Month: March 2019

Kelly King to assist SBTC churches in accessing sexual abuse awareness training

Grapevine—Kelly King, an experienced children’s minister and teacher, will serve as a consultant for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention assigned to help the convention’s churches access training and resources to promote sexual abuse awareness. King will be liaison for the convention’s relationship with MinistrySafe, a company that trains ministry and corporate leaders in sexual abuse awareness.

She has worked with churches in Riverside, California, Colleyville, Fort Worth and Columbia, South Carolina in children’s ministry. She has also taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Gateway Baptist Theological Seminary. She holds degrees from Baylor University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (PhD in childhood education).

King began her work with SBTC on March 5. Mark Yoakum, director of church ministries for the convention said of King, “Kelly King brings knowledge both practically and academically to help the SBTC provide sexual abuse awareness training for churches in Texas. Her presence says that the SBTC is very concerned with this problem and willing to take action to help churches avoid problems with sexual abuse.”

The convention announced February 25 an initiative with MinistrySafe aimed at providing convention-funded training for as many as five members from as many as 1,000 SBTC churches. The convention has worked with MinistrySafe since 2009 and has seen hundreds of church leaders trained already. SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards also announced that the convention would plan five regional training events for church leaders during 2019 and engage a consultant to help churches train their leaders.

Church leaders wishing to contact King for assistance can reach her at To access available resources, go to

Panel calls for love, grace and clarity regarding gender confusion and the church

IRVING—A panel at the SBTC’s Empower conference Feb. 25 affirmed clarity and grace in churches’ responses to issues of gender confusion.

Moderated by Lance Crowell, SBTC church ministries associate, the panel featured Cindy Asmussen, SBTC Ethics and Religious Liberty advisor; Wes Hamilton, pastor of Fort Worth’s Hulen Street Church, and Robert Lopez, professor of humanities at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Raised by a lesbian couple, Lopez formerly identified as gay but has renounced the lifestyle. He and his wife, married since 2001, have two children.

All panelists suggested gender confusion has roots in the elevation of self-image over the acceptance of humans as created in God’s image.

Even the innocuous character Elsa in Disney’s “Frozen” becomes a paradigm of the “sovereign self” when she sings, “No right, no wrong, no rules for me / I’m free,” Hamilton proposed.

Lopez, who said he was “initiated into gay sex at 13,” described a “gay movement” or “network,” employing tactics convincing young people of their LGBT orientation because they are different or bullied.

“People are not born gay. You can change. People get out of it all the time,” Lopez said.

When individuals come into churches convinced they are gay, Lopez urged giving them time to “slowly reveal what is really going on.” Most times, gay males will not tell the whole story because of the shame and pain associated with homosexuality.

Teenagers who claim to be gay are often victims committed to protecting their abusers, Lopez added, calling the situation “tough” for churches required to report abuse but unable to convince the abused to tell the whole story.

Asked about assumptions regarding masculine v. feminine stereotypes, Lopez referenced Genesis: “biblically, God created us male and female,” but admitted that “another layer of stereotypes about masculinity and femininity” obscures the issue.

Lopez said he was recruited into the gay scene because he was effeminate. He lisped. Schoolmates made fun of him, raising his profile to predators.

“I didn’t have a dad. I acted like a girl,” he said. “When you are 13 and getting made fun of…you are very vulnerable to messages from older people.”

Excessive focus on traditional masculine and feminine stereotypes encourages insecurity, Lopez said. Teasing fuels feelings of inadequacy, rendering youngsters susceptible to adults who assert, “Look, you’re gay. I can tell. I’m gay.”

Lopez recommended parents celebrate their children’s non-traditional gifts and talents, such as encouraging a sensitive, artistic son to pursue art.

“Don’t sexualize it,” Lopez said, mentioning his daughter, who likes taekwondo, an activity he encourages. Successes boost confidence, rendering kids less vulnerable to questioning their sexuality.

Churches can be at fault promoting “rigid gender stereotypes,” Hamilton noted, mentioning student ministries that seek out popular kids—football players and cheerleaders “so others will come”—rather than embracing teens with diverse interests.

“David was a man. He wed Bathsheba. He killed a giant. But he also wrote poetry and played a harp,” Hamilton said, suggesting student ministries must transcend the typical and create safe places where kids can be who they are. He called for churches to teach the “broader idea of masculinity and femininity as represented in the Bible” rather than rigid stereotyping.

Lopez said the LGBT acronym, which actually lumps together very different characteristics, springs from the gay male movement’s determination to promote gay sex as normal.

“Homosexuality and transgenderism both come from a denial of the biological reality,” he added.

Asked about current movements toward “Christian transgenderism,” Asmussen called them attempts to create a theological justification for humans to “self -create” regardless of biology. Such attempts distort Scripture to justify inclusion.

Hamilton described the church’s proper response to transgender individuals, some of whom have attended Hulen Street while transitioning.

“My first response is I am going to thank God that they are there,” Hamilton said, praising the courage it takes for transitioning individuals to come to church.

“I want to surprise them with love and grace,” Hamilton said. “Look at how Jesus interacted with the individuals. Jesus never fell back into a formula. He never went back into a rote presentation of the gospel. He had the [supernatural] ability to look right into the heart of that person.”

Hamilton urged the church to do this “relationally” with LGBT persons, calling for open conversation, listening and patience, without forsaking biblical clarity.

“The times I went to churches that were more biblical, I went there because I knew something was going wrong,” Lopez said. “I wanted to be free.”

But negativity stymied his recovery. Conservatives had little positive to say about heterosexuality but only condemned homosexuality.

Some transgenders will come to your church because they know they are wrong and want help. Others will be convinced they are right and want the church to change, Lopez said. With the former, he recommended being “your cheerful, Christ-loving self,” offering hope and practical advice. With the latter, he said, “You have to go into the conversation realizing that this person might not have a future in your church. They might walk away. You have to tell them the truth.”

Peace is essential, but not peace at any cost, said Hamilton, adding that the “terms of reconciliation” with the Lord, themselves and others, must be clearly presented to transgender individuals.

“You cannot opt for silence,” Lopez said. “You cannot avoid the issue. Silence is deadly,” he added, noting the error of pastors who claim to “opt more for love than for truth.”

Asmussen also cautioned against complacency, warning that a dire outcome of normalizing gender dysfunction may even be the acceptance of pedophilia, “the next domino in identity politics to fall.”

She further commented on current legislation regarding gender identity, including bills filed by Texas Democrats to amend the state’s civil practices and amenities and property and labor codes by forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, changes which could force government contractors and faith-based colleges, shelters, businesses, therapists and medical professionals to violate their religious views.

Note: The SBTC is hosting a complimentary Gender, Identity and the Family event on April 4 to help church leaders. For more details, go to

Lee, Strobel and Horton challenge Empower crowd to share faith

IRVING—Hip-hop artist Trip Lee of Dallas opened the Monday evening session of the Feb. 25-26 Empower Conference asking the audience to consider “the one person who knew exactly what he was sent to Earth to do and did it to perfection.”

“If we are to be the mouthpiece of Jesus, we need to fully understand who Jesus is,” Lee said, turning to 1 Timothy 1:15-16 for the job description given by God.

“Jesus’ main work was with sinners,” he said. Lee added that Jesus isn’t looking for players with particular strengths or gifts. “Jesus has a reverse kind of draft. He’s not here to team up with people who have it all together, but picks those who don’t. I’m tempted to think I’m not good enough for Jesus, but this text reminds us we are exactly the kind of person Jesus came for.”

The passage also points to the extremes to which God’s grace extends as Jesus shows mercy to even the worst sinners. “We think that maybe God likes moderation in who he saved. Paul did terrible things,” Lee recounted. “None of us can drift so far or do things so terrible that Jesus can’t save us,” he added, describing how God’s patience and generosity was on display in the mercy shown toward Paul.

“Jesus’ job description ties in with yours,” Lee concluded. “Focus on the grace and patience and mercy of Jesus. As you embrace that for your own life it will overflow for you to share it.”

Author Lee Strobel told the Empower Conference crowd, “If you’re motivated to engage with people about Jesus, prioritize that in your life, and are prepared to do that, you never know what kind of unexpected adventures God will take you on.”

Recounting the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Strobel identified ways churches can be stronger salt and brighter light in the 21st Century. If Jesus was physically living in his house, Strobel said he believes he not only would talk to his neighbor about their heavenly Father, but he would talk to the Father about his neighbor.

Strobel remembered being asked if Jesus physically appeared to him and said he was going to answer every single prayer he had prayed last week, would there be anyone new in the kingdom tomorrow?

“Get your church together and you all agree to pray for one lost friend for one minute at one o’clock every day between now and Easter,” he proposed, including prayer for an opportunity to invite the person to come to Easter services.

Jesus would also leave the door open for questions, Strobel said. “So many of the lost people in our community have spiritual sticking points, questions and doubts in their journey toward God. We are to be prepared to give an answer. We have a defensible faith,” he reminded, pleading with believers to teach children from a young age to stand firmly on the truth of Christ. 

“As we learn to share that truth in a culture that’s increasingly skeptical and hostile toward the gospel, God is going to take us on a series of unexpected adventures that are going to be the joys of our life.” 

D. A. Horton, pastor of Reach Fellowship in North Long Beach, Cal., closed out the session expressing concern that overall declines in evangelism and baptisms reflect a lack of enthusiasm about Christ. In proclaiming believers to be the salt of the earth, Jesus is talking to “every single kingdom citizen,” he said.

Horton said the command is ongoing and imperative as Jesus calls believers to be his agents of both “purity and preservation,” salt in a lost world. As for Jesus’ comparing believers to a “city on a hill,” Horton called the church “the visible marketing plan for God’s kingdom” where faith in Jesus unites diverse people to create a community attractive to unbelievers.

“The world has questions and we have Scripture. It’s time we engage their questions with Scripture,” Horton said, encouraging believers to “reflect Jesus” and prompt lost people to ask, “‘What must I do to know Christ like you?’”

Reporting by Tammi Ledbetter and Jane Rodgers

CP: The gospel near and far

Southern Baptists have designated April 7 as Cooperative Program Day. Churches that choose to use another date are free to do so, but an important part of being a participating Southern Baptist is generosity through the unified budget. The rising generation and new Southern Baptists must be educated about the value of our togetherness in giving. It is not just the utility of the system that makes it valuable; it is a God-honoring way to extend your church’s ministry beyond its neighborhood.

Many scriptures point to a common giving effort. The Old Testament gives examples of Israel using a prescribed plan. In Jesus’ day the Temple leaders were corrupt, but still he commended the widow who gave her small offering (Luke 21:1-4). In the New Testament, churches were encouraged to give toward various ministries. Churches supported Paul’s missionary efforts (Philippians 4:15-20).

Paul issued a passionate plea to the Corinthians. He wanted the Gentile churches to help the suffering Jerusalem believers. The poor Macedonian churches had given. The wealthier Corinthians had not. Paul wanted the Corinthians to become “grace givers.”

Giving is a biblical principle that applies to individuals, churches and denominations. Southern Baptists have a unique giving plan that is biblical.

Grace giving begins with the believer. Churches can practice grace giving. The Cooperative Program is an example of grace giving. The Bible does not mention the Cooperative Program, but CP is a way for churches to be grace givers. Second Corinthians 8 provides principles of grace giving for churches. 

The Corinthians had not followed through with their promise to share in the special collection (2 Corinthians 8:6). Paul sent Titus to receive the offering. The offering was about hunger, but it was also about commonality in the gospel. Paul told the Corinthians they would benefit by participating. He was testing their hearts (2 Corinthians 8:8). Grace giving cannot be coerced or forced. CP giving is voluntary.

People ask, “What does giving through the CP do for me?” Here’s the value: You get to cooperate with churches of like faith (expressed in the Baptist Faith and Message Statement 2000) to do Great Commission work without expecting anything in return. Partnership in grace giving means participation without an expectation of benefit. Participation is the blessing (Acts 20:35).

Paul endorsed proportionate giving (2 Corinthians 8:12). This may allude to Jesus’ observation of the widow casting in her mite. The widow gave everything. God sees the portion and the proportion of our gifts. God looks at our hearts and our wallets. There are no standards set for partnership giving. Some churches give large dollar amounts. Others give a large budget percentage. Increased CP giving will result in more churches, more ministries and more missionaries. 

Mission goals are met as you invest proportionately. Partnership in grace giving is proportionate by what you have left rather than what you contributed. Blessings are proportionate to giving (Luke 6:38). 

Equality was the purpose in Paul’s appeal. God’s plan was enforced during Israel’s wilderness wanderings so that no one was to have a surplus and no one was to have a shortage (Exodus 16:16-31). God used a miracle to supply food during the wilderness wandering. Paul believed God wanted to use the church to provide for the poor Jerusalem believers. God uses the church to meet needs that advance the gospel. 

CP works during natural disasters, an unsettled economy and global unrest. No missionary is called home. No seminary student is turned away. No church planter misses a check. Independent, direct missions giving removes the safety net. SBC churches are autonomous, but they choose to cooperate to share the gospel. Partnership in grace giving produces gospel equality. 

The greatest grace gift is the Lord Jesus (John 3:16). Being like Jesus will make you a giver. Your mission-dollar investment is worth it. By giving you impact the world by having a ministry 24/7. Your church is a part in statewide, national and international missions by giving through the Cooperative Program. Grace giving enables you to be on mission continually, consecutively and cooperatively. 

Who”s Your One? 2019 annual meeting theme

I’ve discovered that for many church members evangelism is intimidating, and our calls from the pulpit to get out there and proclaim Christ only overwhelm them. In our church it seems we have a good number of introverts, and just talking about evangelism makes them sweat. In our effort to make evangelism normal, something that all Christians are to do, we’ve learned that being explicit in what we’re asking our members to do is very helpful.

In January, J. D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, unveiled an evangelistic effort alled, “Who’s Your One?” The idea behind this emphasis is that every single one of us can think of just one person who needs Christ. So, instead of overwhelming those who are insecure with the charge to go out there in this world and evangelize everyone, Who’s Your One? reminds us that all of us can think about, pray for and speak with one person. It’s not so overwhelming, is it? 

Of course, Who’s Your One? doesn’t mean that you can’t think about, pray for and speak to more than one person about Jesus. It’s just an effort to boil down the huge task before us in terms that everyone can understand and participate in. At High Pointe, we’ve already adopted this language and have begun regularly asking one another, “Who’s your one?” It’s been encouraging to hear the “buzz” of members talking to one another about “their one.” And it’s been encouraging for us as pastors when our members tell us about “their one.”

As I was praying about our theme for the 2019 Annual Meeting in Odessa, I knew that I wanted to encourage us to focus on evangelism. The Lord Jesus has given us a clear mission—to make disciples by going, baptizing and teaching (Matthew 28:19-20). The going implies evangelism, because the baptizing implies repentance and faith and including into the church. So, this is our mission. This is the main thing. And this is the emphasis I wanted us to focus on as we prepare for Odessa.

However, instead of just having an annual theme centered around evangelism—Who’s Your One?—what if, we began our annual emphasis now? The Committee on the Order of Business has approved our theme, and now, I want to call all our SBTC pastors and churches to join together in this evangelistic effort. Would you consider adopting Who’s Your One? as a church? The North American Mission Board has already begun providing resources for  Who’s Your One?

Now, here’s my challenge to us as a convention. I am sure many of our churches are doing a great job in evangelism. If that’s you, you don’t need to change a thing. Keep doing what you’re doing. But, if you know that your church needs to grow in your evangelism efforts, then join us in this evangelistic effort. Pastors, begin casting the vision for an every-church-member evangelism emphasis. Work in application when appropriate in your sermons to encourage all your members to think about one person they can be thinking about, praying for and speaking to. Then, as you hear of members sharing the gospel, especially those who have not been known for it, interview them before the congregation and pray together for their “one.”

Here’s what I would love to see at our annual meeting in Odessa, Oct. 28-30: testimonies of evangelism from those who formerly were not sharing the gospel and testimonies of those who came to Christ because someone thought about them, prayed for them and shared the gospel with them. You can expect more information in the months ahead about our annual meeting, but for now, let’s begin preparing for what God might do through our churches as every member engages in the mission Jesus has given us. I can’t wait to see and hear your reports and testimonies when we gather together this October in Odessa for our annual meeting—Who’s Your One?