Month: February 2022

Search team formed to fill SBC Executive Committee president and CEO post

NASHVILLE (BP) – The Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee has created a search team to begin the entity’s search for the new president and CEO.

Search team members include Mollie Duddleston (Springdale, Ark.), Mike Keahbone (Lawton, Okla.), Jeremy Morton (Woodstock, Ga.), Philip Robertson (Pineville, La.), Adron Robinson (Country Club Hills, Ill.) and David Sons (Lexington, S.C.).

EC trustees nominated fellow trustees to serve on the team. In total, 23 trustees were nominated for consideration. Following the nominations, trustees selected their top six candidates in a secret ballot vote.

The first five candidates were elected outright, while Keahbone was elected after a runoff that included fellow nominees Rolland Slade (El Cajon, Calif.) and John Yeats (Jefferson City, Mo.).

Three candidates tied for the sixth spot, leading to the runoff. During a second runoff vote, Keahbone and Slade tied again, and Slade, who is current chairman of the full EC, removed his name from consideration to avoid another runoff.

Slade told Baptist Press he hopes the strategy of the search team will not just be practical, but also prayerful.

“I’m going to encourage the search team to approach their work with a prayerful attitude from the beginning, and God will lead them to the person that He’s going to elevate,” Slade said. “I think it’s going to be clear and we should not try to politicize it or pick a certain ‘group,’ but who is it that God is bringing forward for this hour.”

EC bylaws require the chairman to be an ex-officio member of the team. Slade will serve on the search team until both his chairmanship and his EC term expire in June. The new chair will then take the spot.

The search team members will meet soon to elect a chair and set the framework for their process.

Slade offered a few suggestions and strategies for the search team.

“We’re the cheerleaders, we’re the encouragers, we’re the folks who are really supposed to be out there sharing about the Cooperative Program,” Slade said.

“One of our strategies will be to listen and to familiarize ourselves with the relationships the candidate has. I believe the person is going to have to be a relational person, and that’s going to be really important in doing this.”

Regarding the ongoing sexual abuse investigation, Slade said implementing the suggestions and recommendations from the Sexual Abuse Task Force in response to its upcoming report will be one of the first major responsibilities of the new president and CEO.

“We’re going to hear loud and clear about these things in May and it’s going to be the first thing to come up in terms of how are we going to respond,” Slade said.

“They (the new president/CEO) have to be able to listen and then relationally be able to respond to that. Our response needs to be a biblical and relational response, not a sort of cardboard response. We’ve really got to say ‘We’ve really got to uncover this. Here’s where we’ve seen some things that we need to work on together.’”

In terms of a timetable for the selection of the candidate, Slade said “to me, it needs to be as long as it takes.”

Slade asked Southern Baptists to pray for the search team.

“Pray for protection of our hearts,” Slade said. “The best thing people can do is pray for that team.”

Send Relief responds to the Ukraine crisis

Send Relief, the combined compassion ministry effort of the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board, is currently working with local Baptist partners in Ukraine to respond to the growing humanitarian crisis. This crisis has been created by the escalated tension mounting around the border between Ukraine and Russia and Russia’s invasion.

Send Relief partners are already on the ground providing emergency food relief, shelter, clothing and more to displaced families. As the situation worsens, Send Relief partners are ready to provide further food relief, meet shelter needs and offer transportation to assist those impacted by this escalating crisis.

Reports continue to indicate that as many as 5 million Ukrainians will be displaced in neighboring countries such as Poland and Romania, and a large number of internally displaced people are beginning to form in Western Ukraine. The greatest needs for these displaced families will include finding access to food, water, shelter, clothing, sanitation and hygiene.

Gifts to Send Relief’s Ukraine Crisis Fund are vital to these relief efforts. The best way for Southern Baptists to respond is through prayer and giving.

Send Relief encourages churches and individuals to pray for Ukraine by downloading the Ukraine Prayer Guide:

Pray for:

  • The people of Ukraine. Pray for strength, courage and perseverance as their home is threatened by conflict.
  • Safe passages out of conflict zones for displaced populations.
  • Government officials to lead with wisdom in this tense time.
  • The estimated 4 million displaced people who will be forcibly removed from their homes. Pray that in the face of conflict, they will find psychological, emotional and spiritual healing from this trauma.
  • Soldiers on both sides of this conflict to be safe from harm.
  • Local churches, relief workers and humanitarian aid organizations to care for what could be a massive wave of displaced peoples in Ukraine.
  • Disciples Church in L’viv, Ukraine, and its church plant in Bryukhovychi. Many of the people there are displaced from the East. Pray for peace for these believers as they had hoped this conflict from eight years ago was over and now, they are facing it again.
  • The Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary as it wrestles with how to assist its students in this time of crisis.
  • Ukrainian believers as they seek to be a light in the darkness.
  • Ukrainians who have never heard the gospel to have an opportunity to experience the hope of Jesus.

The post Send Relief responds to the Ukraine crisis appeared first on IMB.

Study: Most open to spiritual conversations, but few Christians speaking

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Americans are curious about the religious devotion of others and are willing to discuss the topic, but most say they rarely have conversations about faith with their Christian friends.

An Evangelism Explosion study conducted by Lifeway Research found Americans are widely receptive to spiritual conversations in a variety of settings.

“This study reveals that most Americans are open to talking about faith,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “It really isn’t about religious liberty, people not wanting to hear, or religion being off-limits. The reason conversations are not happening about the Christian faith is that Christians are not bringing it up.”

Half of Americans (51%) say they’re curious as to why some people are so devoted to their faith, including 60% of the religiously unaffiliated. Curiosity is also more likely among younger adults. Those 18 to 34 (61%) and 35 to 49 (55%) are more likely than those 50 to 64 (43%) and those 65 and older (40%) to say they’re curious about others’ religious devotion.

Amid this curiosity, however, most say their Christian friends don’t often bring up their religious beliefs. Six in 10 (60%) Americans say many of their friends who claim to be Christians rarely talk about their faith, including 52% of the religiously unaffiliated.

Most Americans (61%) say the pandemic has not changed their interest in spiritual matters. For a third of Americans (32%), however, COVID-19 has made them more interested. Few (7%) say they are less interested now compared to before the pandemic. One in 5 religiously unaffiliated Americans (20%) say they are more interested in spiritual matters now.

Still, for many, religion is not something they think about unless others broach the subject. Two in 5 Americans (40%) say they wouldn’t think about faith on their own unless a friend or family member brought it up. The religiously unaffiliated (50%), young adults 18 to 34 (49%) and men (47%) are among those more likely to say they do not think about matters of faith unless others bring up the topic.

“There is a quiet chasm between the religiously devoted and those who have no religion in the U.S.,” said McConnell. “The irony is that religious devotion intrigues many people, yet many avid Christians fail to share why faith is so important in their lives.”

Heavenly certainty

Most Americans (55%) say it’s very important to be sure they will go to heaven or have eternal life, and another 19% say it’s important. Fewer say it’s somewhat important (9%) or not important at all (12%). Even among the religiously unaffiliated 1 in 5 (19%) say it’s very important.

Despite how important most Americans say eternal life is, few say they have such certainty. Slightly more than a third (37%) say they are sure they will be with God in heaven. Another 11% say they are somewhat sure, while 23% say they hope they’ll be in heaven. Few (4%) don’t expect to make it, and 6% are sure there is no God or heaven. According to 17% of Americans, no one can know if they’ll go to heaven.

When contemplating a conversation with God about getting into heaven, Americans are split between pointing to their goodness or trusting in Jesus. Considering the question, “If God asked you, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ what would you say?” 38% say they would respond that they trust in Jesus Christ alone, while 34% say they would respond that they are a good person. Few (4%) say they would bring up that they’ve been a very religious person. Some don’t know (12%) or prefer not to answer (5%). Another 7% don’t believe God exists.

“A quarter of Americans see heaven as a question mark or less,” said McConnell. “But the rest are evenly divided between relying on someone else—Jesus Christ— or themselves to be admitted. There’s a stark difference between heaven being a badge of affirmation for your human life or a mark of God’s ownership of your current life.”

Willing to talk

Around two-thirds of Americans say they are open to different types of spiritual conversations with a friend. Two in 3 (66%) say they’re at least open to having a conversation about faith with a friend, including 41% who say they are very open. Similarly, 66% of Americans are at least open to specifically discussing the Christian faith with a friend, including 40% who are very open. And 65% are at least open, including 36% who are very open, to talking with a friend about having a relationship with God.

Even among the religiously unaffiliated, few say they’re not open to having spiritual conversations with a friend at all. One in 5 (20%) aren’t at all open to a conversation about faith with a friend. One in 4 (26%) say they are not open to having a conversation with a friend about the Christian faith or having a relationship with God, yet 20% say they’re very open to either.

Fewer Americans are open to these types of conversations with people they don’t know, but still, at least half will talk about spiritual matters with a stranger. Half of Americans (51%) say they’re at least open to faith discussions with a stranger, with 26% saying they’re very open. When asked about having conversations with a stranger about the Christian faith specifically, 52% say they’re at least open, with 27% saying they’re very open. Slightly more than half say they are open (24%) or very open (30%) to talking with someone they don’t know about having a relationship with God.

The religiously unaffiliated are less open than others, but still most have some level of openness to religious conversations with strangers. Fewer than 2 in 5 (38%) say they’re not open at all to having a conversation about faith with a stranger. Almost half of religiously unaffiliated Americans (45%) are not open to talking with a stranger about the Christian faith, but 14% are very open. More than 2 in 5 (43%) say they have no openness to talking with a stranger about having a relationship with God, but 15% of the religiously unaffiliated are very open.

“Religion is a taboo topic for some, but actually very few people feel this way if it is between friends,” said McConnell. “There is typically no way of knowing ahead of time if someone hates the subject of faith, but the majority are open to you bringing it up even if they don’t know you.”

When meeting someone new, 71% of Americans are at least open to hearing about that person’s life story. A similar number (69%) say they’re at least open to hearing the life story from someone new if it includes faith.

Compared to in-person conversations, Americans are less likely to want to have a spiritual discussion on social media. Fewer than half (48%) say they’re at least open to having a conversation about faith on social media, including 26% who say they are very open. A third (33%) say they are not open at all to that type of conversation on social media.

As most Americans are already open to spiritual conversations, there aren’t many tools or tips that would make them more likely to engage in those discussions.

Almost half of Americans said it would not change their level of interest in continuing a conversation about faith if the other person shared a pamphlet or brochure (45%), showed information via an app (45%) or quoted from their religious text (49%). Similarly, around half (49%) say they wouldn’t be more willing to listen to someone else’s religious beliefs if the other person first listened to their beliefs.

“Many differences between potential types of religious conversations have no impact on people’s attitude about engaging in those conversations,” said McConnell. “The biggest thing that influences people’s willingness to talk about faith is the presence of a relationship with that person or faith being tied to their life story. If your relationship with God isn’t impacting your life, why would someone else want to hear about it?”

Very important needs

Americans of all religious convictions want certain things to be part of their lives. Most say it is very important to have peace (74%), hope (71%), and purpose and fulfillment (66%) in their lives. Religious Americans are more likely to agree these are very important aspects to have in their lives, but a majority of the religiously unaffiliated also say it’s very important their lives contain peace (63%), hope (54%), and purpose and fulfillment (55%).

As most consider these to be essential aspects of life, Americans may be more interested to hear how someone’s religious beliefs contribute to obtaining these. Around 7 in 10 Americans (69%) say they want to hear why someone thinks their faith helps meet a core human need. Close to 1 in 5 (21%) disagree. The religiously unaffiliated are more likely to disagree (32%), but the majority still say if someone they knew thinks their faith helps with a core human need, they want to hear more about why that person thinks that.

“For Americans with no religious affiliation, faith is not a goal or a destination,” said McConnell. “While some have reached a firm conclusion that they are not interested in faith, most are open to hearing about faith when someone can show it matters or when it is shared by someone who matters to them.”

Baptist editors honor Ledbetters at annual gathering

KEY LARGO, Fla.—Editors at the Feb. 7-10 annual meeting of the Association of State Baptist Publications issued a resolution honoring Gary Ledbetter upon his transition from serving as longtime editor of the Southern Baptist Texan.

The resolution acknowledged Ledbetter’s involvement as a “noted editor and writer in Southern Baptist life” for more than 45 years, including 21 as editor of the Texan and communications director for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Other career highlights recognized in the resolution included Ledbetter’s tenure as ASBP president in 2009; serving as Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary vice president for student development from 1995-2000; and his work with the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana in the late 1980s and early 1990s; as well his other various SBC national roles.

Calling Ledbetter’s marriage to his wife, Tammi, “a storied communications career partnership with his wife of 45 years (and friend since high school),” the resolution also recognized her contributions as a “noted writer and editor in her own right.”

Acknowledging that Ledbetter’s role in Baptist communications will continue as he serves as adviser to the Texan and project manager and senior editor for the Missouri Baptist Convention’s High Street Press, the resolution conveyed the organization’s deep appreciation for his contributions to Southern Baptist communications and signaled a commitment to pray for the couple as they enter a new season of ministry.

“Through the years, Gary has passionately used his giftedness in communications to serve the kingdom of God,” ASBP Executive Director Margaret Colson said. “As president of the Association of State Baptist Publications in 2009, Gary was a leader among his peers. He encouraged and inspired his fellow editors to adhere to the highest standards of journalism as they communicated trustworthy and compelling stories of faith.

“As emerging technology provided new methods of communications over Gary’s decades of service to the denomination, he embraced the opportunity to cast a wider net in reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Brian Hobbs, editor of the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger and 2021 ASBP president, said: “Gary and Tammi Ledbetter are an amazing ministry team. I’m so thankful to the Lord for their service. Gary has been a great example through the years, a real source of encouragement and inspiration to many in the ministry, including me. His impact through his service in Texas and beyond will be felt for generations to come.”

Mr. Ledbetter said he has viewed the work of Baptist publications as “crucial to our cooperative work.

“It’s been an amazing privilege to be a part of that,” he added. “ASBP members have been friends and helpful colleagues to me at many points along that way. I am grateful for the kind expression of their resolution for Tammi and me, and also for their prayers for us as we walk new ministry paths. I certainly wish them God’s best as they publish stories of God’s work among his Southern Baptist people.”

The resolution was presented by Jennifer Rash, editor of The Alabama Baptist, and unanimously approved by the editors. Terry Barone, retiring editor from the California Southern Baptist Association, was similarly honored. The ASBP resolutions committee was comprised of Rash and David Williams, editor of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist.

The one goal no pastor should have

In his book The Imperfect Pastor, Zack Eswine describes how the realization of what it means to be a pastor—the hard, gritty, patient work required of shepherding real people through messy problems amid the brokenness of life—changed his false perception of what ministry would be like:

I didn’t envision this kind of daily life. I thought of a pastor as something akin to an itinerant conference speaker, prophetically originating and preaching vision for large crowds and organizations, so that I can constantly demonstrate that we are not like other churches, and I am not like other preachers. Weekly, I would mobilize and manage programs, hiring, firing, and training personnel, so that by the force of my personality, the expertise of my organizational leadership, and the savvy uniqueness of our brand presence, I (I mean we, of course) can build a more notable gospel platform from which I (uh, I mean, we) can rise into greater gospel prominence, and then I (I don’t mean we) can leave and move on to bigger and better gospel things for God.

The expectations he’s describing are, of course, those of a “celebrity pastor.” The celebrity pastor mindset—what Eswine elsewhere calls the desire to do “large things famously” as fast as possible—has pervaded the culture of American evangelicalism. The way some pastors describe themselves reinforces what has become normal in American churches: pastors are visionaries, catalysts, thought leaders, social media influencers, motivational speakers, and change agents.

Pastors work to expand their platform, broaden their reach, and leverage their brand. The desire to be known, to be popular, to be successful, to be cool, and to be adored is ingrained deeply in the human heart, including in the hearts of pastors.

The celebrity lure

For many pastors, the temptation to idolize prominence and success has always been there but has intensified during the pandemic. Pastors have watched members leave their churches during the pandemic to join the megachurch down the road that has a more engaging pastor, better music, more flashy stage set-up, or fill-in-the-blank. It’s tempting to want to compete by mimicking whatever the successful pastor down the road is doing.

Pastors can be jealous of the celebrity pastors who write best-selling books, are invited to preach at conferences, and need 12 multi-site locations and 34 weekend services to accommodate the number of people who want to hear them speak.

But here’s the deal: celebrity pastor culture is crushing. You can’t keep up with the celebrity pastor down the road. What’s more, Jesus never intended for you to do that. No pastor should make it their goal to be a celebrity pastor. What matters most in pastoral ministry is not your likeness to the cool pastor down the road but your likeness to Christ.

Christlike character

This realization is freeing because it releases you from the pressure of living under the burden of comparison. You don’t have to live under the burden of celebrity. You don’t have to live under the burden of being cool and having the most attractive ministry in town. Instead, what matters is your Christlikeness. What matters is your character.

Jesus taught his disciples Christlike character in the beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount. Before the Sermon on the Mount was given to us, it was given to the men who would lead the early church and ignite the explosive growth of Christianity. If Jesus ever had a leadership manual, the Sermon on the Mount is it.

What’s striking is what you do and don’t find in the sermon. Notably, Jesus never taught the disciples how to preach better sermons or how to attract large crowds. Instead, he taught them how to follow. He taught them how to pray. He taught them how to love. He taught them how to forgive. He said that you are blessed when you are poor, when you mourn, when you are humble, when you hunger for righteousness, when you are merciful, when you are pure, when you are a peacemaker and when you endure persecution (Matthew 5:3-12).

In other words, you’re blessed—not when you’re cool or celebrated—but when you’re Christlike in character.

What makes a real difference in ministry isn’t our charm, charisma, or leadership capacity. Rather, it’s our humility, brokenness, mercy, and hunger for righteousness. What matters most is not how many social media followers we can get but what kinds of disciples of Jesus we are. What matters most is our character.

A higher calling

Relax, pastor. You don’t have to be cool to be a good pastor. The expectations are much higher than that. You are called to exhibit nothing less than the righteousness of the kingdom through the power of the Spirit. Christlike character is the one thing without which your ministry cannot be successful.

If you are a great preacher, an in-demand conference speaker, or a best-selling author but lack character, you’re missing the most essential element of pastoral ministry. On the other hand, if you’re an “average” preacher, not the most gifted leader, and your ministry is conducted in total obscurity but your character is shaped and formed by Christ and you strive to represent him well, you will have succeeded in that which matters most.

Andrew Hebert is the lead pastor of Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo and the author of the forthcoming book “Shepherding Like Jesus: Returning to the Wild Idea that Characters Matters in Ministry.”

This article originally appeared on Lifeway Research.

SBTC pastors connect at Arabic Baptist Pastor’s Conference

Arabic Pastors Conference

SAN ANTONIO—A group of Southern Baptists of Texas Convention pastors and leaders attended the second-annual Arabic Baptist Pastor’s Conference held Feb. 15-18.

The event was sponsored by the San Antonio Baptist Association (SABA) and the SBTC. Arabic pastors from California, Canada, Michigan, New York, Tennessee, Texas, and other states gathered to worship, network, and encourage each other to reach fellow Arabic-speakers for Christ. These pastors came from different countries to serve in the U.S. and, despite being natives of Ethiopia, Jordan, Egypt, and other countries, are united by their language, their love for Jesus Christ, and their determination to reach the Arabic community with the gospel.

“We want to work, connect, and partner with you to advance the gospel,” said SABA Executive Director Dr. Darrell Horn, adding that his association is planning to strengthen its relationship with Arabic pastors and will stay in touch through monthly Zoom meetings.

The conference’s main organizers were SBTC Pastor Ra’id Al Safadi and his wife, Lana—who are originally from Jordan. Ra’id is the bi-vocational pastor of the Arabic Baptist Church in San Antonio, and he and his wife also own a restaurant. Their desire is to have a network of Arabic pastors meet yearly to minister, equip, serve each other, and plan how to reach the lost Arabic people groups in the U.S.

The SBTC was also represented by Eritrean pastor Danial Habte and his wife, Weini, who are from Ethiopia and serve Kingdom Gospel Church in Amarillo; and Egyptian pastor Said Tharwat and his wife, who serve at Arlington Arabic Baptist Church. Pastor Said appears in a video on the SBTC’s multilingual 1CROSS app sharing the gospel in Arabic.

Dr. Stephen Napier, from Global Outreach International—whose ministry is multiplying church leadership among native populations—came from Alaska to encourage the Arabic pastors. He led them through Nehemiah’s journey and told them, “Nehemiah accepted his weaknesses, was moved to compassion, prayed, took action, knew that God can do supernatural things, and moved forward and shared with the king,” and he asked them to follow his example. He also communicated the importance of having a yearly budget, setting up their finances, having a well-thought-out financial plan, and being ready.

Dr. Bruno Molina, SBTC’s language and interfaith evangelism associate, encouraged the pastors by telling them, “Continue praying, preaching, and reaching, because we are ambassadors of Christ. In spite of God appearing to Muslims in their dreams, he has not removed human agency from sharing the gospel.” Molina preached about how Christians, like the apostles in Acts 4:20, cannot stop speaking about what they have seen and heard. He also shared the various resources available to them developed by the SBTC in their own language, as a well as tools on the SBTC website, the 1CROSS app, and the FIRE initiative which connects local churches with professors and students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Criswell College, and Jacksonville College for the purpose of engaging in evangelism in their communities.

One of the pastor’s wives present said that, “The pastor’s wives felt valued, precious, and validated” by the gathering because they are often working alone. Lana Safadi, an Arabic women’s conference speaker who helped translate at the conference, said, “This type of conference is a new beginning, a new dream, and it would be wonderful and a blessing to have this conference here every year. Pastors and their wives need each other.”

Pastor Al Safadi reminded pastors, “Please take care of yourselves. We are here to serve the Arabic community, but don’t overwork yourselves thinking that you are a failure because you only visited 10 people per week.” He encouraged them to rest and also to “spend time with God, start small, think of partnering with the English-speaking churches, spend time together with them, share your passion, develop relationships, find new opportunities to meet pastors from other cultures, reach out to the local Baptist associations, find people that are spiritually supportive to pray for you and for accountability, use technology, have a financial plan, and don’t work alone.”

15 questions for Christians to ask about their social media engagement

A bipartisan group of senators recently introduced a bill to protect children from the potentially harmful impacts of social media. The Kids Online Safety Act of 2022 includes five major elements:

Social media companies would be required to provide privacy options, the ability to disable addictive features and allow users to opt-out of recommendations like pages or other videos to “like.” It would also make the strongest privacy protections the default.

The bill would give parents tools to track time spent in the app, limit purchases, and help to address addictive usage.

It would require social media companies to prevent and mitigate harm to minors, including self-harm, suicide, eating disorders, substance abuse, sexual exploitation, and unlawful products for minors like alcohol.

Social media companies would be required to give kids’ data to academic and private researchers. The scientists would use that data to do more research on what harms children on social media and how to prevent that harm.

Social media companies would be required to use a third party to perform independent reviews to quantify the risk to minors, compliance with the law, and whether the company is “taking meaningful steps to prevent those harms.”

Whether the bill will be something Christians should support remains to be seen. But as Dr. Dave Anderson, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, told ABC News, it’s an attempt to apply what social science research has taught us about the potential harms of social media. “I think politicians are taking what we know from the science and saying, ‘How do we build in these safeguards?’”, says Anderson.

Questions for evaluation 

While it’s important to build safeguards on social media for our children, every Christian adult should also consider what guardrails they are putting up for themselves. Listed below are 15 questions for self-reflection that we can ask ourselves about our social media engagement.

1. The time use question: In 2020, the average adult spent three hours a day on social media. Do we spend more daily time on social media than we do on spiritual practices, such as prayer and Bible reading?

2. The best use question: Even if the time we spend on social media is not out of proportion to other activities, we should still consider how we want to spend our days. Is our social media usage an example of following the command in Ephesians 5:16 to make the “best use of the time”?

3. The bubble question: Social media allows us to choose who we interact with, allowing us the ability to create the online equivalent of gated communities. What types of interactions are you missing out on by engaging only within your social media bubble?

4. The corrupt company question: In light of question 3, what kind of bubble are you creating? Who are you surrounding yourself with online? Bad company — even disguised with Christian language — that will corrupt (1 Cor. 15:33)? Or good company that will build up?

5. The looking with lust question: The predominance of personal photos on social media can allow us to get an intimate glimpse not only into people’s lives but often of people’s bodies. What precautions are we taking to prevent ourselves from looking with lust on the images we see in private (Matt. 5:28)?

6. The one another question: Throughout Scripture there are more than 50 “one another” commands that apply to our fellow believers (for example, the commands to “encourage one another and build up one another” in 1 Thessalonians 5:11). How are you using social media to fulfill those commands?

7. The probability of cancellation question: Cancel culture refers to the modern practice of withdrawing support for someone (i.e., “canceling them”) after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive. What are the chances that you could be “canceled” for something you post on social media?

8. The loving your enemy question: Jesus commands us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:43). Do we use our social media accounts to identify the “enemies” we need to pray for?

9. The foolish controversies question: In Titus 3:9, Paul tells us to avoid foolish controversies because they are unprofitable and useless. Does our social media usage increase the likelihood that we will engage in such foolish controversies?

11. The eulogy question: Imagine that if at your funeral someone who despises you was able to give a eulogy that consisted of them reading 10 items you posted on social media. Would you have any concerns or fear of embarrassment if that were to happen?

12. The anonymity question: Many people on social media (especially on platforms like Twitter) choose to remain anonymous. But Jesus says “there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open” (Luke 8:17). If you have an anonymous account, would you be ashamed if your identity was revealed? (Alternative question: Should we be engaging with those who choose to hide their identity while attacking those whose identities are known?)

13. The unwholesome talk question: Paul commands us by saying, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Eph. 4:29). Do we use social media to engage in unwholesome talk?

14 The true and noble question: Additionally, Paul says, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Phil. 4:8). Does our social media usage help us to think about what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy?

15. The glory of God question: Paul also says, whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:13). Can we honestly say that all that we do on social media is glorifying God?

The post 15 questions for Christians to ask about their social media engagement appeared first on ERLC.

13 months of joy, an eternity of impact

Lottie Sandusky

WICHITA, Kansas—Lottie Elizabeth Sandusky charmed everyone she met in her mere 13 months of earthly life. After her unexpected death Feb. 5, she continues to touch lives through a memorial fund established by her parents, Ethan and Maggie, with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Lottie, her name evoking Southern Baptist missionary Lottie Moon, is drawing people across the world to Jesus.

David Crowther, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita, Kansas, where Ethan serves as student and life groups minister, described Lottie as an “incredibly joyful baby” with a “big adorable toothless grin whenever you looked at her” at her memorial service. Nursery workers loved taking care of her. Her immediate and extended families adored her.

“Lottie was a gift from God,” her mom, 32-year-old Maggie Sandusky, said, an easy baby compared to Lottie’s four-year-old twin sisters, Cora and Adelaide, who spent a month in NICU as infants born at Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth.

“She was just a very joyful baby. We had the twins first and they were a blast in their own way, but they were hard … they were twins! And so we just always laughed about how [Lottie] was kind of our reward, a very easy baby, very mild-tempered, easy to get along with.”

In early February, Lottie came down with the flu and was taken to the hospital twice during a short illness, first for a breathing treatment and then back overnight for two days. She was discharged the second time after her breathing improved enough that she no longer needed oxygen and had slept well the previous night. Doctors sent the family home with breathing treatments to administer. Lottie slept peacefully in her crib after her scheduled treatment, having enjoyed a reunion with her doting big sisters.

Her parents discovered the unthinkable the following morning.

“She just passed in her sleep. We went in early, thinking she was still asleep, to give her the next [treatment] and…found her. She had probably passed a couple of hours before,” Maggie said.

Their hearts broke.

Lottie the missionary

Little Lottie Sandusky was not specifically named after the legendary Southern Baptist missions pioneer Lottie Moon, but Ethan and Maggie didn’t mind it when people made that connection.

“We liked the name,” Maggie said. “We both have a heart for missions and had grown up hearing about Lottie Moon, and so it was a fond correlation. We had older-style names for both of our older daughters.”

She added, “We grew up doing Mission Friends and GAs. It was definitely a big part of our lives and something we wanted to instill in our kids. These [missionaries] are heroes in our family.” Both Ethan and Maggie have served as short-term missionaries overseas—Ethan in Belize; Maggie in Brazil, Mexico, Czech Republic and Poland; and both in England.

During the Christmas season, the twins relished the frequent mentions of the “Lottie” offering—LCMO—at church. “It was fun at Christmas as the twins both thought everyone was constantly talking about Lottie, our Lottie,” Maggie said.

When tragedy struck, the grieving couple thought of the Lottie Moon offering and the IMB as a trustworthy recipient for memorial gifts. 

“As Ethan and I have talked about our goals for parenting—we serve in youth ministry … it’s been important to us that our goals for our kids not be just good grades and success. Our hope was that they would love and honor Christ wholeheartedly. We wanted to entrust our kids to God’s will, knowing that that could mean our kids could end up on the other side of the world rather than down the street with our grandkids.

“Lottie’s life hasn’t exactly gone the way we hoped and planned, but we believe she is loving and honoring Christ now more wholeheartedly than we ever could have imagined,” Maggie added, her voice cracking.

The Sanduskys hope that gifts to the IMB in memory of Lottie will make a global impact for eternity, she said. The Lottie Sandusky campaign was started to do just that and to facilitate good coming from tragedy.

“We just wanted it to be able to go and allow God’s word to spread around the world,” Maggie said.

The fund

At their request, Maggie’s mother, Tammi Ledbetter, contacted IMB President Paul Chitwood to set the wheels in motion for the account. The fund’s goal of $13,000 would remind all of Lottie’s 13 months of life. Chitwood and his wife not only matched the grandparents’ initial gift, but he quickly connected the Ledbetters, former editors of the Southern Baptist Texan, with IMB advancement officer Chris Kennedy, then tweeted news of Lottie’s death and the fund.

Contributions started flowing in. To date, the trust fund has received more than $15,000 and continues to grow.

Kennedy said of the fund, “Lottie’s parents recognize her time on earth as a gift of God’s grace. We are humbled they would allow us to help steward that grace so others can know Christ. Every cent given in her honor is sent overseas to support and sustain IMB missionaries serving the least reached peoples of the world with this same grace. I can think of no greater way to honor a life shared.”

Friends and family in many churches across the years where they served on staff or simply as members have embraced the challenge, including Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Calvary Baptist Church in Nacogdoches, and now Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita, the three congregations for the Sanduskys since their 2014 wedding. Westgate Baptist Church in Beaumont (where the Sandusky grandparents have served for decades), and First Baptist Church of Fayetteville, Ark., (where the Ledbetters are active members) have also prompted folks of every age – from children to 95-year-olds to give anywhere from $13 to $1,300 – whatever God led them to do to honor little Lottie’s memory.

Remembering Lottie

Ethan and Maggie have found comfort in the words of friends, some of whom they had not talked to since high school, who have called, written, or messaged to express their condolences after reading of Lottie’s transition to heaven as posted by the family via Facebook and Twitter.

Ethan and Maggie Sandusky, Lottie and twins (L-R) Adelaide and Cora pose before the 2021 holidays.

Folks like their friend Texas pastor Bart Barber picked up on the tragic news and carefully retweeted the request for prayer. Others like SBC President Ed Litton spread the request even further and the story of Lottie quickly reached more than 100,000 people worldwide within 36 hours as friends and alumni from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Ethan and Maggie’s alma mater, also shared the news. The Feb. 10 memorial service, livestreamed and archived by Immanuel Baptist Church, touched thousands.

“People … have been impacted by the witness of her service. As we’ve walked through this, we’ve just tried to point others to Christ who is our hope,” Maggie said, adding that family conversations have also occurred with their twins facing things they were not expecting to face at their young age.

“This has given [the twins and others] the opportunity to see firsthand where our hope is. [Our faith] is not something we just say. It’s the only thing keeping us going,” Maggie said.

At Lottie’s memorial service, Ethan read from Psalm 119:25-32, noting that Maggie and he identified with the psalmist: “Our life is in the dust and we are weary from grief, but here we have a choice. We can be angry. We can be bitter. We can curse God, but that will not bring healing. That will not bring peace.”

Indeed, as Ethan continued, he reminded the congregation that “there is only one place that we can go. And that is into the arms of our Lord.”

For more information visit or call the IMB at 1-804-353-0151.

Barber to chair Committee on Resolutions; Arriola, Wellman named to posts

SARALAND, Ala. (BP) — Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville, will serve as chair for the 2022 Committee on Resolutions at the annual meeting in Anaheim, Southern Baptist Convention president Ed Litton announced Feb. 14.

Barber, who will celebrate 23 years at FBC Farmersville in July, served on the committee last year alongside Dana McCain, a member of First Baptist Church in Dothan, Ala., who will be vice chair.

“I believe with all of my heart that whenever two or three believers gather in His name, Christ is present among them to speak to them and through them,” Barber said. “Our resolutions play a beautiful role in that divine process. It is not my ambition to shape Southern Baptist opinion, but instead to state Southern Baptist opinion – to empower our messengers to speak as Christ has laid it upon their hearts to speak.”

For McCain, involvement in crisis pregnancy ministries is what spurred her passion for seeing the Gospel’s impact on people’s lives.

“It’s humbling to participate in the process of helping Southern Baptists reflect the Gospel to the world by speaking to contemporary issues, both within the church and in the public square,” she said. “I’m honored to be able to serve the SBC in this way, and look forward to the good things God will do during our time together at the 2022 Annual Meeting.”

Other committee members are:

Julio Arriola – director, Send Network SBTC and a member of Thompson Station Church, Thompson’s Station, Tenn.
JT English – lead pastor of Storyline Fellowship in Arvada, Colo.
Kristen Ferguson –11th Street Baptist Church in Upland, Calif.
Donna Gaines – Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova, Tenn.
Mike Keahbone – senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Lawton, Okla.
Jon C. Nelson – lead pastor, Soma Community Church, Jefferson City, Mo., and president of the Missouri Baptist Convention
David Sons – lead pastor, Lake Murray Baptist Church, Lexington, S.C.
Jared Wellman – lead pastor, Tate Springs Baptist Church, Arlington, Texas

“For many decades, the resolutions process has served our convention by allowing us to speak forcefully to significant matters upon which we are resolved,” Litton said. “I have the highest confidence in the men and women I have asked to serve on the 2022 Committee on Resolutions. Each of them are faithful and capable leaders who embody what it means to be a Great Commission Baptist.

“I am particularly grateful for Dr. Bart Barber’s willingness to serve as chair of the committee. Across our convention, Dr. Barber is esteemed for his character and wisdom, as well as his conviction and charity. I have no doubt that Dr. Barber, along with Vice Chair Dana Hall McCain, will serve all of us by leading this committee to present resolutions for consideration that reflect the biblical priorities and convictions of our Great Commission people.”

According to Bylaw 20, the committee must include at least two members who served the previous year, a requirement fulfilled by Barber and McCain. Keahbone, Sons and Wellman meet the stipulation that three Executive Committee members also be on the committee. Wellman served on the committee last year as well.

According to Bylaw 20, the procedure for submitting resolutions is as follows:

Proposed resolutions may be submitted as early as April 15 but no later than 15 days prior to the SBC annual meeting, giving the Resolutions Committee a two-week period in which to consider submissions. The committee also may propose resolutions for consideration during its deliberations. Resolutions may not be submitted during the annual meeting.
Proposed resolutions must be accompanied by a letter from a church qualified to send a messenger to the SBC annual meeting certifying that the individual submitting the resolution is a member in good standing.
Proposed resolutions preferably should be submitted by email or mailed to the Committee on Resolutions in care of the SBC Executive Committee, 901 Commerce St., Nashville, TN 37203. The drafts must be typewritten, titled, dated and include complete contact information for the person and his or her church.
No person will be allowed to submit more than three resolutions per year.
If a properly submitted resolution is not forwarded by the Committee on Resolutions to the SBC annual meeting, a two-thirds vote of messengers would be required to bring the proposed resolution to the convention floor.

GuideStone, NAMB partner to provide retirement, insurance for new church planters

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – New Send Network church planting missionaries can take advantage of increased support through the North American Mission Board (NAMB), anchored by a slate of customized benefits from GuideStone Financial Resources.

Church planters assessed and endorsed in 2022 will have the opportunity to enroll themselves and their families in GuideStone’s Value Health 5000 plan without underwriting beginning this May. NAMB’s church-planting arm, Send Network, will cover 100 percent of the premium for an entire family for 12 months, after which, the church plant will be required to take responsibility for the premium.

Moving forward, new planters who have been endorsed by Send Network, completed their assessments, and meet eligibility criteria will have access to enroll in coverage. Qualifying church plants must have an SBC ID number, and the church planter must receive W-2 income from that church.

Church planters will also be able to participate in a retirement plan designed specifically for Southern Baptist churches through GuideStone. To “jump-start” their savings, Send Network will provide a $1,000 one-time contribution to the retirement plan for every church planter who is eligible upon their launch date.

The plan was announced at a meeting of NAMB’s trustees Feb. 15.

“Thanks to GuideStone’s help and the generosity of Southern Baptists, we are able to provide the best services of any church planting network in North America,” said NAMB President Kevin Ezell. “I am grateful for Hance Dilbeck’s commitment to making this happen and for the GuideStone team who worked so diligently with us.”

Dilbeck said GuideStone is committed to helping all Southern Baptist pastors.

“We work to see all Christ’s servants free to finish well,” Dilbeck, GuideStone president-elect, told trustees. “We want to simplify financial solutions to multiply Kingdom impact. At GuideStone, we are called to advocate for pastors; and to advocate to pastors. We strive to see churches take better care of their pastors and to see pastors take better care of themselves.”

Planters who enroll in the retirement plan may be eligible for additional benefits at no cost, made available by Baptist state conventions and GuideStone. This includes a disability benefit of up to $500 monthly and a survivor protection benefit of up to $100,000.

O.S. Hawkins, outgoing GuideStone president, indicated helping pastors in every church – from church plants to established churches and from the beginning of their careers to and through retirement – is a core part of why GuideStone exists.

“For more than 100 years, our mission is to honor the Lord by being a lifelong partner with our participants in enhancing their financial security,” Hawkins said. “This partnership allows us to work ever more closely with our partners at NAMB to ensure this next generation of church leaders can prepare well for their financial futures, so that they can continue to serve the Lord effectively.”

The increased benefits are meant to help Send Network-endorsed church planters start a healthy church-planting journey by providing practical help, especially in the form of retirement and insurance, GuideStone and NAMB emphasized.

“As a lifelong partner to pastors and churches, GuideStone works to simplify financial solutions so they can be free to focus on their work and fulfill their ministry,” Dilbeck said.

Ezell said NAMB will set the expectation moving forward that new church plants will cover a health insurance plan for their planter pastor right from the start.

“Church planters – just like most pastors – rarely speak up for their own needs, so we want to speak up for them,” Ezell said. “NAMB is happy to fund this first year of coverage, but we are establishing the clear expectation that after that, each church plant will continue to fund this important coverage.”

The work on how to provide health benefits for Send Network church planters began more than a year ago.

“We knew it was a huge need, but we also knew covering even just the newest church planters would cost more than $5 million annually,” Ezell said. “Still, we made the commitment to do it and then last year Southern Baptists amazed us by giving $5 million more to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering than ever before. What an incredible example of God’s provision.”

Vance Pitman, who begins serving as Send Network’s new president March 1, said the benefits will make a huge difference to church planter families.

“You cannot imagine how much stress and worry this will remove from the lives of church planters and their wives,” Pitman said. “We are addressing a burden that too often distracted from ministry and the well-being of these servants.”

Church planters in Send Network who are eligible for this new coverage will be contacted by Send Network staff in the weeks ahead.

In addition to the new benefits through GuideStone, NAMB announced a new financial service that will provide accounting, payroll and bookkeeping for church plants. A new online giving service is also available.

These services become part of a host of others, including the minimum $56,000 in funding Send Network continues to provide vocational church planters, as well as church plant loans; a two-day, in-person orientation; contextualized training; two years of personal coaching; access to free, confidential counseling; free access to periodic national and local ministry events; and ongoing care for the planting couple and their family.

Details about all Send Network church planter benefits and services can be found at

“When these new additions are combined with what we already provide through assessment, funding, training, coaching and care, Send Network cares for its planters better than any other church planting network,” Ezell said. “That’s what Southern Baptists expect, and that is what their church planters deserve.”