Month: November 2021

Send Network’s Dhati Lewis leaving NAMB for new project

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) – At the end of this year, Dhati Lewis, president of the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) church planting arm, Send Network, will transition from his position to devote himself to launching BLVD (“Boulevard”), an initiative to empower disciple-makers serving majority-minority, multiethnic communities.

Driven by his personal vision to “be the last generation to have to leave the urban context for sound discipleship,” Lewis says he looks to the future with hopeful anticipation as he continues to move the mission forward by training leaders serving in these communities.

“The question for me has always been: where can I make the greatest Kingdom impact? I’m going to miss leading this incredible family, but it’s never been about a position or title – it’s about the mission, and it’s one we’re still on together as a Send Network family,” Lewis said.

BLVD is rooted in the work Lewis accelerated at Send Network to foster greater ethnic diversity among church planters and start more new churches in ethnic minority communities lacking a strong Gospel presence.

Lewis will collaborate with NAMB and Send Network on this new effort, and his trajectory as a leader in church planting remains unchanged.

“For anyone who knows Dhati, this comes as no surprise,” said NAMB President Kevin Ezell. “It’s right in line with his relentless pursuit of what God has laid on his heart. I’m excited NAMB and Send Network will continue to benefit from the many ways he will help plant churches everywhere for everyone.”

The change comes at an opportune time, as Send Network and the National African American Fellowship (NAAF) are celebrating the first fruits of a project they launched under Lewis’s leadership in 2019. The two organizations are working together to plant churches in underserved African American communities across North America.

The first class of NAAF-sourced church planting residents completed a Send Network assessment Nov. 2-3 in New York. These new residents – following in Lewis’ footsteps – will walk down a church-planting pathway with Send Network using contextualized resources and support Lewis helped cultivate.

“Dhati’s leadership in Send Network has been invaluable,” said Greg Perkins, a NAAF board member and leader in the Send Network-NAAF partnership. “I look forward to the many ways NAAF, Send Network and BLVD will work together in the future to equip and

reach underserved communities across North America with the Gospel.”

While Lewis will be missed by many in the day-to-day workings of Send Network, Ezell said he’s “glad for his continued leadership in the future,” and added that word about Lewis’s successor will be coming soon.

“As Dhati and I have talked and prayed about these opportunities for some time, it has given us a chance to identify his successor, which we’ll announce in the coming weeks – and his aren’t easy shoes to fill!” Ezell said.

Thousands coming to Christ through church’s migrant ministry

West Brownsville migrant ministry

BROWNSVILLE—Pastor Carlos Navarro and Golan Ministries of West Brownsville Baptist Church have long engaged in ministry to migrants seeking entry into the United States from Matamoros, just across the Texas/Mexico border. By April 2019, the church eagerly opened its renovated respite center, a stopover for migrants entering the U.S. legally, cleared by ICE and border patrol and awaiting transport to destinations within the country.

When Navarro and volunteers weren’t handing out water, hygiene items and gospel tracts across the border, they were feeding migrants and distributing clothes, Bibles and travel necessities to the temporary migrant guests at the church. At least until COVID struck.

Although the influx of asylum seekers ebbed during the Trump administration, Navarro said, the church continued to share the gospel with those who did come.

Since April 2019, Navarro estimates that the church has ministered to nearly 17,000 migrants, given out 7,255 Bibles and served 28,000 meals. Those numbers reflect times before and during COVID.

Navarro admits that the pandemic pushed pause to the ministry somewhat in 2020, but he and his wife were able to be vaccinated as essential workers in the fall of that year.

With the coming of the Biden administration, Navarro said the gates to entry in the U.S. opened wider. Navarro, with fewer volunteers than in pre-pandemic days, again stepped up the church’s outreach to migrants.

“A big landslide [of migrants] started to arrive,” Navarro told the TEXAN.

When county authorities closed the church’s respite center to migrants because of COVID restrictions, ministry shifted to the local bus terminal. (See Border ministry.)

Navarro described the way things work in Brownsville currently.

Migrants are tested for COVID by ICE and border authorities, Navarro said. Those testing negative and with sponsors in the United States are then sent to the local bus station to await transportation. When ICE is about to release a group of 75-100, Navarro receives a phone call. He and Golan volunteers head to the bus station with water and sundries. He preaches the gospel and church members distribute backpacks full of Bibles, tracts and helpful items.

Migrants testing positive for COVID are quarantined in an area hotel, Navarro added.

Lately, the migrants have come mostly from Haiti, Navarro said. Also coming, in descending order of frequency, are Venezuelans, Cubans and Nicaraguans. Others are arriving from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, the Dominican Republic, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India.

Navarro stresses that those the church is serving have been admitted to the country legally. The city of Brownsville and Cameron Country are not allowing them to stay overnight, so they depart for other areas of the U.S., mainly Florida.

Navarro estimates some 5,792 decisions for Christ have been made by migrants under the church’s ministry since April 2019. As hundreds of new believers head to Florida, he not only gives them his business card, but tells them to contact him when they are settled. He recommends churches they might attend to continue their new walk with Jesus in the Sunshine State.

Florida pastors have noticed the increase in numbers. On the recommendation of 38 Florida Baptist pastors, Navarro was invited to Lakeland, near Orlando, to address groups at the Florida Baptist State Convention at its annual meeting Nov. 7-9. He spoke Sun., Nov. 7 on Proverbs 14:25 to the convention’s Spanish session and gave a short presentation to Tommy Green, Florida Baptist executive director.

“We appreciate Brother Carlos,” said Scottie Stice, SBTC Disaster Relief director, of Navarro and his church. “A faithful witness. A faithful evangelist. It’s unbelievable what he and Golan and West Brownsville Baptist have done to minister to migrants.”

Immigration is a controversial topic nowadays. Navarro understands that. A U.S. citizen who has received numerous civic awards, served on local, state and national councils, and even been invited to the White House during the Bush administration, Navarro was once an illegal immigrant himself who fled his native Guatemala to escape political imprisonment…or worse. (See Migrant crisis a way of life.)

During a recent layover at Dulles International in D.C., Navarro was stopped by a woman doing janitorial work.

“Excuse me, sir. Are you from Texas? Are you a pastor?” she asked. Then she went on to thank him. “I am working here legally. You helped me, you and your church,” she added.

Navarro said the church could use hygiene kits and t-shirts, sizes S, M, L and XL, for its ongoing ministry.

The migrants are here. Telling them about Jesus is the thing to do, Navarro believes.

Creech retires after 3 decades of service to Jacksonville College

Creech Jacksonville College

JACKSONVILLE—Jacksonville College Director of Distance Education Michael Paul Creech was honored at a retirement reception held at the Central Baptist Church Youth Building in October.
The whole college community – including administration, faculty, staff, and alumni – attended the event to honor Creech’s 29 years of dedicated service to the college mission of “Challenging Minds and Transforming Lives.”

“We are so grateful for the tremendous contribution that Mike has made to Jacksonville College,” Jacksonville College President Joe Lightner said. “Mike’s choosing to invest his life into reaching students for Christ is an inspiration to our Jacksonville College family.”

“Mike truly left his mark on Jacksonville College,” said Mike Smith, the college’s former president. “He was more than just an employee; he was a friend and servant of our Lord. No one was more knowledgeable and possessed a servant spirit than him, working many hours behind the scenes and on weekends and late at night so that the college could have the best in technology.”

Creech joins a long line of Jacksonville College employees whose lives have left a legacy of sacrifice while fulfilling the mission of the college. He began teaching at the college in August 1992 and subsequently served as Business and Computer Science Department Chair, Chief Information Officer, and the first Director of Distance Education. In the latter position, he laid the foundation for the distance education program.

His significant contributions to the advancement of technology at the college include leading his students to create the first website of any college in the East Texas area. He guided the college in choosing and implementing the Empower student information system, which allows online registration and tuition payment. He also implemented the college’s first Learning Management System, paving the way for course materials to be made available online – an invaluable benefit when Covid-19 forced colleges to go online.

Creech served numerous other leadership roles during his nearly 30-year career at the college. He was on the leadership teams for the 1999, 2009, and 2019 Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on College (SACSCOC), the regional association for the accreditation of degree-granting for higher education. Serving as the Quality Enhancement Plan advisor, he provided the QEP Leadership Team assistance for “Going the Distance with Distance Education,” a plan to guide the college’s educational focus over the next 10 years.

Colleagues expressed deep admiration for Creech, commenting on his patient instructions as he assisted faculty and staff with technological needs. “Mike never let me know that he was frustrated because of my technology deficiencies. I require much assistance and patience and Mike always seems glad to give both,” religion instructor Mark Rogers said.

Added Smith: “(Mike) wanted our students and faculty to have the resources they needed. He provided excellent training opportunities, so we were equipped to meet our responsibilities.”

4 ways the church can approach National Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month. Each year, we set aside this month to celebrate adoption in our churches and communities with all manner of meetings, special gatherings, and public acknowledgments. The airwaves are full of commercials touting the gift of adoption and the positive place that adoption has in the lives of so many children and families.

During this month of emphasis, we are intentional with presenting story after heartwarming story of how God has built families through adoption. The beauty of adoption is on full display, and that is an overwhelmingly a good thing. But I believe that National Adoption Month is also a perfect time to pause and acknowledge that the beauty of adoption does not come without a price. Moreover, National Adoption Month represents an opportunity for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ to put the fruit of the gospel on display to post-adoptive families in some needed ways.

Those of us whose families God has grown through adoption know that while our story is good, we did not become a family without brokenness and difficulty. Oftentimes, at points of emphasis like National Adoption Month, we in the Christian adoption community can have an annoying tendency to gloss over the difficult and sad parts of our journey for fear of ruining the good. A Christ-centered perspective reminds us that we cannot because our story ultimately isn’t about us at all.

In so many ways, adoption is a mixed bag. God has given us children that we love more than we can ever really express. Our kids love us as their parents, and they love their siblings (although it doesn’t always look like it). We are all thankful for God’s providential hand in bringing us together, but we have also learned as a family that significant days and meaningful celebrations are defined in part by the people who are not there and the questions that don’t always have answers. Milestone birthdays are joyous, but they are also tinged with thoughts of unknown birth parents or siblings and a sense of loss from something that we never truly had. Graduations and achievements are always tempered by a little sadness or drama that we can’t quite put our fingers on but that have come to expect. Most adoptive families know exactly what I mean.

In short, adoption is beautiful, but it is also hard, and both aspects can be embraced without fear or anxiety. As Christians, we can accept truths in tension in large part because of the gospel. As we think about God’s adoption of us through Christ’s work, the gospel is a story that is filled with both great glory and real grief. God provided for our redemption and demonstrated Jesus’ sovereignty over life and death, but our redemption cost Jesus his life. For our part, our response to the gospel is marked by our turning to Christ for the gift of salvation, but it also is the story of how our sinful brokenness and rebellion against God created a debt that only Jesus could pay.

Although I am not trying to stretch the analogy to exactly equate earthly adoptions with our adoptions into the family of God, I do think that their parallels are noteworthy as we think about how we celebrate adoption. The gospel is the ultimate good news, but it is also good news mixed with brokenness because of how far we had strayed and how much we were in need of rescue.

How the church can approach adoption

In light of these observations, here are a few thoughts as to how we in the church approach National Adoption Month:

Celebrate adoption

Just because adoption is difficult or complex, don’t stop celebrating and championing it. Adoption is not the only answer to fulfilling James 1:27, but it is the exact right answer for some vulnerable children. Adoption isn’t a fairy tale. In the church, we need to be intentional about celebrating adoption and championing adoptive families in healthy ways in order to send a clear message that adoption does not have to be perfect to be something that we affirm and praise the Lord for. As local churches, we celebrate what we value, and Jesus is who we value most. When we appropriately acknowledge adoption in the culture of our churches, we are celebrating the grace and mercy of God on display in his people.

Allow for grief and sadness in adoption

Just because adoption is good doesn’t mean that it is always all good. Give people in your family and your church the grace to experience the full range of the emotions around their adoption. There is no one right way to feel or experience the layers of emotion around the broken relationships and sad stories that are part of adoption. When we don’t know what to do, we can always feel free to give the gift of presence to our family and friends touched by adoption without having to feel the pressure of providing solutions.

I have stopped counting the times that people felt like they needed to say something positive about our family and have told me how grateful that our kids should be to be adopted. Some days, they quite frankly aren’t all that grateful. Yet, I understand that my kids don’t really need to be grateful for death, abandonment, neglect, abuse, or anything else that may have contributed to them being adoptable. The ministry of presence is key when we are face to face with the ongoing pain that brought many families to adoption. Just sitting with our hurting friends in their grief can be more powerful than any words we have.

Allow adoptees and adoptive families to not be OK

Sadly, one of the most difficult things that I have experienced in the last 18+ years in the Christian adoption community is how many hurting adoptive families and adoptees feel like they have to put on a front and hide their pain in the church. It’s as if we feel being transparent about our pain and difficulties will give the enemy a victory when, in reality, Satan is reveling in those families that are too ashamed to let people in their local church into their suffering.

Through adoption, we have encountered pain and brokenness that has at times been too much to bear. Without the prayers and the tangible support of our brothers and sisters in Christ, I don’t know how we would have survived. Perhaps the greatest testimony that adoption has given us is an unshakable confidence in the enduring presence of God through it all. One way to celebrate adoption is to ensure that our churches are a safe place for adoptees and adoptive families to find community and support that mirrors the ever-faithful love of God in their lives.

Provide resources

Years ago, one of the leading family ministries in the United States did a survey of Christian adoptive families, and what they found was striking. They discovered that the top place Christian families want to go for help and resources is their church, but the church is actually one of the last places they turn to for help. This should not be. As Christ’s ambassadors we must do better.

Lifeline and other ministries like ours exist to come alongside local churches and equip and empower them to care for vulnerable children and families in Jesus’ name. When the church becomes among the safest and the best prepared places to care for the uniqueness brought by adoptive families, we become a living picture of the grace of God to a world that is dying to know and follow Jesus.

The post 4 ways the church can approach National Adoption Month appeared first on ERLC.

Illinois General Assembly repeals parental notification

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (BP) – The Illinois General Assembly removed what was essentially the last effective means of regulating abortion in the state when it repealed the Parental Notice Act. Efforts to repeal the requirement failed in the spring legislative session, but it was brought back on short notice in the fall veto session. House Bill 370 (HB 370), the Youth Health and Safety Act, passed in the House by a vote of 62-51 Oct. 27 after being approved in the Senate by 32-22 the day before. Gov. J.B. Pritzker supported the repeal and expressed his intentions to sign it into law.

Current state law, passed in 1995, requires women under the age of 18 to notify a parent, legal guardian or grandparent at least 48 hours prior to an abortion. It does not require permission, only notification. According to the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute, 37 other states have some type of parental notice law in place.

Illinois Right to Life hosted a rally outside the State Capitol Oct. 26, hoping to persuade members of the General Assembly to vote against HB 370. They held placards reading “Hands Off Parental Notice.”

Gov. Pritzker released a written statement of support following the bill’s passage. “At a time when reproductive rights are under attack across the country, Illinois is protecting those critical reproductive rights,” Pritzker said. “This repeal was essential, because it was the most vulnerable pregnant minors who were being hurt most by this law: victims of rape, incest and physical abuse.”

Opponents of the bill say it will do the opposite by enabling abuse. Amy Gehrke, spokesperson for Illinois Right to Life Action, expressed concern for the “rights of parents or the health and safety of minor girls” including those “at the mercy of human traffickers and sexual predators.”

Illinois Parents for the Protection of Girls hosted a virtual gathering last spring with human trafficking survivor Brooke Bello and expert Laura Lederer. Nine-in-ten trafficking survivors reported having contact with a health care provider, according to Lederer, with 71 percent saying they got pregnant at least once while being trafficked. In addition, 55 percent reported having at least one abortion with 30 percent undergoing multiple abortions.

Bello testified she was raped at the age of 11, trafficked at 15, and forced to undergo multiple abortions by her trafficker. “Had my parents been notified, my mother would have [known] what city I was near.” She believes law enforcement could have been alerted, and she may have been rescued sooner.

Gehrke condemned the bill’s passage. “In Illinois, minor girls cannot get a body piercing, a tattoo, or even receive an aspirin without parental consent. Enabling children to have abortions without their parents’ involvement is simply appalling.”

Once signed, the repeal will take effect June 1.

Nationally, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Nov. 1 against the new Texas law limiting abortions to the first six weeks of pregnancy. The high court will hear arguments in December on a Mississippi case that some believe could overturn Roe v. Wade. Decisions in both cases will be released by the summer.

Sexual Abuse Task Force provides update, says Guidepost is making ‘significant progress’

NASHVILLE (BP) – The Sexual Abuse Task Force investigating the potential mishandling of sexual abuse claims by the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee gave an update on their website Nov. 11. The task force is partnering with Guidepost Solutions to conduct the third-party investigation.

According to the update, Guidepost has requested relevant documents from the SBC EC and has “received and reviewed relevant materials provided on a rolling basis.” Document requests and production will be ongoing throughout the investigation.

Guidepost also says they have “received and reviewed relevant documents and other information from independent sources, including survivors and witnesses,” and have conducted “numerous interviews survivors, witnesses, and current and former SBC EC members and staff,” since the contract between the task force and Guidepost was signed on October 5.

The group says they will not proactively reach out directly to abuse survivors in an attempt “to avoid re-traumatization.” Instead, they have established a website and email address for survivors contact them.

The task force says Guidepost has made significant process in the first six weeks of their investigation.

Messengers at the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting voted for an independent third-party investigation of the EC to take place and for the results to be reported 30 days prior to the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim.

The 2022 SBC Annual Meeting is scheduled for June 14-15.

SWBTS-themed license plates approved by Texas DMV

SWBTS license plate

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) granted approval for production of a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary-themed license plate, pending 200 pre-orders by May 9, 2022, the school’s administration announced.

“I’m delighted that we are on the cusp of the Dome having a home on Texas license plates all across the Lone Star State,” said President Adam W. Greenway. “I urge Southwesterners and friends of the seminary in Texas to show their support for our institution by pre-ordering their plates today.”

The license plates, which can be personalized with up to six characters, include the iconic dome of the B.H. Carroll Memorial Building on the Fort Worth campus on a blue background. Students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends and supporters of Southwestern Seminary with registered vehicles in Texas are eligible to pre-order the license plates on the Texas DMV website.

The plates were approved for production following a six-month process that included verifying interest through expressions of public demand and a submission of a license plate design that met the state’s standards of legibility, reflectivity, and graphics, and approval of the plates from the Texas DMV Board during a public meeting. Having been approved for production, 200 pre-orders are required within 180 days to start production of the plates.

The specialty license plates can be ordered for as little as $50 for a one-year term and personalized license plates can receive numerous discounts when pre-ordered for multi-year terms. If 200 Southwestern Seminary-themed license plates are not pre-ordered within the defined time period, the Texas DMW procedures dictate the process must begin again.

The Southwestern Seminary-themed license plates allow the school to have an enhanced presence throughout the state of Texas, where the seminary has served Texas churches and associations since its founding in Waco in 1908. The seminary moved to its present location in Fort Worth in 1910.

Pastor, sharpen your axe

Sharpen your axe Tony Wolfe

“If the axe is dull, and one does not sharpen its edge, then one must exert more strength; however, the advantage of wisdom is that it brings success.” — Ecclesiastes 10:10 (CSB)

My grandfather, Julian Burt McGee, was a strong and resilient man. He was fully ambidextrous whether writing a letter or swinging an axe—the kind of man who could chew up a few pennies and spit out a barbed wire fence. At least that’s how I remember him. I remember watching him chop wood out back, swinging his axe with the left side of his body and then the right: one fluid motion with no hitch of hesitation between his two-handed rhythm. He enjoyed manual labor. It was refreshing for him. And meaningful.

As the wood pile dwindled that day, his swings got heavier and more forceful. Eventually the swings took more out of him than he was able to put back in.

Left. Right. Left. Right. Left …

Then he stopped. The axe was dull.

He carried it to the shed and turned on his grinder. Sharpening the blade was something I believe he enjoyed as much as swinging the axe. He may have called it a labor of necessity, but he treated it like a work of art. He was precise. Careful. Steady. And the finished product was something to be admired. He headed back to the stack of wood and started swinging again. The rhythm was a little less forced this time. It seemed smooth. And calm.

Church leaders depend on tools of their trade, as well. For pastors, among others, our “axes” are mostly intangible. But they can still be—must still be—regularly sharpened.

Pastor, there are many things in ministry beyond your control that often necessitate the exertion of more strength than normal. But if you are not regularly sharpening your axe, you may be exerting more strength than is necessary. I’m as guilty as you are, often swinging away with painful dutifulness when a quick trip to the shed would promise both a more fluid rhythm and a better cut. Sometimes you need to stop and create space to sharpen your axe. If it is success in your calling you desire, capture the advantage of wisdom by sharpening your axe.

Educational Attainment

Formal education like Bible college and/or seminary is not a requirement for the pastor, but it is a great benefit. Be diligent in pursuing the sharpest edge possible on your Bible knowledge and practical ministry. It can save you precious time and energy in sermon preparation and theological dialogue. Enroll in that seminary class. Read that theology book. Join a cohort. Go to the shed and find a sharpening instrument that works for you. Never stop learning and growing in your understanding of the Bible and practical ministry.

Effective Delivery

I have preached or taught the Bible for more than 20 years. I am better in my delivery today than I was yesterday, but I need to be better tomorrow than I am today. With the gift of technology, we can watch our own sermons and work on one or two things at a time to become more effective in our delivery. If you go to the shed for a little while each week, you can work to eliminate those filler words like “umb” or “right,” refine your stage usage, or cut down on superfluous, distracting gestures. Sharpen that blade. Pick one or two things to work on, master them, then pick a couple more.



If it is success in your calling you desire, capture the advantage of wisdom by sharpening your axe.

Time Efficiency

One of the most common frustrations I hear from pastors is that there is just not enough time in the day. Sermon prep, team meetings, seminary, visitation, unexpected emergencies, and family life all stack on top of one another until the conglomerate log pile is more extensive than any one axe can hope to cut through. But the truth is, we all have the time we need for what God has entrusted to us. Talk to a trusted friend or a leadership coach about time management. Become a meticulous calenderer. Set and keep appointments. Build a regular rhythm into your day. If you keep swinging that dull axe, eventually it will take its toll on your body. Step away and get to the shed.

Leadership Acumen

Many pastors spend years of their lives studying theology, preaching, and practical ministry but never hone their skills in organizational leadership. In five years of state convention work, I can count on one hand the number of pastoral tenures I have watched end negatively because of theological issues. It is almost always a leadership (or a relationship) problem. Read leadership books. Work with a leadership coach. Pursue a business or leadership degree. Take time to map out the organizational structure of your church. Build teams. Empower people. Sharpen your leadership axe or you will not shepherd the flock or multiply the ministry to your greatest potential.

Relational Aptitude

For some pastors it comes naturally, and for others it takes work. That’s okay. We are all wired differently, and that is a gift from God. But no matter your skill set or your spiritual giftedness, you still must learn to love, work with, encourage, equip, and lead real live people. People are weird. Just like you. And it often takes some serious effort—intentional sharpening—for a pastor to raise his relational aptitude to the degree of effectiveness needed in ministry. Read books on relational skills, team-based leadership, and emotional intelligence. Take a personality test and pay attention to how you most naturally interact with others who are like you and others who are different from you. If you don’t sharpen your skills in this area, you will feel like you’re chopping at wood with the wrong end of the axe your whole life long, always swinging but never making a dent.

We all know guys who make pastoring look easy. It’s a smooth stroke from week to week—left, right, left, right. Their Sunday morning sermons are always on point. They have a team of capable leaders at their side whose coordinated synergy is something we have never known. When you see a pastor whose rhythm is good and whose cuts are precise, know two things: (1) he didn’t get there accidentally, and (2) he still has to work to stay sharp.

Pastoring is rewarding work, but it is hard work. Don’t make it harder than it must be. When you’re feeling dull, get to the shed and sharpen your blade. Take care of your tools and learn your own rhythm. This is not a novel concept, and it’s really not all that complicated. This is simply the advantage of wisdom. It brings success.

Cedar Hill church honors pastor, wife by paying off home mortgage

Mike and Beverly Simmons

CEDAR HILL—Luke 16:10 says, “The one who is faithful in a very little thing is also faithful in much ….” Hillcrest Baptist Church feels their pastor, Mike Simmons, has been very faithful and recently showed their appreciation in a significant way.

At a banquet marking he and his wife, Beverly’s, 30 years of service to Hillcrest, church leaders honored the couple by paying off their home mortgage. Dr. Bruno Molina, representing the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, had the honor of presenting Simmons with an appreciation plaque recognizing his work in the community.

Simmons has served as a trustee for the International Mission Board for nine years. He has also led Hillcrest in numerous endeavors to reach the lost and bring them to Christ. He emphasizes church planting and has led his church to being known as a grandfather of various churches that have, themselves, gone on to plant in Romania, Egypt, and Thailand.

Under his leadership, Hillcrest has sent 95 missionaries to spread the gospel globally, including throughout North America. Hillcrest has received various awards for being on the list of the top 100 churches honored for giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Over the years, the generosity of Hillcrest has resulted in the giving of $650,000 to mission work via Lottie Moon and the Cooperative Program.

Hillcrest has been serving its community for more than 100 years (beginning in 1920) and is partnering with the Wyoming Baptist Convention to plant churches. Hillcrest is also planting a church in Southeast Asia among the Palaung people; has a growing Spanish-language fellowship which has an average attendance of over 100 people led by Associate Pastor Misael Rodriguez; and has a Chinese-language fellowship lead by pastor Eugene Zhang which is planting home churches all over the Metroplex.

Simmons has been faithful to God and to the members of the congregation he has been given. He has cared for the flock with love and integrity and has been an authentic shepherd, keeping track of the spiritual life of his sheep (Matthew 18:12). He is a continuous encouragement to the church by truly preaching the Word of God and urging church members to share the gospel, fast and pray, serve each other, give to missions, answer the call to missions, and send missionaries to the field. Simmons’ biggest burden is the urgency of calling the called.

“There is a shortage of pastors, the church needs revival, and we need to reach the lost because it is all about Christ,” he said.

The power behind all Simmons does is based on his love for Christ and his favorite Bible verse: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Simmons has been married to Beverly for 40 years. They have three grown children (also serving the Lord in different capacities) and two grandchildren. Simmons said Beverly has been “an incredible pastor’s wife.” He said she teams with him in everything and is so devoted to the Lord that she made sure each of their children were in church the Sunday after their birth. She is a school teacher, plays the piano, sings in the choir, worked in the children ministry, and teaches Bible studies.

Simmons received a Master of Divinity from Southeastern Baptist Seminary and a Doctorate in Ministry from Newburg Theological Seminary and Bible College.

TERLC makes plea for urgent response against ‘unsuitable’ textbooks


The Texas Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee on Thursday issued an open letter strongly urging the rejection of a handful of proposed school textbooks that include “unsuitable” content for children and teenagers.

The letter, signed by TERLC Chairman Nathan Loudin – pastor of Milwood Baptist Church in Austin – was released in advance of Texas State Board of Education meetings that begin next Tuesday (Nov. 16). The books in question are on the SBOE’s agenda for consideration of approval. Since the SBOE cannot order publishers to delete or change content, TERLC is urging a complete and total rejection of the textbooks in question.

One textbook, written for seventh and eighth graders, urges pregnant students to talk to a “trusted medical professional … if you think abortion is right for you.” The same textbook also offers contact information for Planned Parenthood, provides a web link to an organization that helps minors get judicial bypass for abortion without parental consent, and in a section on “Uses for the Reproductive System,” describes a graphic sexual encounter between two students.

Another textbook urges teachers to give students bonus points if they “recognize that fetuses grow in the uterus and are only called babies once they are born.”

“The question of individual freedom in our country is one matter. How the state educates our children with our own tax dollars is an entirely different matter,” Loudin told the Texan Thursday afternoon. “The material in question subverts parental oversight in matters regarding sexuality and identity, replacing a Christian worldview with a godless one. It is not neutral sexual or biological education in any sense.

“Likely, the vast majority of Texas parents have no idea that such material is on the verge of being approved for these ages, or any age for that matter, on a statewide reach. I’m convinced there are many concerned who would act, if so.”

Loudin said Texas parents and grandparents have reviewed the proposed materials and contributed to an analysis of each textbook. Those analyses yielded what they believe are 15 harmful elements of comprehensive sex educations rubrics for each publication. A copy of TERLC’s objections, including examples of objectionable content, can be found here (be advised that the examples contain descriptions of a strong, sexually explicit nature).

TERLC’s letter asks that anyone concerned with the content of the textbooks to contact SBOE members Will Hickman; Audrey Young; Keven Ellis; Tom Maynard; Patricia Hardy; Pam Little; Sue Melton-Malone; and Jay Johnson. Ellis serves as chair of the board and Little is vice chair. TERLC is also asking anyone willing to testify in person at the SBOE meeting in Austin. Registration is already underway and will continue through Friday, Nov. 12, at 5 p.m.