Month: April 2022

Lifeway Research: Pastors report struggling with time management, over-commitment

NASHVILLE—As pastors think about their greatest needs, some of those go beyond their ministries and are instead connected to their personal lives. Many pastors worry about their time management skills and how they can balance all the responsibilities they have at church and at home.

In their personal lives, half of U.S. Protestant pastors say they need to focus on time management, and more than half say avoiding over-commitment is a challenge for them, according to the latest release in the Greatest Needs of Pastors study from Lifeway Research.

“Pastors carry heavy burdens that include expectations of others as well as self-imposed demands,” said Ben Mandrell, president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, “There is a correlation between trusting in God – as explored in a previous release of the Greatest Needs of Pastors study – and ability to find work-life balance.”

Pastors’ personal lives

To determine the greatest needs facing U.S. Protestant pastors today, Lifeway Research interviewed 200 pastors who identified 44 issues they face in their roles. A thousand additional pastors were surveyed to determine which needs were most prevalent. All the unique needs were divided into seven categories: ministry difficulties, spiritual needs, mental challenges, personal life, self-care, people dynamics and areas of skill development.

Considering all these categories, 6 percent of pastors say their personal lives are currently the most challenging area for them or require the most attention. Six needs are classified as aspects of a pastor’s personal life.

The primary needs pastors face in their personal lives focus on how they handle their time and work. Half (51 percent) say time management is an aspect that needs attention or investment today, while 43 percent specifically point to developing a balance between work and home.

Fewer U.S. Protestant pastors say they need to devote additional attention directly to their children (29 percent), marriages (26 percent), caring for aging parents (23 percent) or financial stress (18 percent). Close to 1 in 6 (17 percent) say none of these are areas in need of specific investment.

“Pastors were not being asked if these areas of personal life matter. They were asked to indicate those areas that need additional focus today,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “Nowhere is it more likely than personal life, for a need to emerge for a pastor because they are giving attention elsewhere. There are only so many hours to split between work and home, and finding the right balance is important.”

Younger pastors, those between 18 and 44, are among those most likely to say they need to give attention to time management (58 percent) and their work/home balance (52 percent). They’re also among those most likely to say they need to invest specifically in their children (45 percent) and marriages (32 percent).

Pastors of more normative sized churches are among the most likely to say financial stress is an area of concern for them. Those leading churches of fewer than 50 (21 percent) and those with congregations of 50-99 (20 percent) are more likely than those at churches with attendance of 100-249 (14 percent) to say their personal financial situations require attention.

When asked to narrow down the single greatest need in their personal lives, 30 percent of U.S. Protestant pastors say time management and 21 percent say balance between work and home.

Fewer than 1 in 10 point to children (9 percent), caring for aging parents (9 percent), marriage (8 percent) or financial stress (6 percent). Another 18 percent either say none of these or they aren’t sure.

Pastors of churches with fewer than 50 in attendance are the most likely to say they most need to give attention to time management (39 percent) and least likely to say balance between work and home (14 percent).

When pastors are asked to narrow down all their needs to their single greatest need, 20 needs are chosen by more than 1 percent of pastors, including time management (3 percent) and balance between work and home (2 percent).

Pastoral self-care

Pastors, who make a career of caring for the needs of others, admit they often need to give attention to caring for themselves. Nine in 10 U.S. Protestant pastors point to at least one area in the self-care category as a need for them, and 14 percent say the category of self-care is the most challenging personally.

More than half of pastors say they find consistently exercising (59 percent) and avoiding over-commitment and overwork (55 percent) to be challenging in their ministry. Slightly less than half say they struggle with eating right (49 percent), taking time away from their job for hobbies or other interests (47 percent) and consistently resting (45 percent). Far fewer say they face an ongoing illness (13 percent), while 10 percent say none of these is an area of difficulty.

“While most pastors are quick to say they have several challenges in caring for themselves, they are also quick to prioritize ministry needs ahead of their own,” McConnell said. “Among categories that need attention today, almost two-thirds of pastors put skills, people or ministry difficulties ahead of their own self-care. Constantly working from a physical deficit is not a sustainable formula for pastoral ministry.”

Pastors of churches with worship service attendance between 100-249 (57 percent) and those with 250 or more (60 percent) are more likely than pastors of churches with fewer than 50 in attendance (48 percent) to say they find avoiding over-commitment and overwork to be a challenge for them.

Those 55 and older (17 percent) are more likely than younger pastors to say they are facing an ongoing illness.

African American pastors (63 percent) are more likely than white pastors (42 percent) to say consistently resting is a self-care area of need from them. The same is true for pastors 44 and younger (50 percent) compared to pastors 65 and older (37 percent).

When asked what self-care need is the most challenging for them, a quarter of U.S. Protestant pastors point to avoiding over-commitment and overwork (24 percent) and consistently exercising (24 percent). Fewer mention eating right (14 percent), taking time for hobbies (13 percent), consistently resting (9 percent) or facing an ongoing illness (5 percent). Around 1 in 10 pastors (11 percent) say they aren’t sure or none of these issues are the most challenging for them.

Younger pastors and those at larger churches are among the most likely to identify avoiding over-commitment and overwork as the top self-care need they face. Those 44 and younger (30 percent) are more likely than those 65 and older (17 percent) to single out overworking. Similarly, those pastoring churches with attendance of 250 or more (35 percent) and 100-249 (28 percent) are more likely than those with congregations of 50-99 (19 percent) or those with fewer than 50 (20 percent) to say avoiding over-commitment is their greatest self-care need.

Compared to all the needs identified by pastors, consistently exercising (4 percent), avoiding over-commitment (3 percent), facing an ongoing illness (2 percent) and eating right (2 percent) are among the 20 issues more than 1 percent of pastors identified as their single greatest need to address.

When thinking about improving their personal lives and self-care, Mandrell said pastors should focus on their own humanity and rely on God to accomplish the work of the ministry. “We are human beings, not human doings,” he said. “By choosing to ‘be’ and let God ‘do’ pastors can display His strength in their weakness – and be an encouragement to the people they serve.”

For more information, view the complete report and visit

3 truths to teach your family this Easter

Every Christian parent wants their kids to live in the hope and joy found only in Christ. But every day, our kids talk to kids who disagree with what we’ve taught them. At school, in the neighborhood, and even at church, your child will hear, “Has God really said that?” “God isn’t really going to do that!” “That’s just make-believe.” How can we prepare our children to know what is true and what is a lie?

The Bible warns us of God’s enemy, Satan. From the beginning of time, Satan has lied to keep us from trusting God. Satan easily deceives us. Without God’s powerful Word, our kids trust in cultural trends. Each new philosophy and temptation tries to carry them away. What can we as parents do? We can teach them to look to Jesus, who triumphed over Satan at the cross. When Pilate asked, “What is truth?” Jesus answered, “The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37).

And although it’s true that God, in Christ, delivers believers from the penalty our sin deserves, we still struggle constantly with sin on this Earth. This can be a hard reality for our children to grasp. How can we help our family understand the struggles we face and, at the same time, the hope we have in Jesus? God’s truth responds to our biggest questions and our inner struggles. Here are three truths to hold on to as you prepare your family to celebrate the foundation of our hope — Christ’s death and resurrection.

1. Satan’s lies battle against God’s truth

The serpent whispers, “True happiness comes through what you have and do.” “Who needs to be Jesus’ friend? Live for yourself and be happy.” “Why tell the truth when no one else is?” “Don’t you have a right to be angry?” Let the truth of God’s Word drown out Satan’s lies. In the Holy Spirit’s power, we can help our kids identify the lies.

We can expect Satan’s lies to battle with God’s truth in our minds and hearts. When we least expect it, doubt and fear will suddenly fill our kids’ hearts. Prepare for those moments. Give your family the hope we all need — Jesus truly saves! In Christ, God loves and forgives us. And God assures us that he is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). As we trust in Jesus, the Holy Spirit makes the truth more powerful than the next new lie (2 Timothy 3:15-18).

2. God has a bigger purpose in our suffering

Our world expects parents to teach their kids to look on the bright side. But what happens when the bright side is hard to find? God doesn’t ask us to pretend that things are good when they are bad. Instead, God calls us to cry out to him. The psalmist says, “Pour out your hearts before him; God is a refuge for us” (Psalm 62:8). Prayers of lament and repentance let your kids hear you talk to God about your fears, impulses, and discouragements. They may begin to see the connection between our struggles and our need to depend on God.

We may think our kids need to hear “feel-good” prayers, but we don’t have to pretend all is well. God, in his Word and by his Spirit, is with us in life’s struggle. He invites us and our kids to ask hard questions. “Why do Christians still struggle with sin?” “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” “Why do people get sick and die?” Hard questions can lead our kids to the solid hope in Christ they need.

As Easter approaches, follow Jesus on his hard road to the cross. You can read excerpts from A Jesus Easter with your family. It tackles 25 of Satan’s lies with God’s eternal truth. It may lead your kids to ask more tough questions: “Jesus had done nothing wrong, so why did bad people accuse him?” “Why did they call Jesus names and beat him?” “Why did Jesus have to suffer and die?” As your family reads the Scriptures together, teach your kids to watch for God — his person and promises. Open God’s Word, and show your family what it means to look for God’s bigger purpose. Our loving heavenly Father is at work, making us more like his Son, Jesus.

3. Hardship teaches us to hope in God

Our children hope for many things that may or may not happen. But there’s no maybe about hope in God. Resurrection hope in God means we can be certain his Word is true. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin and open the way for us to be God’s children. He rose to life, defeating Satan, sin, and death forever. Now God’s children know that they, too, will be raised to new life after they die (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). Our kids can know that Jesus empowers his children to live the life he died to give them. Our bodies will die, yet we will be resurrected in a glorified body. Death and sin can never touch us again (Philippians 3:21).

Easter is a special time to look to the cross of Christ and his resurrection — to refresh our hope in God if we have already trusted in Jesus, and to point our children to salvation if they have not yet trusted in him. Jesus frees us from the power of sin (Romans 6:17-18). The more this amazing truth takes hold of us, the more we experience a taste of victory. The truth our kids believe can overpower whatever lies Satan throws at them. And when they sin, they will find grace and comfort in repentance and forgiveness. Jesus has gone ahead of us to prepare a place for us (John 14:2-3). One day he will come for us. We will live with him in his kingdom without sin (1 John 3:1-3). He will wipe away every tear. We will only have pefect joy, forever (Revelation 21:3-4; 22:5).

When doubts and sins threaten our children’s hearts, hope in Jesus keeps them safe. God’s Word tells the truth about sin and suffering so that our families can find freedom, hope, and joy in Christ. You don’t have to live in fear of the wrong opinions and lies that your children will encounter. Let God’s Word guide your family, make them wise, and strengthen. Make this Easter a time for your family to discover true hope through faith in Jesus Christ.

The post 3 truths to teach your family this Easter appeared first on ERLC.

Congregational worship is theological formation

“Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” (Colossians 3:16)

What are we doing when we sing together? Certainly, we are exalting Christ together. We are uniting our voices in expression of the oneness of our confession. We are reminding ourselves and each other of the majesty and grace of God. Congregational singing is not less than this, but it is more than this.

Paul’s apostolic instruction to the Colossian church characterizes congregational singing as theological formation. In corporate worship we are creating space for Christ’s Word to “dwell richly among us.” We are “teaching and admonishing one another.” We are packaging the “wisdom” of God in rhythms of grace and reciting biblical doctrines back “to God” with “gratitude in our hearts.”

For Paul, corporate worship invited congregational participation in theological formation.

Congregational worship is always theologically formational. It’s not merely that worship should be theologically formational. It always is. The songs we sing are shaping us and forming us. They are teaching us things about ecclesiology, hamartiology, theology proper, Christology, angelology, eschatology, anthropology, teleology, ontology, and more. These theological truths are being reinforced through the voice of the church as we recite them week after week.

Your worship songs are forming your congregation. The question is what, exactly, is being formed in your congregation through the songs they sing?

Some songs form a congregation into theologically weak perpetual infancy. Congregational singing should be rich with the deep doctrines of the faith. We should hunger for songs that feed us the meat of biblical truth. If the songs we sing do not move past comforting and coddling, they will never get to “teaching and admonishing.”

Some songs form a congregation into introspective isolates. Our voices should be lifted together in congregational singing. In song selection, the “We’s” should ring louder than the “I’s.” Some songs overemphasize spiritual introspection to the degree that the church’s corporate voice is drowned out by the noise of individualized experience.

Some songs form a congregation into accidental heretics. Let’s be honest: just because a Christian song is loved does not mean it is biblical. Some of the cherished songs of our faith tradition are doctrinally unsound. So are some of the cherished songs of our faith in vogue. If the congregation sings them regularly then their faith is being formed heretically, even if accidentally.

The apostle’s words caution the congregational worship leader to give reflective pause to song selection. This is, for the worship leader, a matter of dutiful urgency. Your congregation’s theology is being formed by their own corporate voice. The question is: is their faith being formed biblically by the songs they sing?

Congregational worship is theological formation.

SWBTS approves budget, elects faculty, honors Dockery

FORT WORTH—The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary board of trustees approved the 2023 fiscal year budget, heard reports of increased giving through the institution’s advancement efforts, elected a new faculty member to the School of Church Music and Worship, named two faculty members to hold endowed academic chairs, and approved the renaming of an academic center in honor of David S. Dockery, during its April 4-5 spring meeting.

“It is my joy to report to the board of trustees that the state of Southwestern Seminary is strong, and it is growing stronger every day by God’s grace,” Adam W. Greenway, president of Southwestern Seminary and Texas Baptist College, said in his report to the board during the April 5 plenary session.

The board approved the proposed fiscal year 2023 budget of $37.367 million, representing a 5.86 percent increase over the current year. The budget includes a 3 percent cost-of-living increase for faculty and full-time staff, a 3 percent increase in tuition and fees, as well as targeted investments in Hispanic programs, technology infrastructure, and other campus improvements, Greenway said.

“This is a careful, conservative budget,” he said, while noting that “in these inflationary times, we are able to include a cost-of-living adjustment for all full-time employees for the first time in many, many years.”

Trustees heard reports of “robust blessings” to the seminary’s various advancement efforts for fiscal year 2021, with $17.4 million raised. Not counting funds resulting from the Harold E. Riley Foundation settlement, more than $8.5 million was received, which has already been surpassed in fiscal year 2022 with nearly $10 million received through April 4. The seminary’s fiscal year ends July 31.

“Every dollar our Institutional Advancement team raises is one less dollar we have to charge our students in tuition and fees,” Greenway said. “Of course, we must also give thanks to faithful Southern Baptist churches across our nation whose sacrificial support through the Cooperative Program makes affordable theological education possible at Southwestern Seminary and our five sister seminaries.”

Joshua A. Waggener was elected professor of church music and worship, effective Aug. 1, 2022. He has served on the faculty of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary since 2008 and earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Durham University in the United Kingdom.

“We prayerfully look forward to welcoming he and his wife to service here at Southwestern Seminary,” Greenway said prior to the board’s election of Waggener to the faculty. Greenway later noted the School of Church Music and Worship was the first graduate school of its kind in the landscape of theological education and today is the last freestanding school at a North American seminary.

Two current faculty members were named to hold endowed chairs that have achieved full funding status in recent months: Chris Shirley, associate dean of the Jack D. Terry School of Educational Ministries, to the Jack D. and Barbara Terry Chair of Religious Education in the Terry School, and John D. Massey, dean of the Roy J. Fish School of Evangelism and Missions, to the Charles F. Stanley Chair for the Advancement of Global Christianity in the Fish School. The Terry Chair and Stanley Chair are the first endowed chairs to be fully funded at the level of $2 million. Both chair designations are effective immediately.

“Every fully endowed chair that we are able to secure the funding for preserves and perpetuates academic instruction in these core disciplines,” Greenway said. “It is my prayer and my desire as president that we one day have a fully funded endowed chair in every core discipline in the Master of Divinity degree, the core degree program of the seminary, and these two chairs put us down that road in a very positive way.”

Greenway also announced the appointment of J. Stephen Yuille as professor of pastoral theology and spiritual formation in the School of Theology, effective July 1. He currently serves as vice president of academics and academic dean at Heritage College and Seminary in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, as well as associate professor of biblical spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Yuille earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree from London School of Theology.

“We are very excited about Dr. Yuille’s coming and about a renewed and reinvigorated emphasis upon the spiritual formation of students here at Southwestern Seminary, particularly those heading into the pastorate,” Greenway said. “Before we are able to do anything for God, we need to always walk in humility and to be right with God and to give careful attention to personal spiritual disciplines and pastoral theology.”

Trustees approved the naming of the Center for Global Evangelical Theology in honor of David S. Dockery, distinguished professor of theology and former interim provost of the seminary. During the Evangelical Theological Society meeting in November, Greenway announced the previously “dormant” Center for Theological Research would be rebranded and relaunched.

“With the Dockery Center for Global Evangelical Theology, it is our hope to call for the recovery of the best of evangelical theology, a renewed commitment to historic orthodoxy, and a reclaiming of the best of the Christian tradition in its classical and Reformation expressions exemplified in the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene and Chalcedonian affirmations, primary commitments found among the Reformers and the Radical Reformers, as well as key aspects of Pietism, Puritanism and Revivalism,” Greenway said of the center’s work.

“The Lord is also helping our seminary increase our heart for the nations and truly become more of a global seminary,” Greenway said. “The Dockery Center for Global Evangelical Theology will help lead out in this effort as we continue to try to exemplify the best of what it means to be Baptist evangelicals and evangelical Baptists.”

Trustees also received announcements of other appointments and reassignments of several current faculty, effective June 1, 2022:

  • Tanya Karyagina, assistant professor of piano in the School of Church Music and Worship;
  • Coleman M. Ford, assistant professor of humanities in Texas Baptist College; and
  • Justin Wainscott, assistant professor of pastoral ministry in the School of Theology and director of Professional Doctoral Studies.

The board approved the promotion of Charles Carpenter from associate professor to professor of humanities in Texas Baptist College. Sabbatical leaves were granted to W. Madison Grace II, associate professor of theology in the School of Theology, and Joshua Williams, associate professor of Old Testament in the School of Theology, for Aug. 1, 2022-July 31, 2023, and for Deron J. Biles, professor of preaching and pastoral ministry in the School of Theology, for Aug. 1-Jan. 31, 2023.

Trustees reelected their current slate of officers: as chairman, Danny Roberts, executive pastor of North Richland Hills Baptist Church, North Richland Hills; as vice chairman, Jonathan Richard, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Estancia, New Mexico; and as secretary, Jamie Green, retired speech-language pathologist in Katy.

In other matters, trustees approved:

  • Spring 2022 graduates nominated by the faculty and certified by the registrar;
  • bylaw changes reflecting the new senior administrative structure and other updates;
  • responses to two motions referred by the 2021 Southern Baptist Convention that will be published in the 2022 SBC Book of Reports;
  • a contract with Guinn Smith & Co. for the fiscal year 2022 financial audit;
  • a revised corporate resolution;
  • renewal of the seminary’s line of credit authorization; and
  • the authorization of the president to designate year-end fiscal year 2022 funds.

All recommendations to the board were approved by unanimous votes.

At the conclusion of his committee report to the board, Mark S. Mucklow, chairman of the strategic initiatives and governance committee and pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Glendale at Sahuaro Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., said it is a “new day” at Southwestern Seminary as he commended the work and leadership of Greenway.

“I can get behind him, following him and these incredible people he’s found and brought together,” Mucklow said. Speaking about the future of the institution, he added, “God’s going to do an incredible thing; He already has.”

Board members heartily affirmed Mucklow’s words with “amens” and applause.

In his concluding remarks, Greenway expressed appreciation for the service of outgoing board members, J. Kie Bowman, Texas; Jeff Crook, Georgia; Connie Hancock, Ohio; and Don Whorton, an at-large member.

The next scheduled meeting of the board of trustees is Oct. 17-18, 2022.

FBC Farmersville’s Barber announced as candidate for SBC president

FARMERSVILLE, Texas (BP) – Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference president Matt Henslee announced his intention to nominate Texas pastor Bart Barber for the office of SBC president at the upcoming SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim, June 14-15, 2022.

Barber becomes the fourth announced candidate for the office this year but only the third candidate who will be considered by messengers for the position. Florida pastor Willy Rice was announced as a candidate last month but withdrew his candidacy Wednesday (April 6). Other announced candidates include Florida pastor Tom Ascol and Robin Hadaway, senior professor of missions at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville, Barber will also serve as the chairman of the Committee on Resolutions at the June meeting – a position he was appointed to by current SBC President Ed Litton who opted not to seek a second term.

“Barber is what Southern Baptists are when they are at their best,” Henslee told Baptist Press in a statement. “As a church, First Baptist Farmersville gives generously through the Cooperative Program and directly supports missionaries and church planters. As a pastor, Barber is actively involved in the local association, state convention, and the national level of the Southern Baptist Convention. He preaches the Word faithfully, reaches the lost passionately, and truly believes Baptists are at their best when they are working together to advance the kingdom.

“Whether I was starting in ministry about 10 miles from him or pastoring churches 600 miles from him, Bart has been a phone call away for counsel or help as I navigated the ups and downs of ministry. Now as his associational missionary and fellow pastor, I have a front-row seat to a man who loves his family well, shepherds his church with care, and still finds time to encourage pastors and promote unity in our Convention.”

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.

According to Annual Church Profile information, First Baptist Farmersville reported 14 baptisms in 2021 and averaged 320 in weekly worship. The church collected $1,189,783 total undesignated receipts, with $145,528 (12.23 percent) given through the Cooperative Program. The church also gave $64,713 to the 2021 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and an additional $17,397 to other Great Commission causes.

Barber is a graduate of Baylor University and has both an M.Div. and Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Tracy, have two teenage children.

This article was originally published by Baptist Press.

Along the border: Southern Baptist DR joins Romanian Baptists to help Ukrainian refugees

SUCEAVA, Romania—The flood of thousands of Ukrainian refugees that began pouring over the Romanian border at Siret on Feb. 24 has diminished to a daily trickle of a few hundred, said SBTC DR associate Wally Leyerle. But the heart-wrenching stories of the survivors remain, while the possibility of another tidal wave of refugees looms.

In addition to physical assistance provided by Baptists, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and the Romanian government at the Ukrainian border, a digital engagement tool launched by Send Relief and IMB missionaries is offering spiritual hope to those fleeing the Russian invasion.

The task

“Their stories are horrific,” Leyerle said, recalling things he heard from Ukrainian refugees during his March 21– April 2 trip to Romania, where he served as part of a team of six Southern Baptist Disaster Relief leaders representing SBDR teams from California, Missouri, and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

“Our job was to determine what was going on at the border and how Southern Baptists can help partner with Romanian Baptist associations and IMB missionaries … to figure out what future teams would do,” Leyerle said, adding that his team was aided by an IMB missionary and Catalin Croitor, pastor of Betleem Baptist Church in Suceava, whose congregation is part of the Suceava Regional Romanian Baptist Association which he also directs.

The situation at the border at Siret, near Suceava, was orderly when the SBDR team arrived, Leyerle said. The Romanian government responded quickly in the early days of the crisis. Soon, NGOs assisting refugees with everything from documentation to supplies to baby and pet needs to healthcare sprouted up along the border.

Government-provided tents stocked with cots, heaters, and supplies offer overnight respite for travelers. Inside a World Vision tent, handicapped refugees find practical assistance. Red Cross Europe and Red Crescent Turkey maintain service sites, too.

The SBDR team and Romanian Baptist churches established a border station to provide tea, coffee, charging stations, assistance directing refugees to the proper resources, and spiritual comfort.

It helped that the first Romanian volunteer at the border, according to national news reports, was Pastor Cornelush Miron, whose nearby church in Calfindesti was part of the regional Baptist association. Even before the government acted, Miron had launched a grassroots campaign on social media to assist the refugees, Leyerle said. Churches responded generously.

Miron introduced the SBDR team to the Romanian border guards, who are also firefighters.

“We had an ‘in’ with Pastor Cornelush,” Leyerle said. The DR team soon got to work, helping those crossing the border. Leyerle said 30 stuffed teddy bears handmade by seniors at his home church, First Baptist Church of The Colony, were quickly given to kids.

They talked to the survivors, praying with them, distributing Bibles, information, and hope.

The stories

The refugees’ stories were heartbreaking, Leyerle said, adding he had heard accounts of sexual violence and mass killings. One survivor showed him a photo of an unexploded Russian missile lodged in an apartment. Many cried openly, often saying had lost everything: their homes bombed, their bank accounts inaccessible, their businesses destroyed.


SBTC DR volunteer Terry James (left) talks with Iaroslav, a survivor from Bucha, who described fighting and "friends dead in the street" before escaping with family. James said each time someone asked why the volunteers had come so far to help, she replied, "God sent us because He loves you." IMB PHOTO

Some sank to their knees in gratitude and relief at finally finding safety. One explained she had survived the infamous explosion at a Mariupol theater which killed 300. She tearfully related accounts of unthinkable abuse of civilians by Russian troops.

Five adults and two children squeezed into a small car and traveled more than 900 miles to safety, dodging roaming gangs and Russian snipers, taking a week to accomplish a trip that should have been completed in two days.

“They came to us with horrendous, brutal stories … things we had not heard, things you cannot print,” Leyerle said.

Buses brought other refugees to the border, too.

Yet not everyone wants to leave Ukraine, Leyerle said, noting reports of some 50,000-100,000 displaced Ukrainians remaining just north of the border, still inside Ukraine, lodged in parks and empty buildings.

Romanian Baptist churches are sending supplies to these survivors as well, Leyerle said. The SBDR team loaded materials and mattresses onto trucks for these displaced peoples to be conveyed north by Ukrainian refugee volunteers.

Leyerle added that the situation could “turn on a dime” with a Russian offensive in that region, sending thousands once more across the border. Thus, a continued relief presence at the border is warranted since another massive influx of the displaced may well occur.

The region’s complex geopolitical situation is made even more challenging by the fact that the Ukrainians and Romanians, despite a shared border, do not share a common language.

The gospel

Romanian Baptist alliance churches, despite their own financial challenges, have generously embraced their Ukrainian neighbors.

“Many churches across the 105 kilometers of the Suceava association quickly created shelters in their facilities to temporarily house refugees, who would spend a few nights before proceeding to destinations in western Europe,” Leyerle said.

Since the crisis began, Betleem Church has opened its basement, filled with partitioned rooms containing bedding and necessities, to refugees.

“We try to offer to them intimacy, quietness, hope, and practical love,” Pastor Croitor wrote in a recent communication. Betleem Church, with others in the Suceava association and broader Romanian Baptist Alliance, is involved in the supply chain conveying necessities to the displaced within Ukraine.

The groups, with IMB personnel and SBDR volunteers, also staff the border site they established with the help of Leyerle’s team.

Prominent at that border tent is a large blue and yellow banner produced by Leyerle’s team and featuring a QR code that links to a website in the Ukrainian language called “Hope for Ukraine.” The website contains a clear presentation of the gospel.

IMB President Paul Chitwood, who again visited the Romania-Ukraine border in early April, noted that the QR code had been made available to 5 million Ukrainians and that thousands of gospel conversations had ensued.

Betleem displays a similar banner, which, translated from Ukrainian, means: “Hope for Ukraine. How can we help you? The Romanian Baptist Church.” Betleem and other churches in the Suceava association are offering Bible studies to the refugees and providing children’s activities, in addition to lodging, Croitor said.

A second multistate SBDR team, including SBTC DR volunteer Terry James, left for Romania on March 30. SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice deployed to Romania April 7-14.

Donations toward the ongoing crisis response can be given here.


Churches posting song lists ahead of service feel they are helping prepare congregants for worship

Releasing a sermon title prior to the Sunday service is common practice, but a growing number of churches across Texas are doing something similar with their song selections, too—allowing members to know what will be sung long before they enter the doors on the Lord’s Day.

First Baptist Church of Prosper is one such congregation. Jared Whitworth, the church’s minister of worship, posts the upcoming songs on the church’s social media accounts, linking them to the same tunes on Spotify and Apple Music.

The result: members of FBC Prosper can listen to new and old songs alike days prior to the service, readying their hearts for worship. Gone are the days when attendees sit silently in the service trying to learn a tune they’ve never heard.

Whitworth says the idea is grounded in Scripture’s description of worship as a corporate action. He points to Colossians 3:16, which urges Christians to admonish “one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Ephesians 5:19 has a similar admonition, he said.

“There are all kinds of commands in Scripture that tell us worship and singing is a very corporate act,” Whitworth said. “And so that’s the heart behind it—really getting people to learn the songs and be able to better participate in corporate worship so that we can teach and admonish and encourage each other as we are worshiping God through song.”

The goal, he said, is to get “people to learn the song, then come ready to sing on Sunday and be comfortable doing it.”

One such example was found on FBC Prosper’s Facebook page on a Wednesday in mid-February. Whitworth listed the five songs that were scheduled to be sung the following Sunday, along with links to the tunes on Spotify and Apple Music.

In recent weeks, Northeast Houston Baptist Church and North Richland Hills Baptist Church used social media to alert members of new songs that would be sung in the service.

Joseph R. Crider, dean of the School of Church Music and Worship at Southwestern Seminary, is a champion of the idea.

“I wish more churches would do it,” he said.

Crider sees two major benefits to releasing the song selections ahead of the service.

“One, it helps them engage on Sunday mornings, because they already have those songs in their minds, in their hearts—and they’re able to participate,” Crider said. “They’re not sitting there not wondering, ‘I don’t know the rhythm. I don’t know the melody. I don’t know anything.’ They’ve been hearing it throughout the week, and they are able to engage. Secondly, when the songs are wonderfully rooted in Scripture, I think it’s a beautiful way for people to grow in their spiritual formation.”

The primary role of a worship or music minister, Crider said, is to “facilitate a dialogue between the triune God of the universe and His redeemed people.”

“And anything we can do to help facilitate that I think is really worth it,” he said.

Placing the songs on social media has other benefits, Whitworth said. Members and attendees can use the songs in their daily, personal worship time. They also can use the songs in family worship. Parents, he said, can read a passage of Scripture to their children related to the song and then sing “one of the songs that we’re going to be singing in church on Sunday.” By doing that, family worship and corporate worship are constantly related.

Whitworth says he got the idea from a book by Keith and Kristyn Getty, “Sing!He chooses artists on Spotify and Apple Music that are biblically sound, he said.

“We’re able to then direct them towards more solid churches or groups that are covering the songs instead of the original groups that put them out that may have bad theology,” he said.

Members, he said, have embraced the idea.

“I’ve seen a steady increase … of people listening to the music and people singing more and more on Sundays,” he said. “I do think that this is helping.”

National CP giving nearly $11M above budget halfway through fiscal year

NASHVILLE (BP) – Six months into the 2022 fiscal year, giving through the Cooperative Program totaled more than $105.9 million, almost $11 million above the mid-year budget of $95 million.

“The sustained faithfulness of giving through the Cooperative Program is a testimony to the generosity of our Southern Baptist churches,” said Willie McLaurin, SBC Executive Committee interim president, in a statement. “The Cooperative Program reaches the nations and the neighborhoods with the Good News. I am incredibly thankful for local pastors who lead their congregations to forward financial resources to reach their local, national and international mission field. In the first six months of the fiscal year, we have witnessed the faithfulness of God time and time again.”

The amount given through the Cooperative Program in March 2022 totaled $16,035,496.31, which was $262,110.13 (1.66 percent) more than the $15,773,386.18 received in March 2021 and $202,162.97 (1.28 percent) more than the monthly budgeted amount of $15,833,333.34.

As of March 31, gifts received by the EC for distribution through the CP Allocation Budget total $105,914,683.19. This is $9,861,943.87 or 10.27 percent more than last year’s budget contribution of $96,052,739.32. The amount given is ahead of the $95,000,000.04 year-to-date budgeted projection to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America by $10,914,683.15 or 11.49 percent.

Designated gifts received in March amounted to $29,398,583.09. This total was $1,041,127.04, or 3.67 percent, more than gifts of $28,357,456.05 received last March. Also, this year’s designated gifts through the first six months of the fiscal year amount to $123,990,059.74, which is $10,532,194.66 or 9.28 percent more than the $113,457,865.08 given through same period in the previous fiscal year.

The Cooperative Program is the financial fuel to fund the SBC mission and vision of reaching every person for Jesus Christ in every town, every city, every state, and every nation. Begun in 1925, local churches contribute to the ministries of their state convention and the missions and ministries of the SBC through a unified giving plan to support both sets of ministries. Monies include receipts from individuals, churches and state conventions for distribution according to the 2021-2022 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.

State and regional conventions retain a portion of church contributions to Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program to support work in their respective areas and forward a percentage to SBC national and international causes. The percentage of distribution is at the discretion of each state or regional convention.

The convention-adopted budget for 2021-2022 is $190 million and includes an initial $200,000 special priority allocation for the SBC Vision 2025 initiative. Cooperative Program funds are then disbursed as follows: 50.41 percent to international missions through the International Mission Board, 22.79 percent to North American missions through the North American Mission Board, 22.16 percent to theological education through the six SBC seminaries and the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, 2.99 percent to the SBC operating budget and 1.65 percent to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. If national CP gifts exceed the $186.875 million budget projection at the end of the fiscal year, 10 percent of the overage is to be used to support the SBC Vision 2025 initiative with the balance of the overage distributed according to the percentages approved for budgetary distribution. The SBC Executive Committee distributes all CP and designated gifts it receives on a weekly basis to the SBC ministry entities.

Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the timing of when the cooperating state Baptist conventions forward the national portion of Cooperative Program contributions to the Executive Committee, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions, the number of Sundays in a given month, and the percentage of CP contributions forwarded to the SBC by the state conventions after shared ministry expenses are deducted.

Designated contributions include the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, Southern Baptist Global Hunger Relief, Disaster Relief and other special gifts. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the Executive Committee and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to SBC entities.

CP allocation budget gifts received by the Executive Committee are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state convention offices, to the state Baptist papers and are posted online at

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Linked together on a mission

A few weeks ago, I had the joy of attending the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Empower conference in Irving. It was an amazing event in every way. Church leaders across our state were encouraged, equipped, and empowered to pursue the Great Commission. 

But the most impactful part of this event for me was interacting one-on-one with so many church leaders from across our state. I heard countless stories of leaders advancing the gospel in incredible ways through their local churches. It reminded me of how special this network of churches called the SBTC really is. I was so encouraged and thankful to Jesus for the privilege of being a part of this cooperative effort to reach our state, nation, and world with the gospel. 

As I thought further about this experience, Philippians 1:3-5 came to my mind, and it articulates how I feel as a fellow pastor in our convention. The apostle Paul writes, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”  In essence Paul is saying, “Every time I think of you, I thank God for you.” Consider what is happening here. Paul is writing this from prison and is currently suffering for preaching the gospel. Yet, even while captive, just the memory of this church brings joy to his heart, it blesses him, and it leads him to offer prayers of gratitude to God. God has used them to give joy to Paul in the most difficult of seasons. But what is it about them that makes him so encouraged when he thinks about them?

"We are made up of churches of all styles, ethnicities, sizes, and age demographics but who are working together in a koinonia or 'partnership in the gospel' to advance the Great Commission."

In verse 5 he gives us his reason. He says it is “because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Paul clearly says the joy they bring into his life is rooted in their “partnership in the gospel.” The key word here in Greek is koinonia, which is often translated “fellowship” or “partnership.” But, when it is simply translated as “fellowship,” it can often be watered down in our church culture’s understanding of fellowship. I grew up in a Baptist church and loved “fellowships” because they were potluck meals. While my affections and appetite are still stirred by potlucks, koinonia is describing much more than just meeting and eating with fellow believers. It’s a term that means “joint venture.” It’s the idea of being linked together by a common investment that in many ways defines the relationship. Paul is overwhelmed by this church because they were linked together in Jesus and share in the “joint venture” of advancing the gospel together. 

This is what stirred my heart again at the Empower conference! I was reminded of the “joint venture” we share as a network of churches. We are nearly 2,700 churches united in Jesus, sharing a common vision of reaching the world with the gospel through this cooperative effort. We are made up of churches of all styles, ethnicities, sizes, and age demographics but who are working together in a koinonia or “partnership in the gospel” to advance the Great Commission. 

So, let me echo Paul’s words to the Philippian church about our own convention: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel…” This is the way I feel about our network of churches and why I am so thankful to serve as a pastor of an SBTC church.