Month: August 2021

Why YPN?

In 1988, the movie Young Guns hit the big screen. It was a story about a brash group of young cowboys who frequently caused more trouble than they solved. One has to wonder if they had included just ONE older, experienced, wiser cowboy how much more they could’ve accomplished.

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has formed a network exclusively for young pastors (40 and under) called Young Pastors Network. It’s worth asking, “Is this a good idea? Is this group destined to do some good but may end up doing just as much harm, like the Young Guns?” While I do believe that this network is not just a good idea but an essential idea, let me start by addressing the potential dangers of such a network.

Why Shouldn’t We Have a YPN?

  • Danger of Idolizing Youth. I was sitting in a nursing home in 2015 with one of our church members. He was depressed because no one visited him. In the course of our conversation, he looked at me and said, “America doesn’t know what to do with old people because it idolizes youth.” As I’ve walked the hallways of many nursing homes, I’m afraid I have to agree. Inherent in having a network devoted to young pastors is a potential continuation of this idolatry.
  • Disconnecting from Older Generations. We are gathering a group of inexperienced, unproven, untested pastors to encourage one another—what could go wrong, right? This network by design doesn’t include gifted seasoned leaders. Although our gatherings actually give that older generation an opportunity to invest deeply in this group, a liability in connecting younger pastors to one another is failing to connect them to wisdom a few steps ahead of them.
  • Discounting Longevity. It’s my opinion that the true heroes in the pastor-world are the guys who’ve quietly served their churches without recognition or praise for 40-plus years. The YPN could give the impression that we are holding up a model of ministry that sees success as flash and Twitter followers. This unfortunate aspirational model of ministry has undoubtedly fueled some of the pastoral burnout, blowup and implosion we’ve seen.

So given these dangers, why should we press forward with YPN?  

  1. Longevity in ministry is directly connected to friends in ministry. Breaking news: pastoral ministry is tough. Really tough. The only way you make it is if you forge those friendships with guys that are “3 a.m. phone call” people. The most dangerous place for a pastor is to be without pastor friends. The YPN provides a way for pastors to forge these friendships.
  2. “Seminary didn’t prepare me for this.” While this quip is common pastor talk, it’s actually not fair. Seminaries aren’t designed to prepare you for every potential reality of pastoral ministry. Instead, they give you tools that help you live out your calling as a pastor. YPN connects pastors to resources that help them learn how to pastor, and connects pastors relationally. Connecting young pastors to other practitioners helps fill the “seminary didn’t prepare me for this” gap.
  3. The Boomer Pastor statistics are scary. There’s a cliff coming, and we better start raising up young leaders. According to Barna, the average age of a pastor in America was 44 in 1992. As of 2017, it’s now 54. By this, I don’t mean to imply that older pastors should not be in leadership, but as this group retires, we need young pastors ready to step into those roles. YPN tries to lean into this problem by engaging this new generation.[1]
  4. Autonomy can be our undoing. While I believe our autonomy is biblical, isolation in the SBC is real and in some ways is baked into our system. Our churches VOLUNTARILY cooperate. No mechanism requires pastors to connect in relationships. The YPN provides an attractive hook to pull guys into the fold.
  5. The future of the SBC and denominationalism hangs in the balance. State conventions do have value to add, and networks like this are a case in point. In a season when denominations seem to be taking it on the chin, initiatives like the YPN are actually ways to advance the kingdom.
  6. Substantive impact in a denominational structure. I have nothing against serving on committees and trustee boards (I’ve done both), but most younger pastors are looking for ways to connect beyond these structures. Social media engagement, promotion and production of events, blog posts, and regional networking with other young pastors are just some of the ways guys can be unleashed through the YPN.
  7. Gathering point for investment. I mentioned the danger of disconnecting from older generations, but I’d like to turn that one around. I think the YPN encourages pastors to connect with the wisdom of generations ahead of them. A clearly defined group of guys facilitates the connection with the wisdom of more seasoned pastors. Through events, cohorts, and mentoring relationships, the YPN can actually do more to connect pastors to wisdom than disconnect them.


Hispanic Missions Sunday

Hispanic Missions Sunday
September 26, 2021

Hispanic Missions Sunday is a day to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of Hispanic churches and Hispanic IMB missionaries as active partners with the IMB’s work to bring the gospel to every nation, tribe, people and nation. These churches are sending out their own people as missionaries and together we all can take the good news of Jesus to every corner of the earth as we each pray, give, go and send.

All churches are invited to join in recognizing Sunday, September 26, as Hispanic Missions Sunday. Resources to help you in bringing this recognition to life in your church will be available soon.

More information coming soon!

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Global Hunger Sunday

Global Hunger Relief funds are used in gospel-centered hunger projects that share God’s love in both word and deed.

Funded projects meet crisis hunger needs in famine or natural disasters, but also focus on long-term, sustainable solutions to end chronic hunger, such as job skills training, livestock and seed distribution, clean water, home reconstruction and medical care.

Global Hunger Sunday
October 10, 2021

Learn More and Donate Today

Global Hunger Relief projects are carried out by Send Relief, a joint ministry of the North American Mission Board and IMB.

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FBC Sutherland Springs to demolish building where gunman killed 26 worshipers

FBC Sutherland Springs photo.

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (BP) — So painful was the decision to demolish the sanctuary where a mass gunman killed 26 people in 2017, including an unborn child, that members couldn’t unravel the details of how to proceed.

Members of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs voted 69-35 on Aug. 22 to demolish the 100-year-old building that had been preserved as a memorial. On Nov. 5, 2017, Devin Kelley methodically walked through the sanctuary killing 25 people, including a pregnant woman, and injuring 20 others before killing himself.

“This decision was loaded down with so much emotion on both sides that we agreed that no more conversation would be had ’till we voted to see what the future held for the memorial corner, so as not to ruffle anything that would not have had future bearing anyway,” Pastor Frank Pomeroy told Baptist Press Tuesday (Aug. 24). “So the next conversation will be about when and how to remove the facility.

“Most, if not all, of those that wanted the enclosed facility to stay was for historical purposes of the 100-year-old building. So I have asked them to try and find someone who would disassemble and reassemble (the building) elsewhere for posterity’s sake. At the present time no one has come forward, but that would be the optimum solution in my opinion.”

Since 2019, the congregation has worshiped in a new facility funded by the North American Mission Board with gifts made through the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program and other donations.

The massacre is considered the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history and the deadliest church shooting in the nation. Pomeroy’s 14-year-old daughter Annabelle was among those killed.

Months after the killing, the church preserved the original facility as an enclosed memorial, but Pomeroy had long proposed erecting a memorial garden at the site.

“We as a church have voted to remove the old enclosed memorial facility and replace it with an open air facility that will have 24/7 access. Whereas an appointment was needed previously to go in, now it will be fully open,” Pomeroy said. “We as a body decided this was the best way to honor the lives that were lost that fateful day and also the survivors that still have to go by the old facility and be reminded of the tragedy. This will give opportunities of worship and prayer at all times to everyone who desires to pay their respects and honor the martyrs of that fateful day.”

While plans remain to be discussed and finalized, Pomeroy said ideas include “a more permanent structure of church ribs with windows holding the old stained glass and benches and QR codes that allow visitors to hear tracks of the deceased and information.”

Southern Baptists and others have supported the church in its recovery efforts.

The tragedy has led to continuing litigation. Among recent court rulings, federal Judge Xavier Rodriguez of the Western District of Texas deemed the federal government was 60 percent responsible for Kelley being able to buy the assault rifle used in the massacre.

Rodriguez said the U.S. Air Force had failed to report to the FBI Kelley’s bad conduct discharge in 2014. Two years earlier, he had been convicted of assaulting his wife and stepson, the Texas Tribune reported. Kelley was able to purchase an assault rifle because his name was not in a database that would have disqualified the purchase, Rodriguez ruled.

Kelley reportedly used a Model 8500 Ruger AR-556 fitted with a 30-round magazine in the attack. In June, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the Academy Sports and Outdoors store that sold Kelley the rifle could not be held liable because Kelley’s name was not in the proper database.

Both the federal and state lawsuits consolidated complaints by several survivors and families of victims. Reportedly, other related lawsuits are outstanding.

SBTC Executive Board affirms NAMB collaboration and $26.5 million budget, creates Israel opportunity for pastors

GRAPEVINEA new church planting collaboration with the SBC North American Mission Board, the election of two ministry staff leaders, the creation of an Israel travel opportunity for pastors and the posthumous conferral of the Leaders Legacy Award upon Jimmy D. Pritchard highlighted the Aug. 24 meeting of the Executive Board of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. The board met at the convention’s Grapevine offices, and also approved a $26.5 million proposed budget for 2022. Annual meeting messengers will consider the budget during their November meeting. 

Texas to become a SEND state

Beginning in 2022, Texas will become a SEND state through the North American Mission Board’s SEND Network. Until recently, the SEND initiative targeted significant cities in North America. SEND states, like SEND cities, will be the focus of church planting resources to address rising populations and lostness. Under the plan, NAMB will take on a significant role in planter assessment, training and coaching, orientation, care and funding. SBTC staff and consultants will be trained in SEND Network processes. While NAMB will fund planter support and other areas, the SBTC will continue to make grants, host church planter retreats and provide additional care for planters. All Texas churches planted under this program will be SBTC-affiliated and affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. 

The expectation for the collaboration is that SBTC church planting will be enhanced, resulting in increases in number, health, and sustainability of church plants. Either party may terminate the relationship with a six-month written notice. Statewide church planting relationships currently exist between NAMB and state conventions in Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma and Virginia.

NAMB president Kevin Ezell said of the effort, “We really are stronger together. I know we say that all the time, but this shows that it’s true.”

SBTC executive director Nathan Lorick expressed confidence that the agreement would result in an increase in the number of church planters in Texas, calling the SEND network the “gold standard” in church planting. 

Budget increases 1.51 percent from 2021

The board voted to recommend for approval at the 2021 annual meeting a $26.5 million budget for 2022, reflecting an increase from 2021 of 1.51 percent. The 2022 budget continues the convention’s practice of forwarding 55 percent, or $14.3 million, to the national SBC Cooperative Program while retaining 45 percent, or $11.7 million, within Texas for state ministries. 

Significant budgetary changes for 2022 include a $300,000 reduction in church planting expenditures because of NAMB’s increased funding in that area, an amount expected to exceed $1 million. Salary and benefits for as-yet unfilled ministry associate positions are also included in the budget. 

A $104,500 budget reallocation to the state missions offering for evangelism events, personal evangelism and church planting consultants is also included, as are smaller increases for technology maintenance and an all-ministry staff retreat. The budget also includes a first-time allocation of $10,000 for Woman’s Missionary Union efforts in SBTC churches. The WMU and the SBTC are currently exploring a formal relationship. 

Jayson Larson Editor
Jayson Larson was elected as an associate of the Digital Ministries and Communications department during the Aug. 24 SBTC Executive Board meeting in Grapevine. He will edit the Southern Baptist TEXAN beginning in 2022. Photo by Jose Santiago

New leaders for missional ministries, TEXAN 

Garland pastor Tony Mathews was elected senior strategist for the largest of the SBTC’s ministry divisions, missional ministries, which includes evangelism, missions and church planting. Mathews has been pastor of North Garland Fellowship Baptist Church for 29 years and is currently also the interim director for SBTC missional ministries. He will continue in an interim role with the SBTC until March, when he transitions from his pastorate at North Garland Fellowship.

Mathews’ church has been very involved in missions. Under his leadership, North Garland Fellowship has assisted with 10 church starts and has traveled in 17 countries on mission. The church has grown from 70 to about 700 during his tenure as pastor.

His service to the denomination includes being vice president of the SBTC, president of the SBTC African-American Fellowship and vice chairman of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary board of trustees.

Mathews holds a Doctor of Ministry and a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as a Master of Arts in Christian Leadership from Criswell College and a Bachelor of Business Administration from Angelo State University. He is married to Angela and they have three children.

The board additionally approved the hiring of Jayson Larson as Digital Ministries and Communications associate. Larson will become the editor of the TEXAN, the print and digital newsjournal of the SBTC, in 2022 as Gary Ledbetter moves to an advisory position with the publication. 

Larson, currently senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Prineville, Ore., served as associate pastor of First Baptist Church Vidor from 2015-2019. He earned a degree in journalism/communications from Trinity Valley Community College and a Bachelor of Arts in communication and biblical study from Liberty University. He is currently pursuing a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

DMC Senior Strategist Lance Crowell described Larson as “understanding the news side of the TEXAN and also having a pastor’s heart.”

Larson has extensive experience in journalism, having been a sports and news writer and editor for the Athens Daily Review and other newspapers. He has won numerous awards from the Associated Press Managing Editors Association, Texas Press Association and Northeast Texas Press Association. He also formerly served as a public relations officer for Trinity Valley Community College.

He is married to Brandi and they have two children.

Israel initiative for pastor travel approved

A reserves funding grant of $100,000 was approved to subsidize the first-time travel of pastors to Israel on a tour hosted by the SBTC. The convention last hosted an Israel trip in May 2019; the trip planned for 2020 was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic and any future travel will be planned with consideration of ongoing regional conditions. The grant would provide $1,000 toward the travel costs of 100 pastors who have never been to Israel.

Pritchard honored

The board voted unanimously to honor the late Jimmy D. Pritchard with the first Leaders Legacy Award from the Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation. The foundation recently voted to create the award to honor individuals who have distinguished themselves by their service to Christ through the SBTC.

Pritchard, who died of COVID-19 on Feb. 24, was SBTC president from 2014-2015. For 39 years, he served churches in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas. During his long tenure at First Baptist Forney, Pritchard led the church in its move to a $36 million suburban facility and saw 38 men and women surrender to vocational ministry. In that time, the church welcomed 6,500 new members, more than 2,900 through baptism.

In addition to his time as SBTC president, Pritchard also served the denomination as trustee and chairman of the International Mission Board from 2006-2014, and trustee and board chairman of Criswell College from 2002-2007 and 2010-2015.

The Leaders Legacy Award will be awarded by the SBTC Executive Board’s Executive Committee and the SBT Foundation and is funded by the foundation’s Leaders Legacy Endowment.

Other business

In other business, the board voted to continue a cooperative ministry relationship with the Texas Baptist Home for Children and fraternal ministry relationships with the Conference of Texas Baptist Evangelists, the Korean Baptist Fellowship of Texas, and the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas. Continuing cooperative relationships with Jacksonville College and Criswell College were not reviewed in 2021.

The board approved the awarding of a reserves funding grant of $100,000 to the SBC Executive Committee as a designated gift to support the committee’s new initiative of assisting churches in prayer ministry. The SBC Executive Committee was assigned prayer leadership during the SBC meeting in June. SBTC is the first state convention to lend financial support to the work.

A reserves funding allocation was approved for the purpose of engaging the organization Future Church Company as a consultant for the convention. For the next three years, Future Church Company’s services will include general consulting, training, tool development, process design and implementation.

The board also approved a reserves funding grant of $100,000 to be used for one-time grants to pastors in affiliated churches for the purpose of assisting with mission trip expenses.

A reserves funding grant of $118,000 was approved to support a new NAMB-approved church plant led by Doug Hixson, former SBTC director of church planting, in Longmont, Co.

A reserves funding grant of up to $40,000 was approved to augment the Nov. 8-9 annual meeting at Flint Baptist Church.

A grant of $150,000 was approved to establish the SBTC Student Scholarship Endowment at the Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation for the purpose of making scholarship awards to students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, with priority given to non-Anglo students.

The board also approved a motion concerning the disposition of the property of the former Dellwood Baptist Church in Mount Pleasant. In 2004, Dellwood gifted its property to the SBTC and the convention in turn gifted it to South Jefferson Baptist Church for use as a Hispanic mission, which has now closed its doors. The property is for sale and the board voted to approve the recommendation that upon that sale, one half of the proceeds will be delivered to the SBTC as a designated gift for Hispanic ministries and one half retained by South Jefferson Baptist, which has absorbed the expenses of the Hispanic mission.

The board approved 16 churches for affiliation and 16 more were removed from affiliation, including those that have disbanded, merged or no longer desired to be affiliated. One of the removals was approved upon request from the Credentials Committee. With those actions, there are now 2,682 affiliated churches.

The board will meet again Nov. 10 in Tyler, following the SBTC annual meeting at Flint Baptist Church.

—With reporting by Jane Rodgers and Gary Ledbetter

Southern Baptist churches needed to fulfill IMB’s 2025 Targets

Hands clasped in prayer in South Asia.

International Mission Board missionaries saw 18,380 churches planted, 144,322 new believers and 86,587 baptisms in 2020. This could not have happened without the prayers and financial support of Southern Baptist churches.

To continue to make the Revelation 7:9 vision a reality, the IMB needs the partnership of Southern Baptist churches through prayer and giving.

One of the IMB’s 2025 targets is “mobilize 75% of Southern Baptist churches to prayerfully and financially support the IMB.”

Chris Derry, director of church and network relations for IMB, explained the significance of the target.

“This target supports our ultimate aim of growing our missionary force overseas by 500,” said Derry. “Yet, our leadership is committed to healthy and sustainable growth over the next five years so that Southern Baptists’ sent ones can focus on the task before them and be fruitful in the advancement of the gospel among unreached peoples.”

Derry continued, “With just over half of our denomination’s churches giving to IMB to support the lives and work of more than 3,600 missionaries and their families, imagine how many more missionaries could be sent and how many more people groups could be reached through the faithful generosity and cooperation of 75%!”

To support this target, the IMB has taken steps to intentionally connect with churches.

Church Connections 

For decades, Southern Baptists have prayed for, served alongside and given financially to support the work of IMB missionaries. IMB President Paul Chitwood said there is both an opportunity and responsibility for missionaries to pray for, share with and serve these churches.

IMB introduced Church Connections to prioritize relationships between churches and missionaries. The goal of this initiative is to see every Southern Baptist church connected with at least one IMB missionary.

Target four of IMB’s 2025 Targets: mobilize 75% of Southern Baptist churches to prayerfully and financially support the IMB.

Church Connections efforts began in 2020 with a pilot involving 10% of IMB’s missionaries. April 5 was the official launch of Church Connections, and 900 missionaries have since been assigned 22,000 churches to contact. IMB couples and singles have been or will be given the names of 20 Southern Baptist churches.

Connections between IMB missionaries and Southern Baptist churches are currently forming and growing. One missionary family who serves in London connected with a church in Alabama. While stateside, the missionary family was able to visit the church, serve in the church and build relationships within the church. This connection not only provided opportunities for the church to encourage the missionary family, but opportunities for the missionary family to encourage the church.

Along with the Church Connections initiative, state conventions and associational leaders are needed to strengthen relationships between the IMB and Southern Baptist churches.

Mobilization through state conventions 

Terry Sharp, manager of convention and network relations for IMB, explained how state convention and associational leaders are pivotal in mobilizing the local church.

“Our state convention and associational leaders are among our organization’s greatest champions and our missionaries’ most vocal advocates,” said Sharp. “They provide invaluable support in communication, giving, mobilization and training. We are very grateful for our partnership and truly believe we can do so much more together than if we were chasing this vision alone.”

Sharp continued, “State conventions and associations are valued partners in mobilization and advocacy, and it will take all of us working together to complete the Revelation 7:9 vision.”

One example is the Illinois Baptist State Association that has committed to mobilizing their members by creating a page on their website dedicated to IMB’s nine, larger people groups. On this page Illinois Baptists can find resources on how to pray for the specific people groups found worldwide and around their state. The association’s goal is to mobilize Illinois Baptist churches to impact these people groups in the coming years.

Supporting through giving and prayer

D. Ray Davis, manager of church mobilization at IMB, highlighted the biblical instruction to pray and give.

“Churches addressing the Great Commission are obedient to send missionaries,” said Davis. “However, like the Macedonians in 2 Corinthians 8, if believers first abandon themselves to the Lord, they are also giving generously and sacrificially. Additionally, Scripture instructs us to pray for the spread of the gospel. Healthy churches recognize the need to pray and give and to go themselves and send their best sons and daughters.”

When Southern Baptist churches give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® every cent is used to support missionaries on the field. Because of these gifts, missionaries can focus on sharing the gospel and not worry about financial support. These financial partnerships allow missionaries to provide physical help as they show God’s love to those around them.

Derry added, “The prayerful and financial support of Southern Baptists provides for the physical and ministerial needs of the sent ones to advance the kingdom. The beauty of cooperation is that churches of all sizes can pray and give as they are able to be a part of this great work together.”

Supporting IMB missionaries in prayer is vital in fulfilling the Revelation 7:9 vision. Southern Baptists can find prayer guides, daily prayer requests and resources on IMB’s website. By signing up for regular prayer updates or downloading the IMB prayer app, Southern Baptists can continually support IMB missionaries in prayer.

Victor Hou, the IMB’s associate vice president for global advance, encourages U.S. churches not to underestimate the power of prayer, and to be persistent in praying for the Lord to tear down the barriers that keep people from hearing the gospel.

Hou asks that churches pray the Lord would call more workers to the harvest and that the Lord will call people from their congregations to serve with the IMB.

“In addition to providing for the future support of an increased missionary force, I would imagine that seeing an additional 15,000 churches working together in support of Southern Baptist mission efforts would result in some of the greatest days of evangelism, discipleship and church planting among the nations in our history,” said Derry.

“A real movement could ignite within our churches that helps us reach the last of the unreached.”

To learn more about how you and your church can prayerfully and financially support the IMB, visit

If your church is ready to connect with an IMB missionary, email

Learn more about IMB’s 2025 Targets

Send an additional 500 fully funded missionaries 
Mobilize 500 global missionary partners on IMB teams 
Engage 75 global cities with comprehensive strategies 

The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® is a registered trademark of Woman’s Missionary Union.

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SBTC DR helps New Mexico Baptist camp

CLOUDCROFT—Monte Furrh and a chainsaw team based in Bonham left Aug. 22 to assist the Sivells Baptist Retreat and Conference Center in Cloudcroft, New Mex., following a flooding from heavy rainfall which inundated the grounds and left debris and downed trees. SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice said he was contacted by Baptist Convention of New Mexico DR to supply a team to relieve their recovery efforts and help the camp prepare for a September event.

“We are glad to assist New Mexico DR. We appreciate the help they always quickly send us,” Stice told the TEXAN, adding the team is expected to be there about a week.

‘My Jesus’ singer-songwriter’s journey born through tragedy

NASHVILLE (BP) – Anne Wilson was always reaching for the stars. She just never dreamed it would be as a contemporary Christian music artist.

The 19-year-old Kentucky native had aspirations of becoming an astronaut until a tragedy changed that course. The death of her brother Jacob in a traffic accident four years ago was heartbreaking, but it opened a part of her she didn’t know existed – a soulful singing voice that could be used for God in ways never imagined.

Anne was dealing with the death of her 23-year-old brother by sitting at the piano and singing. That was unusual, her father Kent said, because her parents had only heard her singing hymns in church. While she was a proficient piano player, having learned from an early age, she was never a performance singer, he said.

Her mother heard her playing and singing and was so touched that she asked Anne if she would sing at Jacob’s funeral. She said no at first, that she didn’t think she could make it through it, but later told her parents that she would.

“I went upstairs to my room and locked myself in,” she said. “It was hard dealing with all the people at the house. I remember asking God, ‘I know I can’t do this in my strength. Make it clear to me,’ and He did. I had a peace that came over me, that’s how I knew I’m supposed to do it.”

So, the first time Anne Wilson sang in public was in front of 1,200 people at her brother’s funeral. Her rendition of “What A Beautiful Name” was mesmerizing. She used friends who played violin, guitar and keyboard to complement her singing. “It was truly a worship performance,” she said.

The music was so moving that they were later asked to do a video with the same group of friends, including Anne’s sister Elizabeth on keyboard. It became an overnight sensation on YouTube and eventually was the link that landed her contacts with an agent in Nashville.

“That’s what launched everything,” Anne said. “It went viral in a couple of months in 2017. A lot of things started happening quickly. God did a lot of miracles.”

Once she graduated from high school last May, she became more involved in her blossoming music career – a career she had never even considered. Anne has since moved to Nashville and has had to adapt to being “a full-grown adult and having to figure out what life is.”

Three record labels were making offers, and it became a whirlwind career move to Nashville for the teenager who first had to finish high school at Veritas Christian Academy in Lexington, Ky. NASA would have to wait.

She began writing songs with some of the biggest names in Christian music. Matthew West collaborated with her on the hit song “My Jesus” that was released earlier this year and has soared up the charts and become one of the breakout hits of the year. The “My Jesus” music video has more than 4 million YouTube views and 12.9 million views and 290,000 shares on Facebook. Her three-single EP, “My Jesus,” has become Capitol CMG’s largest debut single launch from a new artist in nearly 10 years. Wilson also entered Spotify’s USA Viral 50 chart with the song.

“It’s been amazing to see how God has worked in her life,” her father said. “My wife (Lynn) made all three of our kids take piano. My mom did the same thing to me. Anne hated it the worst of the three. Now look how God is using it.”

Anne’s schedule is booked with shows every weekend, and she writes music two to three days every week. But her father said had her path not been changed by God, she would have made it as an astronaut.

“She was dead set on it and was a very, very good student,” he said. “She could have pursued it and probably would have reached it.”

Anne said space still intrigues her and, if ever given the chance, would love to take a trip into the stars.

“I have a huge passion for it,” she said. “If something happened and I could go to space, I would take it.”

Meanwhile, her music career continues to soar. On Aug. 10, her live EP featuring “My Jesus (Live in Nashville)” was released by Capitol Christian Music Group. It features five songs recorded live from White Dove Barn in Nashville, including a cover of Little Big Town’s “Boondocks” and the new song “No Place Like Home.” Celebrating the release, Wilson also debuted the live video performance of “No Place Like Home.”

The new song is about her brother and their memories together on her grandfather’s farm in Kentucky. It’s her favorite song so far and one that West collaborated on as well. It was written the same day as the hit “My Jesus.”

“It came together in about 10 minutes, which is such a testament to God giving us that song,” she said. “It’s my favorite song and most special song.”

Anne said she is still a Kentucky girl at heart. The memories of time with her brother and sister at her grandparents’ farm are rich and alive, she said.

“It’s my favorite place in the world,” she said. “I want to move back there. I love our farm. The three of us (siblings) are very close. Mom and Dad stressed how important it was for us to stay close. We were each other’s best friends.”

Anne will be on the Big Daddy Weave “All Things New” tour and will make her debut at the Grand Ole Opry Sept. 4. Meanwhile, she continues to write and record new music in preparation for a full-length album in the months ahead.

“I want to do what God wants me to do,” she said. “As Christians, we’re here to bring people closer to the Lord. Jacob’s death shifted my perspective. Everything I do on earth I want it to glorify God. I’m surrendered to Him. I don’t know what the future looks like, if it will be a long career, or be over in a short time. Whatever He wants me to do.”

When asked what her brother would think of her overnight success, she said he would be “super proud of me. I know the way he was. He was so proud of me and my sister even with the smallest things. He would probably be with me because he always wanted to protect me. I think he can totally see me and is totally with me.”

As baseball administrator, Slade’s impact is anything but ‘Little’

SAN DIEGO (BP) – Parents and ballplayers know some things simply go with being a part of California Little League’s District 66. As in towns and cities nationwide, an expectation is placed on coaches and volunteers to foster a community atmosphere. Players are encouraged to grow in their knowledge and appreciation of the sport.

Rolland Slade, kneeling in front, was a batboy for his brother Paul, left of Slade, and the Prince Hall Masons Yankees in San Diego in 1963. Photo courtesy of Rolland Slade

But here, there are differences. Opening Day ceremonies conclude with a prayer by its administrator, who has held the position since 2004. Since that administrator also controls the schedule, no games are played on Sundays.

It makes sense for several reasons. Namely because that administrator, Rolland Slade, is unable to attend games those days as he’s busy filling the pulpit at Meridian Baptist Church in El Cajon.

The role is a labor of love for Slade, the senior pastor who is also current chairman on the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. His passion for baseball began as a 5-year-old batboy in the mid-60s for his brother Paul’s team, the Prince Hall Masons Yankees of the San Diego Southeastern Little League. It grew in an era when teams were named after local businesses lending their sponsorship. Thus, Slade would later become a rangy centerfielder and speedy baserunner for Kelly Trucking.

“We wore these green uniforms, because that was the color of their rigs,” Slade said. “We played teams named Mac’s Market, Fed Mart and Police & Fire, which was a split sponsorship. Later on, I played for Fed Mart, too.

Over the years, partnerships such as that with the San Diego Padres have been a part of Rolland Slade’s work with Little League. Photo courtesy of Rolland Slade.

(Incidentally, the author played Junior League baseball in Centre, Ala., for Farmers & Merchants Bank, whose rivals on the diamond included Union State Bank and Jordan Funeral Home.)

“I still have my Willie Mays glove from then,” Slade said. “I became a huge Roberto Clemente fan, too. If I got on base, I was definitely going to steal second. It was only a matter of time before I got to third.”

As administrator in 2020, Slade was responsible for 1,071 players and 40 teams. That also included about 1,200 coaches and volunteers. Long before that, however, his involvement in the game had a break between his playing days and one night when he and Paul were in the middle of another Little League tradition.

“We were complaining about the coach my son Ryan had at the time,” Slade said. “Our dad told us to stop complaining and do something about it, like coach him ourselves.”

So the brothers did. Paul handled the majority of coaching duties while Rolland foreshadowed the future by focusing on managing. In 2002 he became league president. Two years later the district administrator retired and Slade was nominated to replace him.

In addition to being a coach, president and now administrator, he also served many years as an umpire. Even little Ryan Slade endured getting rung up a few times by his dad.

While the Little League season doesn’t start until March, preparations start in October with the beginning of the Little League year. By January, it’s on Slade’s daily agenda as Opening Day grows closer. During the season he puts in an estimated 10-15 hours a week in his volunteer role.

After being challenged by their father, Rolland Slade and his brother, Paul (left) coached for several years together in their local Little League association. Photo courtesy of Rolland Slade

His vocation as a pastor is well-known, and not just because of clear schedules on Sundays and a prayer before the first pitch of the season. Over the years he’s been in numerous informal counseling sessions near the concession stand, dugout or in the parking lot. He’s performed vow renewals and preached funerals for former players.

“It opens up opportunities to be involved in others’ lives,” he said. “They know I’m a pastor and am there for them.”

Contrary to what many may think, he said, “It’s not about making them into professional ballplayers, but getting together with all kinds of people. Little League is a development program that uses baseball and softball as an avenue to build community.”

The league where Slade served as president is eight miles from his church. When a family moves to another area, he maintains contact with them. Last year he attended a high school division championship game and realized he had former players for both teams.

“As you carry yourself in Christ, people ask questions about your life,” he said. “They’ll come to me with questions and ask for advice about difficulties in marriage, working with their children and other things. If their kids have grown up and moved across the country, they’ll ask me to check in on them with an email, chat or something like that.”

Being administrator has given Slade the opportunity to see other community partners step up. His local team, the San Diego Padres, have done so time and again by building six baseball fields for his district as well as installing electronic scoreboards and palm trees in the outfield. Players have also received new Padres uniforms, $5 game tickets, and been able to meet former Negro League players as well as former Padre and Hall of Famer Dave Winfield.

As he has witnessed personally, churches also have the opportunity to get involved. “Go out and be a part of it,” he said.

This week, Slade will settle in to watch the Little League World Series from Williamsport, Pa. He’s become a fan of Ella Bruning, the catcher for the Abilene, Texas, team who starred in a 6-0 win over Washington Aug. 20 before the team fell 6-5 to a late rally by Michigan Monday (Aug. 23) and moved to the consolation bracket.

“I see a great picture of family and community in it,” he said. “There are fans and parents traveling so far to be there and going crazy in the stands. Support comes for both sides and from far and wide. It’s exciting to see.”