Month: February 2021

“Poorly named” Equality Act passes House

WASHINGTON—The U.S. House of Representatives passed Feb. 25, for the second time, a far-reaching gay and transgender rights proposal that opponents warn would have calamitous effects on freedom of religion and conscience, as well as protections for women, girls and unborn children.

The Democratic-controlled House voted 224-206 for the Equality Act, H.R. 5, which would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the classifications protected in federal civil rights law. “Sexual orientation” includes homosexuality, bisexuality and pansexuality, while “gender identity” refers to the way a person perceives himself regardless of his biology at birth. Three Republicans voted with all the Democrats in support of the legislation.

President Biden has endorsed the bill, but the measure will face difficulty in the Senate, where supporters will need 60 votes to overcome an expected filibuster.

The House passed the Equality Act in a 236-173 vote in 2019, marking the first time a bill to bar discrimination against people who identify as gay or transgender has gained approval in a congressional chamber. The Senate, controlled at that time by Republicans, declined to act on the measure.

Advocates for the Equality Act say it is needed to protect throughout the country the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) people in such categories as employment, housing and public accommodations – which include establishments that provide goods, services or programs, as well as, according to the bill, health-care providers.

Opponents, which include some feminists, say they oppose unjust discrimination but contend the Equality Act would – among other ill effects – coerce behavior in violation of religious beliefs, roll back women’s rights and threaten pro-life laws. The proposal even precludes the use of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a 1993 law protecting the free exercise of religion, as a possible protection in cases covered by the measure.

“In our lifetime, there has not been such a significant attack on religious liberty” as the Equality Act, said J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention. “Our gospel teaches us to live at peace with all in our society and that all people are worthy of respect as image bearers of God and entitled to the rights therein.

“We love our LGBTQ neighbors and want to see them treated as equals and protected as citizens. H.R. 5 does not do that,” Greear said in a written statement. “It is governmental overreach, seeking to normalize a view of sexuality and gender that Jews, Christians, Muslims and millions of Americans from other religious backgrounds have found not only wrong but harmful for humanity, forcing that viewpoint on us and on our children.

“Unfortunately, H.R. 5 undermines rather than advances the cause of human dignity, not only punishing religious organizations, but also harming hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people whom these organizations serve. We want equity. This isn’t it. We unequivocally and categorically renounce this bill.”

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the Equality Act “is poorly named because, among other negative effects, it would punish faith-based charities for their core religious beliefs. Every human being ought to be treated with dignity, but government policy must continue to respect differences of belief.”

The bill “would have harmful consequences, and it should not be passed into law,” Moore said in written comments. “Congress would make the situation worse in this country with this legislation, both in terms of religious freedom and in terms of finding ways for Americans who disagree to work together for the common good.”

Ronnie Floyd, president of the SBC Executive Committee, called it “a sad day in American history.”

The Equality Act “undermines everything we believe the Bible teaches about gender and the uniqueness of each human life. Gender is not fluid,” Floyd said in written remarks. “The deceitfulness of this legislation erodes the personal liberty of doctors and nurses who are pro-life, taking away their personal protection of having to participate in the godless abortion industry.

“Legislation like this reminds us that every election matters, and oftentimes, human life and personal liberty are lost,” he said. “I pray the U.S. Senate rejects this assault on liberty.”

In an article published Feb. 23, the ERLC said the proposal would:

Cripple religious freedom.

The legislation “would essentially gut” RFRA, according to the ERLC. Congress approved the law nearly unanimously as a corrective to a damaging Supreme Court ruling, and President Clinton signed it into law. The 1993 law requires the government to have a compelling interest and use the narrowest possible means in burdening a person’s religious exercise. By subverting RFRA, the Equality Act “would force faith-based child welfare organizations to abandon their deeply held religious beliefs or be shut down by the state,” the ERLC said.

Undermine civil rights protections for females.

The Equality Act would alter the “legal understanding of gender as male and female,” the ERLC said. As a result, it “disregards the privacy and safety concerns women rightly have about sharing sleeping quarters and intimate facilities with the biological opposite sex” in settings such as shelters and locker rooms, according to the entity. By opening female competition to males, the measure would threaten achievements by women and girls in athletics and academics, the ERLC said.

Become “the most pro-abortion bill” ever approved by Congress.

The proposal would redefine “sex” also to consist of “pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition,” according to the ERLC. It would erode conscience protections for pro-life health-care workers and imperil bans on taxpayer funding of abortion, the ERLC said.

The National Right to Life Committee told Congress in a Feb. 19 letter it is “well established [by a federal appeals court ruling] that abortion will be regarded as a ‘related medical condition.’ In short, the Equality Act may be construed to create a right to demand abortion from health care providers and to destroy conscience protections for health care providers.”

Kristen Waggoner – general counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom, a leading religious liberty organization – has said of the proposal, “Many in our nation respectfully disagree on important matters such as marriage and human sexuality. Unfortunately, the Equality Act criminalizes these fundamental beliefs held by major faith groups since the dawn of time and, instead, demands absolute uniformity of thought.”

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the country’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, welcomed the House action. HRC President Alphonso David tweeted his gratitude to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and “our champions in Congress for their commitment to LGBTQ equality & for advancing this legislation on behalf of all Americans.”

The House passage of the Equality Act came two days after the Biden administration’s Department of Education informed the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference it was withdrawing a notice that the association and the six school districts violated Title IX protections for women and girls by permitting males who identify as females to compete in girls’ sports. The letter announced the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights’ reversal of a pending enforcement action expressed in two 2020 letters by the same office during the Trump administration.

In June of last year, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a watershed decision regarding federal employment law by ruling in a 6-3 opinion the category “sex” in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act applies to LGBTQ employees.

More than half of the 50 states already have protections against LGBTQ discrimination. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have laws explicitly banning discrimination based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” according to the Movement Advancement Project. Six more states interpret existing law as prohibiting such discrimination, and one state bars discrimination based only on “sexual orientation.” Twenty-one states have no explicit prohibitions.

The Movement Advancement Project describes itself as a think tank that provides research to help hasten equality for LGBT people.

“Sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” or SOGI, policies in some states have especially affected some businesses, including wedding vendors. Adoption agencies, religious colleges, ministries for the needy and churches are among the organizations that have faced legal action for their commitment to marriage as a male-female institution, their determination to maintain policies in keeping with their beliefs and their willingness to protect privacy by preventing people of the opposite sex from using restrooms and locker rooms.

SBTC DR teams with Missouri Baptist DR and WMU to provide water to ETBU, Fannin and Angelina counties after record freeze

MARSHALL  What do you do with 1,100 residential college students stranded on campus without water? This unwelcome problem confronted East Texas Baptist University President Blair Blackburn, faculty and staff in the wake of Winter Storm Uri, which left the university high and dry for days in February till water came from unexpected sources. 

“We were down to one spigot,” Blackburn told the TEXAN. Some students had left but most stayed on campus, unable to leave because of road conditions, limited gasoline supply and the fact that the situation at home was worse than what they faced at school. The campus never lost power and experienced only a brief internet outage, but the city water supply failed. Staff and students filled bathtubs of snow to melt and buckets of water till the last spigot faltered. The college was without city water for more than seven days. Even after water was finally restored, the campus remained under a boil water notice till Feb. 26. 

“We cried out to God for provision and the wisdom to solve the water crisis,” Blackburn said. University staff also drove to area stores to secure as much water as possible. But supply was low.

A call from Clay Jones, missions minister at Beaumont’s Calvary Baptist Church, to Scottie Stice, SBTC DR director, started things rolling. Jones, whose daughters attend ETBU, told Stice of the university’s plight. Stice contacted Ryan Erwin, ETBU vice president for student engagement to offer the convention’s assistance.

“It all came together in about an hour and a half,” Stice said of the relief effort which involved a series of phone calls and emails, beginning with Jones’ call. Gaylon Moss, Missouri Baptist DR director, contacted Stice with offers of bottled water and other assistance. Meanwhile, Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director of the national Woman’s Missionary Union, had emailed Jim Richards, SBTC executive director, to offer help for Texas. Richards connected her to Stice, who coordinated contact between Missouri DR and the WMU. 

Gospel cooperation

Bolstered by extra funds from Missouri Baptist churches and the promise of assistance from the WMU, Moss directed Missouri Baptist DR to transport 10 pallets of bottled water to ETBU, 19 pallets to the Diboll, Texas fire department for distribution in Angelina and surrounding counties, and 10 pallets to the Fannin Baptist association for the Bonham area.

“We’re grateful to our partners Missouri Baptist churches and the WMU for their generous donations to help with this Texas weather relief,” Moss said.

“When people in Texas are suffering with lack of clean drinking water, of course WMU would want to help. It is our privilege to partner with Missouri Baptists and the SBTC to provide resources through a Pure Water, Pure Love grant. Our hope is people will gain access to physical water to keep them healthy, but also the living water leading to faith in Christ,” Wisdom-Martin told the TEXAN.

SBTC Executive Director Richards said, “I am thankful to the national WMU for the provision of water made through SBTC Disaster Relief in conjunction with Missouri Baptist DR and Missouri churches in the recent weather event. We are blessed by such gospel cooperation to serve people in the name of Jesus.”

The water could not have come at a better time for ETBU. The shipment of 3,000 bottles from Texas Baptist Men which had arrived on campus Feb. 19 was long gone by the time the Missouri DR transport rolled in on Feb. 22 with 19,200 bottles.

“We prayed together as a Tiger family for God to send us water. And that he did,” Blackburn said. “These bottles of water during our crisis were an answer to prayer. … While I regretted what we were experiencing during ETBU’s loss of city water service, the result was our students’ seeing God’s provision through our fellow Baptists, who saw our need and came to our aid.”

Blackburn expressed gratitude for the DR effort, saying it “shows the incredible partnership that Baptists have when they work together.” He added, “This is kingdom work. What we do as Baptists helping one another in need. We’re grateful,” he said, adding a special thanks to Missouri DR and churches, the WMU, TBM and the SBTC.

SBTC DR at work in unusual crisis

ETBU’s dilemma, shared by millions of Texans, occurred as Uri swept through the U.S. from Feb. 12-16, bringing snow and damaging ice from coast-to-coast, smashing snowfall records in Texas and leaving millions in the Lone Star State without power or water. The record stretch of sub-freezing weather continued days after the storm’s end. Frozen pipes forced Texans to use snow melt to flush toilets. Even as the thaw began, millions had to boil water before using it for eating or drinking or brushing teeth. Grocery store shelves emptied as weather conditions slowed transport. Even the thaw brought problems as burst pipes flooded homes, leaving residents without potable water.

The comprehensive nature of the calamity, which affected all parts of Texas, made traditional disaster relief efforts challenging.

Stice said that SBTC DR shower and laundry units scheduled to deploy to the ETBU campus were unable to do so since the city water pressure was too low. Instead, the university shuttled students to and from area hotels for showers.

Still, traditional DR work occurred and continues, post-storm.

An SBTC DR QRU quick response food truck from North Texas manned by volunteers from FBC The Colony served first responders in McKinney during a 24-hour-deployment that ended Feb. 18.

Shower units were set up at the fire station in Mountain Home and two shower/laundry units deployed to Jacksonville College to provide services to students.

Recovery units from FBC Melissa and FBC Pflugerville began assisting survivors in their areas. Inquiries have gone out to more than two dozen churches that suffered broken pipes and flooding. Most have secured restoration companies for clean-up, but SBTC DR remains poised to deploy as requested, Stice confirmed.

Currently the need for chainsaw teams is being assessed in Polk, Nacogdoches and Gillespie counties, per the Texas Department of Emergency Management, he added.

Many churches opened their facilities as warming stations during the crisis, Stice said, urging DR volunteers and individuals to engage their local communities and report needs. SBTC DR can assist in many ways: from doing chainsaw work on ice-damaged trees; doing mud-out and clean-up jobs; setting up shower and laundry units; helping with warming stations serving coffee, hot chocolate or soup, and distributing water.

SBTC DR training is also ongoing, both online and in-person classes. Visit https://sbtexas.com/disaster-relief/dr-training-schedule/ for details.

Haynes at Empower’s CP lunch: the Cooperative Program “lengthens our reach, equips the next generation”

IRVINGBrian Haynes, pastor of Bay Area Church in League City, championed the heart and purpose of the Cooperative Program during the Empower conference’s CP lunch at the Irving Convention Center on Feb. 23, where 270 attendees gathered to hear how CP dollars are used to strengthen and support Southern Baptist work in Texas and across the globe.

Eight students from the Scarborough College band on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary kicked off the event with a virtual performance of harmonious praise and worship.  

Jim Richards, SBTC executive director, welcomed guests, reminding them of CP Sunday, which is April 25 or any Sunday their church chooses to designate to inform members about what they are investing in by giving to the Cooperative Program. 

Richards encouraged listeners about the importance of Cooperative Program giving, outlining how CP resources are used in Texas and throughout the world. Luncheon attendees also received copies of the book Ten Percent: A Call to Biblical Stewardship by Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee.

To promote CP giving, Richards told the group that SBTC staff members are “available to speak in your church about the Cooperative Program and then bring a Bible message,” before introducing Haynes as the leader of a dynamic school, an author, an accomplished speaker and a hiker who takes tours in Israel, Jordan and Egypt.

“I am Baptist to the bone,” Haynes exclaimed as he shared the rich history of how the Cooperative program had influenced his life. 

“I remember the envelope that my parents gave me to put my dollar in as a child,” Haynes said, as he recalled being raised to give to help further the mission and cause of the Cooperative Program. Little did he know that CP funds would one day offset the cost of his tuition at Southwestern Seminary. 

“The Cooperative Program would make an investment in me and my family as I got to attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and I got to be able to afford it,” Haynes said, adding that as his ministry continued, partnerships with people at the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board ensued.

“I began to realize that all of us, all of these churches that are paying for these people to be in strategic places, are just fueling this ministry,” he said.  

Haynes then shared from Paul’s words in Philippians 1, underscoring verse 5: “because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (ESV). 

“Kingdom partnership is powerful,” he said, giving an example from Hurricane Harvey.

“We partnered with the churches of our region to establish the 4B Disaster Response Network to help the people of our area recover [from Harvey], demonstrate the service and love of Jesus, and to share the gospel message of hope,” Haynes said. “Together we outpaced the government in our assistance to the residents of our region—more money, more volunteers, more homes rebuilt. That’s the power and the influence of kingdom partnership.”

He emphasized three current threats to the Cooperative Program and kingdom partnership: self-centeredness, schism and lack of urgency.

The CP is not a church growth strategy for those who are building a kingdom for self, Haynes noted.

He admitted Southern Baptists have important issues to work through: racial reconciliation, immorality, criminality, covered sin and abuse, and the need to love despite disagreement.

“I feel the pain of that. I vehemently disagree with some who are outspoken in our denomination, but I’m not going to cancel or lead my church to kill our commitment to the Cooperative Program so long as CP continues to be about working together to advance the Kingdom in unity,” Haynes said.

Regarding the need for a sense of urgency, he cautioned, “None of us knows exactly when our Lord will return but it certainly seems the earth is groaning for his final return and restoration. Now is the time to act. The Cooperative Program multiplies … [the advance of the kingdom]. It lengthens our reach. It equips the next generation.”

The pastor encouraged the audience that “The Lord is not finished with us,” reading from Philippians 1:6: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (ESV).

Calling the SBC “a stellar mission sending agency,” Haynes said, “God will use us in greater ways if we are faithful,” and ended the message with Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1:9-11. 

Top 10 Giving Churches to the Cooperative Program 2020

1.  First Baptist Church, Rockwall

2.  Houston’s First Baptist Church, Houston

3.  Cross City Church, Euless

4.  Champion Forest Baptist Church, Houston

5.  First Baptist Church, Forney

6.  Sagemont Church, Houston

7.  West Conroe Baptist Church

8.  Calvary Baptist Church, Beaumont

9.  Spring Baptist Church, Spring     

10. Bay Area Church, League City      

We’re all revitalizing now

Sometimes the old rules don’t apply. That principle was on remarkable display in 2003 at the 1,000-foot-long Choluteca Bridge in Choluteca, Honduras. 

After Hurricane Mitch hammered the region, the bridge was useless. The structure itself was not the problem. Naturally, the bridge sustained some damage during the ferocious storm, but that was simple enough to repair. The problem was the river. The storm completely redirected it. As a result, the water no longer flowed under the bridge. The river flowed around the bridge. Pictures of the bridge after the river’s shift looked so bizarre you might have assumed they were photoshopped—but the phenomenon was real. 

Consequently, the Choluteca Bridge became a “bridge to nowhere,” wrote Brett Munster in a 2018 online business journal. Sometimes, what we took for granted in the past simply cannot sustain us in the new normal of today and tomorrow. 

Until a year ago, church planting and church revitalization were the two missional strategies getting a lot of attention. For good reasons, planting new churches and strengthening declining churches make sense, but for most congregations those strategies seemed to apply to others. Now, however, after a year of COVID-19 disruptions, we are all reassessing the damage and rethinking how to best reach our communities. When we honestly review last year and think about next year, isn’t it true that we are all revitalizing now? 

If pastors and church leaders aren’t yet thinking about what a post-COVID congregational world looks like, they should consider a few glaring facts. Most U.S. churches are conducting in-person services again, but few are back to their pre-COVID attendance averages. Ed Stetzer reported in a Feb. 2021 Christianity Today blog that 30 percent of churches are reaching less than 50 percent of their pre-COVID attendance, and an additional 30 percent are reaching less than 70 percent of pre-COVID attendance. Ten percent aren’t meeting at all.

The region of the country where the churches are located, the average age of the congregation, state and local restrictions, vaccine availability, and a host of other factors may play a role in how soon larger numbers of people are willing to return to in-person worship. One fact, however, is consistent. No one is back to normal. Some 60 percent of US churches are reaching 70 percent or less—in most cases, far less—of their pre-COVID attendance. Stated another way, the situation looks even more bleak. Between 30 to 50 percent or more of our people have not attended in-person worship services in a year. Think about the discipleship implications of that! 

Not only are established churches struggling through the uncharted territory of ministry in a global pandemic, but new church plants have launched against the opposing headwinds of wildly unforeseen challenges also. Recently a forum for Southern Baptist Convention church planters helped surface some of the unique problems faced by planters. For instance, the volunteer pool has contracted as large numbers of people have chosen virtual church instead of in-person gatherings. Since church planters rely heavily upon volunteers, rather than on additional paid staff, the dwindling pool of volunteers can be kryptonite for a new church. 

Another challenge for planters is meeting space. Some church plants lost their rented spaces when public schools failed to reopen. As with all of us, church planters have been challenged to find new and innovative ways to do effective evangelism and outreach. The problem is compounded if their pre-COVID outreach strategies depended upon utilizing group events since groups often don’t meet and people are still shying away from large gatherings.

As thousands of churches, both established and newly planted, re-emerge from the disruption of COVID-19, and as churches are planted in the new frontier of a post-COVID culture, we should all review the revitalization principles previously recommended primarily for declining churches and incorporate those principles into our thinking about rebuilding.

Some of the principles of revitalization include a refocus on prayer, intentional shepherding and love for the current membership, solid biblical preaching, bold and creative evangelistic outreach, as well as refining the church’s vision and practices. All of these revitalization ministries, and a few others, are ideal guidelines for rebuilding after the pandemic. 

Fortunately, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is a national leader in the ministry of revitalization. Excellent resources are available to help any church in Texas tackle the future and think and act on revitalization. Whether you are planting or established, find out how the SBTC can help you. We are all revitalizing now.  

Hunt asks Empower audience: “What happens when Jesus is in the house?”

IRVINGJohnny Hunt, NAMB senior vice president for evangelism and leadership, challenged the Empower audience during the Tuesday morning session, Feb. 23, to evangelize with a purpose.

Hunt alluded to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Who’s Your One campaign of one-on-one evangelism, telling listeners that statistics show 85 percent of people in evangelical churches had been invited by others.

“Do you have a friend, relative, work associate or neighbor that you’re being intentional [about] … the rest of this year?” Hunt asked, issuing the following counsel: “Pray and let God work in their lives first, then … make an appointment. Find the time to share the gospel.”

Hunt said he had just interviewed a 16-year-old girl from South Carolina who had recently led three of her best friends to Christ.

Turning to Mark 2, Hunt opened with the question, “What happens when Jesus is in the house?” 

Mark 2 shows Jesus at his “home headquarters” of Capernaum, Hunt said. People heard Jesus was in the house and showed up to hear him.

“Can you think of anything better that can be said about your church [than] that Jesus is in the house?” Hunt asked.

As Jesus preached to the crowded room in Mark 2, four men opened the home’s roof to lower their paralyzed friend, who soon heard from the Lord: “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Asking listeners where they were when God “spoke those eternal words” into their souls, Hunt recalled his own conversion at age 20, on a snowy Sunday night when as a high school dropout managing a pool hall, he heard God’s call. Hunt found both entry into the family of God and fellowship with him, a truth the scribes of Mark 2 do not see.

“Forgiveness is the foundation of fellowship with Jesus Christ,” Hunt said.

While the scribes in Mark 2 describe Jesus’ statements as blasphemy, Jesus asks which is harder: to tell a man to walk or to tell him his sins are forgiven? The Lord next makes a “purposeful statement” paraphrased by Hunt: “I’ve done what I’ve done because there’s something I want you to know … that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sin.”

The time is short, Hunt said, emphasizing the urgency of responding to Christ. 

“The only place you can get your sins forgiven is while you’re on earth,” he said. “Every major religion in the world other than Christianity believes that you can get your sins forgiven after you leave the earth.” 

Capernaum was Jesus’ home city, his headquarters on the northwest shore of the sea of Galilee where much of his ministry activity occurred in this “town of opportunity,” Hunt said, admitting that for the most part, the hometown remained unresponsive to the Lord.

Jesus even gave a “personal rebuke” to Capernaum in Matthew 11:20, predicting its downfall, Hunt noted.

What happens when Jesus is in the house? Hunt offered the following observations from Mark 2.

  1. The Word is preached (Mark 2:1-2). There is a “drawing power about Jesus,” as seen in Mark 2, where Jesus also showed “dynamic preaching” by “feeding them the Word of God.” Hunt referenced Mark 12:37, where the “common man” heard Jesus gladly. “At the end of the day, we are all common folk,” Hunt said, adding that when Jesus preached, he drew a crowd, the marginalized who became confident. Jesus also drew criticism.
  2. Faith was persistent (Mark 2:3-4). Four men zeroed in on one, Hunt said: “There’s always many who will never reach Jesus unless someone takes them. If there were more bringing believers, there would be more saved sinners.” The friends “put feet to their faith” and brought their friend to Jesus. 
  3. Forgiveness is present (Mark 2:5) Jesus forgives the man’s sins. “Forgiveness is the greatest miracle that Jesus will ever perform,” Hunt said. “It meets the greatest need … costs the greatest price … brings the greatest blessing … brings the most lasting result.” 
  4. Doubt is on the prowl (Mark 2:6-11). The scribes accused Jesus of cursing God. The Jews connected sin and suffering, Hunt explained. “Suffering was the result of sin to the Jewish people,” said Hunt, referencing Eliphaz, Job’s comforter. 

Amid recollections of his own life as a believer, Hunt said that as of Feb. 23, his mother had been with Jesus 36 years. Even though his family moved frequently, she is “now a permanent resident of heaven.”

Not so for many, he lamented, cautioning that “The church must stay active. The body of Christ must stay active. Nobody else is dispensing hope.”

Turning to the current pandemic, statistics suggest that of 500,000 Americans dead of COVID, 85 percent may be in a “Christless eternity,” Hunt said. COVID has also changed life expectancy. “We’ve lost a year” because of COVID, Hunt said, citing current studies showing life expectancy is now 77, rather than 78.

“I’m way into the last quarter of my life,” he said. “There’s an urgency,” with a somber reminder that there is a “path that leads from earth to heaven,” and not the other way around. 

Lorick urges Empower audience to “capture the heart of God” in brokenness, burden for the lost

IRVINGNathan Lorick, who was elected Feb. 21 to succeed Jim Richards as the second executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, closed the Empower evangelism conference two days later with a call to “capture the heart of God.”

Lorick said that behind his relationship with Christ and his duties as a husband and father, being elected to serve as executive director of the SBTC was the “greatest ministry honor of my life.”

He also expressed his gratitude for outgoing director Jim Richards, of whom he said there “is no greater leader in the state of Texas” and “no greater man of integrity.” He thanked Richards for how he had “poured” into his life, adding, “It is the honor of my life and ministry to follow you.”

Lorick stated his desire to let the convention get to know him and his heart as he steps into this new role.

“The theme of my life is about seeing those who are lost come to faith in Christ. That is what wakes me up in the morning, that is what keeps me up at night. It is knowing that God created me, God saved me; God put a passion in me to see those who are lost come to know faith in Christ,” Lorick said. “It is as if God created me that I might live forever remembering what it was like to be lost, so that I would be passionate so that there would be those in my life who wouldn’t have to live that way.”

Lorick preached from Romans 9-10, noting that the heart of God, which is captured in Scripture, boils down to the salvation of the lost. He pointed to three things Paul exemplifies in these two chapters, the first of which is the necessity to be broken on behalf of the lost.

“When was the last time you cried for those in your life and your family and neighborhood and city who do not know Christ, and if Jesus were to return in this instant they would die and spend all of eternity separated from him? When was the last time that began to cause great sorrow in your life?” Lorick asked. “When is the last time you stopped everything in the busyness of your day and got on your knees and cried out to God on their behalf?”

He shared the story of a mission trip to the Philippines where he encountered pastors and their wives who were so broken over the lostness of their islands that they spent over two hours praying and weeping at the altar after he had preached.

“I just didn’t know what to do as these people were weeping and wailing and crying out to God and begging God for their island,” he said. “When is the last time, pastor, that you had a prayer meeting and begged God for your city, your community?

“We won’t see a move of God until we’re broken for what He’s broken for,” he said.

Lorick continued in Romans 9, sharing that brokenness on behalf of the lost must lead to a burden for the sake of the lost.

“Broken is internal. Burden causes you to have action,” he said.

Lorick pointed to Paul, who says in verse 3 that were it possible, he would give up his own salvation for the sake of his fellow Israelites, as an example of one who is burdened.

“There is a difference between being bothered and being burdened. And many of us subconsciously in our ministries and our churches get so busy trying to appease the saints that we become bothered that there are lost people out there, but we are not burdened,” he said. 

“When you’re bothered, you can sleep at night. When you’re burdened, you have to pray and do something about it.”

The third thing Lorick pointed to as a necessity for a movement of the Spirit is that the church beg God for the salvation of the lost.

“You want a movement of God? Become a praying church that begs God for the lost in your community. You want to see God move in your family? Beg God for that son or that daughter,” he said. 

Lorick closed by sharing his testimony and calling the room to a time of prayer, inviting the audience to consider those in their lives for whom they needed to be broken.

“What if we as a network of churches began being broken for our cities, our communities, our church, burdened for our families, our sons and daughters, crying out, weeping before the Lord? And what if we begged God to let us be a part of seeing them come to Christ?” he asked.

Lorick’s address marked the final message of the 2021 Empower conference. Operating under COVID-19 protocols, the socially distanced event held at the Irving Convention Center attracted 1,207 registered in-person attendees, with 249 others registered and watching online through the SBTC’s digital platform.

Transitions and new assignments

It is my privilege and honor to welcome Nathan Lorick as the new executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Nathan is a known leader in Southern Baptist life. His work in Colorado has been favored by God.

When Nathan served at the SBTC as evangelism director, he took the ministry to the next level. He understands the local church and loves serving people. While other godly people could have been chosen, it is clearly the Lord’s will that Nathan is the one for the job. I look forward to serving with him over the next few months and supporting him in the future.

It was about two years ago that I began to consider transitioning from my position. The executive board adopted a new succession plan last year. The plan allows for Nathan to serve as executive director-elect for a three-month period. Although I will technically be in the chair, Nathan will give direction regarding where we need to go. On July 1, I will move into an advisory capacity through the end of 2021. I am grateful to Nathan and the executive board for allowing this smooth handoff.

The principle of succession is well established in the Bible. Moses prepared Joshua to shepherd the Israelites into the Promised Land. Joshua had proven his ability to do the hard task. Elijah had Elisha. In 2 Kings chapter 2 the scene unfolds with Elijah about to be taken into heaven. Elisha had been Elijah’s servant and understudy. Elisha was prepared to move into Elijah’s role as prophet to the nation. With a double portion of God’s Spirit, Elisha performed twice the number of miracles as Elijah. Others serve their purpose and then move on. David handed off the kingdom to his son, Solomon. Paul mentored Timothy. 

In all the above examples, a person dies, and a new leader emerges. By God’s grace, I will have the joy of watching someone assume the reins at the SBTC and cheering him on.

Often in ministry God gives us a different assignment. I started as a student evangelist. I served on staff and pastored for over 20 years. When I became a director of missions, I changed states and ministry type. Now, for 22-plus years I have served the churches of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. I am looking forward to what God has for me in the days ahead. I want to be active in ministry until I see Jesus face to face. My “yes” is on the altar to whatever God has in store.

Welcome Nathan Lorick, his sweet wife, Jenna, and their children! Embrace them as God’s gift to the SBTC. June and I love them. You will, too. And we will continue to love the wonderful people of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.  

Costi Hinn urges Empower attendees to remember their first love, be unashamed of the gospel

IRVINGMonday evening’s main stage session at this year’s Empower conference—which took place in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and in the wake of Winter Storm Uri—kicked off with a keynote message from Costi Hinn, executive pastor of discipleship at Redeemer Bible Church in Gilbert, Arizona. 

Hinn delivered a sermon from Romans 1:16-17 in which he focused on the necessity of being unashamed of the gospel.

“The gospel is power. There’s no way around that, there’s no other message you need to preach to get that,” Hinn said. “The gospel is power.”

He shared his testimony of working in the healing ministry of his famous televangelist uncle, Benny Hinn, and expecting to be his ultimate successor, having been brought up to believe that he was a part of the greatest ministry family of all time.

“Everything that had been prophesied over my life seemed to be coming true. I was told that I was the anointed, the next in line as the oldest Hinn boy in the heritage of faith. My uncle, Benny Hinn, was the first in line in his family, and seeing as I was the first Costi in the next generation,” he said, “I was number one.

“And I was told that his mantle would fall on my life like Elijah and Elisha and that I would have a healing ministry that would span the globe, that the healings I would experience would be a hundredfold greater than his or any other faith healing evangelist who had ever come before.”

Hinn told of visiting Greece on a ministry trip and thinking to himself that all he had to do was receive the blessing of his ministry inheritance and he would be set. But as he looked out over the Aegean Sea, which he linked to the missionary journeys of Paul, he said there was just one problem.

“I wasn’t preaching the same gospel as Paul. I didn’t believe the same gospel as Paul,” Hinn said. Of his misunderstanding, he said, “The gospel meant money. If you believed in Jesus, he would make you healthy, wealthy and happy.”

After working in his uncle’s ministry for a time, he ended up at Dallas Baptist University to play baseball, and he said it was there that the Lord began to plant seeds of the true gospel.

One of the most significant influences on his life during that time was his baseball coach, who told him about a God who was sovereign—a concept Hinn found foreign at the time.

“I thought, what is this guy talking about? God is sovereign? I’m sovereign. I name it, I claim it, I give money, I profess by faith,” Hinn said. 

He described ending up on staff at a church plant after college that decided to make the shift to expository preaching and being assigned to preach through the healing at the pool at Bethesda in John 5.

In preparing for the sermon, he was struck at the simplicity of the text and the absence of so many of the extraneous things he had been taught accompanied healing.

 “Jesus heals him immediately, with a word,” Hinn said of this “powerful example of Jesus healing a man [not] because the merits of his life, but simply because he’s a sovereign, compassionate Lord.” 

In that moment, Hinn said, “it was like everything made sense.” He immediately repented of his sins and his belief in a false gospel and committed that he would seek the truth and preach the gospel of the Bible.

“It’s actually pretty simple. You don’t have to manufacture a lot. If you just preach the Word, the Word will do the work,” Hinn said. “I had turned Jesus into a show. I had assumed his anointing, I had assumed that I knew him, but I was in danger at that very moment of continuing my life and becoming one of the Matthew 7:23 moments, where I say ‘Lord, Lord,’ but he says ‘Depart from me, I don’t know who you are.’”

Hinn closed the session by emphasizing three things about the gospel: we must not be ashamed of the gospel; we must be unwilling to change the gospel, and we must be undeterred by suffering for the gospel.

“There’s a generation rising. They need you, they need me, to tell them the truth, tell them what they’re in for, and give them the true power of the gospel that will carry them through,” he exclaimed. 

“If you look throughout Baptist history, you’ll see heroes that were so crazy that they were willing to die for the gospel. What happened? We got comfortable. We became so content, and you know what this generation wants more than anything else? They want someone who will tell them the truth.”

Hinn challenged the audience to not forget their first love.

“When we begin to abandon that foundation, like it or not we are no different than the prosperity gospel preachers that have abandoned the message of the true gospel. So if you want real power, push the throttle back where it belongs,” he said. “Remember who you belong to, and remember you are not from here, alien, sojourner, foreign resident. You are a citizen of heaven, and you serve the king and the coming kingdom.”

Chapman explores languages of apology at Monday night”s Empower

IRVINGChristian counselor Gary Chapman opened the second evening session of the Empower evangelism conference Mon., Feb. 22, at the Irving Convention Center with a proclamation of the meaningful life.

“Where does life find its meaning?” Chapman, author of the bestselling The 5 Love Languages® series, asked the crowd assembled online and, socially distanced, in person.  

Chapman answered his question with the word: “relationships”—first with God and then “on the human plane.” Drawing on a long career working with married couples, he said that long-term, healthy marriages and close relationships demand that the people feel loved and appreciated, and that individuals in relationships must “deal effectively with failures.” 

None of us is perfect, Chapman reminded his listeners, offering a biblical perspective on apology and forgiveness illustrated by Scripture and folksy anecdotes.

“In order to deal with our failures, it means we have to learn to apologize and we have to learn to forgive,” Chapman said, referencing Matthew 28:13 and Isaiah 59:2.

Jesus felt strongly about the value of apology, Chapman said, quoting Matthew 3:23, wondering aloud how such commitment to reconciliation might impact churches on Sunday mornings.

Apology is a response learned from our parents, Chapman said, explaining that nearly 10 percent of the population never apologize “for anything,” and calling the adage, “real men don’t apologize,” a sentiment derived more from John Wayne than Scripture.

What followed was material from Chapman’s book When Sorry Isn’t Enough, co-authored by fellow therapist Jennifer Thomas.

Chapman said Thomas and he researched the topic for two years, surveying thousands of people from across the country, trying to determine “what a sincere apology looks like.” Answers fell into five categories, a number Chapman insisted was not intentional.

“I like five, but we weren’t looking for five,” he said of the languages of apology, summarized below, all of which are consistent with the Bible.

“If you discover anything in social research, if it’s true, it will never contradict the Scriptures. It will almost always be illustrated in the Scriptures,” he maintained.

The five languages of apology

  1. Expressing regret, often with the words, “I’m sorry.” Chapman urged, “Please don’t ever use those two words alone. Tell them what you are sorry for.” Avoid adding the word “but,” to your apology to justify or qualify. Chapman illustrated the point with the account of the prodigal son from Luke 15 and the example of David in Psalm 51:17.
  2. Accepting responsibility: “I was wrong. I should not have done that. I take full responsibility.” Recalling a time when he had spoken thoughtlessly to his wife, Chapman said, “Folks, what I said was not a sin. It was just stupid. …I hurt her deeply.” Teaching children to accept responsibility for their actions is “the first step” in teaching them how to apologize, he added. Nor should the confession of sin be omitted, as 1 John 1:9 teaches. The prodigal son admitted his wrongdoing, Chapman recalled, defining confession as “agreeing with God” that something is wrong.
  3. Offering to make restitution: “How can I make it right?” Chapman offered the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19 as an example of how properly to make restitution.
  4. Genuinely repenting: what Chapman called, “expressing the desire to change your behavior.” In Acts 2, at Pentecost, Peter calls upon the people to repent and be baptized. “Jesus came preaching forgiveness. So did the early apostles,” Chapman reminded the audience. 
  5. Requesting forgiveness: “Will you forgive me?” This fifth principle was not on Chapman’s “radar,” he admitted. “But some people are waiting for you to ask for their forgiveness,” he said.

Chapman claimed that most people have a primary language of apology, perhaps a combination of the above. We judge the sincerity of an apology by what we think an apology should be.

Despite its importance, “apology alone does not restore a relationship,” he continued. There must be response of biblical forgiveness, modeled in Ephesians 4:32 and 1 John 1:9.

“God does not forgive everyone. Folks, universalism is not taught in the Bible,” he urged. “God forgives people who confess their sins.” 

Nonetheless, “We have to learn to apologize and then forgive,” Chapman said, describing what forgiveness does not do. It does not destroy memory, nor remove pain. It does not rebuild trust, but it opens the “possibility that trust can be reborn.”

When painful memories emerge, “I believe you take it to God,” Chapman said. “Lord, you know what I’m remembering today, and you know what I’m feeling. But I thank you that I forgave them. Now help me do something good today.”

For more information on Chapman’s five languages of love and apology, visit 5lovelanguages.com.

Spring: the other missions season

Charlotte* came back from her first disaster relief deployment in tears. She’d been involved with a feeding unit and was delivering boxed food to families lined up in their cars. At one car the father asked why they were doing this, feeding free of charge. She explained the gospel to him and he prayed to receive Christ right then. 

Earlier in the deployment she asked a more experienced worker how “all this” happened—trained people with different tools and tasks, people from a half-dozen states by her reckoning and all apparently on the same page. The volunteer described how cooperative missions giving allows for state DR teams to develop and for state and national offices to coordinate responses to disasters. 

Charlotte had never heard of the Cooperative Program until she became a volunteer. A lady in my church told a similar story, and on her return from a deployment became an enthusiastic advocate for CP to all who would listen. Likely some of you have had that moment when you planted a church or sent your kid to the mission field or got hands on in missions that made cooperative missions funding about something important to you.

This issue of the TEXAN is full of missions. We devote six pages in the middle of the paper to showing the 2020 giving reports of our churches, based on what our records show of receipts for the Cooperative Program and other Southern Baptist causes. We do that for a couple of reasons. First, we want you to look at this and see if it comports with what you believe your church sent. The other reason is so you can celebrate with us your church’s stewardship of our worldwide missions enterprise. It’s personal to all of us if you think about it. 

I’m a member of a church that was started by another church 60 years ago. That church was started by one before it and so on. If you attend a church, somewhere in your genealogy is missionary funding that helped your church or one of its grandmother churches launch. That funding may have come from out of state. If your pastor, or you, ever attended a Southern Baptist seminary, you are a beneficiary of Cooperative Program funding. Some, like my son and his wife, have adopted from a child-placement agency funded through the CP giving of Southern Baptist churches. And thousands of strangers have been fed, rescued and spiritually refreshed by Southern Baptists in yellow disaster relief shirts. It’s like a long parade of individuals or families walking by to assert that the Cooperative Program is relevant to them. I’m one of those. 

I also know how a pastor feels when he preaches about stewardship/tithing and folks fold their arms and give him the “Of course you believe this; you want to get paid!” look. My pay and this paper are paid for by the CP giving of the churches. But I won’t apologize for highlighting something God has used to bless the nations just because I’m somewhere in that pipeline. The honor of being onsite, in many places, where God has used the generosity of churches to provide life-saving help and the message of eternal life has made me convinced for life. 

You’ll notice that church giving to our international missions offering and North American missions offering is also listed in our giving report. We promote international missions in December and you can see the fruit of that effort in the “sending celebration” story in which 33 people committed to share the gospel in far-flung places. March is Annie Armstrong Offering for North American Missions month. The North American Mission Board coordinates much Southern Baptist church planting and, through Send Relief, disaster relief in the U.S. and Canada. The work of NAMB is crucial for our churches as they strategize evangelistic efforts in places that may not come to the minds of those of us focused on our local communities. They can also be a go-between for churches and state conventions as they seek key places to spend their missionary effort and resources. You’ll see in this issue some information about how you and your church can lend strength to gospel missions on an increasingly lost continent. 

There is also a line in the giving report for the Reach Texas Offering. This is the state missions offering for our nearly 2,700 SBTC churches. It is used for church planting, evangelistic initiatives, foster and adoption support, and disaster relief. These are high-impact ministries for sharing the gospel with people in times of greatest need. If your church has never supported Reach Texas, consider it for this year. That week of prayer comes in September, but you can give now. 

Look up your church in these pages in the TEXAN. I hope we got your information correct; let us know if we didn’t. But more than that, I hope that you will see that your church’s giving to priority missionary ministries reflects your sincere heart for souls you’ll never meet, who live in places you’ll never visit. 

I am not remotely embarrassed to ask you to be generous with these ministries that I’ve seen up close for more than 30 years. 

*Name changed