Month: January 2021

Multiracial New York church plant aims to “redefine church,” change city, through discipleship

NEW YORK  When Cross Creek New York City launches this fall, it will be following a blueprint that has already proved successful for First Baptist Church Colleyville. After planting five churches in the last two years, missions pastor Chad Vandiver says he believes the Hamilton Heights plant can transform not only the city, but the world.

The church launch is designed to “transform the city and make people take notice. And in the Northeast U.S., you’re also redefining church for the people,” Vandiver said. “There are two kinds of churches in the Heights and Harlem and Manhattan. There’s a liturgical, academic church, and then there’s an attractional, surface church. There’s nothing in the middle. We want to redefine church by not only making disciples, but being contextualized for the city.”

According to Craig Etheredge, who has served as senior pastor at FBC Colleyville since 2007, the church spent much time praying through how to accomplish the goal of multiplication.

“About two years ago we were wrestling with questions like what do we do as a church? What does church growth look like for us?” Etheredge said. 

As the church prayed about their strategy, they considered multisite as an option but eventually concluded that they were being called to church planting. The Cross Creek Network was birthed from the vision to plant churches using discipleship as the primary model for multiplication, Vandiver said. 

“My experience really led me to see that the way lives are transformed is through church planting,” he added. “In dreaming about where we needed to plant churches we knew that we needed to create a church planting movement that was both national and international. Internationally, we’ve looked for cities where there’s the most lostness, where the gospel needs to go where it’s never gone before. And nationally, we did the same thing.”

According to Etheredge, Scripture ultimately guided their strategy.

“We decided to put our efforts in discipling leaders, then releasing them to do the same,” he added.
“We felt convicted that was the New Testament model Jesus had in mind. That pivoted our course away from multisite and toward church planting.” 

Etheredge said the church has “a disciple-making DNA where people invest in one another and replicate it,” and multisite didn’t seem like it went with that model.

“We prayed God would give us a big vision for planting churches both locally and around the world. The plan was to plant nine churches in five years and though that was pretty aggressive, over the course of the last two and a half years God has really blessed that,” he said.

When Vandiver came on staff at FBC Colleyville in 2018, he brought with him a wealth of knowledge and experience from over 15 years of working as an IMB missionary, an SBTC missions strategist, and both a Send City missionary and mobilization specialist with NAMB.

The strategy that the Cross Creek Network has employed in its first five church plants—one of which is already preparing to multiply—will benefit planting pastor Charles Wolford, III, who moved to New York in December 2020 with his wife.

A search for gospel-led racial reconciliation

Wolford’s connection to Etheredge and Vandiver came through his own pastor, Ronnie Goines, pastor of Koinonia Christian Church in Arlington. After the death of George Floyd earlier this year, Etheredge said he reached out to Goines to make a short video that would address race, the gospel and disciple-making.

“What I thought was going to be a 10-minute video turned into an hour and 20-minute uncut discussion,” Etheredge said. “Part of what came out of that discussion was an acknowledgment that yes, it’s good to make a statement about racial reconciliation or to advocate for that, but we need to do more. We need to do something that really provides an answer to the problem instead of just crying out against it,” he said.

“We felt like church planting together was something that we could do that would advance the kingdom and make a difference and really demonstrate what racial reconciliation looks like.”

Etheredge said his connection with Goines helps make this church plant unique, that “it was born out of two pastors who have a heart to demonstrate how the gospel breaks down racial walls and really demonstrate the gospel in a powerful way.”

When they began looking for a pastor to lead the plant, Goines suggested Wolford, who grew up as the son of a pastor in Wichita, Kansas. 

As Wolford told the TEXAN, it was only when he started attending Morehouse College in Atlanta that he realized he had never truly started following Jesus. When he was a sophomore he was introduced to the idea of discipleship, a concept that he says changed his life.

“It became evident that most of my life I’d adopted a routine of church rather than an authentic relationship with God,” he said. “At 18 years old I was discipled authentically for the first time and could finally understand and articulate what it meant to have a relationship with God. And from that moment on,
I just felt a call from God to engage my generation and to continue to reproduce that process with my peers.”

According to Wolford, he immediately began doing college ministry on campus, which in turn led to more opportunities, especially as he transferred to Dallas Baptist University and was able to serve alongside his father at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship.

It was there that Wolford began honing his teaching gift by serving in young adult ministry and met Goines, his eventual mentor. Wolford said he’s spent the last four years at Koinonia pouring himself into discipling different generations there.

“I’ve seen so much success, particularly with implementing a discipleship program for pre-conversion and early believers, pushing them into spiritual maturity through discipleship. That’s always been my passion,” he said.

When Goines first recommended Wolford to lead Cross Creek NYC, however, Wolford said he didn’t understand why.

“I was pretty comfortable in my role at Koinonia, and it kind of took me down a path of really seeking the Lord for a call to New York that I hadn’t quite assessed yet. And it wasn’t until I actually visited New York in the midst of this pandemic and was able to meet with planters and attend church [that I saw] there was a need,” he said, “and that God had uniquely prepared me for this time to be a part of meeting that need.”

Offering answers in ‘a time of great confusion and need’

One thing Wolford and Vandiver said they are looking forward to is the opportunity to multiply within the Hamilton Heights area and more broadly within New York City. Their initial plan is to find a theater to rent for Sunday services, but eventually they hope to purchase a church multiplication center which will function as not only office space, but also as a ground floor from which to expand into new churches.

“That’s the secret to success in this city,” Vandiver said.

And for Wolford, the timing of this church plant—in the middle of a pandemic that has disproportionately hit New York City—couldn’t be more appropriate.

“We’re going to an area in a time of great confusion and need and disparity, not only to provide the hope that only Jesus can provide, but to be sensitive to and intentional to meet the needs as we enter into that community. The heart of this church is to engage the community of New Yorkers right where they are, to meet their needs while also compelling them to live fruitful lives in Christ and reproduce the process of discipleship in other people,” Wolford said.

“I believe that the Lord is calling not only me, but all who share in the vision of planting movements of discipleship in areas that need the gospel, to New York so that we can be a part of the resurgence, the bounce back. New Yorkers are resilient, and it’s an area that attracts the brightest, most creative, most diverse communities in our nation,” Wolford said. “We need more churches that will authentically transform the lives of New Yorkers through the only way we know how biblically, which is the process of discipleship.”

Cross Creek NYC will be hosting a mission trip March 13-20 that is open to anyone who is interested in catching the vision for what the Lord will do, Vandiver said. For more information, visit 

Pre-adoptive family: “We could start with one”

ROCKWALL  Patricia “Patchi” Hasegawa and her husband Tetsuya, married 13 years, have been in the adoptive family process for two years, with perhaps another six months or more to go.

Their desire for another child and their firstborn son Kuni’s request for a brother led the Hasegawas to consider adoption when Patchi didn’t get pregnant. 

“We knew nothing regarding adoption, other than a few people in my life group had adopted,” Patchi told the TEXAN. Tetsuya heard about and Patchi attended an informative adoption/foster care conference in January 2018 at Lakepointe Church, where they’d been members for two years. 

Prayer and contemplation about adoption came to an end on Nov. 25, 2018, when the message Josh Howerton (now Lakepointe’s pastor) spoke from James 1:27 brought Patchi to tears and her husband to obedience. 

“The message was so powerful and amazing,” Patchi said. “We understood the gospel of how we have been adopted into God’s family. Our hearts broke to the millions of orphans in the world.

“We did desire another child, we had the means to adopt and we wanted to obey what God was asking us to do, despite our fear,” Patchi continued. “We could not help millions, but we could start with one.” 

A week later, the Hasegawa family applied and started the adoption process with the adoption agency Holt International. 

“Everything we had control over, we did quickly,” Patchi said. “Everything else is a waiting process. Our dossier has been in Korea since February. It was just approved in early December.”

While waiting for a judge to agree to the adoption, the Hasegawas’ son they named Nobu, born in August 2019, stays with a foster family in South Korea. Nobu means “walk by faith” in Japanese.

Holt International sends emails twice each month, sometimes with photos and their son’s medical updates. The Hasegawas are learning from experiences shared by adoptive parents in their life group at Lakepointe.

“We have been blessed by a church and community that is real and authentic with their adoption [ministry],” Patchi said. “Yes, we knew it is not all easy and beautiful and it can be hard at times. People do share their struggles, but also joy and victories and heart changes.

“We know that not all are called to adopt, but we all can do something. In our church and life group, we pray, give: clothes, money, food. We help and encourage each other, we walk with each other, we celebrate each other.”

 Holt requires an online course on adoption and suggests books and articles to read to allay concerns and prepare families for the future. Studies cover parents, siblings and adopted child alike. Topics include attachment and medical issues; coping with grief, loss, identity and more, plus an awareness of a new dynamic in the home with a new family member.

“Kuni is excited to be a big brother,” Patchi said. “We are preparing our hearts and mind and lives to the changes. We pray every night together. We pray many things. Especially we pray and ask that we will all bond quickly.” 

Odessa pastor and wife confirm fostering is difficult but rewarding

ODESSA The first foster child who came to their home was there because of the brutal death of an older sibling. 

Despite that emotional distress, Del and Charmaine Traffanstedt went on to provide care for 10 foster children over a three-year period. 

Del, pastor of Mission Dorado Baptist Church in Odessa, and Charmaine, agree that adoption and fostering are something every church should encourage.

The steps to becoming a foster parent? “It’s hard. It’s long. It’s full of paperwork, meetings, home studies,” Del Traffanstedt told the TEXAN. “It’s a good process meant to protect the child. but it took a long time.

“What was good about it was working with Texas Baptist Home for Children [a related ministry of the SBTC],” he continued.  “They have someone walk through the process with you all the time, and to counsel you and pray with you.” explains the purpose of the home is “to protect the sanctity of human life and promote the preservation of the family.” This includes biological, fostering and adopting families. “This purpose manifests itself in preventive, rehabilitative and specialized services to children, youth, adults and families.”

The Traffanstedts’ oldest biological child, Taylor, was 15 when her parents determined to open their home to care for foster children.

“It’s really hard but incredibly rewarding,” Traffanstedt said. “These children need help. They are the biblical definition of ‘the least of these,’ which is why the church must step in to care for them.

“For Christians, bringing foster children into our homes is exactly what our Lord wants us to do,” Traffanstedt continued. “Most people, they’re willing to do the easy stuff, but this is the nitty gritty ministry Christians are called to.”

The Traffanstedts adopted the last three of their foster children, which put their 1,300-square-foot home at maximum occupancy, according to state guidelines. Since then they have added their “bonus baby” and biological son, Seth. 

“We fell in love with our kids,” their dad said. “When a child lives in your home for two years, that’s your kid.” Besides, he added, “We felt called to adopt. Our goal from the outset was to foster kids who needed to be adopted.”

His advice to fostering and adopting: 

  • Find a good Christian agency in your area to work with.
  • Engage your church family. You cannot to this alone.
  • Pray about your willingness to do this, your motivation for doing this, and “You need to prepare your heart for the brokenness you’re going to encounter.”

Taffanstedt has been pastor of Mission Dorado for five years. Pre-COVID, about 150 people gathered for Sunday worship.

One of the church’s staff members is given paid time from the church to be a court-appointed (yet volunteer) special advocate for children in foster care. “Through her, we get access throughout the year to some of these kids, to know how to pray for them and to provide some of the material things they need, clothes, backpacks and the like,” Taffanstedt said. 

Mission Dorado Baptist also participates throughout the year in Angel Tree, a ministry to prison inmates’ children. This includes a big Christmas party with a meal, gifts and the Christmas story, and contact year-round.

Traffanstedt mentors and coaches other fostering and adopting families. The ministry involves recruiting new families, mentoring, counseling and coaching them as they foster and adopt.

“Every church should be engaged in foster care, orphan care ministry,” Traffanstedt said. “I would encourage every pastor to investigate the need in their area and how they can engage with children in need of God’s love and care.” 

Evangelism 2021

It’s no secret Southern Baptists are reaching fewer people for Christ than in previous decades. Even before the coronavirus global pandemic, we were in trouble. 

Our denomination raises enormous amounts of money for missions; we train ministers in theologically conservative seminaries; we publish excellent resources, and we are surrounded by incredible Southern Baptist leaders. Some of these leaders are admired around the world. Yet something has gone wrong with the harvest. We aren’t reaching enough lost people. We aren’t spiritually reproducing ourselves as often or as effectively as we should.

Our story is partially told with numbers. In the last decade we’ve lost more than a million people from our worship services. In the last two years, instead of slowing or reversing the negative trend, we reported the single greatest membership decline in over 100 years. The most telling statistic in that recent report—the one fact that cannot be ignored—is our overall decline in baptisms. Our most reliable metric for measuring evangelistic health has fallen to at least a 75-year low. Reversing the downward spiral of evangelistic effectiveness over time has the potential to reverse all of our negative trends. 

Put simply, we Southern Baptists have to evangelize our way out of our declines. I’m not suggesting evangelism alone is the solution to our challenges, but apart from evangelism, no solution exists. 

I want to recommend a few practical ways to improve our evangelistic results. There are more factors than the limited number mentioned here, but these are crucial for success. 


Evangelism is a spiritual battle, and it is won first in the prayer room. Jesus said to pray for more laborers for the harvest (Matthew 9:37-38). Paul urged us to pray for evangelistic opportunities (Colossians 4:3-4). History has repeatedly demonstrated that prayer precedes evangelistic impact. Whether it was the Great Awakening, the Prayer Revival of 1857-1858, the Shantung Revival, or a successful local church evangelistic service, every great evangelistic surge has been triggered by extraordinary prayer. As individuals and as churches, we need to develop an evangelistic, Great Commission prayer strategy. What will you do in 2021 to make a prayer strategy a reality in your context?


Churches that train their members to share the gospel have greater evangelistic influence than those that do not. A recent survey of Southern Baptist Convention churches in Georgia, for instance, is a tale of good news and bad news. The bad news is almost 80 percent of these churches do not offer evangelism training. The good news is that among the most evangelistic churches in Georgia, almost 90 percent do offer evangelism training. The contrast is dramatic and the facts point to the importance of equipping the people to share the gospel. 

Pastoral Leadership

I agree with the frequently heard adage, “Leadership comes with a microphone.” In a church, the voice most likely to be heard is that of the lead or senior pastor. His support, therefore, is essential in keeping the congregation focused on evangelism. The pastor helps create the culture of the church. If he is setting an example in personal evangelism, preaching evangelistic messages, encouraging the people to attend training, and leading the staff to stay focused on evangelism, the church will respond. While as a denomination we are reaching fewer people, there are exceptions to the trend. Leadership is a factor. The research clearly shows that the overwhelming majority of the most evangelistic SBC churches are led by intentionally evangelistic pastors who lead by example.  

Churches and individual believers do not accidentally become more evangelistic. They decide to take action. In these days everything is unsettled due to the cultural disruption of COVID-19. It is therefore an excellent time to refocus our energies on reaching the lost and baptizing new believers. Now is the time to begin. 

Empower: equipping believers to “share the gospel as never before”

IRVING Although next month’s Empower conference is still slated to move forward as an in-person event on Feb. 22-23 in Irving, much of the conference will also be available online, an unsurprising development in an increasingly virtual world thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re moving forward with an in-person conference, but we will have online options no matter what,” said Shane Pruitt, who serves as the next-gen evangelism director for the North American Mission Board and is coordinating the conference on behalf of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. “We’ll have live feed of main services online, and we’re constantly coming up with strategies and ideas of how to move the whole conference online if we have to,” he added.

Monday’s events kick off with a Classics (senior adult) lunch featuring comedian Dennis Swanberg, a Missional Living lunch with pastor Matt Carter, and a Student Ministers Network meeting hosted by LifeWay student ministry specialist Zac Workun.

After lunch there will be a Classics session with Ken Hemphill, Jerry Chaddick and Ted Traylor; a ladies session featuring Latasha Morrison; a meeting for new pastors, and nine separate breakout sessions with topics ranging from “Mobilizing the Next Generation” and “Multi-Ethnic Missiology” to “Evangelism as Disciple-Making” and “Holistic Christian Mission.”

“I think this can be one of the most impactful Empower conferences we’ve ever had,” Pruitt said. “I know so many pastors and ministry leaders who are tired and worn out. They don’t know what to do next; they’re looking for solutions and ideas,” he added. “So many of them have just said that their idea-meter is running on low and that they’re kind of sucking fumes when it comes to innovation because they’ve used up all of their ideas.”

While there was a time in the past that Empower was aimed primarily at senior pastors, Pruitt said that the conference now provides something for every demographic.

“We’ve intentionally shifted over the last few years so that anybody in the church will be able to connect: the pastor, the person in the pew, staff, volunteer leaders, men, women, all ages, from younger people to seasoned saints,” Pruitt said. “Empower is really multiple events taking place under the umbrella of the conference. It’s truly something for everyone.”

Headlining Monday evening will be Nick Vujicic, Gary Chapman and Costi Hinn. Vujicic is an Australian evangelist and speaker whose story of being born without arms or legs has given him a platform to preach the gospel all over the world.

“My prayer for Empower 2021 is that a leader, volunteer, pastor, or church member can leave and be encouraged with one idea to move forward. If they make one new friend, are encouraged by one thing, meet someone new, walk away with one idea for their context or mission field—that would be a huge win for us,” Pruitt said. 

Thanks to funding from the Cooperative Program, Empower—which exists to encourage Texas Southern Baptists in their ability to be evangelistic—is offered for free.

“I’d encourage any pastor, any ministry leader to be there. It’s an absolutely free conference and the lineup is top-notch—not just big platform names, but pastors and ministers who are in the daily grind,” said Ryan Fontenot, who works as an evangelism strategist for the SBTC and will be taking over leadership of the conference moving into 2022. “We know they’ll be encouraged, equipped and empowered to share the gospel like never before.”

To register for the Empower conference and to see the full schedule for the event, visit