Month: July 2020

A climate of change

To suggest America is experiencing rapid change may strike you as an elaborate understatement. Ironically, for most of our lives cultural change has been a constant. America is no stranger to change and even frequent disruptive adjustments to the status quo. In the midst of rapid change, regardless of how frequently it challenges us, we always have choices to make. We can recoil and hope for the best, or we can get involved and attempt to influence the moment. Southern Baptists have a history of choosing action. 

For instance, in 1919 our Southern Baptist predecessors, including Baptist leaders in Texas like George W. Truett, L. R. Scarborough and J. B. Gambrell, led the convention to embrace a vision that would capitalize on global change and get serious about reaching the nations for Christ. They and others championed the idea of a new way of cooperating to fund missions, evangelism and theological education. The $75 Million Campaign of 1919 was an effort to raise $75 million for missions and ministry. By 1925 their initial vision matured and was presented to the convention as a way to work cooperatively and sacrificially to do “missions, teaching and benevolence.” The plan was adopted, and the Cooperative Program, which still serves as our best way of funding the Great Commission, was born.

Most of us are familiar with that history, but for a moment consider those dates. Think about the cultural upheaval around those events. From 1914-1918 America was embroiled in World War I. The next year Southern Baptists began pressing for a coordinated giving mechanism. In fact, L. R. Scarborough used the unity and sacrifice exhibited by the nation during the war effort as a prime example of what can be done when we sacrificially commit and work together. So rather than letting the specter of war and the cultural disruption it caused stop them from launching their vision, Scarborough appealed to that same can-do spirit present in the nation during the war as a catalyst for funding missions! 

In addition to the national challenge of war and its aftermath, the most deadly pandemic of the 20th century claimed nearly 700,000 American lives as the influenza of 1918 spread across the country and around the world. Still, Southern Baptists soldiered on with their vision to reach the world for Christ in spite of the fact the convention was mired in crippling debt at the time of the Cooperative Program’s adoption.   

Then, just a little more than 48 months after the 1925 Convention, when the Cooperative Program began, the stock market crash of 1929 led immediately to the Great Depression. Still, Southern Baptists gave generously and pressed forward with their new Cooperative Program.

It’s obvious from this brief overview we are not the first generation to experience big challenges and constant change. The exact circumstances may be different today, but, in one sense, the questions before us are the same: Will we recoil at this moment of cultural change, or will we work together and give sacrificially in the face of the volatility around us? 

The churches of the SBTC, as we trust God with the future and give faithfully and sacrificially through the Cooperative Program, will continue to support missionaries, minister compassionately and responsively in times of tragedy, plant churches and train a new generation of men and women for ministry. Our work together is greater than anything we can achieve separately. Cultural change is not a reason to stop working together. On the contrary, the constant change in culture and many of the problems associated with destabilized cities, families and emerging cultural norms are clearly calls for us to work more in sync than ever before. We work better as teams.

Our generosity and faithfulness in giving is part of our answer to volatility and change. We give not in spite of change but as a response to it. After all, we are proponents of change—the kind that occurs in the human heart when lost people suddenly become followers of Christ. 

Through sacrifice, generosity and teamwork, God has used Southern Baptists of Texas as a powerful witness across Texas and throughout the Southern Baptist Convention. In the days ahead, regardless of unforeseen changes, our support of the Cooperative Program and the work of the SBTC can be among the things that don’t ever have to change. 

Support of missionaries absolutely vital for gospel advance

Throughout our 175-year history, Southern Baptists have maintained an uninterrupted witness among the nations in spite of famines, wars, civil unrest and—as we have all experienced this year—even a pandemic. This commitment has not come without sacrifice by your missionaries, and their continued witness cannot continue without your sacrifices of support. 

The financial challenges we are facing at this moment are significant as we seek to care for missionaries and take advantage of open doors to impact the lost. Your continued gifts through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® are absolutely vital for us to continue to advance the gospel. We cannot continue our work without the support of your prayers and your gifts. 

What impact is made when you pray and give? More than half a million people heard a gospel witness last year, resulting in nearly 90,000 new believers!

  • In Central Asia, IMB teams created gospel-witness videos for 99 different languages. Production has begun on gospel videos for the last 11 languages of Central Asia which have no Bible tools of any kind. 
  • Deaf Southeast Asians have set up a studio for Scripture translation, and the local Deaf church is working with IMB colleagues to evangelize, plant churches, work on Bible translations with other new believers and complete Bible stories in all the neighboring countries of Southeast Asia. 
  • In North Africa and the Middle East, evangelism has happened in a clinic, a gym, a living room, a coffee shop, a barbershop, a park, a classroom—all places where your Christian workers normally interact with people in their communities on a daily basis. 
  • In South Asia, small congregations dedicated 30 minutes a day for 30 days to talk to people intentionally about Jesus. Over the course of one month, these faithful individuals shared with more than 7,000 people! 
  • The Lord has worked mightily among a traditionally animist people group in the mountains of East Asia. The church has grown, and there are hundreds of believers among this remote group. Now the church is working to send out missionaries to reach other unreached groups with the gospel. 

Has everyone heard? No, everyone has not yet heard. We know that every second, two people die without knowing Christ. We know that 25 percent of spoken languages do not have Scripture to share the gospel in their heart languages. 

Thank you for continuing to give, even as you are navigating these unexpected challenges. Your commitment makes a difference! I recently received a message from one of your IMB missionaries, Joyce Pittman, a member of the São Paulo Gateway City Team who has served with our company for 23 years: 

“This morning … I was struck with the thought of how supported we have been during this COVID-19 crisis by the IMB. … It is a difficult time to do our job and feel productive. We are all seeking the Lord daily for guidance, but sometimes we let the enemy accuse us of not doing enough or not being useful right now. Not once though has any pressure been put on us by the IMB or any accusation been made of not adequately doing our jobs. Instead, what has been expressed over and over during this challenging time is care, concern and encouragement.

“That is why I wanted to take this opportunity to thank the IMB and commend all the leadership for the way you have treated us during the pandemic. You have made us feel loved and understood. You have shown you trust our dedication to the calling God has on our lives as missionaries, even in the midst of an unprecedented situation such as the one in which we are all living. So thank you for the way you have responded to this crisis and how you have consistently upheld your missionary colleagues. You are in our prayers!”

The care our missionaries feel is care your support makes possible. Thank you for helping missionaries such as Joyce shine the light in a dark world—especially in a year when a pandemic threatens our economic stability. 

The nations are waiting. Will you give now at Thank you for doing your part. 

Editor’s Note: IMB’s 2020 Annual Report can be watched online at:

Brazos County church building “total loss” in Fourth of July fire

BRYAN – Southern Oaks Baptist Church burned to the ground late in the evening July 4. . No one was injured, but the building is a “total loss,” according to SBTC field ministry strategist Gordon Knight, who works with pastors in the area.

The building “started burning sometime around midnight on Saturday night,” Knight said. By the time the fire department arrived, the building was “totally engulfed.” Around 4 a.m., the fire was under control.

The church held an Independence Day celebration the evening of the fire, Knight said, but “they left the church around 10:30” and when the fire started “no one was on the property.”

The cause of the fire is still being investigated. “Because of the total destruction of the church, it’s going to be very, very hard for them to determine what happened,” he said. It’s unclear whether enough evidence remains for investigators to know what started the fire. Jason Ware, Brazos County Precinct 3 Volunteer Fire Department chief, told KBTX that “when you have this much fire damage … it’s very difficult to determine a cause.”

SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards commented, “It has been my blessing to have known Pastor Ramiro from the early days of the SBTC. We are sorry with them in the loss of their facility but stand with them as they seek to move forward for the future.”

Hours after the fire died down on Sunday, at 10:30 a.m. the congregation gathered at the Baptist Student Ministry on the campus of Texas A&M. Southern Oaks, which began as a mission church, runs about 70 people on a normal Sunday, according to Knight.

Knight, who in addition to serving with the SBTC also pastors Christ’s Way Baptist Church in Bryan, said his church has also offered its facility for Southern Oaks to use.

“I’ve known Southern Oaks for quite some time,” Knight said. “ The pastor is an excellent, excellent servant. He and his family are great people. The church is solid. I just think it’s very unfortunate that it happens to anybody, but when you actually know who the people are—it’s close to home, it’s personal. We as the SBTC want to do everything we can to help them with everything they need, and we’ll be here for them. 

“This church is an example of the majority of Southern Baptist churches,” Richards said. “Although small in number they have been faithful to our Lord Jesus through the years.”

Ensuring diversity, quality key goal for GuideStone

Kasan Boyd is no stranger to GuideStone’s employees and leadership. A 14-year veteran of GuideStone®, Boyd knows the organization’s needs thoroughly.

In her newest role, as director of inclusion and diversity, she’ll lead GuideStone’s efforts to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce.

“I believe my purpose in life is to help people,” Boyd said. “In this day and time we all need help in understanding what is needed to eradicate these deep-rooted injustices that we see in our country and how those play out in our everyday lives. When I was approached about leading inclusion and diversity efforts at GuideStone, I saw this as the opportunity to help GuideStone show the world what it truly means to walk out Romans 12:5–8, and I knew this was God’s hand at work.”

GuideStone strives to reflect the ethnic diversity of the Southern Baptist Convention and recognizes the inherent strength of a diverse workplace, GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said. The ministry’s recruiting efforts seek an ethnically diverse team through visits to college career fairs, the career website and other recruiting materials. At the start of 2020, non-Anglo employees accounted for 17.9% of GuideStone employees, up from 9.8% at the beginning of this millennium.

“One would think that after two millennia, the words of James 2:1–13 have become optional choices instead of principles for living in Christ,” Hawkins said. “Sadly, as the events of 2020 remind us, favoritism and its close cousin racism are alive and continue to plague our nation, its institutions, and even the last place we should ever see racism, some churches. It should not be so. At GuideStone, we are working daily to ensure it is not true in our offices, and we could not be more thrilled that Kasan has taken on the task of helping us build a more diverse workforce.”

Boyd is respected and loved throughout the organization. A University of Texas graduate, the Fort Worth native is well-acquainted with GuideStone’s ministry and business needs, having spent eight years as a corporate trainer and senior corporate trainer before joining the Human Resources team almost six years ago. In Human Resources, Boyd distinguished herself by partnering with different business divisions, providing employee development and coaching.

“Now is our opportunity to show the world God’s vision for inclusion and diversity — what conversations, actions and behaviors should look like,” she said. “This type of culture allows employers to be relevant and in touch with those they serve.”

In management ranks, GuideStone has grown its diverse population more than 300% since 2005, including the addition of a South Korea-born health care leader — Chu Soh — to the executive team. Among its Board of Trustees, GuideStone currently has five African American individuals serving, including Renée A. Trewick, the first African American woman to serve as the chair of an SBC trustee board in our convention’s 175-year history, and David Cox, the first African American to serve as chair of GuideStone’s Insurance Committee, one of five standing committees of the board.

The unique perspectives and experience of these men and women make GuideStone stronger, Hawkins noted.

“We are better stewards of the ministry we have received from the Lord when we reflect the diversity the Creator God placed on His planet,” Hawkins said.

Boyd hopes to build on those efforts to ensure that every employee who joins GuideStone will feel welcomed and affirmed, growing their careers to benefit the 250,000 men and women served today and those it will serve in the future.

“Any employer should seek a more diversified workforce if they’re planning on attracting and retaining the best talent that aligns with the mission and vision of their organization,” she said. “Statistics show that diverse work environments are more innovative and productive.”

Hawkins underscored the commitment the organization has to diversity and inclusion.

“We recognize we have not yet achieved our goal to reflect the diversity of God’s kingdom,” Hawkins said. “By his grace, and with the commitment of every senior leader of GuideStone, we will continue to become more like the kingdom he ransomed from every nation, tribe and tongue.”