Month: January 2022

Faithfully Following, No Matter What

I have kidney cancer.

It’s a cancer that has spread well beyond the point of origin. So, at the time I was first diagnosed, we knew that I had it in several places in my body, and it’s gone even other places since then. So, I’ve got a healthy dose of it, I guess I could say.

Since I went on hospice care and we discontinued any kind of active treatment, you kind of have good days and bad because you’re no longer trying to monitor, really, what is going on with the disease. So, you just get up every day and take what comes. But some days, I need more rest. Especially if I’ve had an active day the day before.

God gives me what I need each day. It’s what he’s been doing from the get-go. He has walked through this with me, all the way, with his hand on my shoulder. I felt it. And the prayers of a lot of good people uplift me. I don’t know what the plan is, but I know he has a plan. And he’s going to make this all turn out for good. One of those good things was given to me during the holidays.

My oldest grandson, Brandon, was attending a vacation Bible school and they were talking about different ceremonies in the church. And so, they had done a session on baptism. He was interested, but he’s a little on the shy side, so the idea of doing it as part of a bigger service with lots and lots of people there, I think that scared him a little bit. And he was talking to his mother, our daughter, afterward and she asked him, “Well, how would you want to do it?” And he said, “Well, maybe Papaw could do it.” And she said, “Well, maybe you ought to talk to him about it.” So he did.

When you open yourself up to God saying, “Here’s where I need you,” well, you get a whole lot of good experiences. It’s not about what we want to do or what we think we should be doing. It’s God’s plan, so people need to follow wherever he leads us.

We weren’t sure exactly when or how it would work out, but we were coming up on Christmas and knew that they would be here then. And especially since I’m kind of on an unknown time schedule, it made even more sense to go ahead and try to get it done if we could. So we happened to have a pastoral visit with our pastor [Chris Wann of Community Church, Decatur] going on, and I brought this up to him and said, “I want to see if you could help me out with this.”

He was very honored to be a part of it and wanted to help any way he could. He offered some suggestions on different ways that we could set it up. The one that seemed to work best was for us to come in after church on that coming Sunday. We were going to have, of course, our daughter and her family, and then our son and his family, and us. And then, our pastor and his wife agreed to come in and do all the set up and everything for us. So, we came in, everything was ready, and I stood on one side; I had his daddy stand on the other side. Had his daddy kind of helping me brace him in the back, so we didn’t lose him because that was his main fear. He thought I’d take him back there and leave him under.

I assured him that that wasn’t the case. He just had to keep his eyes on me and I’d take care of everything. We talked a little bit about it beforehand. I wanted to be sure he was comfortable and be sure that he understood what was going on, and not only what would be happening at the time, physically, but also the spiritual ramifications of it. Time came, and we leaned him back, set him under, brought him up. Everybody cheered and clapped. All just went fine.

When you open yourself up to God saying, “Here’s where I need you,” well, you get a whole lot of good experiences. It’s not about what we want to do or what we think we should be doing. It’s God’s plan, so people need to follow wherever he leads us.

So what’s my story? I’m following God wherever he leads—even when his path leads me to a terminal diagnosis.

What's your story?

Want to share a story of what God is doing in your life or your church? 

Share your story here

The 5: Guidelines for using social media

I’ve been writing a daily blog for more than eight years, and my assistant regularly tweets about that content. These thoughts below are my personal guidelines for using social media. You may differ with me at some points, and your ministry position and calling may require different kinds of posts than mine does—but I hope these guidelines are helpful to you: 


Build prayer for your social media efforts into your daily prayer time
We need God’s wisdom in using these efforts for his glory. Taking time to pray each day not only raises the significance of what we do to a higher level, but it also slows us down to consider again what we’ve written before we post it. Hitting the pause button to pray before posting anything is wise. 


Remember that whatever you put out there publicly stays out there somewhere
All of us have read reports like, “The tweet is now deleted, but …”—with the details of the tweet following the “but.” Most of us probably also know people for whom a post years ago came back to haunt them.
If something I post becomes problematic, I don’t want it to be because I was not wise with the posting in the first place. 


Be a witness to the gospel, not a hindrance to it
I generally ask two questions about what I post: (a) Will believers be encouraged by what I write? (2) Will this post help or hinder the work of the Great Commission? With all the negativity church leaders face today, I don’t want to add to that burden. As much as possible, I want them to love God, their neighbors, the nations, their church, and the ministry more after reading my posts.


If you question whether you should post something, you probably shouldn’t
I’m 61 years old, but I’m still learning to trust my gut. If I know I’ll probably second-guess posting after I’ve done it, it’s best if I do not follow through with it. I’ve occasionally wished I hadn’t posted something, but I’ve never regretted not posting something.


Don’t let social media become the primary base for your ministry
Again, this is my personal concern. I’m enough of an introvert that
I could easily give more attention to my online presence than to my in-person, local church-based ministry. I don’t want that to happen. Serving in the trenches should inform and strengthen my social media witness, not hurt it. 

Chuck Lawless is dean of doctoral studies and vice president of spiritual formation and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. For more from Lawless, visit

EMPOWER 2022: God’s strength shines through uncertainty, Laura Story says

Laura Story didn’t plan on writing and singing songs that would be heard by millions of people throughout the world. 

In fact, she was content if her friends—and only her friends—enjoyed them. 

“I never set out to write songs that other people would know,” she says today. “I remember in college sharing a few of my songs just with a couple of friends and them saying, ‘Oh, that’s really encouraging to me’ and that being enough.”

God, though, had other plans for Story’s music. She received acclaim in 2006 for her song Indescribable, which was included on Chris Tomlin’s album and nominated for a Dove Award. In 2009 Story received a nomination for Bless the Lord while winning the inspirational album of the year award for Great God Who Saves. Then, in 2011, Story reached the pinnacle of music award success when she won a Grammy for Blessings (for best contemporary Christian song), which also nabbed a Dove Award.

Still, with 15-plus Dove nominations, seven wins, a Grammy, and more than 100 million YouTube streams for her music, Story remains humble.

“My job is to offer up my gifts to God—and he’s going to be in charge of the scope,” Story, who also serves as a worship leader at Perimeter Church in Atlanta, said. “He’s going to be in charge of whether that song is heard by one person or by 1 million people.”

Story is scheduled to speak at the Ladies Session of the SBTC’s Empower Conference in Irving, where she will give her testimony while discussing the theme of her new book So Long, Normal: Living and Loving the Free Fall of Faith.

She wrote the book during the pandemic while feeling anxious about a fast-changing, chaotic world. 

“For the first couple of weeks of the pandemic, I was glued to media and felt like everything was falling apart—and it was in a lot of ways,” she said. “But early on, the Lord began to kind of call me back to his word.” 

Story says she learned two major lessons during that time. First, she says, God “is completely in control, even when normal seems to be slipping away.” Second, she says, God often performs an amazing work out of an “unprecedented situation”—whether in scripture or in the modern world.

“It always begins with God calling his people out of what’s familiar and out of what’s comfortable,” she said. “And that’s always the first step of the journey. And so it was neat to kind of consider these ideas of: OK, so everything around me seems to be falling apart. How might this be step one in God doing something tremendous in me and through me?

“... Just because our world these days is constantly changing, our souls don’t have to be in such turmoil. We have a God who is unchanging.”

“How do we continue to be women who are sturdy, and women who live lives of peace rather than anxiety in the midst of a world that is constantly changing and constantly feeling more and more like chaos?” she asked. “… Just because our world these days is constantly changing, our souls don’t have to be in such turmoil. We have a God who is unchanging.”

Story urges women to ask a series of questions:

  • What are the things in my life that look drastically different than what I thought they would?
  • Is my hope based on God fixing my problems the way that I think he should, or is my hope based on a God whose plans are bigger than ours—and who uses that brokenness to do something significant? 

God’s plans, Story noted, could be “greater than what we’ve been asking or imagining.”

Story has learned these lessons by experience. She and her husband, Martin, had been married less than two years when, in 2006, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He survived, following surgery, yet lost part of his short-term memory and vision.

“What we’ve seen as we’ve walked through the past 16 years now of him living with a brain injury, and our family living with a disability—is that there has been a beauty about us learning to trust God in a deeper way, embracing the fact that our lives look different and our family looks different because we believe that this is part of the unique work God is doing in and through us,” Story said.

She has seen this lesson played out in her songwriting.

“There are some songs that I’ve thought, ‘Oh, this is gonna be huge,’—and it ends up not really doing anything,” she said. “And then other songs that I just assume would have kind of a smaller scope—but God has taken them and used them in bigger ways than I envisioned.”

Caminando en Fe

El ministerio de radio en español que surgió de la pandemia lleva el mensaje del evangelio a una amplia audiencia

Roxana Bravo, una madre y esposa ocupada, oriunda de Perú y residente en Estados Unidos desde hace 19 años, trabajó en las industrias del turismo y el cuidado infantil antes de encontrar una inesperada vocación como locutora cristiana.

La ruta de Bravo hasta Texas fue algo tortuosa después de conocer a su futuro esposo hace más de 25 años, cuando él estaba de visita en Perú. Aunque era reacia a dejar su país, siguió a su esposo a California y luego a Texas.

“Ahora, con el paso de los años, me doy cuenta de que era necesario salir de mi país para tener un verdadero encuentro con Cristo,” dijo Bravo.

Durante los últimos ocho años, junto a su familia, ha participado activamente en la Iglesia Bautista El Camino en Lewisville, donde Bravo está involucrada en los ministerios de alabanza y artes creativas y de mujeres. El pastor Félix Cornier llamó a Bravo un “gran activo para la iglesia y una bendición” que está “siempre dispuesta a ayudar.”

Su relación con Cristo, combinada con el ánimo de otros, la llevó a iniciar el programa “Caminando en Fe” en agosto de 2020, cuando las cosas fueron cerradas por COVID. Durante el programa de radio en vivo y por Internet, ella entrevista a líderes cristianos sobre asuntos de fe para ayudar a cambiar la vida de sus oyentes. 

Cornier, un invitado frecuente, señaló que el programa tiene un amplio alcance. Recientemente, trató la ética cristiana en una emisión de noviembre. Otros temas son la doctrina, la política de la iglesia, la fe y la cultura.

P: ¿Cómo empezó Caminando de Fe?

RB: Comencé a hacer videos de 15 a 20 minutos sobre temas que empecé a compartir en la radio en agosto de 2020. En octubre, decidí ampliar el programa a una hora y mostrarlo simultáneamente tanto en la radio como en Facebook.

Los temas son de carácter cristiano, trato de elegir temas que muchas personas no se atreven a preguntar por miedo a ser juzgadas, o sobre los que aún no tienen respuestas muy claras. Nuestro enfoque es sencillo.

Doy gracias a Dios porque me ha dado personas [para entrevistar] llenas de sabiduría, pero sobre todo que están dispuestas y disponibles para ayudar e ir más allá compartiendo la palabra, obedeciendo así el mandato de nuestro Señor de ir por el mundo compartiendo las buenas noticias, haciendo discípulos y bautizándolos en el nombre del Padre, del Hijo y del Espíritu Santo.

Los programas son todos los sábados a las 8 (CST) de la mañana… así tendría más tiempo para aprovechar el día en actividades extra como el voluntariado.

P: ¿Quién escucha el programa?

RB: Espero en el Señor que los que escuchen sean aquellos que necesitan escuchar, que necesitan la oración o una palabra de aliento en la vida, que tienen sed de aprender y quieren aplicar lo aprendido. Siempre pido [la guía del Señor] porque no quisiera confundir más a un mundo que vive totalmente confundido e ignorante de la verdad. 

Los oyentes se conectan desde Estados Unidos, Perú, México, Ecuador, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Canadá, Brasil, El Salvador y Nicaragua.

Quiero añadir que no es fácil hacer esto, que muchas veces me da un poco de miedo hacer el programa, sobre todo en la radio, ya que la estación de radio 94.7 no es cristiana sino una emisora secular. Acepté el reto de hacer el programa porque, aunque hay necesidades espirituales en el pueblo de Dios, ellos tienen la oportunidad de escuchar la palabra y elegir la obediencia. Los no creyentes no tienen la misma oportunidad. Con los no creyentes, los que decimos ser hijos de Dios debemos actuar, no con nuestras fuerzas ni con nuestra sabiduría, sino con la fuerza, la sabiduría y la gracia de Dios. ¿Cómo van a creer en aquel de quien no han oído? ¿Y cómo pueden oír sin un predicador (Rom 10:14)? Tenemos una gran responsabilidad.

P: Háblenos de su carrera en la radio.

RB: Todo comenzó de manera fortuita. A principios de 2020 una amiga muy querida y hermana en Cristo me propuso hacer un programa con ella. La idea no me pareció mala, pero no estaba segura de ser la persona adecuada, así que le dije que lo iba a pensar. Después de unas dos semanas, decidí ayudarla, pero como no le había dado una respuesta, ella ya había propuesto el proyecto a otra persona. Me alegré mucho porque sabía que lo haría muy bien. 

Luego llegó la pandemia y con el cierre de las iglesias, me quedé pensando qué podía hacer para seguir en comunión con las hermanas, compartir devocionales o estudios bíblicos con las señoras con las que me reunía. Pensé en hacer video llamadas vía Zoom, pero no todas las señoras son muy diestras en la tecnología. Entonces me acordé de la radio, y a través de mi amiga pude contactar al dueño de la emisora. Le pedí sólo dos horas el segundo sábado de cada mes para hacer las transmisiones, pero me animó a hacerlas semanalmente. Yo estaba reacia, pero Dios me recordó los estudios bíblicos que había dirigido todos los viernes antes de la pandemia y eso me animó a hacerlo. El 2 de mayo de 2022, celebraré dos años con Radio PM 24.7.

P: ¿Cuándo comenzó a seguir a Cristo? 

RB: Creo que siempre fui de Él, pero no lo sabía. A pesar de estar en una familia que pertenecía a la iglesia tradicional, nunca fuimos practicantes. Desde pequeños, estábamos rodeados de gente cristiana. Crecimos con el Club 700 y con dibujos animados como el Súper Libro. Incluso asistimos a un evento evangelístico en un estadio… en Perú. Nuestros padres nos criaron con una base moral muy sólida y en el temor de Dios, pero con el paso de los años, como todo adolescente, me fui alejando un poco y sin darme cuenta me volví atea. 

Poco a poco me fui sumergiendo en la soledad y la depresión, pero el amor incondicional de Dios me salvó. Recuerdo que allá, a donde quiera siempre había alguien que me hablaba de Cristo. Un día que viajaba como azafata de tierra, atendiendo a un pasajero, me empezó a hablar de Cristo. Yo pensé: Bueno, ¿también aquí? Era increíble. Era como si Dios me buscara siempre y no pudiera esconderme de Él. 

Recuerdo el día en que conocí a mi futuro esposo. ¡Resultó que era cristiano! No podía creerlo. No entendía lo que estaba pasando. Por un lado, decía que no creía en nada y por otro, muy escondido en mi corazón, necesitaba creer en alguien. Quería llenar mi vacío, ser libre porque me sentía prisionera en un mundo oscuro. Luego, conozco quien sería mi suegra y por respeto a ella, acepté al Señor como mi Salvador cuando tenía 19 años. 

No fue hasta marzo de 2005 que tuve un verdadero encuentro con Cristo. Ese día no pude más y me rendí totalmente a sus pies. Ahí comenzó mi hermosa aventura con Cristo, una larga historia llena de altibajos como la de todos, de situaciones agradables y no tan agradables, pero con la total seguridad de que el Señor no me dejará sola. Su Palabra me dice que en este mundo tendré aflicciones, pero que tenga buen ánimo porque Él ha ganado y estará conmigo todos los días de mi vida.

Las transmisiones en vivo de Bravo se pueden acceder a través de su página de Facebook Caminando en Fe. Los oyentes también pueden descargar la aplicación Radio PM 24.7 en para sintonizarla.

Julio Arriola servirá en SBTC como director de la alianza para plantación de iglesias de Send Network

Julio Arriola regresa a un paisaje muy familiar.

Una vez que ponga oficialmente los pies en suelo tejano, descubrirá que la necesidad del evangelio es más grande que nunca.

Arriola, de 45 años, ha aceptado el llamado para servir como el director principal de Send Network de la SBTC, una alianza para la plantación de iglesias entre la Junta de Misiones Norteamericanas (NAMB, por sus siglas en inglés) y la Convención Bautista del Sur de Texas (SBTC, por sus siglas en inglés). La Junta Directiva de la SBTC votó unánimemente la aprobación de la alianza con NAMB en agosto. Así mismo, el miércoles la Junta también confirmó a Arriola en su nuevo puesto.

Julio Arriola fue presented a la Junta Ejecutiva en la Conventión de los Bautistas del Sur de Texas (SBTC) el miércoles 10 de noviembre. Arriola servirá Como el prefer director de Send Network SBTC — unable alianza de plantación de Iglesias enter la Junta Misiones Norteamericanas (NAMB) y el SBTC. Foto de Southern Baptist Texan/SBTC

Arriola será empleado de NAMB, pero trabajará desde la sede de la SBTC en la ciudad de Grapevine. Esta nueva colaboración le permitirá a la SBTC apoyarse en el amplio conocimiento y experiencia de NAMB para asesorarlos en las áreas de la plantación de iglesias, cuidado pastoral y capacitación de plantadores, así como en la recaudación de fondos.

Kevin Ezell, presidente de NAMB, dijo: “Estamos muy contentos de darle la bienvenida a Julio a la familia de NAMB. Su amplia experiencia y liderazgo en la plantación de iglesias proporcionará un indudablemente impulso a los esfuerzos de plantación de iglesias de Send Network y la SBTC. Para formar plantadores de alta capacidad, necesitamos líderes de alta capacidad —como Julio— que hagan lo que sea necesario para asegurarse de que los plantadores de iglesias estén adecuadamente preparados, capacitados y movilizados”.

Arriola dirigirá una alianza que permitirá a la SBTC ampliar sus esfuerzos de plantación de iglesias utilizando los recursos de NAMB en las áreas de evaluación, capacitación, asesoramiento, cuidado pastoral y apoyo a los plantadores de iglesias en todo el estado.

Arriola comentó: “Estamos muy contentos de estar de vuelta en Texas”. Nos encanta el lugar. Pero así como Texas es grande, también lo es su necesidad de Jesús, y plantar iglesias sigue siendo la manera más efectiva de alcanzar a la gente con el mensaje vivificante de Jesús — el evangelio.”

El mexicano aporta un impresionante (y práctico) conjunto de herramientas a la creciente red de plantadores de iglesias de la SBTC. Arriola tiene experiencia vocacional en iglesias de varios tamaños, ha plantado y pastoreado una iglesia que ahora es la más grande de Guadalajara, México (una ciudad de 1.5 millones de habitantes), y se le considera un líder influyente entre la población latina, que es uno de los grupos demográficos de más rápido crecimiento en Texas.

Julio Arriola, de 45 años, aceptó el lammed para servir como el primer director de Send Network SBTC, una alianza de plantación de Iglesias entre la Junta de Misiones Norteamericanas (NAMB) y la Convención de los Bautistas del Sur de Texas (SBTC). En la foto de izquierda a derecha están Arriolla, segundo desde la izquierda, George Ross, director de la Región Sur de NAMB, ny Nathan Lorick, director ejecutivo de SBTC. Foto de Southern Baptist Texan/SBTC

Arriola se desempeñó recientemente como director ejecutivo de Relaciones y Movilización Hispana del Comité Ejecutivo de la Convención Bautista del Sur, en Nashville, cargo que ocupó desde diciembre de 2019. Mientras estuvo allí, trabajó para desarrollar e implementar estrategias para la máxima participación e involucramiento de las congregaciones hispanas y los líderes de las mismas en toda la CBS, y su red de cooperación entre iglesias. Sus funciones también incluyeron la movilización de las congregaciones hispanas en áreas clave, incluyendo el evangelismo y la plantación de iglesias (de acuerdo con las estrategias de Send Network y Send Relief de NAMB).

El Dr. Nathan Lorick, director ejecutivo de la SBTC, mencionó: “En este momento monumental, Dios está llevando el mundo a Texas. Estamos muy emocionados de que Dios haya guiado a Julio Arriola para que se una a la SBTC a través de Send Network. Creo que hoy más que nunca veremos más iglesias plantadas “.

La necesidad de plantar iglesias en Texas es inmensa. De los 30 millones de residentes, se estima que 19 millones no han sido alcanzados. Según las cifras de la SBTC, 1000 personas se mudan a Austin semanalmente; casi 2000 se mudan a Houston semanalmente; y el área Metroplex de Dallas-Fort Worth (norte de Texas) registra casi 3000 nuevos residentes cada semana.

Estos nuevos habitantes son cada vez más diversos. En Texas viven más de 400 etnias que hablan más de 300 lenguas, lo que convierte al estado en uno de los conglomerados de personas más diversos del mundo. Arriola dijo que reconoce que la cosecha en Texas es abundante y, sin embargo, los obreros siguen siendo muy pocos. Razón de más, dijo, para “llamar a los llamados” y hacer que todas las etnias participen.

Arriola indicó: “La plantación de iglesias es un reto: requiere mucha oración, trabajo, dinero, planificación, capacitación y gente comprometida con la obra de Dios. Así que esta colaboración nos permitirá estar al lado de nuestras iglesias y sus plantadores a fin de proporcionarles un camino para plantar iglesias sanas y bíblicas. NAMB ha desarrollado evaluaciones, capacitaciones y estrategias que son inigualables y estamos listos para hacer que todo esto esté disponible a través de esta alianza”.

Los lazos de Arriola con Texas ya son fuertes. Él y su esposa, Carla, se casaron aquí y sus tres hijos (de 19, 17 y 15 años) nacieron en Houston. Arriola se ordenó en la Segunda Iglesia Bautista de Rosenberg en el 2003 y, tras un periodo de casi dos años sirviendo allí como pastor de jóvenes, se convirtió en líder de alabanza en la Iglesia Bautista Sugar Creek de Sugar Land. También obtuvo su ciudadanía estadounidense mientras vivía en Texas y alcanzó su maestría en Estudios Teológicos en el Seminario Teológico Bautista del Suroeste, en mayo de 2020.

Tweet Others As You Would Want To Be Tweeted

Social media—carefully & considerately used—can do much kingdom good

Social media is like anything else—a good thing that can be corrupted for the not-so-good. Texan Editor Jayson Larson recently sat down with three people (Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville; Leah Holder Green, Bible study curriculum director at Second Baptist Church in Houston; and Andrew Hebert, pastor of Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo) who are active in digital spaces including social media, blogs, and the like to discuss this question: “How can Christians exist in digital spaces like social media and still maintain their Christlikeness?” Or is that even possible? What follows is an excerpt of that conversation:

Jayson Larson: Let’s start with what I think is an easy question: what are some general examples where each of you are seeing social media being used for kingdom good?

Bart Barber: I think our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is higher and we’re all more encouraged about it because of the daily cascade of tweets from churches saying, “We exceeded our goal! We’re really excited about what’s happening.” And then in response to that, something that really has never been possible before in Southern Baptist life—missionaries on the field and the president of the IMB replying to church after church after church [giving] direct and immediate feedback …. That’s amazing, and I think it points to the general benefit of these social media accounts.

I’m going to go ahead and lay out a thesis here: I think that the only reason why social media can accomplish the bad that it does is because of the good that it does. I think the bad’s a corruption of the good. I think there was a moment in Baptist history when for various reasons, the ability of our local associations to connect pastors into friendships and to connect people outside of their local church into relationships … was probably becoming lower than it’s ever been in the history of our fellowship of churches. At just that moment, this online forum comes in. Honestly, I’ve got a lot of friends when we meet at the annual meeting who say, “Well, how do you all know each other?” Then I have to say, “Well, we met online.” So I think that there’s a way that these platforms are helping people connect and feel that they have friends and relationships and networks within our convention that otherwise were not there.

Leah Holder Green: Well, I tend to agree with Bart’s thesis. As I was pondering this, I was thinking “kingdom good” is anything that allows us to promote and represents the rule and authority of God throughout the earth. I’m aware of a number of people’s YouTube channels, [people] who use their Twitter accounts, use their Instagram, Facebook to do just that—to promote the word of God, the truth of God, and his rule. And because social media tends to be global in nature, they literally are promoting the rule and authority of the living God in all the earth, oftentimes with the click of a button. So to that extent, I definitely do believe there is practical value to the kingdom for social media.

Andrew Hebert: Leah, I think that’s a really profound way to put it. I’m going to agree with Bart’s thesis, as well. If you go to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, one of the most beautiful things about that largest business meeting in the world is the fact that anyone can come to a microphone and say something. And that’s also the most terrifying thing because anyone can say anything from a microphone. … [Social media] does provide a microphone to some people which elevates some voices that need to be elevated and can be very encouraging in those spaces. But it also opens a microphone to some people who can say anything and do say anything. So I do see some benefit. … I cultivate who I follow very carefully. So I tend to follow those accounts that are going to be edifying, the people who are going to say encouraging things and godly things and biblical things.

JL: How can we disagree with others on social media but still stay within the biblical boundaries for how we ought to interact with other believers and one another?

LHG: Well, as cliche as it may sound, we should do so in love. Jesus said that all the commands can be summed up into basically two—it’s essentially love God and love people. I think anytime we are interacting with others on social media, it should reflect that we do have a love for God and a love for people. It serves as a good litmus test for me: if it’s not loving, don’t post it. And sometimes something can be true, but not loving. Or it can be factual, but not loving. And as I was really pondering this, I thought strongly disagreeing with something that someone has posted on social media does not mean that social media is the best or wisest platform [for you] to voice that disagreement. … In a nutshell, if the response or words aren’t laced in love for the believer, they’d be better left unsaid.

JL: Is it too silly an idea to think that there ought to be times when we tell ourselves we’ll just put down our phones and walk away before we
respond in an unloving way?

LHG: No, that sounds very wise to me. It makes me think of the 10-second rule that I think they taught us in elementary school. But I think that sounds very wise. I think if you’re typing anything with high emotions, I mean, I would say this even for texting, I just think you should take a step back, calm down, definitely pray.

AH: If you think about John 1, which describes Jesus as being full of grace and full of truth, I think sometimes we can be so full of grace that we forget the truth, and so full of truth that we do it without grace. I think that provides a really good roadmap for how we engage, whether it’s on social media or face to face. We want to be truthful people, and we want to care about the truth and speak the truth, but we also want to do it in love. … I think that [we can disagree with] one another with civility, charity, kindness. If I wouldn’t say this to your face, I should not say it on social media. Operating in good faith, assuming the best about the other person … I think all of those are general guidelines that can help us disagree agreeably. I’m okay with online disagreement, actually. Bart and I have had some push and pull on some issues through the years in ways that I have felt like are very healthy and doesn’t make it awkward to see Bart the next time I see him. But for him to say, hey, you haven’t considered this perspective or here’s something you might want to think about—that disagreement is very helpful and very healthy and thought-provoking, but it’s always done in kindness and charity and an assumption of brotherhood and relationship.

JL: What are some guidelines that you personally have … your personal “do’s and “don’t” when it comes to whether you’ll respond to something or not on social media?

AH: I think in general choose your battles carefully. You just don’t have to engage on everything. [Also] I think for me, I try to stick to the issues rather than personalities. This is a Southern Baptist audience so I don’t mind leaning into this a little bit. But right now I’m serving on the sex abuse task force for the SBC. And over the course of the fall, there was a significant issue at play with the executive committee. I felt compelled to engage on social media on that issue, but I tried very hard to keep it to the issue and not to any one person. That was a hard line to walk, but I feel very strongly that, in general, I try to be objective and deal with the issue instead of making it personal.

BB: The most helpful thing that I do is to think to myself about the fruit of the spirit—against such things there’s no law. Those nine things [love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control], if they’re all present, they have become my rubric for evaluating what I do online. And if they’re all present in what I do, then I feel like I’m in pretty good shape.

LHG: I am in full-time ministry. I serve students and women. I know I still have people looking to me and being influenced by what I say. And so, because of that, one thing I generally ask myself is, “Is this helpful? Will me posting this be helpful and edifying in any way?” And then if I do happen to do that … I tend to be, I guess, a little bit more risk averse. I tend not to chime in on the hot topics very often. But if I do decide it could be helpful, I ground whatever I say in God’s word. And I try to stay away from name-calling.

JL: What’s a biblical principle or a passage or a scripture that you would use to encourage others to apply to their own lives as they navigate the world of social media?

BB: I threw it in earlier—it’s the fruit of the spirit passage (Galatians 5:22). I think that’s a good one to apply.

AH: I’ll give you two. Luke 6:31: “As you would have others do unto you, do unto them also likewise.” And then Colossians 4:12-13: “Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another. If anyone has a grievance against one another, just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive.”

LHG: First Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” So that would include posts, tweets, retweets, and all of that. Do all for the glory of God.

Guarding your heart, eyes from harmful content is key to avoiding pitfalls online

There is a hopelessness and a resignation experienced by many who are struggling with an addiction to pornography. Josh Proctor knows that struggle well.

After being set free from his own addiction many years ago, Proctor founded Caleb Micah Ministries (named after his son, who died in 2010) to help others work through their struggles. He has collaborated with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention to provide resources for caught in the trap of pornography and continues to meet with and minister to men on a regular basis. 

Through his work, he has identified a number of things anyone can do to take back spiritual ground lost if they are struggling with a pornography addiction:

Examine & guard your mind

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” One surefire way to begin the process of guarding your heart is to examine what you expose your mind to. Proctor says when he ministers to struggling men, he starts by asking them to fast from social media for a prescribed amount of time. The idea is to identify which ones were the hardest to give up—indicating a possible idol that is hindering their walk with God.

“All media and is not bad, but some media may be bad for you—and it may be affecting your thinking more than you realize. Romans 13:14 says ‘make no provision for the flesh,’ and that’s really how we’re going to win the battle and renew our minds.”

“One of the ways we renew the mind is by rethinking how we do media,” he said. “All media and is not bad, but some media may be bad for you—and it may be affecting your thinking more than you realize. Romans 13:14 says ‘make no provision for the flesh,’ and that’s really how we’re going to win the battle and renew our minds.”

Proctor says it’s important to recognize that eliminating certain social media apps should not become the focus of a legalistic set of rules a person must follow to be holy. “It’s not about sin management,” he said. “It’s about walking in the light. But part of walking in the light is knowing what darkness I can’t go near—ever.”

Identify unhealthy thinking

Proctor says sin leads to shame which, in turn, leads to distorted thinking. Many followers of Jesus who are struggling in any way—including with pornography addiction—are either believing lies about their identity which is rooted in Christ or not embracing and experiencing truths that God has already set in stone through his word.

The kinds of lies Christians believe can vary generationally. Men younger than 40, he says, often struggle to see that their sin is an offense against God’s holiness that should be taken seriously. Men 40 and older frequently believe that their identity is defined by what they do, such as their level of performance in any number of areas in their lives.

“I met with a guy once who believed for most of his life that his identity is tied to his performance,” Proctor said. “And so when his performance did not measure up to whatever he thought it should be, that’s when he was most vulnerable to sexual temptation. So for him, (there was freedom) in being able to experience who he is in Jesus. Who I am in Jesus, that’s the one that God wants to dine with, whether I performed well that day or not.”

Understand the deeper heart issue

Proctor frequently uses a borrowed acronym—BLAST—to help those he ministers to understand when they tend to be most vulnerable to sexual temptation. Each letter of the acronym represents a heart issue that may serve as a trigger for temptation and sin:











There is a biblical answer for each of those heart issues (see inset) that must be worked through for someone to begin experiencing victory. For example, Proctor said many turn to porn out of boredom, but that boredom is could actually be tied to a hurt from when someone was younger and found themselves home alone often because they lived in a single-parent household where the parent had to work late.

“Boredom’s really not a boredom problem—it’s a purposeless problem,” he said. “So we help them look through the pain and struggle of that.”

Remember the hope Christ offers

Proctor knows that people who struggle with pornography addiction feel like there’s no hope and no way out. This is another lie that can greatly hinder someone’s recovery and postpone a victory that Christ has already won for them.

The first step to claiming that victory, he said, is stepping out of the shadows of addiction and walking into the light of Christ.

“Jesus Christ has come to meet you in your sins and shame, but you cannot receive that if you stay in the dark,” Proctor said. “Let the light of Jesus shine on you and let him be with you in your sin and shame and consequences and let him cover you. Let him walk with you.”

Find out more about Proctor’s ministry at

Rockport church plant aims to be ‘where the town is’

Jonathan Leftwich had just wrapped up his most exciting year of ministry at Fellowship Church at Plum Creek in Kyle in 2019. The church had been planting churches, had baptized 60 people that year, and was poised for more. 

But God had a change in mind.

In January 2020, God began stirring the hearts of Leftwich and his wife, Elizabeth, about Rockport, a coastal community where he had served for two years as a youth minister at First Baptist Church 15 years before.  

“It seemed like every day we were having a conversation with somebody in Rockport we hadn’t talked to in 15 years, and we just knew over the course of that month that God was doing something new in our hearts,” Leftwich said. 

Just before the pandemic started, the Leftwiches traveled to Rockport and talked with people about a church plant. 

“It seemed like every day we were having a conversation with somebody in Rockport we hadn’t talked to in 15 years, and we just knew over the course of that month that God was doing something new in our hearts.”

“We talked to 12 different family units, and everybody said, ‘We’ve been praying about something like that for this town for several years. I know somebody right now that I would want to invite,’” Leftwich recounted. “It was a great affirmation to come down and plant.”

The Leftwiches and their four teen and preteen children made the move to Rockport in the summer of 2020, along with a family of four from Fellowship Church that wanted to help plant. Rockport is growing much more slowly than the town south of Austin they left, but “there’s a great need” for hope, Leftwich said.

“What we found is that a lot of people come to the coast to escape a problem,” he said. Just over 20,000 people live on the peninsula, but only a few thousand are in church on a Sunday morning. Also, Hurricane Harvey devastated Rockport, and though the town has been strong to rebuild, “there’s still a lot of hurt and pain.”

When Hope Church launched on Jan. 10, 2021, 167 people showed up. They averaged 132 people in January and by November had gained 100 people. They started with five small groups and by the fall had 10 adult small groups.

“We’ve just been trying to keep up with what God is doing over the course of the year,” Leftwich said.

Elizabeth Leftwich serves as the church’s part-time children’s director, and they have a part-time worship pastor and a full-time associate pastor. The church has already purchased six-and-a-half acres of land for a future building. For now, they meet in a half-gym that they’re able to lease and use throughout the week.

“Something that is important to us is being out in the community,” Leftwich said, “so we had a Christmas Eve service on the beach.”

At the end of Rockport Beach is a Christmas light display that people all over the peninsula drive through, he said, so the church got permission to have a Christmas Eve service right in the middle of the light display.

“There’s nothing as easy as inviting people to the beach,” Leftwich said. “We told them we wanted them to remember what made Christmas special. We read the Christmas story. We sang Christmas carols.”

They estimate more than 350 people were at the Christmas Eve service, sitting on blankets and milling around.

“Our strategy has been that if there’s a town function, we want to be a part of it,” Leftwich said. “At one of the bigger football games, we had a tailgate party right outside the stadium. We’re not trying to come up with something new; we’re just trying to be where the town is.”

Hope Church had baptized 24 people in a local bay before the weather turned cold enough to make at least six more wait. “Even when we go out into the bay to baptize,” Leftwich said, “we have conversations with people that are there on the beach watching.”

Stories of changed lives abound:

  • A young woman who had attempted suicide couldn’t escape the shame until she met Jesus at Hope Church, was set free from guilt, and now has a reason to live.
  • Another young woman saw herself in the story of the prodigal son and realized God was putting a ring on her finger and a robe around her back and calling her “daughter.”
  • A couple had separated, but the husband started attending Hope Church and convinced his wife to go, too. Now they’re living together again and the whole family attends on Sundays.

“Every church that exists right now at one point was planted by somebody who had a vision to reach an area with the gospel of Jesus,” Leftwich said. “In established churches, that vision is still the same, and there’s not a shortage of lost people.

“People need to respond to a vision and a calling to see an area that’s in need and figure out a way to reach those people with the gospel.”

Hope Church is considering a ministry to the shrimping and oyster boat business in Rockport. People leave on their boats at 6 a.m., and as far as Leftwich can tell, they are largely unreached. “We’re praying about being there at 5 a.m. when they show up to start prepping their boats to start praying with them.

“That’s the vision of church planting: Here’s a people that need Jesus. Let’s be the hands and feet that accomplish that,” Leftwich said. “Being a church planter has been the greatest leap of faith of our lives and the greatest feeling of fulfillment in following after Jesus and seeing him answer prayer and provide.”

As global tensions rise, SBC military chaplains prepare

Tensions have escalated in Eastern Europe after Russia began amassing troops on its border with Ukraine over recent weeks. Any time the world’s geopolitical temperature rises, military chaplains begin making mental, spiritual and strategic preparations in case conflict does break out.

“When chaplains put on the uniform, they must always consider the sober reality, like all military members, that their lives could quickly transition to a wartime footing,” said Doug Carver, executive director of chaplaincy and a retired chaplain Major General in the United States Army. “For those in uniform, life can change in an instant, without any warning, and chaplains need to be prepared as well for any military contingency.”

Carver was deployed in Germany in 2001 during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and his unit immediately shifted to a war footing after the United States and the world were caught by surprise. By 2002, he and his troops were deploying to the Middle East.

“As the senior chaplain, one of my goals was to help our chaplains and troops to prepare themselves spiritually to go into combat, knowing that war always brings with it suffering, casualties and death,” Carver said.

U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Springer, a chaplain with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), leads the invocation during a May 18, 2019 Corporals Course graduation aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). The Marines and Sailors of the 11th MEU are deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations to support regional stability, reassure partners and allies, and maintain a presence postured to respond to any crisis ranging from humanitarian assistance to contingency operations. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck)

Tim Springer was serving as a missionary in Russia on the eastern side of the nation in 2001 when a U.S. Navy ship visited a nearby port. Springer had the opportunity to meet the ship’s chaplain. Soon after, God began stirring a calling in his heart to serve members of the United States’ Armed Services.

Now, Springer is a Southern Baptist chaplain in the U.S. Navy who is currently stationed in California.

“The situation in Russia weighs on my heart, and I pray for the people there,” Springer said. “Having served there as a missionary and even serving alongside Ukrainians, I know people who are still there.”

Chaplains play a key role in coming alongside soldiers to help them prepare for the severity of what they might experience and how that will affect them mentally, emotionally and especially spiritually given the lethal nature of modern warfare and the potential for mass causalities.

U.S. Army Chaplain Colonel Keith Croom retired from military service after 31 years as a chaplain. His experience included deploying as a chaplain along with U.S. Special Operations troops. Photo submitted by Keith Croom

“I’ve deployed multiple times, and it never gets easier,” said Chaplain Colonel Keith Croom, who retired in December following more 31 years serving in the U.S. Army and National Guard. “You learn to control your emotions a little better. You recognize what you’re going through a little better, but every time you say goodbye to your family, you know you might never see them again.”

As a chaplain, Croom underwent the specialized training that Green Berets endured and served as a chaplain to United States’ Special Operations forces. Those forces enter a region before any conflict breaks out and typically remain long after other troops have withdrawn. A chaplain almost always accompanies those forces.

“That demonstrates how committed our military is—our chaplains, all the denominations and the individuals—are to making sure that these men and women are supported religiously,” said Croom.

The training chaplains receive centers on equipping and instructing them how best to minster to and meet the needs of soldiers during combat. To provide that “ministry of presence,” chaplains need to be as close to their troops as they can and identify the times and places where those under their care may need guidance and counsel the most.

They also must ensure that they have adequate religious and ministerial resources to meet the myriad religious needs of their troops in the field, including what Carver described as “chapel in a box.” Each unit has a portable chapel that can immediately be set up anywhere in a training or combat environment where chaplains can conduct religious services and provide pastoral care for service members.

“A lot of the preparation we do is the training that we do,” said Springer. “We do the training beside our Sailors, our Marines. We go on the hikes and get in the pool. We’re noncombatants, so we don’t fire the weapon systems, but we still go to the range with them”

Those opportunities afford chaplains the opportunity to build relationships and intentionally invest in their lives, learn about who they are and earn the right to talk about their religious convictions.

Douglas Carver, Chaplain (Major General), US Army, Retired, serves as executive director of chaplaincy at the North American Mission Board. Over the course of his career as a military chaplain, Carver deployed multiple times, including to the Middle East following 9/11. NAMB photo by Casey Jones

When danger seemed closest, Carver’s experience revealed that soldiers were more willing to talk about their deep spiritual questions and religious needs.

“Whether you are in combat or back home, a Southern Baptist military chaplain’s primary focus is on proclaiming the good news of Jesus and the hope we have in Him,” Carver said. “Our troops have a tendency, particularly in war time, to want to know about the weightier theological issues, the meat of God’s Word, not just something simple.”

One of the most important things a chaplain must consider on deployment is not just the troops under his care but their families back home who are anxious about their loved ones going to war.

“The real heroes are the spouses who are at home,” Croom said. “It was a lot harder for my wife, Kelly, to wave goodbye back to me, especially when she had our two children in diapers. It was a lot easier for me to leave than it was for her to see me go.”

For now, Christians can pray that any military members who deploy in the next weeks and months will not be doing so into a conflict zone.

“Keep our military chaplains in prayer and pray for those in leadership who could prevent war through diplomacy, starting with the Commander-in-Chief and down to our national and military leadership,” Carver said. “They need our prayers for wise counsel and great wisdom.”

This article originally appeared on NAMB’s website.

When God says no, buckle up

I remember it as if it were yesterday. I was in my dorm room packing up to head to San Antonio. I was eagerly anticipating a call from a church I interviewed with to be their student minister. Can I be honest? When I met with them in person, I thought I nailed the interview. I left feeling like it was certain that I would soon join their staff. 

After what seemed to be an eternity in my room, the phone rang. I stared at it for a moment as my mind was filled with excitement and yet nervous at the thought of having my first ministry position. After I gained enough courage to pick up the phone, I heard these words: “We really enjoyed our visit with you, however, God has called us to go in a different direction. May God bless you as you seek his place for you.” 

I was not ready to hear those words. In fact, it seemed as if it was a bad prank call from one of my friends. I sat and listened, somewhat dazed and confused. All I could think to say was, “Thank you, I pray God blesses your church.” I hung up the phone and sat on the couch in my dorm, discouraged and in disbelief. I was not anticipating that God would say “no.” I didn’t know what to do or where to go from there. As I began the six-hour drive to San Antonio, I began asking God what in the world he was doing in my life. 

Fast forward a few weeks. I was in San Antonio when I received a call from an unknown number. I answered my phone unsure of who was on the other line. To my surprise, it was a pastor who wanted a college ministry student to come and preach for him on an upcoming Sunday evening. Of course, I was elated at any opportunity to preach. However, the next words he said would change my life forever: “Nathan, someone told me you may be interested in coming on staff at a church as a student minister. We are looking for that position and would love to interview you after the service on that Sunday evening.” I found myself going back to the question, “God, what in the world are you doing in my life?”

A few weeks later, I became the student minister at FBC Waskom. That’s a great story as it is, yet the biggest part of the story is the fact that it was at FBCW that I learned about the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. It was in this church that I would fall in love with this family of churches that I have the honor of serving today. It was in this ministry that I would begin to meet some of my greatest friends. 

Let me connect the dots: the path the Lord had for me that I could not even fathom at that point didn’t initially come through a “yes,” but rather a “no.” It wasn’t through an incredible moment of victory. No, it actually started in a dorm room discouraged and uncertain about what the future would hold. Yet God, in his grace and kindness, had a plan for my life that frankly, at the time, I didn’t even know existed or know was even possible. 

So friends, let me encourage you today. In those areas of life that God may seem to be saying “no,” trust that it’s for a greater “yes” later. In fact, when you feel God is saying no to something you think you really want, buckle up—he likely has something for you that perhaps you can’t imagine. I often think back to that experience and thank God for saying no to a good thing to lead me to his best for my life. Be encouraged today by the words found in that familiar proverb: “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, leaning not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

I love you and am honored to serve you!

Dr. Nathan Lorick

SBTC Executive Director

On another note, I want to personally invite you to join us for our Empower Conference at the Irving Convention Center, Feb 28-Mar 1. It is going to be an incredible time of worship, preaching, equipping, prayer, and networking. I promise you will be encouraged. As you are there, please find me—I would love to say hello!