Month: November 2021

Giving Tuesday offers prime chance to support SBC entities

INVERNESS, Fla. (BP) — The Psalm 139 Project donating ultrasound machines to pregnancy centers, one of several Southern Baptist ministries participating in Giving Tuesday Nov. 30, can rescue expectant mothers as well as the unborn, a program participant said.

Barb Gosa, executive director of the Citrus Pregnancy Center in Inverness, Fla., told Psalm 139 Project organizer the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of an expectant mother whose ultrasound might very well have saved her life. The mother visited the pregnancy center when a technician was training nurses in the proper use of the machine shortly after it was donated.

The trainer told Gosa, “This baby she is considering aborting may have very well saved her life,” Gosa said. “In the end, we recommended she get to her doctor’s office, gave her copies of her scans, and explained it was important to do it right away.

“But had we not received the blessing of the (ultrasound) machine, and had (the trainer) not been here on the very day she came in, we believe the outcome could have been very different.”

Giving Tuesday (Virtual HQ – GivingTuesday), a global charitable giving movement birthed in 2012, includes opportunities to support several Southern Baptist entities and related ministries, oftentimes with donations increased through matching gift allotments.

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is offering an unspecified match to Giving Tuesday donations to For the Mission (https://www.forthemission.com/givingtuesday/), with a goal of receiving gifts from 500 Great Commission Givers. For the Mission is SEBTS’s four-year fundraising campaign to raise $20.5 million for student aid endowments, academic faculty endowments, campus construction and renovation, and the Southeastern Fund.

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is seeking to raise $250,000 on Giving Tuesday for its Providence Fund, which helps students preparing for fulltime ministry. The NOBTS Foundation Board has pledged $100,000 on the day, marketed at nobts.edu (https://nobts.edu/givingtuesday/default.html) as NOBTS and Leavell College’s Giving Day, and is challenging donors to collectively match the gift.

Among the most generous matching gifts is the $500,000 to match donations to the Mission:Dignity benevolence ministry of GuideStone Financial Resources ((https://www.baptistpress.com/resource-library/news/sbc-digest-missiondignity-gifts-matched-lifeway-online-christmas-store/). A Mission:Dignity endowment covers all administrative and overhead costs, allowing 100 percent of gifts to go directly to retired Southern Baptist workers, ministers and widows near the poverty line, GuideStone said.

“We would encourage anyone interested in giving this year to consider multiplying the effectiveness of their gift by giving it on Tuesday, Nov. 30,” GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said. Giving is available at GuideStone.org/GivingTuesdayhttps://app.mobilecause.com/vf/MDTuesday).

The Psalm 139 Project is accepting donations at erlc.com/50by50 (https://erlc.com/50by50/), a site launching Tuesday to accept donations supporting ERLC’s goal to place 50 ultrasound machines at centers by the 50 anniversary of Roe v. Wade in January, 2023. Already, ERLC is on track to place 25 machines by the end of 2021, Psalm 139 Placement Manager Rachel Wiles said.

“When you partner with the Psalm 139 Project, 100 percent of your gift goes directly to placing ultrasound machines. All of our admin costs are covered by the ongoing generosity of Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program,” Wiles said. “That’s what makes us unique — and that’s why partnering with us will make a real, tangible difference.”

Among other outreaches, J.D. Greear ministries is seeking to raise $60,000 to support ministry in an undisclosed location to Afghans. The ministry will provide matching funds up to $30,000, Greear announced today (Nov. 28), and a copy of Greear’s discussion guide “Be the Movement.” Donations will support a training facility, housing for local ministry leaders, language education support, a medical project for pregnant Afghan women, and other outreaches.

Paramount Amarillo sees marks of vitality

AMARILLOParamount Baptist Church in Amarillo has given more than $1 million through its world missions offering in the past five years; God is moving among young adults and a Hispanic ministry is thriving—all these circumstances prompt pastor Andrew Hebert to say the church is moving forward.

“Like a lot of other churches, our attendance is not what it was prior to the pandemic. We’re certainly down in our attendance, but I think that we are as healthy as we have been since I’ve been the pastor,” Hebert, pastor since 2016, told the TEXAN.

“We’ve seen God do some really neat things in terms of bringing people to faith in Christ, people being discipled and leading their friends to Christ. I think God has done some pruning, and we’re seeing … fruit.”

Seventy-five percent of Paramount’s world missions offering goes to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions, and 25 percent goes to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions. 

In addition to giving, the church has a partnership in the Middle East and has sent teams multiple times a year for the past five years, except during the time interrupted by COVID. Paramount also has worked with the North American Mission Board to plant a church in Denver most recently. 

A neighborhood church with an international reach

Paramount began as a plant of First Baptist Church in Amarillo in 1958 when neighborhood churches were the norm, and the Paramount neighborhood was drawing young families. The founding pastor was Chester O’Brien, who went on to serve as executive director of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico. Hebert is only the fourth pastor, demonstrating the church’s long-tenured leadership.

Before COVID, as many as 300 students a year were learning English at all levels through ESL classes at Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, and more than 30 languages were represented. Photo Submitted

Through the years, “looking to the least of these, people who are kind of on the margins or maybe forgotten by a lot of people,” has been part of Paramount’s DNA, Hebert said. The church started a deaf church about 20 years ago when it noticed a growing need.

Before COVID, as many as 300 students a year were learning English at all levels through Paramount’s English as a Second Language classes. That number has fallen to around 100, but Hebert expects it to rebound.

“We have one of the largest per capita refugee populations in the state of Texas in Amarillo, and it’s a great way to reach people from all kinds of nations,” the pastor said. “Often times we’ll have 30-plus different languages represented in our ESL ministry.”

Another compassion ministry at Paramount is disaster relief, and the church sends out a team that includes other churches in the Texas Panhandle almost monthly, Hebert said. Nearly 30 people came to faith in Christ through the group’s recent efforts in Louisiana with SBTC Disaster Relief.

A unique ministry at Paramount is Doxa, the largest dance studio in the Panhandle, which was drawing well over 500 students for ballet pre-pandemic. The wife of Paramount’s worship pastor has a professional dance background and a heart for worshiping God through dance. Each Christmas and each spring, “several thousand people” see a biblical story—such as the life of Daniel or Joseph—portrayed and “also hear a very clear gospel presentation,” Hebert said.

Amarillo’s sole Hispanic Baptist ministry

Paramount has now what Hebert called “the only Hispanic Baptist work in Amarillo.”

“There were a couple of other Hispanic Baptist churches that closed during the pandemic, so now if you speak Spanish and you want to go to a Baptist church, Paramount en Espanol is your only option,” he said.

"There were a couple of other Hispanic Baptist churches that closed during the pandemic, so now if you speak Spanish and you want to go to a Baptist church, Paramount en Espanol is your only option."

Andrew Hebert, pastor of Paramount BC in Amarillo Tweet

Sixty to 70 Hispanics attend the Spanish language service, which meets at the same time as the English service at Paramount. The church has a Hispanic student ministry and a fulltime pastor of Hispanic ministries.

“With the immigration trends being what they are in the state of Texas, our state is becoming a majority Hispanic state, and that’s going to be a trend that increases,” Hebert said, “so we want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to reach our neighbors for Jesus.”

Of students and CP

God is doing something special with Paramount’s student ministry as well as the college and young adult ministry, Hebert said. During the summer, about 25 junior high and high school students came to faith in Christ and were baptized.

“We’re not doing what I would call anything fancy in terms of our ministry. It’s not a show. There’s not lights and fog machines and stuff like that,” he said. “We preach the Bible. We stress things like evangelism and discipleship and missions and prayer, and God is just moving among young people.”

Cooperative Program giving is a priority at Paramount because it’s “the best thing going,” Hebert said, adding that it’s “one of the reasons that I am enthusiastic to be a Southern Baptist.

“The Cooperative Program is really a wise way of leveraging our resources so that whether you’re a large church or a small church you can be part of some really significant things in terms of getting the gospel to the ends of the earth,” Hebert said.

Praying for revival

I am grateful and humbled that you have elected me as president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. It is an honor to serve you in this capacity. I want you to know that I covet your prayers as we seek to expand the kingdom together in the coming year.

I am thankful for the leadership of Dr. Lorick and consider it a privilege to join him in this season of transition. I truly believe that God is at work across our state, and I have never been more excited to partner with the greatest missions organization in the world. I also believe that the SBTC has the opportunity and responsibility to lead the way as we prayerfully pursue reaching the world with the gospel of Jesus. 

This year, God has been moving in my life in ways he has never moved before. I am overwhelmed by his grace and willingness to break areas in my life that have needed to be broken for years. He has revealed to me just how desperate I am for his power and presence in my life and church. I am convinced now more than ever, that if we are going to advance the gospel of Jesus and reach a lost and dying world, we need more than fleshly innovation. We need a holy desperation for the manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

My singular desire as the president of this great convention is to build upon the prayer focus of Kie Bowman and lead our churches to pray like never before! To call upon the name of the Lord, asking him to send revival and spiritual awakening to our churches, communities, state, nation, and world. Listen, what we need, more than larger budgets, bigger buildings and greater attendance is a fresh outpouring of God’s Spirit in our churches. We need him to sweep through our communities, state, and nation. I don’t want you to miss the two-fold request in the statement above: We are asking God to send revival AND spiritual awakening. While these two works of the Spirit are often linked together, they are not the same. In fact, I believe that we cannot have the second (spiritual awakening) without the first (revival).

Listen, what we need, more than larger budgets, bigger buildings and greater attendance is a fresh outpouring of God’s Spirit in our churches.

Todd Kaunitz, SBTC President Tweet

You see, revival is what happens to believers when God brings us to a place of brokenness. This leads us to repentance, resulting in a fresh outpouring of his Spirit in us. Pastor Bill Elliff says, “To ‘revive’ literally means to ‘bring to life again.’ It is a word for the church, for you cannot ‘re-vive’ what has not once been ‘vived!’”  This is absolutely true! Revival is the by-product of the Holy Spirit bringing back spiritual vitality to the church. J.I. Packer said it like this: “Revival is the visitation of God which brings to life Christians who have been sleeping and restores a deep sense of God’s near presence and holiness.”

What is spiritual awakening then? Spiritual awakening is what happens to unbelievers when the Holy Spirit moves in power through his church. It’s when he moves with such a manifestation of his presence that unbelievers are supernaturally and powerfully awakened to the saving power of Jesus and their need for him. When a spiritual awakening occurs, you see lost people in a geographical region come to saving faith in Jesus in exponential numbers, resulting in a rapid expansion of God’s kingdom. It should be the heart cry of every follower of Jesus to see God move in power like this. Without a revived church we will not see a spiritual awakening in our culture. Andrew Murray, the great prayer warrior, said, “A revived church is the only hope of a dying world.”

This is why I am inviting the nearly 2700 churches that make up the SBTC to join me in praying like never before. Together, let’s call upon the name of the Lord and ask him to send revival. Revival in our hearts, revival in our churches, revival in our denomination, revival in every denomination. Let’s ask him to move with such power among him people that it leads to the next great spiritual awakening in our nation!

Send Network churches make up one quarter of Outreach Magazine’s reproducing churches list

LAS VEGASWhen Heiden Ratner started WALK Church in Las Vegas, he had an ideal model for reproduction in his sending church. Las Vegas’ Hope Church has started more than 60 churches since its 2001 founding.

Ratner served as an apprentice at Hope Church before planting WALK Church in 2014.

“It was in that season where I got to learn under Pastor Vance Pitman about the Kingdom of God and how the Kingdom of God is so much bigger than just one church,” said Ratner, who also serves as the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) city missionary for Las Vegas. “He showed me that it’s going to be churches planting churches that actually reaches the city. That shifted our thinking. We didn’t come to start something. We came to be a part of something God was already doing in Las Vegas.”

Ratner and WALK Church clearly learned what Pitman taught. Since its launch in 2014, WALK has planted two churches—and supported another eight churches in just seven years. Outreach Magazine recently recognized the church as one of its 100 Reproducing Churches.

At least a quarter of the magazine’s list of reproducing churches came from Send Network, a Southern Baptist network of churches committed to reproducible church planting. Send Network churches include both long-standing, established churches and relatively young church plants.

The list is one of three published in the magazine’s September/October issue. The magazine also highlighted the fastest-growing and largest-participating churches. Outreach Magazine partners with Lifeway Research to create the three lists.

“It’s easy to focus on larger churches, but we are committed to looking at churches that plant churches,” said Ed Stetzer, editor-in-chief of Outreach Magazine. “We know that church planting — done well — is about reaching people. We know statistically that new churches reach more than established churches. So, at Outreach Magazine, we want to celebrate churches reaching people — and you can’t do that without church planting!”

Noah Oldham, whose St. Louis church—August Gate—appears on the list, said reproduction is a critical part of NAMB’s strategy to reach North America.

“It’s the task Southern Baptists have given us,” said Oldham, who serves as senior director of church planter deployment with Send Network. “We have the collective calling of taking the gospel to every man, woman, girl and boy in North America. We believe that happens not only in evangelism, not only through compassion ministries like Send Relief, but it happens through church planting. It is healthy churches planting healthy churches. Great Commission churches planting Great Commission churches.”

Oldham said August Gate has served as the sending church for six new plants in its first 12 years of ministry and helped to financially support another 12 plants. Even the name August Gate symbolizes the church’s commitment to planting new churches. August, Oldham says, is the month when farmers prepare for harvest, and St. Louis has long been known as the Gateway City.

“If you put those two things together, you get harvest St. Louis,” Oldham said. “So, we gave it that name because we wanted, from the very beginning, every time someone asked, ‘Hey, what’s your church about? What’s the name about?’, we could tell them God called us not just to plant a church, but to plant a church that would plant many churches.”

Shades Mountain Baptist Church, an established church founded in 1910 and a Send Network church in Birmingham, Ala., also made the Outreach 100 list. The church has served as the sending church for two church plants and has supported 16 church plants in strategic cities throughout North America.

A little more than two decades ago, recently retired Pastor Danny Wood began raising the value of missions and church planting through a five-day missions conference that introduced the congregation to church planters from around North America. Church planting became a part of the church’s fabric as the congregation learned to love, care for and resource church planting missionaries.

“The church has grasped the conviction that multiplication is a biblical mandate,” said Tim Wheat, Shades Mountain’s missions pastor. “We are not only called to multiply disciples but to multiply leaders and multiply churches. As a living entity, the church follows the path of life of all living things. Things that are alive are to reproduce things that are alive, of like nature, so therefore, we have sought to make support and engagement with church planting a priority.”

The church leverages its Sunday School system and discipleship groups to “reproduce disciples” and uses Send Network’s Multiplication Pipeline to reproduce “missional leaders.” Both are key elements to their church planting strategy.

Church That Matters, another Southern Baptist church on the Outreach list, credits Send Network for helping to spur even greater multiplication efforts within the church. Oklahoma and Send Network announced a partnership in August 2021 to form Send Network Oklahoma.

“Send Network jumping into Oklahoma has been a game-changer in terms of the tools available through them to support the multiplication taking place,” said Rusty Gunn, pastor of Church That Matters who also serves as a church planting catalyst in the state. “It has inspired us. I was driving a lot of the church planting in our first eight to ten years. This is really giving us a shift to a much larger involvement, belief and buy-in from other people in our church. It has given us a framework, something we can latch onto to continue to discover, develop and deploy more and more planters.”

Send Network’s Multiplication Pipeline is a free resource that is designed to help churches reproduce by discovering, developing and deploying its members to help start new churches throughout North America.

Missionaries welcome effort to push back darkness

Europe is a modern crossroads of people from Northern Africa and the Middle East.

The mission strategy of Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma was forever changed when Mike, the missions pastor, read a statistic: “5% of missions work is done in North Africa and Middle East.” After reading this startling fact, Mike knew the Lord was calling him to lead his church in reversing the statistic in their own mission strategy.

“As I read that statistic, it just hit me,” Mike says. “I looked at the missions team at [our church] and realized we weren’t even doing 5% of our missions work among NAME peoples. I knew that had to change.”

Otis Neumann*, a missionary with IMB’s Northern African and Middle Eastern affinity, appreciates the advocacy of Mike and his church.

“His vision has inspired others, including Hispanic churches and the Oklahoma Baptist Convention, to make NAME peoples a priority for prayer and missions work,” Otis says.

For two years Mike and the missions team prayed about a specific, unreached people group. Along with a team from their church, Mike and his wife traveled to Europe in 2012. They met an IMB missionary who gave them a glimpse into how God was at work among NAME peoples there.

Otis says that coming to Europe first to connect with immigrants from NAME is a good way for churches to develop a love for the people and make them a priority in their mission vision.

“Europe is a modern crossroads of people from Northern Africa and the Middle East,” he explains.

“From Europe, SBC churches have the unique opportunity to partner with IMB and share the gospel with people who come from some of the most difficult to access places in the world.”

Two years after their trip to Europe, Mike and his missions team made their first trip into Northern Africa. Since that first trip, the church has sent multiple mission teams every year. They focus on building relationships, prayer walking and meeting community needs.

In February 2020, the church sent a missionary couple from their church to Northern Africa to serve with the IMB. Even during the height of the pandemic when travel was restricted, the church looked for ways to support the work overseas through prayer and encouragement.

Otis and other missionaries pray for more churches to be bold in their mission efforts.

“When churches partner with IMB, we can do more together – and there is so much left to do in Northern Africa and the Middle East,” Otis says.

“Today, there many people groups living in places where we cannot yet directly engage them with the gospel, but through prayer, we can press forward into new places and push back the darkness as the light of the gospel is proclaimed to every people group of NAME.”

How to pray

Pray that God will call out more churches to join the work to reach NAME peoples with the gospel.
Pray for more long-term missionaries in the fields among the unreached.
Pray that the light of Christ would break the barriers that keep many from hearing the gospel.

*Name changed for security

Catherine Finch, former writer for the IMB, is now the communications strategist at Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children. This article first appeared on IMB’s website.

Call for prayer issued as court prepares to hear case that could overturn Roe vs. Wade

NASHVILLE (BP) – The Southern Baptist Convention Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is focusing on pro-life work as oral arguments are scheduled for Dec. 1 at the Supreme Court in the case of Dobbs vs. Mississippi. Leaders from the ERLC talked with Jonathan Howe, vice president for communications of the SBC Executive Committee, during a special edition of the SBC This Week podcast released Monday.

“These oral arguments and this particular case coming out of Mississippi represents the best opportunity in a generation to potentially overturn Roe vs. Wade,” said Brent Leatherwood, interim president of the ERLC.

Leatherwood said it’s a time for the pro-life community to intercede in prayer for the justices of the Supreme Court as they hear the arguments.

“We need to be praying for the nine justices as they receive these arguments and, then, go back to their chambers and really start sussing through competing priorities,” he said.

Chelsea Sobolik, director of public policy for the ERLC, said this case is unique because it specifically deals with the viability of the unborn child in the womb.

“The Mississippi law says essentially after a child is viable at 15 weeks, elective abortion would be unconstitutional,” Sobolik said, adding that the law does makes exceptions related to the health of the mother and if severe fetal abnormalities are discovered.

Sobolik said this case is has the ability to undue the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe vs. Wade to legalize abortion in 1973 because it deals with viability.

“Viability is basically the key to unraveling the undue burden standard,” she said.

In the podcast, Howe, Leatherwood and Sobolik are also joined by Elizabeth Graham, vice president for operations and life initiatives for the ERLC. Graham discussed the work of the Psalm 139 project and their goal of placing 50 ultrasound machines in pregnancy support centers across the US before the 50th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision in January 2023.

When it comes to the viability of a child outside the womb, Graham said, “What we know today from a science and medical standpoint is different than what we knew 30 or 40 years ago.”

She added that while the ERLC believes that life begins at conception, it is widely accepted in the international medical and science community that a child is viable at 15 weeks of development.

“The way you cut down a tree is a thousand cuts, and every step we take to advance that goal of both protecting life in the womb and caring for mothers and their communities is important,” Sobolik said.

Leatherwood said that for nearly five decades Roe vs. Wade has rested on equal protection under the law for every human life as granted by the 14th Amendment.

“If we’re going to follow down that path of constitutional logic, then I think we want to bring that back to the court and say, ‘You’re relying on equal protection. We want equal protection for all lives. All these pre-born lives,” he said.

Follow Baptist Press for coverage of this week’s arguments before the Supreme Court.

Listen to the full version of the podcast below or find it wherever you download your podcasts.

Download this episode

 

SBTC offering tax seminars for churches in January

Operational and legal issues continually distract from the kingdom focus of the church. Recognizing potential pitfalls and staying up-to-date on key issues can keep your church focused on productive ministry.

To assist churches in that area, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is offering four online tax seminars in January: January 18 from 1-5 p.m.; January 19 from 6-9 p.m.; January 25 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and January 27 from 1-5 p.m. The seminars are free and will be led by professional tax accountants with PSK LLP, who specialize in providing audit and accounting services to churches.

“Participating in the SBTC’s tax seminars is a great way to stay current on tax law changes or just confirm best practices on the business side of things at your church,” SBTC Chief Financial Officer Joe Davis said. “Meeting by Zoom makes it easy and efficient. I hope you will join us for one of the January dates. You never know what vital bit of information you may pick up.”

Topics will cover tax considerations of churches and ministers, top legal issues facing churches and ministers, and financial/stewardship issues, along with building and operational issues. Continuing Professional Education (CPE) will be offered at the January 25 virtual event.

Registration is required. If you have any trouble with registration, contact Easter Cooley at ecooley@sbtexas.com or call 817.552.2500.

 

 

 

TERLC on textbook decision: ‘Still work to be done’

TERLC textbooks SBOE

Representatives with the Texas Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee say they are “proceeding cautiously” after a state education board rejected four of five proposed health curricula earlier this month in Austin.

Of the five proposed curricula, only Illinois-based publisher Goodheart-Willcox’s middle school health curriculum received approval from the Texas State Board of Education on Nov. 19. A detailed analysis of the approved curriculum and written rubrics for the material likely will not be available until after the Thanksgiving holiday, said TERLC advisor Cindy Asmussen.

“There is still a lot of work to be done of which parents need to be made aware,” Asmussen said. “There are still many concerns (about the Goodheart-Willcox materials).”

Among those concerns are the potential inclusion in the finalized materials of intrusive surveys, inappropriate mental health topics and objectionable wording.

TERLC, which represents the nearly 2,700 churches that comprise the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, had urged rejection of all the proposed materials on the basis that they “contain content unsuitable for the ages and grade levels proposed” in an open letter issued prior to the SBOE hearings. Included in the other four curricula that were rejected are graphic descriptions of a sexual encounter between students and specific information on how pregnant students can obtain information about getting an abortion.

As the public waits on the final edits of the Goodheart-Willcox materials, TERLC says parents, guardians and other concerned citizens can get involved on the local level in the following ways:

  • Find out when their local school district will form textbook review committees and ask how they can participate;
  • Find out when their local school district will adopt instructional materials so they can testify, if necessary;
  • Ask when their district’s School Health Advisory Committee will meet to discuss materials to recommend to the school board; and
  • Determine whether the school district has adopted a policy regarding the new state law requiring parental opt-in for human sexuality, dating, family violence, child abuse and human trafficking, and how the district will provide for parental opt-out for any objectionable materials.

More information on the TERLC can be found here.

Churches of all sizes use Thanksgiving as a doorway to the gospel

FBC Swan Thanksgiving meal

Although supply chain shortages have affected some ministries this Thanksgiving season, many churches are finding creative ways to serve their communities amid lingering COVID restrictions.

From sit-down meals to deliveries and drive-thru giveaways, congregations are using the holiday to share both Christ’s love and all the Thanksgiving fixings in cities and towns across Texas.

Rush Creek Church in Arlington continued its traditional Great Turkey Take Away by serving 400 families on Saturday, Nov. 20.

The church once distributed turkeys to clients but in recent years switched to grocery gift cards and boxes of seasonal non-perishable goods, said Eunice Cruz, director of compassion resources at the church.

“We gave them everything for the meal except a ham or turkey, which they can use the gift card to buy,” Cruz said. People started signing up in September to receive the boxes, telling the church how many people they expected for Thanksgiving. On giveaway day, church members and volunteers convey the boxes of food and gift cards to homes throughout the community.

“Purpose number one is to share the gospel with our community,” Cruz said, adding that the ministry allows recipients to host Thanksgiving in their homes without worrying about the financial burden. “We want to encourage a sense of belonging, that no one needs to be alone.”

In addition to sharing the gospel, volunteers also prayed with recipients. Each boxed meal contained a list of talking points that recipients could use to spur conversations about gratitude and spiritual things, also.

First Baptist Church of Swan, which has experienced revitalization through starting a food pantry, welcomed residents of its small community just north of Tyler to a sit-down meal in the church fellowship hall on Tuesday, November. 23.

Last summer, the congregation of 40 fed 40-50 families from the community each week. Numbers have increased in recent months, Pastor Jeremiah Dollgener said. On November 16, 83 families picked up food.

Clients register by filling out a simple form. “There’s no proof of residency or income required to get help,” Dollgener said. “People can get food when they need it.”

The church’s food pantry started almost two years ago, when Dollgener had a vision to do a food ministry and a benefactor who wished to remain anonymous eager to support it. The benefactor had grown up in Swan and wanted to give back to the community. He has remained a faithful, silent giving partner ever since.

In addition to the main donor, the FBC Swan food bank receives contributions from local grocery stores, church members, current and former Swan citizens. Tyler Pipe, just across Hwy. 69, is a major partner, Dollgener said. Members who volunteer are joined by members of other area churches who “love the vision and jump on board,” the pastor added.

On November 23, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the church did more than distribute food. As it did last year, the church invited clients and community members to sit down for a Thanksgiving meal.

“It’s amazing, when you look through the New Testament, how many meals Jesus shared with others,” Dollgener said. “We want to get to know the folks we serve, pray with them, encourage them, get them to know Jesus. The clients are already on our property. The next step is to get them to come inside the fellowship hall and enjoy a meal.”

To prepare for the event, a church member smoked seven turkeys, as he did last year. Other members prepared green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, rolls, dressing, and gravy. Pies purchased from Sam’s Club in Tyler rounded out the otherwise homemade meal.

Fifty-four guests attended the community Thanksgiving meal, which was advertised on social media and through flyers. Seventeen volunteers representing five area churches assisted in putting on the event. Recipients took home about 70 boxes of food for the holidays, too.

COVID protocols remained in place, with hand washing areas and masks available and plenty of room to spread out in the 2,000-square-foot fellowship hall, Dollgener said.

Lifeway Women’s Leadership Forum: ‘Jesus is still in control’

Lifeway Womens Forum

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Ministry leadership always has its rewards and its challenges. But leading through the COVID-19 pandemic brought new meaning to leading through crisis.

“A lot of our confidence has been shaken over the past couple of years in the midst of the pandemic,” said Kelly King, women’s ministry specialist at Lifeway Christian Resources. “The pandemic has forced leaders to trust in the Lord for their confidence and not in their own abilities.”

The Lifeway Women’s Leadership Forum brought together more than 800 women from 30 states at Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., to learn from one another and sought-after ministry leaders, including Kelly Minter, Elizabeth Woodson, Carey Nieuwhof, Kristi McLelland, Tara-Leigh Cobble and Whitney Capps, who emceed the event. Worship leader and author Lauren Chandler led worship at the three-day event, Nov. 11-13. Nearly 200 women from 37 states and Canada joined online.

The theme was “Confident,” with Jeremiah 17:7 serving as the foundational Scripture: “The person who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence indeed is the Lord, is blessed.”

“We wanted the women who attended this event to have a renewed sense of moving forward because God’s character is unchanging and He is faithful,” said King.

Author and Bible teacher Kelly Minter kicked off the event by reminding the audience of the apostle Paul’s prayer for the Colossian church that they would grow spiritually, especially in the “knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding,” (Colossians 1:9). “As we walk this life in the will of God, with various life experience, our knowledge of the living God grows,” Minter said.

Teaching from Colossians 1:9-14, Minter asked, “What’s your end game? Is it that your life would be ‘worthy and pleasing to God?” Minter said we often do things to please others, but Paul’s prayer was that our lives would be pleasing to God.

“A right heart comes before a productive ministry,” she said. “I feel like we get this backwards. The tendency is to skip over what is pleasing to the Lord and go straight to having a productive ministry. We have to walk worthy of the Lord and fully pleasing to Him before we have a fruit-producing ministry.”

Minter admitted that while ministry is a wonderful calling, it can also be tiring. She noted that part of Paul’s prayer is that we would be “strengthened according to his glorious might.” She ended her session by praying Paul’s prayer over the women and encouraging them to pray the same prayer for themselves and the women in their ministries.

During his general session presentation, pastor and leadership expert Carey Nieuwhof talked about the dangers of burnout and how to address this very real issue.

“When I’m in a busy season, I get in the stress spiral because I’m mismanaging the three assets I get every day: time, energy, priorities,” he said. He then went on to offer some practical ways to block off time so leaders can complete priorities and “do what you’re best at when you’re at your best.” He encouraged them not to let their priorities get hijacked by other things.

Reflecting on Proverbs 4:23, Nieuwhof reminded his listeners to “guard your hearts, for everything you do flows from it.”

Teaching from 1 Samuel 17 on Friday (Nov. 12), King reminded the audience that David could confidently battle the giant Goliath in public because he confidently walked with God in private. “David knew he could trust God because of how God had provided for him in the past,” King said. She encouraged them to recount the times God had been faithful in the past.

“David was confident because he knew the victory belonged to the Lord,” she said. “Not only does our confidence come from God; our confidence gives credit to God. We can live and lead in confidence because of Christ’s victory on the cross. ”

During the three-day event, women attended breakout sessions on topics such as leading through change, developing disciples, multicultural ministry and preparing for ministry in a post-pandemic world.

During her session Friday night, Bible teacher Elizabeth Woodson reminded the audience of God’s sovereignty.

“If last year taught us anything, it’s that we’re not in control and unexpected things happen,” Woodson said. “Jesus is still in control. Nothing will thwart His plans. God has a plan He has set forth in motion, and He is going to accomplish His plan.”

Bible teacher Kristi McLelland wrapped up the event reminding women what it means to follow Jesus, encouraging them to set God’s Word upon their hearts and to live on mission with Him.

“Practicing the way of Jesus is partnering with Him to repair the world,” she said. “Being a follower requires moving with God because Jesus is always on the move.”

McLelland ended the conference by praying over the audience and commissioning them back into the world and their ministries. Reminding them, “your confidence can fully rest in Jesus.”

The next Lifeway Women’s Leadership Forum will be held Nov. 10-12, 2022. Learn more at lifeway.com/womensevents.