Month: April 2022

Southeast Texas church plant recently given building desires to plant churches of its own

Hope Church in Montgomery, near Houston, was meeting in an elementary school when COVID shut them down, but God had a plan for their future campus right next door. Now the church plant is building on nine decades of faithful service in the same community. 

The plant was barely a year old when the pandemic hit, and since they were running 75 to 100 people each Sunday, the group was too large to meet in a home, lead pastor Justin Dancer said. 

“There were no other places to meet,” he said, “so we went

Right next to Lone Star Elementary was Honea Baptist Church, which the church plant had befriended during its short existence. Honea had been in the community for more than 90 years but was dwindling and struggling. The members saw God working at Hope Church and wanted to join Him.

“It wasn’t a merger. They disbanded, and most of their members joined our church,” Dancer said. Honea gave their campus, including five acres and about 15,000 square feet of building space, to Hope Church as a foundation for the future.

"They saw the greater vision of God working, and they saw the life and the growth, and they saw it as a God thing to join that. I take that really seriously."

Wednesday night meals—where multiple generations can gather at a table for Jesus-centered conversation—are a key part of the church’s strategy.

“They saw the greater vision of God working, and they saw the life and the growth, and they saw it as a God thing to join that. I take that really seriously,” Dancer said, adding that Hope Church’s effectiveness in making disciples “honors the 91 years of Christ’s legacy at Honea.”

Hope Church has baptized about 60 people in its first three years, and they’ve made a practice of bringing the children—who normally meet for kids worship—into the worship center to watch baptisms.

“Every time that happens, I see these older, faithful people weeping,” Dancer said. “They’re just crying, so overjoyed.” Former members of Honea often tell Dancer, “We prayed for this for so many years,” and, “I can’t believe I lived long enough to see this.” 

Hope Church has renovated the space given by Honea to reach a 21st century community, which is growing substantially. The church has two services on Sundays with 200-300 people attending, and each Wednesday night the campus is at capacity. 

“I have like 15 high school students in my office for small group time,” the pastor said. “We literally use every single room on Wednesday nights.”

Since Dancer grew up in Texas with Wednesday night activities a strength of the local church, it’s important to him that it’s a key part of Hope Church in a day when many churches are not emphasizing a midweek gathering.

Montgomery is a multi-generational area with about 20% each of five different generations showing up in a demographic study. Because of that, Hope Church is intentionally multi-

“That’s why we have Wednesday night meals,” Dancer said. “I want older people sitting with middle age and young people having Jesus-centered conversations regularly, so we’re trying to create space for that.”

Honea Baptist Church, a congregation that ministered in Montgomery for nine decades, gave its campus to Hope Church as a foundation for the future.

Montgomery is known by many who live there as a wealthy community.

“The greatest obstacle in our community, because of the affluence, is pretense,” Dancer said. “Outside, there’s money, big houses, nice cars, but on the inside, you would never know it, but everyone is a wreck. There’s huge amounts of debt, there’s family issues. It’s just covered up.”

What that means for the church, the pastor said, is they have to be a beacon of light, providing a place where people can be
“authentically connected in Jesus-centered relationships.”

“People can come as they are and be connected and loved and grow no matter where they’re at,” Dancer said.

The idea for Hope Church began when Dancer was on staff at Crossroads Baptist Church in The Woodlands and the pastor there asked him to plant a church on behalf of Crossroads. Dancer had previously served for six years in South Dakota planting churches with the North American Mission Board. 

When Hope Church launched in April 2019, a core group of about 20 people from Crossroads was part of the average attendance that ranged from 50 to 100, Dancer said. They set a goal of helping to plant 25 churches in 25 years.

To facilitate that, Hope Church already has a church planting residency program and has trained and sent out one planter to Conroe, about five miles down the road.

“We’re also partnering officially to plant two other churches outside the Houston area, so we’re at three right now with a vision of being a part of planting many more,” Dancer said.

Church planting is on the front lines of gospel work around the world, the pastor said, and training planters to establish effective, sustainable churches is his goal. Attrition takes out too many planters and pastors, Dancer said, and he wants to help them achieve long-term ministries in the communities where they plant.

“If anybody is reading this and has an interest in church planting, I would love to talk to them,” he said.

"We’re also partnering officially to plant two other churches outside the Houston area, so we’re at three right now with a vision of being a part of planting many more."

The Heart of the Sermon

“Teaching is giving information that explains. Preaching is an attempt to win people to respond to information that explains.”  Yancy Arrington

Application tends to be one of the hardest parts of the sermon-writing process. When preachers are stuck on exegeting a difficult text, parsing a word or phrase, or understanding the context, commentaries come in help. But writer’s block tends to show itself when it comes to applying the sermon to the hearts of our listeners.

Application is important; it is how we invite those listening to respond to the meaning of the text and ultimately to the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we preach the gospel, but give no way to respond, how will our people know what to do? You don’t want your congregation asking for the altar call like the people in Acts 2:37. You want to lead your people to the heart of the text and tell them what to do with it. Otherwise, your sermon is like a car with no wheels. It may have a powerful engine, a fresh coat of paint, and comfortable seats, but without wheels, it won’t go anywhere. Similarly, sermons with the power of the gospel, a polished presentation, and comforting truths must lead people to respond. Application is the very heart of the sermon; to give no way for people to respond is to have a sermon with no life at all.

So, as we think about application, we must have hearts in mind because application aims for the heart. We must be mindful of the heart of the Lord, the heart of the preacher, and the hearts of the congregants. With that framework, I want to encourage you to walk, sit, and live ways that will help your sermons’ application.

  1. Walk with your Lord. 

Prayer is what Christians should do in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:17). It is not the only thing we do, but it must be the first because it is the most important. In prayer, we ask God to do that which we cannot do: We ask the sovereign Creator, Sustainer, and Orchestrator of the universe to move.

Prayer is integral to the Christian life. For instance, if we are struggling with sin, we start with prayer and we fight sin prayerfully. Similarly, if we are struggling with application in sermons, we must begin with prayer and continue in prayer. If we want the sermon to reach the hearts of our people, we must ask the Lord to empower our preaching to that end.

When I write sermons, I pray before I read the text; I pray the text itself; I pray as I take notes and outline the passage; I pray before I manuscript; I pray between finishing and delivering the sermon, and I pray after delivering the sermon. I ask the Lord to grant me clarity and truth. I ask the Lord to work the truth of the text into my heart, and I ask the Lord to prepare the hearts of those who will hear the sermon. From start to finish, we must walk with the Lord.

  1. Sit with your text.

Application must always be rooted in the text, so spend as much time in the text as you can. I know that the longer I sit with the text, the better my application is. Not only is meditation a biblical command, but it reaps practical benefits. The longer you can sit with a text, the more you begin to see the many facets of it. You begin to contemplate doctrines that lie underneath the surface. You give yourself time to remember parallel passages, and you begin to go about life and see the world through the lens of that passage.

I personally like to begin studying the text three weeks before I preach it. I exegete the passage and think about it for a week. I write the sermon over the course of the next week, and then I sit with my finished sermon for a week before preaching it. The Lord has gifted me with the ability to multitask, so I overlap the sermons I work on.

When I sit with the text, I ask the Lord to apply it to my heart. He starts to reveal my own sins, struggles, fears, frustrations, hopes, and hurts. As I confront these realities of my heart, I am able to apply the gospel to my life in a way that nurtures my own soul. So then when it comes to application for a sermon, I can authentically and applicably show my people what the Lord did in my heart through that passage.

  1. Live with your people.

Being as young as I am, I have not encountered as many hardships or tribulations as some of my congregants who have been following Jesus longer than I’ve been alive. But as I look out to my church family each week from the pulpit, I see people, stories, and struggles. I know the hurt and heartache of our people because I’ve had lunch or coffee with them, and they’ve shared their lives with me. I know them because I spend time with them.

So, when I preached Psalm 42, 51, and 84 a few years back, I thought of the weary pilgrims in my church who were longing for peace, renewal, and hope. I thought of the members who were fighting for joy. I had in mind the recently widowed and those struggling with infertility. I thought of the struggling marriages, parents, and single people in our church.

As I thought of each of these people by name, I made it my goal to give each of these individuals the good news that can only be found in Christ. Just as we need to exegete our text before we preach a sermon, so too should we exegete our people before preaching to them.

All three of these components are needed when it comes to finding good sermon application. If we only spend time in the text without walking with Jesus or living with our people, we will have information without application. The goal is not to teach lectures but to preach sermons. And what separates teaching from preaching is application that springs from walking with your Lord, sitting with your text, and living with your people.

Johnston joins Prestonwood in dual role with staff, school

PLANO—Prestonwood Baptist Church and Prestonwood Christian Academy announced on April 24 that Jeremiah Johnston has joined their staff in a dual role with a goal to undergird a biblical worldview in all aspects of the church and school.

Johnston, one of the most recognized and brightest scholars in the church today, will serve as associate pastor of apologetics and cultural engagement at Prestonwood Baptist Church and dean of spiritual development at Prestonwood Christian Academy. He is president and founder of Christian Thinkers Society, whose mission is to train and equip Christians to defend the core truth at the heart of the Christian faith.

“For over three years, my wife and I have prayed over how the Lord would lead our family and our ministry to be part of a local church, serve on the pastoral staff team and fully utilize our gifts, scholarship and the ministries of Christian Thinkers Society to enhance a school and local church collaboratively,” Johnston said. “We have sensed a very clear call to Prestonwood Church and Prestonwood Christian Academy System of Schools. We desire to add value to the culture of excellence and join the mission of Prestonwood church and schools, which is ‘excellence in all things and all things to the glory of God.’

“Audrey and I, along with our five children—including our triplet cowboys—are elated to be joining the Prestonwood family and community.”

Johnston is a New Testament scholar called to equip Christians to love God with all their hearts and minds. Author and co-author of 11 books and Bible studies, Johnston is passionate about resourcing believers to give intellectually informed accounts for what they believe. As a theologian and culture expert, he has the unique ability to connect with people of all ages, making him an ideal fit for both Prestonwood Baptist Church and Prestonwood Christian Academy.

“We live in an ever-changing world and a culture that is constantly shifting—and not for the best, to be honest—and as believers we need to be firm in our foundation so that we may stand strong for truth in all areas of life,” said Jack Graham, senior pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church. “The addition of Dr. Johnston and his expertise and spiritual gifting will help undergird what we instill at both the church and school.

“I truly believe this partnership will become a model for churches and schools as we seek to engage with our biblical worldview in an increasingly hostile and secular culture.”

Johnston will also provide professional development training for Prestonwood ministers, staff and key leaders—focusing on trending questions, best practices in communicating faith in a post-Christian world, including the development of certificate programs and further education for pastors. He will work in tandem with the PCA team in creating events, training sessions, teaching series and conferences specific to cultural engagement and effectively communicating a Christian worldview.

Mike Goddard, superintendent of Prestonwood Christian Academy School System, said the school seeks to equip students in their Christian worldview and to model Christ-like leadership.

“We look forward to Dr. Johnston’s role at PCA in expanding the equipping of our biblical worldview curriculum and integration at the local, national and international level.”

IMB’s Pratt calls on next generation to pray, reach Muslims for Christ

BROWNWOOD—Zane Pratt, vice president for global training for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, called for the next generation to touch the Muslim world for Christ. Pratt spoke in both Sunday morning Palm Sunday services at Coggin Avenue Baptist Church in Brownwood on April 10 and offered an afternoon workshop attended by 75-100 members.

Pratt, who spent much of his overseas career in Central Asia working among Muslims, started the afternoon session by disavowing misconceptions about followers of that religion. Most Muslims are not Arab, Pratt noted; however, the vast majority of Arabs follow Islam. Non-Arabic predominantly Muslim countries include Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, and Bangladesh. Though heavily Hindu, India has a large Muslim population also. Large parts of Africa follow Islam as well.

After giving a brief history of Islam and Mohammed’s significance, Pratt discussed similarities and the far more pervasive differences between that religion and Christianity. Muslims, Pratt explained, do not accept that humans are born in original sin or have a sin nature. Humans are morally “neutral,” capable of doing good and evil. God is, to Muslims, “the most important principle in the universe,” a unitary deity rather than a triune God, vast and aloof to humankind.

Muslims acknowledge the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, albeit claiming that when the Bible conflicts with the teachings of Islam, it is because the original meaning has been corrupted. Muslims accept that Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, and will come again, but Islam denies the divinity of Christ and regards Him as just a prophet rather than a savior.

While Jesus is a prophet, Muslims believe Mohammed is the greatest of the prophets. Islam is, Pratt noted, a religion of absolute “fatalism,” where the saying Inshallah or “if God wills,” expresses resignation to an arbitrary deity rather than trust in a personal God.

Pratt gave several recommendations for reaching Muslims for Jesus, an apt message in the middle of 2022’s observation of Ramadan (April 2-May 1) in the Muslim world. Pratt spoke from his experiences living in Central Asia and in his IMB leadership role.

Start with Scripture, but ease into doctrine

Muslims, Pratt said, will not immediately understand the Trinity. The notion of a three-in-one God suggests, to Muslims, that God had a child through physical relations with the virgin Mary and Jesus was born.

Pratt said he has often used the Gospel of Matthew to evangelize Muslims. One Central Asian teenager who wished to better his English came to Pratt for tutoring. The two went through Matthew together and after many questions, the young man said he wanted to trust Christ as Savior.

“The Sermon on the Mount wrecked him,” Pratt said. “The Beatitudes overwhelmed him. He realized he could not be righteous enough for God.”

In a sobering reminder, Pratt said he counseled the teenager about the consequences of becoming a Christ-follower.

“I don’t think my father will kill me. Our neighbors certainly will. But this is worth more than my life,” the teenager replied.

Pratt later explained that the teen eventually migrated to the U.S., where he works with refugees today. His family, except for his father, became Christians.

Appreciate their morality

Muslims have a strong sense of morality, Pratt said, although notions of fidelity in marriage do not always apply. Still, most Muslims have a strong sense of right and wrong. They appreciate honesty.

Pratt recalled a conversation with a Muslim taxi driver in Central Asia. The driver said, “Everybody in this town knows you. You guys are real Christians. You are always honest, and you help people.”

Reputation is important. So are relationships.

Zane Pratt of the IMB spoke on Palm Sunday at Coggin Avenue Baptist Church in Brownwood and conducted a workshop on praying for Muslims during Ramadan that afternoon. JANE RODGERS PHOTO

Develop relationships

Pratt recommended befriending Muslims, something increasingly easy to do in an ever more multicultural U.S.

Do not confuse the religion, a false and difficult taskmaster, with those who follow it, Pratt said, noting he has many Muslim friends.

“Be a real friend but be visibly different,” he advised. “Don’t be afraid of Muslims. Invite them into your home,” he encouraged, praising the beauty of the genuine hospitality practiced by Muslims.

One must be culturally sensitive…in fact, even kosher.

“Don’t serve pork,” Pratt said, for Muslims consider it unclean. He also advised never touching or serving anything to a Muslim with the left hand. The left hand is considered unclean, he explained, briefly discussing typical Muslim sanitary practices with their left hands. He also advised taking note of whether those entering a home remove their shoes and doing the same.

In short, when in a Muslim home, do as the Muslims do. Mostly.

Understand the spiritual culture

Pratt cautioned that belief in evil spirits is widespread among Muslims. Understanding this can lead to gospel conversations.

For example, in Central Asia, where Pratt and his wife welcomed their first child, a Muslim friend urged him to place a loaf of bread upon his daughter as he carried her home, then to feed the bread, which supposedly would have absorbed any curses, to a dog.

Pratt used that encounter to discuss Jesus, the “bread of life,” who absorbed humanity’s curse of sin, turning the moment toward the gospel.

The importance of women

Islam’s version of heaven is not a “woman-friendly” place, Pratt said, describing an old Islamic saying that “9 out of every 10 men” will attain paradise, while only “1 out of 10” women will achieve the same.

In the Muslim world, the saying that “a woman’s wedding day is the saddest day of her life” rings true in many places. Still, it is imperative to include women in the gospel conversation, for the women teach the children and propagate the faith.

“If you don’t get to mama, you’re not going to see any sort of generational fruit,” Pratt said, adding that married missionaries sent by the IMB must both be involved in the work wholeheartedly.

Evangelism also takes time. Pratt said he has never known a Muslim to come to faith after only one gospel conversation. Coming to faith is a process best cultivated through relationship.

Muslims coming to Jesus

Today, Muslims are coming to faith in Christ in ways and numbers never before seen. “We are literally seeing more response to the gospel than we have in the history of Islam from the early 600s,” Pratt said. Explosions of the gospel are occurring in many Central Asian countries.

During this month of Ramadan especially, pray for “God to open the eyes of Muslims,” Pratt urged. “Pray that God would reveal … to them that they have been lied to about God,” that they would realize they cannot save themselves or earn salvation.

“Pray that this month would give them dreams and visions to point them to Christ,” Pratt said, emphasizing the importance of these to Muslims.

An IMB Ramadan prayer guide is available at

4 ways pastor wives can bless their husbands

Proverbs 31:10-12 says, “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.” 

As the wife of a pastor who has served over 23 years in the ministry, I have seen my husband go through many difficulties, heartaches, and challenges. Ministry challenges can include, but are not limited to, trouble with staff or leadership in the church, the heavy burden of caring for and walking with members through grief, tragedy and heartache, and the multitude of changes brought on by the pandemic.  

Our husbands also deal with personal issues such as health crises, financial problems, and issues with children. So, whatever the challenge your man is facing, you have the power to do him good and not harm all the days of your life. No matter the difficulty, there are some practical ways to support your pastor husband through a challenging season.

"Whatever the challenge your man is facing, you have the power to do him good and not harm all the days of your life."

Cover your man with prayers. You know the details and specifics of the challenge he is facing more than anyone else, so you can bring those before the throne on behalf of your husband. Hold his  hand and pray aloud for him, and pour out your heart for him in your quiet time with the Lord, as well.

Offer very specific words of encouragement. When he has done something well, dealt with someone in a godly way, or shown grace in a difficult situation, offer heartfelt compliments that point out what you saw. Recently my husband preached a powerful sermon and gave a clear invitation for salvation. I was moved and expressed how God could use that to move in the hearts of others who heard it, even if they didn’t respond in that particular moment. I didn’t think much about it, but he later shared how many times he had thought back and been encouraged by those kinds of words. Use your words wisely to do him good.

Make your home a refuge and a place of peace and joy. Encourage him to get enough rest and sleep. Cook him a good meal. Do your part to make sure all aspects of the marriage are healthy (physical intimacy, spiritual intimacy, etc.).

Show him that you are unwaveringly his partner in ministry. Ask God for discernment about challenges your husband is facing. Offer words of warning if the Holy Spirit has revealed something about a specific person or situation that he may not see. If you sense that he is wrong or might not be seeing something clearly, gently point out what God has impressed on you.

Praise God that He has called and equipped you to be your husband’s helper and ask Him to help you do “do him good and not harm all the days of your life!”

North Texas pastor helps found council to facilitate communication with local police

Being the Change

A couple of years after Kason Branch planted Creekstone Church in Keller, he had an idea that he believed would improve his community. 

“With so much civil unrest between the police forces and citizens, I felt the need to foster better communication,” he said. “This was around the time that Botham Jean was killed in Dallas [2018], a very volatile time. I wanted to help people talk to one another within our community, rather than allowing things to spiral out of control.”

“We wanted to get out ahead of future problems in our town so we could talk to one another in a civil way if something does happen,” Branch said. 

The pastor spoke to then-Mayor Pat Magrail, who “had a heart” for this kind of initiative. Magrail put Branch in contact with then-Police Chief Michael Wilson, who was also enthusiastic about the possibilities. The small group of city leaders met and lined out the purpose and structure of an advisory council.   

“The main thing we’d do when we came together is review police complaints and uses of force,” Branch said. “We also reviewed all internal affairs investigations. But we are not police officers, and we don’t get to say what happens. We offer advice and say what we think might be the best way forward for our community. I’m encouraged to say that the chief was always good to listen and take our advice seriously.” 

We are called to be the salt of the earth, and as such, to be able to partner with others to do practical ministry in the community. I believe this is part of what God has called us to do.

Creekstone Church members enjoy getting out in the community to pray for people in the neighborhood and share the gospel. COURTESY PHOTO

Council members also participated in special trainings: active shooter drills, patrol ride-alongs, and school lockdown drills in order to better understand the daily work of a Keller police officer. 

“I’ve always had a healthy respect for police,” Branch said. “It’s not about pointing a finger of blame at police officers, but about building better communications within our city. The police officers welcomed this because it gives more people a chance to see that they are doing good work. Indeed they are!” 

In 2020, the council’s value was proved when Keller was in the national news after a Keller police officer was accused, and later charged, after he was recorded on his body cam arresting and pepper spraying a Hispanic man for standing on the sidewalk videoing the arrest of his son for a traffic violation. The officer left the force and the chief issued a public apology to the victim. Having a council in place before the crisis helped with communication between the police and the city. 

Branch recently transitioned off the council because his church plant has purchased a new facility in neighboring North Richland Hills—the church’s first permanent home. The fact that a pastor initiated the formation of the council and, after he resigned, a pastor followed him on the council was of significance to the city and to the churches. 

This has strengthened my resolve that all Christians should be concerned about what’s going on in our communities Monday through Saturday. Without necessarily getting into the politics of the community, we should get into the betterment of the community.

“We are called to be the salt of the earth,” Branch said, “and as such, to be able to partner with others to do practical ministry in the community. I believe this is part of what God has called us to do. We do this because we believe the gospel should be lived out.

“This has strengthened my resolve that all Christians should be concerned about what’s going on in our communities Monday through Saturday. Without necessarily getting into the politics of the community, we should get into the betterment of the community,” he added.  

To other churches, he said, “This is transferrable. I think it could be done in every community, and it would be welcomed in every community.” 

Breaking the bonds of worry

I admit it—I can be a worrier. That’s a problem, given Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25 (“Therefore I tell you: Don’t worry”) and Paul’s challenge in Philippians 4:6 (“Don’t worry about anything”). I’m learning to overcome it, though, so maybe these suggestions will help you: 


Be honest with somebody about your worries 
Some of us—especially Christian leaders—realize that worry is problematic, so we don’t tell anybody when we do worry. Bearing worries alone, though, only increases the burden. Actually, worry is selfish (it ignores the offers of help from others who love us) and silly (it assumes no one else will understand). Don’t listen to Satan, who tries to convince you to fight your battles alone.   


Recognize worry for what it is: a lack of faith
Writing those words is painful to me as a worrier, but
I can’t ignore the reality. Worry says, “I’m not convinced God is going to take care of this problem.” Faith says, “I give it to You.” One of my steps in overcoming worry is to confess my lack of faith, and I’ve learned that taking this step can itself be freeing—especially when I confess it to someone who wants to help shoulder my burden.


Pray about what worries you
That’s what Paul told us to do in the rest of Philippians 4:6—“but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” Humbly cast your cares on God by talking to Him (Psalm 55:22, 1 Peter 5:6-7) and by asking others to pray with you. Frankly, most of us would worry less if we just prayed more.


Read, memorize, and recite Jesus’ words as often as you need them
I know that’s a basic answer, but the Word trumps worries. Particularly, quote these words from Matthew 6:27: “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” Worry doesn’t accomplish anything, except hinder our relationship with our God—who, by the way, isn’t worried about anything. Bury His Word deeply into your heart and mind, and let Christ give you His peace the world won’t understand (Philippians 4:7).


Take steps to address whatever worries you
I’ve learned over the years that I’ve sometimes worried foolishly about things that really weren’t a problem in the first place (like, e.g., if I think I’ve made someone angry but choose not to ask if that’s the case). Worry becomes a consuming fire to me when it would hardly be an ember if I quit fretting and started doing something. Maybe that’s the case with you, too. 

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

FBC Keller to host candidate forum with SBC president candidates

KELLER, Texas (BP)—Tom Ascol, Bart Barber, and Robin Hadaway will participate in a panel discussion on Wednesday, May 4, at noon central at First Baptist Church of Keller. The discussion, which will be live-streamed, is set to be hosted by Joe Wooddell and Tony Richmond—both of FBC Keller.

Pastor Keith Sanders says the church is happy to host the event, knowing that “these godly men will demonstrate how to converse, agree, and disagree in Christian love with civility.” Sanders feels “Southern Baptists should be a light to the world first with the Gospel, but also in how we relate to each other in public discussion.”

Ascol, Barber, and Hadaway are currently the only announced candidates for the position. The election of a new SBC president will take place on June 14 at the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Calif. Current SBC president Ed Litton announced earlier this spring that he had chosen not to seek a second term in the position.

“It will be good for SBC members and friends to hear the candidates’ answers on how to encourage evangelism and missions, what they would prioritize, and how best to navigate denominational and cultural challenges in coming months,” Wooddell said.

While questions for the candidates will not be taken from the audience or live stream viewers, those interested in submitting questions before the event can do so at

Ascol has pastored Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral since 1986. Prior to his time at Grace, he served as a pastor and associate pastor of various churches in Texas. Ascol is most widely known in the SBC for his work as president of Founders Ministries, an organization Ascol helped start in 1982. He is also a frequent contributor in TableTalk, the monthly magazine for Ligonier Ministries, has authored several books, and hosts a popular podcast – The Sword & The Trowel.

Pastor of First Baptist Church, Farmersville, Texas, Barber will also serve as the chairman of the Committee on Resolutions at the June meeting. In addition to his leadership of the Committee on Resolutions this year, Barber served on the committee in 2021, preached at the SBC Pastors’ Conference in 2017, served as first vice president of the SBC from 2013 through 2014, served on the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention executive board from 2008 through 2014 (including serving as chairman and vice-chairman), served as a trustee for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary from 2009 through 2019 and served on the SBC Committee on Committees in 2008. He also previously taught as an adjunct professor at SWBTS from 2006 through 2009.

Hadaway began his ministry career pastoring churches in California and Arizona before serving with the IMB on the field in Africa and South America. While on the field, he was involved in church planting in Tanzania, starting churches among unreached peoples in Northern Africa and directing church planting efforts in Eastern South America. During his stint in South America, Hadaway served as a regional leader for the IMB leading more than 300 missionaries in the region. Following his time with IMB, Hadaway spent nearly two decades at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary as a professor of missions and served in a variety of administrative roles including interim president, dean of students, vice president for institutional initiatives, interim CFO and interim administrative vice president. He currently serves as senior professor of missions at Midwestern.

The event is open to the public, and doors open at 11:30.

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Pastor del oeste de Texas desafía a su iglesia a una misión fuera de sus paredes

“Nuestro trabajo comienza al cruzar la calle”

En medio de una zona remota del oeste de Texas en donde la trata de personas y las drogas son rampantes, la Iglesia Bautista Immanuel sigue siendo de impacto en su ciudad y creciendo en la misión de Dios. 

El pastor principal de la Iglesia Bautista Emanuel (IBI), Juan Carlos Rico, está guiando a su iglesia a mantenerse firme en el servicio a Dios y a la comunidad en donde la iglesia ha perseverado por más de 100 años, a pesar de los desafíos que enfrentan al estar en un lugar muy remoto y peligroso en donde abundan las drogas y la trata de personas. 

¿Cuán remoto se encuentran? Actualmente, no hay ninguna iglesia de la Convención de los Bautistas del Sur de Texas que se encuentre más al oeste que la suya. Además, la IBI está más cerca de las capitales de Arizona y Nuevo México que de la capital del estado al que llaman hogar. Sin embargo, esto no ha impedido que la iglesia tenga un impacto en esta comunidad y en todo el mundo. Esta iglesia ha podido seguir sirviendo activamente a través de la SBTC y de otras obras misioneras locales e internacionales que ellos realizan.

Uno de los proyectos locales que ha ayudado a la iglesia a alcanzar a muchas personas en su zona es una escuela cristiana privada fundada por la iglesia hace más de 50 años. La Escuela Cristiana Immanuel sirve a unos 500 alumnos, lo que la convierte en la escuela más grande de la zona, y recibe a alumnos de 2 años hasta el 12mo grado. La escuela es uno de los ministerios más fuertes de la iglesia, ya que la consideran una herramienta de evangelización.

Uno de los proyectos locales que ha ayudado a la iglesia a alcanzar a muchas personas en su zona es una escuela cristiana privada fundada por la iglesia hace más de 50 años. La Escuela Cristiana Immanuel sirve a unos 500 alumnos, lo que la convierte en la escuela más grande de la zona, y recibe a alumnos de 2 años hasta el 12mo grado.

“Debemos aprender a llegar a otras culturas, pero lamentablemente nos limitamos, ya sea por el idioma, por la cultura o por querer llegar sólo a los que son como nosotros”.

Iglesia Bautista Emanuel (IBI) miembros preparan cajas de alimentos para impactar a su comunidad.

La escuela “nos ayuda mucho a alcanzar a otros, a crecer y a defender nuestra fe por medio de la Palabra de Dios”, dijo Rico, quien también sirve como representante regional de la SBTC.  

Cuando Rico comenzó a pastorear esta iglesia centenaria, dijo que se dio cuenta de que necesitaba un plan para innovar y poder resurgir. Una de las cosas que Rico ha observado es que otras iglesias en su área no están viendo crecimiento o incluso han cerrado sus puertas. Dice que cree que la IBI ha sido capaz de evitar esas tendencias negativas porque ha evolucionado, especialmente en la forma en que trabajan para alcanzar a otros. El mensaje del evangelio no cambia, pero según Rico, los tiempos cambian y las iglesias necesitan actualizarse para ser más efectivas. 

“Buscamos hacer lo que es más cómodo para nosotros”, dijo Rico sobre la mentalidad que tienen muchas iglesias. “Debemos aprender a llegar a otras culturas, pero lamentablemente nos limitamos, ya sea por el idioma, por la cultura o por querer llegar sólo a los que son como nosotros”.

 La IBI se considera una iglesia multicultural y orientada a las misiones. Hace un año y medio, iniciaron un culto en español que ya recibe a unas 60 personas. El lema de la IBI es “Ven a Cristo, Crece en Cristo y Ve por Cristo”, y bajo esta visión, la iglesia trabaja para traer a la gente a Cristo, discipularla y enviarla a cumplir la Gran Comisión. 

Rico cree firmemente que el tamaño de la iglesia no debe impedir el cumplimiento de la Gran Comisión que Jesús dejó a sus seguidores. Para ello, dice Rico, las iglesias deben ser intencionales en enseñar y animar a la congregación cada domingo a que busquen alcanzar a otros. Es importante entender, añadió Rico, que la iglesia no es un club, ni un lugar de entretenimiento.

Su amor por servir y alcanzar a los perdidos comenzó a una edad temprana. Rico, quien es mexicanoamericano, dice que a pesar de vivir toda su vida en los Estados Unidos con sus padres y hermanos misioneros, asistieron a una iglesia en Juárez, México, durante su infancia y adolescencia. En esta iglesia, formó parte de equipos que servían y evangelizaban de casa en casa, lo que dio a Rico una pasión por el evangelismo. Hoy, esa misma pasión es el motor que lo impulsa a seguir sirviendo con su esposa Rosie, con quien lleva 30 años de casado, y sus cuatro hijos.

“Nuestro trabajo comienza al cruzar la calle”, dice Rico sobre la misión de la iglesia. “Creo que nos hemos equivocado al entretener a la gente en lugar de ofrecer a las familias oportunidades de crecimiento. Hay mucho que hacer, pero todo empieza cruzando la calle de nuestra casa. Ahí es donde está la misión. Ahí es donde empieza”.

West Texas pastor challenges his church to reach beyond its walls

‘Our work begins across the street’

Amid a remote area of West Texas where serious crimes are a part of life, Immanuel Baptist Church in El Paso continues to impact its city and grow in God’s mission. 

Immanuel Baptist Church’s (IBC) lead pastor, Juan Carlos “JC” Rico, leads his church to stand tall in serving God and the community where the church has existed for more than 100 years—this despite the challenges they face being in a remote and dangerous place where drugs and human trafficking abound. 

How remote? Currently, there is no Southern Baptists of Texas Convention church farther west in Texas than theirs. Additionally, IBC is closer to the capitals of Arizona and New Mexico than to the capital of the state it calls home. This has not prevented the church from making an impact in this community and around the world.  This church has been able to actively serve through the SBTC and other local and international missionary projects it participates in.

One of the local projects that helps the church reach many people in the area is a private Christian school it founded more than 50 years ago. Immanuel Christian School serves about 500 students, making it the one of the largest schools in the area, serving students from age 2 through 12th grade. The church considers the school one of its strongest ministries and a key evangelistic tool.

The school “helps us a lot to reach others, to grow, and to defend our faith through the Word of God,” said Rico, who also serves as a field ministry representative for the SBTC. 

Started in 1969, Immanuel Christian School serves about 500 students, making it one of the largest schools in the area, serving students from age 2 through 12th grade. The school is one of the strongest ministries of the church.

“I think we’ve made a mistake in entertaining people instead of offering families opportunities to grow. There is a lot to do, but it all starts across the street from our home. That’s where the mission is. That’s where it begins.”

J.C. and Rosie Rico

When Rico began pastoring this century-old church, he said realized it needed a plan in place to innovate and re-emerge. One of the things Rico has observed is that other churches in his area are not seeing growth or have even closed their doors. He said he believes IBC has been able to avoid those negative trends because it has evolved, especially in the way it works to reach others. The message of the gospel does not change, but according to Rico, times change and churches need to update themselves to be more effective. 

“We seek to do what is most comfortable for us,” Rico said of the mindset that many churches have. “We must learn to reach other cultures, but unfortunately we limit ourselves, either by language, by culture, or by wanting to reach only those who are like us.”

IBC considers itself a multicultural and mission-oriented church. A year-and-a-half ago, it started a worship service in Spanish that has already drawn about 60 people. IBC’s motto is “Come to Christ, Grow in Christ and Go for Christ,” and under this vision, the church works to bring people to Christ, disciple them, and send them out to fulfill the Great Commission. 

Rico firmly believes the size of the church should not impede fulfilling the Great Commission that Jesus left His followers. To do that, Rico says, churches must be intentional in teaching and encouraging the congregation every Sunday to reach out to others. It is important to understand, Rico added, that the church is not a club or a place of entertainment.

His love for serving and reaching the lost began at an early age. Rico, who is Mexican American, says that despite living in the U.S. with his missionary parents and siblings, they attended a church in Juarez, Mexico, throughout his childhood and adolescence. In this church, he was a part of teams that served and evangelized from house to house—which gave Rico a passion for evangelism. Today, that same passion is the engine that drives him to continue serving with his wife Rosie, to whom has been married for 30 years, and their four children.

“Our work begins across the street,” Rico said of the church’s mission. “I think we’ve made a mistake in entertaining people instead of offering families opportunities to grow. There is a lot to do, but it all starts across the street from our home. That’s where the mission is. That’s where it begins.”