Month: May 2022

At The Well in San Marcos, everybody is a missionary

Central Texas plant seeing fruit after ‘by far the hardest’ ministry season

Any person or church supporting a church plant should realize the vital role they play. 

“You very well could be a direct answer to prayers they’re praying just to keep going another day,” said Chris Millar, lead pastor of The Well, a congregation that started about two years ago in San Marcos. 

The Well started with a goal of reaching students at Texas State University. He considers the first 18 months of the plant “by far the hardest” of his life. 

“God graciously sustained us through all of that. We felt inescapably called by God,” Millar said of himself and his wife, Ashley. He describes the work as slow and tough, but he said he could share a thousand stories of what God has done. 

Millar was the college pastor at University Heights Baptist Church in Huntsville, content to reach students at Sam Houston State University for the rest of his life, when God used a Send Conference in Dallas to stir his heart in 2017. Specifically, it was a breakout session on collegiate church planting.

“We had never heard those words before,” he said. “We realized God had made our church to plant collegiate churches.” 

Chris and Ashley committed to being the first couple sent out from University Heights to plant, and they chose San Marcos because of its similarities to Huntsville. They moved with a team of about 10 people in January 2020 and had about two-and-a-half months of normal before COVID shut everything down.

“All our strategies went out the window,” Millar said.

Through COVID, the church planting team gathered with whomever God sent their way, investing their lives in others with a short-term goal of disciple-making and a long-term goal of sending
college students out as missionaries and church planters. They’ve already sent their first graduate to start a church in Osaka, Japan.

“We’ve said from the beginning that God was planting a church in San Marcos and He’s invited us to be a part of it because, if we were planting this church, we wouldn’t be here,” Millar said. “We would have quit.”

The Well meets in an elementary school, which Millar attributes to God opening doors with the school district and specifically the principal. The church does various things to bless the students and teachers, including egg hunts with each grade level during recess leading up to Easter.  

Church planting is important because everyone has to be a missionary in a church plant. If it’s going to survive, everyone has to be a missionary.

Chris Millar and his wife Ashley persevered through a difficult first 18 months of a church plant in San Marcos, realizing they were “inescapably called by God.” SUBMITTED PHOTO

After inviting school families to church, Millar said a child had been asking faith-related questions. The child’s family—including at least a couple of family members who had never been to church—attended a service at The Well. A teacher at the school asked Millar to officiate her wedding because she said, “You’re the closest thing we have to a pastor.”

“We love getting to see what God has done as we invest deeply in the city,” Millar said, “and all of this has been made possible by cooperative giving.”

The church plant’s name, drawn from John 4, addresses the fact that people in San Marcos are searching. 

“There are thousands of people who are thirsty, and they don’t know what they’re thirsty for,” Millar said. “We are longing to be a people that can help people meet Jesus at The Well to find living water and life in Him.”

To sustain a church plant in a college town, Millar was advised to reach families in the community first or at least alongside college students. That has been the focus so far, but they’ve done some things to reach students, such as offering two hours of free pizza rolls at a popular restaurant next to campus. 

“We’re preparing to formally reach the campus this fall,” Millar said. Their primary strategy will be “relational disciplemaking, reaching one student, helping them grow in Christ and showing them how to make disciples of other students.”

Last summer, The Well was a church of about 60 people, Millar said, and that number has grown to 130 with an average attendance from 70 to 100. They’ve baptized about 20 people.

“Church planting is important because everyone has to be a missionary in a church plant. If it’s going to survive, everyone has to be a missionary,” Millar said. “That helps solidify the missionary nature of the church.”

He contrasted it to being on staff at University Heights, an established congregation of 800 people.

“It felt like that church was really stable and healthy. We had so many adults, I spent a lot of time just trying to get people into groups instead of really reaching lost people,” Millar said. “In the church planting world, there’s only an option to reach people.”

Millar again commended the support he has received.

“While the church planting journey has been hard, the community that has come around us through the SBTC has really helped see us through storms that I don’t think we could have weathered on our own.”

The 5: Practical ways to develop a Great Commission heart

To help you and your church do the Great Commission, here are some ways to begin to think globally. As you begin to expand your vision, perhaps your burden for your neighbors and the nations among you will increase:


Follow the news with Great Commission ears and eyes.
Most of us hear the news as events, but we should hear newsworthy happenings as calls to prayer. People who have never heard of Christ die every day due to war and famine. Governments are in turmoil. Natural disasters destroy homes and lives. If we pray as we hear the needs, God will grab our heart for the nations. It’s possible in some cases we might be the only person who has ever prayed for some people around the globe.


Put a map on a wall in your home (or get a globe).
Frankly, North Americans can sometimes be geographically ignorant. And, it’s easy to ignore the spiritual needs of the world when people are only anonymous folks living in a nation we cannot name. You might find yourself more interested in the nations—and praying more for them—when a map is always before you and your family. Start by praying for a different country when your family says grace each night.


Take a look at who’s in your community.
My experience is that many church leaders assume their community looks like their church—and that’s not always the case. Learn about the ethnic makeup of your community and pray specifically for individual people groups in your ministry area. Your church might even partner with others to plant a church among one of these groups. Ask your pastor or another church staff member about obtaining a demographics study from the North American Mission Board.


Visit ethnic restaurants in your community.
Instead of choosing restaurants based on your tastes, visit restaurants just to learn about other cultures and food. Ask to meet the owners. Talk to servers who’ve been raised in other countries. Even if the food isn’t your favorite, you’ll probably like the people—and then pray more for them, their family, and their country of origin. Pray specifically for opportunities to invite your new friends to church and to your home.


Invite international students to your home.
If there is a university near your home, I suspect you’ll find international students there. Many of those students will never be invited to visit an American home, and some will spend holidays alone on their campus. Opening your home will not only invite fellowship and learning, but it will also open the door to sharing your faith.

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

SBTC dispatches ministers in wake of Uvalde elementary school shooting

UVALDE—The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has dispatched ministers to South Texas to minister to the community and assist with relief in the wake of an elementary school shooting earlier Tuesday.

At the time of this report, the Associated Press is reporting that 19 school children and two adults were killed at Robb Elementary School. Uvalde is a town of roughly 16,000 residents located about 85 miles west of San Antonio.

“Please stop and pray for those in Uvalde, Texas,” SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick tweeted Tuesday evening. “We have been in touch with SBTC pastors on the ground. This is tragic and this community needs our prayers.”

Said Uvalde Superintendent Hal Harrell: “My heart is broken today. We’re a small community and we’re going to need your prayers to get through this.” Harrell told the AP that all school activities have been canceled until further notice.

Though details are sketchy as the investigation into the tragedy gets underway, SBTC Associate Executive Director Tony Wolfe offered three ways to pray in the aftermath of the shooting:

  1. Pray that the God of all comfort will heal the broken-hearted and bind up their wounds. The tragedy is unspeakable. The pain is unbearable. God, have mercy.
  2. Pray for emotional and physical endurance for first responders and crisis volunteers on the ground. May their hands be steady, their minds sharp, and their hearts soft.
  3. Pray for heavenly wisdom among local, state, and national policy makers. This tragedy should be unheard of; instead, it is has become all too common. We must do better for our children. God, help us do better for our children.

Pay attention to SBC meeting this year

Have you ever received shareholder voting proxies in the mail? Either because of an investment I’ve made or because of an organization I’ve joined, they’ve come to my box and received little attention; I don’t know the issues or the personalities involved to any degree. I also assume that usually I have no real stake in how the votes turn out. Some of us think about the Southern Baptist Convention that way. We shouldn’t.

We, you and I, are stewards of a remarkable collection of institutions and infrastructure. These resources have wavered in focus at some points, as do our churches, families, or any other collection of fallible people. But, like your church and your family, the SBC remains important to the kingdom of God. Additionally, at its wavering worst, our convention touches thousands with the gospel every week, if not every single day. Other groups of which I am a part cannot say the same. Other groups in which you may have a keener interest (HOA, club, alumni group, etc.) cannot say the same.

Our June 13-14 meeting in Anaheim this year will be attended by a large group that is not a patch on the whole number of us. That’s fine. For all the decades I have paid attention to the SBC, thousands who don’t attend read with interest the news of the meeting. In recent years, streaming has allowed thousands to watch whatever portion they want as it happens. While I don’t think the online experience can ever be the same as being in the room with your fellow Southern Baptists, you can get an informed idea of what we’re a part of, why it matters. Here are a couple of important things:


The SBC meeting commonly has a commissioning service, a sending service for missionaries we will support around the country and around the world. These folks, from everywhere and of every demographic, have usually attended our seminaries, been taught in our children’s and student ministries, and maybe been discipled in our collegiate ministries. They are us and ours, and will remain so as they join a gospel effort some place where you and I will never go. It’s fitting that we see this at our annual meeting because missions is the apex of what we do in cooperation with each other. As your church supports the Cooperative Program and our national missions offerings, these ambassadors are the focus of those funding streams. This year’s sending celebration will be Tuesday morning in Anaheim.

Budgeting, business, and reports

The messengers your church sends will be asked to consider a budget that funds all this. At the SBC level, missions and seminary education account for more than 90 percent of the budget we’ll consider in Anaheim. We usually don’t debate the budget a long time; committees and boards elected from our churches by past conventions have spent hours sweating the details of it. But, unless the messengers say “yes,” the budget is not adopted. The recipients, themselves stewards of SBC resources, will report on what they’ve done with the budgets approved in previous years. You can watch what happens and hear the reports even if you can’t go.

You may also know that a sexual abuse task force appointed in 2021 will make its report and recommendations during our two-day meeting. They have made a thorough report to the convention and their recommendations will have a significant impact on the future ministry of the SBC.


The presidential election gets all the attention, but significant leadership roles are also decided by the messengers. Those who make appointments will be elected, as will the appointments proposed by last year’s committee. We will consider the men and women who will elect the leaders of our agencies, oversee those ministries, and recommend next year’s budget from each agency. These men and women come from our churches—they are us, volunteers that corporately “own” our institutions during the time of their service on boards.

The presidential election matters because of his appointive powers. He also has opportunities to speak for us and to us during his term. He is a volunteer, as well, and makes a big sacrifice in time and energy to lead Southern Baptists. Of this year’s election, I’ll only say a little. The three men being nominated are conservatives who each love the mission of Southern Baptists. They also have distinct emphases. This year is not about who’s an old timer or newcomer or who believes the Bible more than someone else. The men each interpret this era of SBC life in a little different way. Any of them could lead us well. I have a preference among them, but we’ll have to discuss that in private. If you follow the news as the convention begins, you’ll have a chance to hear from the man elected, even as interviews have given you an insight as to their differing views of the challenges that face our convention.

The convention is also made up of music, preaching, prayer meetings, all manner of niche group events, and lots of eating. Some messengers spend very little time in the hall during business meetings because of reunions and hall conversations. It’s all part of Southern Baptists reminding ourselves of the important things we have in common.

Follow along as the most important Southern Baptist meeting of the year unfolds. The SBC has likely been important to the beginning and building up of your church. Somebody passed a budget or trained a leader or sent a missionary that made all the difference. That’s what will go on this June in Anaheim. Join us as best you can. You should be able to access streaming of the event at the SBC website.


Christians say they’re seeking but not having evangelistic conversations, study shows

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Most Christians say they’re ready, willing and praying to have conversations about their faith with others, but many admit they haven’t gotten around to actually having those conversations recently.

An Evangelism Explosion study conducted by Lifeway Research found Christians express a willingness and desire to talk to others about their faith, yet few have shared with someone how to become a Christian in the past six months.

“Now, perhaps more than ever, people are open to conversations about faith, yet this study reveals few Christians actually take the opportunity to engage in personal evangelism,” said John Sorensen, president of Evangelism Explosion (EE). “Our mission at EE is to equip followers of Jesus to have the confidence to share the gospel naturally, lovingly and intentionally with family, friends and yes, even strangers, which is why we wanted insights on the evangelistic attitudes of Christians. We imagine a world where every believer is a witness for Christ to His glory.”

“Many Christians say they agree sharing their faith is important,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “But many also need encouragement and to be shown how to share the good news about Jesus Christ with others.”


Evangelism actions

In the survey of 1,100 self-identified Christian adults in the U.S., more than 9 in 10 (93%) say they’re at least somewhat open to having a conversation about faith with a friend, and around 4 in 5 (81%) feel similarly about speaking about faith with a stranger. Almost 2 in 3 Christians (64%) say they have prayed at least once in the past month for the salvation of a friend or family member who is not a Christian.

In the past six months, most have spoken about their beliefs with loved ones at least once, including having a conversation about faith (53%) and sharing a story about what God has done in their lives (52%).

However, less than half of self-identified Christians have, at least once in the past six months, shared a Bible verse or Bible story with a non-Christian loved one (46%), invited a non-Christian friend or family member to attend a church service or other program at church (43%) or shared with a non-Christian loved one how to become a Christian (38%).

Far fewer Christians have taken any of those evangelistic steps with a non-Christian they did not know in the past six months: 40% have had a conversation about faith, 39% have shared a story about what God has done in their lives, 36% have shared a Bible verse or story, 34% have invited a stranger to church and 30% have shared how to become a Christian.

“Praying for someone to follow Christ comes more easily than talking with someone about it,” said McConnell. “It isn’t clear if the proverbial cat has the tongue of some Christians or if they’re not connecting with non-Christians in settings where these conversations can take place.”


Evangelism opinions

When Christians think about evangelism, they’re thinking about showing love to the other person. Almost 2 in 3 Christians (65%) agree sharing with a nonbeliever how they can become a Christian is the most loving thing they can do for them, including 30% who strongly agree. Around a quarter (23%) disagree.

More than half of self-identified Christians say they are willing (39%) and/or eager (15%) to evangelize. Three in 10 (29%) are neutral, while 18% are reluctant and 11% are indifferent.

Specifically, Christians are more prone to be proactive or reactive in their evangelistic tactics than avoiding it all together. Around 1 in 7 (14%) say they try to bring up faith in conversations with everyone, while more than a quarter (28%) look for natural opportunities to bring up faith. Close to a third of Christians (32%) say they answer faith questions if asked or comment if others bring it up. Around 1 in 5 (21%) say they won’t talk about faith with most people.

More than half of self-identified Christians in the U.S. (58%) say it is easy for them to talk about Jesus with non-Christians, including 23% who say it is very easy. A third (33%) say it is at least somewhat difficult, with 10% saying it is very difficult to share about Christ with those who are not Christians.

For some, evangelism might bring up emotions more closely associated with giving a public speech than having a conversation with a friend. More than 2 in 5 Christians (42%) say sharing with a non-believer how they can become a Christian is scary. Slightly more (46%) disagree.

When asked how they believe most non-Christians feel about evangelism, Christians are split. More than 1 in 3 (37%) think most of those who are not Christians see it as pushy. Almost a quarter (22%) believe non-Christians are open to it. Similar percentages say those who aren’t Christians view evangelism as worth hearing once (18%), hope-filled (17%) and worth exploring (17%). Fewer think non-Christians believe Christian evangelistic efforts are rude (14%).

According to a 2021 Evangelism Explosion study conducted by Lifeway Research, 51% of Americans, including 60% of the religiously unaffiliated, say they’re curious why people are so devoted to their faith. Two in 3 (66%) also say they are at least open to having a conversation about the Christian faith with a friend.

Still, in the most recent study, 52% of self-identified Christians agree that encouraging someone to change their religious beliefs is offensive and disrespectful, including 20% who strongly agree. Fewer than 2 in 5 (37%) disagree.

“It’s a bold idea to encourage someone to consider converting the center of their life to be Jesus Christ,” said McConnell. “For some Christians, their love for others compels them to suggest this offensive thought. For others, this discourages them from speaking up about what they believe.”

Evangelism preparation

Two in 3 (66%) Christians say they aren’t familiar with any methods of telling others about Jesus, but half say they’re ready to at least share the basics of how someone can start following Jesus. Around a quarter (23%) say they’re ready for any opportunity to tell someone how to become a Christian, and 27% are prepared to share the basic steps. Another 1 in 5 (19%) say they know the essentials but aren’t comfortable yet putting them into words. A quarter of Christians (24%) say they aren’t sure what information needs to be shared or where to start.

Most Christians agree it’s their calling to share their beliefs but that it’s their pastor’s duty to equip them to do so. Seven in 10 Christians (69%) say it’s every Christian’s responsibility to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior, including 35% who strongly agree. One in 5 (20%) disagree. Similarly, 68% agree it’s the pastor’s responsibility to equip the congregation to share the gospel, and 19% disagree.

When thinking about the specifics of being trained and equipped for evangelism, Christians have wide varieties in their preferences. Around 1 in 5 (19%) want to experience real-life faith conversations with a trainer and another 16% prefer to take a class in person. Fewer are looking for less personal or more individual activities like watching videos (14%), reading a book (12%), taking a class online (8%) or listening to audio like a podcast or audiobook (5%). Another 18% say they would never be trained in evangelism.

“Half of Christians aren’t ready to tell someone how to become a Christian, and that likely won’t change without some help,” said McConnell. “Most are looking to their churches and its leaders to help prepare them for these conversations about faith.”

For more information, view the complete report and visit


SATF report shows EC pattern of resistance to addressing abuse claims

Editor’s note: At the bottom of this report, you will find a statement released today by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

NASHVILLE (BP) – Months of work by the Sexual Abuse Task Force and Guidepost Solutions concerning the alleged mishandling of sexual abuse claims by the SBC Executive Committee (EC) resulted in a 288-page report released publicly Sunday (May 22). The report came at the request of messengers to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting.

“Our investigation revealed that, for many years, a few senior EC leaders, along with outside counsel, largely controlled the EC’s response to these reports of abuse. They closely guarded information about abuse allegations and lawsuits, which were not shared with EC Trustees, and were singularly focused on avoiding liability for the SBC to the exclusion of other considerations,” the report said.

The report says that for the two decades within the scope of the investigation, survivors of abuse and other concerned Southern Baptists have been met with “resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility from some within the EC.”

The task force was charged with reviewing cases and claims of alleged mishandling claims of sexual abuse made between January 1, 2000, and June 14, 2021.

“Over the years, the EC’s response to sexual abuse allegations was largely driven by senior EC staff members, particularly D. August ‘Augie’ Boto, the EC General Counsel and later Interim EC President, as well as the SBC’s long-serving outside counsel – James Guenther, James Jordan, and the firm of Guenther, Jordan & Price (‘GJP’),” the report says, adding: “Their main concern was avoiding any potential liability for the SBC.”

“Mr. Guenther advised that EC staff should not undertake to elicit further information or details about reports of abuse, so that the EC not assume a legal duty to take further action,” the report says.

In addition, the existence of reports of abuse were not shared with EC Trustees “over the years,” according to the report.

What does the EC do?

The EC board of trustees is composed of Southern Baptists from across the convention’s 41 state and regional conventions. Trustees are elected by the Convention at its annual meeting.

The SBC president, SBC recording secretary, WMU national president and EC president/CEO are also ex-officio members of the EC board of trustees.

“Although the Executive Committee does not control or direct the activities of Convention agencies, it reviews their financial statements and recommends the Convention annual operating budget,” says a description at “In addition, it receives and distributes the moneys Southern Baptists give in support of denominational ministries, acts as the recipient and trust agency for all Convention properties, and provides public relations and news services. It also performs other tasks assigned by the SBC and promotes the general work of Southern Baptists.”

The EC “employs an executive and professional staff in its Nashville office.” There are currently 25 employees on staff with the EC.

Abuse claims

The Guidepost report listed only one instance of alleged abuse by an EC member in its summary. “During our investigation, an SBC pastor and his wife came forward to report that SBC President Johnny Hunt (2008-2010) had sexually assaulted the wife on July 25, 2010,” the report said.

Investigators found the claims to be credible, according to the report, having verified them “by a counseling minister and three other credible witnesses.” The report says that investigators did not find Hunt’s statements concerning the alleged assault to be credible.

Mishandling abuse claims and survivors

The report says that though high-level EC staff kept a list of reports of abuse among possible SBC pastors, it had no plans to act on behalf of survivors.

“In a May 2019 email to Dr. Ronnie Floyd, the then-EC President, EC Vice President Dr. Roger ‘Sing’ Oldham acknowledged that ‘[f]or the past decade, I have been regularly sending Augie news reports of Baptist ministers who are arrested for sexual abuse, for his awareness. It hasn’t slowed down since the [Houston] Chronicle articles started on February 10.’ Mr. Boto responded that: ‘Yes. We are collecting them, and may even post them in some way, but we’d have to really examine the potential liabilities that would stem therefrom.’”

The Guidepost report also spoke of instances where survivors were further harmed by mistreatment by the EC, “The survivors – those persons who actually suffered at the hands of SBC clergy or SBC church staff or volunteers – who spoke out the most, and who criticized the SBC’s inaction, were denigrated as “opportunistic,” having a “hidden agenda of lawsuits,” wanting to “burn things to the ground,” and acting as a “professional victim.”

The report points to this publication, Baptist Press (BP), on two occasions.

“For example, in March 2019, Jennifer Lyell, a senior executive at an SBC entity, was asked by executives at Lifeway and SBC entity heads to disclose her sexual abuse at the hands of her former seminary professor through a first-person account to be published in BP,” the report says. “Rather than publishing Ms. Lyell’s corroborated account as BP staff had originally drafted it, the account was changed to read as if Ms. Lyell was consensually involved with her alleged abuser. The article as published reported that Ms. Lyell alleged that she had a “morally inappropriate relationship” with her former seminary professor, making it appear that she engaged in a consensual sexual relationship with him.”

Another instance is related to a report from the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s 2019 Caring Well conference.

From the report: “Additionally, an article about the 2019 Caring Well conference, written by an Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (‘ERLC’) staffer, was sanitized before publication. The draft article had contained quotes from two survivor advocates who had spoken critically at the conference about the SBC’s handling of sexual abuse allegations. When the article was published, some of the story had been deleted, including all references to one of the advocates and all claims that the SBC had failed survivors.”

Other SBC leaders named in the report who are said to have “protected or even supported abusers” include Steve Gaines, former SBC president; Jack Graham, former SBC president; Paige Patterson, former SBC president and former president of both Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Paul Pressler, former Texas judge and former EC member; Greg Addison, former EC executive vice president; and Mike Stone, current EC member.

The report also spends 65 pages discussing the work of the SBC Credentials Committee, a body created to examine whether or not a church was acting within cooperation guidelines held by the SBC.

The report says the task of investigating sexual abuse claims was assigned to the committee before there were proper protocols, guidelines and training in place. “Consequently, the Credentials Committee began operating without adopting any written policies and procedures, such as set timelines/deadlines, protocols for correspondence with submitters and churches, and standards for review. At least one outside expert offered help and support in developing criteria and standards, but the offers were rebuffed,” the report said.

While the report says the committee meant well, it adds: “These and other deficiencies led to delays and communications breakdowns that caused submitters and others to lose faith in the process despite what we believe to be good intentions and effort on the part of the Credentials Committee members.”

Recommendations from the SATF

The Sexual Abuse Task Force was selected by SBC President Ed Litton in the days following the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting. In addition to working with Guidepost to carry out the investigation, messengers gave the task force the responsibility of bringing recommendations to messengers to the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting.

While the SATF says it will be posting formal motions and suggestions before the annual meeting, it has listed a group of “a few initial needs:”

We recommend that an Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force be appointed by the next SBC president to assist with the implementation of reform initiatives in our convention for a period of three years. This Task Force will evaluate all recommendations by Guidepost and bring a report at next year’s convention on recommended reforms. This Task Force will also work with the Executive Committee to create and maintain a process that will work within our Baptist polity for alerting the community to the presence and activity of credibly accused offenders, including the establishment of a “ministry check” website. Additionally, this Task Force will work with and resource the Credentials Committee to help them function more effectively, including formalizing and improving their processes, procedures, and standard principles of cooperation. The Task Force and Executive Committee will take steps to establish a relationship with an independent firm to assist the Credentials Committee in their work.
We recommend that the Executive Committee hire a subject matter expert(s) to receive calls, provide initial guidance for reports of sexual abuse, and work with state conventions for training and educational opportunities.

We recommend that all entity boards and standing committees have training regarding sexual abuse prevention and survivor care, as well as background checks as part of their orientation and selection.
We recommend that IMB, NAMB, and our six SBC seminaries require formal preparation for their denominational workers and students in regard to prevention, training, and survivor care.
We recommend that the Executive Committee set aside a budget and hire a salaried staff person for the Credentials Committee.

Responses from the SATF, SBC president, the EC, and the Credentials Committee

The task force issued a statement with the report calling on Southern Baptists to take the content of the report seriously and to act upon the findings.

“As the task force, we grieve for what has been revealed in this report,” the task force wrote. “We lament on behalf of survivors for how they have not been protected and cared for as they deserve and as God demands. With broken hearts, we want to lead the way by publicly repenting for what has happened in our convention. We implore our Southern Baptist family to respond to this report with deep repentance and a commitment to the ongoing moral demands of the gospel as it relates to sexual abuse.”

The task force called on Southern Baptists to take action based on the findings of the report. “We must resolve to give of our time and resources to not only care well for survivors of sexual abuse, but to provide a culture of accountability, transparency, and safety as we move forward,” the statement says.

Ed Litton, SBC president, echoed the sentiment of the task force. “There are not adequate words to express my sorrow at the things revealed in this report,” he said. “I am grieved to my core for those who have suffered sexual abuse in Southern Baptist contexts, both for those named in this report and the many who are not. I thank God for the courage and persistence of the survivors and advocates who brought the Southern Baptist Convention to this moment.”

He called on Southern Baptists to act in light of the report. “Amid my grief, anger, and disappointment over the grave sin and failures this report lays bare, I earnestly believe that Southern Baptists must resolve to change our culture and implement desperately needed reforms,” Litton said in a statement to Baptist Press.

He called on messengers to the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting to be prepared to respond.

“The time is now,” he said. “We have so much to lament, but genuine grief requires a godly response. I pray Southern Baptists will begin preparing today to take deliberate action to address these failures and chart a new course when we meet together in Anaheim.”

Rolland Slade, current EC chairman, and Willie McLaurin, EC interim president/CEO, issued a joint statement upon receiving the report.

“To the members of the survivor community, we are grieved by the findings of this investigation,” they said. “We are committed to doing all we can to prevent future instances of sexual abuse in churches, to improve our response and our care, to remove reporting roadblocks, and to respond to the will of the messengers in Anaheim next month.

“This is the beginning of a season of listening, lamenting, and learning how to address sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention.”

In the statement, they announced a special-called meeting on Tuesday, May 24, to “discuss and process the report.”

They asked the members of Southern Baptist churches to pray for EC members and staff as they “move through the process that Southern Baptists have asked us to do.”

The SBC Credential Committee also issued a statement regarding the Guidepost report.

“We receive this report with open minds and heavy hearts. We grieve for those impacted by abuse, and we are prepared to repent for anything the Credentials Committee inadvertently failed to do to alleviate the suffering of survivors,” the statement said.

“We are committed to listening and learning from this extensive report and its recommendations. We look forward to implementing recommendations and strengthening the Credentials Committee’s work.”

The 2022 SBC Annual Meeting is scheduled for June 14-15 at the Anaheim Convention Center.

On Monday, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention issued a joint statement co-signed by Executive Director Nathan Lorick, President Todd Kaunitz, and Executive Board Chairman Mark Hogan stating the following:

Dear SBTC churches,
As you may know, the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force released their report Sunday afternoon, May 22. Below is a statement from the leadership of the SBTC along with a link to the report.

The contents of the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force report causes us to grieve for those who have been affected by sexual abuse. We can only imagine the pain and trauma survivors have endured through the reliving and retelling of their experiences, and we are grateful for their courage in coming forward. As a family of churches, we must do better. We must repent of our sin, learn from our past, care for those affected, and respond with clear pathways forward. SBTC churches and church leaders can be assured of the SBTC’s commitment to embrace constructive pathways to restoration and healing, to work to comfort and minister to survivors of abuse in our own network, and to continue to evaluate and reform our own policies, procedures, and ministries toward prevention. The SBTC Task Force, authorized by unanimous vote of the messengers in our November 2021 Annual Meeting, has been working diligently to strengthen our efforts within our own network of churches. May God grant us forgiveness where there is sin, healing where there is hurt, encouragement where there is hope, and the mind of Christ in all things.


IMB trustees appoint 56 missionaries, celebrate with missionary emeriti

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP) — International Mission Board trustees approved 56 new fully funded missionaries for appointment during their May 18-19 meeting in Orlando. The meeting was conducted in conjunction with the Celebration of Emeriti event held every five years to recognize retiring missionaries who have completed their service with the IMB.

IMB trustee chair Chuck Pourciau (left) shakes hands with IMB President Paul Chitwood. Pourciau, lead pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church, Shreveport, Louisiana, was elected to a second consecutive one-year term as trustee chair. IMB Photo

New missionaries approved for appointment will be recognized during a Sending Celebration on Tuesday, June 14, at 9:20 a.m. PDT during the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Calif. Each missionary is crucial to IMB’s goal to send an additional 500 missionaries by 2025. Accounting for missionaries who complete their service, approximately 400 new missionaries are needed each year to meet the strategic objective of growth in the total mission force.

The meeting was opened in prayer by trustee Nate Bishop, second vice chair, from Kentucky.

Trustee chairman Chuck Pourciau from Louisiana introduced Tom Elliff, who attended the emeriti event with his wife, Diana. Elliff, who served as IMB president from 2011-2014, greeted trustees and commended IMB’s leadership.

“There’s not a meeting of minds and hearts more important than this one,” Elliff said. He thanked trustees and IMB staff for their hard, but eternally significant, work. “My heart safely trusts in you,” he said.

Elliff, who served as a missionary in Zimbabwe, is now a lecturer, facilitator and mentor at the Tom Elliff Center for Missions at Oklahoma Baptist University.

Andy Davis, trustee from North Carolina, prayed for the Elliffs; and for former IMB president Jerry Rankin and his wife, Bobbye, and former executive vice president Clyde Meador and his wife, Elaine, who were not able to attend.

President’s report

Jenna Cobb, IMB trustee from Florida, gave the mobilization report during the May 19 meeting in Orlando, Florida. IMB Photo

IMB President Paul Chitwood spoke of his enjoyment of recent meetings with new missionaries, field leadership and trustees. He also celebrated the 800 gathered emeriti, whom he called “heroes of the faith.”

His report continued with highlights of the current state of the IMB:

The combined totals of IMB’s two primary revenue streams, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Cooperative Program, currently are running more than 14 percent ahead of last year’s giving, year to date.
The missionary candidate pipeline has quadrupled in the past three years and stands at nearly 1,000 potential future missionaries.

As reported in the newly released 2021 Annual Statistical Report, the number of people who responded to the Gospel, the number of new believers baptized, and the number of new churches planted overseas increased over the previous year.

IMB has fully funded its commitment to emeriti benefits with the necessary $128 million.
Leaders in South Asia report a spiritual awakening among Hindus turning away from false gods to the one true Gospel

Through Send Relief, IMB’s compassion ministry partnership with the North American Mission Board, Southern Baptists have given $10,941,234.90 to date toward Ukrainian relief efforts.

Chitwood also reported on other significant investments of the IMB, including: Church Connections, the strategy to connect every Southern Baptist church with a missionary; growth of the ministry advancement team to build relationships with individual givers; Go Method, a volunteer screening process for volunteers; GO IMPACT, the student-sending pathway; a newly structured mobilization team; and a new marketing and communications department to elevate IMB’s brand. Chitwood announced that a new IMB brand would be launched at the SBC annual meeting in Anaheim.

Chitwood concluded by sharing the updated number from IMB’s Global Research team that 157,690 people currently die daily without Christ.

“More people will die lost today than on any other day upon which the sun has risen in human history,” Chitwood said. “Yet to this problem, the world’s greatest problem — the problem of spiritual lostness — God has given us a solution. We are stewards of the Good News of His Gospel. And through a sustained missionary presence, we are taking that Gospel to the very ends of the earth. And we are doing it together.”

Continuing business

Standing committees provided reports regarding administration, global engagement, human resources, LFTT (logistics, finance, technology, travel), mobilization and training. The reports included significant growth in the number of total engagements with Southern Baptist churches and the number of apprentice missionaries. Apprentice missionaries are those serving their first term on the mission field.

Trustee Keith Evans, chair of the administration committee from the Pacific Northwest, led the election of officers for the coming year. Trustees elected the current officers to serve another term. The following officers will serve a consecutive one-year term: Chuck Pourciau of Louisiana, chair; Lisa Lovell of Arkansas, first vice chair; Nate Bishop of Kentucky, second vice chair; and Carol Pfeiffer of Texas, recording secretary.

Chitwood thanked trustees completing their terms of service and affirmed their continuing commitment to reaching the world’s lost with the Gospel. Trustees recognized included: Thom Polvogt, Texas; Larry Lambes, Ohio; Michael Cloer, North Carolina; Opie Hurst, Mississippi; Phil Mitchell, Tennessee; Bill Ricketts, Georgia; Cecil Sanders, Alabama; Sam Taylor, New England; and Mike Simmons, Texas.

Pourciau adjourned the meeting with prayer.

The next IMB board of trustees meeting will be Sept. 28-29 in Richmond, Va.

East Texas pastor honored for 77 years of faithful ministry service

HUGHES SPRINGS—Charles Russell was still a teenager when he became the pastor of Lone Star Baptist Church (a little north of Mt. Pleasant) in 1945. He’s about 30 miles down the road now, pastoring Turkey Creek Baptist Church in Hughes Springs, 77 years later. He’s pastored Turkey Creek for 22 years.

This past week, Russell was honored for his nearly eight decades of service to the Lord during a meeting of the Enon Baptist Association, which covers deep Northeast Texas. Among the honors, Russell was given a plaque expressing gratitude for his ministry by Roy Ford, the Northeast Texas field representative for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

“I love my people,” said Russell, 93. “It’s a small, rural church, a very loving people. I enjoy the fellowship of working with a local church.”

With the exception of a pastorate in Bonham, Russell’s ministry has been in Northeast Texas. Returning east, he served as director of missions for three counties around Jacksonville.

He noted that he’s seen the most change over the years in the way churches worship—worship teams instead of choirs.

“I’ve mostly pastored rural churches, so the pastoral part of ministry has been pretty similar throughout the years,” he added.

He’s also noted a decline in people’s interest in attending church, a trend that has hit rural churches especially hard.

“The population [in Hughes Springs] has been pretty stable, but that doesn’t mean the churches are holding their own,” he said, “The interest in church is not as consistent as the population in small towns.”

Jeff Lynn, director of Church Health and Leadership for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, commended the ministries of pastors like Russell, even as these ministries face challenging days.

“Rural churches with long-term pastors are a stabilizing factor in these communities,” Lynn said. “The longevity of a pastor helps build a bridge and trust between the church and community.”

Although he was born in Tennessee, Russell’s family moved to Texas when he was a preschooler. His dad worked in the oil fields until he settled in a long-term job in Talco, where Charles graduated from high school. He went to college in Commerce and didn’t see much need to go to seminary, at first.

“I wasn’t really too excited about going to seminary after college,” he said of his time in his second pastorate, “but a pastor friend nearby encouraged me that I needed to go ahead and go. I went, and I thank God for him and his encouragement. It was a great decision; I enjoyed seminary a lot more than I did college.”

Russell graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1957.

His wife, Ola died in 2005, a few years after they came to Turkey Creek. They married after college, and she attended a year of seminary with Charles. The Russells raised two sons together and have four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

This past Sunday, Russell preached to his people about “Keeping on keeping on, faithful to the end,” from Revelation 2:20.

Charles Russell seems to know a little about that.


‘Extremely blessed’: Waco church records album with rare 1700s hymns to provide hope in a difficult season

WACO—A season of isolation, loss, and mourning during the COVID-19 pandemic led a Waco church to focus on the Scripture-inspired words of two well-known hymnists who long ago found hope amidst trials.

Grace Church in Waco last year recorded an album with hymns written in the late 18th century by John Newton and William Cowper for the English parish of Olney, where Newton resided. Newton and Cowper wrote more than 340 hymns, but Grace Church chose nine unique ones that reflected the somber mood of the pandemic season. Although most of those nine hymns are obscure to the modern ear, they’re no less theologically rich than their more popular cousin, Amazing Grace, which Newton also penned.

Drake Osborn, pastor of teaching and liturgy at Grace Church, said the idea began with a simple question: How can we encourage our members during the lockdown?

“We wanted to spend some time writing music that would be specifically for them and the season that we were in,” Osborn said. “We looked through the [hymns by Newton and Cowper] and … focused our attention on the ones related to our own kind of darkness and suffering and the response to the light of the cross of Christ.”

The album was recorded in front of a live audience at the church and was named The Olney Hymns: Suffering and Living In the Shadow of the Cross. It can be accessed and purchased through the church’s website, on Spotify, or on Apple Music. Proceeds support foster care and adoption services in Waco.

Incredibly, the church’s band and musicians—all volunteers—composed the arrangements for nine of the songs.

Luke Garst, a volunteer who plays guitar on the album, said it took nearly a full year to choose the songs, compose arrangements, and then to record the album.

The talent of the volunteers was a surprise—and a blessing.

“It turned out that some of our band leaders who lead the congregation on Sunday [also] dabble in songwriting, so a couple of them came up with super-creative melodies and chord progressions,” Garst said. “We have some really creative volunteers in our church.”

The lyrics, Garst said, are “beautiful” and “theologically rich,” covering “the entire spectrum of the Christian life.”

One such hymn, “Looking to the Cross,” takes the singer on a gospel-centered journey, beginning with man’s depravity (“in evil long I took delight”) before it turns to Christ’s sacrifice (“I saw my sins His blood had spilt, and helped to nail Him there”) and concludes with gratitude (“while His death fully displays, the depths of all my shame; such is the mystery of grace, the cross replaced my blame!”).

A second hymn, “Hebrews 13,” spotlights the power Christ provides in the midst of trials (“We trust all God’s ways are peace, and his promises are sure; He works through us in Christ, in his life we live secure”). Cowper was known to suffer from depression.

The experience of recording the album, Garst said, is still impacting the congregation, with a handful of the hymns being regularly sung during worship services.

“It was such a pleasure to be a part of,” Garst said. “We’re a very small church—a little blip on the map. It was really special to record songs for a congregation to sing. I think it’s special for them, too. … It’s really just to bless our church and hopefully bless other churches.”

The arrangements, Osborn said, are available for other churches to use. (Osborn suggested e-mailing or phoning the church office for more information.)

“More churches should consider doing work like this, whether it’s writing their own original music or reworking music that’s been passed down. It was just a really helpful exercise,” Osborn said. “The congregation was extremely blessed that our musicians had an outlet for their artistry. If that’s something that exists in your church, then that is something I would recommend for sure.”


SBTC funds ultrasound placements in Texas through Psalm 139 Project

HOUSTON (BP) – The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) presented a gift of $228,000 to the Southern Baptist Convention’s ethics entity Tuesday (May 17) for the placement of six ultrasound machines at pregnancy resource centers in the state.

The SBTC grant was made to the Psalm 139 Project, a ministry of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) that provides ultrasound technology to pregnancy centers and trains staff members in its use. The donation will cover the placement of the six machines, as well as staff training. Locations for three of the machines already have been selected, according to the ERLC.

Including the three pregnancy resource centers already chosen in Texas, the ERLC has now placed or committed to centers to place 36 ultrasound machines toward its goal of 50 placements between December 2020 and January 2023. The 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion throughout the United States will be Jan. 22 of next year.

A Texas law that prohibits the abortion of an unborn child whose heartbeat can be detected went into effect Sept. 1 of last year. By definition, the Texas Heartbeat Act (S.B. 8) bans abortions as early as five to six weeks into pregnancy. Pregnancy resource centers in the state have reported a dramatic increase in the number of clients since the law became effective, including a center in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex that experienced a 48 percent surge from the previous year, according to the Southern Baptist Texan, the SBTC’s official magazine.

Rachel Wiles, the ERLC’s director of Psalm 139 placement, told Baptist Press, “We are so grateful for this partnership with the SBTC and know the Lord will use these funds to save lives.

“The ERLC continually seeks to save lives and serve mothers, especially in partnership with pro-life clinics,” Wiles said in written comments. “Since the passing of S.B. 8, the Psalm 139 Project has been contacted by several Texas pregnancy centers requesting updated ultrasound machines. Improved technology in newer machines provides much earlier heartbeat detection and allows a woman to see the growing life inside her.”

Tony Wolfe, the SBTC’s associate executive director, described the presentation to the Psalm 139 Project as “one of many examples of the SBTC’s commitment to supporting pro-life initiatives in our state. Through cooperation with the ERLC and other pro-life organizations, SBTC churches are consistently working to make abortion not only illegal in our lifetime, but unthinkable and unnecessary as well.”

Nathan Lorick, the SBTC’s executive director, presented the gift Tuesday to Elizabeth Graham, the ERLC’s vice president of operations and life initiatives. The presentation occurred during a private gathering for Texas pastors and ministry leaders hosted by the ERLC at Northeast Houston Baptist Church.

Wolfe urged churches to prepare for what could soon be a post-Roe America. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue an opinion in the next several weeks in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, which regards a Mississippi ban on abortion after 15 weeks’ gestation.

In early May, Politico published a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that, if it becomes final, would strike down the 1973 Roe decision. Four other members of the high court have joined Associate Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the draft opinion, in support of reversing Roe, according to Politico. If a majority of the Supreme Court follows through in its final opinion by overturning Roe and the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling that affirmed its 1973 decision, the action would return abortion policy to the states. About half of the 50 states will have laws prohibiting abortion or restricting it at some stage if Roe is overturned.

With what could be Roe’s reversal near, “churches need to be more involved now than ever in ministering to families in the pro-life space,” Wolfe said. “Yesterday’s grant is intended to spur along this conversation and effort across the Lone Star State and, prayerfully, the nation.

“A grant from a network of 2,704 churches can make a large, brief splash in the movement, but the rushing waters of a culture of life will only flow as preborn children are protected and expecting parents are cared for every day, one at a time,” he said. “The local, everyday ministry of churches is where the pro-life movement matters most.

“We encourage church leaders everywhere to strategize and take immediate action toward real-time, first-world ministry to champion, protect and serve vulnerable image bearers of God from womb to tomb.”

Ultrasound technology has proved to be a vital tool for pregnancy resource centers in their ministry to abortion-minded women. The sonogram images of their unborn children have helped many women choose to give birth.

Since 2004, the Psalm 139 Project has helped place ultrasound equipment at centers in 16 states. In September 2021, the project made its first international placement in Northern Ireland.

All gifts to the Psalm 139 Project go toward machines and training, since the ERLC’s administrative costs are covered by the Cooperative Program, the SBC’s unified giving plan. Information on the Psalm 139 Project and how to donate is available at