Month: January 2022

Legendary pulpit to be used during SBC Pastors’ Conference

Bellevue Pulpit

On any given Sunday, pastors stand behind large pulpits, small pulpits, pub tables, or music stands. Many of those pulpits, though, have a history.

I remember the first time I laid eyes on the pulpit at Mayhill Baptist Church, a small church in the mountains of New Mexico. I saw the worn edges, the scrapes from years of use, and realized I would stand behind a beautiful piece of craftsmanship with a long history.

That moved me deeply. Week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, that lil’ pulpit was the launching pad for countless sermons. And there I stood, behind that worn pulpit to proclaim the word, joining a long line of faithful pastors before me.

As we planned for and dreamed about the SBC Pastors’ Conference (June 12-13, Anaheim, Calif.) and our commitment to expository preaching, I knew the pulpit we used was not everything, but it sure was something. After a lot of prayers, I shot my shot. I reached out to Dr. Steve Gaines to ask about the “Bellevue Pulpit,” and Dr. Gaines and Bellevue Baptist in Memphis generously and graciously agreed to loan it to us for the conference.

Sure, most of us know Dr. Gaines used it after taking the helm from the late Dr. Adrian Rogers, both faithful expositors and past Presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention, but I also learned it was used by Dr. R.G. Lee and Dr. Ramsey Pollard, who were faithful expositors and past presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention.

From the early 1950s to just a few years ago, the “Bellevue Pulpit” was the launching pad for countless sermons that proclaimed the excellencies of Christ and the good news of Jesus. We are thankful for Bellevue Baptist’s generosity and willingness to allow us to add another page of history to their pulpit, and are excited for our preachers to stand behind it to proclaim the Word once again.

NAMB, IMB, Guidestone join as partners

We are excited to announce that North American Mission Board, International Mission Board, and Guidestone have linked arms with us as gold-level sponsors. They join our platinum-level sponsor, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and folks like Samaritan’s Purse and Maranatha Tours as our key sponsors. A few more organizations or entities are finalizing their plan to partner, too, and we are so thankful, not only for their generosity but for believing in our vision.

Similarly, conventions like Kentucky Baptist Convention, Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, churches like First Baptist Orlando, Summer Grove Baptist, North Jacksonville Baptist, Greater Hills Baptist, and several individuals have given anywhere between $2 to $30,000. Like our own churches and our churches’ partnerships with the Cooperative Program, it is difficult to survive and thrive without faithful giving across the board––big tithers, small tithers; big churches, small churches––all combine to move the mission forward.

And so it is with the Pastors’ Conference. We cannot do it without key sponsors and significant gifts, but we also cannot do it without a large group of generous people, churches, and entities that simply believe in our vision. So, once again, I am asking for your help. Whether you can give a few dollars or a few hundred, every penny donated will help us put on a great Pastors’ Conference in Anaheim. Please prayerfully consider partnering with us, and click here.

Pastors’ Conference site re-launch coming soon

We have steadily increased our footprint on social media and are about to re-launch our website with the theme for the SBC Pastors’ Conference. On Twitter and Facebook, we continue to highlight encouraging articles, seek prayer requests, and inspire pastors in the hard work of ministry. Make sure you follow us on Twitter and Facebook but stay tuned to http://sbcpc.net and you may end up being the first to see the unveiling of our conference theme!

Rockdale panel discusses pro-life issues on Sanctity of Life Sunday

Meadowbrook Rockdale Sanctity of Life

ROCKDALE—On January 16, Meadowbrook Baptist Church in Rockdale hosted a panel discussion titled, “The Local Church and the Pro-Life Movement.”

The panel’s date coincided with Sanctity of Human Life Sunday on the Southern Baptist Convention calendar. This emphasis Sunday each year falls near the January 22 anniversary of the infamous U.S. Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, that has been applied to legalize abortion for nearly any reason.

Panelists were Abby Johnson, nationally known pro-life advocate and founder of Love Line, a ministry for single parents needing support in raising young children; Nathan Lorick, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention; Pam Nolan, director of Place of Hope, a pregnancy resource center in Rockdale; and Joe Pojman, executive director of the Texas Alliance for Life. The discussion was moderated by the church’s youth pastor, Collin Breakhouse. Meadowbrook’s pastor, Stephen Ammons, organized the event but was unable to attend while recovering from COVID-19.

Many questions the panel discussed were submitted by the live audience attending the event.

A church’s role in the pro-life movement

Local churches of any size can help by doing some things and avoiding others, panelists agreed.

Johnson cited complacency, the idea that somebody else will do it, as a big problem. “The Bible is pretty clear what God expects of us while we’re on this earth—to stand for the ‘least of these,’” she said, adding, “When we are complacent, we are guilty.”

More than one panelist was concerned about judgmental attitudes that drive women to abortion clinics for support. “The longer people walk with Christ the more they forget what it’s like to not [walk with him]. We expect people to come in the door righteous and whole. At that point we become sinful and self-righteous. Christ is pursuing them—why shouldn’t we be pursuing them? Follow the life of Christ and the people he touched. You’ll find hurting, dirty, broken people. The people he confronted were self-righteous and sinful,” Lorick said.

“It’s about life,” he continued. “The church may have the intention to help young women in need, but they don’t know how to help, or we don’t want to have to deal with controversial issues. But brokenness is brokenness; the church has to be prepared to help when a young lady walks in with a need.”

Churches can keep up with pro-life events like the January 22 Rally for Life at the capitol in Austin by using the internet, Pojman suggested, adding, “Check the websites of pro-life organizations around the state.”

Nolan recommended that her church and community “come and see what God has done through Place of Hope. You’ll see the needs. Come and pray for us at a board meeting. Help us with other kinds of support.” She related a case at the center where a mother pressured her daughter to have an abortion because the mother had had one as well, but that Place of Hope’s prayer chain was deployed and the girl ultimately chose life for her baby.

After Roe v. Wade, or not

The audience was very interested in recent talk about the possible overturn of Roe v. Wade during the current U.S. Supreme Court session, but panelists cautioned that even this wouldn’t be the end of the struggle.

“We are getting on average 20 calls a day since the Texas heartbeat bill went into effect” from women currently unable to get an abortion, Johnson said. “If there are 350 PRCs (pregnancy resource centers) in Texas, all are likely seeing a growing demand for help.” Pointing out that about half of the states could outlaw abortion after an overturn of Roe v. Wade, she added, “That’s when our work starts.”

Pojman is cautiously optimistic about an overturn of Roe, speculating that the Court has already decided what to do with Roe but likely won’t announce anything until the end of this session in late June. Depending on the outcome, so-called “trigger bills” can go into effect.

“Texas has passed a bill, the Human Life Protection Act, that protects babies from the point of conception, but it won’t go into effect until Roe is overturned,” he said. “It will be up to church-based ministries to take care of women who no longer have the option of going to Dallas and Austin for an abortion.”

He then noted a couple of advantages Texas has as a pro-life state, referring to $100 million the state has allocated to help mothers for the first three years after the birth of their children.

“This governor [Greg Abbott] is committed to life, to adoption. His daughter is adopted out of a church-based adoption center,” Pojman said.

He also responded to a question regarding a response if Roe is not overturned. “My hopes have been dashed many times,” he said. “But we continue to make progress. We’ll keep working. We’re not going anywhere. But I think we’ll get something from SCOTUS that is a step in the right direction.”

Johnson, who worked for an abortion clinic before becoming a Christian, was asked about the people who would be put out of work if abortion was illegal in Texas. “Telling them about the love of God is the first thing I do,” she said. “I want them to leave the abortion industry, but I want them to do it because God loves them. I want to tell them, ‘God has something better for you!’”

Why we care

The question of why pro-life work should be important for churches and believers prompted a clear response from Lorick, who said, “It matters to God! It is the gospel at work, with feet. If the church is not going to do the things that capture the heart of God, what are we here for?

“The key is to find a step where we can be involved in a PRC or make a donation or advocate for pro-life laws—we can pray. Start small,” he suggested. “Delayed obedience is disobedience. When God puts it in your heart, he’s going to provide an opportunity. When we all take that next step, we become a pretty big army.”

U.S. Pastors Identify Their Greatest Needs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Pastors face unique difficulties inherent in their career, but what are their greatest needs? Pastors themselves say they’re most concerned about seeing their churchgoers grow spiritually and making connections with those outside of their churches. 

After speaking directly with pastors to gather their perspectives on their ministry and personal challenges, Lifeway Research surveyed 1,000 U.S. pastors for the 2022 Greatest Needs of Pastors study to discover what they see as their most pressing issues

“The pre-existing challenges of ministry were amplified by COVID, and it’s important we lean in and listen closely to pastors,” said Ben Mandrell, president of Lifeway Christian Resources. “This project has shed light on critical needs they have and will point the way forward in how we partner with them to fuel their ministries and improve their health in multiple areas.”

Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research, said his team began the study by speaking with more than 200 pastors, asking them to think beyond the current pandemic-related struggles and share some of the enduring needs of pastors and their churches today.

“Their responses to the challenges they face and the areas that are most important for them were then presented to more than 200 additional pastors,” explained McConnell. “Based on those responses, 1,000 pastors were asked about almost four dozen needs to measure the extent to which each is something they need to address today.”

Of the 44 needs identified by pastors and included in the study, 17 were selected by a majority as an issue they need to address.

  • Developing leaders and volunteers: 77% 
  • Fostering connections with unchurched people: 76% 
  • People’s apathy or lack of commitment: 75% 
  • Consistency in personal prayer: 72% 
  • Friendships and fellowship with others: 69% 
  • Training current leaders and volunteers: 68% 
  • Consistency of Bible reading not related to sermon or teaching preparation: 68% 
  • Trusting God: 66% 
  • Relationships with other pastors: 64% 
  • Consistency in taking a Sabbath: 64% 
  • Stress: 63% 
  • Personal disciple making: 63% 
  • Confessing and repenting from personal sin: 61% 
  • Consistency exercising: 59% 
  • Avoiding overcommitment and over-work: 55% 
  • Challenging people where they lack obedience: 55% 
  • Time management: 51%

“The number and breadth of needs pastors are currently facing is staggering,” said McConnell. “All seven spiritual needs asked about on the survey are a current concern for most pastors, as well as practical, mental, self-care, skill-development and needs around ministry difficulties. Clearly pastors are not looking for shortcuts and are taking their roles as spiritual leaders in their church seriously.”

The 44 identified needs fall into seven broader categories. Subsequent releases in Lifeway Research’s 2022 Greatest Needs of Pastors study will explore each of the categories and the related needs specifically.

Single greatest need

When asked to narrow down their list to the single greatest need requiring their attention, pastors’ responses varied. At least one pastor surveyed picked each of the 44 possible needs, while 23 needs garnered at least 2% of pastors. Eight needs were chosen by more than 3% of pastors, and one reached double digits. 

  • People’s apathy or lack of commitment: 10% 
  • Personal disciple making: 9% 
  • Fostering connections with unchurched people: 8% 
  • Developing leaders and volunteers: 7% 
  • Establishing a compelling vision: 5% 
  • Technology: 4% 
  • Consistency in personal prayer: 4% 
  • Consistency exercising: 4% 

“When asked to prioritize their own greatest need, pastors tend to put the needs of their church’s ministry ahead of personal needs,” said McConnell. “Personally making disciples, developing leaders, connecting with those outside the church and mobilizing the people in their church are the most common ‘greatest needs’ and are among the most common needs pastors want to make a priority.”

Pastoral help 

When thinking about getting help with their needs, pastors want to hear from their fellow clergy who have been through the same struggles. 

Three in 4 U.S. pastors (75%) say they would be interested in getting advice or guidance on the issues they are facing from other pastors who have already been through those problems. Similar numbers (74%) would like to hear from those who understand churches like theirs.  

Another 70% would listen to other pastors who are currently facing the same needs. Slightly fewer (57%) want to hear from experts on those types of needs. Older pastors are the least likely to say they’d like advice from any of those sources.

“The most monumental needs of pastors are not new to this generation of pastors,” said McConnell. “They know other pastors and pastors who have gone before them are best positioned to understand and help them with the wide variety of ministry and personal needs a pastor faces.”

Still, previous Lifeway Research shows not all pastors are actively seeking out advice from their fellow clergy. More than 8 in 10 U.S. Protestant pastors say they feel supported by other pastors in their area. Fewer than half (46%), however, know and spend time with 10 or more other local pastors, according to a 2020 Lifeway Research survey.

Most pastors (54%) have those relationships with fewer than 10 other area clergy, including 1 in 20 (5%) who aren’t connected with any area pastors and 8% who have relationships with only one or two other ministers.

Pastors may also look to retired pastors for advice and wisdom for navigating common challenges. A 2019 Lifeway Research study of retired Protestant pastors, ministers and missionaries found some have struggled with the transition into retirement and are looking for ways to serve and connect with others.

More than 4 in 5 retired ministry workers (86%) say they have continued to make new friends in recent years, but 29% admit they feel lonely or isolated. When asked what resources would most help them with their relationships today, most say they want to make additional ministry connections: 25% say making friends who have similar experience in ministry, 23% making friends who live near me, 20% relating to a church in which I am not in leadership and 17% making friends who have had similar experience in leadership.

“Retired pastors and other ministry workers still want to serve the church,” said McConnell. “When Lifeway Research asked them how ministries could best serve those like them who are retired from full-time ministry, the most common response was to provide them with opportunities to serve or minister (16%). Current pastors looking for guidance may find retired pastors ready and willing to help.”

SBTC DR UPDATE: Teams head out to help in aftermath of Colorado fires

Colorado wildfires SBTC DR

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo.—Volunteers with Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief are heading to Colorado to help clean up damage caused by the 6,025-acre Marshall Fire, which destroyed hundreds of homes southeast of Boulder in January.

SBTC DR bunkhouses stationed at Melissa and Waxahachie are already en route to the Rocky Mountain State, driven by volunteers Mike Lene and Norman Prewitt, SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice said. Colorado Baptist DR will use the units to house volunteers working out of Reclamation Church in Boulder, Stice said.

“CO DR asked for the bunkhouses ASAP and we responded,” Stice explained, noting that two recovery teams from Bonham and Bellville are also preparing to deploy. The teams will be shoveling ash and assisting people in sifting through debris for valuables left after the fire.

“Some people have lost everything in this fire and our volunteer teams from across the state are ready to serve and assist them,” Stice said, noting that additional teams may be requested.  “We want those affected by the fire to know that there is hope and they are not alone.”

SBTC DR at the ready

A hallmark of all Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is readiness, as was shown recently by SBTC DR’s recent preparation to help survivors of December’s tornadoes in Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

SBTC DR units were set to deploy in tornado response, but their assistance as part of the SBDR national network was not needed at this time.

Daniel White, SBTC DR associate, explained the process in an email to DR volunteers: “When a disaster strikes out of state, we wait on the affected state to ask for our help. Civil authorities spend days conducting search and rescue operations, and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) are not allowed into the area until that is complete.”

Each state hit by the recent tornadoes has a strong SBDR ministry, White said. Arkansas needed no help; Tennessee received ample assistance from neighboring states and the state’s own volunteers; Missouri Baptist DR was assigned to help western Kentucky and call upon SBTC DR as needed. SBTC DR teams were scheduled to deploy but stood down when the work proved less than anticipated.

“The states all had more teams in the field than work to be done,” White said.

DR task force meets in Ennis

Meanwhile, SBTC DR task force members gathered Jan. 7-8 in Ennis to debrief 2021 and look ahead to 2022.

“We had good discussions about the major response of the year, which was to Hurricane Ida, especially in Golden Meadow and Gonzales, La.,” Stice said.

The need for additional SBTC DR workers was among the topics broached. For information on becoming a credentialed volunteer, visit https://sbtexas.com/disaster-relief/#training.

 

 

Canada joins list of nations banning conversion therapy

OTTOWA, Canada (BP) – A Canadian law banning any form of conversion therapy, broadly defined as treatment or counseling aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, went into effect Jan. 7.

Known as Bill C-4, the legislation became law in December 2021, after Canadian Governor General Mary Simon granted the legislation Royal Assent, or signature approval, after it unanimously passed both the Senate and the House of Commons

The law defines conversion therapy as any practice, treatment or service designed to change or repress a person’s sexual orientation, sexual behavior, gender identity or gender expression.

Media reports say the law makes it a criminal offense to cause someone to undergo conversion therapy as well as to promote, profit from or advertise the practice.

The legislation makes illegal the practice of such therapy on both adults and children and whether the person consents to treatment or not. This was Canada’s third attempt at banning the practice after two previous failed attempts.

Brazil, Ecuador, Germany, and Taiwan are among the nations that have laws banning conversion therapy.

Similar bans on conversion therapy for minors exist in 20 U.S. states and many cities. According to NBC News, three states (Florida, Alabama and Georgia) have injunctions blocking conversion therapy bans that are now in the federal judicial circuit.

Roger Brooks, senior council for Alliance Defending Freedom, has worked on several cases related to a ban on conversion or reparative therapy, including an ongoing case in Washington state.

He told Baptist Press although conversion or reparative therapy is an international issue and term (the United Nations called for banning the practice in 2020), it can often be a misleading term.

According to Brooks, what is actually being restricted by these bans are conversations, ideas or topics counselors would discuss with patients related to sexual behavior or gender.

He explained the U.S. Constitution should prevent any ban on speech, including conversations a counselor may have with a client about how to live out his or her faith with regard to sexuality and gender.

“It’s certainly an international conversation, but our rights as Americans are quarantined by the Constitution,” Brooks said.

“For the government to step in and say you can’t talk about that, that is frankly shocking. It’s shocking from a freedom of speech perspective and it’s unprecedented.”

Brooks theorized the Supreme Court could take up a case on a ban on conversion therapy as early as 2023, but acknowledged these types of things can be hard to predict.

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, addressed the Canadian law as well as similar proposed legislation in Great Britain on the Jan. 3 episode of The Briefing.

He said such laws not only point to a battle in the counseling and scientific communities but illustrate a battle taking place that could affect churches and people of faith in their own lives.

“These particular bills could have the effect of chilling the preaching, restricting the liberty of the pulpit in Christian churches, and even could extend to potentially criminalizing personal conversations or outlawing certain conversations between parents and children,” Mohler said.

“If the government can tell you it is illegal to teach biblical truth on the issue of human sexuality, the array of LGBT issues, understand two things: Number one, it won’t stop with LGBT and understand, eventually it means the criminalization of whatever Christian speech is no longer politically attractive. And that eventually will mean everything that is revealed in Scripture, most essentially, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Mohler praised the biblical counselors in both Canada and Great Britain fighting against these laws.

“We are about to find out where the biblical Christians are on both sides of the Atlantic, and … on both sides of the American/Canadian border,” Mohler said.

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Beaten but not defeated, South Asian women brave persecution for their faith

A powdered plant dye called henna was part of God’s design for bringing South Asian women living in Europe into a relationship with Him. Despite beatings, berating and children being taken away from them, many women chose to write the laws of the Lord on their hearts.

In 2016, IMB missionary Lena Eckhart* met Miriam* at a play group for children in their city. Lena told Miriam she enjoys applying henna designs on hands, and the women began meeting in a public park for henna sessions.

As Lena drew the designs on Miriam’s hand with the plant-based ink, she told her the Bible story that corresponds to the design. Lena asked Miriam if she had any family or friends who might be interested in the henna stories. The group grew to eight, and they began meeting in a private nursing room for mothers in a mall for fear someone might find out.

The group started as a henna group, but they eventually stopped to focus on stories about Jesus.

“God was clearly moving in their hearts,” Lena said. “They were amazed by the deeds and teachings of Jesus. They were especially struck by the fact that Jesus had the authority to forgive sin. They began asking questions about how it was possible for Jesus to forgive.”

Their questions and desire to meet as a group did not go unnoticed by their family members.

Beaten because of the Bible

“One of the biggest challenges we faced with leading this group was persecution,” Lena said describing the spiritual warfare the women faced as they sought to know about Jesus.” These attacks would typically take place after the husbands of these women heard about their wives’ participation in the study group.”

Some women were beaten by their husbands and family members. One woman was beaten so severely her arm was broken. Another woman had her children taken away by her family. One man brought the local Muslim religious leader to shame his wife.

“Every time there was an attack it would spook the ladies. The group would stop meeting,” Lena said. “After an attack, we would assume that the group was finished, but after a few weeks had passed, they would start making contact again and the group would persevere.”

When Miriam committed her life to Christ, her husband smacked her in the face and left her. However, after a month, he returned and asked her a series of questions.

“First, he asked if she was going to continue to follow Jesus. She said, ‘Yes.’ Second, he asked her if she was going to teach Christianity to their children. She said, ‘Yes, and they can decide for themselves if they want to follow Jesus or Muhammad.’ Third, he asked if she was going to continue to go to the mosque with him. She said, ‘I will if you want, but when I go, I will be worshiping Jesus in my heart.’ He then apologized for hitting her, and she replied, ‘I forgave you as soon as you did it. I forgive you as Jesus forgives,’” Lena recalls.

Miriam followed her profession of faith with believer’s baptism when she was 24 weeks pregnant. After Miriam’s baptism, more women came forward and professed faith and expressed that they wanted to be baptized. This decision always came at great personal cost. One 60-year-old lady was beaten by her husband and brother after they found out she became a Christian.

Still choosing to be baptized, she boldly proclaimed, “I have never felt peace or happiness in Islam. When my husband and brother were beating me, I felt the presence of God. And I was happy because I knew that if they killed me, then I would go to heaven. Jesus died for me. That is why I was willing to give my life for Him.”

Threats lead to an ally

Threats of violence also extended to Lena. Miriam came to a meeting with a black eye and bruises on her arm. Miriam’s sister, Paula*, had discovered her newfound faith and beat her.

“As she was beating Miriam, she was yelling, ‘Why are you not fighting back?’ Miriam responded by saying, ‘Because I love you,’” Lena said. “Miriam’s husband stood idly by and watched as his wife was beaten. In a way, this reminded us of Saul as he stood by and watched with approval as Stephen was being stoned.”

Paula made it known that if she ever found out who told her about the gospel, she would beat her as well. Miriam advised Lena to keep her distance from the discipleship group. At the next meeting, Paula unexpectedly showed up and confronted the group.

A few days later, Lena and Miriam met at a restaurant to talk about how the group was faring.

“Paula once again showed up unexpectedly. She had secretly followed Miriam for the purpose of spying on her,” Lena said.

Paula confronted Lena and demanded to know how they knew one another. Lena decided to leave the restaurant as quickly as possible because she had brought her children. Lena later found out Paula brought friends who were waiting outside the restaurant, intending harm. Lena and her children left the scene without incident.

Miriam was later able to share her faith with her sister. Paula asked to meet with Lena, and the three women arranged to meet at a café. Lena and Miriam shared testimonies of how Jesus had changed their lives.

“How is it that you can be so kind to me when I have been so mean to you?” Paula asked.

Lena explained that her kindness comes from God and that Jesus teaches Christians to love and bless those who persecute believers. Paula revealed she constantly feels rage and anger in her heart, and she doesn’t understand why.

“God’s Word has a lot to say about anger, and God can replace our rage with peace and thankfulness,” Lena told her.

Although Paula has not professed faith in Christ yet, she did become an ally for Miriam. Miriam’s mother began giving Miriam a hard time because she had perceived that Miriam had fallen away from Islam. Paula stood up for her sister and told her mother to leave Miriam alone.

Miriam and the other believers continue to grow in their faith, and their persistence in the face of bodily harm has furthered their witness.

*Names changed for security

Rick and Lena Eckhart* serve among South Asians in Europe.

The post Beaten but not defeated, South Asian women brave persecution for their faith appeared first on IMB.

Recommendation for interim president to be made at EC February meeting

NASHVILLE (BP) – Officers of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee will meet with EC vice presidents by the end of January, with a recommendation for one of them to serve as interim president coming at the Executive Committee’s February meeting, EC Chairman Rolland Slade told Baptist Press.

Per the SBC Executive Committee bylaws, officers are given the responsibility to designate a vice president to act as interim when the president/CEO post is vacant. The current EC vice presidents are Jonathan Howe, Communications; Willie McLaurin, Great Commission Relations and Mobilization; and Jeff Pearson, Chief Financial Officer.

“We certainly appreciate the patience that has been shown to us in these critical times,” said Slade. “Our vice presidents are each godly men who have worked cohesively with the officers to provide leadership that has not gone unnoticed.”

In addition to Slade, other officers include Stacy Bramlett, vice chair; Monte Shinkle, secretary, and committee chairs and committee chairs Erik Cummings, Convention Events and Strategic Planning; Andrew Hunt, Convention Missions and Ministry; Jim Gregory, Southern Baptist Relations; and Archie Mason, Convention Finances and Stewardship Development.

The EC president became vacant on Nov. 1 after Ronnie Floyd announced on Oct. 14 his intention to resign at the end of that month. Floyd had served as EC president since May 2019.

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

7 practical ways to engage church members online

Is it necessary for a church to interact with members online during the week? Does it matter? Is it even the right thing to do? Many people are asking questions like these regarding church and online engagement.

The truth is that if you don’t show up in people’s feeds on social media, the algorithm has plenty of other things to put there for them. Our news feeds and timelines are discipling us. And we are formed into the image of the content we most consume.

I want to encourage you to recognize that your congregation is on social platforms whether you like it or not. And, with the way we are all conditioned in a digital age, the algorithm is better at getting and keeping their attention than a 35-minute sermon. This is essential to understand because our attention is a pivotal piece in our spiritual formation. John Mark Comer said it this way, “What you give your attention to is the person you become” (The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, 54). Can you, as a pastor or church leader, use these platforms to turn people’s attention to Christ? And in doing so, can you foster his work in and through them? I believe you can.

However, we have to get practical about how to do this, which can be uncomfortable. No one likes talking about the nitty-gritty of how to do this type of stuff because it feels small, ridiculous, or like marketing. You might read some of the ideas I share and think to yourself, “Really? That feels very basic.” But the reality is that engaging your congregation online means using basic social media marketing principles, not to build the church’s “brand,” but to shepherd your congregations during the 167 hours of the week that they aren’t in your building.

It’s one thing to debate if church can be virtual or not. It’s another thing to use these platforms as part of your ministry the way they were designed to be used. The weekly, physical gathering will always be the primary ministry of the church. We should not forsake it (Heb. 10:25). As embodied creatures who are part of the body of Christ, our physical presence is of the utmost importance. Yet, we are a generation who is living out this reality in the digital age. And, it’s important for the church to view virtual space as the grounds for legitimate ministry.

I want to suggest going a few steps beyond just live-streaming, which many have become accustomed to during the pandemic. You may be cautious about adopting new platforms, but your congregation isn’t. They are already on those platforms, being shaped and formed by the content they see that’s not even on your radar. In light of this, here are seven practical ideas you can try in the new year:

Sermon point carousels

Take the sermon points from the week and use Canva to turn them into an Instagram carousel. A carousel is where you use the 10 photo slots available to you on Instagram to create what is essentially a slide deck. One example of this is from The Bridge Church in Tennessee.

This is a great role for a volunteer and might only take about 30 minutes. Send the volunteer the sermon notes and audio. They can take the three to five big points and turn them into carousels. Instagram’s algorithm loves carousels, and it will help people remember what was preached that week.

Live Facebook/Instagram Q&A

Do a Facebook or Instagram Live during lunch with a Q&A on anything people want to talk about. To do this on Facebook, open up the Facebook app, go to your church’s Facebook page, scroll down below the “Create a post” button and click “Live.” Then click “Start Live Video.”

On Instagram, simply swipe right to access the camera, select “Live” at the bottom of the screen, and click the button in the middle of the bottom of the screen.

Make sure to tell people you are going to do it before you go live so they can think about a question. You can do this on Instagram Stories, too. Use the question sticker to accept people’s questions and then respond to them by pressing the question in your notifications and then recording a video in the app responding to it.

It should only take about 30 seconds of your time to ask for questions. Doing this even once a month will show that you care about what is on your congregation’s hearts and minds and that you are willing to connect with them where they are.

Video of cut sermon content

Pastor, you can take one of the points from your most recent sermon that had to get cut and record a video on your iPhone of you talking about it. Make it anywhere from one to three minutes, and post it to social media. If you need help, you can enlist the help of someone on staff who is more knowledgeable about technology.

Maybe it’s that Greek word you found interesting but didn’t think was good to keep in your sermon. Or, it might be an illustration that didn’t quite work but is still powerful. Perhaps, it’s a fourth point you wanted to make but were out of time. Whatever it is, it may not have fit on Sunday, but it probably fits on social. And don’t forget to spend some time replying to the comments after you post. It shows that you want to interact with and shepherd your people, not just preach and leave.

Ask questions on Instagram Stories

On Instagram Stories, use the question sticker to ask something like, “What’s the hardest thing for you to believe this week?” Then, share the answers (which are anonymous). Maybe you can even go first. Resist trying to provide answers; it will help create a culture of honesty and vulnerability in the church. In a time when so many people feel hesitant to express doubt, this is a chance for them to be honest about their struggles without feeling judged or condemned.

Your church will even receive some pastoral insight on how to better shepherd people from the results. Are you seeing common themes? Your pastor can include an aside into an upcoming sermon or make a short video to post later in the week. Pastors might be surprised at what they will learn about their congregation just by asking a simple question on Instagram.

Sermon resources email

Send an email to the church with the sermon sources for the week. Pastor, it will give people a look into what’s influencing your  and an opportunity to dig deeper. Make sure to keep the email brief so that people are more likely to read all of it. Be sure to include links to the resources you used so that it’s easier for your members to access them. Your congregation will benefit greatly from a simple email that someone on staff can help you shape.

Church-wide Discord server or Facebook group.

Start a church-wide Discord Server or Facebook group where there can be an ongoing conversation between the congregation, staff, pastors, etc., and engage with this daily. You can create sub-channels for different topics in Discord. Many people feel disconnected from their church, and this is a way to stay in touch, foster conversation, and provides a window into how your congregation is doing so your staff can better shepherd them. All you need to do is devote just a few minutes every day to observing the conversations and joining in.

To create a Discord server, download the Discord app in the App store, create an account, and on the left-hand side bar, click the “+” button. Follow the process to create a server for your church.

For a Facebook group, open the Facebook app, click the Groups icon in the bottom of the screen, followed by clicking the “+” icon in the top right of the screen. Click “Create a group,” and follow the process to set up a group for your church.

Repurpose sermons into a blog/newsletter

A volunteer who is great at writing or editing can use Descript to transcribe the sermon and remove filler words. Cut it down to about 1,000–1,500 words, and put it on Substack — a service that allows you to write a newsletter that people subscribe to with their email (this creates an email list) and also publish it on a unique URL as a blog.

Having an email list is one of the only assets you can own on the web (for now). All other services such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Discord, and others are rented space. An email list is an asset you own that gives you direct access to people’s inboxes. People can unsubscribe, but you aren’t dependent on a private platform. It’s also the most direct way to reach people. Everyone checks their email. You’re more likely to reach your people because they will open your email if they value the content you send. There are many other creative ways you can utilize email for your congregation beyond this and sending out event announcements, but it starts with building the email list first. This is a great way to do that.

And here’s a pro-tip: Publish the newsletter on a one- to two-month delay from the date you preached it. That way it’s not immediately redundant and can be an easy reminder once it starts to slip from people’s minds.

Start with what you have

All of these suggestions are just a start. There are myriad things you can do on online platforms, but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel here, especially if this prospect is overwhelming to you. These seven ideas — which will be pretty simple once you figure them out — mean you have a strategy for the whole week. If you do one of these a day, you’ve just done more to engage your congregation online than many churches. If you do two to three a week, you’ll be covered for the whole month and still be doing great at online engagement.

We now live our lives in a hybrid of physical and digital, and there’s no going back. Of course, we never want to forsake the physical — we are physical beings made in God’s image who are called to gather together in the name of Christ — but we shouldn’t forsake our people to the digital either. It’s important that we begin to see our ministry extending into the digital spaces, where people spend hours every day. If church members are giving a majority of their attention to online platforms, then let’s find creative ways to grab their attention and point them to Christ.

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Send Network Español senior director joins SWBTS staff

Felix Cabrera

Southern Baptist leader Felix Cabrera has been appointed associate director of Hispanic Programs at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, President Adam W. Greenway has announced.

“The appointment of Felix Cabrera to help lead our Hispanic Programs is further proof of our resolve to meet the needs of more faithfully trained Hispanic and Latin-American Gospel workers to the end that the Gospel will advance among all Spanish-speaking peoples everywhere,” said Greenway. “I am grateful to God for the blessing of having Dr. Cabrera join Southwestern Seminary’s already stellar team and look forward to even greater things from this area of urgent institutional priority.”

Cabrera, who will remain in his current capacity at the North American Mission Board as senior director of Send Network Español, will serve the seminary in a part-time capacity to assist in building Hispanic Programs, including developing new undergraduate degrees.

“Dr. Felix Cabrera brings to the Hispanic Programs of Southwestern’s Roy J. Fish School of Evangelism and Missions a wealth of ministry experience as a gifted church planter, pastor, denominational statesman, and theological educator,” said John D. Massey, dean of the Fish School, which houses the seminary’s Hispanic Programs. “He is a proven and gifted leader in Hispanic ministry among Southern Baptists and is a welcome addition to the team. He will take SWBTS en Español to new heights.”

A native of Puerto Rico, Cabrera currently pastors Iglesia Bautista Ciudad de Dios in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and is executive director of the Convention of Southern Baptists in Puerto Rico. He also served as second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) from 2018-2019. In his role with NAMB, where he has served since 2019, Cabrera oversees the church planting strategy in North America for the Spanish-speaking context in addition to serving as the regional director of Puerto Rico.

“I am convinced that my calling until the Lord changes it is directed in three areas that converge: pastor the Lord’s flock in a local church, train men and women theologically in the context of the academy, and prepare leaders and send them to plant churches,” Cabrera said. “For this reason, the opportunity that Southwestern Seminary is providing me fits so well with who I am and what I do. I am excited, honored, and expectant to be able to serve alongside my mentor, Dr. Mark McClellan, to continue and expand the legacy of SWBTS toward our Spanish-speaking Hispanic community. I am grateful to Dr. Adam Greenway for giving me this important task.”

Prior to serving with NAMB, Cabrera was the pastor of Iglesia Bautista Central (IBC) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, a church he planted in 2011. Additionally, he has served as the assistant director of Spanish studies and assistant professor of pastoral ministry at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where he developed the curriculum for the certificate and master’s level programs offered in Spanish.

“Felix Cabrera is one of the strongest and most well-prepared Gospel ministers I have ever worked with,” said Mark McClellan, director of the Hispanic Programs at Southwestern Seminary. “He will bring to Southwestern’s Hispanic theological studies and ministry preparation an unprecedented combination of leadership, theological preparation, missionary passion, and an exemplary model for present and future Hispanic and Latin American church and ministry leaders.”

Cabrera has served Southern Baptists as a member of the 2017 SBC Resolutions Committee and in 2015 as a member of the SBC Committee on Committees. He currently serves as a member of the SBC Hispanic Leaders Council, as well as a member of Lifeway Christian Resources Hispanic Pastoral Council.

Cabrera earned a Doctor of Ministry with a concentration in leadership from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2020. He earned a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in 2015, as well as Master of Arts in Church Planting from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2017. His Bachelor of Business Administration was earned from the Universidad de Puerto Rico in 2001.

Dance joins Guidestone as Director of Pastoral Wellness

Mark Dance joins Guidestone

Dr. Mark Dance is joining GuideStone Financial Resources in the newly created Director of Pastoral Wellness position.

Dance previously served as a senior pastor for 28 years in churches in Texas, Arkansas, and Tennessee before joining Lifeway Christian Resources in 2014. He is the co-founder of Care4Pastors. Most recently, he has served as Director of Pastoral Development for Oklahoma Baptists.

“When I was called to join the ministry of GuideStone, I felt deep in my soul a responsibility to care for pastors, not just in their financial and health lives, but for the whole pastor and pastor’s family, to help them do well and do right by being well, serving well, and finishing well,” GuideStone President-elect Hance Dilbeck said. “As I’ve spent these last several months becoming acquainted with GuideStone, I was excited by the prospects of Mark joining us here to advance the vision we believe we have received from the Lord.”

God has opened many doors for Dance to minister to pastors, he said.

“Pastors have been a priority to GuideStone for over 100 years, and I am thrilled to build on that legacy with Dr. Dilbeck and his team,” Dance said. “Pastors are still leading through a historically challenging season, so our GuideStone team desires to lock arms with other ministries to help pastors and other ministry leaders fulfill their calling. I have never been more excited about a ministry opportunity than I am today.”

Throughout the pandemic, GuideStone has noted, along with many health providers, that mental health claims have increased, which often have corresponding increased costs in the health care plan overall.

“Pastors are having a hard time finishing well,” Dilbeck said. “As we’ve talked through ways to help pastors find the care they need so they can be the husbands and shepherds they’re called to be, this vision around complete wellness—spiritual, physical, financial, mental, health—has more fully taken shape. We believe that we can continue to do the things GuideStone does well, the financial and health wellness focus, and influence these other aspects of wellness.”

Dance’s work will work in concert with pastor wellness programs sponsored by other Southern Baptist entities.

“Perhaps most excitingly, we aren’t taking this on in a vacuum,” Dilbeck said. “Mark will bring relationships he has already established with our sister Southern Baptist entities, state conventions and other like-minded ministries, so that we can assist in serving our pastors in a holistic way. This isn’t a change in focus for GuideStone—we’ve always said we exist to honor the Lord by being a lifelong partner with our participants in enhancing their financial security. That focus is not going to change. We recognize that when pastors are well in every aspect of their life, their financial security becomes even stronger.”

Dance has three earned degrees, a Bachelor of Business Administration from Howard Payne University, a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Janet. They currently live in Tulsa, where he serves as an interim pastor, and will relocate to Dallas. They have two adult children, Holly (married to Brandon) and Brad.