Month: April 2021

SBTC Racial Harmony panel urges listening, relationships

GRAPEVINE—A five-person panel advocated understanding, intentionality and proactivity when confronting racial issues dividing the body of Christ. The April 13 discussion was sponsored by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention in Grapevine and attended by online and in-person registrants.

Tony Mathews, pastor of North Garland Baptist Fellowship and SBTC interim senior strategist for Missional Ministries, moderated the  afternoon panel which included Michael Criner, pastor of Rock Hill Baptist Church near Tyler; Todd Kaunitz, pastor of New Beginnings Baptist Church in Longview; Joe Ogletree, pastor of Image Church in Houston; Kasi Pruitt, adoption and foster care coordinator for Lakepointe Church, Rockwall; and Mike Satterfield, teaching pastor at Fielder Church in Arlington.

Mathews, Satterfield and Ogletree are African American. Kaunitz, Criner and Pruitt are Caucasian, with Pruitt the mother of a multiracial family.

The discussion was designed to motivate action, Mathews said. He asked questions of panelists along the topics indicated below. What follows is a summary of the conversation. The discussion was serious, yet cordial and respectful.

Their hopes and fears about the panel’s work

“My hope is that we become real and not reactionary, but intentional and proactive,” Satterfield said.

Criner noted his desire that the group would create “light and not heat,” while Kaunitz said he hoped the conversation would not be “hijacked by politics,” too often an unwelcome distraction.

“I pray that this is not just something for show,” Ogletree said, adding, “As African Americans, we’re tired. … We want to see some progress. We want to see some steps. I am here hopeful, and I want to be part of the solution.”

On national and SBC tensions, CRTI

Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality proved not to be divisive in the panelists’ churches. 

Ogletree said that until the [Nov. 30, 2020] statement issued by the SBC seminary presidents, CRTI was “not even a topic” at his mostly Black church. Neither was Marxism (to which CRTI is frequently linked). Still, he called the seminary presidents’ statement “hurtful,” since it was not part of an ongoing conversation, and he urged “more listening” and “less labeling.” 

“Some of the hot topic discussions that are happening within the convention aren’t happening in our pews,” Kaunitz said, echoing Ogletree’s observation about CRTI and adding that people are concerned about injustice, not labels.

“What our church is concerned about is unarmed Black men dying at the hands of police,” Ogletree replied when Mathews confirmed that CRTI was not the issue. “Our church is concerned about the silence of our friends.” 

Satterfield offered a new acronym, not WWJD but WDJD: What Did Jesus Do? “[Jesus] came in humility and he came to effect change for unity, and I want to look just like him,” he explained.

Pruitt affirmed the dangers of making racial reconciliation too political. 

“Heaven is going to be a diverse kingdom. All different people worshiping Jesus together. Why would we not want this now on earth?” she asked.

Barriers impeding racial harmony

The panel offered the following, with suggestions for the sort of “actionable” responses Mathews urged.

1. Lack of trust: Satterfield noted that people don’t trust others of varying backgrounds, income levels or even sports affinities. “This lack of trust has caused individuals to come to church with fists up instead of arms open,” he said, calling for believers to break the “wall of distrust.” 

2. Mistaken identity: Criner argued that Christians are often “not confident enough in our identity in Christ” to submit ourselves. Pride spawns posturing, but instead, like Paul in Galatians 2:20, we must die to ourselves.

“Dead men don’t bow up. If they do, run,” Satterfield quipped.

3. Lack of historical understanding.  “There have been no good old days since the fall [of man],” Pruitt said, suggesting white believers sometimes lack historical context regarding what other races have endured. “The good old days [for some] were also the days of segregation,” she added. 

Ogletree agreed with Pruitt’s assessment about a lack of education regarding slavery, segregation and Jim Crow: “1964 was not that long ago, the Civil Rights Act.” He added that the SBC started because of slavery and the South was its epicenter, yet affirmed, “The beauty of what the gospel does is that [past] doesn’t have to define you.”

We must be willing to have this conversation about history, Kaunitz said: “It’s not about living and wearing the sin of yesterday. It’s about being sympathetic [to] the sin of yesterday and its effects today.” 

“Many of us are not sensitive of the fact that many are carrying the scars of what their fathers have done,” Satterfield said. “We jump to protect ourselves instead of listening to understand. Our churches need to repent individually and in community, collectively, so we can start now and really use what’s become a cliché for truth: the best is yet to come.”

4. Anti-social media. All panelists acknowledged the dangers of social media. 

“When social media determines the platform and culture determines the tone, it’s never going to end well,” Kaunitz said. 

Owning your bias

“I really do see our family as a picture of heaven because it’s diverse and that’s what it’s going to look like,” Pruitt said. She noted the challenges of having to hold conversations with her adopted kids that she did not have to have with her older biological daughters. 

“When it comes to the context of church, I want a family,” Satterfield said, and this involves embracing differences: “We don’t laugh at the same jokes. We don’t like the same foods. There are a lot of different biases that exist just culturally from your upbringing. You have to learn that getting along is messy.”

“When you start having conversations with people who grew up in a different ethnicity than you did, you learn,” Criner agreed.

Kaunitz noted his church’s intentionality toward diversity, with its multi-ethnic staff. Having to swallow his pride and “hear things that are hard” has been challenging,
he said. 

Ogletree admitted that privilege is a “hot word,” and that he had grown up in privilege, in a good home with his middle-class family, only discovering differences in college. “We all have biases,” he said, adding, “The answer to bias is to listen.”

Pruitt agreed that bias exists for all and it must be surrendered. She admitted that walking through the adoption of most of her children with their biological moms exposed biases she held. She warned against preconceptions and urged people to see others as made in the image of Christ. She also said the adoption process revealed her own previously unrecognized privilege.

Avoid the broad brush

Mathews told a story from the early days of his church decades ago. A white man who had come to his office to ask about the church had refused to shake Mathews’ offered hand. Discouraged, Mathews wondered if his idea of a multiracial ministry would work. An hour passed, and in walked a white couple. 

“The lady hugged me. The man talked me to death. They were so nice and friendly. I learned something from that: I can’t paint with a broad brush,” he recalled.

Satterfield suggested another acronym: DIMTY: “Do I Matter To You?” To matter is a deep-seated need of humankind: “I acknowledge you matter to God. You matter for eternity.”

Ogletree cautioned against minimizing the pain or sin carried from generation to generation. 

“Within the African American community, racism has always been the topic,” he said, pointing out that the Black Lives Matter cause has grown because “a black life has really never mattered.” Events such as the killing of George Floyd trigger memories of years of mistreatment among Blacks and provoke reactions akin to PTSD.

“The answer is relationship,” Kaunitz said, deep, honest conversation that reveals the pain another person has experienced. “You can’t find [perspective] without relationship.”

Ministering to all races

How does one minister to white congregants who feel they are being blamed repeatedly for race problems? Mathews asked.

Remember “Jesus is our substitute, but he is also our example,” Criner said, later adding, “We are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” He said he tells people questioning why they must apologize, “There’s no they. It’s us. If they are part of the body of Christ, they are us.”

“Usually people who ask that question often don’t have a lot of relationships with people who don’t look like them,” Pruitt said, advising others to pursue such friendships to hear their stories.

“Just like I’ve got to listen to my Black friends as they process, I’ve got to listen to my white friends as well,” Kaunitz said. 

Bridge-building tips

Becoming all things to all people builds bridges, Satterfield said, whether it means preaching in chaps and a cowboy hat at a Jasper, Texas, cowboy church or donning a “19-piece suit” for a New York church.

“It is enabling the Spirit in his wind to blow me wherever God wants me to go,” Satterfield continued. Assignments can be uncomfortable, and you must realize you can’t “fix” people, he said, adding, “I plant, I water, and then I lift my hands and watch God bring the increase.”

Criner advocated purposeful church planting, noting that his church is investing in a predominantly Black church start. He also recommended involvement in foster and respite care.

The key is to be “slow to anger,” Ogletree said. “I grew up with my own blinders. With people in my congregation, I have to listen more and stop judging and listen to their circumstances. I want to reach out. But at this point, it would be nice to have someone reach in. I need someone to hear me and understand me.” 

Pruitt again urged the development of intentional relationships, noting that Gen Z is more diverse than prior generations and the trend will continue. She also cautioned parents to be bridge builders for their kids at home and not to criticize other ethnicities, for the children are watching.

About staying in the SBC

During a Q&A session afterwards, panelists affirmed support of the SBC. 

Satterfield likened abandoning the SBC to abandoning family. Criner, Kaunitz and Pruitt noted doctrinal unity with the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 and missions.

“I am hopeful. I not only want to see change, I want to be part of change,” Ogletree said.

“This is not the end. This is the beginning,” said Jim Richards, SBTC executive director, closing the meeting in prayer. 

Watch the panel discussion at

The ministry of baptism

In March 2018, George Barna released a study revealing that a majority of church attenders in the U.S. have no knowledge of the phrase “the Great Commission.” An additional 25 percent recalled hearing the term but couldn’t remember what it meant. 

For the few who do understand the Great Commission, we know that after his resurrection, Jesus gave his church their “marching orders.” He gave them a command to “make disciples.” In addition, Jesus instructed his followers to baptize the new disciples and initiate the process of teaching them his commands (Matthew 28:19-20). That is the Great Commission: Evangelize. Baptize. Teach. 

As soon as the early church was released and empowered to act on their own, they took the Great Commission of Jesus literally. They followed his instructions even to the point of observing the order of the actions commanded.

For example, in Acts 2:41 the early church “made” their first disciples as people believed the gospel. The apostles baptized the 3,000 converts immediately (2:41), and in the next verse the teaching ministry was launched (2:42). That is the New Testament order: make disciples, baptize them, and teach them. 

In Southern Baptist life, our practice of baptizing converts has defined us to the point of giving us our name. In other words, we don’t baptize because we’re Baptists. Instead, we’re Baptists because we baptize. Fortunately, the ministry of baptism isn’t primarily a denominational distinction—it is a ministry given to the body of Christ by Jesus himself. 

The practice of baptism by immersion predates both the ministry of the early church and Jesus. John the Baptist was probably the first person in history to baptize other people, but for hundreds of years prior to John, the Jews had built and used small ritual cleaning pools called mikvehs for “self-baptism.” Several of these ancient “baptistries” have been uncovered around the Temple area today, and throughout Jerusalem, dating back to at least the Second Temple period. The first converts at Pentecost were probably baptized in these. In addition, mikvehs are also located in an unexpected area where water is the most scarce—Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. The frequently discovered ancient baptismal pools throughout Israel illustrate the fact that a form of full-immersion baptism was the Jewish practice even before the New Testament era. No one, for instance, ever questioned John the Baptist or Jesus about what he was doing when people were being baptized. The culture was accustomed to seeing full-immersion baptisms. The critics questioned why John and the followers of Jesus were baptizing; they did not question the method of their baptism—only the meaning.

A review of the book of Acts shows the emergence of a familiar pattern of baptismal practice in the infant church. In every example of baptism occurring after the Resurrection, the baptism is by immersion, for believers only, and takes place immediately after conversion. Baptism was obviously a priority in the rapid expansion of the early church and was always essentially concurrent with the salvation experience. For the early church, therefore, baptism was clearly both the most obvious identification of the new believer and also served as the first step of the discipleship process.

Today, the number of baptisms in Southern Baptist life has plummeted to lows not seen since the 1940s. It is time to recapture a New Testament passion and recommit to effective practices in order to win and baptize more people than we have in the last few years. How can we reverse the negative trends? Here are a few ideas. 

Preach and teach what the Bible says about believer’s baptism. Call people to commitment. 

Hold classes where baptism can be explained and where interested people can ask questions, and receive biblical, practical answers. 

Set goals. Some Christians recoil at the thought of setting goals, thinking perhaps it’s too worldly or manipulative. On the contrary, Jesus commanded us to make and baptize disciples “of all nations.” That’s an aggressive goal. Surely by comparison we can set goals for Vacation Bible School or youth camp!

Always be ready to baptize. If you have a baptistry, keep it full of water. Keep the dressing rooms clean and prepared with the things people need. Imagine what your mother, your children, or a co-worker might need to be comfortable before and after getting soaked in public. If you don’t meet in a location with a baptistry, buy a portable system. Invest in towels and clothes of all sizes suitable for baptism for those who may be ready spontaneously. No matter what it takes, be ready. 

Baptize at any and every service. Be creative. Offer baptism during concerts, Christmas Eve services, Fourth of July picnics, and any other time when your church gathers. In some instances be prepared to baptize during weekdays when family members, church staff, and smaller groups can gather around and support the new believer. In the book of Acts people were baptized in pools, in rivers, in desert watering holes along the side of the road, and even in jail! Expel limits from your thinking imposed by tradition which may lack biblical support. Start assuming that if your church gathers for any reason in any location, you will expect to baptize people or at least be ready to do so. 

Recruit and train baptism teams to assist with baptism. Leave nothing to chance or caprice. Jesus instructed his church to baptize people and we need to teach and equip leaders so that everyone knows what we believe and why baptism matters. 

Jesus gave us the Great Commission and included baptism as part of his plan. He hasn’t changed his mind or suggested an alternate vision. Baptizing every disciple is his priority and must be an immediate and consistent priority for us, too.

Family Days

Like many other matters related to denominational life, the Southern Baptist Convention calendar has fallen on hard times. Not too many churches note some of the emphases that have been approved by the messengers in annual meetings. I think it is time to reclaim observances of value. It might be “old school” but it is incumbent on us to remember some  practices we have abandoned. 

May begins with the first Sunday as Senior Adult Sunday. Since I am a senior adult, it seems almost self-serving to promote it. Boomers do not think of ourselves as senior adults like our parents did. Most of us have a mindset that we are 30 years of age rather than being closer to 80 years of age. We are more active, generally healthier and still desirous of making a difference than prior generations. As I approach so-called retirement, my “yes” is on the altar. Golf and fishing are fine, but they cannot define my last years on earth. I plan to do whatever God would have me to do. Churches should use Senior Adult Sunday to challenge those who are in this age group to do something worthwhile for the Lord Jesus in the fourth quarter of life. 

Mother’s Day is not on the SBC calendar, but Christian Home Week is May 9-15. It is hard to believe that honoring women for their contribution to the Lord’s work often becomes a forum on the role of women in the church. Women are worthy of recognition. Their contribution to the kingdom of God is invaluable. Some women are called to be single, and others cannot bear children, yet it is still appropriate to show appreciation to mothers. 

Christian Home Week is a good time to remind ourselves of the necessity of family worship. Deuteronomy 6:1-9 is not to be relegated to a bygone time. Although the primary interpretation of that passage concerns the Jewish people passing their faith on to the rising generation, there is a practical application for New Testament believers. Nothing takes the place of prayer and Bible study within the family unit. If we are going to see a vibrant living faith in the next generation, it will need to be nurtured in the home. We are one generation away from losing a Christian influence in our nation.

Students will be graduating from high school and college in May and June. These transformational moments in life provide an opportunity to underscore one final time the value system instilled in the home. Make much of following Jesus during the graduation celebrations. Send those students off with a passion to find God’s will.

Father’s Day is not on the SBC calendar in June, but a Baptist Men’s Day emphasis is. We desperately need godly men to provide leadership in the home, church and society. Calling men to serve Jesus is a bell that must be rung. Love for Jesus will be evidenced by a lifestyle that expresses itself in sacrifice. Ephesians 5:22-6:4 shows the role of the man in the home. When a man fulfills his responsibility to be a leader and to show love, everyone benefits. Leadership cannot be abdicated.

Culture’s definition of the family is fluid. The Baptist Faith & Message Statement (2000) in Article 18 defines the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s position on the family. It states, “God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. It is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption.” The statement  goes on to say that marriage is between one man and one woman. There can be no equivocating on the biblical description of the family.

In these next two months, let us renew our commitment to placing our attention on strengthening the family. All seasons of life have their challenges, but by God’s grace we can make a difference to the glory of God. 

Go to for resources. can help you minister to different groups within your church.

Not peace but a sword

I resonate with those who decry the disunity in our nation, and with those who discourage squabbling in our own convention. We devour each other daily. Calls for greater civility have become mundane, though. It’s as though everyone has made a call for peace and mostly meant to apply it to others. 

We are right to think it’s dreadful. But let me offer a contrarian perspective: Division in American society may be the revealing of what’s always been true spiritually. An interesting article in the April Atlanticsuggests that American society has become more contentious because our culture has become our religion—with deeply held and warring creeds—but without grace and patience formerly infused in a more church-going population. For Christian Americans, a clear divide between those who believe God’s revealed truth and those who find the notion absurd is more overt now than at any time in our history.  

Consider merely 20 years ago: Same-sex marriages were not recognized nationally by Supreme Court fiat. Gender dysphoria was considered a psychological malady rather than a privileged status. Twenty years back, the idea that a person could be effectively punished for his religion in the U.S. was much harder to imagine than it is with today’s Equality Act waiting in the wings. 

All those things have changed. “Settled science” has reversed itself. Ideas recently on the lunatic fringe of corporate America are now doctrine in personnel handbooks. But maybe the sharpness of the divide between biblical Christianity and most everyone else can be a great blessing to us. 

Times and places where the culture was outwardly Christian-ish made churches more at home in a society that did not share their biblical priorities more deeply than misquotations of “love thy neighbor” and “don’t judge.” Schools dared not plan events on Wednesday night, much less Sunday, because everyone went to church or claimed to. It made Christians assume some things about their communities and their churches that didn’t hold up to scrutiny. That pretense of respect for Christianity is far less common now. In fact, some today find it unacceptable that we believe, much less speak, some things the Bible says about God, man, sin and redemption.   

We don’t have to call it persecution yet. Instead, consider that those who would cancel you for simply quoting hard passages of Scripture have noticed that what the Bible says is different from the world’s proclamations. A banished sermon has to be heard in order to give offense. We shouldn’t be surprised that the exclusivity of Jesus Christ is a doctrine that offends people, for example. At some point in the more comfortable past, we should have been anxious that no one was listening carefully to notice the implications of John 14:6 for those who don’t believe. 

I have on an occasion been asked by a reporter, “Wait, are you saying that devout followers of [name a man-made religion] are going to hell?” They were listening to what Jesus said and to some degree understood what he meant! I think that’s good. In a small way we had that conversation of clarity at the SBTC this week. A tech vendor got partly into a project with us when one of its employees actually read some of our content. The result was a canceled contract after he spoke with one of us to hear more of what the convention stands for. It was inconvenient, but someone who perhaps had never heard the gospel read it and then heard it from a godly Baptist deacon at SBTC. I like the idea that those tech workers talked about us over coffee, even if they were shaking their heads in amazement.  

Christians in the next decade or two in America are going to stand in increasingly stark relief to the culture, without regard to which party runs the country. We, and hopefully our message, will be noticed, even if we don’t always find the attention affirming. 

Within the family of God, division is more distressing. Inside the fellowship of those who do believe what God has said, we fuss, as though we are Democrats and Republicans, over politically correct words or mask-wearing or presidential politics. That divide is not always clarifying. It is not a stark line between those who believe God and those who plainly don’t. Don’t hear me affirming a fight for its own sake; I am not praising those who are just mean and argumentative. All division is not the same; neither is all unity. 

Unless you are cloistered, most of the people you know don’t have the hope of life in Christ and they won’t act as if they do. That’s always been the case, even when people have not been so proud to be unbelieving. Look at it as if darkness is more obvious, unmasked, now than before. We, the light of the world, must be unashamed to shine brighter in contrast. Some of our neighbors may notice that light for the first time.

Kaunitz to be nominated as SBTC president

HOUSTON Jarrett Stephens, pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, has announced his intention to nominate Todd Kaunitz, pastor of New Beginnings Baptist Church in Longview, as convention president during the SBTC annual meeting in November. Kaunitz has served New Beginnings since 2010. 

Stephens formerly served as teaching pastor for Prestonwood Baptist Church and came to know Kaunitz while in that role. “What I love most about him is his passion for the local church,” Stephens told the TEXAN. “Todd is about evangelism. His church has grown from averaging 450 to nearly 2,500. He has baptized 1,400 people there during his tenure at New Beginnings. He is passionate about church planting. I think they partner with about six other churches and have planted 25 churches

“He understands the importance of denominational work at all levels, from the local level to the national level,” Stephens added, noting that Kaunitz “at his core is about relationships. He is about making sure that churches are partnering together for the purpose of reaching people for Christ.”

Kaunitz is a current member of the SBTC Executive Board and is the board’s elected secretary. He has been a speaker at multiple SBTC training events during his time at New Beginnings. He is a graduate of East Texas Baptist University. Kaunitz and his wife, Adrian, have three children.  

New Beginnings contributed $90,783 through the Cooperative Program in 2019. The church’s 2020 CP giving was $103,217.  

“[Kaunitz] is a younger leader in the SBC,” Stephens added, “He is just so faithful to the Scripture. He is passionate about the local church, missions and evangelism … that’s what we’re about. I think it’s time for a guy like Todd.”

Endowment to help non-South state conventions

FORT WORTH—Nathan Lorick, SBTC executive director-elect, knows the challenges of sharing Christ in areas of the country lacking a wealth of Southern Baptist churches. He returned to the SBTC after serving more than three years as executive director of the Colorado State Baptist Convention. On April 20, Lorick proposed to the SBTC Executive Board a plan to endow a fund to help state conventions outside the South. The plan was approved. 

“There was great joy in serving in a highly unreached area; there were also incredible challenges due to the lack of resources,” Lorick wrote in submitting the initiative for board consideration. “While our hearts wanted to see the gospel advance in unparalleled ways, often we didn’t have the people, partnerships or finances to support this goal,” he added.

The approval of the revocable State Convention Ministry Endowment set in motion a six-year strategic initiative whereby the SBTC will assist its sister state Southern Baptist conventions outside the South.

The endowment creates a funding mechanism to supply ongoing, board-approved ministry grants to qualified recipients who affirm the Baptist Faith & Message. Funded with an initial $800,000 contribution from SBTC reserve funds, the endowment is expected to reach $3,000,000 with annual contributions, subject to the SBTC’s financial position. Once that level is reached, $150,000 per year would be available to invest in the ministries of sister conventions, including but not limited to church planting, evangelism and revitalization.

In addition to the endowment, the board approved a reserve fund grant of $200,000 to provide immediate grants to SBC conventions outside the South. 

Southern Baptist work in some parts of the country is relatively new since an agreement between Southern Baptists and American Baptists limited the work of Southern Baptists in the North and West until the middle of the 20th century. Those conventions generally have fewer and smaller churches than older conventions located in the South and Southwest. The SBTC historically has opened partnerships with cities and conventions outside the areas of greatest Southern Baptist strength in recognition of the great need. 

Nueva Vida Dallas hosts 25 years of daily prayer, May 8 evangelism conference

DALLAS—David Galvan, pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida (New Life in Christ) in Dallas for 39 years, has seen many blessings through the transforming power of prayer. Early in his ministry, he realized that “the church needed to have a covering of prayer” to reach its community. That was 25 years ago.

On Feb. 1, 1996, a daily prayer meeting began from 6-7 a.m. Monday-Sunday at the church. They called it Morning Prayer, or Oración Matutina in Spanish. The bilingual group ran up to 12 participants on campus. But, to Galvan’s amazement, COVID opened an unexpected new door. Because of the shift from in-person meetings, Morning Prayer now draws a daily crowd averaging 55, with the highest virtual attendance at 63.

Nelson Fonseca, minister of evangelism at Nueva Vida, said Morning Prayer has impacted his own life since moving to the Dallas area two and half years ago. Both individual and corporate prayer are necessary for a healthy spiritual life, Fonseca said. Morning Prayer allows the church as a body of Christ to pray for one another and for missionaries who share the gospel daily.

“I set my alarm every day at 5:50 a.m., but I must admit that from time to time the Lord wakes me up earlier so I may start reading a portion of Scriptures,” Fonseca said, offering the following example of how God has worked in his life through Morning Prayer.

“Last year I started praying for the salvation of my brother Cesar who is a U.S. Marine. I specifically asked that God would open a door to start a conversation with him, especially that his heart will soften because he’s been going through some post traumatic disorder in war. He is also experiencing physical ailments.

“The Lord heard our prayers and even though Cesar has not made a profession of faith, he is now open to expressing how he feels and I am trusting the Lord that Cesar will surrender his life to Christ,” Fonseca said. “That type of intimacy is created … when the body of Christ comes as one and shares requests.”

The whole church benefits. “As a result of intercessory prayer, God gave us the location where we are at today, as an answer to prayer, debt-free,” Galvan said.

Galvan became Nueva Vida pastor in 1981. The congregation filled its Garland location, and he began praying whenever he drove past the old Second Baptist Church of Garland. After Second Baptist voted to disband in 1993, the Dallas Baptist Association facilitated the transfer of the property to Nueva Vida.

“If I prayed 13 years for that location, one of our deacons, Jesse Flores, prayed for 21 years,” Galvan said.

In 2009, in another answer to prayer, the growing church purchased its current campus from the former Casa View Baptist and paid for the balance through the sale of the Garland facility.

Bold to Evangelize conference May 8

The church’s upcoming evangelism conference, Bold to Evangelize, scheduled May 8 at Nueva Vida was born out of Morning Prayer. The free event will be in English and in

“There is definitely a connection between this conference and what we are already doing during morning prayer. For example, so far, we have had 40 professions of faith for the glory of God. One of those was my mother-in-law. These are answered prayers of people who are sharing Christ and others need to be equipped as well,” Fonseca said.

This conference will allow believers to overcome obstacles as they share the gospel. The event will be held in person and will also be available via YouTube live. 

See for more information. 

SBTC Executive Board approves grants, honors Richards

FORT WORTH—The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Board met at the Riley Center on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary April 20, marking the first regular board meeting held entirely face to face since November 2019. Members approved grants and a resolution to honor Jim Richards, SBTC executive director who is stepping down from that role in 2021.

In his report, Richards announced that the Woman’s Missionary Union had approached the SBTC to formalize a relationship between the two organizations. The WMU, an SBC auxiliary, joins the 11 national Southern Baptist Convention entities in recognizing the SBTC. 

Richards will work with staff to determine “what, when and how” the relationship with the WMU will proceed.

July 1 will complete Richards’ service as executive director of the SBTC and will mark the start of Nathan Lorick’s official assumption of duties, Richards said.

“It’s been the privilege of a lifetime to serve God through this opportunity,” Richards told the board of his tenure at the convention. 

Lorick addressed the board, calling for the SBTC to continue to have a “prophetic voice” and “servant’s heart,” noting Richards’ announcement that the SBTC had planted more churches in 2020 than in 2019, despite the pandemic.

Regarding the future of the SBTC, Lorick expressed commitment to doing “everything we can to be who we have been,” and also “to take even greater steps in the gospel’s impact across Texas” with a view to the future.

“I wake up thinking that God is bringing the world to Texas,” Lorick said. “We’re going to do what it takes to be ready to reach them.”

New endowment

The board approved motions to give $2,400,000 of the convention’s reserve funds to a variety of projects, including $1,000,000 to support the work of Southern Baptist state conventions located outside the South. Part of the million dollars will fund a grant of $800,000 for the creation of the revocable State Convention Ministry Endowment to be invested and managed by the Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation. 

A $200,000 reserve funding grant was also approved for non-South SBC ministries to provide immediate direct ministry grants to sister conventions to be used for the same purposes as future endowment grants.

Other grants approved

The executive board further approved a $500,000 grant to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention for the SBC allocation budget, with more than 50 percent going to the International Mission Board and 45 percent to support North American missions and theological education.

Also approved were grants of $300,000 to Jacksonville College for campus renovations, $100,000 to the Montana Southern Baptist Convention for Yellowstone Christian College, and $500,000 to cover possible costs of air conditioning and roof repair at the SBTC building.

Joe Davis, chief financial officer, reported that at the close of February 2021, the SBTC had $10,343,186 in operating reserve, 10.4 months of in-state operating expenses, $4,374,731 above the six-month reserve goal threshold in the convention’s business plan. Grants were issued from this reserve. 

Convention finances

Regarding the convention’s overall budget and finances, Davis noted the convention was $2.3 million under budget in receipts for 2020 but underspent the budget by $3 million for that year with ministry events held online rather than in-person. 

Davis also said that the SBTC building has been listed for sale at $9.2 million.

Marie Bosillo of PSK Accountants & Advisors presented results of the 2020 audit of the SBTC, resulting in a “clean opinion” affirming the sound financial condition of the convention and the strength of its “internal control structure.”

Other business

The board declined to pursue the implementation of the DBA “Great Commission Baptists,” a motion introduced at the 2020 annual meeting and referred to the board for consideration. However, the Executive Committee stated it recognized that future review of the convention’s title may be beneficial and encouraged the executive director to explore DBA options for the future.

The board received an update on a motion approved in early March by the Executive Committee and Administrative Committee by email ballot in response to the unprecedented winter storms which hit Texas in February. The committees authorized a reserve funding grant of up to $100,000 to assist with damage to affiliated churches and pastors’ homes caused by the storms. In addition, the convention has received $105,000 in winter storm grants from Baptist state conventions in Tennessee, Alabama, Missouri and Georgia. A committee of three SBTC board members reviews grant requests; to date, the SBTC has assisted 12 churches, five pastors and three associations with funds totaling approximately $115,000. Additional requests for funds are expected.

Sixteen churches were approved for affiliation with the SBTC while 10 were removed: two had merged with other churches; five disbanded and three expressed the desire to no longer affiliate. As of April 2021, the SBTC has 2,682 affiliated churches.

Wittman appointed Church Health and Leadership associate

In other business, Calvin Wittman of Duncanville was elected as ministry associate for Church Health and Leadership. He will fill the vacancy created by Jeff Lynn’s move to senior strategist of that department, following Tony Wolfe’s becoming SBTC associate executive director and senior strategist for Cooperative Ministries as of May 1.

Wittman pastored Baptist churches in Texas in the 1980s and 1990s. Before pastoring Applewood Baptist Church in Denver, he served with the IMB in Spain from 1995-1998. 

Jim and June Richards honored

Finally, the board approved a resolution of its “deepest appreciation and gratitude” to Jim and June Richards, designating the convention’s founding executive director as Executive Director Emeritus. 

The resolution, read aloud by board vice chairman Caleb Turner, recognized Richards’ 22 years at the helm of the SBTC, honoring the outgoing director for “for his fidelity to the inerrant Word of God, his capable and godly leadership, and his service to the kingdom of God and to the churches of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention,” and June Richards for “the vital role she has played in supporting, praying for and participating in the ministry of her husband,” and for her own ministry of encouragement.

This was the final board meeting at which Richards made the executive director’s report.

Unity for empowering missions would be key Ed Litton SBC aim

SARALAND, Ala. – Ed Litton envisions nurturing relationships in the Southern Baptist Convention to strengthen unity of mission if elected as SBC president during the June 15-16 annual meeting in Nashville.

One of four announced nominees for SBC president, Litton was the convention’s first vice president in 2001-2002 and president of the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference in 2009. He has been pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Ala., since 1994. The Mobile-area congregation, online at, was known as North Mobile Baptist Church until 2014.

Litton is a former Arizona Southern Baptist Convention evangelism staff member; Arizona and Alabama pastors’ conference president; and trustee of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

His wife Kathy was elected as SBC registration secretary in 2019 but has resigned since the Registration Committee oversees balloting for SBC president and other officers during the annual meeting.

Litton addressed the priorities he would set forth as SBC president in answer to questions from the Southern Baptist TEXAN:

1) Four proponents of biblical inerrancy have declared their willingness to serve as SBC president. What is distinctive about your vision for serving in this role?

First of all, I am thankful that the foundations of the SBC are not shaking like the foundations of our culture when it comes to truth. We’re people of the Book. I’m so grateful that all four people seeking this office believe in the inerrancy, infallibility and sufficiency of God’s Word. If our messengers elect me as president, I hope they will see that God’s Word and the Holy Spirit will be my guide.

God’s Word highlights that the world will know we love him by the way we love one another. I want us to be a convention unified in his love and unified in his gospel. God’s Word tells us that we are to make disciples. So we must be a convention that plants churches and sends missionaries. I think one of the signs that God is moving among a people — a sign of genuine biblical revival — is that there is visible unity. Revival is not so much a tent meeting as it is repentance, seeking the Lord, and being unified in the gospel.

2) What are two of the foremost challenges facing the SBC today?

It concerns me that our growing divide in the SBC mirrors the political culture we live in, and not a focus on God’s call to missions and church planting. Nor is our unity in our sameness or complete doctrinal alignment on every issue. Our doctrinal alignment is aided by the Baptist Faith & Message, but our unity is based in the gospel. And we must be unified in this mission, church planting, revitalization and training the next generation.

Ken Burns’ documentary on the Vietnam War quotes a General Wilson who said, “Americans fight their next war the way they fought their last war. We thought that we could defeat the Vietnamese with raw power and then rebuild them.” He said, “We were ignorant and arrogant.” Then he said, “You cannot dispel ignorance until you deal with your arrogance.” I think we need to deal with our arrogance first through repentance. We are a warrior tribe and I believe that God would rather have us fight for love.

My second serious concern is the failure of our churches to robustly engage lostness. In the face of a rapidly growing secular culture, many believers are sequestering within the walls of the church. In the face of increasing globalization we are not seizing the opportunities among those who are coming to our shores. We must to learn to live as exiles in a world foreign to us. We need to abandon nostalgia and embrace and adopt an aggressive love to reach as many as possible with the gospel. I often encourage my church family to “engage with those who don’t look like you, think like you or vote like you.”

3) Has the COVID pandemic amplified or accelerated these challenges?

COVID has certainly accelerated the challenges facing our churches. While everyone has been affected by the pandemic, some have been crushed by it. We’re looking around in our community for those who need encouragement and help. I think that’s something churches, associations and state conventions can do, and we as a national convention of churches likewise can care about each other because a lot of people have suffered loss.

4) How would you hope to use the SBC president’s influence/bully pulpit to impact these major challenges?

If God were to put me in this role, I believe in being honest and open with people about our unity and disunity, and helping bring our focus back to our mission. I will lead us to catch a vision for what we can cooperatively do together. It’s just too easy, in our autonomy, to turn away from each other. We must strive for unity. It will take all of us committed to this task. We truly are better together.

5) What would you say to those, particularly Black pastors, who are considering leaving the SBC because of discouragement over racial tensions?

I can certainly understand why some are exhausted. It can be very exhausting when you feel like people don’t grasp what you’re facing. It can be crushing when others appear not to care. My years of experience in diversified relationships in my own community has brought these realities into light for me. Listening and learning has changed my heart, and the heart of so many other Southern Baptists, pastors and leaders. For those who are wondering, “Why should we stay?” I want us to envision a better future together for the gospel to the nations. We need all hands on deck for this great heroic battle against darkness. We cannot spare one soul that God has called for this fight. This convention needs all people to reach all people. The fastest-growing demographic in our SBC family is among our brothers and sisters of color, and I celebrate that. It will be exciting to see more of these men and women on our committee appointments and taking leadership roles in the SBC.

In my local racial reconciliation experience we have discovered how many ways we are alike and how many ways we are different. We’ve learned to give honor to one another. We’re seeing God heal wounds and strengthen fellowship and relationships among Black and white pastors as well as civic leaders. The gospel has been the center of the whole thing.

6) Why should any pastor or church remain with the SBC, or join it – what is good and strong about our convention right now?

I don’t think I could answer any better than my friend Fred Luter when he was asked this question recently. He said, “I don’t remain in the SBC because we’re good at racial reconciliation, because we’re not.” He said, “I choose to stay in and work through those issues because this convention is the best at training evangelists, planting churches and sending missionaries.” I would add that, while I agree with Fred, we have to do better at reconciliation. We have serious work to do together. We need more people joining the dialogue, more people reaching across lines. We need to humble ourselves and develop deeper relationships with each other. Jesus said, ‘By this they will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.” We need visible expressions of that. It needs to be a reality, not something we do because it’s politically correct or trending. It’s something we do because the Scripture commands us to do it. We glorify Jesus when we do this together.

“Product of CP” leads Mabank church to health

MABANK—When Southern Baptists tithe, the emphasis usually is on what they can give to support ministries throughout the world, but sometimes it’s worth considering what churches receive from the Cooperative Program. 

At Grace Community Church in Mabank, pastor Michael Cooper explained one way CP dollars that went out from his church circled back to benefit the congregation. 

“I would say that I am a product of CP, so in a sense I owe a debt to those who have given,” Cooper, a two-time graduate of Criswell College and a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, told the TEXAN. 

CP dollars support Criswell and Southwestern, among other entities. These schools educate leaders like Cooper who was only 24 when Grace called him in 2013. Then the 13-year-old church had members with an average age of 70 and attendance of around 30. 

“The group just loved the Lord. They were older saints, but they had a desire to grow spiritually and reach the community,” Cooper said. 

The Cedar Creek Lake area southeast of Dallas has hundreds of churches of various sizes, Cooper said, but finding a church that prioritizes the gospel is not easy. Some people have come to Grace Community after having bad experiences at other churches, he added.

“One of the things we’ve really tried to do here at Grace is to cultivate a focus on gospel community both within the church and outside the four walls,” Cooper said. 

Grace Community has three core values to guide their focus: Christ-exalting simplicity, biblically-faithful worship and family-oriented community. In his first few years at the church, Cooper led the congregation to a healthier culture primarily through preaching and small group discipleship, he said.

Church attendance reached 140 before COVID hit, the pastor said, and since then it has backed down to around 100. As the church gained some health, more people were saved and baptized, Cooper said, and last fall, despite the pandemic, the church paid off its debt. Now they’re in a good position to build a new sanctuary for the years ahead.

“I’m convinced we’re at the precipice of really seeing good gospel growth and gospel transformation within our church but also within our community,” he noted.

Within the next two years, experts predict Mabank will see a population increase of 1,500 people, Cooper said. “For us as a little rural town, that’s big time.” 

Most of that growth is headed toward Grace Community. 

“There are about 300 homes that are being built less than 500 yards away from our church,” Cooper said. “We already have plans in place to make sure we knock on every single one of those doors so that every person in that home receives a personal invitation to church and a personal invitation to come to Christ.”

At Grace Community, the pastor envisions a funneling discipleship process where people start by attending a worship service and then go deeper by branching off into small groups. Beyond Sunday School and Wednesday nights, people can join Ladies of Grace or Men of Grace Bible studies offered on weekdays. 

The Ladies of Grace and Men of Grace ministries identify and cultivate gifts and train leaders for service, Cooper said. “For us, that is one of the identifying marks of discipleship, when our leaders are training up new leaders for various ministries.” 

Grace Community forwards 7 percent of its undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program and gives another 5 percent to its local Baptist association. 

“If a normative size church like Grace Community Church can impact darkness all around the world through the Cooperative Program, then I’m going to support that,” Cooper said. 

“I’m thankful that our convention forwards 55 percent on to the Southern Baptist Convention. That’s one of the dominant reasons I love being a Southern Baptists of Texas Convention pastor—we believe in CP,” he said. 

When Grace Community called Cooper as pastor, he remembers the search committee telling him they didn’t want to hire a pastor just to benefit from him; they wanted to be a blessing to that pastor. 

“I can say from that time to now, being 32, nearly eight years of pastoring a single church, I would not trade any of it for anything,” Cooper said, adding that he has done a lot of funerals of saints who laid the groundwork for the fruit that is visible now.

The vision of Grace Community is not just something the congregation made up, he said. 

“It goes back to Jesus—to be a blessing to our community, to be a blessing to the nations, to see people come to know him, to be baptized, to be taught. It ultimately goes back to the Great Commission. We’re called to something bigger than ourselves.”