Month: February 2019

Four Texans among 19 missionaries commissioned; Chitwood installed as IMB president

RICHMOND, Va.  Before the installation of Paul Chitwood as the 13th president of the International Mission Board on Feb. 6, four missionaries with Texas ties were among 19 commissioned in a sending ceremony at Grove Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond.

The four Texans joined the more than 3,600 Southern Baptist international missionaries.

SBC leaders from national entities, seminaries and state conventions attended the celebration, which included remarks by SBC President J.D. Greear, a charge by former IMB President Tom Elliff and a response by Chitwood. WMU Executive Director Sandy Wisdom-Martin and IMB President Emeritus Jerry Rankin also participated in the service, which featured testimonies from the 19 new missionaries. 

Andy and Kesiah Morris, with their daughter, Olivia, are being sent by Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth to serve in South Korea. 

“As an international couple, it always seemed like we were caught between two different worlds,” Andy Morris said. “While our marriage was strong and our lives filled with reasons to be content, there was something deeper happening in our relationship. It was God who was calling us to go out into multicultural ‘in-between’ spaces.”

“One day last summer, we finally recognized this and made peace with the idea of uprooting ourselves and moving overseas,” Kesiah Morris said. “A few days later, with a divine appointment, [God] opened up the door and gave us a clear and unexpected call upon our lives to go as missionaries.

Arc and Rachel Crownover met as students at Southwestern Seminary, where Rachel was pursuing the study of missions.

“While I was in East Asia on a hands-on assignment, Arc went to missions week at Southwestern and learned about the lostness in Germany,” Rachel said.

“Burdened deeply by that lostness, I knew that we had to help, so when [Rachel] came back, I married her, and when we finished our degrees we spent almost three years in Germany with the IMB,” Arc said.

“We felt God call us to long-term service, so with our four children, we will be headed back to Germany to fulfill this calling,” Rachel added.

The Crownovers are being sent by NewBrook Church in Fort Worth.

The calling to go to the nations is one that Southern Baptists have sought to support since the Southern Baptist Convention’s beginnings. Unity around the Great Commission is core to Southern Baptist identity, Tom Elliff said in his charge to Chitwood and the new missionaries. 

“I sat there and cried thinking about how wonderful it is that we have the privilege of joining in this incredible mission of God of sending these people around the world,” Elliff said. “That’s happened thousands and thousands of times as the International Mission Board has, by the grace of God, had the privilege of doing that.”

Preaching from Philippians 2, Elliff reminded those gathered that Southern Baptists share a sacred mission, a solemn mandate that should not be taken lightly, and a specific manner in which we are to live our lives. 

Reminding the new appointees that the earliest Southern Baptist missionaries packed their belongings in caskets knowing they would never return, Elliff stressed the importance of the word “together.” 

“From the outset, there were people who realized that we can do better together than we can apart,” Elliff said. 

In 1925, Southern Baptists came together again to form the Cooperative Program, Elliff said. 

“That’s when we realized that if we really wanted to exponentially multiply the ability to send people around the globe, this was going to be the best way to do it. The best way is to do things together.” 

Chitwood responded to Elliff’s charge by asking the newly appointed missionaries and members of the home office staff to stand, acknowledging that they, with missionaries around the world and state and denominational leaders, have “made room” for him “in their hearts.” 

Concerning lost people around the world “who most of us will never know until and unless we see them around the throne,” Chitwood added, “thank you for making room for them in your hearts, your prayers, your giving, going and sending.”

The Sending Celebration service took place during an IMB trustees meeting in Richmond, Va., that also included the election of Todd Lafferty as the 173-year-old entity’s executive vice president and the affirmation of Roger Alford as vice president of communication. 

—with reporting by Ann Lovell

Freedom Church reaches parolees where they live

FORT WORTH  Imagine a person was just released from prison and wanted to get his life on the right track, and he knew going to church needed to be part of that plan. But because of his criminal record, he was required to stay away from churches. What would he do to find help?

In Fort Worth, such a person is able to find help and hope through Freedom Church, a ministry of First Baptist Church in nearby Colleyville. Freedom Church reaches men and women re-entering society from prison by offering weekly worship services, small groups and life skills classes. 

“Since these individuals for whatever reason—their paperwork, a stigma they may carry with them—don’t feel comfortable walking into a church or maybe they’re not thinking about church, I thought, ‘Hey, let’s bring church to them,’” John Earle, First Baptist Colleyville’s Freedom Church campus pastor, told the TEXAN. 

“When we reach ‘the least of these,’ it’s individuals who maybe committed murder, hardened criminals who have done their time and now they’re trying to get back into society,” Earle said. 

The ministry began a couple of years ago when First Baptist Colleyville deployed small group leaders to offer Bible studies in parolee housing complexes in Fort Worth, about half an hour from the church. They’d meet in laundry rooms or wherever they could find space. 

About a year ago, Earle said, Freedom Church emerged, with Wednesday night worship services in a rented room at the Resource Center of Tarrant County. After eight years on staff as a youth pastor at First Baptist Colleyville, Earle transitioned last fall to his new position leading the ministry. 

Earle, who was an offensive tackle for five seasons in the NFL before entering ministry, realized the church volunteers weren’t able to maximize their efforts while meeting in the resource room. For one, parolees had to fill out extensive paperwork just to get permission to attend the services. 

“They had stipulations within their parole if they were allowed to leave the campus,” he said. “I saw that sometimes they came and sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes it might be in their paperwork that if they worked in the daytime they can’t leave their campus at night.”

So starting in January, the worship services moved to the housing units where the parolees stay as they transition back into society. “It gives us a lot more people to reach with the gospel,” Earle said. 

“We know that we’re never going to be autonomous because of the turnover,” he said. “We have these parolees anywhere from three to five months. They go into these housing units and then they leave and go back into society. Our impact has to be fast and furious.” 

But God is working, and results have been visible.

“We see people getting saved daily. This past Sunday at a small group we had eight people get saved,” Earle said. “We’re going to get them baptized and walking with God. 

“I’ve heard stories of people getting attached to Freedom Church and six months later when they’re out and not living in the housing unit anymore, they still come to the services. They’ve told our volunteers that Freedom has had the biggest impact on their life.”

Earle explained that when a parolee is allowed to leave prison, “immediately they want a job. They need clothes. They need a place to stay. They need food. Those are all big-time urgencies on their hearts.

“But as I roll with them, I let them know that unless they have a heart transplant they’re going to be the same old, same old, and that urgency is going to cause them to make bad choices and get back in prison again,” Earle said.

Freedom Church strives to see changed hearts, and the people who keep coming back even after they’re allowed to leave the facility talk about that transformation, Earle said, and about how they have better lives now that they walk with Christ. 

A common saying in American culture is that everyone deserves a second chance, Earle noted, but that adage stops short.

“Let’s be real. We’re all probably on our 150th chance. I used to speak in public schools and I’d say the only difference between a person sitting behind bars and a person sitting in a school is some people get caught and some people don’t,” Earle said. 

God repeatedly offers forgiveness when true repentance is present, he said. 

“When these people are turning their backs on their sinful ways, who are we not to offer an opportunity to do life with them and help them get back on their feet and help them understand that they can be a returning citizen in society?”

It’s normal for people to feel uneasy when someone with a criminal record crosses their path, Earle said, especially if the person is a sex offender. “People want to forgive them from afar, but that’s not true forgiveness. True forgiveness is offering to do life with somebody.” 

Earle was born and raised in Keyport, N.J., and went to college in Illinois before being drafted into the NFL. After playing pro football, he joined Sports World Ministries and traveled the country sharing his testimony in public schools for 12 years. 

Part of that testimony is that football had been everything to him, and then he saw it slipping away; within a 14-month span he broke his right foot twice and his left foot twice. He thought of suicide, and he called his dad, who told him Jesus loved him and would never leave him. That night in 1991 he surrendered his life to Christ. 

Around 2008, after he had spoken in a Texas school, a pastor called him and asked him to consider being a youth pastor in Gainesville, Texas. “I lived in Illinois. I was from New Jersey. I had no thoughts about going to Gainesville, Texas, but I went down there and became a youth pastor and enjoyed every minute of it,” Earle said.

After three years there, he went to First Baptist Colleyville. What led him into prison ministry there, he said, is that Guy Earle, his identical twin brother who also played in the NFL, is executive pastor of GracePointe Church in Denton, and the two brothers founded Think Twice Ministries. 

“We do prison ministry,” John Earle said. “We probably do about 100 speaking events in prisons a year, and we see thousands of salvations. … We’ve been doing that for like the last 10 years. That’s where the love for prison ministry has come from.”

To give a prisoner the opportunity to rehabilitate himself with Christ starts with hearing the Word of God and includes a small group setting where he can receive individual attention, Earle said. “We can offer anger management classes and other things.” 

“When I talk about the Freedom experience in the parolee home, that’s what it really looks like: How many times can we touch you with the gospel in different settings and different ways where you’re at?” Earle said. 

Prison ministry can go beyond showing up, preaching and leaving, he said. 

“The parolee ministry is a little different because you’re doing life with them, you’re offering yourself, walking side by side with them as they are learning how to figure out life again,” Earle said. “I guarantee every city has parolee houses. I would encourage your church to find the parolee houses that are in their area and start impacting them.” 

Greenway nominated to lead Southwestern Seminary

FORT WORTH—Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary alumnus Adam W. Greenway, dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has been unanimously selected by Southwestern Seminary’s presidential search committee as their nominee to fill the presidential vacancy.

Greenway, 41, has served in many denominational leadership roles, including vice chairman of the Evangelism Task Force (2018), president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention (2011-2012), trustee and board chairman for LifeWay Christian Resources (2005-2015), and current chairman of the SBC Committee on Order of Business.

The search committee will bring Greenway’s nomination to the full trustee board for a vote during a special called meeting to be held on Feb. 26–27. If elected, Greenway will become Southwestern Seminary’s ninth president.

Greenway currently serves as dean of the Billy Graham School and as William Walker Brookes Associate Professor of Evangelism and Apologetics at Southern Seminary. Since becoming dean in 2013, Greenway has led the Billy Graham School to become the largest graduate school at any Southern Baptist seminary with more than 2,100 students currently enrolled.

Southern Baptists of Texas Executive Director Jim Richards said of the nomination, “Adam Greenway is a convictional, confessional Southern Baptist. He will provide strong leadership for Southwestern Seminary. The SBTC welcomes Adam back to Texas!” 

‘Man of impeccable character’

“The search for the ninth president of Southwestern Seminary from its inception was bathed in prayer,” said Danny Roberts, chairman of the presidential search committee. “We crafted a profile with input from our committee, the full board of trustees, and the professors, students and staff of Southwestern Seminary.

“We came to know Adam Greenway as a man of impeccable character who demonstrates kindness and humility in his dealings with others, a leader who surrounds himself with talented people and allows them to work within their giftedness, a bridge builder in the Southern Baptist Convention, and a true scholar with a heart for missions and evangelism.”

Appointed in August, 2018, by Kevin Ueckert, chairman of Southwestern Seminary’s Board of Trustees, the nine-member search committee is composed of men and women from diverse racial, cultural and geographic backgrounds. The committee reviewed dozens of recommendations, resumes and questionnaires from a diverse field of candidates.

In a series of interactions with the search committee, including nearly a dozen hours of face-to-face meetings, Greenway presented a vision for the future of Southwestern Seminary. Possessing a rich history of “scholarship on fire,” Southwestern Seminary can once again be an institution that is known for providing the highest quality theological education to all Southern Baptists, Greenway told the committee.

“Carla and I are deeply humbled and honored by the invitation of the presidential search committee to be considered to ‘come home’ to Southwestern Seminary,” Greenway said. “From the time I first enrolled as a student there now 20 years ago this year, my life has been indelibly impacted by Southwestern. I was blessed to study under a faculty that included Roy Fish, Malcolm McDow, James Leo Garrett, Bill Tolar, Curtis Vaughn, and more — some of the greatest professors ever to teach at any SBC seminary. 

“Ever since that first moment I was pronounced a ‘Southwesterner,’ I have felt a deep and abiding love for my alma mater. I believe the best days of Southwestern Seminary are ahead of us and I am committed to training and sending out the next generation of God-called men and women for gospel-service around the world.”

A native of Frostproof, Fla., Greenway is a 1998 graduate of Samford University who earned a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Seminary in 2002. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in evangelism and apologetics from Southern Seminary in 2007. In 2016, Greenway completed a master of nonprofit administration degree at the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame.

As a student on Seminary Hill, Greenway met his wife Carla. They have been married since 2003 and have two children, Wade (9) and Caroline (3). Carla Greenway, a 2002 master of arts in Christian education graduate of Southwestern Seminary, has served several Southern Baptist churches in children’s and family ministry roles, as well as in Christian school administration. 

“Adam’s best quality is his wife Carla, a genuine, humble lady who loves to serve others and serve the church,” said Paul Chitwood, former Kentucky Baptist Convention executive director-treasurer and newly installed president of the International Mission Board. “Both Adam and Carla love the Lord and walk in integrity before him.”

Track record of succes 

Under his leadership, the Billy Graham School has experienced record enrollment. When he was appointed dean in 2013, the school had 1,381 total students, 501 of which were M.Div. students. Today, there are 2,138 total students and 994 M.Div. students.

“I enthusiastically support the decision of the search committee to nominate Dr. Adam Greenway as the next president of The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary,” said R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “I’ve had the joy and privilege of working with Adam Greenway for well over a decade now. He is a remarkable Christian with a demonstrated heart for ministry, a clear vision for theological education, and he represents all of the convictions and character that Southern Baptists look to in a national leader.”

Greenway has also served chairman of LifeWay Christian Resources’ Board of Trustees, becoming the youngest trustee chairman in LifeWay’s history. He has served as an assistant parliamentarian for the SBC since 2016, vice-chairman of the 2017 SBC Committee on Nominations, and is the current chairman of the SBC Committee on Order of Business.

“My heart resonates and rejoices with the news that Dr. Adam Greenway is being recommended for the presidency of my alma mater, Southwestern Seminary,” said O.S. Hawkins, president and CEO of Guidestone Financial Resources. “He is a Southwesterner, one of us. He is intellectually astute, straight as an arrow theologically, and has a hot heart for evangelism and missions. I believe God has been preparing him his whole life for this world-impacting assignment and I believe the Lord is now preparing all of us for great and God-honoring days ahead at our beloved Southwestern Seminary.”

In addition to his denominational service, Greenway has served as pastor and/or interim pastor of a dozen churches across Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Texas and Florida.

Chitwood noted, “For the past 16 years, I have had the privilege of seeing Adam Greenway’s life and ministry up close. I was his pastor, served under him as a professor, worked closely alongside of him in our roles with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, and drove his son to school every morning in our carpool.

Immediately following the adjournment of the Board of Trustees meeting on Feb. 27, a press conference will be held on the campus of Southwestern Seminary.

REVIEW: “Alita: Battle Angel” and the desire for immortality

Alita is a confident and independent young woman living in the year 2563 who would give anything to remember her past.

But so far, she can’t even remember how to eat an orange. It needs to be peeled—she is told—and not eaten like an apple.

“That is so good,” she says after her first bite.

It’s understandable Alita has a poor memory. She’s 300 years old. She is a cyborg—part human, part robot—who was left for dead in a pile of junk after a major war three centuries ago destroyed much of Earth. People called the war “The Fall.”

Yet somehow, her brain barely stayed alive. A local scientist named Dyson Ido found her head and torso, carried it back to his lab, and attached it to a robotic body. Incredibly, she came back to life.

“I don’t even know my own name,” she said at first. Ido named her “Alita” after his deceased daughter.

Alita isn’t the only cyborg in town. Cyborgs are everywhere. Alita and Dr. Ido live in Iron City, a heavily populated dystopian town where survival is a daily chore and police don’t exist. In their place, cyborg bounty hunters known as “hunter warriors” walk the streets and keep the peace. They also kill murderers … on the spot.

These hunter warriors are big and mean. Alita is thin and short. But something strange happens late one night when she gets caught in a fight between a hunter warrior and three bad guys. She whips the evil dudes—with ease. She also has a flashback to her past, a time when she was a deadly soldier with deadly skills, caught up in a war.

Alita: Battle Angel (PG-13) opens this weekend, starring Rosa Salazar (Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials) as Alita; Christopher Waltz (The Legend of Tarzan, Muppets Most Wanted) as Ido; Mahershala Ali (Green Book) as the bad guy, Vector; and Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind) as a doctor and Vector’s romantic interest, Chiren. It is based on the Japanese comic book series, Gunnm.

The film has the feel of the 2009 film Avatar, and for good reason. It was written and produced by Avatar creator James Cameron. Avatar producer Jon Landau also helped make Alita. But unlike Avatar—which was fully CGI—Alita: Battle Angel features a combination of CGI and live action. Alita herself is a mixture of both, with Salazar’s facial skin surrounded by CGI hair and a CGI body. She also has gigantic eyes that appear borrowed from a Ty Beanie stuffed animal. Quirky, yes, but visually compelling, too.

The story follows Alita as she fights evil in the Iron City and then learns the skill of Motorball, a dangerous sport for cyborgs that looks like a combination of roller derby and handball. Every few years, the champion of Motorball is given the chance to move to Zalem, the city in the sky where the wealthy live. It hovers just above Iron City.

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

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


Extreme. Alita is more violent than your average PG-13 superhero film, partially because we watch cyborgs—that have human faces but robotic bodies—get killed multiple ways during fights. Arms are cut off. Torsos are sliced in two. A few times we see heads decapitated. Once we see a cyborg sliced from head to groin. Another time a cyborg’s human face is partially cut off. Hunter warriors brag about how many people they’ve killed.  


Minimal/moderate. Alita’s robotic outfit is skin-tight, but for most of the film she’s wearing regular clothes. We see Chiren in a slightly revealing bedtime outfit. Alita’s friend and romantic interest, Hugo, is seen without a shirt. She and Hugo share a kiss.

Coarse Language

Moderate. The movie has little to no language for about half the film until Alita drops an f-bomb in a critical scene. It seems out of place for a character who doesn’t curse any other time. That’s too bad, because the film otherwise has little coarse language: h-ll (2), s–t (1) and b–ch (1).

Other Positive Elements

Alita has no family, but Ido becomes her adoptive-like dad. She eventually calls him “father.”

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

Alita’s body formerly belonged to Ido’s disabled daughter, who couldn’t walk. He built it for her, although she was murdered before she could use it.

Life Lessons

Alita is a likeable superhero who makes the rights choices. “I do not stand by in the presence of evil,” she says. She’s courageous. She’s a leader. She uses her powers for good.

But she lives in a city that knows nothing of grace and mercy. It’s a place where innocent people die and guilty people go free. It’s also a place where cyborgs often have their body parts—read “arms” and “legs”—stolen during late-night street attacks. Those parts are then used by Motorball officials.

It’s a world without police. That alone is worth discussing with young fans of the film.    


The movie’s presentation of a “city above” and a “city below” may have spiritual parallels, but without more details, application is difficult. (Then there’s the problem of the “city above” housing the lead bad guy.) A sequel apparently will fill in the blanks.

The film’s message about death and morality is worth exploring. Alita lives in a futuristic city where death can be cheated—sort of—by preserving the brain. In fact, we watch Alita keep a human friend alive by severing the head (that grotesque part is done off screen) and taking it to a lab, where it will be attached to a robotic body.  

Although futuristic, the concept is very modern. The U.S. and Russia are home to private “cryonics” facilities that will freeze an individual’s deceased body at a low temperature in hopes it can be brought back to life when technology advances.

But before we criticize such people as “nuts,” we should examine our own beliefs. We live in a society that worships youth. We’re chasing after immortality, too.

The irony: Immortality is already obtainable to anyone who trusts in Christ. That’s what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:53: “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” Yes, our bodies will die, but our souls—if we’re saved—will live with God forever. Scientific advances aren’t needed.


For children, Carl’s Jr. is the most well-known film partner.

What Works

Visually, the film is beautiful. Additionally, the ending had me ready to watch the sequel.

What Doesn’t

The film has too much violence, which is magnified because the cyborgs appear to be human.

Also, the f-bomb doesn’t fit. It’s as if the filmmakers were begging the ratings board for a PG-13 label.

Discussion Questions

  1. What does the Bible say about immortality? What is the message about immortality in the movie?
  2. One character says, “I’d rather rule in Hell than serve in Heaven.” What would God think of that?
  3. Name three positive (even biblical) traits about Alita.
  4. What did you think about the film’s violence?

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

Alita: Battle Angel is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language.

REVIEW: “The Lego Movie 2” and the theology of “Everything Is Awesome”

Emmet Brickowski is an optimist, sun-is-always-shining Lego character living in a Lego world where everyone else is miserable.

Gone are the times when—as the song says—“everything is awesome.” Those happy days ended five years ago, when aliens wrecked Bricksburg and took away some of the population, too. Emmet’s town is now known as Apocalypseburg, a desolate place where people often argue and no one smiles. Even the Statue of Liberty has been toppled.

That’s OK, though. Emmet still has his friend and romantic interest, Lucy. Yet even she believes Emmet should see the world for what it is, and not for what he hopes it to be.

“You’ve got to stop pretending that everything is awesome,” she tells him. “… We have to grow up sometime.”

Emmet, though, doesn’t believe her. But that begins changing when another alien, the masked General Sweet Mayhem, invades Apocalypseburg and kidnaps a few more citizens, including Lucy. Emmet quickly builds a Lego ship to chase Lucy to the other end of the galaxy. He begins wondering: Maybe everything isn’t awesome, after all.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (PG) opens this weekend, picking up five years after the events of 2014’s The Lego Movie. It stars Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy series) as Emmet, Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games series) as Lucy, and Will Arnett (The Lego Batman Movie) as Batman.  

The film, in essence, is a pretend world told through the eyes of two children in the movie’s real world: Finn and his younger sister, Bianca. At the end of the first Lego Movie and the beginning of The Lego Movie 2, their father allows Bianca to play with the Legos—a decision that upsets Finn, who believes she will destroy them.

Finn’s instincts prove to be true. This explains the destruction of Bricksburg (Bianca did that) and the kidnapping of Lucy and Batman (Bianca took them to her room). It also explains the film’s out-there plot: In the Lego world, Batman is taken to the “Systar System,” where he is forced into a marriage with a chameleon-like alien, Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi. Only a girl would do that.  

Here’s the good news for parents: The Lego Movie 2 is mostly squeaky-clean, with no language (not even an OMG) and only Lego-style violence.

Here’s the bad news: It’s not as good as its predecessor. It’s slow at times and, often, downright weird. It also contains a few lines and angles that had me scratching my head, but most of them will go over the heads of children.

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

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


Minimal. Picture a child picking up two Lego characters and “making” them fight. That’s about as bad as it gets. The film does imply punches are thrown, and a few explosions do occur, and a Lego city is invaded, and there are guns with lasers, but it looks a lot like what you’d see in a kid’s bedroom floor.


None. Other than Batman saying he has “ribbed pecs.”

Also, see “Other Stuff You Might Want to Know,” below.

Coarse Language

None. The worst we hear is “butt” a couple of times.

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

One character is called “Larry Poppins”—a knockoff on Mary Poppins. He has a flower on his head. Another character who looks like Dracula says he enjoys wearing women’s jeans.

We hear Z.Z. Top’s Tush and Motley Crue’s Kickstart My Heart.

One character tells another one, “Just listen to the music and let your mind go.” Someone says he/she has been “meditating.”

The Queen built a “space temple” where the wedding will take place. The wedding is called the “matrimonial ceremony.”

Life Lessons

It’s an ultra-goofy movie with few lessons until the final minutes. Still there, are a few. Lucy saves a “bad guy” from dying, displaying mercy. In a scene that borrowed a page from Back to the Future, Emmett faces a bad, future form of himself and declares that he wants to do good. The final scenes also include lessons on forgiveness, repentance, and love between a brother and sister (Finn and Bianca).


Is everything awesome? That’s what we are told in the first movie through a hit song with catchy lyrics: Everything is awesome, everything is cool when you’re part of a team; everything is awesome, when you’re living out a dream. It added: Life is good ’cause everything awesome; lost my job, there’s a new opportunity; more free time for my awesome community. That’s certainly true, but then the song goes south. Dogs with fleas are awesome. Clogs are awesome. And “everything you see or think or say is awesome.”

Umm … no. Everything is not awesome, even if the song’s positive outlook is attractive. Sin certainly isn’t awesome.

The Bible would tell us that some things are awesome and some things are not.

That’s why the new song in The Lego Movie 2Everything’s Not Awesome—may be closer to Scripture: Everything’s not awesome; things can’t be awesome all of the time; it’s not realistic expectation; but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try; to make everything awesome.


McDonald’s is a partner. Lego-themed Happy Meals are on their way.

What Works

The humor. It’s funny for kids and adults, too, without being inappropriate. The filmmakers also give us plenty of flashbacks to the film’s real word (the brother and sister) to help explain the movie’s quirky plot.

What Doesn’t

The plot. Sure, the story could have been imagined by a child, but it would have been more relatable had it been a little less weird.

Discussion Questions

  1. What did you think of the song Everything Is Awesome? What about the new song Everything’s Not Awesome?
  2. What can we learn from Finn and Bianca about getting along? About siblings and forgiveness?
  3. What can adults do to recapture the God-given creativity and imagination that makes childhood so fun?

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

Rated PG for mild action and rude humor.

Stan Lee and salvation

Late last year, when Stan Lee died, I was approached with two questions from one of his fans:

1. Though he didn’t seem to be a Christian, might he have had a “deathbed conversion”? 2. If there was no conversion, wouldn’t it still be reasonable to let him into Heaven? Let me venture a couple of brief answers. 

First, yes, absolutely. God could have performed a “thief on the cross” rescue in the last moments of his life. And it didn’t require a committee. Lee could have, in the quiet of his room in those last hours followed the publican in Luke 18, ashamedly and desperately calling out, “God, be merciful to me a sinner,” and turning to Jesus as the way of forgiveness. I don’t know personally of last-hour cases, but I’ve heard of last-month conversions, particularly from ministers whose parents were lost, ministers who had spent years of prayer and care and witness urging them toward the kingdom. It happens.

I’m reminded of an old Marine, a veteran of Iwo Jima, who came to our church in Illinois saying that he “figured it was time to study for finals.” I can’t say for sure he passed, but, in his case, a sense of mortality was a great motivator. And so it’s ever worth a try at evangelism, whatever the age. 

All this being said, it’s frustratingly rare to see an octogenarian being immersed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Most have settled and hardened into some hopeless place or another. As C.S. Lewis said, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’”

As for the second question, the editors of the Entertainment Weekly commemorative edition seem to have come down on the side of his eternal security and bliss. For starters, the cover reads, “Stan Lee: A Life of Marvel,” and it would be a shame to deny salvation to a “marvel,” one who, in Samuel L. Jackson’s words, “made so many believe in the good, the heroic, the villainous, the exciting” and who “most of all, was giving and gracious to us all.” And, of course, it’s always interesting to see non-believers do soteriology—as when Rosario Dawson wishes him “rest in Paradise”; and even weirder, Ryan Reynolds’ exclamation, “Damn . . . RIP Stan” (a nice juxtaposition of concepts).

With a resume and accolades like this, what’s the problem? Well, even this hagiographic publication reports, “In 1947 he fell in love with a charming English hat model and actress, Joan Boocock. She was already wed, rather ambivalently, to another man, so a persistent Lee helped her get a divorce in Reno. He then married her on the spot.” And then, in his last year, “disputed allegations of fraud by two of Lee’s business associates and even charges of elder abuse on the part of his former manager arose, putting a sordid spotlight on the coda of his life.” Look, I’ve enjoyed some of his work, but it seems we might have to do some figuring on pluses and minuses if we’re going to give him a “ticket to Paradise” for good behavior.

Well, actually, no. You only do this if you don’t have a clue how one gets to Paradise. The standard religious answer is that you go through some sort of drill (trips to Mecca; observance of Yom Kippur; “right path” living to boost your karma; temple baptism and missionary service). Christ has a unique way. No drill, just faith and grace. That’s why we’re the singing faith.

Yes, but he lightened and stirred the lives of so many. Well, yes, but a lot of it depends on whether it basically amounted to putting band aids on cancer and encouraging people to develop their own powers of self-sufficiency and resolve.

As the Westminster Catechism put it, the chief end of man is to “glorify God and enjoy him forever.” And consider these classic words of repentance from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer: “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us.” Indeed, sins of omission can be as weighty as sins of commission.

If you neglect your basic calling and purpose under God, you’re like a soldier sent out on perimeter patrol who doesn’t make the circuit. Instead, he lingers in a peach grove and then rushes back to share the fruit with the others. “How nice, but are you telling me you left a 270-degree gap in our defense while you did your thing?”

Or I think of a Styrofoam cup with a small hole in the bottom. You can stake it down as a foul line marker for kids’ baseball, give it to a VBS handicraft worker to use in helping the kids make cute pigs with marking pens and pipe cleaners; place it on your desk as a paper clip holder. But it won’t do what it was designed to do, hold hot beverages. So we don’t blame the person who tosses it away. No, we’re not inanimate objects. We’re worse. The useless cup is innocent. We’re not.

Stan Lee had nearly a hundred years on earth to glorify and enjoy God, and I can find no sign that he did either, except to the extent that his creative work gave testimony to God’s creative work, something he did not acknowledge. Rather, while entertaining Christians, he also helped to fill the emptiness of lost lives, by providing them substitute stories and heroes (Spiderman rather than Paul, Ironman rather than Lottie Moon), and so helped keep them distracted.
So he may have excelled in comics, but his life was tragic, despite the acclaim.

Mark Coppenger is professor of Christian philosophy and ethics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Adoption story leads SBTC evangelism director to new book tackling well-worn Christian lies

For Shane and Kasi Pruitt, 2013 brought unprecedented testing and trial.

After years of dreaming about adopting a child who would one day run and play with their two daughters and maybe star on a Texas gridiron, God answered their prayers in a completely different way.

God gave them Titus—a smiling, handsome boy who doctors said would never get out of a wheelchair or communicate the way other children do. They had new routines to learn, new doctors’ visits to fit into their already hectic schedules, and new surgeries to attend. They loved their new son but they were worn out physically, spiritually and emotionally.

During this year, Shane and Kasi heard one sentence over and over again: “God never gives us more than we can handle.”

In fact, the couple even began to say it themselves, but it simply didn’t help.

It sounds great. It’s easy to remember. It seems like the perfect expression to say when talking to someone who has hit hard times.

But, Pruitt says, it was a lie. God does give people more than they can handle at times—so that believers can learn to lean on Him.

“One of the greatest promises that God gives us in Scripture is not that He will keep us out of difficult situations or that He will make sure we never experience suffering,” Pruitt wrote in his new book, 9 Common Lies Christians Believe. “Rather, He promises to be with us in those difficult situations and be an ever-present help in times of suffering.”

In 9 Common Lies Christians Believe, Pruitt explores this lie and others. Multnomah released it on Feb. 19.

The well-worn Christian cliché did little to ease the Pruitts’ pain. Shane, a church planter at the time, drowned the stress in busyness, focusing on a variety of ministry tasks. Kasi turned inward, stewing in anger.

Shane and Kasi had always known they wanted to adopt someday. They began planning it not long after they said their wedding vows. After having two biological children, they began the arduous task of paperwork and home studies as they searched for just the right child to add to their young family. They wanted to adopt internationally and had a particular passion for Uganda.

Though rarely audible, Shane had a picture of the kind of son they’d adopt one day.

Pruitt, who now serves as the director of evangelism at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, had dreamed of physical activities, such as athletics, that often bond many fathers and sons.

Meanwhile, Kasi prayed regularly that God would give them a child no one else wanted. An acquaintance on social media alerted the couple to Titus, sending them a picture of a boy in Uganda with a massive wound that covered 40 percent of his head and went through to the skull.

“They really wanted to get him to the states, and they knew we lived in Dallas,” Pruitt said. “We talked, we prayed, we cried, and we really believed God was telling us, ‘This is your son.’”

Just a few days after bringing Titus home, the Pruitts discovered he had cerebral palsy, which meant he’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life—a reality they weren’t prepared for.

But the struggles were bigger than them. As the Pruitts watched Titus suffer through medical procedure after procedure, their hearts grew heavier. Clichés like “God won’t give you more than you can handle” didn’t help.

The couple finally came to a breaking point—and a realization that changed the trajectory of their family.

“We had to let go of our [perfect] dream for our family,” Pruitt said. “We had to realize that God, according to Ephesians 3:20, is exceedingly, abundantly more than what we could dream. To move forward, we had to get back to the basics.”

That meant letting go of the tired clichés and grabbing on more tightly to time with God. Although Pruitt had been in the Bible every day as a pastor preparing sermons, he hadn’t been as honest with God as he could be.

As part of that honesty before God, Pruitt took a look at the clichés they had heard so often during the past year—and that they had used themselves.

“God won’t give you more than you can handle” was just the start. The more Pruitt thought about that lie and how often it got mentioned, the more he thought of other lies, eight others in fact, such as, “God gained another angel,” “Follow your heart,” and “God just wants me to be happy.” All were lies that didn’t have roots in the Word of God.

“Initially, they sound good,” Pruitt said of these clichés. “Most of the time when people share them, they are well-meaning. The real danger is that these statements aren’t biblical, and there’s not a lot of depth to them either.”

Pruitt compares these clichés to cotton candy, which tastes good for the first few bites but gets old and doesn’t nourish the body.

He says he understands it’s tough in the heat of the moment not to drift back to these clichés, but he encourages Christians to take people to the Bible instead.

“Christians should be more Bible literate,” Pruitt said. “These lies being regurgitated are really more telling of our Bible illiteracy than anything else. We don’t have good theology and doctrine ourselves, so we just regurgitate what we hear others say. We need to constantly be in God’s Word and prayer.”

Pruitt also notes that sometimes, what people need from us when they’re going through trying times is simply to listen and be present. He hopes the book will help Christians respond biblically to their own struggles and the struggles of others. The book includes small-group questions to help readers discuss what they’re learning with others.

For more information on the book or to get a copy, visit

SBTC DR trainings focus on evangelism

ABILENE—Around 20 volunteers seeking certification or recertification as SBTC Disaster Relief volunteers gathered Feb. 1-2 at Broadview Baptist Church in Abilene for the first Phase 1 and 2 DR training sessions of 2019. Volunteers learned that DR serves the spiritual as well as the physical needs of victims.

“We do chainsaw, we do mud-out, we do clean up and recovery, but we do it all so we can share Christ,” SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice told participants in Saturday’s general session.

SBTC DR—funded through the Cooperative Program and Reach Texas giving mechanisms, and individual donations—is a calling, Stice said. “Hurricane Harvey hit and we felt compelled to serve. That came straight from the Lord Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit to his servants. We can’t help but want to help,” he added.

Referencing SBTC DR materials, Stice defined disaster partly as “an occurrence that causes human suffering or create human needs that the victims cannot alleviate without assistance.”

Physical needs in a disaster are many. “If a tornado hits a car, we can’t replace the car, but we can get that tree off the car,” Stice said. But DR ministry is much more, for each victim presents an opportunity for a volunteers to share the gospel and be a blessing, he noted.

Stice explained the “Hope in Crisis” tract to trainees. The tract, which is also available in Spanish, was developed by the North American Mission Board’s Send Relief initiative for use in disasters. Featuring the biblical illustration of Job as a survivor of trauma, the tract includes a short gospel presentation.

“Know your testimony. Know some sort of gospel presentation plan,” Stice urged volunteers.

At the request of Shane Pruitt, SBTC director of evangelism, SBTC DR trainings are now featuring instruction in intentional evangelism, Stice told the TEXAN.

“Traditionally our chaplains have done evangelism and they have done a good job,” Stice said. “Last year, Richard Taylor [SBTC personal evangelism associate] spoke to our groups. This year we chose to train all our volunteers in One-Verse Evangelism.”

One-Verse Evangelism, a discipleship tool developed by the Navigators ministry, focuses on Romans 6:23. Its use in SBTC DR was the brainchild of Kevin Jones, missions pastor of Fellowship Church in Royce City.

“About the time we were making the change to add evangelism training, Kevin came up and had the idea to use One-Verse Evangelism,” Stice said.

“I had just finished unit director training,” Jones told the TEXAN. “I talked to Scottie about One-Verse Evangelism. I was making a suggestion that turned into a ‘would you do this?’” Jones said that he had successfully used the method to train church members in evangelism as they prepared for mission trips.

Discussions with Taylor led to the production of eyeglass cleaning cloths with Romans 6:23 and the One-Verse graphics imprinted on them, a practical item facilitating the sharing the gospel during DR deployments.

Admitting that he was not a natural evangelist himself, Jones urged DR volunteers, “You and I are given the opportunity to share the gospel. People need the gospel as much as they need their house remediated. People need the gospel in hopeless situations.”

Jones cited surveys by Barna (1993, 2018) showing that sharing their faith is becoming “increasingly optional to Christians” and LifeWay (2012) indicating that while 80 percent of churchgoers said they believed it was every Christian’s duty to share the gospel, only 61 percent of that 80 percent claimed to have done so.

“Jesus healed the blind and shared the kingdom. He healed the paralytic man and forgave his sins. We are given needs in order to share the gospel,” Jones said.

The training session included a time to practice the method.

Kendra Kimberlin of Lubbock, a new DR volunteer, called the One-Verse tool helpful, but stressed the importance of relating to the survivor before starting a gospel conversation.

Veteran volunteers Patrice Herring and Marjie Batchelder were also positive.

While Herring said she preferred the EvangeCube, One-Verse’s drawing of a chasm separating God and man would be appropriate for witnessing to adults and children.

Batchelder noted there were many evangelistic tools, adding that she had often used the Four Spiritual Laws.

Before the room buzzed with people practicing One-Verse Evangelism, Jones told the TEXAN he planned to do One-Verse presentations at future DR trainings in 2019, equipping volunteers with one more tool to be used to minister to those in crisis, where the hurts and needs are more than material.

Following the evangelism workshop, volunteers chose areas of service such as child care, assessments, chaplaincy, clean up and recovery, feeding, administration and communications for further training.


SBTC DR Trainings 2019

Phase 1

Feb 2 – Broadview BC, Abilene

March 9 – FBC, Wake Village

April 13 – Spring Baptist Church

Sept 27 – FBC, Alvarado

Phase 2

Feb 1 – Broadview BC, Abilene

March 8 – FBC, Wake Village

April 12 – Spring Baptist Church

Sept 27 – FBC, Alvarado

REVIEW: The “image of God” message within “Green Book”

Tony is a hard-working Italian-American who also happens to be the toughest bouncer at the famous New York City nightclub, the Copacabana.

He’s the kind of guy you never cross and you never insult. In other words, he’s the type of guy you’d want on your side in a dangerous situation.

Thus, it’s not surprising when the famous concert pianist, Dr. Don Shirley, contacts Tony prior to embarking on a tour with his instrumentalist trio to the Deep South. The year is 1962, and Shirley, an African-American, knows he could face trouble in segregated cities where he isn’t allowed to use the restroom or eat at the restaurant. Shirley wants Tony to be his chauffeur and bodyguard, and he promises to pay him handsomely.

There’s just one problem. Tony doesn’t like black people.

But with the Copacabana undergoing renovations for two months — and with a wife and kids to support — Tony swallows his pride and takes the job. Who knows? It could be fun. It even could change Tony for the better.

The movie Green Book (PG-13) opened in November but has seen renewed interest lately after winning a Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy and for being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. It stars Viggo Mortensen (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) as Tony Vallelonga and Mahershala Ali (Free State of Jones, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) as Shirley.

The film was inspired by a true story and gets its name from “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” a real-life booklet that was used by blacks during segregation to help them find welcoming accommodations.

The movie tells the story of two men who are worlds apart but grow to become friends and appreciate one another’s differences during an eight-week road trip. Shirley is cultured, quiet and reserved. Tony is blue collar, loud and opinionated. Shirley never curses. Tony does … often.

Green Book spotlights an ugly era in American history in which African-Americans were loved for their music but were treated as second-class citizens in the very theaters they performed. Shirley knew he would face verbal and even physical violence but rightly believed his talent could be a “foot in the door” to change the hearts and minds of racists. Indeed, music did play a big role in America’s integration. Shirley was a hero.

The film is entertaining and filled with positive messages but is somewhat marred by an excessive amount of language.

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

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


Minimal/moderate. Tony, as a bouncer and then a bodyguard, punches multiple people during the film. He hits a man several times outside the nightclub — so much so that a friend wondered if he was going to kill him. He hits a police officer in the South for calling him “half a” N-word. But his toughness comes in handy when Shirley is being punched by several men in a bar; it ends without Tony hitting anyone.


Moderate. Twice, Tony makes vulgar remarks about the female anatomy. Shirley tells Tony he formerly was married to a woman; yet later, Tony is called by the police to the YMCA after Shirley is caught nude with a white man. The implication is that Shirley is gay. (The men apparently were nude in the shower or pool but are covered when we see them.) In real life, Shirley never came out as gay, although Tony Vallelonga’s son was a writer and producer of the film and says the incident happened.    

Coarse Language

Extreme. Nearly 70 coarse words: S–t (22), GD (14), a– (11), h–l (8), misuse of “Jesus” or “Christ” (4), b—-rd (3), f-word (2), d–n (1), SOB (1), misuse of “God” (1). We also hear several racial slurs, including the n-word at least once.

Other Positive Elements

Tony’s family is tight-nit and prays before the meal. (We hear the phrase “Christ our Lord.”) He may be a tough guy, but he’s a family man, too, and he loves his wife and children. He even writes romantic letters to her from the road.  

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

Several scenes involve drinking, smoking and gambling.

Life Lessons

Shirley provides lessons on courage and conviction. He also reflects Martin Luther King Jr.’s goal of nonviolence. (When Tony punches a police officer, Shirley chastises him: “You never win with anger. … Dignity always prevails.” The story proves Shirley right.) Both men give us lessons on pride, humility and admitting when you’re wrong. They change one another for the better. When Tony’s family member uses a racial slur toward the end, he corrects them.  


Scripture tells us that all people bear the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). In God’s kingdom, there is one race — the human race. Racism by its very nature is unloving. God hates it.

Green Book forces us to ask: Why did people of yesteryear pay to watch African-Americans perform, but then refuse to give them the same benefits afforded every other person? During one poignant scene at a mansion, Shirley is told to use the outhouse, not the indoor restroom. During another scene, he is told he cannot eat in a restaurant — even though he is set to play the piano to the audience at the end of the meal. They wanted him to perform, but they didn’t want to treat him as a person.

That type of twisted, satanic logic cannot survive very long, and in the real world, it didn’t.

Music helped end segregation, as young white teens were introduced to songs by talented black musicians, and young black teens listened to tunes by talented white musicians. Eventually, the crowds began mixing, and the music styles did, too.

This isn’t to say that all the music glorified God. It didn’t. But the music did help people see the humanity — and the image of God — in one another.

Segregation died. Music played a big role.

Green Book is far from being a faith-centric film. It’s not a stretch, though, to see a God-centered message in it.      

What Works

The story. The chemistry between Tony and Shirley. The two actors (Mortensen and Ali) are spectacular.

What Doesn’t

The excessive language. It’s distracting and over the top.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is at the heart of racism? What is the solution?
  2. What caused Tony to change his mind about black people?
  3. How did Shirley change throughout the movie?
  4. Why did Shirley want to perform in the South, even though he knew what might happen?
  5. How did music impact segregation?

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

Rated PG-13 for thematic content, language including racial epithets, smoking, some violence and suggestive material.