Month: January 2022

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.

Lifeway Research survey: 2022 focus is health, God and money

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — After a season in which avoiding sickness was on most everyone’s mind, many Americans say their New Year’s resolutions address their health.

More Americans say their past resolutions have focused on their health, their relationship with God, their finances and their relationship with a family member than other possibilities, according to a new survey of 1,005 Americans from Lifeway Research.

“New Year’s resolutions reflect the changes people aspire to make,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “The COVID-19 pandemic may have forced or encouraged more people to make changes outside of the annual reminder a new year brings. But a New Year’s resolution is still something most Americans have made at some point in their lives.”

As people contemplate their 2022 resolutions, more than 2 in 5 Americans (44%) say previous New Year’s resolutions have focused on their health. More than 1 in 4 say they’ve made resolutions on their relationship with God (29%), their finances (29%) or their relationship with a family member (26%).

Fewer say their resolutions have dealt with their use of time (22%), their work (18%) or their relationship with a friend (15%).

More than a quarter of Americans (28%) say they haven’t made resolutions about any of these, while 4% aren’t sure.

This year’s New Year’s resolutions rankings remained similar to a 2015 Lifeway Research phone survey of 1,000 Americans. Compared to the previous study, finances moved from the fifth most common resolution to third on the list this year. The percentage who selected each of the resolution topics, however, dropped from six years ago.


Resolution makers

Young adults (those age 18 to 34) are among the most likely to say they’ve made New Year’s resolutions in the past about each of the topics: health (52%), finances (40%), relationship with God (35%), relationship with a family member (36%), use of time (34%), work (29%) and relationship with a friend (25%). Meanwhile, those 65 and older (54%) are most likely to say they have not made a resolution about any of the topics listed.

Church attendance also seems to have an impact on those wanting to make changes in the new year. Among self-identified Christians, those who attend at least monthly are more likely than Christians who attend less frequently to say they’ve made resolutions in each of the options. Those who attend less than monthly (44%) are most likely to say they haven’t made a New Year’s resolution in any of the areas.

“Making a New Year’s resolution doesn’t reveal who or what a person is relying on to make that change in their life, nor how successful such resolutions are,” said McConnell. “But higher numbers seen among younger adults, those who attended at least some college, and church-going Christians indicate they have higher motivation to make such changes at least in the form of New Year’s resolutions.”

Resolutions concerning a relationship with God are more popular among churchgoers, African Americans, young adults and those with evangelical beliefs.

Those aged 18 to 34 (35%) and 35 to 49 (35%) are more likely than those aged 50 to 64 (25%) and those 65 and older (17%) to say they have made a previous New Year’s resolution about their relationship with God.

African Americans (41%) are more likely than whites (27%) to make such commitments at the start of a new year.

Christians who attend a worship service four times a month or more (48%) or one to three times a month (39%) are more likely than those who attend less frequently (20%) to mark New Year’s with a resolution about their relationship with God.

Americans with evangelical beliefs (48%) are more likely than those without such beliefs (23%) to say they’ve addressed their relationship with God in a New Year’s resolution in the past.

Though less than any other religious group, 14% of the religiously unaffiliated say a resolution about their relationship with God has been part of their end-of-the-year reflections.

The unaffiliated are among the most likely to have made resolutions addressing their finances (36%), their use of time (29%) and their work (22%).

A future of cooperation, not competition

Cooperation, not competition

The boys were hometown heroes, loved, admired, and respected by groupies who believed their favorite to be the best. In Piri Thomas’s popular short story, “Amigo Brothers,” Tony and Felix were 17-year-old, up-and-coming boxers from the lower east side of Manhattan. They were also the best of friends. They grew up together, trained together, and represented their community together. They were the pride of their Puerto Rican community. But when the regional championship round came down between the two of them, for the first time they would fight against one another instead of fighting for and with one another.

As the match drew near, “even when joking with each other, they both sensed a wall rising between them.” And when the bell rang in Tompkins Square Park on that much-anticipated day, the whole town showed up to watch the ‘toe-to-toe slugfest.’” The boys beat one another senseless right there in front of the whole community. There was so much blood. So much pain. There in the ring, to the roaring amusement of those who championed them, the best of friends became the hottest of enemies. The best became the worst, and their people loved it.

For several decades I have watched as little-known, aspiring pastors have walked with each other through theological training, celebrated each other’s wins, and became icons of Southern Baptist community. As they contended for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints, they captured the attention and earned the respect of our confessional community. Others, like myself, have come up in their shadows learning and growing into men and women of God faithfully devoted to the doctrines and mechanisms of our cooperative framework. But over the past several years, I have sensed a wall rising between us. Have you felt it, too?

Instead of fighting for and with one another, there is more fighting against one another today than I remember. Perhaps that is not entirely accurate. Perhaps it is the more public, more accessible nature of our arena that has changed the nature of inner-denominational competition. Either way, today our confessional community watches and chimes in on social media, with fire in their eyes and an unquenchable appetite for blood on their pallets.

In some instances, the best of us have become the worst, and our people have loved it.

The Southern Baptist (Great Commission Baptist) community is unlike any other faith community on the face of the planet. Autonomy and voluntary cooperation are the diet and exercise of our missional camaraderie. But if we’re not careful, they can be relegated into the one-two punch of heated contest. The social stages where our community of faith has grown to love, admire, and champion the best of us can quickly become the arena of bloody slugfests between us.

Who are we kidding? This reality is no longer a matter of “one day.” It is today. And every day.


...When we feel the walls rising between us, we should take a step back. To fight with one another instead of against one another, we’ll have to redirect our energies toward cooperation instead of contention again.

But aren’t we friends? Haven’t we agreed on the main things and, by extension, agreed to give grace on the other things? After all, “How could two walk together unless they agree?” Our community has determined and codified our shared doctrinal convictions in the Baptist Faith and Message. We voluntarily cooperate within those parameters toward our common goal, that the nations might know and worship the one true God through repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ. That means we hold the line on certain things, and we look past other things. It also means that where the line is blurry, we don’t take public shots at one another. And certainly, if we do, our community of faith should shutter, not rejoice. It may not be popular to a bloodthirsty crowd, but friendship through healthy disagreement is in the very nature of cooperation.

Great Commission Baptists today are working out some blurry lines in our confessional relationship: the role, functions, and positions of women in official church ministry (other than the office of pastor, of course); the tightening of our practices to guard against sexual abuse and minister to its survivors; the extent of our Executive Committee’s authority and its role in our cooperative mechanism; contemporary philosophies, implications, and applications of our uncompromising shared conviction against racism in every form; the role of the church and the denomination in politics; and more. Because we have no ecclesial hierarchy, 47,000+ churches are working through the theological and practical ministry underpinnings of their day, as they have for 176 years.

There should be some friendly sparring. It sharpens us. It trains us. It makes us stronger, and better. But friendly sparring is not a public event to be held on an open stage. And even privately, when we feel the walls rising between us, we should take a step back. To fight with one another instead of against one another, we’ll have to redirect our energies toward cooperation instead of contention again.

In Thomas’s short story, Tony and Felix both fought hard. The damage to each was brutal. Each side of the blood-thirsty crowd roared with approval, convinced that their man had won the bout. They awaited the judges’ final decision, although the divided community had already made up their minds—half for one and half for the other. But to their surprise, when the ringmaster took center stage to announce the judges’ decision, the boys were nowhere to be found. They had walked out of the arena shoulder to shoulder, congratulating each other on a fight well fought, each better for their efforts and neither caring about the win.

They were cooperators before they were competitors. And because of their devotion to one another, they were cooperators after they were competitors, too.

I still believe the best days of Southern Baptist Great Commission cooperation are ahead of us, not behind us. For this to be reality, at some point the competition must stop, even to the crowd’s disappointment. We must return to fighting with and for one another instead of against one another. If we are to rise to the Great Commission opportunities God has placed before us in the next generation, we’ll have to walk away from the ring shoulder to shoulder, not knowing or caring who won some of these fights. We were cooperators before we were competitors. Let’s resolve today to be cooperators now, too.

After Roe is gone

Roe v. Wade

I graduated from high school the year of the momentous U.S. Supreme Court decision that imagined a right to destroy an unborn human life within an American’s right to privacy. It was a few years later that I became aware of it, and of the horror it celebrated in a nation that regularly claimed the moral high ground among its neighbors.

The years between that awareness and the reversal of Southern Baptists’ advocacy for abortion on demand were the only years I seriously considered leaving the denomination. I have since been an officer of a statewide pro-life group, a columnist who writes more strongly on this subject than nearly any other, and a collaborator with several pro-life groups in Austin that have affected legislation that has, in turn, saved thousands of lives in Texas. For the first time in nearly 50 years, I dare hope that our Supreme Court will repent of Roe v. Wade, returning the right of states to protect its unborn and their mothers. It’s all the buzz among pro-lifers as the 49th anniversary approaches this month.

We imagine an America where preying on young pregnant women for profit is no longer a multi-billion- dollar industry, where our federal government no longer favors anything arguably called “abortion” because they fear being thought of as against women. We imagine a generation where people like George Tiller or Kermit Gosnell are considered mythic monsters rather than actual characters, honored by their neighbors. We might even a imagine a time when sexual abstinence before marriage attains a higher level of respect in our culture. Some things will change if Roe is overturned, many of them really unimaginable.

But some things shouldn’t change. Pro-life advocacy will still be necessary, because young people will still conceive children they can’t care for. The network of volunteers that has arisen in the past 50 years will be needed just as badly, though perhaps by fewer girls. One of the things we discovered since Roe is a group of girls that had formerly disappeared from their high schools if they became pregnant. Some of them were in families that picked up some of the burden for their daughters and nieces, but many were in families unable to help for financial, social and spiritual reasons.

Our pregnancy resource centers originally organized as crisis pregnancy centers aimed at fighting abortion but had to become more than that. As the movement matured, these oases of love and life became places where kids could learn basic life skills, pick up a car seat, and get a case of diapers or baby food. An army of middle-aged women learned to counsel and witness to girls who visited the centers. They became repositories of all sorts of useful information for girls who had not been raised by competent adults. PRC volunteers became those competent adults. Those girls won’t disappear if Roe is gone; the volunteers must not either.

Overturning Roe will dissipate the pro-life struggle back into the states. I can see Texas effectively banning abortion, running Planned Parenthood out of the state because they can no longer make millions (or access public funds) here. That, by the way, will prove what many of us know about Planned Parenthood: this talk about “women’s health” or “reproductive services” has always been a cover for their lucrative abortion product. Remove their ability to sell the one product that makes them profitable and their concern for women will vanish.

But pro-life states like Texas will not necessarily stay that way. Our culture will not become pro-life because we regain the ability to protect unborn life. People will still do whatever they want while avoiding responsibility for their actions. Babies will still be seen by many as a regrettable consequence of sexual liberty. There will be a constant clamor to loosen the laws in the name of freedom. We will need pro-life activists in Texas because lobbyists for abortion will relentlessly chip away at laws protecting babies in the same way pro-lifers chipped away at Roe’s impact over the past decades. Perhaps the tide will be against abortion generally, but that can change, we know that. It will remain important that we have legislators who honor the sanctity of human life, and that we have those who scrutinize proposed legislation with a mind toward a bill’s impact on the rights of unborn persons. Even in Texas.

I continue to pray for the end of Roe v. Wade as the judicially imposed “law” of the land. As I am given opportunity, I will work to that end. Pro-life people are poised to do the right things after Roe is gone because we have built a pro-life infrastructure during America’s dark decades. Our care, our love for our neighbors, must not wane as our nation emerges from its greatest shame.

Galván, preparándose para su celebración navideña número 42

Esta navidad tiene un significado especial para el pastor David Galván, el pastor de la Iglesia bilingüe Nueva Vida New/ Life Baptist Church ubicada en Garland, una comunidad en las afueras de Dallas, Texas. Después de servir como pastor en esta iglesia por 40 años, junto con su esposa Elvia, El pastor Galván está preparando su última celebración navideña como pastor en su iglesia. El pastor Galván también fue el plantador de la iglesia El Buen Pastor, en el este de Texas, por dos años por medio de la iglesia First Baptist Dallas, donde también planeó dos celebraciones navideñas, las cuales le da un total de 42 celebraciones navideñas proclamando el nacimiento de Cristo Jesús.   

La vida ministerial del pastor Galván está basada en edificar a la iglesia predicando la palabra de Dios, y entrenando y capacitando a los creyentes a servir al Señor según sus habilidades y los dones espirituales dado a ellos por Dios. Esta determinación es el resultado de su fe en Efesios 4:11-12 que dice, “Y él mismo constituyó a unos apóstoles, a otros profetas, a otros evangelistas, y a otros pastores y maestros,  a fin de capacitar a los santos para la obra del ministerio, para la edificación del cuerpo de Cristo.”(RVA). Con esta misma dinámica Galván está orando sus versículos bíblicos personales para el próximo pastor que vendrá a servir a la iglesia; Proverbios 3:5-6, que dice, “Fíate de Jehová de todo tu corazón, y no te apoyes en tu propia prudencia. Reconócelo en todos tus caminos, y él enderezará tus veredas” (RV1960). Galván se va a retirar como pastor de Nueva Vida y la iglesia está en búsqueda de su sucesor. 

En el 14 de noviembre, la iglesia Nueva Vida celebró al pastor Galván al cumplir 40 años sirviendo a la comunidad de Garland durante un servicio especial. Asistieron a la celebración varios lideres bautistas los cuales presentaron a Galván con placas de reconocimiento. Entre ellos estaba el Dr. Jespersen de la Asociación Bautista de Dallas (DBA), el Dr. Bruno Molina representado a la Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC).  

Galván apoya generosamente al programa cooperativo por medio de su iglesia, y aunque estuvo críticamente hospitalizado for COVID y usando oxígeno para predicar, se recuperó y sigue fielmente sirviéndole a Dios. La iglesia Nueva Vida actualmente tiene cerca de 700 miembros activos sirviendo con Galván y apoyando las misiones y a los misioneros locales e internacionales en El Salvador, México, Nicaragua, Guinea Bissau en África, Nuevo México, Texas, y en Israel por medio de su apoyo mensual. 


Galván se graduó con una licenciatura de la Universidad Pan American, la cual actualmente es la Universidad de Texas en Arlington (UTA), y obtuvo una maestría por medio de Criswell College en Dallas, Texas. Él es autor de varios libros, La estrategia de grupos de crecimiento, y el Manual de discipulado escrito en ambos idiomas. Galván ha hecho 2 viajes misioneros a Israel trabajando en la réplica del Tabernáculo en el sur de Israel, y 3 viajes cuando una de sus hijas servía como misionera en Jordania. Él dice que está enamorado de Israel, la tierra santa de Dios. 

En el 1997, el Pastor Galván fue el primer hispano de ser nombrado vicepresidente de la Convención Bautista del Sur (SBC) al igual que vicepresidente de la SBTC desde el 2002 hasta el 2004. Él ha sido vicepresidente en la Convención Bautista de México, fue parte del comité para la Conferencia de pastores de la SBC, y mediador para el Comité Ejecutivo. Desde el 1998 hasta el 2006, fue parte del Consejo de Administración del Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary y presidente de este por dos años. Actualmente, Galván ha sido parte del Consejo de Administración de Criswell College por los últimos 12 años. 

El pastor Galván y Elvia celebraron sus 49 años de matrimonio, y él dice que él ha sido bendecido porque, “Dios me ha dado una esposa linda y una verdadera ayuda idónea.” Ellos tienen tres hijas y un hijo, Jonathan, quien sirve en el Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary en Carolina del Norte. Estos hijos les han dado a los Galván 17 nietos y nietas.

El pastor Galván y su esposa Elvia también iniciaron un colegio cristiano, New Life Christian Academy, en el 1983 con el objetivo de capacitar a los jóvenes cristianos en los más altos principios del liderazgo cristiano, autodisciplina, responsabilidad individual, integridad personal, buena ciudadanía, moralidad, y comportamiento cristiano. 

En su historia ministerial favorita, El pastor Galván cuenta que una vez estaba teniendo “una fiesta de lástimas” para sí mismo y dijo, “esta iglesia no me merece.” Al entrar en una tienda cristiana vio un marco en la pared con el Salmo 100:2 que dice, “Servir a Jehová con alegría.” Al ver la cita, Galván dice que, “En esos momentos el Espíritu Santo me llenó de convicción y de inmediato, viendo la cita bíblica mientras mis ojos derramaban lágrimas, le pedí perdón a Dios por mi torpeza. Gracias a Dios por su misericordia, y porque me llamó a ser su hijo ,y porque tengo el privilegio de servirle en su viña.” Su vida cambio desde ese día. Galván dice que su mayor consejo para los siervos de Dios es, “ ¡Servir al Señor con alegría,” teniendo en mente las palabras de Pablo en 1 Corintios 15:10a que dice, “Pero por la gracia de Dios soy lo que soy, y su gracia para conmigo no ha sido en vano.”

Galván closes chapter on faithful pastoral ministry after four decades

GARLAND—This Christmas had special meaning for David Galván, the pastor of the bilingual church Nueva Vida/New Life Baptist Church located in this community on the outskirts of Dallas. After serving as pastor in this church for 40 years, together with his wife Elvia, he transitioned into retirement. 

Galván also planted El Buen Pastor Church in East Texas for two years, through First Baptist Dallas, where he also planned two Christmas celebrations, which gave him a total of 42 Christmas celebrations as a pastor proclaiming the incarnation of Jesus Christ.   

Galván’s ministerial life is based upon building up the church by preaching the word of God and training and empowering believers to serve the Lord according to their abilities and their God-given spiritual gifts. This determination is the result of his faith in the truth of Ephesians 4:11-12 which says, “And He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ.” With this same confidence, Galván is praying his life Bible verses—Proverbs 3:5-6—for the next man who will lead the church: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.”

The Galvan family

On Nov. 14, Nueva Vida celebrated Galván’s 40th anniversary during a special service. Various Baptist leaders attended the celebration and presented Galván with plaques of recognition. Among them was Dr. Ryan Jespersen from the Dallas Baptist Association (DBA) and Dr. Bruno Molina from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC).

Galván is missions-driven and has generously supported the Cooperative Program through his church. When hospitalized with a critical case of COVID, he used oxygen so he could continue to preach. He has made a full recovery and continues to faithfully serve God. Nueva Vida currently has about 700 active members serving with Galván, supporting Great Commission efforts through local and international missionaries in El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Guinea Bissau in Africa, New Mexico, Texas, and in Israel through its monthly support.

Galván graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Pan American University, now the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) and earned a master’s degree from Criswell College in Dallas. He is the author of several books, The Group Growth Strategy and the Discipleship Manual, written in both English and Spanish. Galván has made two missionary trips to the Middle East: one to southern Israel while working on a replica of the Tabernacle, and three trips to Jordan while one of his daughters was serving as a missionary there. He says he is in love with Israel, God’s holy land.

In 1997, Galván was the first Hispanic to be named vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). He also served as vice president of the SBTC from 2002 to 2004. He has been vice president of various Baptist conventions in Mexico, part of the committee for the SBC Pastors Conference, and mediator for the Executive Committee. From 1998 to 2006, he served on the Board of Directors of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and was its president for two years. Galván has been serving on the Criswell College Board of Directors for the past 12 years.

Galván and Elvia celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary this past year, and he said that he has been blessed because “God has given me a beautiful wife and a true helpmate.” They have three daughters and one son, Jonathan, who serves at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina. These four children have given the Galváns 17 grandchildren.

The Galváns also started a private Christian school in 1983, New Life Christian Academy, with the goal of training young Christians in the highest principles of Christian leadership, self-discipline, individual responsibility, personal integrity, good citizenship, morality, and Christian behavior.

In his favorite ministry story, Galván tells how he was once was having “a pity party” and said to himself, “This church doesn’t deserve me.” As he entered a Christian store, he saw a frame on the wall on which Psalm 100:2 was inscribed: “Serve the Lord with gladness.”

“In those moments, the Holy Spirit filled me with conviction and immediately, seeing the biblical verse, while my eyes were shedding tears, I asked God for forgiveness for my ineptness,” Galván said. “I thanked God for his mercy, because he called me to be his son, and because I had and still have the privilege of serving him in his vineyard.” He said that since that day, his life changed and has never been the same.

Galván’s greatest advice to God’s servants is to, “Serve the Lord with joy,” keeping in mind Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:10 stating, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain.

Pastor to Pastor: Critical connections will help in our battle against weariness

It’s not just you. I am weary too. Every ministry context has enough challenges to wear any pastor down emotionally, physically, mentally, relationally, and spiritually. We know that perseverance is required. Remember the words of Paul, “Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

Maybe we are not tired of doing good, but perhaps we are weary from trying to sort out all the complexities of the last two years. When COVID-19 began to change our world, I was six months into a new pastorate. Each day my list of areas of importance grew longer. However, responding to a global pandemic hadn’t made my list of considerations. But who had that on their list?

Instantly the complexities of COVID-19 and its ripple effects began to steal our attention, drain our energy, and demand action. Our local church community has suffered devastating losses due to COVID-19, heart attacks, and even a murder in the last 18 months. Absolutely layers of awful. It makes me cringe just to think about it again along with all the meetings. Oh, the meetings!

Our experiences may differ but the emotional exhaustion, decision fatigue, no-win scenarios, and sideways energy expended have left all of us depleted and weary. Confusion mixed with irrational aggression surrounding speculative issues sure has worn me out! Where are we going to find the energy to re-establish ministries when we are so depleted from trying to navigate these complexities in leadership?

Through it all I am reminded that the mission still matters and so does our leadership. In many ways we are weary as we attempt to rebuild ministries, relationships, and facilities all in the midst of collective trauma. It is hard work. It is spiritual work. It is worth it to cultivate a healthy church culture for the years ahead.

As pastors we understand the importance of basic spiritual practices, but often find that the tyranny of the urgent can steal away precious time from our own spiritual and relational health. Here are several intentional practices that continue to help steady my life during this time:

Slow down to be with Jesus

My intentional communal connection with Jesus should never be sacrificed on the altar of “I just didn’t have time to get to it today.” We have all been in crisis mode for far too long and slowing down to be in the word, walking quietly whispering prayers, journaling our experiences, and breathing deeply while looking at the horizon are all powerful rhythms we need.

Eat a meal with a trusted friend

Something special happens when we prioritize time with safe people who embrace us as a person rather than a position. I am so thankful for another pastor friend who takes the time to meet together on a weekly basis. We all need a friend who gets it. Be that friend and pray for God to send you that friend, too.

Be present and engaged with family

Our families have been impacted by the trauma of the last couple of years. They need us to be present and engaged. Turn off the phone, get off social media, take your day(s) off, use your vacation time, look your family in the eyes when you talk, ask open-ended questions, and pay attention to them. They need you!

Brother, it isn’t just you. You are not alone. Your role in the kingdom matters. Remember that the shadows of suffering cover this world and we need the light of Christ to shine through you.

As Jimmy Draper said, “Don’t quit before you finish.” We believe there is hope and healing in Jesus. We believe we can experience it and help others experience it as we abide in Christ, build healthy relationships, and care for our community.

Let’s take our weariness to Jesus and trust him to help us persevere one moment at a time.

Counseling leaders say biblical connections key to mental, spiritual wellness

Counseling leaders say biblical friendships, churches helping each other key to navigating mental health issues

The state of addressing mental health-related issues is improving in our churches, but there’s still work to do. We asked some of the top counselors and Christian counseling directors in Texas to chime in on topics ranging from the stigma that can exist in the church regarding mental health and wellness, to how pastors can take steps to care for their own mental health, and what churches of any size can do to minister to others who are struggling.

Why is mental health an issue that should be addressed by the church? Why is there still a stigma attached to the issue of Christians struggling with their mental health?

The church should care for people struggling with anxiety, depression, and other struggles, because hope is desperately needed. True hope is found in God (Psalm 42). The church has an opportunity to share the gospel with non-Christians and show Christians how the gospel is relevant for our problems in life. Trusting God doesn’t mean problems will go away, but we can know joy and peace as we seek God’s perspective through Scripture and depend on the Spirit (Romans 12:2; Galatians 5:22). Our confidence in life is not in ourselves, but in God who created us and knows us more intimately than anyone else in the world (Psalm 139). 

Often, it’s hard for Christians to talk about their struggles because of shame and fear of man. Sometimes, it’s hard to share because we mistakenly believe that the Christian life means a happy life, at least on the outside. Church leaders promote transparency in the church when they acknowledge that the Christian life is hard and all Christians, including themselves, need God’s help on a daily basis. God also created us to be relational beings, meaning that we need fellowship with other godly people. 

Lilly Park, associate professor of Biblical Counseling, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Based on what you’re seeing professionally and gathering from colleagues and others, what impact has COVID had on mental health in the church?

I see a dramatic increase in depression and anxiety as the presenting problems especially since COVID. However, when I look a little deeper and explore a little further, I see something new and pervasive now more than ever and definitely since COVID. It’s loneliness. New research from Harvard suggests that social isolation is on the rise especially among older teens and young adults. Research from other sources suggests that most of us, over 60 percent, feel lonely. Prolonged use of social media was also linked to greater feelings of loneliness.

According to the American Psychological Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, loneliness has been linked to physical and mental health issues like diabetes, insomnia, depression, obesity, and premature death. It’s one thing to face depression and anxiety and other mental health challenges on a daily basis. It’s quite different to feel like you are all alone in the battle and that no one really cares.

Steve Hunter, professor and Hope for the Heart Chair of Biblical Counseling, Criswell College

The pandemic has been and still continues to be very difficult. Too many people hang on to every word that the mainstream media is putting out there. The mainstream media needs to up their ratings so, of course, they make it more exciting, but in turn it has ramped up anxiety in everyone, especially children. I also think that isolation contributes greatly to this issue. We are made to be in communion with God and with one another and sometimes it is just good to have interaction with someone in the flesh. One good thing that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott did early in the pandemic was to allow virtual sessions in order to allow counselors to access their clients. Prior to this order very few counselors did virtual counseling, in fact some of our ethical codes forbid it. Although the governor opened the door for access to everyone, working with a child or teen online is next to impossible. Children typically express themselves more through play and teens hate discussing their issues online. I have wondered if their hate is more of a paranoia that someone is listening, especially their parents.

Sharon L. Good, LPC Superior, Christian Counselors of Texas treasurer

COVID has isolated people and that is never good for mental health. We are created to be with people. Upon God’s review of all he created in the Garden of Eden, the only thing that was “not good” was that man was alone, so he created Eve. Corporate worship is an even deeper level of person-to-person connection. While watching church from home is a “next best” way of going to church, it is a far-second-place substitute that does not replace corporate worship. As such, I see that people have struggled more in their faith and in their mental health. Even now, as we are increasingly back in church on Sunday mornings, I know a lot of people who struggle to come on Sunday because they are used to the convenience of watching from their living room couch, drinking their coffee, and in their PJs. 

Another aspect of COVID and the church is that the fear of getting COVID has created a lot of anxiety. This results in people staying home more, being more isolated, and then feeling more depressed. It becomes a downward cycle of mental unhealth.

— Audra Dahl, director of counseling, Rush Creek Counseling Center (Arlington)

Why do pastors still struggle with admitting their own mental health struggles, and what can the church and its leaders do to minister to them?

I have worked with pastors and the main reasons they don’t want to admit their own struggles with mental health is shame, embarrassment, and fear of losing their job. What I tell those pastors is that they are human and sometimes life just happens. Instead of living in fear, let their congregation know what is going on and trust that they will love and embrace their pastor. Churches can help by praying for their pastor (even if they aren’t struggling—I firmly believe that we should be praying for those that shepherd their flock). Next, take your pastor a meal once in a while. I’m sure his wife would appreciate a day off from cooking. If your pastor has kids, offer to babysit so mom and dad can go out on a date. A healthy marriage goes a long way to mental health. There are so many other ways that can help: take him out to a ballgame, give him an extra week off for vacation time (your pastor has been under intense pressure for the last two years due to COVID, bless him with time to relax), or just offer to hang out and fellowship with him.

Jonathan Okinaga, assistant professor of Biblical Counseling, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

I have been a pastor and a missionary. I think we have come a long way in getting the professional help we need, recognizing our limitations, sharing our own personal struggles, and seeking out biblical friendships with mature, same-sex Christians for the purpose of transparency, accountability, support, and encouragement outside of the context of our personal ministries. In addition, more than ever before, I am seeing more pastors and denominations publicly addressing mental health issues especially since COVID. It is a beautiful sight to see. For example, the SBTC is doing a great job in providing resources for pastors and their spouses during this difficult time. This includes financial help for counseling services. I have been honored to see the fruit of this ministry. At the same time, it is difficult for us as ministers to admit our own mental health challenges. One reason is because of unrealistic expectations, either self-imposed, perceived, or both ….

— Steve Hunter, professor and Hope for the Heart Chair of Biblical Counseling, Criswell College

What can churches do—especially smaller churches that don’t have trained counselors or counseling ministries—to address and minister to those struggling with their mental health?

It is important for churches to provide resources that address mental health concerns. This can come in many forms including: training church pastors and staff to be on the front lines of mental health needs while knowing their limitations in providing services; partnering with community mental health providers who can act as referral targets for needs requiring professional intervention or for guidance in cases where the church staff may need direction; establishing support groups that can encourage community for those dealing with potential triggers for mental health problems, such as caregivers for persons with longterm health care needs, substance use, grandparents parenting their grandchildren, domestic violence and sexual assault recovery, and many more; and partnering with larger churches who may have mental health services available and cooperate on publicizing those services throughout the community.

—Dr. Bobbie Burks, 4:13 Center for Change (Tyler)

There are great group programs that churches can do or partner with other churches that already have them. Celebrate Recovery, ReGeneration, Grief Share, and Divorce Care are just a few. These programs are run by lay people who have been through the program themselves and then are trained as leaders. At the Rush Creek Counseling Center, we have many churches who refer to our counseling services. Many of these churches also help their members in financial need by providing scholarships for counseling. But, more than anything, being willing to have the conversations in church, doing what you are doing by having the conversations in other media, starts to remove the stigma and can even help put someone on the path to healing.

—Audra Dahl, director of counseling, Rush Creek Counseling Center (Arlington)

What else can churches, church leaders, and denominations do to help?

I think one of the first steps and probably one of the most difficult steps is to begin to change the way our church culture views mental health disorders and issues. We could even begin by changing our language when it comes to mental health issues. For example, we can change our language from what we “can” do when it comes to mental health to what we “must” do. We can change our language from “addressing” and “helping” to “prioritizing” mental health as one of the major issues in Baptist life and leadership. 

— Steve Hunter, professor and Hope for the Heart Chair of Biblical Counseling, Criswell College