Month: September 2021

‘Jesus Music,’ a film about the history of CCM, to release in theaters Oct. 1

The Jesus Music movie image

The filmmakers who directed the faith-based hits I Can Only Imagine and I Still Believe will release their first major theatrical documentary Oct. 1 with a groundbreaking film about the history of contemporary Christian music.

The Jesus Music (PG-13), co-directed by Jon and Andrew Erwin, follows the birth of contemporary Christian music in the 1960s and 1970s and its growth in the 1980s and 1990s up to the modern day. It includes interviews with dozens of artists, including TobyMac, Kirk Franklin, Lauren Daigle, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Skillet’s John Cooper, Chris Tomlin, Eddie DeGarmo, Michael Tait, LeCrae, Mandisa and Bill Gaither.

It will be released in theaters Friday, Oct. 1. A companion book, The Jesus Music: A Visual Story of Redemption as Told by Those Who Lived It (by Marshall Terrill), also is being released.

The Erwins made the film during the COVID-19 pandemic when musicians were at home and unable to tour.

Although it is their first major theatrical documentary, the Erwins have made multiple live-action dramas, including I Can Only Imagine and I Still Believe, each of which opened in the Top 3 at the box office.

The Jesus Music is rated PG-13 for some drug material and thematic elements.

— Lionsgate

A Deconstructionist Look at Community Outreach

Early on in my ministry, I knew I desired to reach the community in whatever church I served. This desire has looked different in different settings; nonetheless, the desire is the same. In this article, I want to share a few things I have learned along the way about community outreach. I hope to offer an encouragement, sound a warning, and stir your desire to reach your community with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

First, what is outreach? I think it is helpful to work from a uniform definition since “outreach” can mean different things to different pastors and churches. For our purposes here, we will define outreach as the intentional engagement of the community to accomplish a common  goal.

Next, I want to deconstruct that definition. What is the common goal of outreach? The church’s end goal is to show the community the love of Christ and to share the gospel of Jesus. Community outreach is not a church growth model. Instead, it is the people of God being the hands and feet of Jesus as they proclaim the gospel of repentance. Let me be clear: Community outreach may result in church growth but should never be motivated solely by church growth. A church that sets the goal to reach their community should primarily be doing so from a place of evangelistic zeal and obedience (Matthew 28:18-20).

Following our understanding of the goal, let us identify our community. This identification might be tricky, depending on your ministry setting. For example, if you are a rural church, your community may be more widespread than in an urban environment. Your congregational make-up helps define the community boundaries as much as the physical location of your church building. If you are in a rural farming community, your community will be better represented by your church members who live in the countryside than by the building that sits on the side of the farm-to-market road. Likewise, if you are in an urban environment, your community might be best identified as the neighborhood that immediately surrounds the physical church building. Pastor, it is up to you to determine your community and establish a plan to reach that community with the gospel.

That brings me to my next point: What is intentional engagement? Intentional engagement is the plan you set forth to reach your identified community with the gospel. Here it is helpful for you to understand the community’s needs and determine if your church is equipped to meet those needs. Allow me to provide a point of caution, dear pastor. I have seen and experienced the heartache of a plan gone awry. An eager young pastor is ready to knock on doors and begin getting to know his new community. The people are responsive to the gospel and start attending the church, but they are not like the established members. They’re unchurched. They do not know the social protocols that have been arbitrarily established.

In this situation, several possible outcomes can take place, but my experience says two outcomes are most likely. First, and most likely, the new believers get tired of feeling like outsiders, so they simply fade into obscurity. The pastor may make several attempts to re-engage them, but nothing will change the uncomfortable feeling they get from those inside the church, all because they don’t fit the mold.

A second possible outcome is that the new members plug in and begin to see the struggle the pastor is going through, sharing the gospel with unchurched people in the community and inviting them into the church, only to offend some members in the congregation because the new believers don’t act the way people “should” act in church, the way some longtime members think people should behave in church. The new members take offense on the pastor’s behalf and the two sides—the longtime members and the new members—are ready for war, and the pastor is looking for a new job.

I have seen both these scenarios. I have ministered in both types of churches. When you establish a plan to engage your community, intently pray about it. Preach on the need for the church to get outside the comforts of its four walls. Understand the dangers you will engage in along the way. Equip those who will be faithful companions. In many situations, the church needs to be prepared for the community rather than the community needing to prepare for the church. Develop a plan that suits your church’s strengths while preaching on and strengthening the weaknesses. Be sure your plan meets the needs of your community.

Lastly, make sure your plan is saturated in the lifegiving gospel message that Jesus saves. I cannot say this enough: Outreach is not a church growth tool. Instead, it is evangelistic obedience. Pastor, equip and prepare your people to minister to your community with the gospel.

MinistrySafe develops training events for abuse prevention in response to COVID-19

FORT WORTH, Texas. (BP) – MinistrySafe, a non-profit organization focused on offering training to churches to prevent sexual abuse, is helping develop training on how the abuse prevention landscape has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The non-profit offers churches and other organizations that work with children a five-step safety program designed to protect children from abuse and create a safe environment for ministry.

Gregory Love, co-founder of MinistrySafe, said the pandemic brought about a lot of change for churches.

“Changes in our culture as a result of the pandemic have forced us to adapt,” Love said. “It has changed some of the fundamentals of how we do ministry, where we do ministry and what technology we are using to do ministry or education.”

MinistrySafe’s training is used by many Southern Baptist churches. A number of churches and state Baptist conventions are planning events in partnership with the organization to address general abuse prevention as well as changes in prevention methods brought about by COVID-19.

The Village Church in Texas will be hosting abuse prevention training events over the next few weeks with the help of MinistrySafe at both its Flower Mound campus (Sept. 30) and their Denton campus (Oct. 10).

The Georgia Baptist Mission Board will partner with MinistrySafe to hold a child protection workshop in Duluth, Ga., on Oct. 13, and the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions is hosting an online webinar related specifically to the COVID-related changes in the abuse prevention landscape on Oct. 5.

A link to register for the Alabama Baptist Mission Board’s webinar can be found here.

Love will be speaking at the Alabama webinar, and said he is grateful for the state’s continued partnership.

During the training he will address two specific areas of concern that the pandemic brought about. Many of the current risks regarding sexual abuse have resulted from children spending more time at home and more time using technology, he said.

It’s important for ministries to know the pros and cons that come with specific technology and the use of certain apps, such as Snapchat, online gaming and other social media apps, Love said.

Many of these apps are great for communicating with students remotely, but Love highlighted the danger than can come with certain apps and games as they can give predators the opportunity to private message students or communicate in ways that are not out in the open.

In light of kids spending more time at home, Love said “most children are victimized in their core world,” that is, by a relative or someone they know.

Because a lot of schooling and church ministry has taken place online over the past 18 months, Love said children have not been able to spend time around other adults outside of their homes, who are often the ones to notice the first signs abuse is taking place.

These new problems are areas Love said churches must be aware of to know how to respond appropriately.

“The problem (of sexual abuse) is ongoing but now has new challenges, and one of those challenges relates to how predators have adapted to the changes faster than we’ve adapted in prevention,” Love said. “We just can’t believe that safety is important until there’s a pandemic, we need to understand that we modify things given our circumstances.

“If we’re going to modify our programs, then we need to know how to address the risks that now exist with those programs. Find out which of these applications you are using and then find out what are the weaknesses of these applications, and if the risks outweigh the benefits of the communication offered.”

Love said MinistrySafe’s purpose is working with different churches and organizations to explain how these new abuse challenges should affect their prevention training, their insurance information and how to provide an overall safe environment for children. The non-profit is also working on updating its video training to include topics related to changes resulting from COVID-19.

He expressed gratitude for churches trying to stay informed and prepared.

“We’ll break down these concepts and then put it right in front of them to let them know exactly what that means to you and what you do about it,” Love said. “Relationship is the foundation of discipleship, and the church is supposed to be the safest place on the planet, but we’re never going to accidentally get this (abuse prevention) right.

“I appreciate the Alabama Baptist Convention and many other groups that they would trust us to be able to unpack this information and I’m glad they’ve made it a priority.”

Int’l ministry requests prayer for Afghanistan’s Christians, who ‘must flee’ or ‘risk being killed’

International human rights ministries are urging Christians around the world to pray for Afghan believers who now face potential persecution following U.S. withdrawal from the country.

Afghanistan is home to an estimated 8,000 to 12,000 Christians—most of whom are converts from Islam and could become targets of the Taliban, according to International Christian Concern. The Taliban’s strict Muslim ideology requires punishment—often, death—for converts.

“In many cases, known Christians must flee Afghanistan or risk being killed,” ICC reported.   

The Voice of the Martyrs issued a prayer guide with six specific requests for Afghanistan’s Christians:

  • Pray for God’s protection. “The situation on the ground is fluid right now. Pray for God’s protection over his people,” Voice of the Martyrs said. 
  • Pray for wisdom. “Ask God to bless our brothers and sisters with discernment as they decide whether to stay or go and even with whom they should talk.”
  • Pray for fellowship. “Pray that God will help each Afghan believer to connect and fellowship with at least one other believer in person, by phone or through some other technology.” For safety reasons, many Christians in Afghanistan often keep their faith a secret. 
  • Pray for safe passage. “Pray that God will provide safe passage to those who feel led by God to leave Afghanistan and provide for their immediate needs in their new location.”
  • Pray that Muslims will be saved. “As Muslims in Afghanistan see this cruel face of Islam, pray that they will be drawn to Jesus Christ, the shepherd Savior who doesn’t oppress but instead chose to lay down his life for his sheep.”
  • Pray for Christians trying to help. “Pray for the wisdom of front-line workers and pray that God will open new pathways for them to continue their work under Taliban control.” 

—Voice of the Martyrs, International Christian Concern

FIRST-PERSON: Why a pastor should pastor his children first

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).

I’ve heard it said that a new father has lots of opinions and no experience, and one with grown children has lots of experience and few opinions. My oldest child is 10, so I suppose I’m halfway there. Some days it seems the only sign of accumulating experience is that my confidence about how to parent steadily drains away.

For me, in being both a pastor and a father, an unnervingly common experience is having no idea what to do. To a married couple locked in years-long trench warfare, what can I say that will not trigger a landmine? At home, a property dispute breaks out over which small human may legitimately claim this Lego figure or that half of the couch. Each makes a seemingly airtight case. Your move, Dad.

Parenting and character training 

Scripture’s instructions to fathers are simple, but that does not make them easy. “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:6–7).

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). The charge is clear: disciple your kids.

Parents and pastors have the same mission, though their starting points and contexts differ. The business of both is making disciples. And one of the best ways you can prepare to pastor and grow as a pastor is by pastoring your children.

If you are married, desire to be a pastor, do not yet have children, and are actively putting off having children, you might want to rethink the logic of that position. Especially if you are putting off children so that you can prepare for ministry. I am not laying this down as an ironclad rule. My “might” three sentences back is genuine; exceptions exist. If you move to seminary at 22 years old, newly married, with a wife who is willing to support you financially for a time, it might be good stewardship to seek to delay children for that season, or part of it. If you do, watch out for the burdens that will lay on your wife. Still, in general and all things being equal, a man who is a father is more ready to pastor than a man who is not. Of course, the equation differs for couples who struggle with infertility, which is its own test of a man’s ability to shepherd.

Parenting enrolls you in full-time training for your character and competence as a leader.

Before I became a father, I would not have said I have a problem with anger. Raising four children has disabused me of that illusion. I am not naturally a patient person, and I would not say that prior to having children I had made any great progress in the virtue. How patient am I now? Who knows. Not as patient as I should be. But if I now have at least a small flour-sack of patience in the pantry of my character, most of it has been ground, grain by grain, by the millstone of parenting. As for competence as a leader, being a father requires you to provide, protect, oversee, manage, mediate, reconcile, teach, train, model, explain, and correct – and that’s just in the hour before bed.

Like pastoring, parenting is a weight you can never fully shrug off. Like pastoring, parenting requires you to enter into experiences that differ drastically from yours, and to bear emotional burdens that would otherwise remain remote. Like pastoring, parenting plugs you into all the high highs and low lows of lives other than your own. Parenting at once shrinks your world and vastly expands it. Children change you in ways you did not know you needed to be changed.

Like church members, children have eagle eyes for inconsistency and hypocrisy. Like church members, children are far more likely to do what you do than do what you say. As James Baldwin wrote, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”1

Discipling your children

How can you pastor your children?

Continually teach them God’s Word. Lead them in family devotions. Short, frequent, and flexible is better than idealistic and inconsistent. Over the years, our family’s approach has steadily morphed. We started with story Bibles, memory verses, and children’s catechisms. We have memorized short psalms and longer chapters of Scripture. Over the past few years, we have focused on simply reading Scripture sequentially, followed sometimes by brief discussion, and more regularly by prayer based on the passage. Sometimes, the older children and Kristin and I take turns reading and praying aloud; often, I simply lead both. If we have time, we sing a verse or two of a hymn.

We have found that breakfast offers the most regular window for our main time of family worship. Our kids tend to be fresher and calmer at breakfast than they are at bedtime. For at least a few minutes while they eat, they are a captive audience. And ministry obligations virtually never pressure our breakfast window, whereas they often compress our evenings. My point is not to say you should do what we do, but simply to get your wheels turning. When it comes to family devotions, just about anything is better than nothing.

Finally, attend to your children individually. Learn their temperaments, tendencies, and typical temptations. Convert your knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses into compassion. “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13–14). Learn to adapt your counsel to their constitutions. As much as you can, as often as you can, give each of them your undivided, delighted attention. Learn to love what they love because you love them.

One wise father of several grown children recently told me that, when his kids were growing up, he wanted his attitude toward each of them, and the quality of time he spent with them, to convince each of them that they were his favorite.

Bobby Jamieson (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) serves as an associate pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. Content adapted from The Path to Being a Pastor by Bobby Jamieson ©2021. Used by permission of Crossway.

Stacy Bramlett elected SBC Executive Committee vice chair

NASHVILLE (BP) – Stacy Bramlett, a banking executive in her second term on the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, doesn’t take lightly her election Monday (Sept. 20) as EC vice chair. She sought God’s counsel even before accepting the nomination.

“In just praying through this when I was asked if I would be willing to be nominated and just seeking godly counsel and knowing that, God just led me to Esther 4 where He said ‘for such a time as this,’” Bramlett said today (Sept. 23). “I truly believe this is what God has called me to.

“God doesn’t always call us to the easy. But my desire is to be obedient and to be in the center of God’s will,” she said. “I’m very honored to be elected to serve as vice chair. I think it is a tremendous responsibility.”

Bramlett serves as the SBC is addressing various issues including race relations and sexual abuse. She served as the first chair of the Credentials Committee in 2019 when it was repurposed to receive complaints related to those very issues. She said her former leadership of the Credentials Committee gives her valuable insight.

“Listening to survivors’ stories has touched my life in a way that few experiences have. It has changed who I am as a follower of Christ,” she said. “I see those survivors now. It’s changed who I am as a parent. It’s changed who I am as a church member, just the heightened sensitivity to making sure that the church that I belong to, that we do everything we can to make sure that it is a safe place and that we care well.”

She serves alongside EC Chair Rolland Slade, who said he is excited by her election.

“I have worked with her during my time on the Executive Committee and have always found her to be focused on honoring the Lord. She is a committed follower of Christ and importantly a prayer warrior,” said Slade, senior pastor of Meridian Baptist Church in El Cajon, Calif. “We have served together on the CP (Cooperative Program) Committee when I was chair, then as officers when she was elected secretary.”

Richard W. Spring, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Hesperia, Calif., nominated Bramlett for the post that became vacant June 16 when messengers to the SBC 2021 Annual Meeting declined to appoint South Carolina Pastor Tom Tucker to another term on the EC. He had been elected EC vice chair June 14, but with his EC term expiring, the election was moot.

Bramlett has worked in the banking industry 39 years, currently as senior vice president of Independent Bank in Collierville, Tenn., where she manages the mortgage division.

She has served on the EC since 2016, including a term as EC secretary from 2017-2019.

Bramlett is an active member of Collierville First Baptist Church, where she has taught Sunday School and served on the finance committee, personnel committee, building finance committee, worship team and choir.

She and her husband Andy live in Memphis and have two adult sons.

No task is too big for God, says Esperanza First Del Rio

DEL RIOWhat one woman interviewed by national media called a border, humanitarian, health and security crisis, some at Esperanza First Del Rio church call “heart-wrenching.”

The influx of illegal immigrants to Del Rio also is an opportunity to share God’s love, Jim Wilson told the TEXAN. He’s pastor of the 2005 Esperanza church plant that in 2018 merged with the congregation of First Baptist.

“There are two things going on here,” Wilson said. “About three years ago, about 150 people a day were coming through Del Rio. City leaders called a meeting and asked pastors for a solution for processing people.”

The city provided a facility. Members of the 40-plus churches in the town of 35,000—including Esperanza First—provided food, supplies, showers, and bus transportation as well as helping the migrants locate friends or relatives elsewhere in the United States.

“Very few needed money,” Wilson said.

While that ministry continues, the situation has drastically changed since Sept. 8, when President Biden announced he would no longer be deporting Haitian refugees. Word spread quickly. Nearly 15,000 illegal immigrants in less than two weeks have crossed the Rio Grande River and found shelter from summer temperatures under the International Bridge that joins Del Rio, Texas, U.S., with Ciudad Acuna, Coahuila, Mexico.

Local law enforcement, with ranks swelled by sheriff’s deputies, National Guard and state police, work to contain the illegal immigrants under the bridge, maintain order and provide food, water, sanitation and medical care.

In some cases, yellow tape and a line of law enforcement personnel and their vehicles are all separating the illegal immigrants from townspeople. Elsewhere there is chain-link fencing.

“I have several members who are border control agents,” Wilson said. “They’ll call when they’ve had a particularly bad day after trying to help people while maintaining the law.

Patrol cars line up as agents help contain the influx of illegal Haitian migrants now in "no man's land" under the international bridge at the Del Rio/Ciudad Acuna border between Texas and Mexico.

“We just need a lot of prayer. It’s a dilemma for Christians who just want to help people.”

Jim Wilson, Esperanza First Del Rio Tweet

“We just need a lot of prayer,” the pastor continued. “It’s a dilemma for Christians who just want to help people.”

While the illegal mmigrants come from many countries, the majority are from Haiti, officials say.

Haiti, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, experienced a massive earthquake in 2010 that killed more than 200,000 and left at least 1.5 million homeless.

The United Nations sent in Peacekeepers after the earthquake destroyed the island nation’s infrastructure. Cholera came with the Peacekeepers, a disease new to Haiti. Not until 2016 did the U.N. apologize for bringing in cholera. News reports said the lack of compensation for the deaths added to financial uncertainties.

The category 4 Hurricane Matthew, Oct. 4, 2016, killed nearly 600 people and brought new devastation to the nation still under siege from the massive earthquake six years before. Haiti was hit with a different kind of event on July 7 when its president, Jovenel Moise, was assassinated.

Even as Southern Baptists and others streamed to Haiti to help after each of these events, Haitians who could, found ways to stream away, mostly by boat to Brazil. From there, the Haitians mostly made their way plodding southwest to Chile or northwest to Honduras.

There they stayed, some since 2016, until word spread in early September that the door to the “Promised Land”—the U.S.—was now open.

Southern Baptist and other Christian aid groups have been told they can’t set up disaster relief food, shower or childcare units because of the geography. There’s no room under the bridge, and law enforcement outside the bridge barriers are stretched too thin to maintain control, Wilson explained.

“The Haitians are in no man’s land. They can’t go back through Mexico [to Chile or Honduras] and they can’t go forward [into the rest of the U.S.],” the pastor said. “The situation has resulted in so many visiting law enforcement agents that there’s nowhere for [the agents] to sleep, so we have offered our dorms to them.”

Esperanza First has men’s and women’s dorms built for mission teams on the way to and from Mexico, which the church has opened to law enforcement.

“Now the focus is making sure law enforcement is fed and has drinks.” Wilson said. “We do whatever we can to help.”

“Our desire is to lead to Christ the people God puts before us, whether they’re people in the community, people wanting to come to America, or people charged with protection,” the pastor continued. “We want them to know everything we do, we do to the glory of the Lord.”

“Our desire is to lead to Christ the people God puts before us, whether they’re people in the community, people wanting to come to America, or people charged with protection.”

But God …

I remember it like it was yesterday. The pastor of the church that my family was a part of while in Colorado was called to a new ministry. I was asked to do much of the preaching during the interim time. 

The day came in March 2020, when we had to quickly shift to online church only. COVID-19 was making its rounds in communities across the state. I will never forget it. As I gazed into the lens of the camera trying to give calming and hopeful words, internally I was wondering how the world had found itself in this situation. Who would have thought that as advanced as we are in technology, medicine and communication, something like COVID would have turned the world upside down? 

The next few weeks and months proved difficult for so many families, churches and communities. Many lost loved ones, some were laid off work; all had to get used to new rhythms and adjust to what seemed to be a new normal. In many ways, the pandemic changed the world.

But God…

In the midst of so much uncertainty and chaos, one thing that certainly never changed is the faithfulness of God. While lives were and continue to be altered, the sure thing that we can always place our hope and trust in is the Lord’s goodness to us. 

Throughout the story of the Bible, we see many instances of difficulties, heartache, disappointment and obstacles. However, in most of those stories we also see “but God” moments. When all hope seemed lost, God would step in and put his faithfulness and glory on full display. As believers, we must read those stories and be reminded of God’s character.

In life, we will face tremendous challenges and pain, yet we have to believe that God is still fully capable of creating “but God” moments. His glory shines brighter coming out of the dark days.

This is the theme of this year’s SBTC Annual Meeting: “But God.” While we all know how difficult the last couple of years have been, we want to celebrate those moments in which God moved in the midst of the crisis. In early November, you will have the opportunity to hear from people all across Texas who have experienced “but God” moments in their lives. The annual meeting will be an incredible time to be together and celebrate the faithfulness of God. 

The evening session on Monday will constitute a unique time of honoring the past with an exciting look toward the future. I will have the distinct honor of following my hero and mentor as we will both preach messages to kick off the 2021 annual meeting. Dr. Richards will open the night and I will follow later. The evening will symbolize the “handing off of the baton” of 23 years of faithful ministry as we look enthusiastically to build on this strong foundation working to reach the current and coming generations of Texans. 

On Tuesday we will hear great messages throughout the day, including one from our president, Kie Bowman. Most of our business will happen in the afternoon session on Tuesday. Though the time of business may not seem as exciting as times of worship, it is important for our messengers to hear how God is using the SBTC to serve churches. In addition, it’s an opportunity to make decisions as a united body on issues that are important to Southern Baptists.

I know many people are busy and sometimes must leave during the day on Tuesday. However, I want to make a personal plea for you to stay and participate in our Tuesday evening prayer gathering. It is going to be an incredible time of corporate prayer with worship led by Matt Boswell. We need to unite in prayer for a movement of God like never before. I promise you will be blessed by being a part of it. It is crucial for us to go before our God together in prayer. Please make plans to stay and pray.

We are so grateful for you. It is the joy of the SBTC to serve you and see how God is using you. I believe God is going to meet with us at our annual meeting, and I can’t wait to see you. I love you and am honored to serve you.  

Meet us in Flint

When Sam DeVille went to Flint Baptist Church as pastor in 1996, it was a small congregation of a few families. Today, it’s a large, mission-minded, evangelistic, praying church reaching East Texas and far beyond. The church is now lodged in beautiful new facilities perfect to host the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention in November.

We all need this time together to do the business of the convention, renew our relationships across the state, experience deep worship in the presence of God, celebrate the victories of the past and hear powerful challenges about the years to come.

The meeting this year will be historic. Following last year’s annual meeting in Austin, Dr. Jim Richards announced his intention to begin the transition to his successor as executive director of the SBTC. A nationwide search led us to one of our own: Dr. Nathan Lorick, who was then the state executive in Colorado but who had deep roots in the SBTC. 

In February, the board issued a unanimous call to Dr. Lorick. In the months since, the SBTC has embraced Dr. Lorick and his vision of evangelism, church planting, prayer and much more for the future. So, this historic convention in Flint will witness a significant moment in time: the passing of the baton from the first generation of SBTC leadership to the next.

The theme of this year’s meeting, “But God,” is a reminder to all of us that personal transitions, global pandemics, the shifting sands of a changing culture and all of the challenges of leadership today could potentially hinder us—But God! Almighty God is the “uncommon denominator” who, when he steps in, immediately changes the outlook from the impossible to “we can do this!” And together, we can do everything God calls us to do.

Join us in Flint. Highlights will include the following:

  • A dinner honoring Dr. and Mrs. Richards
  • Messages from Dr. Richards and Dr. Lorick and others
  • The Spanish language session
  • The election of new officers

Additionally, there will be panels to discuss evangelism, prayer, caring for our own souls; a young pastors panel, and an incredible prayer and worship gathering Tuesday night.

God has given us a great convention (the best in the SBC) and this year’s annual meeting will be one you will not want to miss.

Put November 8-9 on your calendar and meet us in Flint! 

Caring Well offers resource to pastors, church leaders

NASHVILLE (BP) – The effort to prevent sexual abuse and to care for its survivors within Southern Baptist churches continues three years after it began even as examinations of the SBC Executive Committee and the Convention have been approved by separate boards of trustees.

Caring Well is an umbrella term for the multi-faceted endeavor to respond properly to reports of abuse among Southern Baptist churches and entities. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and the Sexual Abuse Advisory Group (SAAG), which was established by then-SBC President J.D. Greear, have collaborated on the initiative since it started in 2018.

After three years, the attempt to help survivors, pastors and churches is ongoing through consultations and a variety of resources, the ERLC reported.

Meanwhile, the Executive Committee’s trustees voted Oct. 5 to waive attorney-client privilege for an independent, third-party investigation of the committee regarding its handling of such matters as sex abuse allegations and mistreatment of victims. The review, called for in an overwhelming vote by messengers to the SBC’s annual meeting in June, is underway, a spokesman for the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force said Thursday (Oct. 7).

The ERLC’s trustees voted Sept. 15 to commit the entity to engage an outside organization for a three-year assessment of sex abuse in the Convention. The trustees also passed a motion to set aside $250,000 as an initial commitment for the audit. The actions came in response to a motion referred to the ERLC at this year’s SBC meeting. The ERLC is developing strategies for designing the assessment, which will require approval by the trustees, a staff member said.

“The scourge of sexual abuse continues to plague our society,” said Brent Leatherwood, the ERLC’s acting president, in written comments. “And we know our churches are not immune from it. It grieves the very heart of God. That is why we launched the Caring Well initiative.

“Through a challenge that churches can engage, curriculum that equips individuals and guides that promote best practices, we believe a solid foundation has been laid to make our churches safe from abuse and safe for survivors. But we know more must be done, and we are grateful messengers to the 2021 annual meeting emphatically said so.

“With that clear direction, we are committed to not only redoubling our Caring Well efforts, but partnering with churches in the years ahead to fully assess the scope of abuse so that we may understand it, confront it and end it. For far too long, survivors have been ignored and marginalized. Our hope is that by carrying out this work it will finally show the honor for their courage and bravery in coming forward that has been long overdue.”

The most recent year of Caring Well’s ministry, ERLC staff members said, has included conversations with pastors about handling abuse situations in churches, some from many years earlier. It also has consisted of seeking to provide care for abuse survivors, referring pastors and others to experts who can provide appropriate counsel and offering resources from the more than 170 that have been produced through the partnership of the ERLC and SAAG. Additional resources are planned, a staff member said.

Resources already produced by the SAAG and ERLC are largely available at https://caringwell.com and include:

The Caring Well Challenge, a year-long, eight-step effort to assist churches in being safe for survivors and in preventing abuse. Its elements include forming and training a Caring Well team to guide a church’s effort, equipping the congregation’s leaders and revising policies and procedures to prevent abuse. More than 1,000 churches have participated in the challenge.
“Becoming a Church That Cares Well for the Abused,” a free, 12-lesson, multimedia curriculum published by Lifeway Christian Resources. The curriculum, which can be accessed at churchcares.com, features training from long-time specialists in providing care for survivors. More than 4,100 churches have assigned it to staff and volunteers through Lifeway’s Ministry Grid.
The ERLC’s 2019 national conference, “Caring Well: Equipping the Church to Confront the Abuse Crisis.” More than 1,300 people attended, and many others watched by live stream. Twenty-six videos of the conference sessions are available at erlc.com/caringwell.
The winter 2020 issue of Light Magazine, which includes articles by abuse survivors and addresses such issues as providing ongoing care for survivors, recognizing signs of grooming and talking to children about sex abuse. It is available at erlc.com.

Resources produced by the ERLC and SAAG during their three-year partnership also have included a 52-page report from the advisory group to the SBC shortly before the 2019 meeting, an introductory guide to Caring Well, a hiring guide and articles during the COVID-19 pandemic about the increase in domestic and sexual abuse. SAAG made a presentation to SBC messengers in 2019 and co-hosted with the ERLC a panel discussion regarding sex abuse on the eve of that meeting.

The ERLC and SAAG began their collaboration when Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area, formed the fluid study group shortly after his first election as SBC president in 2018. In cooperation with the ERLC, the group received input from hundreds of people, including abuse survivors and their advocates, pastors, law enforcement officials, counselors, denominational leaders and lawyers.

Sex abuse already was a significant issue in the SBC, but an ongoing investigative series by the Houston Chronicle, joined by the San Antonio Express-News, that began in early 2019 revealed further some of the extent of the problem in the Convention and its churches. The initial articles in the series found 220 pastors and other leaders in Southern Baptist churches who had been convicted of or taken plea deals in sex crimes involving more than 700 victims. More abusers have been reported since then.