Month: May 2022

This is how our faith carries on

Biblical mentorship … what is it? Why do it?

Proverbs 19:20 says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”

The problem

What do you do when you don’t know what to do, whether you are a church member or the pastor? I began in ministry when I was 20 years old and I didn’t even know all that I did not know at that point! At the age of 37 and in my first senior pastorate, I am just now figuring out all that I do not know. So what do you do when you don’t know what to do?

What the Bible says

2 Timothy 2:2-3 says, “ … and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” Paul tells Timothy there are men who have been entrusted with wisdom and men who need to be entrusted with wisdom.

For those who have been entrusted, Paul tells Timothy (I’m paraphrasing here): “Don’t take what you have heard and keep it to yourself! Don’t gain wisdom only to clench onto it for yourself. Rather, take what God has given me to teach you and you, likewise, teach faithful men who don’t know what to do. Do this so they, in turn, will be able to teach other faithful men to share in the suffering of being a good soldier of Jesus Christ! In other words, Timothy, reproduce yourself!”

What about those who don’t know what to do? As young (or “youngish”) men in ministry who often don’t know what to do, what can we learn from this passage?

  1. We need to recognize that there have been faithful men who have come before us and have been entrusted by God with wisdom. We need to listen to them. Seek them out, invite them to lunch, take a notebook, ask them what they would tell themselves at your age, and listen. Absorb and learn from the wisdom they have to share.
  2. As we who are younger become older, grow in the wisdom of the Lord, and hear from God during the seasons in our lives, we also then need to entrust that wisdom and experience to the faithful men coming after us.

Christian mentorship is a non-ending process. At any given time, we should all be mentored by someone more mature in the faith than ourselves while also mentoring someone who is still growing in their faith.

Who are you being mentored by today? Who are you mentoring today? It can’t be no one—it must be someone!

I praise God that He placed mature men in the faith in my life. Those men mentored and poured in to me so that I am now able to share and pour in to men growing in their faith and how they can better fight their sin and glorify God as a good soldier of Christ Jesus! Let’s all be about continually producing the next generation to glorify Jesus

DR teams offering ‘a hot meal and a prayer’ for those affected by Uvalde tragedy

UVALDE—In the face of unspeakable tragedy, a prayer and a hot meal provide a measure of comfort and normalcy. For this reason, in addition to pastors and Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief chaplains, an SBTC DR quick response kitchen was immediately deployed to Uvalde in the wake of the May 24 shootings that claimed the lives of 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School.

Veteran Quick Response Unit (QRU) feeding volunteers Ronnie and Connie Roark left San Antonio around 5 a.m. on May 25, transporting the mobile food truck to Uvalde where they set up at the civic center and prepared brunch for first responders.

In cooperation with emergency management, they moved locations to the Uvalde County Fairplex, where various federal, state, and local government agencies and law enforcement have established a base of operations.

On May 26, the Roarks began preparing breakfast and lunch for the volunteers and personnel working out of the center, with the Red Cross supplying dinner. The area at the back of the complex where the QRU is set up has become a place of respite where weary agency representatives, government workers, first responders, and volunteers can take a break.

“This is where we need to be,” Ronnie Roark said, noting that they’ve been feeding 85-100 at each meal, sometimes taking bottled water and a hot lunch or breakfast to law enforcement personnel around the Fairplex stationed at their posts.

“A meal and a prayer, that’s what we bring,” Connie Roark said, her voice cracking with emotion.

The Roarks added that SBTC DR chaplains are available at the QRU site to talk and pray with visitors as needed. They have already prayed with many. As a law enforcement officer who approached the QRU one morning announced, “I want breakfast, but I need my prayer.”

Christina Mitchell Busbee, 38th Judicial District Attorney who serves in the Uvalde area, expressed her gratitude and thanks to the SBTC “for being here for the Uvalde community in our time of need.

“Please continue to pray for us,” she said.

 

Luego de que el evangelio literalmente le salvara la vida, una mujer de Watauga pasa el resto de su vida hablando a otros de Jesús.

El Poder de una voz

Durante el transcurso de sus 78 años, Carmel Valerio puede recordar muchas voces que han hablado a su vida.  

Ella recuerda con claridad la voz de su padre abusivo, quien le hacía un bombardeo constante de insultos, humillaciones y desprecio. Su exposición a esa voz se intensificó cuando la sacaba de la escuela desde los 8 años para ayudar a criar a sus hermanos y así su madrastra pudiera trabajar fuera de casa.

Llena de odio, resentimiento y un inmenso dolor por todos los abusos recibidos, Valerio dijo que empezó a escuchar otra voz a los 14 años. Esta voz, una voz maligna, decía cosas como: “¡Nadie te quiere!” y “No vales nada”. Esa voz incluso ofrecía una solución: “Quítate la vida”.

Cuanto más escuchaba esa voz, más convencida estaba de que esa sería su salida. Sin embargo, el día en que decidió intentar suicidarse, escuchó otra voz. En su más profunda desesperación, Valerio dijo que oía esa voz repitiendo una y otra vez:

“Te amo. Te amo. Te amo”.

Valerio se dio cuenta de que esa voz, que la detuvo en su intento de suicidio, era la voz de Dios, mostrándole que Él tenía un glorioso propósito que cumplir en ella. En ese momento, Valerio dijo que Dios comenzó a sanarla de toda la amargura, el resentimiento y el odio que sentía por su padre. Llena de una nueva esperanza, se levantó del suelo y corrió a verse en el espejo.

Esto fue un logro en su vida: pues nunca se había mirado en un espejo antes de ese momento, asumiendo que no había nada que valiera la pena mirar porque su padre siempre le había dicho que era fea. Pero ese día, frente a ese espejo, Valerio descubrió que ella era una hermosa y nueva creación.  

“Comencé a sentirme especial y liviana, porque Dios había quitado mis pesadas cargas,” dijo Valerio.  

De vez en cuando, la abuelita de Valerio la llevaba a ella a la iglesia y durante este tiempo Valerio reconoció quién es el Señor Jesús y comenzó a servirle. “El ambiente en donde yo estaba ni mis circunstancias cambiaron, dijo ella, pero Dios me cambió a mí.”

Elias & Carmel Valerio

Una de las cosas que Dios estaba cambiando en ella, era la forma en que veía a su padre. Ya no lo veía como a un hombre al que había que odiar, sino como un hombre que necesitaba a Jesús. Ahora, la voz de Valerio fue la que pudo hablar en la vida de su padre. Un año antes de su padre fallecer, la voz de Dios guio a Valerio a compartirle el evangelio y él, entre lágrimas, recibió a Jesús en su vida.

Otra voz comenzó a hablar en la vida de Valerio. A los 16 años, conoció a su esposo, Elías, en la iglesia. Estuvieron casados durante 58 años, la mayor parte de los cuales él pasó sirviendo como misionero y plantador de iglesias en varios pueblos de Texas y México. Carmel y sus cinco hijos estuvieron junto a él, fielmente a su lado. Elías fue pastor de la congregación hispana de la Primera Iglesia Bautista de Watauga, antes de fallecer a la edad de 85 años.

Dios llamó a la señora Valerio a la evangelización personal a través de su esposo. Según Valerio, un día, mientras agradecía a Dios por la forma en que estaba usando a su esposo para compartir el evangelio con grandes resultados, escuchó la misma voz amorosa del Señor que le habló en el momento de su salvación muchos años antes.

“¿Y qué estás haciendo por mí?”, sintió que el Señor le decía. “Tú estás llamada a hacer mi obra. Quiero que hables y testifiques de Mí”. 

Mientras escuchaba la voz de Dios, Valerio dijo que se puso de rodillas y pidió perdón al Señor ya que no se sentía capacitada para hablar a los demás sobre Cristo porque decía que no sabía hablar bien. Ella admite que siempre se ponía nerviosa cuando se le acercaban otras mujeres que parecían hablar con más elocuencia.

La voz de afirmación de su esposo, junto con el llamado del Señor, la impulsó a comenzar a sentirse de otra manera. “No te sientas así”, recuerda que le dijo su esposo. “Lo más importante es que ames a Dios. Hay muchas personas que conocen la Palabra de Dios, son buenos maestros, son buenos oradores, pero eso no significa que estén consagrados a Dios. Saben muchas cosas de Dios en la mente, pero no en el corazón”.

(Right) Carmel Valerio is seen in Leon Guanajuato and (left) with husband Elias in Mexico City. The Valerios led teams on mission helping local churches evangelize their communities in Mexico.

“Dios no quiere que hables bien, sólo quiere que digas lo que te ha pedido que digas”.

A partir de ese momento, Valerio comenzó a entender que “Dios no quiere que hables bien, sólo quiere que digas lo que te ha pedido que digas”.

Desde que ella entendió esto, Valerio ha utilizado la voz que Dios le ha dado para compartir el evangelio con cientos de personas. Ha ganado almas para Cristo enseñando inglés como segundo idioma, en cárceles, en baños públicos, en su vecindario, en ventas de garaje, en tiendas y centros comerciales, incluso entre personas de diferentes nacionalidades. Sus lugares de trabajo se convirtieron en campos de misión, incluida la clínica médica donde trabajaba haciendo la limpieza. Dios le permitía a menudo entrar en el cuarto de atención médica para orar por los pacientes y presentarles el Evangelio. 

“Las primeras bancas de la iglesia estaban llenas de personas por las que oré en la clínica”, dijo Valerio.

Valerio vio enfermos ser sanados por medio de sus oraciones de fe y muchas almas ser salvas por el evangelio. También trabajó como capellana para Marketplace Ministries, donde era conocida como “la mujer de Dios”, lo cual Valerio expresa es un privilegio. 

Valerio es ahora viuda, y aunque la voz de su esposo permanece en el recuerdo, ella sigue firme en su relación con el Señor y en su llamado.

“Ahora, en lugar de tener a mi esposo a mi lado, tengo mi Biblia, mi himnario y alabo al Señor”, dijo. 

Su deseo es ayudar a otras hermanas que han sufrido una pérdida como la suya, a superar su depresión por medio de Jesús. “Las enfermedades son buenas porque nos hacen confiar en Dios y vivir más felices”, dijo. “Mientras Dios nos dé vida, tenemos que dar el mensaje de salvación a todos los que sufren”.

Un mensaje que ella misma escuchó una vez porque eligió escuchar aquella pequeña voz apacible y amorosa del Señor.

After the gospel literally saved her life, Watauga woman is spending the rest of hers telling others about Jesus

The Power of a Voice

Over the course of her 78 years, Carmel Valerio can remember so many of the voices that have spoken into her life.

She clearly remembers the voice of her abusive father, who delivered a steady barrage of insults, humiliation, and contempt. Her exposure to his voice intensified when he removed her from school from the age of 8 to help raise her siblings so her stepmother could begin working outside the home.

Filled with hatred, resentment, and immense pain from all the abuse she received, Carmel said she began to hear another voice at age 14. This voice, an evil one, said things such as, “Nobody loves you!” and “You’re worthless.” That voice even offered a solution: “Take your life.”

The more she listened to that voice, the more she was convinced that would be her escape. On the day she had decided to attempt suicide, however, she heard yet another voice. In her deepest despair, Carmel said she heard that voice repeating over and over:

“I love you. I love you. I love you.”

Carmel realized that voice—which halted her suicide attempt—was the voice of God, showing her that He had a glorious purpose to fulfill in her. In that moment, she said God began to heal her of all the bitterness, resentment, and hatred she felt for her father. Filled with new hope, she got up from the floor and ran to see herself in the mirror.

It was a milestone in her life: she had never looked at herself in a mirror before that moment, assuming there was nothing worth looking at because her father had always told her she was ugly. But that day, in front of that mirror, Carmel discovered she was a beautiful and new creation.  

“I began to feel special and light, because God had taken away my heavy burdens,” she said.  

From time to time, her grandmother would take her to church. This is where Carmel recognized who the Lord Jesus is and where she began to serve Him. “The environment I was in and my circumstances didn’t change,” she said, “but God changed me.”

One of the things God was changing was how she viewed her father—not as a man filled with hate and one to be hated, but as a man who needed Jesus. Now it was her voice that could speak into her father’s life. A year before he died, the voice of God led her to share the gospel with him and he, in tears, accepted Jesus into his life.

Elias & Carmel Valerio

Another voice would soon begin speaking into Carmel’s life. At age 16, she met her husband, Elias, at church. They were married for 58 years, most of which time he spent serving as a missionary and church planter in several towns across Texas and Mexico. Carmel and their five children were right there with him, faithfully by his side. Elias pastored a Hispanic mission church started out of First Baptist Church of Watauga before passing away at the age of 85.

God called Carmel to personal evangelism through her husband. According to Carmel, one day, as she was thanking God for the way He was using her husband to share the gospel with great results, she heard the same loving voice of the Lord that spoke to her at the time of her salvation many years before.

“And what are you doing for Me?” she felt the Lord saying to her. “You are called to do my work. I want you to speak and testify about Me.” 

Upon hearing from the Lord, Carmel said she got on her knees and asked God for forgiveness because she did not feel qualified to speak to others about Christ because she said she did not know how to speak beautifully. She admits that she would always get nervous when approached by other women who seemed to speak more eloquently.

The assuring voice of her husband, along with the nudging from the Lord, helped her begin to feel differently. “Don’t feel that way,” she remembered her husband saying to her. “The most important thing is that you love God. There are many people who know the Word of God, they are good teachers, they are good speakers, but that does not mean that they are consecrated to God. They know many things about God in mind, but not in heart.”

(Right) Carmel Valerio is seen in Leon Guanajuato and (left) with husband Elias in Mexico City. The Valerios led teams on mission helping local churches evangelize their communities in Mexico.

God doesn’t want you to speak well. He just wants you to say what He asked you to say.

From that moment on, Carmel began to understand that “God doesn’t want you to speak well. He just wants you to say what He asked you to say.”

Since that realization, she has used her God-given voice to share the gospel with hundreds of people. She has won souls for Christ by teaching English as a Second Language, sharing about Jesus in jails, public restrooms, in her neighborhood, at garage sales, in stores and malls, even among people of different nationalities. Her workplaces became mission fields, including the medical clinic where she worked as a janitor. God often allowed her to go into the rooms where medical care was being given to pray for patients and present the gospel to them. 

“The first pews in the church were filled with people I prayed for in the clinic,” Carmel said.

She saw sick people being healed through her prayers of faith and many souls being saved. She also worked as a chaplain for Marketplace Ministries where she was known as “the woman of God,” which she says is a privilege. 

Though the voice of her husband remains in her memories, she remains steadfast in her relationship with the Lord and her calling.

“Now, instead of having my husband by my side, I have my Bible, my hymnal, and I praise the Lord,” she said. 

Her desire is to help other sisters who have suffered a loss like hers, to overcome their depression through Jesus. “Illnesses are good because they make us trust in God and live happier,” she said. “For as long as God gives us life, we need to give the message of salvation to everyone who is suffering.”

A message that she, herself, once heard because she chose to listen to a still, small, and loving voice. 

SBC Hispanic relations director ministers to Uvalde community in wake of school shooting

ULVADE, Texas (BP) – As the local community in Uvalde, Texas, continues to grieve last week’s tragic school shooting, Luis Lopez, the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee’s executive director for Hispanic relations and mobilization, has been ministering to the community by listening and reminding of God’s love.

Lopez, who arrived in Texas May 26, described emotions in the community as “broken, angry, grieving and heartbroken.”

“I have seen a lot of the pain this community is going through because of this tragedy,” he told Baptist Press.

“It is one thing to see the news on TV, but it is another thing when you actually talk with the people who are there and see their hurt and anguish. This is a community that is hurting very much at this moment, and they are beginning to see the depth of the impact of what has happened.

“I’ve simply tried to minister by listening to people and their stories, pray for them, and ask questions about how we can best help them.”

The shooting took place Tuesday morning at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde when an 18-year-old opened fire on a classroom of students after locking the door. Police eventually shot and killed the gunman, but not before he killed 19 elementary students and two of the school’s teachers.

Lopez said he witnessed many effects of the violence, including children afraid to go back to school and parents deciding whether to have an open or closed casket for their child.

Southern Baptist churches in the area have not been immune from the devastation.

A particularly anguished Southern Baptist church is Primera Iglesia Bautista (First Baptist Church) in Austin. Two of the young girls killed in the shooting were the great-granddaughters of the church’s pastor emeritus and frequently attended the church.

Lopez said the great-grandfather even spoke at a prayer vigil held at the church Thursday night, saying he does not want to have hate in his heart for the attacker.

“Many of the attenders at the prayer vigil are finding comfort and hope in their faith,” Lopez said. “It is what they are holding onto even if they don’t understand why all of this has happened.”

Lopez said he is thankful for the faithful work of Southern Baptists amid tragedy.

“I’m very grateful that [Southern Baptist] Disaster Relief and the two Southern Baptist [state] conventions have been present since the incident happened,” Lopez said. “I wanted to show appreciation for what they do and remind them how important what they do is.

“They are some of the most important people ministering here at this time in the community. There are even some bi-vocational pastors from the local community who have taken time off to come minister by the school every day this week. That shows the strength of the faith family and how important it is to connect with each other during these times.”

Lopez said the tragedy has reminded him of the brevity of life.

“It makes you think about how fragile life is and how important it is to make the best of every moment we have with family,” he said.

“I think the gift of presence is one of the best things that we can give to people when they’re going through pain. Just to let them know that you are there, and being right next to them and remind them of the love of God is one of those gifts we can give to people.”

What’s your story? God’s grace is sufficient beyond my comfort zone

I have served in children’s ministry for over 20 years, from Sunday school teacher to Vacation Bible School and even seven years as the children’s ministry director at my home church, Nolan River Road Baptist Church in Cleburne.

I stepped out of that role in 2019 to become the founder and executive director of Hope is Strong Ministries. Our ministry primarily does relief and education work in Tanzania. We have recently had a door open to also work in Zambia.

It took a few years of praying and preparation for me to come to the point of launching a ministry. For me, the biggest challenge was feeling unequipped. My life verse is 2 Corinthians 12:9. It reminds me that because of my weakness, it’s obvious that it’s His ministry. So, even though I don’t feel equipped with the right education or the gift of speaking, I know that He is sufficient. And if I’m just faithful in going, as we’re commanded to do, then He’s the one who’s prepared the way.

You see, each time the Lord has called me to serve, He has always been faithful about bringing others alongside me who would train and encourage me. As a kid, even, I remember having a strong desire to learn more or even go to Africa one day. In 2011, I learned that our local Baptist association, Southwest Metroplex Baptist Association, was taking mission trips to Tanzania.
I joined them on their second trip in 2012.

It was on that trip that the Lord planted. And I knew even then this challenge was going to require me to not just step out of my comfort zone, but to really, completely, jump out of my comfort zone. As we traveled to a village one day, one of our translators on the bus, a pastor in Tanzania, said to me, “Beck, please pray of a way to help our orphans.” And I just remember telling him I would pray, but I took it very seriously.

What’s my story? In the face of my shortcomings, I’m reminded of God’s grace. His grace is sufficient for me.

Alley Fuller, Taylor Willyard, and Connie Russek from Nolan River Road Baptist Church hand out pipe cleaners that the children will use to create evangelism bracelets during the first Hope is Strong Ministries mission trip to Tanzania in 2020. Submitted Photo

I could only pray though, because I had no idea even where to start. So, I prayed for years. In fact, I fast forward all the way to 2017 when this pastor, Pastor Jeremiah, contacted me on Facebook Messenger. He sent me a picture of three children he was feeding. They were about 10 years old and under. The youngest, probably about 3 years old, had showed up at his house that day looking for food.

Their dad had lost hope and left a few years earlier. Mother had been gone for three days and was looking for ways to provide for her children. So, these children had been at home for three days, no mom, no dad, and no food.

I knew then, when I received that message and that picture of those sweet children, that was the moment God said, “Are you ready?” And I still was in denial that He was calling me to something big. I reached out to a few others, including Rick Hope, the pastor at First Baptist Lillian, at that time. And together we raised enough money to send this mom and her children some corn. So that’s really where the initial call was, to start from there.

We put together a plan, providing meals through Pastor Jeremiah’s church in Bunda, Tanzania, but God had already gone before us. And we have been given amazing opportunities to just be the ones to serve. Our hope is to reach vulnerable children and widows, both physically and spiritually. 

So, the way it works is as they come for Sunday service, they receive a meal. Many of the children attend church without their parents. We saw this as an opportunity to unite the families in Christ. When we provide a meal for the children, it opened doors for the leaders. As they would go follow up on the children, the children would recognize them and tell mom and dad, “Hey, I know them. They can come in, let’s talk to them.” And the leaders are able to share Christ with the entire family.

We started in 2017. By 2020, we were a 501(c)3 and opened the doors to our first kindergarten, serving about 80 children. We hope to open a full Christian school one day. We serve widows and children through four churches in Bunda, and hopefully soon, in Zambia.

In 2021, we led our first mission trip as Hope is Strong Ministries. We hosted a Bible club and had almost 400 children attend. It was so much fun to see, just to be able to play with these children, and develop relationships. We had a day of ministry with the widows, hosted leader training, and we walked door-to-door in the community sharing Christ with families. Our second trip is planned for this August.

What’s my story? In the face of my shortcomings, I’m reminded of God’s grace. His grace is sufficient for me.

What's your story?

Want to share a story of what God is doing in your life or your church? 

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Divine appointment opens door for Filipino SBTC church to minister to Afghan refugees

‘I noticed that they’re not like me’

While many churches find opportunities to travel to other countries to reach the nations, the staff of Sugar Grove Baptist Church have found the nations just around the corner.

Earl Alcazar, one of the pastors at Sugar Grove, said one of the church’s most interesting and unexpected gospel outreaches was the result of a chance encounter with some Afghan refugees staying in a hotel near the church.

Alcazar said he was driving one day when he noticed children running around a hotel parking lot near a Sam’s Club.

“I noticed that they’re not like me. I’m Southeast Asian, and I said, these are not Southeast Asian people,” Alcazar said. “These are not Hispanic [people]. They’re wearing the Middle Eastern clothing or something. … I felt that maybe I should just give something to them, so I bought something from Sam’s Club and gave it to them. And I learned that they don’t speak English. There was a driver that was helping them, and he said that they were Afghans.”

This was during the pandemic, around the spring of 2021, and Alcazar said he was praying for the Lord to help him overcome his fear of reaching out to people he had never met and did not know how to communicate with.

“And I was just praying, Lord, help me. I have a little heart for missions, but I’m afraid to do something like that,” he said. “There are times that I would try to reach people and my wife would warn me that they might not like it or something like that. I just gave them some stuff, chocolates and toys, and I told my wife that there are kids there and I think they’re in need.”

Late last year, Alcazar noticed that two Afghan men began showing up on Sunday morning to church services at Sugar Grove, which is almost entirely comprised of Filipino believers. 

What are their needs

International people groups face many challenges as they settle in Texas. Though they vary, general needs include:

+ English as a Second Language classes


+ Basic household needs


+ Assistance in adapting and adjusting to life in Texas


+ Community support


+ Friendship


Above all, their greatest need is to hear the message
of hope found in Jesus Christ.

Source: SBTC People Groups Department

“Maybe last quarter of 2021, we were having a worship service and we saw these two guys [visiting] the church. We asked them, and they said they’re Afghans and they were living in the hotel that I’d been going to. And they just saw our church and joined us,” Alcazar said. “They did not know each other back then in Kabul. They just met when they were here in the states, and they were able to connect because they can both speak English. They were helping the people there. And they were walking around the area, and they saw this church, and they joined us, and I said, ‘Well, God was sending them to us. They are Muslims, but they are open minded.’”

Alcazar said that the two men had Filipino friends back in Kabul and those in the church had an instant camaraderie and connection with them. 

“The connection was there already. And the people, we were excited,” he added. “I was desiring for it, praying for it. And as a church, we were not really praying for it. But God brought these two guys. And yeah, we are taking it as God giving us a ministry. I know, we know that. It’s hard. But yeah, this is it. God is guiding us.”

Alcazar said the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention provided some resources that were particularly helpful as they have tried to minister to the Afghan refugees living nearby. Martin Gonzalez, who serves as a SBTC people groups strategist for the Houston area, equipped the church with some digital Bibles so they could read Scripture in their native language.

While the church hasn’t yet seen any professions of faith from their ministry with their Afghan neighbors, they are hopeful that their continued work with them and service will provide more inroads for gospel conversations.

Alcazar said one of the most encouraging things has been seeing the way these people from another part of the world have opened their hearts and homes to the members of his church. One recent example was being invited for tea at the hotel room where one of the refugees was living. One of the two English-speaking Afghans who had been visiting the church explained the nature and importance of hospitality to Alcazar, stating that it is considered an honor to be invited into someone’s home.

“I was thankful that it is an expression that they [would welcome us] as Christians to be near their families. That’s the simple way of saying it, that they’re opening their house for non-Muslims, or Christians if you will … to be in their house.”

Love them well and they will let you lead them

I will never forget that day. It was May 2005. I woke up that Sunday morning excited about what the day could bring, expectant that God was doing something new in our lives.

That morning, at the grand age of 24, I was going in view of a call as pastor to Martins Mill Baptist Church in East Texas. I arrived at the church, greeted the people, preached with every ounce of energy I had, and then waited. Later that evening, I was sitting in a Dairy Queen when I received the call that the church did, in fact, call me to be their pastor.

I was beyond excited. The thoughts that began rushing through my mind when I hung up from the call were fast and furious. The remainder of the night found my mind and heart beginning to think through future vision. Lying in bed having a hard time falling asleep due to the excitement of this new call, the thought finally hit me: How in the world do I lead a church at 24 years old? How can I get people to follow me at such a young age with little experience?

Those questions led me down a road of discovering one of the greatest leadership principles I could ever learn: if you love them, they will let you lead them. Over the next 2 1/2 years, I loved the people of this church with everything I had. The more time I spent with them, the more I loved them. The more I loved them, the more eager they were to follow me.

Often, we assume we are called to get a ministry from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. While this is sometimes true, the best way to do this is simply to love the people God has called you to. As you love them well, you can lead them in the direction the Lord has put in your heart.

Almost three years later, the Lord called me to First Baptist Church of Malakoff. At 26 years old, I still had a lot to learn about leadership. However, I knew I needed to apply the one lesson I had learned. So I stepped into FBC Malakoff and immediately began to love those people deeply. I was able to walk with people through major life celebrations, difficult losses, challenging circumstances, and forward vision. Of course, there were other leadership factors that played a part in the vision. However, none carried the weight of simply loving those God called me to lead.

The real test of this came when we needed to remodel our worship facility in order to accommodate the growth we were experiencing. After exhausting all other options, we elected to meet outside under a large tent for 6-8 weeks—in December and January. I still laugh today when I think about how we arrived at that solution. However, because these incredible people knew they were loved by the leadership, they were willing to take the journey together. If you love them, they will let you lead them.

These two churches were immense blessings to me and my family. They essentially raised us. However, of all the things that bring me joy when I reflect on my time as their pastor, the fact they were willing and eager to follow me still amazes me. It’s not because I am a great leader or have it all figured out. It is simple—I loved them before I tried to lead them.

So as you serve in whatever capacity the Lord has given you, learn to love your people and they will let you lead them. I love you and am honored to serve you!

The SBC SATF Report: Helping Your Congregation Process and Pray

Sunday afternoon and evening, as I read every word of the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force report slowly and prayerfully, my heart was swollen with pain, anger, frustration, and grief. It cannot be denied that our Southern Baptist family has, in many ways and for many years, let down some of our most vulnerable neighbors.

Sexual abuse is among the most monstrous of demonic evils—an exploitative assault on the dignity of God’s image-bearers. And while we should have been working “to provide for … the needy, the abused … the helpless” (BFM2000, Article XV), we have failed so many of them miserably. Today, 14 million Southern Baptists are trying to process a somber 288-page report concerning our own colossal failure to do what we commonly confessed we would.

Many pastors have asked me, over the past few days, for some guidance in helping their congregation through this season. So, in the spirit of humility and with urgent grace, here are seven suggestions for helping your congregation process and pray:

Encourage your congregation (older students and adults) to read the report in its entirety

This investigation is their investigation. This document is their document. It is long and emotionally intense, but it is an important read for every single Southern Baptist. Opinions on the report abound, and with the proliferation of social media those opinions are as accessible as they are abundant. But every congregant has access to the primary source. Encourage your people to read the report for themselves before they read and listen to what others say about it.

Create space for questions and discussion

As your people digest the report, they need a safe place to ask questions. Hold a special processing and prayer meeting Sunday night or another night of the week. Address the key concerns, then allow for questions and discussion, and end with an extended season of prayer. Answer the questions you can, the best you can, and when you don’t know or you’re still working it out, just tell them so. You don’t have to have all the answers, but to shepherd your people through this you do need to know the questions. This will probably work better in smaller groups of 10-25 than in a large town-hall style meeting. Find a way. Create the space.

Acknowledge sin and take time to confess and repent

Anyone who reads the report can see that there have been too many instances of sexual abuse within our network of 47,000+ churches over the years. Our people have hurt people. Our people have participated in, perpetuated, covered up, and lied about sexual abuse for years. Our system of governance has allowed for it. There is a time for heartfelt remorse, confession, repentance, and grief over our sin. This is that time. Lead your people to acknowledge sin, confess it, and repent.

Pray for survivors, known and unknown

The retelling of one’s story of abuse is traumatic beyond expression, both for the survivor recounting personal events and other survivors reading them. Several sexual abuse survivors were named in the report. Lead your people to pray for them. Then help your people understand that for every known and named survivor there are a hundred more whose story is still developing and/or is yet unknown. Pray for God to heal their broken hearts and bind up their wounds. And for those nameless unknowns living in the dark valley of sexual abuse today, pray for God to deliver them immediately.

Review and communicate your church’s policies and practices regarding sexual abuse

Work with a professional and/or with survivors in your own community, to review your policies and practices and update them as needed. Then communicate those policies and practices to your people. Show them the measures your church’s leadership are taking for prevention, awareness, intervention, and survivor care. Encourage the immediate reporting of instances of sexual abuse in your own congregation and community by reminding your people that reporting is legally mandated, providing an easily located phone number they can call to report, and encouraging them to inform church leadership if the abuse is occuring in the church or by a church member or attender.

Lead them in prayer for Baptist organizations and leaders

If you do not know them already, find out the names of your current associational, state, and national Baptist leaders and lead your people to cover them in fervent prayer. In this moment, every Baptist organization is reviewing policies, checking procedures, and auditing systems to work to eradicate sexual abuse and its cover-up from their networks in the present and the future. What has happened in our past is horrific. Your Baptist leaders across the country are working to do better today and tomorrow, and they need the wisdom of Heaven. Lead your people to pray for it.

Make the developing story easily accessible

Add links on your church’s website or app to your associational, state, and national networks where your people can go to find trusted releases and news stories as the processing and implementation of the report continues to develop. If you do not show them where they can go for trusted information, they will consume a wide variety of both credible and incredible information from a variety of sources. Show them where to go for good, credible information, and make it easily accessible.

SBTC will hire sexual abuse and survivor care consultant

GRAPEVINE—As part of an increasing effort to address sexual abuse concerns and allegations in Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches, the SBTC has announced it will hire a consultant for sexual abuse and survivor care.

The consultant will advise SBTC staff in matters pertaining to sexual abuse, assist in the development of abuse prevention and survivor care resources and action plans, and speak directly with inquiring church leaders to give counsel when sexual abuse is reported in their congregations. Additionally, the SBTC Credentials Committee will have the liberty to seek the advisement of the consultant when questions of a church’s affiliation status relate to claims of sexual abuse.

“We are still in the process of refining the role and seeking the right person,” SBTC Associate Executive Director Tony Wolfe said. “This is a position of great importance, and it deserves our diligence.”

Wolfe added that the SBTC is hoping to use a trained and licensed professional in the area of counseling and trauma care to assist in listening well and speaking sensitively with survivors of abuse when opportunities arise.

On Tuesday, in a special-called meeting conducted via Zoom, the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee and Interim CEO Willie McLaurin issued “a formal apology to abuse survivors on behalf of the entire EC,” Baptist Press reported. The apology came after the EC on Sunday released the findings of an independent report conducted by Guidepost Solutions into its alleged mishandlings of sexual abuse claims over a span of decades. The report was overwhelmingly requested by Southern Baptists at last year’s annual meeting in Nashville.

During the Zoom meeting, the EC said it planned to release a previously unpublished list of 585 alleged and convicted abusers collected by Augie Boto, who is a former EC vice president for convention policy and general counsel.

In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick said, “Sexual abuse is an egregious form of sexual immorality that is clearly ungodly, morally corrupt, and a sin against God. Upon release of the list, the SBTC will thoroughly review the names, evaluating any level of association that currently exists or has existed between these names and affiliated SBTC churches. We will report to law enforcement where appropriate, and each instance will be carefully considered by our SBTC Credentials Committee.”