Month: December 2021

9 Barriers to Conflict Resolution

Because we are all real people with real problems, living in a world that is deeply and desperately scarred by sin, conflict is a normal part of the human experience. Here are 9 common barriers to conflict resolution. The list is not exhaustive, but perhaps it will help us all understand a little better how to interact with opposing viewpoints in healthy conflict-dialogue that lends itself to resolution over perpetuity.

1. Hidden Agenda. Conflict is resolved when all the cards are on the table, and opposing parties listen for understanding then co-create a solution for the path forward. If your motive is ulterior, you will seek to manipulate the conversation to produce your preconceived result; when the result is not what you covertly desired, you will walk away with nothing but frustration. But we have no claim to frustration when uncommunicated expectations are not met. Put all the cards on the table. If you come to conflict with a hidden agenda, there will be no resolution.

2. Unchecked Pride. Perhaps you do not want to hear this, but here it goes: you may actually be wrong. If there are two opposing sides seeking to come to the truth, it is only logical that at least one of them (often both) are wrong. If you cannot embrace the possibility that you may actually have something for which to apologize, or some admission of guilt to own, you are not ready to enter conflict resolution. Unchecked pride can only build walls, never bridges. Genuine humility is a prerequisite for the resolution of any conflict.

3. Uninformed Assumption. I would not dare put an arbitrary statistic on such a claim, but I am willing to suggest that the vast majority of interpersonal conflict is either rooted in or perpetuated by uninformed assumptions. We come to every conflict armed with information but the gaps between the information, and the motivation behind it all, are left to our assumptions. If it is resolution you seek, be keenly aware of the difference between what you know and what you assume. Own the facts but be willing to be corrected on the gaps between information, the motivation of your offender, and your interpretation of the data.

4. Fresh Offense. “An offended brother is harder to reach than a fortified city,” (Proverbs 18:19). When we are freshly offended, we must do some serious soul-searching before we are ready to engage in conflict resolution. A freshly offended heart loves to manipulate an overwhelmed mind and inform a combative tongue. Cool off. Force yourself to think circumspectly. If you cannot engage in conversation civilly the conflict will be escalated, not resolved.

5. Lingering Unforgiveness. Bitterness poisons the soul; its only antidote is to forgive as God has forgiven you in Christ Jesus. Though unworthy of this grace, He extended it to you freely and asks that you, in kind, extend it to undeserving others. When unforgiveness lingers, past offense becomes the filter for processing present data and the road block to envisioning future possibility. Forgive as Christ has forgiven you. Otherwise, there will be no resolution to your conflict past, present, or future.

6. Hardened Predisposition. We do not only bring our conflict to the table of resolution; we bring ourselves to it, too. There are many reasons a person can become cynical in life: childhood experiences, mounting disappointments, past failure, and so much more. To resolve conflict, a person with a hardened predisposition must become painfully aware of his or her own cynicism. Otherwise, no resolution will ever be bright enough to penetrate the darkness of superintending disappointment.

7. Unhealthy Communication. I am convinced that much of the time, we just don’t know how to speak to one other or how to listen to one another. During the conflict resolution meeting, while your counterpart is speaking you should not be formulating rebuttals in your mind. You should be listening to understand. “A fool does not delight in understanding, but only wants to show off his opinions,” (Proverbs 18:2). Such arrogance inevitably lends itself only to conflict escalation, not resolution. It is altogether foolish to enter a conflict resolution conversation without intent to listen for understanding to the other’s perspective and to communicate your own perspective with grace and truth.

8. Personal Insecurity. Those who are insecure will often own a problem that is not theirs to own. This is not conflict resolution; it is conflict avoidance. To own an offense that is not yours is to sell yourself a lie while simultaneously robbing the other party of truth that leads to healing. To engage in meaningful conflict resolution, you will have to get past your own personal insecurities and embrace the tension of honest dialogue.

9. Secondary Stress. Wouldn’t it be great if we could deal with just one crisis at a time? The truth is, we all bring a load of concurrent stresses to every present conflict. But the conflict resolution table is not the place to unload them. If your counterpart unloads on you, consider that perhaps he or she is giving vent to emotions that have nothing to do with this conversation. But if you recognize that you are bringing emotions to the table that do not belong there, give yourself permission to deal with them elsewhere, later. Secondary stresses can blind you to a resolution that is right in front of you. Control your emotions or they will control you.

Study: Few Americans confident they could tell biblical Christmas story

NASHVILLE (BP) – Most people in America may hang Christmas decorations and exchange gifts on Dec. 25, but few say they could give all the details about the biblical Christmas story.

A Lifeway Research study finds 9 in 10 U.S. adults say they celebrate Christmas, including many non-Christians. Overall, 91 percent of Americans celebrate the Christmas holiday, unchanged from 2010.

“Americans may celebrate the Christmas holiday in many different ways, but very few skip a Christmas celebration completely,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “Even many of those who aren’t as familiar with the story of Jesus’ birth find ways to observe the holiday.”

Catholics (99 percent) and Protestants (97 percent) are most likely to commemorate the day of Jesus’ birth. Still, significant majorities of Americans of other religions (74 percent) and those with no religious affiliation (82 percent) also celebrate Christmas. Women (94 percent) are more likely than men (89 percent) to observe the holiday.

Geographically, the most Christmas spirit may reside in the Midwest (94 percent), as residents there are more likely to say they celebrate than those in the Northeast (88 percent).

Christmas confusion

In a 2018 Lifeway Research study, 65 percent of Americans said Christmas should be more about Jesus. While 2 in 3 may want more Christ in Christmas, most couldn’t give you all the details of Jesus’ birth story.

Slightly more than 1 in 5 Americans (22 percent) say they could accurately tell the Christmas story found in the Bible from memory. A plurality of U.S. adults (31 percent) say they could tell the story but may miss some details or get others wrong. Another quarter (25 percent) could only give a quick overview and 17 percent say they couldn’t tell any of it.

“While fictional Christmas stories seem to multiply each year, the biblical account of Jesus Christ’s birth is unchanged since it was recorded in the Bible,” McConnell said. “Yet almost half of Americans do not think they could share the Christmas story somewhat accurately from memory. Of all the Christmas programs churches offer in December, possibly the most important is simply reading the biblical account of the Christmas story itself.”

More church means more Christmas story recollection among self-identified Christians. Those who attend a worship service four times a month or more (45 percent) or 1 to 3 times a month (24 percent) are more likely than Christians who attend less than once a month (13 percent) to say they could tell all the biblical story accurately.

More education also grants more Christmas confidence. Americans with a graduate degree (35 percent) or bachelor’s degree (26 percent) are more likely than those with some college (19 percent) or a high school diploma or less (18 percent) to say they could relay the complete story.

Americans with evangelical beliefs are three times as likely as those without such beliefs to say they could accurately tell the full biblical Christmas story from memory (46 percent to 15 percent).

The religiously unaffiliated are least confident in their recollection of the story. Only 1 in 10 (10 percent) say they could retell the whole Christmas story from the Bible, fewer than any other religious demographic.

For more information, view the complete report or visit

Pastor’s home burns as he preaches, but treasured Bibles are spared

DAMON—The Sunday before Thanksgiving, Darrin George preached on Psalm 100:4 at Hilltop Fellowship Church of Damon, emphasizing gratitude. He added an illustration from James 1: “Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials” (1:2). 

Little did the pastor know that the trial had already come. 

“God wants your thanks, even in the middle of the fire,” George told the congregation of around 50.

Later in the sermon, he looked up to see his wife, Ami, standing at the rear of the church, an unusual occurrence because she was taking care of the church’s children back there. She motioned calmly. Pausing his message, George stepped down from the pulpit and walked toward Ami, who delivered the news: “The house is on fire.”

“Our house?”

“Yes, our house is on fire.”

Darrin assumed the pulpit at Hilltop Fellowship in October 2019; he and Ami were high school sweethearts in Damon.

George recalled dropping his jacket, folding his glasses and telling the congregation what was happening while heading out the door to see what could be saved at the home, which sat on family land a two-minute drive from the church.

The congregation soon followed.

One of the couple’s three adult sons had been in the house when the fire broke out and called 911 after getting out safely. He had also called Ami.

By the time volunteer fire fighters and the Georges arrived, the 1,800-square-foot structure was ablaze. Darrin, a former volunteer fireman, grabbed one of the two hoses from the tanker truck and began drenching the flames.

Members of the congregation helped as they could, passing out water bottles to first responders, praying. Little could be done. The house was unsalvageable.

Treasure amidst the ruins

Fire inspectors determined that the blaze had started from a faulty electrical receptacle in the wall behind the living room couch, the same sofa where Darrin had slept the night before as he and Ami “camped out” in the living room with their grandchildren, a Saturday night custom.

The George home, which burned on Sun., Nov. 21, as the pastor preached at Hilltop Fellowship of Damon, was a total ruin.

Had the fire started only a few hours earlier, he might have been engulfed in flames as the sofa ignited. The home was a disaster, but things could have been worse.

“We might never have awakened,” George said.

The television set once nestled in the entertainment center completely melted, leaving only a metal wall frame and bracket. George recalled standing at a window, soaking the bookshelves and entertainment center with water from the firehose.

When it became safe to start sifting through the rubble, the Georges found that very few things had survived the fire, smoke, and water. Yet treasures lay amid the charred debris.

“We were able to salvage our photos. They were in a tote from the last hurricane,” George said. He added that they also located some keepsakes, including a letter he had written Ami when they were teens, but were still hunting for her original wedding ring that must be “in here somewhere.”

Most miraculous of all, four Bibles that had been sitting on the entertainment center, the very shelves that George had blasted with water, were recovered intact, spotted by a lady from the church. All escaped harm, as did a devotional book that had belonged to his mother.

“They were unburned and not even water damaged,” said George, calling it an “unbelievable miracle of God.”

George said he and his late grandmother, an important spiritual figure in his life, had read together often from her Bible, especially during his frequent, lengthy bouts of childhood illness when she cared for him while his mom worked. He likewise treasured the Bible and devotional book that had belonged to his mother, also now deceased.  The Georges’ family Bible was among those spared, as was his childhood Bible.

Amid the loss, finding the Bibles was a tangible reminder of God’s love and care.

And the fire proved to be “a continuation” of George’s sermon and an unexpected “object lesson” that is already impacting the Damon community.

Help arrives quickly

The couple lost everything. House insurance had been cut from the family budget following a reduction in the bi-vocational pastor’s income when he was laid off from his sales job. He now works as a construction contractor in addition to being a pastor.

“The house was paid for. We cut loose of insurance when money got tight,” George said.

They are starting the rebuild practically from zero.

But help came quickly and is continuing.

The Gulf Coast Baptist Association presented the Georges with a generous check to help with immediate needs. Church members are bringing meals, helping sift through the rubble and assisting to prepare the ruined structure for demolition.

The couple’s middle son parked his RV on the family’s acreage so his parents would have a place to stay. Their son Aaron started a GoFundMe page to help ( A larger fundraiser, with barbecue dinner and silent auction, is scheduled for January 8 at McClean Park Pavilion in Lake Jackson. A pastor friend, age 81, is planning a benefit concert.

SBTC field representative Mitch Kolenovsky connected George with Jeff Lynn, SBTC senior strategist for Church Health and Leadership, who sent both condolences and paperwork for an SBTC grant to help the rebuild. 

Help has come from unexpected sources, too. Ami has lived in Damon all her life and Darrin came as a teenager. A couple long known to the Georges paid a visit the day after the fire.

“We’re not church-going people. We are praying and hoping that one day we will be. You guys do so much good in the community. If you were to rebuild, how much would you need?” the man asked.

George suggested an amount to construct a modest 1,100-square-foot home with room for the couple and an extra bedroom for grandkids. The cost included his doing much of the work himself.

The couple presented the Georges with a significant check, enough to lay a new slab and dry it in, the pastor said, adding, “People have been so generous.”

“Many donations have come from all over, anonymous gifts of $20 to $1,000 from people we will never know. But God knows,” George said, adding that the Verizon sales representative even donated $200 to the GoFundMe account when the pastor was in the store seeing about a replacement for his son’s burnt cell phone.

Rebuilding a way of life

The Georges are no strangers to rebuilding. When Darrin assumed his current pulpit in October 2019, the church had gone through ups and downs over the years, changing names and pastors frequently. It was a mission of New Shores Baptist in Sweeney, known as the New Shores Damon campus, when George was called.

In April 2021, the church launched on its own. The name was changed to Hilltop Fellowship, a reference to its location atop a large natural mound in the community of 1,000-1,200, including surrounding farms and ranches as well as Damon, a town of around 400 an hour southwest of Houston.

“We’ve got clothes. We’ve got food. We’ve got what we need. And we have seen God’s hand. Most definitely.”

Right now, in what remains of their home, the Georges are busy “tearing down what’s left and getting ready to build for the future,” the pastor said. Days are tough, the loss still raw and new. But hope as symbolized by the recovered Bibles is real.

“We’ve got clothes. We’ve got food. We’ve got what we need,” George said, adding, “And we have seen God’s hand. Most definitely.”

For information about the January 8 fundraiser in Lake Jackson, email Jasmyn George at or message Hilltop Fellowship of Damon on Facebook.

Collegiate leaders, remember this as the semester comes to an end

Take yourself back. It was the summer of 2021, and you had finally made it past what was likely one of the hardest years of ministry with shelter-in-place, endless Zoom calls and the disruption of your ministry. Ahead stretched the new light of the 2021-2022 school year where things would start getting back to normal. If you’re anything like me, the hopeful stirring within you of a new year in ministry inevitably led you to one place: the whiteboard.

Maybe it wasn’t a literal whiteboard; maybe it was an iPad, a group-document, or a stone tablet (you do you), but odds are you sat down to dream, to plan, and most importantly, to pray for God to do something amazing this year. Can I ask you an honest question? Here at the end of the fall 2021 semester when you look back over those hopeful aspirations laid across your systematically messy whiteboard, how are you doing? Did you start those new community groups? Did you work out that leadership pipeline? Is your discipleship program back on track?

Hopefully you have been able to tackle and achieve many of the items littered around your whiteboard. Maybe you’ve struggled to get some of them to migrate from theory to practice. Perhaps life has happened in an unexpected way and you’re just glad the semester is over. Hear me: God has poured his power and provision over you and your ministry in each of those situations.

So, regardless of where you’re at and how you’re doing at accomplishing those whiteboard plans, here are two important truths to remember:

The purpose behind your plans is the discipleship of students

One of my favorite lessons to teach college students is the Great Commission. More specifically, I love teaching them about the grammar of Jesus’ command (I’m a nerd, I know, but stick with me.)

Matthew 28:19-20: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

I typically start by asking them what the verb in this passage is. Most say, “Go!” I tell them that in the original language the verb is actually “make disciples” and the word “go” is a participle.

A better translation of the Great Commission is “While you are going, make disciples.” Jesus says this because he already assumes we are going. So while we go, we make disciples in our wake. This is encouraging to college students who feel they don’t have time to disciple someone, but I think it also may prove encouraging to college ministers too.

When you sat down to make your 2021-22 plans, what was the subtext of all your planning? Hopefully the answer is the discipleship of students. Why implement a new community group model? To disciple students. Why bring on more leaders? To disciple students. Why spend far too much money on pizza? To disciple students.

However much or little you feel like you’ve done this semester, if you have discipled students, you are doing exactly what you are called to do in your ministry.

God isn’t calling you to success but to obedience

This point always hits home for me: I’m a perfectionist. I want to be the best at what I do. I want to be a model for others—in my personal life but also in my ministry. But one of the most freeing moments in my growth in Christ came when I took another look at the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. We know the story well: A master gives his three servants money to invest while he’s gone. When he arrives home, two of the servants have accomplished the task while one was afraid and did nothing.

You know what I recently noticed? The master’s response is the same to both the servant who was given five talents and the servant who was given two talents. To the servant who made the master five talents, the master exclaimed, “Well done, my good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!” To the servant who made the master two talents, the master exclaimed, “Well done, my good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!”

The master’s response seems to fly in the face of our contemporary notion of success, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t the one who was entrusted with more money be given a greater reward and be put in charge of many things while the one who was entrusted with less money should be given a comparable reward of overseeing just some things? In this parable, I think we can see Jesus’ heart and perspective on what’s important: obedience.

In this parable, I think we can see Jesus’ heart and perspective on what’s important: obedience.

Jesus, the Master, is calling for your obedience in the ministry he’s entrusted to you. Our notion of success is a man-made idea that fuels competition, obsession, shame, comparison and ultimately burnout. Maybe you’ve crossed off every item on your whiteboard plans. Great. You were faithful over a few things and God will continue to give you more, so share your master’s joy. Maybe you have struggled through these past few months and are feeling discouraged that you haven’t done all that you wanted to accomplish. But if you have been faithful to teach God’s Word, make disciples, and love students—great. You were faithful over a few things and God will continue to give you more, so share your master’s joy.

So the semester has ended. It’s likely been wild, weird and wonderful all at once. Wherever you find yourself as the semester concludes, be thankful, remember your calling, breathe, rest and make some great plans for the upcoming spring semester that will continue to make your ministry obedient to discipling students. Through all of it, I encourage you to be near Jesus—his heart, his word, his goodness and grace.

ANALYSIS: What will happen at the state level if Roe is overturned?

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The case centers on an abortion restriction passed within the state of Mississippi that prohibits the procedure after 15 weeks. However, briefs and arguments before the court have focused not just on the 15-week ban, but the constitutionality of the court cases that currently govern abortion jurisprudence: Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvannia v. Casey (1992). The court could decide to uphold the Mississippi restriction, and in effect change the standard set by Roe and Casey. It could also go further and overturn both, ending almost half a century of federally sanctioned holocaust against the unborn.

Abortion access at the time Roe was decided

At the time that Roe v. Wade was decided, abortion was largely prohibited across the country. It was legalized in four states, and allowed in limited circumstances in 16 others such as rape, incest, or the life of the mother. In the remaining 30 states, abortion was outlawed without exception. For those who desired an abortion, it often required travel to a state (or country) which permitted the procedure. For example, in 1972 there were over 580,000 legal abortions in the United States. Historian Daniel Williams has shown that even with a majority of states banning abortion pre-Roe, certain states were able to provide enough hospital abortion services for hundreds of thousands of abortions. Thus, while abortion was largely illegal, it was not unthinkable.

What happens in various states if Roe is overturned?

While overturning Roe would return the question of abortion access to the states, the country is in a much different place than it was when Roe was decided. If Roe is overturned, a wide disparity would exist between different states, with some automatically protecting or prohibiting abortion access. Others would almost certainly become contested battlegrounds for control of state legislatures and the governorship so as to pass measures in either direction.

Whereas before only four states gave women the right to seek an abortion, currently 15 states and the District of Columbia protect that access: Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Hawaii, Maine, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.

Another 12 would immediately ban or severely restrict abortion access: Idaho, Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee. There are also a number of states that have enacted laws which are currently blocked by the federal courts, but which could be easily reinstated to restrict access: Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, and South Carolina. There are also states that would likely move to ban or restrict abortion based on the makeup of their state legislatures: Florida, Indiana, Montana, Nebraska, and Wyoming.

Between these opposing groups of states would be those that would become highly contested for control of the government. For example, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and North Carolina have a governor who is a Democrat and state houses that are controlled by the Republicans. As the push for pro-life causes moves to the state level, these local races would become more crucial in electing pro-life supporters.

New challenges at that state level

If the Supreme Court chooses to overturn Roe, the pro-life movement will need to focus on a number of new challenges that are likely to occur at the level of state policy. First, it is likely that the limiting of abortion in one state will not stop individuals from traveling to obtain it. After Texas passed a 6-week abortion ban, the neighboring state of Oklahoma reported an increase in individuals from Texas seeking an abortion. And while overturning Roe would increase the distance that individuals would have to travel on average to over 125 miles to reach the nearest abortion provider, it would still be an option for those who have the resources and are capable of traveling.

However, the more likely result will be an increase in the use of abortion medication. Currently, over 40% of abortions are obtained through the use of the abortion pills. With the pandemic and the loosening of restrictions on telemedicine, it has become easier to obtain the pills online and have them shipped directly to abortion-vulnerable women. Though there are some state regulations that limit the use of these pills and obtaining them through the mail, their prevalence is expected to rise because the cost of the medication is cheaper than a surgical abortion.

Another consideration that the pro-life movement will face is elected officials who refuse to enforce bans and restrictions, especially in states with divided governments. For example, Michigan’s attorney general has stated previously that she would not enforce the state’s ban on abortion if the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe. Even if the pro-life movement is able to help pass legislation further restricting abortion, it will require government officials willing to enforce it.

Importance of state-by-state action for pro-life movement

With the shift from a national to state-level emphasis, the pro-life movement will need to adapt even as it continues doing what it has done for years. In the states where abortion is permitted, the pro-life movement will need to learn how to mobilize at the local level to pass ordinances, advocate for legislation, and help promote officials who stand for the dignity of the unborn. This will look different from state to state, and in some places it may be possible to only achieve partial measures in the short term — a ban on abortion at 20 weeks rather than a heartbeat bill — but in all it will look like advancing toward the goal where abortion is illegal and unthinkable, and every life is protected.

In those states where abortion becomes illegal, the pro-life movement should not cease to work toward making abortion unthinkable. Just because abortion is illegal does not mean that women will not face unexpected pregnancies and the difficulties that might make them consider abortion. The number one reason that people seek abortions are for economic issues, and these concerns — poverty, job insecurity, the cost of healthcare — will still exist once Roe is overturned. If Roe is overturned, Christians will have the opportunity to refute the claim by pro-abortion advocates that those in the pro-life movement only care about the baby and mother up to the point of birth. We will be able to showcase that being pro-life is a womb-to-tomb ethic, and that the church, in the name of Jesus, seeks to serve and love the most vulnerable.

The post What will happen at the state level if Roe is overturned? appeared first on ERLC.

Vance Pitman to lead NAMB’s Send Network

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Vance Pitman, who planted Hope Church Las Vegas in 2000 and pastored there 21 years, will lead the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) church planting efforts as the new president of Send Network. Pitman and NAMB president Kevin Ezell shared the announcement in a video released today.

“I’ve been part of Send Network since its inception, but I’ve been part of it on the field — as a church planter, a pastor and a Sending Church. Now I get to be part of it from a different vantage point,” Pitman said.

Pitman has led Hope to be a reproducing church. Under his leadership, Hope has played a part in planting more than 70 new churches. Throughout its history, more than 300 members of Pitman’s congregation have been sent out to help start new churches.

“I want to take what the Lord has allowed us to be able to do at Hope Church and help be part of raising up the next generation church planters and pastors across North America,” Pitman said.

Pitman will resign from Hope Church and begin his new role at NAMB on March 1, 2022.

“I am excited about the days ahead for NAMB and Send Network,” Ezell said. “Vance is a church planter at heart, and he has already had a great influence on Send Network. We look forward to seeing what God has in store for us as we continue to meet needs, share the hope of the gospel and plant churches throughout North America.”

Pitman has been closely involved in Send Network for several years. He contributed significantly to the development of the network’s church planter assessment process, which helps ensure that church planters are well qualified for their role. He is also regularly featured as a speaker at NAMB church planter training events.

Pitman follows Dhati Lewis, who led Send Network for three years. In mid-November, Lewis shared his plans to leave NAMB at the end of the year to concentrate more fully on developing and mentoring young leaders who will plant churches in the urban context.

“Vance is a close friend, fellow pastor and church planter,” Lewis said. “I’ve learned a lot from him, and I look forward to the ways he will help Send Network continue to plant churches everywhere for everyone.”

Pitman and his wife, Kristie, relocated to Las Vegas in 2000 to plant Hope Church. Their sending church was First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga. What started as a small group meeting in their living room eventually grew to a church of more than 4,000 members with 54 languages spoken among them.

“For me, it’s always been about the Kingdom being expanded,” Pitman said. “I want us to trust God for an even greater future than we’ve already seen in Send Network.”

SBTC partnership offers churches a tool to pray, care for neighbors

Bless Every Home

GRAPEVINE—Every Great Commission-focused church wants to reach its neighborhood for Christ. Door-to-door visits, passing out flyers and tracts … such traditional methods still work, but may be less effective in today’s increasingly mobile society where neighbors often do not know the folks down the street.

Imagine being able to pray daily for neighbors by name, to care for them, to share the gospel with them.

To encourage that dynamic, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is offering its affiliated churches the opportunity to learn about their neighbors and track evangelism efforts by making Bless Every Home’s Bless Partner service available.

Bless Partner facilitates one-on-one evangelism with those around you, said Bruno Molina, SBTC language and interfaith evangelism associate.

How it works

When a church joins the Bless Partner service, members sign up to be “Lights” in their neighborhoods, Molina explained. Members see a map of their area and determine the perimeter of their prayers.

“They decide,” Molina said. “Say, they choose 100 people … [they] can see on a map where those people live, their names, their addresses.” The Lights then record interactions with these neighbors.

Something as simple as helping your neighbor take out her garbage is an example of caring. The Bless Partner app allows church members to log such events and note times when they have prayed or shared the gospel with someone. The church can see the same information, Molina said.

The app even offers an optional prompt to remind members to pray for individuals. “Every morning, they’ll get a reminder to pray for five people in their area,” Molina said. “When they pray for these people by name, they can check them off on the app.”

With Bless Partner, churches need not wonder about the extent of their members’ evangelistic efforts. “You’re not guessing, hoping and praying that people are doing [these things],” Molina said. “If you’re on the app, you’ll know exactly where your people stand. The app is a good accountability tool to make sure you are living out the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.”

The information on residences and residents distributed by Bless Partner can all be found in public records, Molina said. The app simply consolidates the information to make it accessible to churches and members.

Start Bless Partner for free through the SBTC

The SBTC is providing affiliated churches a scholarship to cover the first two months of the Bless Partner service when they register under the SBTC umbrella, Molina said. Churches that choose to continue the service after the initial two months will pay only $15 per month for the entire church, regardless of size. Churches may unsubscribe to the service at any time.

The first 100 churches registering under the SBTC umbrella will receive a third month free of the Bless Partner service and a special bonus: three months of the New Movers service also offered by Bless Every Home.

The New Movers service provides churches with weekly lists of up to 25 households that have moved within a 15-mile radius of the church. According to the Bless Every Home website, the list includes the new residents’ names and address and notes how many miles they have moved from their last home. Church staffs can mobilize their member Lights who have opted to visit new movers. The Lights receive email notifications to pray for and visit the appropriate new movers. These contacts can also be logged.

Kudos for the app

Matt Queen, associate dean of the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, endorses Bless Every Home and said he has used the program in leading evangelism at Southwestern and at Lane Prairie Baptist Church.

“The features it offers, as well as the dynamic and current information it provides, makes it an excellent tool for SBTC churches as we cooperatively reach the 19-plus-million lost people within our state,” Queen said.

“The Bless Every Home initiative is a simple, yet powerful tool to mobilize church members on mission in their own neighborhoods,” SBTC Associate Executive Director Tony Wolfe added. “When everyday followers of Jesus begin strategically praying over, caring for, and sharing the gospel with their neighbors, the Great Commission advances, churches are strengthened, and souls are saved. The Lone Star State is home to 30 million people and that number is growing daily. Our network of churches must find ways to mobilize every Texan Christ-follower to intentional and organic daily witness for Christ. Bless Every Home is just that.”

To learn more about the various services offered by Bless Every Home, visit Churches that would like to sign up under the SBTC umbrella can do so here. Individual people can sign up here.

Ledbetters leave legacy of ‘positive truthfulness’

GRAPEVINE—Gary and Tammi Ledbetter, noted journalists in Southern Baptists’ conservative movement, have drawn the praise of friends and co-workers as their 21 years of service in the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention ends.

Gary gave direction to the SBTC’s news journal, the Southern Baptist TEXAN, as its editor while writing columns that were neighborly in tone but clearly biblical and Baptist in perspective. He will remain in an advisory position with SBTC communications but is stepping down as TEXAN editor at the close of 2021.

Tammi penned an array of stories—covering SBTC annual meetings and Executive Board sessions and recording the witness for Christ of pastors and church members across the state—while also nurturing the TEXAN’s cadre of correspondents.

“A ‘positive truthfulness’ is their hallmark,” said Jim Richards, executive director of the SBTC since its founding in 1998, who transitioned from the post in July after the election of his successor, Nathan Lorick.

"They never backed away from putting in print what had to be said, but they also did it with grace and dignity."

“They never backed away from putting in print what had to be said,” Richards said of the Ledbetters, “but they also did it with grace and dignity.

“Gary set the gold standard for state convention papers over the last two decades” while Tammi conveyed “insight beyond the average news story. Her pursuit of the facts and desire to capture the entire account is unparalleled.

“We got a two-fer with Tammi and Gary,” Richards said. “They had traveled the road of the Conservative Resurgence. By life experience they could speak into events and denominational situations with precise acumen.”

Lorick, who served as SBTC director of evangelism from 2012 to 2017, said the convention’s communications team “would not be where we are today without the faithful ministry of Gary and Tammi. They have set the bar high and created a culture of excellence in telling God’s stories across Texas. As we move into the future, the impact the Ledbetters have had will always be evident.”

Roots in the gospel

Their native state of Arkansas is where it all began.

“Extended family was a huge influence on my spiritual development,” Gary recounted. “The consistent example and daily religious practice of several Ledbetters showed me the gospel.”

He turned to Christ during a week of Vacation Bible School at Bethel Heights Baptist Church in Fayetteville between the fifth and sixth grade. “My grandmother was the teacher. I made a public profession the next Sunday and was baptized in a local creek a couple of weeks later.”

Tammi is among an estimated 500,000-plus people who made professions of faith under the preaching of Angel Martinez, whose evangelistic ministry spanned six decades.

“He clearly presented the plan of salvation in a way that I could easily understand at a time in my life when the Holy Spirit was working to convict me of the need for a Savior.”

They went to high school together and their relationship grew.

“I realized that I not only loved her,” Gary said, “but had more in common with her than with anyone.”

As for Tammi, “Through years of friendship with Gary, and each of us sensing a call to ministry, we realized God had called us to marry and serve him together.”

They married in 1976 after Tammi finished a journalism and speech degree at the University of Arkansas. Gary earned a bachelor’s degree from Criswell College in 1978 while Tammi edited the school’s Shofar magazine. Gary earned a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1981 and a Doctor of Ministry from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., in 2000.

Turning points

Gary recalled “standing under the dome [in Southwestern’s flagship building] thinking of my New Testament prof who ridiculed us for believing that God would judge the dead and my ethics prof who advocated for Roe v. Wade. I remember that day as if it was yesterday and had the thought that I could not be a Southern Baptist if this is what we supported.”

Tammi had taken theology, church history and evangelism classes at Criswell and became “more aware of the concerns about being faithful to Scripture and the way that our entities were led.” The practical outworking of such views “especially in regard to pro-life issues seemed to put the spotlight on that for me.”

After  Gary worked in college and student ministry at churches in Indiana and Texas, the Ledbetters joined the staff of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana, he as editor of the Indiana Baptist newspaper and director of collegiate ministries, and she as the paper’s managing editor.

Marty King, a member of the Indiana convention’s Executive Board then, noted, “Both had their hands full—Gary in two of the most challenging roles on the small state convention staff and Tammi raising three kids and writing state and national convention stories.

"The Indiana Baptist was, to a great degree, the voice of the Conservative Resurgence in the 1980s. I soon came to see Gary as a calm, thoughtful administrator with a gift for biblically-based editorial writing. Tammi was the bulldog writer the SBC needed at that paper. They were perfect for Indiana Baptists and for the SBC."

“The Indiana Baptist was, to a great degree, the voice of the Conservative Resurgence in the 1980s. I soon came to see Gary as a calm, thoughtful administrator with a gift for biblically-based editorial writing. Tammi was the bulldog writer the SBC needed at that paper. They were perfect for Indiana Baptists and for the SBC,” said King, who later served as director of communications for the North American Mission Board, associate executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association, and director of corporate communications for Lifeway Christian Resources.

Arriving in Texas

The Ledbetters joined the SBTC staff in 2001 after 7 years with Indiana Baptists and 5 years at Midwestern Seminary, where Gary was vice president for student development and Tammi, director of communications.

With the SBTC, Gary edited the TEXAN and served as staff liaison with the convention’s Texas Ethics & Religious Liberty Committee. Tammi, who preceded Gary in retirement in 2020, initially served as managing editor of the state paper and later as news editor, assignments editor and special reports editor.

The couple relocated to the Fayetteville area, close to family in 2021.

The Ledbetters, as part of the Richards-led SBTC staff, have seen the convention grow from 120 affiliated churches in 1998 to nearly 2,700 churches today.

“It’s been a joy to see churches doing well, being faithful, [and] for people to see the stories we’re publishing issue by issue,” Gary said. And in convention affairs, “never having to spin the truth to keep people from knowing what we’re doing has been a privilege.”

King called Gary’s editorials “as applicable in Texas as they were in Indiana” or anywhere else reflecting on the Christian family, missions, the local church, denominational affairs and biblical ethics. “His pieces always helped his readers think about what it means to be a believer, a parent, a church member and a Southern Baptist,” King said.

In an editorial titled “The sting of death,” for example, Gary exhorted fellow believers to “listen to a culture that speaks foolishly of ultimate things. Watch those who twitch and fidget at Grandma’s funeral. There is no solution to their fear but the gospel we bear. Remember that we will all die either in terror or in bright anticipation of the God we all will meet. … How can we, believing what we say we believe, be uncaring about the fate of our neighbors?”

On instances of leadership tumult, Gary wrote in 2019, “I deeply regret the details of some of the transitions Southern Baptists have faced in the past couple of years. That does not mean that nothing good can come of the transition—far from it. New faces, new skill sets and new generations in the top slot will be alternately annoying and delightful as our institutions implement new visions. Since new vision is necessary, we can shrug off some of the annoyances. A new slate of leaders committed to innovation and well-versed in the reasons for the things we’re already doing sounds like progress for our Great Commission work.”

Gary said his mother raised him to be a “voracious reader,” spawning an interest in “dabbling in writing because I loved good writers of history, poetry and fiction.” Of his editorials, he emphasized commonality of interest with his readers: “I hoped people would think about something that had intrigued me, be convicted or encouraged by something that moved me, know something that I’ve had occasion to know and, on occasion, to be outraged by something outrageous.”

Respected reporting

Tammi, meanwhile, was a frontline writer for both the TEXAN and Baptist Press, covering the news conference held by each of the SBC’s newly elected presidents for more than 20 years. In Texas, she found covering missionary appointment services to be especially meaningful.

“I always tried to give everybody a chance to state their opinion in their words, to quote them as fully as possible,” she said, describing her journalistic method as “a fairer way to handle coverage” of key events.

One of her most salient stories came in 1990 when she was with the Indiana Baptist. At the SBC annual meeting in New Orleans, she noticed the convention’s registration secretary, the late Lee Porter, an editor with the then-Baptist Sunday School Board, addressing a seminary class at the registration area along a main hallway.

She took notes on the exchange, later reporting a range of Porter’s assertions regarding “fundamentalists” who had been gaining control of the convention since the 1979 election of Adrian Rogers. “They’re like Hitler and Khomeini,” Porter said. “They just overkill” and “want you to agree with every book of the Bible.” At the credentials desk, he claimed, conservative pastors were the “biggest liars” and “meanest people.”

Porter never disputed the report about his comments, resulting in a BSSB stipulation that he choose between his work at the board or his SBC post. He chose the latter and continued in office until being defeated for reelection at the 2002 annual meeting in St. Louis.

Tammi’s penchant for expanding the TEXAN’s corps of correspondents enhanced the paper’s depth of coverage and its reach across the state.

Jane Rodgers, the TEXAN’s managing editor for the past year, came to Tammi’s attention as a Criswell administrator’s wife with writing and teaching experience.

“Tammi is a quick-witted, funny, creative, visionary editor who sees writers for what they can become as journalists,” Rodgers said. “She exemplifies the rare combination of wife, mother and professional, with no one neglected except maybe herself.”

Bonnie Pritchett, a stay-at-home mom in the Houston area who became a prominent TEXAN correspondent, said, “[The Ledbetters’] knowledge of all things SBTC and SBC—and other state conventions for that matter—always amazes me. People, dates, events, the nuances of high-profile stories and the people involved in them—I have always appreciated their willingness to let me pepper them with questions about these things. I wish I remembered half of what they told me.”

“It is rare,” Lorick said, “that an organization like the SBTC can have such high-caliber journalists as part of their team … that for two decades the Lord blessed the SBTC with two of the best. The Ledbetters have dedicated so much of their lives to help proclaim the gospel through journalism. We have been so fortunate not only to have them serving the SBTC so well, but also to call them friends.”

Hawkins’ latest book, ‘The Prayer Code,’ released

NASHVILLE (BP) – O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, will release the latest in his Code series of books on Tuesday (Nov. 30). “The Prayer Code” will be the last of his books released during his tenure as president of GuideStone. He will retire in early 2022.

The book’s full title is “The Prayer Code: 40 Scriptures Every Believer Should Pray,” and it examines 40 famous examples of prayer from the Bible and how believers can incorporate the lessons within those prayers into their own prayer lives.

Each of the 40 chapters includes a “Code Word” readers can use to remember the importance of that guiding principle of prayer.

The book follows previous installments in Hawkins’ Code series including “The Jesus Code,” “The Joshua Code,” “The Daniel Code” and “The Bible Code.”

Hawkins, who will become President emeritus of GuideStone after the first quarter of 2022, said the previous books in his series lacked a specific focus on prayer, so he desired this work to show how prayer and Bible study connect.

“The reason we came to ‘The Prayer code,’ is that without the Bible, prayer has no direction and without prayer the Bible has no dynamic,” Hawkins said. “It’s sort of like ham and eggs or steak and potatoes; they go together.

“For many Christians the difficulty in prayer does not come from inaccuracies about prayer as much as it is lack of discipline in setting apart a time to pray. A lot of people have not effectively developed a prayer life.”

Beyond examining specific examples of prayer in the Bible, Hawkins also spends time in the book exploring aspects or methods of prayer. One chapter outlines what Hawkins calls “the pattern of prayer,” which includes confession, thanksgiving, praise, intercession petition and communion with God.

Seeing the important role prayer plays in the Bible is what Hawkins said prompts us to see its importance for our lives as well.

“The disciples spent 24/7 with Christ for over three years and saw Him do many amazing things, but the only thing they asked Him to teach them to do was to pray,” Hawkins said. “If He who knew no sin sensed the need of prayer, how much more do we need it?”

Hawkins said the main thing he was personally reminded of while working on the book is the powerful connection the Holy Spirit has to believers as they go to God in prayer.

“There is a beautiful truth that we all need a prayer partner, and the Bible says we have one in the Holy Spirit,” Hawkins said. “The Bible says we often don’t pray as we ought, but the Spirit prays within in with groanings which cannot be uttered. When Jesus left, He said He was going to leave us a prayer partner in the Comforter or the Holy Spirit.”

As his time serving with GuideStone comes to a close, Hawkins said he is thankful for his time to serve the organization and will continue to write more books in the Code series.

All royalties for the books in the series, which have sold more than 2 million copies, go to support Mission:Dignity, a GuideStone ministry aimed at financially assisting retired pastors and their wives/widows.

Serving those who have faithfully served is what Hawkins said motivates him to continue his ministry of writing even into his retirement from full-time ministry.

“I’ve had 25 incredible years at GuideStone, and here we’re on a mission to bring dignity to those forgotten people … that’s what keeps me writing the Code books and supporting Mission:Dignity.”

More information about the Code book series or Mission:Dignity can be found here.

A prayer guide in light of Dobbs v. Jackson WHO

Supreme Court Dobbs v. Jackson WHO

Today, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case out of Mississippi, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

You can find an explainer on the implications of this case here. Our goal in this piece is not to deliberate the intricacies of this case or to debate the legalese of Dobbs. Instead, as leaders in the pregnancy center movement, we want to encourage you to spend some time over the next few weeks and months in prayer for the justices, the attorneys, the organizations on the ground serving women, the unborn, and the women facing unplanned pregnancies who are walking through the doors of close to 3,000 pregnancy centers every single day.

So, if you would allow us, we would like to point out ways you can be praying. This guide does not provide an exhaustive list of needs, but we believe that it is a great launching point for God’s people to come together in prayer as we seek the end of abortion in our country and around our globe.


Please pray for the justices on the Court. Their job is one of ever-growing responsibility as they attempt to navigate the muddy waters of legislation, rights, public opinion, and the Constitution. It is easy for us to pile on when decisions don’t go our way, but it is far harder for us to realize that these men and women have families, friends, and normal life routines just like we do. Pray the nine justices will have courage, wisdom, and grace.


There are a number of attorneys and attorneys general who have prepared for this case. It is not lost on us that this case is a hinge point for our republic and for the rights of the unborn moving forward. We can’t imagine the pressure these men and women are feeling as they deliver arguments for which they have prepared and studied hard. Please pray for their peace, courage, and stamina.

Pregnancy centers

God’s Word tells us in Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” There are thousands of pregnancy centers across the United States that are filled with people who work to overcome this evil with good. Pray for the staff and volunteers that populate these centers day in and day out. Pray for the nurses who view these precious lives via ultrasound. Pray for strength and stamina for these selfless men and women who choose to serve during these very trying times and face real spiritual warfare.

The unborn

Pray for these unborn babies. These lives represent image-bearers deserving of love, life, and an opportunity. Pray that the images we see on the ultrasound scans prompt action and heart change. Pray that these lives are given the care they need and deserve.

Women facing unplanned pregnancies

Pray for the women facing unplanned pregnancies. Pray that obstacles would be moved out of their way as they seek to choose life. Pray that abortion clinics close their doors and these women find their way to the door of a pregnancy center. Pray for healing, healthy relationships, and a desire to be an incredible mom. Pray for support from a church, friends, or family members.

We take prayer seriously at Hope Resource Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, and at Portico in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. We start every day calling out to our God for his loving hand as we serve his image-bearers, both in and out of the womb. We don’t know how God is going to answer any of these prayers, but we believe that just as David boldly stepped up to confront Goliath in his day, we are called to boldly confront abortion in America in our day. God is calling us to pray courageous prayers. Will you join us in this call to action? We are grateful for your support and are honored to serve alongside you for the work of the gospel and for life.

This post originally appeared on the ERLC’s website.