Month: October 2021

NAMB trustees celebrate record Annie Offering, ministry growth in Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH — Trustees for the North American Mission Board (NAMB) had much to celebrate in their meetings that took place Oct. 4-5. Their time in Pittsburgh started with a vision tour that included visits with church planters and the city’s Send Relief Ministry Center. Then, Monday evening, the group gathered for a celebration dinner and heard the news that in 2021, Southern Baptists gave a record high amount to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering®.

North American Mission Board (NAMB) president Kevin Ezell shares news with NAMB trustees that the 2021 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® for North American Missions reached a record high. NAMB trustees met Oct. 4-5 in Pittsburgh for their regularly scheduled fall meetings. Photo by Alexandra Toy.

“The hard part about this year is we didn’t really know exactly what to expect,” Ezell told trustees, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic and other unrest. “But thank goodness, Southern Baptists love their missionaries and give sacrificially, and that’s why it’s humbling and with a great sense of gratitude that we can share the total this year is $66.5 million.”

The 2021 offering represented an 8 percent gain over 2019’s record total of $61.6 million and a 22 percent increase from the $54.3 million Southern Baptist’s gave in 2010. The offering is spent in the year it is given and all of it goes to support missionaries and ministry on the field.

On their vision tour earlier in the day, trustees heard church planters share some of the challenges of ministry outside the Bible Belt. Recruiting church planters has been a challenge, with some lean years in the mid-2010’s. But in 2019 Rob Wilton came to the city to plant Vintage Church Pittsburgh and serve as NAMB’s Send City Missionary there. In the last three years, Pittsburgh’s church plant count has grown to 14 with a goal of having 25 plants by 2025.

“Of all our 32 Send Cities, Pittsburgh was the most challenging,” Ezell told trustees Monday night. “We couldn’t figure out why because it’s beautiful and has a great history. We had eight plants at one point and went down to four, and we needed a pastor to focus on this city.”

That pastor ended up being George Wright, who led Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C., at the time. Wright joined Ezell to talk about planting efforts in Pittsburgh. Although it was established in 1907, Shandon had never planted a church out of its congregation.

During their Oct. 4-5 meeting in Pittsburgh, trustees with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) heard reports from church planting missionaries about ministry work in the city. Here, Pittsburgh city missionary Rob Wilton, who is planting Vintage Church Pittsburgh, shares with trustees. Photo by Alexandra Toy.

“There was a great culture of generosity and giving to the mission, but not a culture of going,” Wright said. “We heard there was a need in Pittsburgh and came up here and saw there was a tremendous opportunity. It changed our culture in a major way. We sent a whole group of people here to plant. That led to some incredible stories of God at work that Shandon didn’t really experience before.”

Wright has led vision tours in Pittsburgh with other pastors as he recruits additional churches to support the work in Pittsburgh. Eventually, 23 people came from Shandon to plant the church. After a strong launch, the plant soon faced a leadership crisis.

Ezell said having a strong sending church like Shandon made all the difference.

“What I so appreciate is that George and Shandon were all about planting a church, not planting a planter,” Ezell said. “They said, ‘We are all in with Pittsburgh, with or without the person who we thought was going to lead it.’”

Wright sees his involvement in Pittsburgh as practicing good stewardship.

At a dinner attended by North American Mission Board trustees, church planters and staff, George Wright, left, shares about his church’s involvement as a sending church in Pittsburgh: “We have to be involved in a city where it is a challenge,” Wright said, “because the Lord has entrusted us with a lot of great blessings, and they are not to stay with us.” Wright is senior pastor of Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. He formerly pastored Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C., and led them to plant a church in Pittsburgh. Trustees for the North American Mission Board met Oct. 4-5 in Pittsburgh for their regularly scheduled fall meetings. Photo by Alexandra Toy.

“As a pastor who has received a lot of great blessings from pastoring in the South, I feel a sense of responsibility,” said Wright. “We have to be involved in a city where it is a challenge because the Lord has entrusted us with a lot of great blessings, and they are not to stay with us.”

Wright now serves as senior pastor of Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.

Expanded Focus for Send Relief

At NAMB’s full board meeting on Tuesday afternoon, Tanya York, a member of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky., and chairperson of NAMB’s Send Relief committee, said Send Relief is expanding its Children and Families emphasis so it will now include ministry to protect human life and dignity from conception to death.

“This will start with crisis pregnancy and go all the way up through the aging and elderly,” York said.

Ezell said Send Relief will focus on the ministry side of protecting life while the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission will continue to advocate on the political and policy side.

“We need to come alongside young ladies who are walking through that and minister to them,” Ezell said. “Shame on us if we just preach something and don’t actually put a hand out to meet a need and help change a life.”

Other highlights from the meeting included:

NAMB’s Chaplain Commission reported that Southern Baptist chaplains are seeing strong salvation numbers despite ongoing challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the end of 2021’s second quarter, chaplains reported 45,470 gospel presentations with 5,137 professions of faith and 854 baptisms.
Trustees unanimously approved a Fiscal Year 2022 operating budget of $122.8 million. The budget reflects a return to pre-COVID-19 levels.
Two trustees who are leaving the board because of location changes were recognized for their years of service. Jon Anderson, who served from the Maryland-Delaware Baptist Convention, has relocated to Maine. Randy Bradley, who served from South Carolina, is retiring as an associational mission strategist and deploying to the mission field with the International Mission Board in early 2022. Ezell thanked both men for their years of leadership on the board.

Ezell closed the meeting with a call to stay focused on NAMB’s ultimate mission.

“We need to go back up to 30,000 feet and remind ourselves that it’s all about planting churches everywhere for everyone, whether it is in an urban area or a rural area,” Ezell told trustees. “It’s about meeting needs and changing lives everywhere through Send Relief. And ultimately, it’s all about the gospel. I don’t want to ever take for granted the opportunities we have that God gives us. What an incredible opportunity that God lets us do this.”

Floyd resigns as leader of SBC Executive Committee

NASHVILLE (BP) – Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, announced his resignation Thursday night (Oct. 14) in a letter to Southern Baptists released by email.

Floyd pointed to the decisions made by trustees in a special called meeting on October 5 as the basis for his decision. “The decisions made on Tuesday afternoon, October 5, in response to the 2021 Convention now place our missionary enterprise as Southern Baptists into uncertain, unknown, unprecedented and uncharted waters,” said Floyd.

Citing his fiduciary responsibilities as president and CEO, Floyd said, “Due to my personal integrity and the leadership responsibility entrusted to me, I will not and cannot any longer fulfill the duties placed upon me as the leader of the executive, fiscal, and fiduciary entity of the SBC.

“In the midst of deep disappointment and discouragement, we have to make this decision by our own choice and do so willingly, because there is no other decision for me to make,” he said.

Rolland Slade, chairman of the SBC EC, reacted to Floyd’s resignation, “I am saddened by his resignation. He’s had a tremendous ministry for years and years. I know he loves Southern Baptists. I know it was his intention to come to Nashville to serve Southern Baptists well and I believe he’s fulfilled that to the best of his ability. However, I understand the vote of the committee put him in a very difficult position.”

On Oct. 5, EC trustees voted to waive attorney client privilege related to the independent third-party investigation of the possible mishandling of sex abuse cases. Messengers at the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting mandated the investigation with the terms and scope of the investigation.

On Sept. 21, trustees allocated up to $1.6 million in Cooperative Program funds to pay for the investigation. Trustees also voted to engage in the contract with Guidepost Solutions, a New York based investigative firm, to handle the independent investigation.

Messengers tasked SBC President Ed Litton with forming a Sexual Abuse Task Force to oversee the investigation.

The SBC EC’s longtime legal counsel, Guenther, Jordan and Price, withdrew from representing the board on Oct. 11.

In a letter sent to Floyd, the firm wrote, “Until now, a decision by the Board to waive attorney-client privilege was not reasonably foreseeable. However, going forward we can no longer assure Executive Committee and Convention personnel with whom we work that the privacy of their communications with their lawyers will be secure.”

SBC President Ed Litton said, “The issues before the Executive Committee were indeed complex, and it remains true that good people came to different conclusions about the various issues set before them. While I was grateful for the outcome of last week’s Executive Committee meeting, I regret that Dr. Floyd and other trustees feel that this has placed them in a position where they can no longer continue to serve in their current capacities.”

Floyd began his tenure as president in May 2019, just months after a report was published by the Houston Chronicle on sexual abuse in the SBC. He worked with EC chairman Mike Stone and SBC president on the creation and implementation of a repurposed Credentials Committee for the Convention to provide an avenue for the Convention to disfellowship churches who poorly handle sex abuse, exhibit racism, and hold to doctrine that does not align with the Convention’s confession of faith, the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, or violate its governing documents.

During his tenure as EC president, Floyd navigated several crises including the cancellation of the 2020 SBC Annual Meeting due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a time of racial unrest in America following the murder of George Floyd. Now his departure after less than 30 months at the helm means the Executive Committee will now look to fill its presidency for the second time in three years—something foreign to an organization which has had only seven men fill that role in its 104-year history.

Prior to coming to the EC, Floyd pastored several churches across Texas until he moved to First Baptist Church of Springdale, Ark. (now Cross Church), in 1986 where he pastored for more than 32 years before his stint at the Executive Committee. Throughout his career, Floyd has been active in Southern Baptist life and other interdenominational ministries including serving as president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force and two terms as SBC president (2014-2016).

“I was a pastor for over forty years. My entire life has been devoted to serving Christ and His people. The thought of any sexual abuse done to anyone abhors me. As a husband, father, and grandfather of seven, I deeply care about the protection of all people,” said Floyd.

In the letter, Floyd conveyed deep confidence in the staff of the Executive Committee, “Every Executive Committee staff member who is serving with me, along with trustees that I know, has been united in our desire to care for people while at the same time doing what we have been asked to do by the Convention. One of the most grievous things for me personally has been the attacks on myself and the trustees as if we are people who only care about ‘the system.” Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Floyd said he would remain in the leadership role until October 31. An interim president of the SBC Executive Committee has not yet been named.

“Through the end of this month, I will ensure our team is ready to complete the matters that will accomplish the will of this Convention,” said Floyd.

“I urge all Southern Baptists to pray for Dr. Floyd and his precious wife, Jeana, as they enter their next phase of life and ministry,” Litton said.

According to the SBC EC bylaws, a seven-member search committee will be formed to begin the search for a new president. Six of the members will be the existing trustees who receive the highest number of votes to serve on the committee. The seventh member will be chairperson of the board who will act as an ex-officio member.

“We are not going to rush into anything. Going forward we have to make sure we’re fulfilling the bylaws. It’s going to be difficult because we’ve lost our general counsel who we would typically turn to for guidance,” said Slade.


Dear SBC Executive Committee Trustees and SBC Family,

I was planning to release this letter on Monday, October 11; however, I delayed the publishing of this letter until today, due to the death of my mother-in-law on Sunday and then the funeral which took place on Wednesday afternoon in Bridgeport Texas, October 13.

After serving as the senior pastor of the same church for over thirty-two years, I came here twenty-eight months ago in good faith because I believed in what we do together to advance the Good News of Jesus Christ to the whole world. It was this personal and pastoral commitment to the Great Commission vision that moved me to lead my church to invest heavily in the Cooperative Program and the ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The Bible tells us in Psalm 90:12 these words, “Teach us to number our days carefully so we may develop wisdom in our hearts.” We are told these words because each of our days are limited and we must determine how we believe God wants us to use them for His glory.

While Jeana and I have no idea where we are going and what we will do in the future, today I submit my resignation as the President and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. I will serve through Sunday, October 31, 2021.

In the midst of multiple challenges facing the SBC, I was asked to come here because of my proven personal integrity, reputation, and leadership. What was desired to be leveraged for the advancement of the Gospel by those who called me here, I will not jeopardize any longer because of serving in this role.

As President and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, I have fiduciary duties. The decisions made on Tuesday afternoon, October 5, in response to the 2021 Convention now place our missionary enterprise as Southern Baptists into uncertain, unknown, unprecedented and uncharted waters. Due to my personal integrity and the leadership responsibility entrusted to me, I will not and cannot any longer fulfill the duties placed upon me as the leader of the executive, fiscal, and fiduciary entity of the SBC. In the midst of deep disappointment and discouragement, we have to make this decision by our own choice and do so willingly, because there is no other decision for me to make.

Our SBC Executive Committee has had an unwavering commitment to doing this needed review. Our commitment has always been to fulfill the desires of the messengers, but the deliberations were about
“how to do this” in the most effective way. There was a way it could have been done that fulfilled these desires without creating these potential risks relating to the Convention’s liability. Sadly, even some of our laypeople who are serving as our trustees had to submit their resignation because their profession will not permit them to serve any longer due to these risks that now exist. Others will have to do the same also. This is unacceptable and should concern every Baptist layperson. The SBC entities need more laypersons, not less, who bring their professional expertise in law, finance, and other disciplines to us.

I was a pastor for over forty years. My entire life has been devoted to serving Christ and His people. The thought of any sexual abuse done to anyone abhors me. As a husband, father, and grandfather of seven, I deeply care about the protection of all people. Every Executive Committee staff member who is serving with me, along with trustees that I know, has been united in our desire to care for people while at the same time doing what we have been asked to do by the Convention. One of the most grievous things for me personally has been the attacks on myself and the trustees as if we are people who only care about “the system.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Through the end of this month, I will ensure our team is ready to complete the matters that will accomplish the will of this Convention. I will also continue to carry out my ongoing responsibilities.

We love Southern Baptists and will continue to love you and the mission we do together. As the Treasurer of the SBC, it is a privilege to announce to you this week, that over $702.6 million dollars have been given this past fiscal year through our Total Cooperative Program Giving, Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions. This generosity has occurred over these past twelve months as we have each navigated through this global pandemic.

As I walk away from these responsibilities that I have cherished and still cherish today, I know we have been faithful to champion the work we do together in the Great Commission and through the Cooperative Program. We have also led our Convention to adopt Vision 2025, a unified Great Commission vision. We have also led our team to prepare and serve the largest SBC Annual Meeting in decades. Furthermore, we have led our Convention to amend our SBC Constitution declaring that churches will no longer be in friendly cooperation with us who are acting in a manner inconsistent with the Convention’s beliefs regarding sexual abuse and even others who may be acting to affirm, approve, or endorse discriminatory behavior on the basis of ethnicity. These actions will endure the test of time because they are now in the governing documents of our Convention. We have led our Convention to grant to our SBC Executive Committee the national ministry assignment to elevate the ministry of prayer in our churches. This is desperately needed, and it was my desire to do it in the highest manner.

To our staff team and trustees, as well as all of our partners in the Great Commission, we love you and thank you for this high honor to have served you. To all of the pastors and to all of the churches, and the missionaries across the globe, I have been faithful to your causes daily and have always had you in my heart as I weighed the heavy decisions that came across my desk.

May God and His favor continue to rest on all of our Great Commission work together.

Ronnie W. Floyd

Annual Meeting panels to discuss prayer, post-COVID ministry

FLINT—When Baptists gather, food and fellowship follow. The 2021 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention at Flint Baptist Church, just south of Tyler, should prove to be no exception as attendees will have ample time to enjoy Texas cuisine and friendly conversation.

Even before the main events, the Spanish session of the annual meeting will feature a luncheon Mon., Nov. 8, from 12-2 p.m. at Flint Baptist. The event will include a panel discussion on the persecution of the church in the U.S. featuring Joshua Del Risco, George Levant and Rafael Rondón.

Monday evening’s events will commence at 4:45 p.m. with an outdoor steak dinner honoring June and Jim Richards. Space is limited so attendees are encouraged to reserve their spots soon. Nathan and Jenna Lorick will be feted at a reception following Monday night’s program.

Messengers and guests will enjoy breakfast tacos at the church prepared by SBTC DR volunteers under the direction of Scottie Stice on Tues., Nov. 9. Others may choose to attend the alumni breakfasts hosted by Criswell College, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

At noon Tuesday, attendees will pick up their lunches and enjoy two breakout sessions of presidential panel discussions, with the audiences shifting spots and the panelists remaining in place.

Breakout session 1 will be from 12:15-1 p.m., followed by session 2 from 1:10-1:55 p.m.

The president’s panel discussions will focus on the following topics:

• Keeping the Basic: Evangelism and Prayer will be moderated by Kie Bowman, current SBTC president and pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin. Panelists will include Todd Kaunitz, pastor of New Beginnings Baptist Church in Longview; Jason Paredes, pastor of Fielder Church, Arlington; Nathan Lino, pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church, Humble; Damon Halliday, pastor of The Key Church, Fort Worth; and Nathan Lorick, SBTC executive director.

• After Covid: Rebuilding the Pastor and the Church will be moderated by Tony Wolfe, SBTC associate executive director. Panelists will include Danny Forshee, pastor of Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin; Ed Johnson III, pastor of Harvest Fellowship Baptist Church in Denton; Ramon Medina, global pastor of Spanish ministries at Champion Forest Baptist Church, Houston; Jacob Fitzgerald, pastor of Denman Avenue Baptist Church of Lufkin.

• Young Pastors Network: Worship, moderated by Spencer Plumlee, pastor of First Baptist Mansfield, will feature Matt Boswell, composer and pastor of The Trails Church, North Texas. The Young Pastors Network panel will be held only during the first lunch session.

• Tuesday evening will feature a 5 p.m. barbecue dinner and time of fellowship. Tickets are $10 each.

• Missional Ministries will also hold a Tuesday evening dinner featuring Jarrett Stephens, pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church. Tickets are $10.

Register for the annual meeting at and then scroll down to or click on “meals” to sign up for the various times of food and fellowship. 

Cooperative Program giving tops $192 million, exceeds budget projections for the year

NASHVILLE (BP) – SBC Executive Committee president Ronnie Floyd announced Wednesday (Oct. 6) that giving through the National Cooperative Program Budget Allocation topped $192.2 million for the 2020-21 fiscal year. In doing so, budget estimates for the year were exceeded by nearly $5.4 million.

“What a tremendous testimony of God’s grace given to us and God’s people extending generosity together to reach the world for Jesus Christ,” Floyd said. “This is the power and influence of what happens when we believe in the vision, work together, and partner together for the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.

As our Southern Baptist churches across the nation have been navigating and leading through a global pandemic for the past 18 months, we can testify that God is using them to keep on sending new missionaries on the field, by keeping our present missionary force on the field, by launching new church planters across our nation, by keeping those on the field who are planting new churches, and at the same time, by preparing the called through our seminaries. This work is being accomplished because of your church’s giving through the Cooperative Program.”

The total amount given through the national Cooperative Program Allocation Budget in September 2021 totaled $13,355,428.46, which was $1,467,881.53 (9.90 percent) less than the $14,823,309.99 received in September 2020 and $2,217,488.21 (14.24 percent) less than the monthly budgeted amount of $15,572,916.67.

For the 2020-21 fiscal year, gifts received by the EC for distribution through the CP Allocation Budget total $192,271,436.28. This is $629,414.90 or 0.33 percent less than last year’s budget contribution of $192,900,851.18 and ahead of the $186,875,000.04 budgeted projection to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America by $5,396,436.24 or 2.89 percent.

“I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the sacrificial giving of Southern Baptists,” SBC President Ed Litton said. “Every dollar that is given by these saints is intended to advance the Gospel and accomplish the Great Commission. I am especially grateful to God for their generous giving through the Cooperative Program during a season of economic uncertainty due to the many challenges brought on by the pandemic. May God use all of these funds to equip his church to reach the world for Christ.”

Willie McLaurin, SBC EC vice president for Great Commission relations and mobilization, expressed his gratitude for the “steadfast and sacrificial giving of churches through the Cooperative program.” He added that “the local and global reach of every gift is a testimony to the strong cooperative spirit of every church. The churches of the SBC have demonstrated obedient resolved and have trusted God with their resources.”

Total Cooperative Program giving includes all monies given by churches through state conventions to be used for Great Commission ministry and missions within the respective states, across North America and around the world. Begun in 1925, the Cooperative Program is the financial fuel to fund the SBC mission and vision of reaching every person for Jesus Christ in every town, every city, every state, and every nation. Monies are distributed according to the 2020-2021 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.

Designated gifts received in September amounted to $3,466,582.33. This total was $1,244,699.12, or 26.42 percent, less than gifts of $4,711,281.45 received last September. Also, this year’s designated gifts for the fiscal year amount to $192,351,656.08, which is $18,132,149.23, or 10.41 percent, more than the $174,219,506.85 given through same period in the previous fiscal year.

Designated totals include both Lottie Moon Christmas Offering gifts to the International Mission Board and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering gifts to the North American Mission Board. NAMB announced Monday (Oct. 4) a fiscal year total of $66.5 million for AAEO – the largest in history. IMB is expected to announce the LMCO total in the coming days.


PASTOR APPRECIATION MONTH: 25 ways to honor your shepherd

Thank You note image

This year has been a tough year for pastors and church leaders. The pandemic has changed almost everything we do, but pastors have pivoted quickly and worked hard to make adjustments. If ever they have earned appreciation, it’s this year. Here are some ways to show your gratitude during this Pastor Appreciation Month:

  1. Give your pastor and his family a weekend getaway. Give them a break on somebody else’s nickel – and make sure that time is not counted as vacation! These days, it may need to be a driving trip, of course.
  2. Do some tasks for him and his family. Rake the leaves. Cut the grass. Wash the cars. Paint a room. Power wash the deck or the house. Do something that helps him.
  3. Catalog his books. Computer tools allow you to catalog books quickly, but somebody has to do the labor. Save your pastor the work.
  4. Provide gifts for his wife and children. The church that loves a pastor’s family will have a pastor who loves them.
  5. Prepare a notebook of “thank you” notes. I still have and cherish a notebook of notes that folks wrote to me as their pastor.
  6. Give him an Amazon tree. The “tree” might be only a big twig or an artificial plant, but the leaves are Amazon gift cards. Every pastor I know wants more books.
  7. Make a personal commitment not to speak ill of him – or listen to those who do. Support him in front of others.
  8. Update and upgrade his office. Paint the walls. Provide new furniture. Replace outdated wall paintings.
  9. Give him a new computer. If he’s like the rest of us, he’s used his current one for many, many Zoom meetings and recordings this year!
  10. If you’ve been sitting a while in church, start serving. I assure you he’ll appreciate every believer who gets more committed to God and His work.
  11. Provide a framed picture of your church building. I have pictures of both churches I pastored hanging on my office wall, and I’m grateful for those congregations every time I look at the pictures.
  12. Offer five nights of childcare over the rest of the month. Give your pastor and spouse the opportunity to have several date nights this month.
  13. Give him time and funds to attend a conference he wants to attend. Even if he already receives a conference benefit, increase it for this year.
  14. Set aside a special day to honor his wife. If you really want to make your pastor happy, focus on his wife instead. A great day for her is a great day for him.
  15. Send him a video thank you note from your family. Take a few minutes, record a short video greeting and “thank you,” and send it.
  16. When travel allows again, give him a trip to Israel. Your pastor will never approach the Bible or the pulpit the same way after walking in the Holy Land.
  17. Make a commitment to pay his costs to earn a doctoral degree. Make a long-term commitment to help your shepherd get that degree he wants.
  18. Give him and his family a local gym membership. Because you appreciate them, help them live longer by staying in shape.
  19. Help him participate in his hobby. If his hobby is golf, give him several rounds of golf. If it’s reading, give him Amazon cards. Give him something you know he’ll enjoy.
  20. Detail his car. Clean it. Wax it. Change the oil. Fill it with gas. Give it back to him with a few restaurant gift cards in the front seat.
  21. Give him a commentary set, one or two volumes per month. That way, this year’s appreciation gift keeps on giving.
  22. Have the church’s children write him notes. Few things melt a pastor’s heart like the simple, honest words of children.
  23. Give him an extra week of vacation. Even if it’s only for this year, he’ll be appreciative.
  24. Commit to praying for him daily – and then be sure to do it. Let him know you’re doing it, too. He’ll be grateful.
  25. Ask him, “What can I do to most help you?” You might be surprised by his answer. He might have immediate needs.

What other ideas would you add to this list?

The article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Be bold, loving and biblical when talking race, panel says

GRAPEVINE – The path to strengthening racial harmony begins with pastors boldly standing up and applying God’s Word without fear of consequences, Baptist leaders said recently during a panel discussion on the issue.

The Sept. 30 event was sponsored by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and featured a multi-ethnic panel of Black, Asian, Hispanic and White Baptist leaders.

Too many pastors “believe in the authority of sufficiency of Scripture” but “are too cowardly to apply it” on the subject of race, said Kevin Smith, pastor of Family Church Village in South Florida and former executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.

“The pulpit must teach and apply,” Smith said. “And some folks are just weak on application – not because they don’t know where the text is going but because they are scared.”

Charles Grant, executive director of African American relations and mobilization for the SBC Executive Committee, said biblical discipleship is essential to confronting racism. Quoting a fellow pastor, Grant said, “We need to be intentional about discipling out racism.”

“We disciple small groups on all kinds of topics,” Grant said. “But for some reason, our discipleship small groups don’t include discipleship dealing with the issue of racism. … Why aren’t we equipping our people to deal with it?”

Christians, he said, are “called to deny ourselves daily, take up our cross and follow Him.”

“Whenever we put ourselves, our own agenda, our own desires, above Christ, then we begin to be splintered,” Grant said.

David Tan Mai, pastor of Kirkwood Church in Houston, agreed and added, “When we deny ourselves, we see our brother and sister the same.”

David Gifford, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Ky., noted that pastors often deliver holiday-themed sermons. Including Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a time to discuss racism from a biblical perspective could be helpful in understanding of racial issues, he said.

“What greater time than when our nation sets aside that day for Martin Luther King’s birthday for White churches to talk about the sin of racism and to talk about steps to racial reconciliation?” said Gifford, who is white. “… We need bold Anglo pastors to stand up and say in those particular moments, ‘Hey let’s address this.’”

“We need to be intentional about discipling out racism.”

The panelists took questions from the audience and discussed a multitude of other issues, including the need for one-on-one dialogue on the topic of race.

“Dialogue is difficult because sometimes we come into dialogue just like the world,” Smith said.

Many times, he said, individuals enter a conversation with a worldly desire to “win” the debate instead of the goal being to learn, grow and reconcile.

“Dialogue is difficult if we don’t come in with New Testament principles of love, graciousness, patience, long-suffering,” Smith said.

Group discussions about race, Grant said, are best if they include only a small number of people.

“When you keep it small, people tend to let their guards down a little bit better, especially when they have a relationship they’ve built with you,” he said.

Gifford encouraged his Anglo friends to be open to learning.

“[Anglos] have a content oblivion to what’s going on with other cultures, and we are happy to be content in our prosperity and not deal with difficult questions,” he said.

Gifford referenced a regular discussion he had with a black friend about race when he was in his 20s. The conversion was “uncomfortable” at the beginning but “was always under the guise of, ‘We were dear friends.’

“And because of my dear friend, I was willing to listen. And I was willing to alter. And I think that has to be the first thing,” Gifford said.

Some Christians, Smith said, are guided more by the culture than by Scripture.

“Are we not being shaped by the character of Jesus Christ?” he asked. “Sometimes, especially in some of these culture-warring things, we have people who mock the character of Jesus Christ, who mock humility. … How in the world can we mock the character of Christ and not expect to be grieving and quenching the Spirit – which totally leaves us powerless?”

Some church members, Gifford said, “rely way too much on sources of information that are not biblical or not scriptural and that are not led by the Holy Spirit.”

“That drives us in our conversations with others” about race, Gifford said.

The panelists also discussed politics. Smith urged Christians to practice grace and humility when talking about party-line topics.

“Give individuals the dignity of being able to think and articulate that thought,” he said.

Bemoaning dialogue about the 2016 election, Smith said, the dialogue too often was wrongly simplified as: “If you liked Clinton, then you love abortion. If you like Trump, then you’re racist.”

“[But] if you sit down and talk to people … most of them are a little more complex, or a little more different than that,” he said. “You could have dyed-in-the-wool Democrats or Republicans who don’t think anything about race or abortion.”

Such simplifications, he said, are “tremendously hurtful for dialogue.”

The panelists also briefly discussed Critical Race Theory (CRT).

“I came from Nicaragua, which was a socialist country. I lived through it. I know what socialism is like,” said Nelson Fonseca, from New Life Church in Dallas. “I’m going to be honest – what CRT brings is that type of division. It is not helping us to unite. It is making it worse.”

Smith encouraged Baptists to read American history to learn more about the history of minorities in the United States. He added that he read a book recently to learn more about Asian life in the U.S.

“There’s nothing that CRT is purporting that Frederick Douglass and other people weren’t saying in the 19th century,” Smith said. “… You need to learn about the plight of black people in the U.S. if you are ignorant of it. And we’re all ignorant of what we don’t know.”

Tony Mathews, who moderated the panel and who serves as senior strategist over missional ministries for the SBTC, said the panelists demonstrated how dialogue should look among Christians.

“My hope is that when we have discussions addressing race that we will learn more about each other and be able to discuss our differences with civility and celebrate our distinctions in Christ,” Mathews said. “The multi-ethnic panelists did a great job addressing questions and issues that many people are discussing at their dinner tables. I also hope that these panel discussions will remind us that though our skin color may be different, we have more in common than not. I’m hoping that everyone who viewed it will be reminded that together we can accomplish much more for our Lord.”

EC approves Guidepost contract, agrees to waive privilege

NASHVILLE (BP) – Members of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee voted for the waiving of attorney client privilege within the scope of an independent third-party investigation of the EC concerning the handling of sexual abuse claims. The Sexual Abuse Task Force, assembled by SBC President Ed Litton, was mandated by messengers to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting in June and will oversee the investigation.

Trustees met for more than three and a half hours via Zoom before the group voted in favor of a motion to waive privilege by a margin of 44-31. Three members abstained from the vote. Six members of the committee resigned between today’s meeting and the meeting on Sept. 28.

The motion, made by EC member Jared Wellman, calls for a selective waiving of attorney client privilege “that includes an investigation into any allegations of abuse, mishandling of abuse, mistreatment of victims, a pattern of intimidation of victims or advocates, and resistance to sexual abuse reform initiatives of the actions and decisions of staff and members of the Executive Committee from January 1, 2000, to June 14, 2021.”

“I’m encouraged by today’s vote that honors the will of the messengers who spoke clearly in Nashville and in recent days about their desire for a transparent investigation,” Wellman said.

Litton said, “I am grateful, especially after many difficult weeks of discussion, that the full, transparent, and unimpeded investigation will now commence. Even so, it is critical to remember that today’s vote marks not the end, but the beginning of this process.”

The selective waiving of privilege means that documents and interviews must fit in a limited window:

Allegations of abuse by Executive Committee members.
Mishandling of abuse allegations by Executive Committee members between Jan. 1, 2000, to June 14, 2021.
Allegations of mistreatment of sexual abuse victims by Executive Committee members from Jan. 1, 2000, to June 14, 2021.
Patterns of intimidation of sexual abuse victims or advocates from Jan. 1, 2000, to June 14, 2021.
Resistance to sexual abuse reform initiatives from Jan. 1, 2000, to June 14, 2021.

The motion also gave EC Chairman Rolland Slade authority to execute the contract between the EC, the Sexual Abuse Task Force and Guidepost Solutions that was sent to trustees on Oct. 1. Guidepost is the third-party firm selected by the task force to carry out the investigation.

The contract calls for the creation of a Committee of Cooperation of the Executive Committee, which will be composed of four members from the EC. Two of the members will be chosen by the Sexual Abuse Task Force, and two members will be chosen by the EC. The committee will be led by SBC President Ed Litton.

At the end of the meeting, the EC voted to give Slade the authority to appoint the two members to be selected by the EC.

The members of the committee must be among those appointed to their first term on the EC in June 2021. This move allows participating EC members to be outside the scope of the Guidepost investigation.

According to the contract, the committee “is charged with:”

Financial oversight of the independent investigation in addition to the financial oversight exercised by the Task Force.
Electing, in cooperation with the Task Force, a liaison between the Executive Committee and Guidepost Solutions to ensure smooth flow of information and response to information requests.
Receipt of periodic monthly updates noting document, witness, and information requests made to the Executive Committee, to ensure information sought is consistent with and responded to in cooperation with the Motion passed by the Messengers at the SBC Convention in June 2021.
Ensuring that the Executive Committee and SBC are fully cooperative in this matter.

SBC EC President Ronnie Floyd said, “We thank all of the trustees for their diligence in addressing complex questions brought to bear by this process.”

He pledged the EC will work with the task force as they move forward.

“Now that the Executive Committee’s Board of Trustees have made their decision, the leadership and staff of the Executive Committee will provide support to Guidepost on implementing next steps to facilitate their investigation,” he said.

Bruce Frank, task force chair, responded to the EC on behalf of the task force, saying, “The task force is pleased with the strong vote today by the Executive Committee to abide by the moral imperative directed by the messengers, seminary presidents, state leaders and many, many more.”

Frank said Guidepost will begin its investigative work immediately. It is required to present a public report 30 days before the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim.

Near the end of the meeting, Slade spoke pastorally to the group reflecting on the process since messengers voted June 15 in Nashville.

“I’d like to really express my relief that this present challenge seems to be behind us,” he said. “Also, I want to express sorrow over the conduct that we have displayed as Southern Baptists over the course was absolutely a necessary deliberative process.”

Slade called on Southern Baptists to stop attacking one another and to “move down this road together.”

“Most importantly, it’s time to know for sure where we have fallen short on the question of sexual abuse within the Southern Baptist convention, so that we can correct any errors and move into the future as a convention, that’s the most safe for our most vulnerable members,” he said.

Floyd said, “I appreciate the statement of our Chairman Slade at the end of the meeting, including his call to come together now to serve Southern Baptists.”

Litton said, “Sexual abuse is antithetical to the Gospel of Christ. It has no place in the Southern Baptist Convention. And it is my prayer that all Southern Baptists will remain resolute in our commitment to preventing abuse, caring for survivors, and taking whatever steps are necessary to implement reforms.”

Annie Offering tops $66 million for new record high

PITTSBURGH – After a pandemic-influenced decline in 2020, Southern Baptists rallied to give $66.5 million to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® (AAEO) in 2021, the highest amount ever given to the offering that supports missions in North America. North American Mission Board (NAMB) president, Kevin Ezell, announced the total during the entity’s fall trustee meeting in Pittsburgh.

“The hard part about this year is we didn’t really know exactly what to expect,” Ezell said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic and other unrest. “But thank goodness, Southern Baptists love their missionaries and give sacrificially and that’s why, it’s humbling and with a great sense of gratitude that we can share the total this year is $66.5 million.”

Ezell said that since 2010, the offering has increased 22 percent.

“There are a lot of things Southern Baptist have in common,” Ezell said. “A steadfast love for Christ, a commitment to the Great Commission and Southern Baptists love their missionaries.”

Southern Baptist giving to the offering set records for three consecutive years in 2017, 2018 and 2019 before pandemic shutdowns occurred in 2020 during the season when churches typically collect the AAEO, which supports NAMB missionaries who plant gospel-proclaiming churches and provide gospel-focused compassion ministry across North America.

“I continue to be encouraged and amazed at the undying enthusiasm and support Southern Baptists display for their missionaries and their mission entities,” said Eric Thomas, chairman of NAMB’s Board of Trustees and senior pastor of First Baptist Church Norfolk, Va., in comments before the meeting. “Thousands of churches joining arms together like this will change peoples’ lives for generations to come.”

Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), announced Monday evening, October 4, that the 2021 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® for North American Missions surpassed all previous giving records. The offering, all of which goes to support mission work on the field, totaled $66.5 million. Ezell shared the news at a dinner with NAMB trustees during their meeting in Pittsburgh. Photo by Alexandra Toy.

The 2021 offering pushed the cumulative sum of gifts given to the AAEO passed the $2 billion mark since the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) organized the first collection for the Home Mission Board (the predecessor to NAMB) in 1895. The offering is named for Annie Armstrong, a woman who encouraged the expansion of missions efforts and mobilized Southern Baptists to support missionaries.

“Woman’s Missionary Union was led for many years by Annie Armstrong. She exemplified passionate and prayerful support of missions,” said Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director-treasurer of the national WMU, in written comments.

To this day, WMU continues to be a key partner in promoting the offering and encouraging churches to give. Together, they carry on Armstrong’s legacy of engaging churches in local mission work.

“God placed the idea for a home missions offering on Annie’s heart. She tirelessly championed Baptist home mission causes,” Wisdom-Martin said. “In grateful appreciation of this heritage, we extend our heartfelt appreciation to Southern Baptists for advancing His Kingdom through their intercession and sacrificial gifts to His Great Commission.”

Gifts to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® provide support for thousands of missionaries who plant churches in unreached communities and meet needs through compassion ministry. More than 50 percent of NAMB’s budget comes from the AAEO, and every dollar goes directly to the mission field during the year those gifts are collected to support Southern Baptist missionaries.

Litton hosts ‘Shrink the Divide’ racial reconciliation event

MOBILE, Ala. (BP) – Attendees at the Shrink the Divide racial reconciliation gathering at Redemption Church in Mobile, Ala., Sunday night (Oct. 3) took their seats, perhaps beside those who appeared most familiar. Then they were asked to change.

“The leadership told everybody to move next to someone who doesn’t look like them,” host pastor Ed Litton, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, told Baptist Press Monday (Oct. 4). “It was natural. If there was awkwardness, and there usually is, that dissipated rapidly. People really enjoyed being together last night.”

Litton was one of two keynote speakers at the fourth annual event sponsored by the Pledge Group, a seven-year-old Christian multidenominational and multiracial group of Mobile-area pastors committed to working for racial reconciliation in Mobile.

Speaking to the diverse audience, Litton referenced Southern Baptists.

“I’ll tell you what’s hurting us today. Nobody in the Southern Baptist Convention, nobody in my church, and probably nobody in your church would ever want to be called a bigot,” Litton said, “but indifference is killing us.”

In comments to Baptist Press, Litton said Southern Baptists have made tremendous progress toward racial reconciliation in the past 25 years, but said work remains.

“I would say that many of us don’t think of ourselves as bigots. We don’t think of ourselves as prejudiced, and we disdain that, we hate that terminology, which is not a bad thing,” he said. “The problem is, we live indifferent of the suffering or the needs of many of those in our community who really don’t share a lot with us, in common with us, so we have to cross those barriers.

“Listen, this is the leading problem to why our baptisms are down, is that we tend to homogenize, we go with people who look like us, people we feel comfortable with. So racial reconciliation is impossible without the Gospel.”

Pledge Group President Roy Hill, discipleship pastor of DaySpring Baptist Church, said the group has seen progress in Mobile in building cross-cultural relationships and partnerships.

“We have seen a lot of relationships made among pastors,” Hill said. “We feel like the emphasis of the Pledge Group is Gospel-centered, Gospel-driven racial reconciliation. It has to happen in the churches and we’ve believed from the beginning that for it to happen in the churches, it needs to happen with the pastors.

“And so we’ve seen a number of pastors who’ve established really strong relationships with one another across racial lines.”

The Collective, a diverse group of worship leaders in Mobile, led worship at the event and has been effective, Hill said, in leading worship at events across the city. Seven churches were represented in worship at the event. Richie Riles, men’s basketball coach at the University of South Alabama, was a keynote speaker.

Litton used the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 to emphasize that Jesus wants believers to “feel what the victim’s feeling.” Referencing the woman at the well in John 4, Litton showed that Jesus crossed racial lines in ministry, and that His disciples should do the same.

Litton encouraged humility and said personal suffering allows us to connect with others who suffer.

“Time doesn’t heal all wounds. Ignoring doesn’t heal all wounds. Just praying and saying it’s going to get better doesn’t heal all wounds. Believing in a God Who heals, yes, that’s what heals wounds,” Litton said. “But it also requires that we make intentional treatments of those wounds, that we are persistent and consistent with one another, that we are always a source in the Body of Christ, all of our churches, to experience love and prayer and care for one another.”

The Pledge Group offers Bible studies and videos on its website,, and promotes a personal pledge to work toward reconciliation:

In my daily context, I will recognize and engage with persons of other races, speaking a warm greeting to them as fellow travelers on the journey of life;
In my prayers, I will pray regularly for racial unity and harmony and for spiritual revival in our shared local communities and in our nation;
In my personal initiative, I will pro-actively foster and deepen relationships with persons across racial, socio-economic, ethnic and denominational lines.

The full program can be viewed here and on the Pledge Group’s Facebook page.

Send Relief helps Southern Baptists care for the vulnerable

God calls local churches to show love and provide tangible support to their communities, and Send Relief is enabling them to do so. A collaboration of the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board, Send Relief aims to partner with local churches to equip them with the finances and supplies necessary to help those affected by a disaster or crisis.

Right now, that means an intense focus on Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Ida and preparation to help resettle thousands of Afghan refugees who have recently arrived in the United States.

Relief from Hurricane Ida requires immediate attention, and there are 26 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief sites coordinating currently across southern Louisiana. Basic necessities like food, water and generators, along with resources for temporary roofing and mold remediation make up much of the current need.

Already, Send Relief has tallied thousands of work hours and provided more than 735,000 meals for those affected by Hurricane Ida. Workers have put in overtime to ensure they are also prepared for the many Afghan families who will require assistance as they arrive United States.

“Southern Baptists are clearly being moved by the crisis in Afghanistan,” said Josh Benton, vice president of Send Relief’s national operations. “They want to be prepared to serve Afghan families and share the Gospel with them.”

Thus far in 2021, hundreds of churches and individuals have given money, signed up as resettlement host homes and registered for training to help in a variety of ways. People appear to be eager to “carry each other’s burdens” – as Christians are directed in Galatians 6:2.

One of the most interesting opportunities is a chance to receive personalized coaching in evangelism, discipleship and cross-cultural awareness from an Afghan refugee expert. Send Relief is also offering workshops on refugee care, as well as PDF downloads, video guidance and resources on ways to specifically pray for refugee ministry.

The influx of refugees offers Christians an incredible opportunity to show love to the stranger. Armed with the support of organizations like Send Relief, churches are paving the way for Christian hospitality.

For Southern Baptists seeking to engage the work of Send Relief, there are a number of ways to get involved. For hurricane relief efforts, monetary donations are most needed. Meeting physical needs provides an avenue for Send Relief volunteers and workers to meet spiritual needs.

“[We] seek to meet the real and felt needs of people and communities,” Benton said, “so that the Gospel can be proclaimed and a connection [made] to a local church.”

Send Relief also provides help to those escaping from sex trafficking and to families involved in foster care and adoption as well as ministries that provide clean water, education and medical care where it is needed most.

Ericka Andersen is a freelance writer. This story was first published at