Month: January 2022

God’s provision and future decisions frame Lifeway trustee meeting

NASHVILLE – As trustees gathered via Zoom, Lifeway Christian Resources President and CEO Ben Mandrell shared significant ways in which God has continued to bless the organization and highlighted decisions guiding the future. In their semiannual meeting Jan. 25, Lifeway’s trustees also heard details of strong first-quarter ministry results and elected new board officers.

Mandrell began his presidential report by recognizing the gains of 2021 and a strong start to the new year. He also reminded trustees that it’s good for our souls to praise God for the gifts He provides. “We want to praise God for the way He continues to bless us,” he said.

Areas of provision

Mandrell highlighted five key areas of growth and provision: financial stability and growth, website advancements, camp registrations, resources impact and equipping global church leaders.

During the plenary session, Chief Financial Officer Joe Walker gave trustees a financial update. He reported that Lifeway ended its 2021 fiscal year $4 million better than its $210 million budget, and funds provided by operations (bottom line) was $12 million better than budget. He said the blessings from the 2021 fiscal year are continuing into the new year.

Walker noted that revenue for the first quarter is above budget by 1.5 percent and above last year by 2.7 percent, due to strong sales of short-term studies, Bibles, supplies and books. Walker said ongoing Bible study curriculum continues to rebound as sales for winter materials are above 2021 by 17 percent.

Mandrell shared his excitement over being named to Newsweek’s list of Best Online Shops 2022. After brick-and-mortar Lifeway stores closed, the organization recognized the need to improve the online customer experience, he said, adding: “It’s staggering how much ground we’ve made up. Our IT and marketing teams are working in sync on this project, and we’re seeing huge results, including this enormous honor.”

Camps also remain a bright spot for Lifeway, despite pandemic-related challenges. “Last year, we served 88,000 kids and teens, who gave $445,000 to missions, while 1,400 made decisions to follow Christ,” he said. Camp registration for 2022 is currently outpacing last summer.

He also mentioned several resources that reached sales milestones, climbed onto bestseller lists and were recognized with awards, including Priscilla Shirer’s “Elijah,” the “Tony Evans Study Bible” and “Tony Evans Commentary,” which have each received the ECPA Bronze Award for selling more than 100,000 copies, and the She Reads Truth Bible, which received the ECPA Gold Award for more than 500,000 copies sold.

Mandrell called attention to the “Telugu Study Bible,” a resource completely developed, translated and distributed by local church leaders in India working with the Lifeway India team. Released in December, the “Telugu Study Bible” is the first step in a larger strategy to provide discipleship resources for the church in India.

“I’m so thankful for our Lifeway India team and their work to provide resources for pastors,” Mandrell said. “One of the pastors involved in creating this resource wept the first time he saw the study Bible. He knows how much ministry leaders need a resource like this.”

Future decisions

In addition to those areas of praise and provision, Mandrell called trustees’ attention to five large decisions Lifeway is in the process of making for the future.

First, he spoke about the organization’s planned move from its current location in downtown Nashville to a new teaming space in Brentwood, Tenn., by the end of the year. Mandrell said discussions were already taking place about the downtown building prior to the pandemic, and COVID-19 accelerated the need to reevaluate the type of space needed.

“Lifeway needs a new space that matches the new kind of organization we are becoming,” Mandrell said, “one that is highly connected and highly flexible.”

To help employees stay connected to each other and to the mission of the organization, Mandrell said Lifeway would hold two organization-wide, in-person gatherings each year. “With our new work-from-anywhere culture, our leadership team feels it’s crucial to keep bringing the full team together, realigning under our vision and mission,” he said.

Other decisions Lifeway is making focus on serving churches outside the South and helping the organization draw closer to pastors and church leaders, as well as state convention leaders.

Mandrell told trustees Lifeway is creating a new line of curriculum to better serve church plants and congregations in less-churched areas of the country. “We think this will be a life-changing experience for church planters and others in contexts where people may not have a strong biblical knowledge,” he said. “The resource will avoid Christian jargon and references that can make people feel like outsiders.” He said the organization plans to launch the new resource in 2023.

Mandrell drew attention to the new Lifeway podcast, “The Glass House,” which highlights the struggles pastors and their spouses face and offers encouragement and support. He also noted the 2022 Greatest Needs of Pastors study from Lifeway Research that will help guide the organization’s efforts to assist pastors. “Lifeway is ready to come alongside pastors in their ministry priorities,” he said.

As most churches using Lifeway resources are small and medium-sized, Mandrell said one way the organization can better listen to these leaders is by becoming more closely connected to state conventions. “Our state conventions have strong relationships with those grassroots churches, so we can learn a lot from drawing closer to those leaders.” As part of this renewed emphasis, Mandrell announced Ken Braddy will take on the role of director of Sunday school and network partnerships.

Other business

During the meeting, trustees elected new board officers including Greg Kannady, president of LuGreg Trucking and a member of First Baptist Church, Kingfisher, Okla., as chairman; Missie Branch, assistant dean of students to women and director of graduate life at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and member of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, N.C., vice chairman; and Ben Posey, pastor of First Baptist Church in Leroy, Ala., recording secretary.

In other action, the trustees:

Learned Lifeway received a “clean audit” report and approved a recommendation to have Lifeway employ Lattimore Black Morgan & Cain (LBMC) to conduct the 2022, 2023 and 2024 fiscal year audits of Lifeway operations, the Lifeway Retirement Plan, the Post-Retirement Benefits Trust and the Lifeway 401(k) Plan.
Discussed and approved responses to three motions referred to Lifeway during the 2021 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting. The responses regarding the request for each SBC entity to conduct certain audits and disclose financial details, for enhanced ministries to the Deaf, and for each entity to examine the use of non-disclosure agreements will be reported to the 2022 SBC meeting, June 14-15, in Anaheim, Calif.

The board also recognized eight trustees who are ending their board service in June: Linda Dean, Farmington, N.M.; Burt Landers, Shelbyville, Tenn.; Brice Mandaville, Seguin, Texas; Brad McLean, New Braunfels, Texas; Jimmy Scroggins, West Palm Beach, Fla.; Roger Yancey, Conroe, Texas; J.D. Perry, Baton Rouge, La.; and Todd Fannin, Pryor, Okla.

The next Lifeway trustee meeting is scheduled for August 29-30, 2022.

Shane & Shane releases ‘Worship in the Word’ Kingdom Kids album

NASHVILLE (BP) – Shane Bernard and Shane Everett surmised early in their music ministry as Shane & Shane that God had better words than they themselves.

“We didn’t really know what to sing, what to do, when we started, so much so that we were like, hey, I guess we’ll just sing the Bible,” Bernard told Baptist Press in advance of their latest release, “Worship in the Word.”

“Over the years we’ve just realized, man, I just don’t have a ton to say. He’s got a ton. I mean I can say things, but they’re not active and living. But I know something that is,” Bernard said, “and He’s proven that over and over again in our own lives, just by singing the Scripture.”

Worship in the Word, a collaboration of 10 new songs inspired by Scripture and produced by Bernard, releases Friday (Jan. 28), accompanied by a streaming series that launched yesterday (Jan. 25) on RightNow Media. Each RightNow Media episode features a song from the new release, related teaching, corporate worship and a question-and-answer session with children.

After two decades of ministry, Worship in the Word is considered the debut release of Shane & Shane’s Kingdom Kids initiative to provide resources for children and families. With seven daughters between them and no sons, women are the majority in each of their homes. They consider themselves in fulltime women’s ministry.

“I have three daughters,” Everett said, “and he has four, and wives, so we just have a bunch of women in our lives.” They consider their daughters, ages 5 to 13, to be at ages when not many ministry resources are designed for them. “There’s a handful of them that have given their lives to Christ, and it was a fun outlet for them to be a part of. They could minister with us.”

Bernard combines Scripture with humility in the duo’s “women’s ministry,” evangelizing by allowing his daughters and wife to see God’s grace, discipline and discipleship in his own life.

“I think He’s used my sin more than my awesomeness, because when God gives me the humility to go to them and go, ‘Daddy needs Jesus. I am so sorry. Will you forgive me for this or that?’ It just, I think over time, shows them that God is real,” Bernard said. “That I need Him. I haven’t graduated from the Gospel. It’s still my daily bread. It’s still the way that I move forward every day. God’s been kind enough to discipline me like a good father does, through that and His just abiding Holy Spirit.”

Worship in the Word is an extension of humility mixed with Scripture, seen in songs on the release including “Come and See,” taken from Psalm 66; “Your Ways,” taken from Isaiah 55; and “Yes and Amen,” from Ephesians 1.

Everett hopes children and adults learn and grow from the Kingdom Kids initiative.

“We’re all His kids, and so, I think we can all enjoy these songs,” Everett said. “As people watch and as parents and children are learning the truth of God’s Scripture, (I hope) that it would do what it has always done, and that is transform hearts by the Holy Spirit and His Word.

“Because we believe the Word of God is powerful, active and doing stuff that we could never do. That’s our prayer for this project and in this record” Everett said. “Hopefully people will be reminded of all these great promises and truths from God Word that He has for us as kids.”

Shane & Shane met while attending Texas A&M University. Together, they’ve released 40 Scripturally rich albums and garnered more than 613 million streams, over 100 million YouTube views, and 2 million combined monthly listeners on Spotify and Apple Music.

They consider Colossians 3:16 their directive, as exemplified in last year’s release, “Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Vol. 1,” which The Gospel Coalition named among the Best Christian Music of 2021.

The article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Arlington church’s ‘Dollar Club’ shows what many can do when united

A dollar doesn’t buy what it used to. Even the venerable Dollar Tree stores, which held the price line for decades, now offer most items for $1.25. 

But a dollar can still make a difference, as one Arlington church is discovering. 

Since October, Rush Creek Church has asked each member to donate a dollar per month to the Dollar Club, creating a fund used to provide financial gifts benefiting deserving—and unsuspecting—church and community members, like Ms. Jessie Roberson.

Ms. Jessie’s story

Growing up, “church was all we had,” Ms. Jessie, a beloved Rush Creek senior citizen from the Green Oaks campus, recalled in a video filmed for church. 

“We didn’t get to go to swimming pools. The only time we got to go to a swimming pool was Juneteenth,” Roberson said.

“Because of that, I learned to forgive,” she added. “God wants us to have a spirit of forgiveness.”

On video, Ms. Jessie also mentioned the difficulty of life as a widow, now legally blind from glaucoma, whose husband had taken her everywhere. She described the source of her joy: God, and her regular two-hour times of daily morning prayer. 

During the video, Brian McFadden, Rush Creek compassion pastor, prompted Roberson to discuss the OrCam MyEye, a visual-enhancement device that, through artificial intelligence, helps the visually impaired read, identify people, and even scan grocery items.

“Man, I just can’t afford that thing,” Roberson said.

That soon changed as church staffer Mariela Ellis entered with a boxed OrCam MyEye device, courtesy of the church’s Dollar Club initiative. Roberson covered her eyes and cried, shaking her head in disbelief. She had been giving to the Dollar Club herself and had no idea she would be on the receiving end. 

“We know God is just starting … he’s not done with you yet, and we wanted you to have as much freedom, autonomy, independence, as possible,” Ellis said while making the presentation to the teary-eyed, emotional Roberson, who hugged both Ellis and McFadden.

“You’re making me do an ugly cry,” she told McFadden. “I just can’t believe this …. I am overwhelmed. I’ve never had anything like this happen to me. … I am never at a loss for words. I am at a loss for words.”

Rush Creek’s Brian McFadden looks on as Mariela Ellis surprises member Jessie Roberson with an OrCam MyEye device, courtesy of the Dollar Club. Photo submitted

It started with staff

The Rush Creek Dollar Club originated with Pastor Marty Collier, McFadden said. Collier had heard of a similar program at a church in Nashville and tasked McFadden and staff with exploring the possibilities.

“In July, we let the staff know this was coming,” McFadden said. They assembled a team of 6-7 staff members, including Ellis, who serves as Rush Creek’s finance director, and representatives from human resources, communications, and the church’s local compassion ministry.

“We wanted the viewpoints of all different people from staff,” McFadden said, explaining that the group set parameters regarding who could apply, how to qualify, and how recipients would be selected.

In advance of October’s official churchwide launch, Rush Creek staff members started contributing in July to an initial “seed” fund, McFadden said. Staff-generated funds provided the first gifts to the first surprised recipients, Robert and Miguel, both long-time employees of the local Colter’s barbecue, who had helped cater Rush Creek events for years. Neither man is a member of the church.

A five-minute video of Robert and Miguel’s response was shown to the congregation in October 2021. Collier also preached a sermon from 1 Corinthians 8:1-5 that day.

“In 1 Corinthians 8:4, the people are begging earnestly for the privilege of giving,” McFadden said. The sermon kickstarted the campaign and in October and November, three more Dollar Club gifts were presented, with another planned for this February.

Church members started contributing to the fund after that initial video.

Blessed so far

Recipients are invited to come to the church offices to film their stories, a practice common at Rush Creek.

“We like to capture stories of how God is using our people,” McFadden said.

At some point during the filming, Ellis, the designated Dollar Club host, typically interrupts the video and presents the gift.

Ellis said she loves being the Dollar Club host. “I was very nervous at first … but it’s been a blessing to be able to watch and be part of that connection with the recipients.” She added that she had “learned a lot along the way.”

McFadden said the choice of Ellis as host was perfect and confirmed that beneficiaries really are surprised: “We haven’t done this long enough so the recipient knows what’s coming.”

In addition to Ms. Jessie, Robert and Miguel, other Dollar Club beneficiaries have included Brooke, a volunteer at the church’s Handley Hope Center to whom the church gifted a hedge trimmer and Home Depot gift card; and Al and Martha, volunteer leaders in Rush Creek’s Spanish-language ministry, who had recently lost a son, one of their four children.

Michelle Fornal, a single mother of two whose daughter, Savvy, had lost her sight because of brain tumors, was also helped.

“We blessed them with a check to help with expenses and gave the little girl a computer for the visually impaired,” McFadden said, adding that the church also bought the girl’s brother a new bike.

“The ask is just a dollar per person per month,” McFadden said. “United, we can do something to make an impact.” Many, he added, give more than a dollar, but with an in-person attendance of 4,000-5,000, even a dollar per person adds up quickly for the church.

Rush Creek does not foresee the Dollar Club ending.

“We plan to go on for years and years to come,” McFadden said.

At Rush Creek, the buck doesn’t stop, but goes on to bless many.

To view the Rush Creek Dollar Club stories, visit

CP provides gospel opportunity

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) — As believers, most of us know that our faith is not something to be kept to ourselves. Jesus commanded us to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.”

But we also know that – especially in the times in which we live – sharing Christ with others often takes planning and intentionality. This begins with preparing ourselves to live our lives each day in a way that creates opportunities to share the Gospel.

1 Peter 3:15 says, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (CSB).

Being “ready” not only means we need to know the words we will say to communicate our faith, but it also means we must involve ourselves in the lives of non-believers and intentionally develop spiritual connection points that help build bridges to the Gospel.

By positioning ourselves in these ways, we will have a much better chance of creating opportunities to share our faith. None of this is intended to undercut the role of the Holy Spirit, of course. In fact, when we pray and prepare ourselves, the Spirit regularly opens more doors for us to build relationships and have Gospel conversations.

If we follow the world, we will largely sacrifice the ability to hold up Christ as the only hope for salvation. But by standing firmly in Him, we can continue to be a light for the Gospel as the world around us grows dark.

On a larger scale, this is what the Cooperative Program (CP) does for us as Southern Baptists as we seek to take the Gospel to a nation and world in need of a Savior.

In North America, the CP allows us to start new churches in places that are under-reached and underserved. These new churches are being planted with the primary purposes of reaching people for Christ. As they do that, they are also providing new Gospel-powered stability and strength for neighborhoods and communities at a time when turmoil and hopelessness is pervading so many communities.

Before those churches are even started, the CP allows us to assess and train church planters so they can be well-equipped for the mission field long before they launch their church. And the CP funds seminaries where many of these planters receive the theological education that provides a foundation to what they will do in their ministry.

The CP allows us to put our Send Relief Ministry Centers right amid communities where great physical need exists, so we help churches meet those needs while sharing Christ – the ultimate and only lasting hope.

In times of challenge, chaos and dissension, those who have intentionally built strong foundations will have opportunities to be leaders and influencers.

As we look to the future, Southern Baptists face two options. We can allow ourselves to be drawn into the fighting, divisiveness and ugliness that is devouring much of our culture and society right now. In other words, we can follow the way the world is going.

Or we can stand firm in our faith on the foundation Christ has given us. We can be intent on looking to Him and Him alone for our hope, our security and our future. We can be unwavering in our stand on Scripture while demonstrating the love and compassion Jesus has for every sinner He came to save.

If we follow the world, we will largely sacrifice the ability to hold up Christ as the only hope for salvation. But by standing firmly in Him, we can continue to be a light for the Gospel as the world around us grows dark. And that means we must continue to be intentional in ways that will give us opportunities to proclaim Jesus in a world that desperately needs His salvation.

Standing firm on our Gospel foundation will also cause us to continue our strong support for the Cooperative Program, which enables our churches to go higher and further together, and lets us be ever ready for Great Commission opportunities.

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Spanish radio ministry brings gospel message to wide audience

Busy mother and wife Roxana Bravo, a native of Peru who has lived in the U.S. for 19 years, worked in the tourism and childcare industries before she found an unexpected calling as a Christian broadcaster.

Bravo’s route to Texas was somewhat circuitous after she met her husband-to-be more than 25 years ago when he was visiting Peru. Although she was reluctant to leave her home country, she followed her husband to California, then Texas.

“Now, as the years have gone by, I realize it was necessary for me to leave my country in order to have a real encounter with Christ,” Bravo said.

For the past eight years, the family has been active in El Camino Church (Companerismo Biblico El Camino)  in Lewisville, where Bravo is involved in the praise and creative arts and women’s ministries. Pastor Felix Cornier called Bravo a “great asset to the church and a blessing” who is “always ready to help.”

Her relationship with Christ combined with encouragement from others led her to start “Caminando en Fe” (“Walking in Faith”) in August 2020, when things were shuttered by COVID. During the livestream and internet radio program, she interviews Christian leaders about matters of faith to change the lives of her listeners. 

Cornier, a frequent guest, noted the program has a wide reach. Most recently, he discussed Christian ethics on a November broadcast. Other topics include doctrine, church polity, faith, and culture.

Q: How did Caminando de Fe/Walking in Faith begin?

RB: I started making 15- to 20-minute videos on topics that I began sharing on the radio in August 2020. That October, I decided to extend the program to one hour and show it simultaneously both on the radio and on Facebook.

The topics are of a Christian nature. I try to choose topics that many people do not dare to ask for fear of being judged, or about which they still do not have very clear answers. Our approach is simple.

I thank God that he has given me people [to interview] full of wisdom, but above all who are willing and available to help and go the extra mile by sharing the word, thus obeying the command of our Lord to go around the world sharing the good news, making disciples, and baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The programs are every Saturday at 8 a.m. so I would have more time to take advantage of the day in extra activities such as volunteering.

Q: Tell us about your radio career.

RB: It all started in a fortuitous way. At the beginning of 2020 a very dear friend and sister in Christ proposed that I do a program with her. The idea did not seem bad, but I was not sure if I was the right person, so I told her that I was going to think about it. After about two weeks, I decided to help her, but since I hadn’t given her an answer, she had already proposed the project to another person. I was very happy about that because I knew she would do very well. 

Then the pandemic came and with the closure of the churches, I was left thinking what I could do to remain in communion with the sisters, share devotionals or Bible studies with the ladies with whom I had been meeting. I thought about Zoom but not all the ladies are very skilled in the technology. I then remembered the radio, and through my friend I was able to contact the owner of the station. I asked him for only two hours on the second Saturday of each month to have the broadcasts, but he encouraged me to do them weekly. I was reluctant, but God reminded me of the Bible studies I had led every Friday before the pandemic and that gave me encouragement to do so. On May 2, 2022, I will celebrate two years with Radio PM 24.7.

Q: Who listens to the program?

RB: I hope in the Lord that those who hear are those who need to listen, who need prayer or a word of encouragement in life, who have a thirst to learn and want to apply what they have learned. I always ask [for the Lord’s guidance] because I would not like to further confuse a world that lives totally confused and ignorant of the truth. 

Listeners come from the United States, Peru, Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Canada, Brazil, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.

I want to add that it is not easy to do this, that many times it scares me a little to do the program,  especially on the radio since 24.7 is not Christian but a secular station. I accepted the challenge to do the program because, even though there are spiritual needs in the people of God, they have the opportunity to hear the word and choose obedience. Non-believers do not have the same opportunity. With non-believers, those of us who claim to be children of God must act not with our strength or with our wisdom, but with the strength, the wisdom, and the grace of God. How can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without a preacher (Rom 10:14)? We have a great responsibility.

Q: When did you begin to follow Christ? 

RB: I think I was always his, but I didn’t know it. Despite being in a family who belonged to the traditional church, we were never practitioners. Since we were little, we were surrounded by Christian people. We grew up with the 700 Club and cartoons like El Super Libro. We even attended an evangelistic event in a stadium … in Peru. Our parents raised us with a very solid moral foundation and in the fear of God, but as the years went by, like every adolescent, I began to move away a little and without realizing it, I became an atheist. 

Little by little I began to immerse myself in loneliness and depression, but God’s unconditional love saved me. I remember that wherever I went there was always someone who spoke to me about Christ. One day when I was traveling as a land hostess attending to a passenger, she began to tell me about Christ. I thought: Well, here too? It was unbelievable. It was like God was always looking for me and I couldn’t hide from him. 

I remember the day I met my future husband. It turned out that he was a Christian! I could not believe it! I did not understand what was happening. On the one hand, I said I did not believe in anything but very hidden in my heart, I needed to believe in someone. I wanted to fill my emptiness, to be free because I felt like a prisoner in a dark world. After meeting my mother-in-law and out of respect for her, I accepted the Lord as my savior when I was 19 years old.

It was not until March 2005 that I had a real encounter with Christ. That day I couldn’t take it anymore and I totally surrendered at his feet. There began my beautiful adventure with Christ, a long story full of ups and downs like everyone else’s, of pleasant and not-so-pleasant situations, but with the total assurance that the Lord will not leave me alone. His word tells me that in this world I will have afflictions, but to be of good cheer because he has won and he will be with me all the days of my life.

Bravo’s livestreams can be accessed through her Caminando en Fe Facebook page. Listeners can also download the Radio PM 24.7 app at to tune in.

Build a Successful Yearly Preaching Calendar in 8 Steps

If we are going to reach the widest audience possible with meaningful, challenging, and God-honoring messages that are faithful to Scripture, we must plan our preaching. Our planning should go beyond next Sunday. It should include the entire year.

Admittedly, designing a preaching calendar for an entire year’s worth of sermons might seem intimidating. You might even be thinking, “It is hard enough to write a single sermon each week, how am I going to pull together a year’s worth of ideas, texts, and titles all at once?”

Let me offer you a few tips to get you started.

1. Determine your church’s needs

With what is your church struggling? What encouragement do they need? What initiatives do you have for the year, and how does your church need to be equipped? In what areas of theology and doctrine do they need to grow?  What is happening in the surrounding culture?

Your answer to these questions will most likely differ year to year, which is why they are good questions to ask and answer as you seek to develop a preaching calendar. You will want to target your series and individual messages to both meet your church’s needs and challenge your congregation. Doing so will not only help them see the Bible is relevant to everyday life, but it will also help you initiate Word-centered change in your church.

2. Preach expositionally through books of the Bible

I don’t know about you, but determining what text I will preach is a struggle. Stand-alone messages and topical series have a place in a preaching calendar, but I find preaching through books of the Bible gives me a leg up when it comes to developing a year-long preaching schedule. With your congregation’s needs in mind, spend time praying about what book(s) the Lord would have you preach through, along with your stand-alone sermons and topical series.

3. Determine the main idea of the books you will preach

The book’s main idea should help you determine the theme and ultimately the title for the sermon series you will preach. It also gives you a main theme to focus your sermons around so that your series is cohesive.

For instance, my sermon series through the book of Galatians is Jesus + Nothing = Everything. I chose that as my overarching theme for the series because I believe the book of Galatians has a strong focus on the gospel of Jesus Christ as the exclusive means by which we experience salvation and sanctification. As I write each individual sermon, I will seek to link it to that theme.

The introductory sections of commentaries are helpful in determining the book’s main idea. Additionally, search out the theme and title others have given to a series on that book. I’m not suggesting you adopt them as your own, but use them as inspiration and a place to start as you think through the focus of your series.

4. Work to break the book(s) you will preach into pericopes

A pericope is a unit of thought. Developing your message around the book’s pericopes will aid in determining how many messages you will preach from a given book. For instance, two books I am preaching through this year are the books of Jonah and Galatians. I divided Jonah into four messages. One message for each chapter. Galatians was a bit more difficult, but I determined to divide it into sixteen sermons.

The best way to find a book’s pericopes is to read the book through several times. As you read, make note of changes in thought or argumentation. Keep a list of the sections.

After you have compiled your list, see if you can develop a main thought from each section. The main idea doesn’t have to be perfect. You aren’t writing a sermon; you are simply testing your breakdown to determine if you have enough material to develop a sermon.

Once you are satisfied with the breakdown, attempt to write the title and the main idea of each pericope. Keep the book theme in mind at this point so as to develop a cohesive series through the book. Again, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Just get something down to work with later.

5. Keep special dates in mind

As you develop your preaching calendar, keep special dates in mind. I always take a break from my series to preach special Mother’s Day and Father’s Day messages, an Easter message, and a Christmas message. Make sure to specifically call out special dates when developing your preaching calendar.

6. Plan for days off

Spend time thinking through when you are going to be out of the pulpit. When will you take vacation? Do you have a conference you plan to attend? What preaching engagements do you have for the year? Do you want to provide the opportunity for others to preach? Whatever the reason, think through as best you can when you will be out of the pulpit and put those dates on the calendar.

7. Plan for the Summer

Summer is typically a time when families take vacation. With the drop in attendance and regularity, summer is a good time to take a break from major preaching initiatives.

Don’t plan to preach a series on your church’s new vision during the summer or one that builds on itself each week. Instead, choose to preach a topical series, or through Psalms, or even the Parables of Jesus. Preaching any of these is a good way to keep consistency in your preaching calendar while also providing your congregants the opportunity to miss a Sunday here and there without feeling lost when they return. It also provides an opportunity for others to preach in the series since each message will most likely have a stand-alone theme.

8. Plan your planning

To successfully develop a preaching calendar, you must plan your planning. If you don’t carve out time to sit down and plan, you will never get to it. Take a couple of days or even a week off with the intention of planning. If you don’t have the opportunity to take time off, then plan to set aside time every day for a week or two to develop your calendar. However you decide to do it, plan your planning.

Worship service invitations take center stage at pastor breakfast

Casey Perry pastor breakfast

MABANK—Call it an invitation to an invitation.

Casey Perry, a longtime Southern Baptists of Texas Convention pastor, recently hosted 11 pastors at his home to share about the importance of offering an invitation after preaching God’s word. The breakfast meeting was also attended by Jim Richards, SBTC’s executive director emeritus, Ronnie Yarber, another longtime SBTC pastor, and Wayne Livingston, an SBTC field representative whose area spreads across East Texas.

Richards, Perry, and Yarber were instrumental in the formation of the SBTC two decades ago, but on this morning, their focus was on the future of gospel invitations—which are not as much a staple of worship services as they once were.

Perry, 87, shared about a number of invitations that have either had a personal impact on himself or others. When he was 9, he recalled seeing a young man walk the aisle at church and give his life to Jesus. That moment had such an impact on Perry that he continued to think about it and, about a week later, gave his own life to Christ one evening while working cows in a pasture. The next meaningful invitation happened soon after, when he went forward to announce his decision to the pastor and the church.

At age 12, an invitation provided him the opportunity to proclaim his desire to follow in obedience to the command of Christ regarding baptism and, three years later, he walked the sawdust aisle at a Baptist youth camp in New Mexico to surrender his life to the ministry during a time of invitation.

“It would not have happened without an invitation,” he said.

SBTC pastor breakfast
Those attending the breakfast fellowship were (front row, from left) Ronnie Yarber; Daniel Stone; Wayne Livingston; Casey Perry; Nick Apperson; Josh Hebert; (second row, from left) Ed Fenton; Matt Cass; Matt Scott; Michael Criner; Jerry Horine; (back row, from left) Bryce Nalley, Jim Richards, and Drew Boring. Texan Photo

Perry said an invitation should plainly and clearly call people to accept Christ, give listeners an opportunity to join the church, or re-dedicate their lives to the Lord. “I think one of the things we really miss with our invitations today is, I don’t think we’re calling out the called” to ministry service, he added.

Each pastor on hand was given a copy of Roy Fish’s book, “Coming to Jesus: Giving A Good Invitation” provided by the SBTC. Fish was a lifelong pastor who was committed to personal soul-winning and evangelism education. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s school of evangelism and missions is named for Fish.

Later, in giving a brief sketch of SBTC’s history, Yarber expressed the convention’s heart for assisting its pastors much in the way that was happening on this particular day.

“The fact is, if you’re affiliated with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention,” he said, “you’re affiliated with a body of believers and churches that cares for you, that wants the best for you, that prays for you, and that has a ministry to offer you.”

High Pointe’s Sanchez appointed to SWBTS faculty

Juan Sanchez

Southern Baptist “model pastor-theologian” Juan R. Sánchez has been appointed associate professor of theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, President Adam W. Greenway announced today.

“Juan Sánchez brings to Southwestern Seminary the combined experience of pastoral ministry, deep academic preparation, and theological scholarship that will richly benefit our students,” said Greenway. “Indeed, Dr. Sánchez is a model pastor-theologian for our students who are preparing to minister in pulpits across the Southern Baptist Convention. Although serving in the School of Theology, he will also teach in the seminary’s Hispanic Programs, further bolstering our already strong Spanish-language offerings. Dr. Sánchez joining our faculty is yet another evidence of God’s incredible blessings to us on Seminary Hill.”

Sánchez, who will continue to serve as senior pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, is scheduled to deliver the convention sermon at the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Anaheim. He is the first Latino pastor to be elected by messengers to give the address.

“One key way I seek to raise up the next generation of pastors and missionaries is through our local church, High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin,” Sánchez said. “Lord willing, as I enter my final 10-15 years of pastoral ministry, I want to focus my energies outside of High Pointe by investing in theological education where I live. Since I pastor in Austin, it makes perfect ministry sense to give myself to Southwestern Seminary. My aim is to take part in the work God is doing there and, by His grace, raise up the next generation of leaders for the church.”

A past president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, since 2016 Sánchez has served as assistant professor of Christian theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He earned Master of Divinity (1999), Master of Theology (2002), and Doctor of Philosophy (2015) degrees from the Kentucky-based seminary and also holds a Bachelor of Music in music education from the University of Florida (1994).

“Dr. Juan Sánchez is an accomplished theologian and pastor who has taught and ministered to pastors and students around the world in both English and Spanish language instruction,” said Gregory A. Wills, dean of the School of Theology at Southwestern Seminary. “He has written four books and many articles and chapters. He has served in a variety of leadership roles among Southern Baptists and in evangelical organizations, including serving as president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. He loves the church of Jesus Christ and has served as the pastor of the High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin since 2005. He has loved and served his wife Jeanine and their five daughters with model devotion and care. In all these areas he has sought carefully to submit in faith to God in utter trust of his Word. Students who have the opportunity to take his classes will find great profit indeed.”

Sánchez, who will serve on the faculty of the School of Theology and teach theology courses in both English and Spanish, is the board chairman of The Gospel Coalition and co-founder and president of Coalición por el Evangelio. He is the author of several books, including 1 Peter For You, Seven Dangers Facing Your Church, and The Leadership Formula: Developing the Next Generation of Leaders in the Church. Sánchez is currently writing with Edgar Aponte a systematic theology textbook in Spanish to be published by B&H Español to be released in 2024.

Prior to beginning his service at the Austin-based church in 2005, Sánchez served three churches in Florida in youth and music ministry roles, as associate pastor of First Baptist Church, Eastman, Georgia, and as senior pastor of Ryker’s Ridge Baptist Church in Madison, Indiana.

In addition to his ministry experience, Sánchez served in the United States Navy.

Sánchez’s appointment is effective immediately.

Why we do missions as a family

Once, my wife and I attended a lecture with our then three-year-old son. The speaker was a possible Nobel Prize candidate, and we were at a prestigious university. Our very extroverted son saw one of our friends quietly coming in late and innocently, but boldly and loudly, greeted her with an affectionate term meaning “auntie.”  The lecturer, a bit stunned, stopped for a moment and all eyes turned to us. Our son, the only child at the lecture, was smiling and waving to our friend summoning her to come. I prayed, “Oh God, what did I do by bringing him here? Help me!”

Our family has been focusing exclusively on reaching academics and religious leaders in Central Asia for Christ. As far as we know, we are the only people tasked with this specific calling. Those we are trying to reach are some of the smartest yet most hostile people toward the gospel. People have asked why we choose to work them when others are more receptive to the gospel.

Despite the difficulty of the calling and the reality that we will likely not see much fruit in our lifetime, we remain committed. We know that if just a few of these influential leaders and teachers put their faith in Christ, their kingdom impact would be immeasurable. This has been the pattern throughout history (for example, look at the life of the Apostle Paul or Martin Luther).

But our calling is also unique, because from the first time my wife and I started this work, we decided that we were going to do ministry as a family. That was easy without kids. When children came along, we knew it would be more difficult. Including them in our mission work has been worth it, however, because of our heart for the people and our belief that sharing Christ together as a family is a powerful way to model God’s love.

As the people where we live place a high value on family, children, especially males, are considered gifts of God and are highly esteemed. Our parenting styles are very different, and our national friends notice how we choose to guide our children. They see our discipline is different; they see when we get things right and when we get things wrong. Ministering as a family provides us a way to be vulnerable and seek mercy; it gives our friends the freedom to talk about more than just a lecture that many are required to attend.

It is not just lectures either. More than a few of our friends have started to bring their children to different events and meetings we attend. This means we have a chance to meet more women. We connect not just male-to-male or female-to-female, but family-to-family. Relationships begin, and, in time, we meet with some in homes for meals and fellowship. Discussion takes place, trust is earned, and we get the privilege of sharing the message of the gospel. Our friends see how we function as a family, how we see each person as important and made in God’s image, and how we all need God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness through Jesus.

We talk about life issues and the hope we have in Jesus in the context of family. When hard questions arise that surround the differences between Christianity and their religion, we answer them truthfully, but we do so in the framework of a relationship that affects not just one or two people, but all of us – father-to-father, mother-to-mother, child-to-child. This allows us to be truthful and honest about our beliefs and not about feeling the need to be right or to win an argument. We are seen as friends who genuinely care about them.

Our son’s auntie, a woman who researches cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, is single and devout in her faith. Being together as a family gives all of us an avenue to share Christ with her. Our son may be the best witness of all. He, without any care in the world, confidently shouts out her name and calls her to come be with him.

*Names changed for security

Benjamin Breeg serves with the IMB in Central Asia with his family.

The post First Person: Why we do missions as a family appeared first on IMB.

Russia-Ukraine tension sparks call to prayer

A buildup of Russian troops on the Russia-Ukraine border has drawn all eyes to the two nations and a call for prayer from a former International Mission Board missionary in the region.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Ukraine Wednesday (Jan. 19) and plans to hold talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov Friday (Jan. 21) in Geneva, The Associated Press reported.

Russia is seeking a commitment from the U.S. to preclude Ukraine from joining NATO. Meanwhile, it has amassed an estimated 100,000 troops near the Ukraine border.

Buck Burch, a former International Mission Board missionary in Russia now serving as a missions strategist at the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, said the tensions should be a matter of prayer for Southern Baptists.

“The thing to remember in all of this is that the Baptist churches in Russia and Ukraine are very closely related, with family members on both sides of the border,” Burch told The Christian Index, Georgia Baptist news journal. “That which we see unfolding in front of us has affected relationships on both sides within the evangelical family. We should pray for our brothers and sisters that they would not be divided even as the political lines are drawn.”

Southern Baptist missionaries serve in both countries.

President Joe Biden addressed the issue in a lengthy press conference Wednesday, saying Russia would be held accountable for an invasion.

“It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do, et cetera,” Biden said at the press conference.

“But if they actually do what they’re capable of doing with the forces amassed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further … invade Ukraine, and that our allies and partners are ready to impose severe costs and significant harm on Russia and the Russian economy.”

Biden received criticism after the press conference for use of the phrase “minor incursion,” with many saying his comments gave Russian President Vladmir Putin too much leeway. The White House issued a clarifying statement later Wednesday.

“President Biden has been clear with the Russian President: If any Russian military forces move across the Ukrainian border, that’s a renewed invasion, and it will be met with a swift, severe, and united response from the United States and our Allies,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in the statement. “President Biden also knows from long experience that the Russians have an extensive playbook of aggression short of military action, including cyberattacks and paramilitary tactics. And he affirmed today that those acts of Russian aggression will be met with a decisive, reciprocal, and united response.”