Month: January 2019

Greear to launch “Who”s Your One?” with associations

DURHAM, N.C.  A Jan. 31 simulcast for associational leaders will help launch Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear’s “Who’s Your One?” evangelistic initiative among the 1,000-plus associations within the Southern Baptist network.

“Who’s Your One?” encourages every Southern Baptist to intentionally build a relationship with one person over the course of 2019, share the gospel and invite that person to trust Christ as Lord and Savior.

“Associations have always served as a valuable partner in cooperation, mobilizing churches together,” Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., told Baptist Press. “Our own local [Yates Baptist] Association, under the leadership of Marty Childers, provides a great structure for church revitalization, racial reconciliation and partnership evangelism in our city. It only seemed natural for every association in the country to work together.”

Sponsored by the North American Mission Board and the Yates Association, the simulcast will begin at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time on Jan. 31 and feature Greear’s introduction of “Who’s Your One?” to Yates Association pastors as they gather for a luncheon at Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Durham. Other associations that sign up online will receive login information to broadcast the event live.

Following Greear’s address, Johnny Hunt, NAMB’s senior vice president of evangelism and leadership, will introduce a “Who’s Your One?” evangelism kit being produced by NAMB for release in February. The kit is designed to help pastors lead a multi-week emphasis in their churches, encouraging every member to become more focused and intentional about evangelism.

Hunt told BP, “The ‘Who’s Your One?’ evangelism kit is going to be a huge help to pastors throughout our convention as they seek to mobilize their congregations for evangelism. Our associational leaders can play a key role in helping churches engage with this effort. We are grateful for their partnership and look forward to seeing how God is going to move as thousands of Southern Baptists become focused on sharing their faith.”

The simulcast also will feature a question-and-answer session with Greear, Hunt and Yates Association pastors.

Ray Gentry, executive director of the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders, has encouraged associations around the SBC to host their own pastors’ luncheons during the simulcast or show the event video, which will be archived, to pastors at a later gathering.

“The event is an opportunity for Pastor Greear to speak directly to our associations, recognizing the critical role associations play in equipping our churches for ministry,” Gentry wrote in a Dec. 20 email to associational leaders. “Can you imagine the impact if every church in our associations were filled with people asking God each day to allow them to lead one person to Christ this year?”

Childers, missional strategist for the Yates Association, called the simulcast “a great example of Baptist collaboration.”

“We’re excited to be on board with Who’s Your One?,” added Shane Pruitt, director of evangelism for the SBTC. He recalled a meeting in late November at NAMB with state convention evangelism directors and seminary professors where the idea was unveiled. “I am praising God for the focus on personal evangelism, and the collaboration taking place to put a continual focus on it. We are always better together than we are a part when it comes to proclaiming the gospel.”

Pruitt recalled examples of a Who’s Your One strategy two thousand years ago in the gospel narratives. “My favorite one is from John 1:43-46 when Jesus calls Philip to follow him, then immediately Philip goes after Nathaniel and invites him to ‘come and see.’”

Calling Nathaniel Philip’s “one,” Pruitt added, “Then, they both went and found other ones. That is how the kingdom is expanded. I love it. The SBTC Evangelism department will always be on board with anything that is biblically based, kingdom focused and missionary driven. May many come into the family of God through these efforts for the name, fame and glory of our King!” Additional information about the simulcast is forthcoming on the SBCAL website ( and SBCAL social media channels. 

Love—and earned trust—fuel Ranger church

RANGER—In a bit over two years, The Woodbridge church plant has grown to about 170 mostly unchurched people of varied ages in Sunday morning worship, and at least 40 baptisms.

Church planter Jared Johnson has done this with shoe leather, acts of service and simply inviting folks to the church that meets in the Ranger Academy of Martial Arts.

“America has voted on whether or not they want to go to church, and the church is dying,” Johnson told the TEXAN. “You can do all the neat gadgets and tricks you want to get people there, but they’re not going to come on their own unless they feel love and trust.”

The Woodbridge’s story starts in 2005, when a pastor told Johnson, “If I would start a church with five people who weren’t steeped in tradition, I’d be further along in one year than with a church that started with 100 people steeped in tradition.”

Johnson traces his call to church planting—and to church planting with a focus on the unchurched—back to that remark. In 2015, he left a church staff position to begin a one-year church planter apprenticeship under Nic Burleson, pastor of Timber Ridge Church in Stephenville, which had just started in 2011.

Plan A was to start a church in an under-churched big city. Plan B was to focus on a section of a city and make a more focused impact on the unchurched.

“Then,” Johnson said, “I began to ask myself, ‘How big would that section of a city be?’ And as I was passing through all the little towns on my way home from the big city, I felt like the Holy Spirit tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘This big.’ That’s when we began to see the value of ministering to a small town.”

He and his family—wife Laine and four children under 8—didn’t know anyone when, in February 2016, they arrived in Ranger, a community near his hometown that he had rejected the first nine times it came to mind. 

Ranger sits just off Interstate 20 about 75 miles west of Fort Worth. It had a population of about 50,000 during its early 1920s heyday as an oil boom destination. Today, only around 2,400 people remain. An initial demographic study showed only about 10 percent of the town’s residents attended church, most of whom were senior citizens.

“I went around Ranger and asked people to help us start a church, people not in church,” Johnson said. “We started a launch team and probably had 20 folks, give or take, who were pretty invested and excited before we had our first church service.”

Jared and Laine Johnson met weekly in their home with the launch team. Three preview services in August 2016 led to the grand opening service that about 75 people, all from Eastland County, attended. SBTC’s church planting ministry added strength to the effort by providing basic training, financial support and coaching.

The Woodbridge worships with contemporary music and a four-instrument praise team. A monthly rotation provides leadership for KidBridge, aimed at children between birth and fourth grade and coordinated by Laine Johnson. 

Those fifth grade and older stay in the worship service. Youth meet Wednesday nights in their “One80” group, while students from Ranger Community College meet Thursday evenings. Adults meet during the week in three life groups.

Sunday mornings start early, with volunteers rolling up the martial arts mats and punching bags, setting up the chairs and children’s classrooms and then replacing everything after the service.

The Woodbridge story mostly takes place in the community.

“If the city is doing it, we’re involved,” Johnson said. “We try to partner with the city with everything we can—city, school, whatever.

“We’ve done a lot of things to earn a good reputation,” Johnson added. “One of our most effective ways of discipling people is to put people in charge of something and walk with them. We ask people early on to serve.”

The Woodbridge returned the city park to a place of useful beauty, including transforming the unused tennis court into a regulation basketball court, painting playground equipment and park benches, landscaping and more.

For the last three summers, the church has provided free family movie nights in the park. Other community outreaches include popsicles and water at the summer parade and popcorn and hot chocolate at the winter parade, a harvest event in October that includes a pumpkin smash and pumpkin toss for parents and a variety of activities for youngsters, including a hay maze.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” Johnson said, referring to the church’s emphasis on local involvement. “We don’t make it into something religious. We just try to bless the community and invite people to church.

“With whatever we do, we invite people to church. We tell people there’s no bad day to bring somebody the first time.”

Johnson’s advice to his volunteers each week: “Find a heart and heal it. Find a need and fill it.” 

The church’s name—a bridge between God and people, joined together by a now-empty wooden cross—reflects its mission. 

“Our goal is to bring people closer to God, to the unchurched, de-churched and atheist,” Johnson said. “A lot of people don’t come to church because they don’t know anyone there. They don’t feel loved. 

“My job as pastor is to teach people to love people. We stress the importance of loving, so love them, and invite them.”  

Lisa Harper to headline Empower women”s session

LAS COLINAS Women attending the SBTC Empower Conference Feb. 25 will enjoy a session just for them featuring worship along with a message from noted Christian author and speaker Lisa Harper. Using her mix of humor and sound biblical teaching, Harper will encourage and inspire during the women’s session on Monday afternoon from 1:00-4:15 p.m.

Registration for the conference is free and available at

Rocky Weatherford on SBTC founding: “I was just a voice” in convention”s history

Editor’s note: As the SBTC continues in its 21st year, we are sharing reflections from those who laid the groundwork for a new state convention. The TEXAN interviewed Rocky Weatherford for this article, the second of a yearlong series.

ROCKWALL—Rocky Weatherford, pastor of Rockwall’s Chisholm Baptist Church, remembers the founding of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention as both unlikely and relational, calling himself “just a voice” in the convention’s history.

The Arkansas native was working as an electric company lineman when God called him to ministry. He earned two degrees at Criswell College and pastored his first church in Princeton, Texas, in 1987.

“In Texas, Criswell was the focal point of a lot of the conservative movement,” Weatherford said in a recent interview with the TEXAN.

By 1994, Weatherford was pastoring First Baptist Church Tool, on the west side of Cedar Creek Lake, when he heard of a meeting of Texas Baptist conservatives in Lubbock.

“I flew out there. There were maybe a dozen. Miles Seaborn, Casey Perry, Ed Ethridge were there,” Weatherford recalled. “We started meeting together. Gerald Smith would drive people all over the state at his own expense.”

The core group met in private homes, often in the Dallas area. “We could see the BGCT getting further from our roots,” Weatherford said. “Our goal was not to be divisive. We just wanted to be conservatives.”

People came from all over to the gatherings, including Skeet and Don Workman from Lubbock, Weatherford noted, adding, “I was just wanting to be part of something bigger.”

Events coalesced when a dozen met in a private home in the Dallas suburb of Rowlett. Frustration had built over the continued rejection of conservative voices by the BGCT. “Everything we’d try to do, they’d vote down,” Weatherford said. At dinner that night, he told the group, “I am as far as I can get. There’s going to be one conservative church in Texas.”

“I’m with you. There’s going to be two,” Ed Ethridge, then pastor of Woodlake Baptist Church in Carrollton, responded.

“At first we didn’t have a lot of the big name guys. It was all little churches. Then Stan Coffey [The Church at Quail Creek, Amarillo] showed up,” Weatherford recalled of the fledgling convention. “David Fannin of Nassau Bay signed on. George Harris [FBC Castle Hills, San Antonio] was not too far behind, out of San Antonio. Bill Sutton of McAllen [FBC McAllen] was such a strong voice. Guys like that stepped in and stepped up.”

Of the need for a new
state convention, Weatherford mused, “The reality is I believe in Texas as a whole, 80 to 85 percent [of Baptists] are conservative to the core but some of the leadership was not, at least in in 1998. We weren’t fighting. We just disagreed. Churches are autonomous.”

Weatherford also credits the churches of the Dogwood Trails Baptist Association and its fellowship among pastors for exemplifying the idea that “convention is personal.”

Weatherford served as the SBTC executive board’s first vice-president and chaired the board for two years until becoming alumni relations director at Criswell College. 

FBC Tool was among the top givers to the SBTC during its first few years, he said.

Weatherford recalled early conversations with Executive Director Jim Richards about the make-up of the SBTC, advocating the convention have a “tent as wide as we can have it,” urging that shared ministry is possible with people who “do things differently” as long as they agree on the truths of 1 Corinthians 15: “the plain vanilla of the gospel. We may not all agree on exactly how you do church, but we still are able to agree that we are conservatives. We hold to the Word of God.” 

Weatherford also reminisced in a video message shown at the 2018 SBTC annual meeting about sitting next to Richards when he was first presented as SBTC executive director.

“Do you really feel that God has led you to this position?” Weatherford leaned over to ask Richards.

“I did until now,” Richards replied, an answer Weatherford said he would never forget.

“If God called you to this, you need to forget all the disagreement and just go on, go forward, follow where God leads,” Weatherford responded then. Addressing Richards directly on the current video, Weatherford added, “And you answered. And you did that. And you’ve done that for the last 20 years. And I’m really grateful for what you’ve done. I know that God called you there and that God has used you for his glory, and like Paul Harvey said, ‘The rest is

As for Weatherford, he served as a board member for the Texas Baptist Home for Children and recently ended a stint as chair of the convention’s credentials committee.

Weatherford and his wife, Marsha, still live at Cedar Creek Lake. Marsha told the TEXAN that her involvement in the SBTC’s founding mostly centered on holding down
the home front while Rocky traveled.

“I couldn’t do what I did if she wasn’t who she was,” Rocky said of his wife of 42 years. “She is home. Houses don’t mean anything. Wherever she is, is home.”

REVIEW: “Glass” delivers a muddled moral message about superheroes, talents

David Dunn is an unassuming middle-aged man who runs a home security system during the day and dons a cape-like poncho to fight crime at night.

That’s when he becomes the “Overseer,” a shadowy figure with super strength who makes headlines for his good deeds but is viewed with suspicion by the Philadelphia police, who consider him a vigilante. They want him in jail.

That threat of arrest, though, doesn’t prevent Dunn from trying to solve the city’s latest crime: the kidnapping of four cheerleaders by a crazed man known as the “Beast,” who has multiple personalities and has killed several people.

Dunn and his son, Joseph, believe they can pinpoint the Beast’s location by using police records, a computer program, and a ton of detective work.

Their hard work pays off one day when Dunn finds the Beast’s abandoned warehouse, sets the cheerleaders free, and goes “mano a mano” against this evil villain.

But then the plan goes awry. The police show up and surround Dunn and the Beast. Both are arrested and committed to the psychiatric ward, where they will be studied by a doctor—Ellie Staple—who believes they have severe mental problems. She also thinks the two men are wrong in their conviction that they have super strength.

Superheroes, she insists, don’t exist.

The film Glass (PG-13) opens this weekend, completing the trilogy by writer/director M. Night Shyamalan that began with sci-fi/drama film Unbreakable (2000) and continued with the thriller Split (2016). It stars Bruce Willis (Die Hard) as Dunn, James McAvoy (Split) as Kevin Wendell Crumb/the Beast, Sarah Paulson (Ocean’s Eight) as Staple, and Samuel L. Jackson (Avengers series) as Elijah Price.

The film is part-superhero film and part-thriller, but it’s mostly just weird and dull.

Dunn, the Beast and Price all have extraordinary talents (or is it powers?) and believe they are superheroes, yet Staple refuses to acknowledge their abilities. Everything, she says, has a natural explanation.    

Glass has the surprising/shocking ending that Shyamalan’s films are known for, but it also has a muddled message about talents and everyday superheroes — even though those are supposedly the film’s major themes.

There’s also this: Much of the action in the film’s final scenes takes place outside, in the daytime, which lessens the hair-raising potential. There’s a reason thrillers and horror films often take place at night. They’re just scarier that way. At times, the outdoor scenes in Glass border on goofy.

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

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


Moderate/extreme. The opening scene shows Kevin holding the four cheerleaders hostage in a warehouse; they’re hands are chained. We hear Dunn, off screen, beat up two young men. Kevin turns into the Beast and fights the Overseer; the battle is tame but still violent. We see a flashback scene of Kevin being threatened by his mother; she approaches him with a hot iron but the scene quickly cuts way. The Beast squeezes a man and breaks his back; we hear the sound of it. Price slits a man’s throat with glass. (We see it from behind and later see the body.) Someone is shot in the stomach. Several people die. The film’s most troubling aspect involves Kevin’s split personalities—he has around 20 in this movie—and his transformation into the Beast, which looks nothing short of a muscular man who is possessed. He growls like a dog. He walks on ceilings and walls. It’s eerie.


None. Although one of Kevin’s personalities is a gay man who flirts with a male worker.

Coarse Language

Moderate. About 13 coarse words: A– (5), b–ch (2), s–t (2), p—y (1), misuse of “Jesus” (1), b—ard (1), GD (1).

Other Positive Elements

David and his son are close and care for one another. We also see people reach out to Price and Kevin, despite their violent past.

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

David is a widower whose wife died of cancer.

Life Lessons

Among the film’s major messages is the importance of a child’s upbringing and/or the negative impact that trauma can have on one’s life. Kevin/the Beast was abused as a child and, supposedly, developed his multiple personalities as a way to repress his memories. Dunn was bullied as a child and nearly drowned, and then later in life survived a train wreck that killed every other passenger. Price was born with a debilitating bone condition and was involved in a fair ride accident at a young age. Shyamalan wants us to feel compassion for the men, but with the exception of Dunn, it doesn’t happen. That’s because the violence and flesh-eating stuff overshadows the brief flashback-to-childhood scenes we watch. Speaking of that …


Shyamalan also wants Glass to help people consider the “extraordinary things” all of us can do. In other words, we have superhero-like skills, yet “we can be talked out of” believing it is so (as happens in Glass) he told USA Today.

Glass, though, is an odd way to convey that message. Outside of David Dunn—who is a good guy and who does act like an average-man superhero—none of the other so-called superheroes are inspiring. In fact, they’re appalling. Price slits a man’s throat with a large shard of glass. The Beast breaks a man’s back, kills another man, and then begins eating human flesh. (In Split, he’s even more animal-like.) Once again: Why am I supposed to be inspired by these out-of-control murderers?

Scripture (Matthew 25:14-30) teaches that we all have talents and—in a sense—we all can do extraordinary things through God’s power. That’s definitely true.    

Glass ends with a dialogue about talents and superheroes that would make sense at the end of, say, Spider-Man. But not at the end of Glass.

I enjoy movies that leave me with a reason to be hopeful about the world. Glass doesn’t do that.

What Works

David Dunn as a superhero. McAvoy is impressive.

What Doesn’t

The movie’s promotion of Kevin and Price as superheroes.

Discussion Questions

  1. Did you consider Glass a superhero film?
  2. Did you feel sympathy for Kevin and Elijah Price? Why or why not?
  3. How can a child’s upbringing impact (both negatively positively) their adult life? Can it turn them into a so-called monster?
  4. Did you like the movie’s ending? Why or why not?

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

Rated PG-13 for violence including some bloody images, thematic elements, and language.

REVIEW: “A Dog”s Way Home” spotlights one of God”s great blessings

Lucas is a caring, 20-something man who will do anything to save animals in harm’s way—perhaps even risking jail.

So one day when he spots several endangered animals across the street inside a fenced-off condemned area, he and his girlfriend, Olivia, break the law by sneaking through the fence to save them.

The lot owner tells them to beat it, but not before Lucas and Olivia free the cats and escape with a dog that will be a gift to his mom, a war veteran. Dogs, Lucas says, can help veterans suffering from depression.

His mom loves the dog (they name her Bella) but doesn’t realize the breed is illegal under city code. That’s because Bella is classified as a pit bull—even though she doesn’t look like one.

Soon, the lot owner reports Bella to animal control, and soon after that, she is in the pound. Lucas pays a fee to get her back, even though he knows she can’t stay with him and his mom. So he takes her to Olivia’s out-of-state parents, where Bella will live until Lucas moves to a location where he can legally keep the dog.

It sounds like a good plan. That is, until Bella escapes and runs through the forest and down the highway—with the goal of traveling the 400 miles back to Lucas.

Will Bella make it?

The PG film A Dog’s Way Home opens this weekend, starring Jonah Hauer-King (Little Women, 2017) as Lucas; Alexandra Shipp (X-Men: Apocalypse) as Olivia; Ashley Judd as Lucas’ mom, Terri; and Bryce Dallas Howard (Pete’s Dragon) as the voice of Bella.

The live action-film is told from the perspective of Bella, who is raised by cats before being saved by Lucas—or as she calls him, her “person.” It is the latest in a recent series of pet-centric movies: Dogs Days (2018), Show Dogs (2018), A Dog’s Purpose (2017) and The Secret Life of Pets (2016), among them.

It is a cute, mostly family-friendly film (details below) that dog lovers especially will appreciate. The movie has two larger purposes: 1) highlight the positive role pets can play in companionship with veterans, and, 2) support the Humane Society’s “all dogs are equal” initiative, which opposes breed-specific bans and policies. City officials are attempting to impound Bella, even though she is friendly and looks nothing like a pitbull. Her kind demeanor is further underscored when she takes care of a cougar cub.  

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

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


Minimal/moderate. We see animal control workers catching stray pets and taking them to the pound. We hear a cougar shot and killed and then see its body; its cub is orphaned. Wolves chase Bella and a baby cougar. A man is buried under an avalanche; he survives. Wolves fight a dog. A dog is hit by a car. A homeless man dies near a river; we see his body.  


None. We hear a woman jokingly say a man is not “hot.” Additionally, parents may want to know about a couple of related issues. (See “Other Stuff You Might Want to Know”—below.)

Coarse Language

Minimal. A couple of coarse words: h-ll (1), OMG (1). One instance of “oh my gosh.” A dog is nicknamed “shaggy butt.”

Other Positive Elements

Children will enjoy watching Bella take care of a cougar cub and helping it find water and food. Perhaps that doesn’t happen in real life, but there are lessons to be learned on kindness.

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

Two men enter the story midway through the film, and it is implied they are a gay couple. They don’t kiss, hug or even hold hands, but they ski together and live in a nice home together. (Older children might ask questions; younger ones likely will not.)

In the film’s final scene, Lucas and Olivia are living together. Maybe they’re married by now, but it doesn’t appear that way; he’s not wearing a ring. (Most kid won’t notice, though.)  

Life Lessons

The primary message of A Dog’s Way Home is this: Pets need us, and we need pets. (See Worldview, below). But it also provides lessons on kindness (Bella, Lucas, others), companionship (Bella, Lucas, a homeless man, veterans), and taking care of those who can’t care of themselves (Lucas, Olivia and Bella).


A proper view of pets requires a proper view of animals: Humans are more important than animals (Genesis 1-3), and God gave mankind dominion over them. (He told us to eat them and He even crafted clothing out of animal skin).

If mankind didn’t have dominion over the animals, then there would be no such thing as pets. Pets, after all, are animals that were domesticated by humans.

But do pets need us, and do we need them? The former is certainly true. I even suspect God expects us to take care of pets. That’s because we have trained them to rely on us. It’s our responsibility to help them. In A Dog’s Way Home, Bella likely would die if Lucas didn’t help her. (God takes care of animals, too: “He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call”—Psalm 104:21.)

Do we need pets? For some people, the answer may be “yes.” Pets provide companionship. They provide entertainment. They provide unconditional love. They even can provide protection. Of course, they also teach responsibility.

Pets are one of God’s many blessings—as most children already know.

What Works

The relationship between Bella and her cougar friend. I could watch a movie just on that.

The scenery. (The film’s setting is Colorado.)

What Doesn’t

A Dog’s Way Home is a very simple movie with a thin plot. Some will find that enjoyable. Others will be bored.  

Discussion Questions

  1. Does the Bible support the modern-day animal rights movement?
  2. What is our responsibility with animals? With pets?
  3. Why do some people need/want a pet more than others?
  4. Are there people who shouldn’t be given a pet?

Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Rated PG for thematic elements, some peril and language.

REVIEW: “Social Animals” spotlights perilous combination of teens & Instagram

Not that long ago, I was young and hip. I knew about the latest trends, the latest songs, the latest gadgets. It was my life.

But the process of growing older and having children changed that. My interests also evolved.

Thus, when my 10-year-old and 7-year-old sons came home a year ago and began doing “Fortnite” dances, I asked what any middle-aged man would ask: What’s Fortnite? Google took care of that.

I had a similar reaction recently when I watched a new documentary, Social Animals. It follows three real-world young people as they post nearly everything about their lives on Instagram. Yes, I knew about Instagram. Yes, I even have a (mostly ignored) Instagram account. But I didn’t fully grasp the negative impact it is having on young people.

The 87-minute film—which is streaming on all major platforms—is an eye-opener for parents raising children in a selfie-obsessed culture.

Launched in 2010, Instagram is the preferred social media platform for today’s teens. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, which are text-heavy, Instagram is image-driven. The user takes a picture and posts it. A written message is optional. The goal is to get the most “likes.”

Social Animals tells the story of Kaylyn, a high schooler who is hyper-obsessed with her looks and has half a million followers; Emma, a teenager who had to change high schools because she was bullied on Instagram; and Humza, a New York City photographer who illegally scales tall buildings and bridges to capture the perfect Instagram image.

Their stories are told without narration or commentary, but that’s not needed. By the time the credits roll, you’re convinced that Instagram—without strict boundaries—is bad for a young person’s mental and social health.

Girls primp and pose for the picture-perfect, model-like shot.

“I look awful!” one says to the other while deleting the “bad” pictures.

In between the stories of Kaylyn, Emma and Humza, we hear from other teens who use Instagram.

“I took a shower, I blow dried my hair, I curled my hair, I did my makeup, and it took about an hour and a half just to get ready for a selfie,” one girl says.

Another girl uses a special app to erase acne in her pictures.

It’s a world where inner beauty means nothing and looks are everything. It’s a world where “likes” and “followers” determine one’s meaning in life.

Scripture tells us that “charm is deceptive,” “beauty does not last” and each person is “wonderfully made” (Proverbs 31:30, Psalm 139:14). But you wouldn’t know that by scrolling Instagram.

It was directed by Jonathan Ignatius Green, who said some parents watch it with their teens.

“I think our biggest goal is to stir a rich conversation,” Green told me. “[Social media] is powerful. It impacts our entire world—not just teenagers, but adults, too. Hopefully the takeaway is, ‘Hey, I need to take a look at this and maybe reflect on my own behaviors on social media and my own motivations for doing some of these things.’”

Social Animals includes some rough content. It’s not for everybody.

But its core message—and its implicit warnings—should be heard by today’s families.

Content warning: Social Animals is unrated; treat it like a PG-13-type film. It includes no nudity but does show girls in swimsuits. It also includes some coarse language, including some strong language.  

Kutter Callaway, assistant professor of culture and theology at Fuller Seminary, wrote a discussion guide. Download it here.

For more information, visit

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

President Trump, loose talk and 2019

Do you have a “maybe not” file? By whatever name, this is where sermons that go nowhere, blog posts that sound crazy, letters you’d never want the recipient to read and other ill-formed ideas go to season. Mine contains the half-written frames of scores of columns I decided weren’t ready for prime time. Some of them just faded out as I tried to develop a thought, others became less attractive as I imagined readers who might be needlessly wounded by my words. I’ve deleted some of them as hopeless but a few I imagine might one day be redone into something I’d publish.

Social media offers fewer opportunities to rethink our great ideas. I’ve deleted a post or two from my Twitter accounts and Facebook page, cringing at a mistake I made or dumb thing I said. But I’ve never called people hateful names in these media. Maybe I was blessed to be beyond my “everything I say must be broadcast” stage of life by the time social media was invented. More likely, I’ve seen some sinful language of mine in ink on paper once too often and it’s made me less enamored with knee-jerk responses.

As we turn toward year three of the Donald Trump administration, some few of the brethren are still beside themselves that he was elected. No problem with that opinion, as an opinion. But exasperation clearly tempts us to cross lines. I do get that. We Americans are not restrained people. “I disagree” or “I think you’re wrong for the following reasons” just doesn’t get you much attention. We are tempted instead to call people “fools” or “charlatans” or “carnal Christians” as I have seen done already this year. That does get attention I suppose. In despair or guilt I’ve seen more than one person advocate for unity or kindness or humility to be revived in our national, and Baptist, dialogue. I agree in some limited ways but think saying it is harder than it even sounds.

My “maybe not” file is the old school equivalent of deleting a post or email without sending it. It’s the electronic version of a trash can, or just shutting my mouth. A maturing person learns that not everything he thinks should be expressed to anyone. The longsuffering Mrs. Ledbetter can testify that not 10 percent of my wacky (but accurate) ideas are ever shared with anyone else. What she may doubt is that a fairly small number of these gems are even shared with her. I have opinions about everything and I think you probably do as well. Tighten your filter as I daily try to tighten mine.

It changes my thinking to do that. If I don’t air out my every thought, I find myself dwelling less on the unworthy ones. Giving bad thinking or attitudes less time results in recognizing them and rejecting them more quickly. If I don’t say every judgmental thing that crosses my mind when I’m cranky, I am offended less often (which becomes a new thing) when someone rejects my opinion. Perhaps as a bonus, I find that I talk less and don’t as often seek to be the dominant opinion in the conversation, even when I am right.

If we desire unity, less acrimony or even more disciplined use of social media from others, this seems a good place to start. This is far from an original idea and it’s more often expressed by my generation—those who were middle-aged by the time these megaphones where handed out. But I’m not asking for a tech fast or even more consideration and kindness from those around me (in a vague, worldwide, electronic way). I’m saying that all of us have some experience regretting something we’ve said. All of us have seen the need to just shut up on some occasions. I don’t believe my ideas will get better or that I’ll be less of a boor or bully by merely trying to say better things in the same quantity as ever.

If you doubt that this will work, try an exercise with which I’ve had some experience. When you carelessly offend someone by email, social media or opinion column, apologize to them personally. It’s a humbling, even humiliating, experience. Doing it makes me not want to do it again.

We’ll see some outrageous things said and done as our endless election cycle start to get louder this year. It’s likely we’ll see our brothers in Christ say some sinful things, or at least ridiculous things. It’s not necessary that we ridicule the ridiculous or rebuke sinners with whom we have no personal relationship. Of course publicly expressed ideas are fair game for disagreement and rebuttal, but be careful when “you are wrong” just seems inadequate: “You are wrong, fool” only seems better. I’ve been on both ends of that impassioned rant and know that nothing except the name calling is remembered in such a conversation.

Simply, make this year, this election cycle, a time when you rise to fewer provocations, craft fewer zingers and take up less bandwidth. Try saying better things, sure, but start by saying fewer things, James 3:2.  

John Yeats led communications for SBT Fellowship of churches

Editor’s note: As the SBTC enters its 21st year, we will be sharing reflections from those who laid the groundwork for a new state convention. The TEXAN interviewed John and Sharon Yeats at November’s 20th anniversary celebration at Houston Second Baptist Kingwood for this article, the first of a yearlong series.

KINGWOOD Constructive change often depends on an effective communication network to engage like-minded people in common goals, something Thomas Paine kept in mind when penning Common Sense at the dawn of the American Revolution.

John Yeats knew it, too.

Years before the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention was formed in 1998, Yeats realized that theologically conservative Baptists in Texas needed a publication representing their views. Yeats, now executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention but then pastor of South Park Baptist Church in Grand Prairie, began producing The Plumbline, a periodical distributed widely to Southern Baptists in Texas who were concerned about denominational liberalism.

“We would go into the fellowship hall of our church, lay pages out on the tables, walk around the tables to assemble them and mail them out,” Sharon Yeats told the TEXAN.

Before the SBTC’s formation, John was called away to the Indiana convention to lead state communications and public policy efforts, followed by similar roles in Oklahoma and Louisiana. He became Missouri’s executive director in 2011. A member of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, he has held the elected post of SBC recording secretary since 1997. He has pastored churches in Texas and Kansas.

“This 20-year anniversary of the SBTC means a great deal,” John said. “Our church that we pastored here in Texas was at an impasse in that we could no longer doctrinally cooperate with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. So we looked for a suitable alternative and helped lay the groundwork for that alternative by publications and networking,” he said, noting that his Grand Prairie church became a “common site” for theologically conservative Baptists to meet.

“It was just a delight to see the thing blossom,” Yeats said of the SBTC’s founding, adding that he had recommended Jim Richards as the convention’s first executive director. Yeats said he had served with Richards and Gary Ledbetter, SBTC director of communications, on the SBC’s Christian Life Commission, which later became the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Yeats lauded the SBTC executive director’s leadership style and said that Richards’ guiding principles had become a model for other state conventions. 

Yeats also praised the idea of a confessional fellowship, stating that in his own state’s convention, this “gives us a platform to communicate with people about who we are as Missouri Southern Baptists.”  

Pastor the bride as a Servant

In 2003, I was playing keyboards for a big-name country music act when we had come to the end of the night of our New Year’s Eve show in San Antonio. We played our encore song and were escorted to our backstage “green room” where everything we had requested was waiting on us. From the food and drinks we requested, to everything else–there was no doubt we were treated like royalty in these places and before we ever showed up to these venues it was clear what each of us were to have in those rooms when we arrived. Venues agreed to these demands before ever hiring the artist. Artists could actually cancel their contracts if these demands weren’t met and go elsewhere. Not only were these green rooms set up to our standards but our gear and everything was set up exactly how we wanted it as well.

I tell this story because so often this “green room effect” has become the norm in the 21st century church! I had the opportunity to preach a Disciple Now a while back and got to the church early, so the pastor let me come into his office and hang out. I was immediately blown away as I conversed with him. “There is no way I would preach to kids! My calling is Sunday mornings only,” he stated. “Adults are hard enough; I didn’t sign up to deal with moody teenagers too; they don’t pay me enough to do that!” He added. The green room effect–“Give me what I want, when I want, how I want, where I want and if I don’t get what I want, I will go somewhere else.”

This is a cancer that over the 12 years I have been in ministry I have seen slowly destroying the bride of Christ–not only in pastoral ministry but ministry generally. We have this sense of entitlement that puts us in a box. “I’m called to teach, to preach, to greet, to play piano, to play guitar, to lead worship, to watch babies, to lead men’s ministry, to lead women’s ministry, etc., and there is no deviating from that “calling.” I’m not “called” to watch babies; I’m not “called” to set up chairs or to park cars; I’m not “called” to pick up toilet paper that’s on the floor of the bathroom at church. It’s the green room effect. We have lost focus on the bigger “calling” on ALL of our lives as the church to “toil and strive” (1 Timothy 4:10), pointing people to Jesus and sadly have put our focus on ourselves and have become entitled making it more about ourselves, our ministries and our calling, never stepping outside our boxes.

What would happen though if we would think a little outside the box in this area? I mean, I get it that we all have a calling on our lives that’s unique and for kingdom advancement, but what would happen if we became a people who, when we saw a need in the church, we step up and serve? Let’s get out of our green rooms of entitlement and where we see a need, serve! No matter what we are “called” to in the ministry (even pastors), there is NOTHING below us that we can’t step up to and help the bride be all that it can be to advance the kingdom of God! As the Psalmist says in Psalm 84:10, “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in tents of wickedness.”

Let us be a people of God who are getting out of this place of entitlement, out of our green rooms. We are toiling and striving, and gladly holding the doors open for the glory of God and for the praise of his glorious name!

Ryan Hurt serves as pastor and worship leader at Lingleville Baptist Church.