Month: May 2020

Southwestern Seminary plans to resume on-campus instruction in fall

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary plans to resume on-campus instruction on its Fort Worth campus this fall after thorough preparations have been completed to “make our facilities as safe as possible for students, faculty, staff, and others on Seminary Hill,” president Adam Greenway announced.

Greenway said in a statement that it’s the “appropriate time” to announce fall semester plans in the light of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s April 27 announcement that he will allow the stay-at-home order to expire at the conclusion of April and begin a phased re-opening of businesses in the state.

The seminary’s common spaces will undergo a “deep cleaning” in the months preceding the beginning of the semester, Greenway said, noting adjustments will be made to class sizes and the use of classrooms “to ensure all public health recommendations relevant upon re-opening are strictly and faithfully observed, with a heightened cleaning regimen upon resumption of classroom instruction. The Campus Clinic will continue to evaluate student health and provide testing, when appropriate. As good citizens, our plans will be consistent with any governmental limitations when on-campus classes resume, while also doing everything possible to advance our mission of theological education.”

Greenway’s full statement follows:

“With the April 27 announcement by Gov. Greg Abbott that he will allow the state’s stay-at-home order to expire at the end of the month and will permit the beginning of gradual re-opening of certain businesses and activities across Texas, we believe now is the appropriate time to announce to our students our intentions for the fall 2020 semester.

“It is our expectation that classes will resume on campus in the fall after a series of preparations are completed over the next three months to make our facilities as safe as possible for students, faculty, staff, and others on Seminary Hill. A detailed plan for preparations is being finalized and will be executed in the coming days, including a deep cleaning of dormitories, classrooms, and other common spaces on campus. Necessary adjustments to class sizes and the use of certain classrooms will be made to ensure all public health recommendations relevant upon re-opening are strictly and faithfully observed, with a heightened cleaning regimen upon resumption of classroom instruction. The Campus Clinic will continue to evaluate student health and provide testing, when appropriate. As good citizens, our plans will be consistent with any governmental limitations when on-campus classes resume, while also doing everything possible to advance our mission of theological education.

“Since our March 12 announcement moving all instruction online, I have never been prouder to be a Southwesterner as our incredible faculty and staff seamlessly made this transition in the span of a few weeks to best serve our students. This necessary alteration was possible due to the tireless efforts of our Campus Technology team even before the coronavirus pandemic interrupted the spring semester. Because of their labors, our institution was ready to meet this challenge. Also, in God’s providence, our new, eight-week online courses were ready to launch when they were especially meaningful to our students.

“Now, we believe it is appropriate to make ready a return to on-campus instruction this fall, while observing all necessary precautions and continuing to make allowances for students to make use of online instruction when necessary. The coronavirus pandemic has not lessened the urgency of theological education; indeed, it has only heightened that urgency. God continues to call men and women to serve Him and the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. The call to ministry is the call to prepare, and Southwestern Seminary exists to serve those called by providing biblically and theologically faithful and academically rigorous comprehensive theological education with a strong practical focus.

“I am prayerful that God is using the coronavirus pandemic in a way that will make us more faithful ministers of the gospel and that will see the advancement of the gospel across the world. As Robert E. Naylor, our fifth president, frequently said, ‘The sun never sets on Southwestern.’ That truism remains undiminished in our time, and it is our prayerful ambition that because of the training they receive here, our students will continue to be a part of fulfilling the Great Commission across Texas, throughout the United States, and around the world.”

SBTC DR assists victims of Bowie EF-1 tornado

BOWIE  Following a downtown parade earlier that day, Bowie High School’s graduating seniors eagerly anticipated their outdoor graduation scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday, May 22, at Jackrabbit Stadium, weather permitting.

Weather did not permit.

Bowie ISD superintendent Blake Enlow canceled commencement an hour before its planned start. Shortly after, Bowie residents hunkered down as tornado sirens blared at 8:28 p.m. and an EF-1 tornado ripped through town, destroying or damaging hundreds of homes and businesses, the Bowie News reported.

With the city still reeling from COVID-19 shutdowns, the tornado added to the plight of residents.

Expressing thanks that the city had no fatalities or injuries, Mayor Gaylynn Burris urged citizens to watch out for their neighbors, especially senior citizens.

“We are not alone,” she said.

SBTC DR on scene quickly

Bowie is not alone. Among groups deploying beginning May 23 to assist victims were Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief volunteers.

The SBTC DR quick response kitchen unit from First Baptist Leonard came Saturday, May 23, setting up operations at the Bowie police station, feeding first responders, volunteers and community members. 

A chainsaw team from First Baptist Melissa came May 24, followed by another from First Baptist Pflugerville on May 26, all joined by chaplains, assessors, skid steer crews, a shower and laundry unit with personnel, a command post and a towable man lift.

“White hat” or incident leader Glenda Watson confirmed that as of Wednesday, 21 SBTC DR volunteers were on site, housed at Southside Baptist Church, which suffered tornado damage, including the loss of its steeple.

DR crews are working in the areas off Wilbarger Street, Watson said, adding that recent rainfall has hampered recovery efforts, leaving ground soggy and footing treacherous.

Paid in full

The muddy, forested terrain challenges chainsaw workers, bogging down skid steers, said David Dean, leader of the Pflugerville crew.

“The ground is very soft underneath. The top looks like regular ground, then it sinks,” Dean explained, adding that teams hope to make use of the man lift as conditions dry out.

“We can get a lot more work done if we can get high in the trees to cut down the hangers or widow makers,” Dean said, referring to damaged limbs and branches that threaten to break off and blow down.

Jesse Hauptrief, who heads the Melissa crew, described helping Lee and Louise Jones, an elderly couple who lost a huge hackberry tree to the storm. The tree, with its 40-inch-diameter trunk, sprawled across the Joneses’ backyard and into other trees on the property behind, leaving a mass of intertwined limbs.

Hauptrief offered to remove the fallen tree and clean up the yard.

“What will it cost me?” Lee Jones asked.

“The usual. Nothing. It’s been paid for by Christ’s blood,” Hauptrief answered as Jones teared up. “He couldn’t believe it,” Hauptrief added, noting that crews did additional work at the residence, praying with the couple before and after the jobs. 

Among others, Hauptrief’s crew cut up a massive pecan tree felled by the storm for widowed homeowner Delores Lowery. 

“I just feel so blessed that you are here to help,” Lowery told Hauptrief.

A tree had fallen across the porch of the 100-year-old three-story home of Lowery’s neighbor, Lanny Hunt. After DR crews finished work at the home, Hauptrief came to say goodbye while Hunt was talking to a woman from county health and human services.

“I told him we wanted to pray with him and leave a Bible with him. He just broke down,” Hauptrief said, adding that the HHS representative asked if she could join them in prayer, her faith indicative of the community’s spiritual depth.

Later, crews used the man lift to clear the home of the manager of Bowie’s Dos Chiles restaurant. She invited them to come for a meal.

“There’s a lot of nice folks here,” DR chaplain Debby Nichols said. “We’ve prayed with a lot of folks and listened to their stories.”

COVID-19 and DR

The effusive Nichols admitted pandemics call for restraint. Hugs are rare and masks are the rule. Watson noted that DR crews are monitoring their temperatures and socially distancing in Southside Baptist church.

“When I go in the grocery story or to a Wal-Mart, I wear a mask, and I have a mask on my chin as I approach homeowners. If I get close to someone, or if I am inside, I put it on,” Nichols said, admitted that she “missed” getting to hug people.

“Someday,” Nichols said, wistfully.

Chaplain Pat Warren, whose husband is on staff at First Baptist Wimberley, deployed with the Pflugerville team and engaged in a long conversation with a Mormon from Bowie. The two talked about John 3:16 and their differences in faith.

Warren also works a chainsaw, wielding the new tool her husband gave her for her upcoming birthday.

 “We are pleased to help the people of Bowie and Montague County,” SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice said, adding that crews may continue working through next week and are exploring the possibility of deploying near Whitesboro following a high wind event.

As for Glenda Watson, she leaves Friday, May 29, to celebrate her golden anniversary with long-time DR task force member Dewey Watson.

“I have a date with the man I’ve been married to for 50 years,” Watson said.

Coronavirus, prayer and the awakening

Imagine I had come to you six months ago with a wild prediction. What if I had said then that schools and businesses across the United States would shut down? Airlines will ground their planes. Millions of Americans will stay home for nearly two months. The stock market will fall like it’s 1929, then follow the volatile path of a ride at Six Flags. Meanwhile, 20 million people will suddenly file for unemployment. And, by the way, pastors of all size churches and all denominations will be preaching to completely empty churches, except for skeleton media crews. One other thing in my prediction: Everywhere we go, when we do venture out of our homes, we will all wear masks. 

What would you think? Would you have believed my gloom and doom, apocalyptic forecast? Of course not. 

Allow me extend this hypothetical prediction. What if six months ago I would have told you that in the midst of the financial and social meltdown of the coming days, Christians everywhere would see God at work in all of it to bring about spiritual awakening? 

I didn’t predict any of that of course, but it all happened. Through it all, in a way we could have never imagined, God has been moving; revival may be coming; and the prayer movement is the tip of the spear. 

For instance, during one week in early May a rapid series of three seemingly unrelated events occurred which stirred my heart with hope. First, I was contacted by a national prayer leader about participating in a Zoom conference call with one of our denominational leaders and three other leaders from the wider Christian family. These men explained to us they had formed an interdenominational prayer ministry based on 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 called UNITE714. In surprising alacrity, the ministry had spread to 178 countries in seven weeks! Amazingly, prayer is spreading faster than COVID-19. 

Next, that same week, I was alerted to the story about a 95-year-old Baptist preacher who spends hours a day on a prayer mountain seeking God for spiritual awakening. He and a few others were hoping to have 100 pastors join them on the mountain on May 5 to pray for revival. Unfortunately, because of the coronavirus they couldn’t gather 100 people together in person; so they took their “Praying on the Mountain” invitation online and 265,000 people signed up to pray and fast for awakening that day!

Finally, during an early morning Zoom call with Dave Butts, the Chairman of the National Prayer Committee (the parent organization of the National Day of Prayer) Dave said, “I’ve never said this before, but the revival has begun.” He means the awakening Christians have been praying about for years has started. Of course time will tell, but when a respected national leader says something as bold as that it can give us all reason to hope and double down in prayer. Perhaps God is preparing us for the next great awakening!

Fortunately, every believer can pray and most do; but many people today long for a prayer life of greater consistency, intimacy and even intensity. Jonathan Edwards, the leader of the First Great Awakening, referred to “extraordinary prayer” as a key to revival. Whatever extraordinary prayer may mean to us, there could be no better time than now to pursue it.

As our churches are reopening and searching for our new normal, the time is right for rethinking and improving the prayer ministries of our churches. The SBTC has developed excellent resources to assist any church in the ministry of prayer. For instance, there are two resources at any church will find helpful. “We Will Pray” is a strategy for developing a culture of prayer in our churches. “Praying for the Lost” equips believers to pray passionately and effectively for lost people. I encourage you to visit the prayer ministry resources page at Let’s take our prayer life and our church prayer ministries to the next level. 

God is moving and people of prayer are moving with him. Something is coming, so let’s get going! 

Making plans to reopen children’s ministry? This resource can help.

As churches across Texas are making plans for how to reopen, one big question they’re facing is this — when and how should we restart our children’s ministry?

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention recently published a resource to address this question based on current conversations and consultation with children’s ministry leaders around the state.

The suggestions included:

  • Give plenty of advance notice of what parents should expect. Use multiple communication channels to get this information out.
  • Communicate effectively with parents to help them know the “why” of what the ministry is doing and eliminate confusion by putting everything they need to know in one downloadable document.
  • Set up your check-in area to make social distancing measures clear (for example, put tape on the floor to indicate how families should line up).
  • Follow county recommendations for wearing masks and have hand sanitizer readily available. 
  • Use screening questions and take the temperature of any adult or child entering the ministry area. Once they’re in, keep watch for symptoms of illness.
  • Consider asking parents to bring a labeled zip-lock bag instead of diaper bags or backpacks.
  • Deep clean the area regularly, including doorknobs, half-door shelves and tables. Disinfect equipment and don’t allow children to share supplies like markers or crayons. 
  • Limit the capacity of elevators and discontinue the use of water fountains.
  • Adjust schedules to allow time for cleaning in between services. Use activities that encourage kids to keep social distancing guidelines, such as crafts or games that keep them at separate tables and sitting apart.
  • Temporarily suspend sending items home with children after class.
  • Don’t give out snacks, even if the parent provides the snacks.
  • Everyone should wash their hands before entering or exiting the room and periodically throughout the class time.

The resource also noted that preschool ministries should be one of the last to go back to meeting regularly, as preschoolers aren’t able to self-regulate when it comes to social distancing. When they do return, volunteers should wear gloves when changing diapers or assisting preschoolers in the restroom and wash their own hands before and after. They should also wear shoe covers and oversized, button-up overshirts that can be changed if they get dirty.

To view the entire list of recommendations, visit For more information, contact Karen Kennemur at

The work continues

Almost every year since I have been writing a column for the June issue of the TEXAN I have addressed the issues facing the Southern Baptist Convention. Unless there is a special called convention, messengers will not gather this year. For the first time since 1945 the SBC is not scheduled to meet. Yet the work of the churches committed to cooperative missions and ministry will continue.

Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, was to present a vision for approval by the messengers in Orlando. The vision is a call to reach every person for Jesus Christ in every town, every city, every state and every nation. Strategic action plans accompanied the vision. Some of those plans may be adjusted but the vision remains the same. We can still accomplish the vision together. 

High on the priority list of Southern Baptists is international missions. When diverse opinions strain our fellowship, we agree on getting the good news of Jesus to the nations. Our missionary force is in some of the darkest places in the world holding forth the light of the gospel. They depend on us back home to hold the rope as they go over the edge. 

Our nation is in desperate need of the gospel too! Burgeoning metro centers teaming with people must have new churches. Small towns and rural areas are not exempt. Revitalization of existing churches is crucial. The North American Mission Board is tasked with this assignment. State conventions seek to assist in the effort to reach our country for Christ.

Because of the COVID-19 crisis SBC seminaries concluded their classes online this spring. Missionaries, pastors, church staff and others continue to be trained in the midst of shifting circumstances. Seminary education may take a different form in the future but Southern Baptists have the best delivery system in the world. We have confidence that our seminaries are teaching within the parameters of our faith statement, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

As part of the national family, GuideStone, LifeWay and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission come along side state conventions, churches and individuals to help carry out the Great Commission. The SBC and state conventions are made up of autonomous Baptist churches that voluntarily agree to work together for the furtherance of the gospel. Some coined the phrase, “the Southern Baptist ecosystem.” The SBC is not perfect. There are matters of family business we need to attend. But to neglect or abandon the greatest cooperative evangelical ministry would be tragic.

Although state conventions are not organically tied to the SBC, there is a voluntary cooperation that provides synergism. State conventions assist local churches in an intimate way. Being closer to the churches state conventions can have a greater personal touch. Church planting and revitalization are both based foundationally on evangelism. Churches can find a ready partner with state conventions to accomplish this kingdom work. Disaster relief is a grass roots endeavor with state conventions offering training and providing direction in times of need. Collegiate, student, women and a myriad of other ministries are supplemented by state conventions.

The three core values of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention speak to the “SBC ecosystem.” We are a group of churches in voluntary cooperation that are biblically based, kingdom focused and missionally driven through a common giving channel. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is our confessional statement. Helping churches carry out the Great Commission is our assignment. Pooling our financial resources through the Cooperative Program is the way we are able to do it. 

Apparently there will be no gathering of messengers this year for a convention. However, the work of the SBC continues. Pray, work and give! Hopefully, we will enjoy a family reunion soon. 

Enfrentándonos a la Crisis

Todos estamos enfrentándonos con el mismo problema, el coronavirus. Es una epidemia que ha tocado a todo el mundo entero. Este virus que no podemos ver literalmente ha cambiado totalmente nuestra manera de vivir. Durante la cuarentena escuchamos las palabras famosas “quédate en casa” que tuvimos que obedecer al máximo.

Ahora tenemos que salir usando máscaras y debemos guardar nuestras distancias con otras personas. ¿Cómo podemos hacer frente a esta crisis que estamos viviendo?

En Salmos 11:3 el Salmista nos dice, “Si fueren destruidos los fundamentos, ¿Qué ha de ser el justo?”

Déjame sugerirle algunas cosas que podemos hacer, como creyentes, cuando nos enfrentamos a una crisis.

  • Tenemos que depender totalmente en Dios. (Proverbios 3:5-6)
  • Tenemos que arrepentirnos de nuestros pecados. (Hechos 3:19)
  • Tenemos que buscar exclusivamente a Dios. (Hebreos 11:6)
  • Tenemos que clamar e invocar el nombre de Dios. (Jeremías 29:12-13)
  • Tenemos que enfocarnos siempre y continuamente en Dios. (Lucas 11:9-10)

Dios es nuestra esperanza y nuestra ayuda en los momentos de crisis.

El Salmista nos da palabras de esperanza y de gran ánimo para poder estar tranquilos cuando estamos pasando por una crisis.

“Dios es nuestro amparo y fortaleza, nuestro pronto auxilio en las tribulaciones.” Samos 46:1

“El que habita al abrigo del Altísimo morará bajo la sombra del Omnipotente, Diré yo a Jehová: Esperanza mía, y catillo mío; mi Dios en quien confiará.” Salmos 91:1-2

“Señor, tú nos has sido refugio de generación a generación. Antes que naciesen los montes y formaste la tierra y el mundo, desde el siglo y hasta el siglo, tú eres Dios.” Salmos 90:1-2

Pero la verdad es que hay multitudes de personas que viven con mucha preocupación, angustia y temor. Muchas familias están frustradas porque tienen a los hijos en casa todo el día. Hay preocupación porque miles de personas han perdido sus trabajos y no están cobrando nada. Cuando no hay trabajo, no hay dinero para pagar las cuentas y la vivienda, eso produce una crisis enorme para la sociedad de hoy. Pero a pesar de todas estas cosas que están pasando por el virus COVID-19 Dios está en control. No debemos de tener temor o pánico porque sabemos que Dios es nuestra fortaleza para estos días.

También sabemos que Dios siempre está con nosotros. Él nunca nos dejará solos aun en momentos de una crisis como la que estamos pasando.

“No temas, porque yo estoy contigo; no desmayes, porque yo soy tu Dios que te esfuerzo; siempre te ayudaré, siempre te sustentaré con la diestra de mi justicia.” Isaías 41:10

Indudablemente este virus un día se acabará. Pero puede ser que ese futuro sea un poco diferente. Igual tendremos que darnos codos en vez de darnos la mano. Puede ser que tendremos que seguir guardando nuestras distancias por una temporada. Pero venga lo que venga vamos a vencer esta epidemia.

Pablo nos dice claramente: “¿Quién nos separará del amor de Cristo? ¿Tribulación, o angustia, o persecución, o hambre, o desnudez, o peligro, o espada? Como está escrito: Por causa de ti somos muertos todo el tiempo; Somos contados como ovejas de matadero. Antes, en todas estas cosas somos más que vencedores por medio de aquel que nos amó. Por lo cual estoy seguro de que ni la muerte, ni la vida, ni ángeles, ni principados, ni potestades, ni lo presente, ni lo por venir, ni lo alto, ni lo profundo, ni ninguna otra cosa creada nos podrá separar del amor de Dios, que es en Cristo Jesús Señor nuestro.” Romanos 8:35-39

Debemos de proclamar y compartir las buenas nuevas de Cristo durante estos días difíciles. El virus produce mucho dolor y a final muerte en muchos casos. Una persona que no tiene a Cristo en su vida va a morir eternamente cuando le viene la muerte. Pero si aceptamos a Cristo como Señor y Salvador de nuestras vidas; Cristo nos da una vida abundante aquí en esta tierra y cuando venga la muerte, sabemos que vamos a cielo para estar con Cristo toda una eternidad.

“Y le dijo Jesús: Yo soy la resurrección y la vida; el que cree en mí, no morirá eternamente, vivirá.” Juan 11:25

¡Comparta las buenas nuevas con alguien hoy!

Midwestern Seminary and Spurgeon College announce fall reopening plan “ Residential Plus

Midwestern Seminary and Spurgeon College announced May 26 its intention to reopen its on-campus classes and be fully operational for the fall semester. In light of sensitivities to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local government social distancing measures, that reopening will look slightly different than it has over the school’s 63-year history.

According to President Jason Allen, an initiative known as Residential Plus will be implemented for the fall semester. Under the plan an innovative new platform will be introduced that combines world-class residential lectures with cutting-edge technology, resulting in one of the most flexible class experiences available.

Allen noted that student, faculty, and staff safety is of paramount importance, and measures will be in place to not only meet but exceed public health guidelines.

“Our ambition to have residential classes this fall has never changed,” Allen said, “But we’ve deliberated significantly about how we can ensure the learning experience is safe from a public health standpoint and is also delivered with excellence regardless of what COVID-19 may throw at us.”

On the safety front, Allen shared that Midwestern Seminary and Spurgeon College are taking steps, like extensive cleaning and implementing social distancing policies on campus.

In addition to safety, Allen said Residential Plus offers flexibility. He explained that a main question asked in the planning process was, “How do we adjust if COVID-19 spikes this fall or inhibits residential instruction in some way?”

“This fall we hope against that,” Allen said. “But we do anticipate the need to have an institutional dial that we can turn based upon what public health guidance and city and national officials are telling us about residential education.

The school’s desire, Allen shared, is that every class takes place and that every student is able to attend those classes in person on campus this fall, “but if COVID-19 spikes, then we can seamlessly turn the dial, so to speak, and respond to that—delivering those classes live and interactively.”

“Ministry preparation is too urgent not to be strategic during this season,” Allen said. “At Midwestern Seminary and Spurgeon College, we’re being strategic, and we want our students back in the classroom training and preparing for their ministry calling.”

One other aspect considered by the school’s administration when developing Residential Plus was the individual student’s comfort level and health considerations when it comes to social distancing guidelines.

Allen explained that Midwestern Seminary and Spurgeon College will be understanding and sensitive in this area. He said, “After consulting with their professor(s), if a student doesn’t feel comfortable coming to class due to social distancing or individual health concerns, he or she can still take the class as normal via live, interactive delivery.”

John Mark Yeats, dean of students, noted that Residential Plus enables the fall semester to launch with a semblance of normalcy, but “with a modified structure that enables us to reduce physical class sizes and enhance the ‘new normal’ of digital classroom engagement.” He added that this hybrid model enables synchronous (or live presentation) class meetings during the normally scheduled class times.

“We know this fall may be a bit different than what we are all used to,” Yeats said, “but it will be an incredible opportunity to show our students how much we care about their health and safety while affording them the instruction and preparation necessary for serving in a lifetime of ministry.”

In the weeks ahead, Midwestern Seminary and Spurgeon College faculty will also undergo training measures to ensure they are prepared for students’ return to classes. Provost Jason Duesing shared that there will be some issues to work out in preparation for the fall; however, he’s confident the Midwestern Seminary community is up to the task.

“One of the great joys I’ve had while serving here is seeing the growth of innovation as a key facet of the Midwestern Seminary mindset,” Duesing said. “From deans to faculty, there is a readiness to climb the next mountain and find new ways to do so ‘for the church.’ This mindset is vital for the present and future of Christian higher education—and Residential Plus is a fine example of that.”

Duesing also noted that while both schools’ on-campus experience will be slightly different this fall, Midwestern Seminary and Spurgeon College’s Online Studies Department is not impacted by Residential Plus and will continue business-as-usual.

The bottom line, according to Allen, is that “students can register for fall on-campus classes with confidence”—knowing that Midwestern Seminary and Spurgeon College are prepared for them and able to adapt to virtually any scenario.

Regathering Texas churches grapple with whether to require masks

HOUSTON  Listening to the discussion surrounding the reopening of churches, Steve Bezner could see much of it revolved around a dichotomy of faith versus fear. As Bezner, pastor of Houston Northwest Church, and other church leaders studied the issue from a variety of angles, they began to see it differently.

“The more that we studied them, we began to see masks as love of neighbor or pride,” Bezner said. “So we decided that we would focus on love of neighbor and humility. Instead of framing the conversation in fear versus faith, we wanted to frame the conversation in terms of serving our neighbor.”

Because of this, the church decided when they do gather once again for public worship in early June, masks will be required. 

As Texas churches make plans to gather once again, pastors across the state are wrestling with issues that have become controversial and mired in politics. The question of when and where to wear a mask is top on that list. While a Democracy Fund UCLA Nationscape Project poll earlier this week showed that 84 percent of Americans have worn a mask in public to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the issue has become a talking point by political leaders on the both sides of the spectrum.

Bezner says the decision to require worshipers to wear masks stems from research he and other leaders did on the virus itself. He communicated the decision and described the reasoning in a blog post earlier this week.

“We know that right now the virus and responses to the virus are being politicized,” Bezner told the Southern Baptist TEXAN. “We wanted to transcend political connotations. Instead, we wanted to try and access scientific data. So we used CDC primary documents. We read the studies that those CDC documents cited. Then we accessed more popular articles that distilled those CDC studies to a level that we could understand in laymen’s terms. Then, using that scientific data, we realized that the virus does indeed transmit through respiratory droplets. Consequently, we needed to use masks as a precautionary measure.”

Bezner and his team also took into consideration outbreaks that had occurred in other churches. He noted it appeared that those churches practiced social distancing, hand-washing, hand sanitizing and other preventive measures, but they didn’t require attendees to wear masks. 

Bezner said the church plans to open back up on June 7 with a limited “beta” test service. During this test service, they’ll allow a limited number of people into a public worship service. If guests don’t have a facemask, the church will provide one. If guests do not want to wear a facemask, they will not be allowed to attend. 

During the beta service, Bezner says the church will evaluate logistics of how to host a worship service with social distancing techniques and masks. He says the church will wear masks regardless. They simply want to test out some of the best practices of how to do so. He notes the church is still talking with doctors and trying to determine whether he and the church’s worship leaders will need a mask while on stage.  

“Is that an experience that people want?” Bezner asked. “Is that an experience that is worshipful? Is that an experience that is tenable over the long haul? If so, we’ll continue. If not, then we can simply go back into our online worship platform.”

Bezner acknowledges in the blog post and in the interview with the TEXAN that his own health issues (he has had heart failure since age 24) have likely helped to shape his views on the issue. 

While Bezner believes people may be able to make an argument about personal rights when it comes to wearing masks in commercial locations, they make little sense in a church environment.

“[Big corporations] do not care if I live or die. They only want my money,” Bezner said. “As a pastor, I care immensely about the people in my congregation, and I want them to live. It’s one thing for me to say that I want their business; it’s an entirely different matter for me to invite them into worship, put their lives in danger and then preach their funeral a month later. I take that matter very seriously.”

David Fannin, the pastor of Nassau Bay Baptist Church in Houston, also wanted to show care for the vulnerable in the congregation as he planned the church’s regathering. The church started meeting at 25 percent capacity the Sunday before Mother’s Day. They taped off every other pew. The church trained their ushers to seat people in ways where they wouldn’t need to walk or sit within six feet of others. Families could sit together.

The church is asking every person who comes in the building to wear a face mask, but once in the sanctuary there are two seating options: one area for those who want to wear masks, and another for those who don’t.

“Like most churches in Texas, we have people who think everybody should wear a mask because they have some autoimmune disease or something or just feel everybody should,” Fannin said. “And then we have others who think it’s ridiculous that anyone would wear a mask.”

Fannin notes that when the COVID-19 outbreak started, he was preaching through 1 Corinthians. During this period, he has switched and done some topical messages. This week, as the church moves up to about 175 in attendance, he’ll be preaching on 1 Corinthians 10 and specifically addressing Paul’s teaching about engaging with stumbling blocks for “weaker” believers. 

“I’m preaching about fellowship and freedom, to do what you do out of love for your brothers,” Fannin said. “People occasionally ask me, ‘How do you know whether you’re preaching what the Lord wants you to preach?’ It’s this kind of stuff—you know, when you’ve been out of your normal sermon series preaching these topical sermons and you get back in and it’s exactly what the church needs to be able to deal with people in love. What’s fascinating about this is that if you ask people who want to wear a mask and the people who don’t want to wear a mask, both of them will tell you the other one is the weaker brother.”

For resources designed to help churches as they regather, visit

SBTC Facebook groups and videoconference calls keep church leaders connected during the COVID-19 crisis

As church leaders, staff and volunteers navigate the challenges of restarting in-person gatherings amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention continues to offer a variety of online resources to help.

Zoom videoconferences happen weekly focusing on worship, discipleship, adult, student, college, children’s, family, special needs and women’s ministries in a COVID-19 context. Also available are Zoom meetings for pastors’ wives and Asian, African American and Spanish-speaking pastors. 

To sign up for any of these scheduled events, visit, scroll down to the ministry area(s) of interest and click on the appropriate registration link.

Many past video call conferences have been recorded and are accessible via the “Watch” link on that page as well.

Additional interaction via Facebook

SBTC Facebook groups are providing another means of staying connected while ministry leaders are forced by the coronavirus to be physically remote. Join one or more of these groups in your areas of ministry or interest to receive updates, reminders of upcoming Zoom events and opportunities for interaction.

A partial listing of SBTC Facebook groups is found at and is reprinted here:

Student Minister’s Network

Family Ministry

SBTC Disaster Relief

Children’s Ministry

Church Communications

NextGen (40 & under) Pastors

Roundup Network (collegiate ministry)

Women’s Ministry

The SBTC children’s and family ministry Facebook pages promote the combined children’s and family ministry Zoom calls held on Mondays. Past topics include summer planning, parenting and technology during COVID-19 and “Where do we go from here?” 

Zoom video call conferences for special needs ministries are also held by the SBTC children’s ministry department on Tuesdays.

The SBTC women’s ministry group page offers its 500 members reminders of the ongoing Zoom conferences for women’s ministry leaders held Tuesdays, featuring a variety of speakers such as LifeWay’s Kelly King. 

The Facebook page also promotes Zoom gatherings of pastors’ wives, held Thursdays. There is also a separate pastors’ wives Facebook page, Laura Taylor, SBTC women’s ministry associate, told the TEXAN. 

“We have used the [women’s ministry] Facebook page to encourage interaction between women with questions each week and short encouragement videos. We use the page to advertise resources offered through the SBTC,” Taylor said, adding that a Facebook livestream women’s conference with keynote speaker, cameo appearances from women’s ministry leaders, and breakout groups is planned for October 9-10, 2020.

The SBTC disaster relief Facebook page offers photos, news articles, video clips, announcements and training schedules for those interested in DR. A separate Facebook page,, also highlights the ministry of SBTC DR.

The Roundup Network Facebook page centers on SBTC collegiate ministry and includes event reminders, helpful posts, links and articles. Weekly Zoom video conferences will be replaced by monthly video calls, Mitch Tidwell, SBTC lead associate of student and collegiate ministries, announced in a May 10 post.

Among other helpful and interactive posts, NextGen’s Facebook page includes links to the Prudent Pastor series, featuring interviews with the SBTC’s Alex Gonzales and Lance Crowell, the SBT Foundation’s Bart McDonald and IMB President Paul Chitwood.

Reminder we are not alone

Each SBTC group’s Facebook page presents opportunities for direct interaction among ministry leaders finding themselves in similarly treacherous COVID-19 waters. 

On May 18 on the SBTC children’s ministry page, one member posted the question: “Now that we have hit this point in May, I would like to ask you all what your final VBS adjustments and plans will be this summer? Please.”

A variety of responses ensued, from questions about Governor Abbott’s latest reopening guidelines to suggestions for family VBS to descriptions of a virtual VBS and a plan for VBS at home. 

The comments were practical and varied; they also reminded participants they were not alone: perhaps the best part of social media.

Texas dentist, wife win CMDA”s “Servant of Christ” award

A Texas dentist and his wife were honored by the Christian Medical & Dental Associations in May for their faith-centric “commitment to medical excellence.” 

Dr. T. Bob Davis and his wife, Janis, both of Dallas, received the CMDA’s 2020 Servant of Christ Award. Because of the pandemic, CMDA members and leaders participated virtually.

The Servant of Christ Award honors those whose careers exemplify commitment to medical excellence along with a “stalwart faith in Jesus Christ,” according to a press release. T. Bob Davis “has successfully practiced dentistry not only on local and statewide levels but nationally and internationally as well” for the last 53 years, the press release read.

He served as a leader of dental missions for more than 44 years in multiple countries, mentoring other dentists and dental students. He was named Humanitarian of the Year in 2018 by the American Dental Association and in 2019 by the International College of Dentists. 

Additionally, he has served as the spokesman for national dental organizations and interviewed by newspapers, television broadcasts and magazines. He served as secretary of the board of trustees of Southwestern Seminary, as chairman of two dental conventions in Texas, and as president of the Academy of Dentistry International, an honor society. 

He was nominated four times for Texas Dentist of the year, winning the title in 2014. He was voted Dallas Dentist of the Year four times. 

“His overarching lifetime goal is to profess the Gospel through his witness and work and radiate his deep-seated faith; when reflecting over his career and the service he has personally and professionally initiated, on all accounts, he has achieved this goal,” the press release said. “Dr. T. Bob and Janis Davis will no doubt be remembered for years to come as a devout dental activists and ‘Servants of Christ.’”