, 38-48; 6:33; 26:52; Romans 12:18-19); and

WHEREAS, today’s political climate is such that disputes and disagreements are widespread in these United States; and

WHEREAS, these disputes and disagreements have resulted in violence against civilians, police officers, politicians, and people engaged in worship; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that we, the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, meeting in Houston, Texas, November 12-13, 2018, commit to make the will of Jesus Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we commend, in political debate and activity, righteous, nonviolent means and methods for the improvement of these United States and the establishment of righteousness among men; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we commit ourselves to the priority of gospel proclamation, even as we discuss controversial issues (Matthew 28:19-20); and be it further

RESOLVED, that we seek to be at peace with all men as prescribed by Scripture (Romans 12:18); and be it finally

RESOLVED, that we will always be careful to act in the spirit of love without compromising our loyalty to Jesus Christ and His truth. 

Resolution 3: On Justice Reform

WHEREAS, Scripture affirms that persons of all races are created in the image and likeness of God with equal dignity and value (Genesis 1:26-27, 3:20, 9:5-6; Acts 10:34-35; Ephesians 2:14; Colossians 3:11); and

WHEREAS, Scripture teaches that our role in society is to be “salt and light” (Matthew 5:13-16), to be “doers of the Word” (James 1:22), and like the prophet Amos to seek, through God’s Word and our godly actions, to work to see “justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24); and

WHEREAS, the United States is a country whose Pledge of Allegiance states that we are “one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all,” so in addition to praying for authorities we must also actively encourage local churches, community leaders, elected officials, and law enforcement to work toward equal justice across all races and socio-economic statuses; and

WHEREAS, for all of the many virtues of the United States justice system, it is possible for both Christians and others holding positions of influence to be negligent in challenging or correcting, or complicit in failing to apply the law equally, resulting in, among other injustices, unequal sentencing of minorities and the poor; and

WHEREAS, a bipartisan coalition led by the White House, having seen the gravity of these concerns, has drafted legislation to address them that has cleared the House of Representatives and has been introduced to the Senate; and

WHEREAS, it is possible for policies and practices intended to help the most vulnerable to end up hurting the very persons they are intended to help; and

WHEREAS, individuals who enter the juvenile or adult penal system become more likely to re-enter it and less likely to become fully-functioning, flourishing, and contributing members of society, which is contrary to what Christians desire for all persons (Romans 13:4; 1 Timothy 2:2-3); and

WHEREAS, we are often unfamiliar with or uninformed regarding the aforementioned challenges; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that we, the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, meeting in Houston, Texas, November 12-13, 2018, express our appreciation for government officials and public servants who labor to enforce the laws of the United States faithfully, justly, and compassionately; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we realize we must become better informed regarding the aforementioned challenges; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we staunchly reaffirm the truth that persons of all races are created in the image and likeness of God with equal dignity and value; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we ardently call upon and pray for decision-makers at every level in the United States judicial system to apply the law equally, irrespective of race or socio-economic status; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we commit to pray for all in authority, to uphold God’s laws, and to devise ways to prevent injustices imposed upon persons of any race or socio-economic status; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we call to repentance all in positions of influence who are guilty of unjust application of the law; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we encourage all in positions of influence to evaluate whether policies and practices intended to help the most vulnerable actually do so; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we support bills, policies, practices, and organizations in the state of Texas and beyond that work toward prudent justice reform, including sentencing and prison reform; and be it finally 

RESOLVED, that we call upon ourselves and indeed all Christians to end unfair and unjust treatment of any race or socio-economic status.

Resolution 4: On Our Physical Health

WHEREAS, while the great variety of foods of the earth is a gift from God (Genesis 1:29, 2:16-17, 9:3-4; Mark 7:19) and to be enjoyed (Proverbs 24:13; Ecclesiastes 2:24, 3:13), God created the good gift of our physical bodies (Genesis 1:26-31; 2:7, 21-23), commanded us to steward well His creation (Genesis 1:28; 2:15), and to do all for His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31); and

WHEREAS, stewarding our bodies well is one way to let our light shine before people (Matthew 5:14), to keep our behavior excellent among unbelievers (1 Peter 2:11-12), and one fruit of the Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:23); and

WHEREAS, the New Testament assumes that believers will have a level of self-control that would render them capable of practicing fasting as a spiritual discipline; and

WHEREAS, article XV of The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 exhorts believers that “In the Spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose . . . every form of greed, selfishness, and vice”; and

WHEREAS, all else being equal, a longer, healthier life is potentially of greater service to the Lord, His church, our families, and the world; and

WHEREAS, it is tempting in our culture either to neglect our physical health needlessly (sometimes leading to gluttony and wastefulness) or to idolize health and appearance; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that we, the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, meeting in Houston, Texas, November 12-13, 2018, ardently call upon and urge one another to consider prayerfully the stewardship of the physical health; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we aim to use not only our words, deeds, and resources, but also our actions and lifestyle – including how we steward our bodies – as means toward living as salt and light; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we consider how the resources we spend on physical overindulgence might be better spent on the well-being of our neighbors; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we realize and repent of the fact that we sometimes desire too strongly and spend time and effort too liberally on the pursuit of physical health; and be it finally

RESOLVED, that by God’s common grace working through our wholesome, wise choices, we aspire to live stronger, healthier, more balanced lives for God’s glory and for the good of our families, churches, and the world.

Resolution 5: On Abuse

WHEREAS, God has created every person—male and female—in His own image and with equal value and dignity (Genesis 1:26–27); and

WHEREAS, God abhors violence against the weak and defenseless and calls His people to defend the hurt and oppressed (Psalm 82:4), to stand for justice (Psalm 82:3; Proverbs 31:8–9), and to deliver victims of abuse from the hands of their oppressors (Proverbs 6:17; 24:10–12); and

WHEREAS, article XV of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 says that “We should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, and the sick”; and

WHEREAS, abuse can be defined as any act or conscious failure to act resulting in imminent risk, serious injury, death, physical or emotional or sexual harm, or exploitation of another person; and

WHEREAS, current cultural trends have opened the door for victims to voice courageously their plight and seek justice; and

WHEREAS, we regret and deplore for failures to protect the abused, failures that have occurred in evangelical churches and ministries, including such failures within our own denomination; and

WHEREAS, God has designed marriage, The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, Article XVIII says “to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship”; and

WHEREAS, biblical headship blesses, honors, and protects wives and children and does not require them to submit to sin or to abuse (Ephesians 5:25–29; Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:7; 5:3); and

WHEREAS, the biblical teaching on relationships between men and women neither supports nor fosters, but rather prevents and condemns, abuse (Mark 12:31; Romans 13:10; Ephesians 4:32); and

WHEREAS, God ordains civil government as His servant to us for good (Romans 13:4) and intends for us “to render loyal obedience thereto in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God” (The Baptist Faith & Message 2000, Article XVII); and

WHEREAS, abuse is not only a sin but is also a destructive evil that distorts and disrupts the marriage covenant and the entire family and is a hallmark of the devil which must not be tolerated in the Christian community; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that we, the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention meeting in Houston, Texas, November 12–13, 2018, condemn all forms of abuse and repudiate with a unified voice all abusive behavior as unquestionably sinful and under the just condemnation of our Holy God; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we acknowledge that spousal abuse dishonors the marriage covenant and fundamentally blasphemes the relationship between Christ and the church; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we strongly urge abuse victims to contact civil authorities, remove themselves from danger, and seek shelter from their abusers; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we extend compassion and support to all persons encountering the injustice of abuse, being careful to remind the abused that such injustice is undeserved and not a result of personal guilt or fault; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we call on all persons perpetrating and enabling abuse to repent and to confess their sin to Jesus Christ and to church authorities and to confess their crimes to civil authorities; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we implore all persons to act decisively on matters of abuse, to intervene on behalf of the abused, to ensure their safety, to report allegations of abuse to civil authorities according to the laws of their state, and to pursue church discipline against impenitent abusers; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we encourage leaders in our churches and entities to be faithful examples, through their words and actions, and to speak against the sin of all forms of abuse; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we call on pastors and ministry leaders to foster safe environments in which abused persons may both recognize the reprehensible nature of the abuse they suffered and reveal such abuse to pastors and ministry leaders in safety and expectation of being heard and helped; and be it further

RESOLVED, that church and ministry leaders have an obligation to implement policies and practices that protect against and confront any form of abuse; and be it finally

RESOLVED, that we uphold the dignity of all human beings as image-bearers of God and the responsibility of all Christians to seek the welfare of the abused.

Resolution 6: On Posture of Christians Toward Refugees

WHEREAS, the essence of our mission as the church, as defined by the Great Commission, is to spread the gospel and make disciples among all nations (Matthew 28:18-21; Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:8); and

WHEREAS, our fundamental and eternal citizenship is the kingdom of heaven (Philippians 3:20); and

WHEREAS, Scripture affirms that persons of all races are created in the image and likeness of God with equal dignity and value (Genesis 9:5-6); and

WHEREAS, a refugee is defined under the laws of the United States as “any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which such person last habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion; and

WHEREAS, the laws of the United States prescribe a process of determining the validity of claims of refugee status, which typically progresses while individuals reside within the United States; and

WHEREAS, those claiming refugee status have often suffered religious persecution or governmental oppression in their nations of origin, and as a result are in many cases disillusioned by their religious beliefs and open to the message of love, mercy, and grace in the gospel of Jesus Christ; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that we, the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, meeting in Houston, Texas, November 12-13, 2018, express our appreciation for government officials and public servants who labor to enforce the laws of the United States faithfully, justly, and compassionately; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we acknowledge inadequacies in our refugee system and affirm good-faith efforts to resolve those inadequacies; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we repudiate any and all assaults on the dignity and humanity of God’s image-bearers, regardless of refugee status; and be it finally

RESOLVED, that we commit ourselves to spread the gospel among those claiming refugee status throughout whatever time they reside in our communities during their legal adjudication process.

Resolution 7: On the History and Trajectory of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention

WHEREAS, Twenty years ago, in 1998, 120 churches formed the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention; and,

WHEREAS, our fellowship now numbers 2,700; and,

WHEREAS, since the founding of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, Jim Richards has served as our executive director; and,

WHEREAS, for 20 years Jim Richards has championed the core values of theological agreement, missiological focus, and a shared methodological approach as the strands that define the distinctive cooperative nature of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention; and,

WHEREAS, regarding to theological agreement, the churches partnering with one another through the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention have, in forming a confessional fellowship of churches, all affirmed their agreement with The Baptist Faith & Message 2000; and

WHEREAS, regarding to missiological focus, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has built a lean convention structure prioritizing missions and evangelism, deliberately choosing not to allow the support of institutions or the pursuit of secondary ministries to sap away funds, attention, time, or zeal away from the primary place of the missiological task; and,

WHEREAS, the need for a focus upon missions and evangelism in this age of declining numbers of baptisms in the Southern Baptist Convention is self-evident; and,

WHEREAS, regarding to methodological approach, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has championed the convention method of missionary funding in general and the Cooperative Program in particular as a shared funding methodology capable of propelling Southern Baptist missionary efforts into the coming decades with strength; and,

WHEREAS, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention incrementally worked toward, eventually achieved, and has steadily maintained a state Cooperative Program budget that forwards 55 percent of Cooperative Program receipts to the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee for national and international causes, retaining only 45 percent of those gifts to fund ministry within the state; and,

WHEREAS, even while giving so generously to national and international causes, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has launched, supported, or assisted healthy ministries addressing the diverse needs of Texas across every generation, gender, ethnicity, and regional grouping of churches, serving churches with needs as diverse as a search for a new pastor or recovery after a natural disaster; and,

WHEREAS, the core values that have served the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention are increasingly guiding other state conventions within the Southern Baptist family; and, 

WHEREAS, the Southern Baptist Convention has amended its own constitution, now requiring that churches are only in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention if they have “a faith and practice which closely identifies with the [Southern Baptist] Convention’s adopted statement of faith,” thereby bringing within the Southern Baptist Convention’s governing documents the idea of a confessional fellowship of churches united by theological agreement; and,

WHEREAS, many other state conventions within the Southern Baptist family have in recent years reorganized their own ministries and have increased the percentage of the Cooperative Program receipts that they forward to national and international causes, bringing them closer to the level of Cooperative Program stewardship practiced by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that we, the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention meeting in Houston, Texas, November 12-13, 2018, give thanks to God for the protection, guidance, growth, and blessing that He has given to the churches of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we reaffirm and commend to future generations of this fellowship of churches the core values of theological agreement, missiological focus, and shared methodological approach; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we humbly testify to sister state conventions, as we all navigate together a changing future for our family of churches, that these core values have served us well and that by them God has won for us a hopeful future. 

Resolution 8: On Appreciation to Second Baptist Church of Houston

WHEREAS, the messengers to the 2018 meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention have enjoyed a refreshing time of worship, encouragement, and fellowship; and

WHEREAS, we acknowledge God’s providence for all of these blessings; and

WHEREAS, we acknowledge the kind hospitality and assistance of the staff and leadership of Second Baptist Church of Houston to host this convention; and

WHEREAS, we gratefully acknowledge the generosity, extensive labor, and excellent leadership of the pastor, Ed Young, and the campus pastor, Mark Terry, and the church staff; and

WHEREAS, we gratefully acknowledge that area churches have also extended hospitality and provided volunteer assistance; and

WHEREAS, we also acknowledge the Lord’s work in enabling our officers, committees, convention speakers, musicians, convention staff, volunteers, and messengers to conduct the affairs of this convention with dignity and a Christ-like spirit; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that we, the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, meeting in Houston, Texas, November 12-13, 2018, hereby express our profound gratitude to the Lord, and to all those He used to bring about a meeting characterized by evangelism, worship, and true Christian fellowship.

The “why” and “what” of the SBTC

The existence of a second Southern Baptist state convention in Texas raises a few questions. Most commonly our brothers and sisters across the country ask, “Why?” Convention leaders have answered that question frequently. The second question careful observers might ask is, “Why is this convention different in so many ways?” Whether the observer is happy or dismayed at the formation of the newest Southern Baptist state convention, the differences are observable. The “Why?” question is worth answering one more time.

Simply, the founders of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention were convicted of the truth of the Bible—that everything the Bible says is true in the plain sense in which it’s meant—and that this foundational conviction was worth separating over for the integrity of Southern Baptists’ cooperation in the gospel. Inerrancy is not a doctrine of mindless literalism or mechanical dictation, as some scoffers have said. The Bible, in its original autographs, is without any error in anything it affirms as true. The doctrine of inerrancy is the belief around which the Southern Baptist Convention rallied during its most recent doctrinal reformation. Some may prefer to call the Bible “authoritative,” but conservatives counter that a car’s owner’s manual is authoritative without being inerrant or inspired by God. “Inerrancy” is the clearest and least slippery word available to describe the evangelical, Baptist understanding of God’s Word.

The inerrancy of Scripture is foundational to many convictions about the gospel and how Southern Baptists join together to preach it everywhere. It is foundational to all the reasons why the SBTC’s founders started a new convention. Their disagreement with burgeoning Darwinism at Baylor (and unwillingness to fund it) was based on the witness of Scripture that God made one man and one woman, the parents of all people. This was either “true” or “not true” in their minds. Abortion opposition—a key issue of disagreement conservatives had with the BGCT over the teaching of its moral concerns agency—was not negotiable because the Bible teaches that God is the author and owner of all life. Destruction of the innocent is not “complex” or “regrettable”; it is profoundly evil. And so the disagreements sprouted up during the 20th century, and more frequently in the 1990s. Institutions that will not affirm and teach the inerrancy of Scripture are not worthy of support to most conservatives. Take away abortion as an issue and the disagreement is only slightly narrower. Take away Darwinism or Open Theism (the doctrine that God is not all-knowing) or advocacy for female senior pastors but still deny inerrancy, and the disagreement is just as strong, waiting to see what new doctrinal error will grow from this foundational one. There will continue to be two Southern Baptist state conventions so long as the two groups disagree over the nature of the Bible, and by extension, its author.

Some differences between the SBTC and most of its sister conventions are easy to see. A basic difference has to do with the new convention’s core values—particularly the confessional nature of the convention’s fellowship. The SBTC is one of only a handful of the 42 state conventions that base their fellowship on affirmation of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
Affiliated churches affirm the document (not adopt or sign) as part of their affiliation agreement. They agree to operate within its broad doctrinal parameters. A few churches have been removed from affiliation because they have operated contrary to the BF&M 2000. Those churches may be Christian churches, even Southern Baptist churches, but they are not SBTC churches outside this doctrinal agreement. That clear distinctive affects much of what the SBTC does. The Southern Baptist Convention is not confessional in this sense; otherwise there would no SBC churches with female senior pastors (instead of very few). Most state conventions operate similarly to the SBC. SBTC has built into its fellowship voluntary doctrinal accountability between affiliated churches. The convention’s related institutions, speakers, publications, committees and employees operate within this understanding of accountability. There are no liberal churches within the SBTC’s fellowship.

But the birth and maturing of a Southern Baptist state convention in Texas also happened in fast motion. Partly, this is because of the timing of its founding and partly because of the times in which it was founded.

The matter of timing is pretty self-evident. The SBTC began after most large state conventions had more than a century behind them. The Baptist General Convention of Texas was celebrating 150 years when the SBTC began. The new convention was not formed on a frontier—working with building tools in one hand and a weapon in the other. Texas was a safe place with a resilient economy. The SBTC was also formed of well-established churches. Within the first two decades of the convention, the largest Southern Baptist churches in Texas and the oldest surviving Baptist church in the state had affiliated. The addition of these significant ministries argues that the new convention was not actually on a new path but rather returning to the old one. The timing of the SBTC’s founding means that the  convention was not made up of  very small churches whose pastors had not yet decided if they even believed missions to be a biblical concept, as was the case with some of the state’s first churches, 170 years earlier.

The timing of the convention’s founding is also important because in its earliest days it found support and encouragement from a strong and organized national convention. The SBTC, very early in its life, had support from the North American Mission Board for church planting and evangelism. GuideStone Financial Resources helped the new convention with retirement planning and health insurance for convention staff and affiliated church pastors. The SBC’s publishing house and seminaries provided expert personnel to lead training at the new state convention’s events. These resources were sparse in the early days of state conventions founded before 1900. They were readily available to all state conventions in 1998.

The times in which the SBTC was formed were also influential in its rapid maturity. The convention was born out of and shortly after the Southern Baptist Conservative Resurgence. Across the nation, Southern Baptist churches, institutions and denominational bodies were overtly affirming biblical inerrancy. There was reform in the air. Many church leaders were expecting theologically conservative leadership from their colleges, state conventions and associations for the first time in a generation. Many, if not most, of the churches that affiliated with the SBTC in the first 10 years had made up their mind about their former state convention before the SBTC was formed. They spent the next few years making up their minds about the SBTC.

Another advantage of the times was the generational mindset of the SBTC’s founders. Those who built the convention were heavily from the Baby Boomer generation. Boomers are not as committed to building institutions as their parents. Some of the founders of the SBTC had seen the impact on a state convention of owning and funding a large number of institutions, regardless of their good work. The following generation of SBTC leaders saw the merit of joining compatible institutions without allowing the process to control the convention’s priorities or devour the majority of its financial resources. That allowed the new convention to prioritize missions in a way more difficult for older conventions. The lower priority of institutional support also kept the controversy down. The SBTC Executive Board has never had a called meeting to respond to an institutional controversy, to consider escrowing funds or do damage control because an institutional crisis became a convention crisis. The convention has never had an annual meeting dominated by a division in the ranks over a college or children’s home.

A desire for doctrinal reform following the Conservative Resurgence became a desire for organizational reform in the SBTC’s second decade. Some state conventions responded to financial changes by cutting staff for several years in a row before they approached the staff size with which SBTC was already serving a similar number of churches. Other conventions are currently making deep bureaucratic changes in an effort to send a higher percentage of money for worldwide causes. At this writing, none have equaled the SBTC’s 55 percent and few have approached the staff/church ratio of the newest Southern Baptist state convention. SBTC founders, particularly its founding executive director, made minimal bureaucracy a core value. A generation of pastors that looked at what they considered top-heavy organization may have thought, “If I were in charge, things would be different.” With the SBTC, that generation had a chance to test this aspiration.

In this context, the convention achieved adequate strength for a full array of ministries within a short time. For each of the first few years, the number of affiliated churches doubled or nearly doubled until the number topped 1,000. Many of the churches that joined this fellowship would not have joined a new model of the standard, old-line convention.

These are the best thoughts I have on the “Why?” question and the “Why is it different?” question. Undeniably, the new convention has its own ministry and works alongside other state conventions with generosity and earnest partnership. The SBTC moved from beginning to maturity in record time. In Texas and around the world, this has been to the benefit, the building up, of many.

Founders of Baptist work in Texas and those who came along in the early 20th century, after the foundation was laid, were committed to the inerrancy of God’s Word whether they used the term or not. This is the heritage of Baptists—the sufficiency and truth of Scripture in all matters of faith and practice. Founding a new state convention in Texas was not starting over or blazing a new trail. SBTC founders were convinced they were returning to the path that God had blessed during the ministries of frontier preachers and strategic thinkers of Baptists’ first century in Texas. After working to reform their former state convention and failing, the only way open to those who wanted a missionary fellowship in Texas based on biblical integrity and partnership with the Southern Baptist Convention—a return to the former path—was to start something new.

REVIEW: “The Grinch” is funny, wonderful ¦ and full of great lessons for kids

He hates snowmen. He despises upbeat music. He even wears “Mold Spice” body spray. And the welcome mat outside his home? It reads, “Seriously, Go Away!”

He is the infamous Mr. Grinch — the green creature who loathes anything filled with joy and who lives in a mountaintop abode overlooking the happy-go-lucky people of Whoville.

If Mr. Grinch had his way, he would never encounter the citizens of this lovely village. But he has no choice, as Whoville is home to the region’s only grocery store, and he’s running low on food.

Thus, Mr. Grinch descends the mountain during one cold December day to purchase a few provisions he hopes will last him until Spring. While there, he sees everything he detests: Christmas carolers, colorful lights and laughing children. He also bumps into a friendly citizen who tells him that Whoville’s mayor wants this year’s Christmas to be three times bigger than it’s ever been.

Once back at his home, Mr. Grinch decides he’s had enough of happiness, and thus begins plotting to stop Whoville’s Christmas celebration. He will dress like Santa, sneak into the city on Christmas eve, and take everything related to the holiday, including the lights, decorations and gifts.  

“I’m going to steal their Christmas,” he tells his trusty dog, Max.

Will his plan work?

The animated movie The Grinch (PG) opens in theaters this weekend, starring Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange) as Mr. Grinch, actor and composer Pharrell Williams as the narrator, Rashida Jones (Parks and Recreation) as Donna Who, and Cameron Seely (The Greatest Showman) as Cindy Lou Who.

It is based on the children’s book How the Grinch Stole Christmas by author Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel and is the second big-screen adaptation of the story, following the 2000 live-action movie starring Jim Carrey.

The newest film largely follows the book and tells how Cindy Lou Who and the citizens of Whoville helped change Mr. Grinch’s outlook on life. Indeed, his heart grows three sizes at the end of the movie. The film also fills in the gaps by answering a few questions not addressed in the Dr. Seuss book, such as: Why was Mr. Grinch’s heart too small in the first place?

The Grinch is a funny and charming family-friendly movie that is full of the same positive lessons seen in the book. It also includes a few Christ-centric Christmas songs that take center stage. Minus a couple of moments of rude humor, it could be rated G.

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)


Minimal. The Grinch destroys a boy’s snowman, and then throws a snowball at him. Slapstick humor is used occasionally; the Grinch gets accidentally slingshot from his mountaintop perch into a huge tree. Later, he is sledding down a hill when he runs head-first into a tree.  


None. We see the Grinch getting ready in the morning in his underwear. He exercises in a speedo-like outfit. A boy’s Santa-like clothes are ripped off by a robotic contraption; he covers himself with a cookie. (This likely is what prevented the movie from being rated G.)

Coarse Language

None. One “geez” and one or two variations of “stupid.”

Other Positive Elements

Donna Who is a hard-working single mom who works all night and then takes care of her children during the day. As Cindy Lou Who says, it’s “not fair.” Cindy Lou Who decides to ask Santa to help make her mom happy. In fact, it’s her only request to him.

The song God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is sung by carolers, and we hear several times the lyric “Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day.” Later, a family sings Silent Night as they gather in their home.

For the most part, children in the movie obey their parents.

Life Lessons

The Grinch is full of positive message, led by Cindy Lou’s selflessness and Whoville’s display of joy despite their gifts and decorations being stolen. When you combine those messages, you get a powerful refutation of our society’s selfish and materialistic view of Christmas. (“He didn’t steal Christmas. He just stole stuff. … Christmas is in here,” Donna Who says, pointing to her heart.) Even though we never hear that “Jesus is the reason for the season,” it’s nevertheless great fodder for a post-movie discussion with the family.

The movie also has a loud message about caring for others and reaching out to people in need. The Grinch hates Christmas because he is lonely. He’s lonely because he grew up an orphan and never received love (or gifts) at Christmas. He subsequently turned bitter.    


I grew up reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I know the story by heart. Yet as I sat in the theater and watched the big-screen adaptation, I began viewing it as a modern-day parable — that is, a story with a moral lesson. The lesson(s): Stop worrying about the “stuff” that too often distracts us. Live an unselfish life. Care for those who are lonely and in need.

How many people around us are like the Grinch? They’re scarred and hurting due to something in their past. They need love. They need Jesus.

True, The Grinch isn’t a Christian story in the traditional sense, but its positive themes have their basis in Scripture.

Jesus said it best: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

What I Liked

The animation. The humor. The script. It’s close to being a perfect children’s film.

What I Didn’t Like

The potty humor isn’t over the top, but why include it? This movie was so close to gaining a “G” rating.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why was the Grinch the way he was? What caused him to change from his evil ways?
  2. Do you know someone who is lonely? How could you help bring him/her joy?
  3. What does the movie teach us about Christmas gifts and decorations? Are they bad?
  4. What can you do to keep the focus on Christ this Christmas?

Entertainment rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Rated PG for brief rude humor.

SBTC Leaders support nomination of Chitwood to lead IMB

The International Mission Board announced Nov. 6 that Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, is the presidential search committee’s recommendation to succeed David Platt as IMB president.

“Paul Chitwood is an excellent choice to lead the International Mission Board,” said SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards after the IMB trustees announced Dr. Chitwood’s recommendation.

“He is a state exec, so he understands how Southern Baptists relate to one another. He is a strong proponent of the Cooperative Program, which is the lifeline for missions. He is a confessional Baptist. He will keep us lashed to the inerrant Word of God,” Richards said. “I am thrilled at his selection.”

A former chairman of the IMB’s board of trustees, Chitwood has served as executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention since 2011. He has also served as a local church pastor for 18 years in four Kentucky churches. As a pastor, his churches averaged 18.5 percent giving through the Cooperative Program.

At Chitwood’s request and pending trustee approval, interim president Clyde Meador will remain as interim executive vice president throughout the presidential transition.

Chitwood served as an IMB trustee from 2002-10 and as board chairman from 2008-10. His overseas short-term mission involvement includes work in Brazil, Peru, India, China, South Africa, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya, England, Spain, Germany and Haiti.

The IMB board of trustees will meet to vote on Nov. 15 near Richmond, Va. If elected, Chitwood will take office effective immediately as the 13th president of the 173-year-old organization.

Looking up’: 1 year after Sutherland Springs attack

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS—Once members of the news media journey to Sutherland Springs, Texas, many leave with something unexpected after spending time with First Baptist Church pastor Frank Pomeroy and the congregation, which lost 26 people in a mass shooting attack one year ago.

“Out of all the shootings I have covered,” one reporter recently told Pomeroy, “you are the only ones who are smiling, thriving and moving forward.”

To be sure, there are still many tough days. Sometimes tears come at unexpected moments. But almost from the beginning, the members of this small congregation have demonstrated a remarkably strong faith and have kept an eternal perspective in the middle of their immense sorrow, heartbreak and grief.

“I can only say that this is how God works things when you choose to keep looking up,” Pomeroy said by phone a few days before the Nov. 5 anniversary. “There are a lot of tears and heartache, but the ability to move forward is much easier when you focus on the light and not the darkness.”

In the earliest days after the shooting, Pomeroy — whose 14-year-old daughter Annabelle was among those killed — encouraged his church to “not let the enemy take any ground.” He consistently insisted that Satan not have the victory from that dark day.

“When you keep looking at others and not yourself, you focus on serving others and not what you are going through,” Pomeroy said.

That approach has allowed the church to balance remembering and honoring those who died while at the same time moving forward.

“There’s no reason to stay anchored in the past because the Lord is alive,” Pomeroy said. “As a whole, we are healthy and doing well. I’ve never walked into a church and felt the spirit so strong.”

Hundreds crowded the church property on Sunday (Nov. 4), as the church gathered for special services to remember the 26 who died and to remind survivors and attendees that evil did not win that day. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was among those who addressed the group.

“The horrific shooting that took place here could’ve ripped this community apart — but it didn’t,” Abbott told those gathered. “Instead, you came together and turned to the Lord for strength, guidance and healing.”

On Monday (Nov. 5), the exact anniversary of the shooting, church members, shooting survivors, and loved ones of those who died will gather privately on the property for a more intimate time of prayer and reflection. Part of the time will be spent in the congregation’s new building, which is still being constructed.

“We will light candles,” Pomeroy said. “And each person will be given a Sharpie they can use to write a blessing on a wall or the name of a loved one who died. Those names and words will be a permanent part of our new building. They will always be a presence there.”

Even so, the congregation is also focused on new ministry opportunities and moving forward.

A temporary metal building serves as the current worship center for the nearly 200 who now attend services each week. On the back lot — which a year ago did not even belong to the church — construction of the new, permanent worship center and education building is progressing with an anticipated opening in spring 2019.

“Our current congregation is a very different mix,” Pomeroy says. “Some still struggle with new people stepping up and doing things. Some have trouble with the crowd. Some want a quiet little church again and that’s not where we are anymore.”

Still, among all the change are powerful reminders of that day one year ago. The building where the gunman attacked the then 50-member congregation now stands as a memorial. Painted all in white, it contains 26 chairs, placed exactly where each congregant who died was seated when the shooting started. A single, red rose is placed on each chair, and the name of the victim is written across the top.

Artwork, banners and messages sent from around the world are on display throughout their temporary building as vivid, daily reminders of the innumerable lives touched and hearts moved following the church tragedy. So many gifts have been sent, they can’t all be displayed at the same time.

Pomeroy says one of the best surprises after the tragedy was to see churches of all denominations step forward with help and encouragement.

“I was surprised at how quickly denominational walls came down,” Pomeroy said. “So many offered help. And people from all denominations let us know they were praying.”

Among the worst experiences, he said, was the harassment that came from so-called “truthers” who showed up in town almost immediately accusing Frank, his wife Sherri, and other church members of making up the whole shooting.

“When I first heard about the shooting in Pittsburgh, my heart broke for those people,” Pomeroy said. “It also angered me because I know for the next year they are going to have to put up with these ‘truthers.’ They are going to have to deal with these people telling them it never really happened. I wish I could go up there and put a hedge of protection around them myself,” he said.

Support from Southern Baptists has been a sustaining presence in the congregation’s progress, Pomeroy said.

“We are so appreciative and thankful for the prayers, donations, the new church building. Words can’t express how grateful we are and how much it has helped us in the healing process to know there is a plan ahead,” Pomeroy said.

At its annual fall festival a few days ago, a family that just recently started attending the church told Pomeroy their son was ready to be baptized. The young man joins several dozen who have been baptized and become members in the year since the shooting. This is the most important example of how God is bringing joy from the ashes.

There are other, smaller reminders as well.

“There is fencing up around the church construction site,” Pomeroy shared. “Already, there are buttercups growing along that fencing. It is just one more reminder to me that God can overtake everything.”

REVIEW: “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” is fun, mostly family-friendly, and full of great messages

Clara is a timid teen girl who is searching for her place in life following her mother’s death. It’s also Christmas—a fact that only adds to her sorrow.

“I don’t want to enjoy it,” she tells her father.

Her mom, though, had other ideas, and left her and her siblings several Christmas gifts they are to open on Christmas Eve. Clara’s present is a mysterious-yet-beautiful silver egg. It contains no key, even if it does include a note from her mom.

“Everything you need is inside,” it reads.

But without a key, how is she to open it? Even Clara—who excels in science and mechanics—cannot figure it out. Finally, she catches a break upon visiting her godfather’s workshop, which is nestled away in a huge mansion. While exploring the building during a Christmas gift hunt, she crosses over into another world full of talking toy soldiers, snow-filled forests, and intelligent mice. She also finds the key, although it is quickly snatched away by a mouse, who disappears into the woods. Clara also discovers that everyone here calls her “princess” and claims that her mother is the queen.

Can Clara find the key—and perhaps her identity in life, too?

Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (PG) opens this weekend, starring Mackenzie Foy (Interstellar) as Clara; Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby) as her godfather, Drosselmeyer; Helen Mirren (The Queen) as Mother Ginger; and newcomer Jayden Fowora-Knight as a soldier named Phillip. It was inspired by E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic 1816 story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.

The other world is divided into four realms. Three of those—the Land of Snowflakes, Land of Flowers and Land of Sweets—are governed by regents. Her key is lost in the Fourth Realm, which is led by the evil Mother Ginger. The regents urge Clara to travel there and find her key. They also request that she help protect them from Mother Ginger.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms has a plot that may sound quirky in print but works well on the big screen. It’s simplicity is refreshing in a movie world full of complicated superhero and science fictions films. The movie is entertaining (my 10-year-old son loved it) and also the perfect length (about an hour and a half). Visually, it is a delight. Just as significantly, it contains a handful of positive lessons, some of which are so obvious they hit you over the head.

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)


Minimal. We hear discussion about the death of Clara’s mother. The mice in the other world gang up to form a giant creature that looks like a swarm of insects. Clara and her friends enter the Fourth Realm under fog, giving it an eerie feeling. Creepy statues (like something from a theme park) guard the entrance. Clowns protect Mother Ginger, who has a couple of scars on her face. During a battle scene, giant toy soldiers are punched and hit frequently; they fall over easily.  


None. An evil female character jokes about the soldiers, “Boys with weapons in uniforms send a quiver through me.”

Coarse Language

Minimal. One coarse word said by Drosselmeyer: d–n (1). Possibly one OMG.

Other Positive Elements

At first, Clara is reluctant to sacrifice her time and energy for the realms but she eventually comes around, displaying selflessness. She and her father have a disagreement early in the film but forgive one another. Clara is skilled at science and mechanics—two subjects that did not draw the attention of many girls in the Victorian era, when the movie takes place.    

Life Lessons

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms provides lessons on grief during tragedy, courage, selflessness and leadership. Its most significant lesson, though, involves finding one’s place in life (see below).  


The movie’s theme—“everything you need is inside of you”—provides a mixed bag. That statement is true for the Christian, but it’s not for the unbeliever. What the unbeliever needs—Christ—is outside of him.

Yet that’s not the backdrop for The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. The movie presents Clara as someone who wants to be more like her sister and who is struggling to find her place in the world. Clara needs to discover and use her own talents. “You see the world in a unique way,” her mom tells her in a flashback scene, encouraging her to be herself. It’s a conversation I have had with my children when sibling rivalries arise. As I tell each of them: God has made gifted you in ways your brother and sister are not gifted. Be yourself!

“Over the course of this story, she learns that it’s OK for her to be different, and in fact the things that make her different are also what make her special,” Ashleigh Powell, who wrote the screenplay for the movie, told me this week. “And I think that’s just such a great message for not only girls but kids in general.”

As believers, our identity is in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17, 1 Peter 2:9, Galatians 2:20), but He has gifted each of us uniquely.

(The YouVersion Bible app includes a devotional based on the movie. Search for “Nutcracker” within the app.)  

What I Liked

The landscapes. The family-centric story. The incorporation of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite within the movie. Yet you don’t have to enjoy ballet to like the film; most of it is not ballet.

What I Didn’t Like

Two of the soldiers are somewhat effeminate, but I’m being picky.

Discussion Questions

  1. What does it mean that “everything you need is inside of you”? Do you agree with that statement?
  2. Why were Clara and her father upset at one another? What led Clara to apologize? What led her father to apologize?
  3. What did Clara learn while in the other world? What did you learn from the movie?

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

Rated PG for some mild peril.