Month: June 2022

Let’s charge ahead with confidence

We are seeing something phenomenal happen across our nation. There is a wave of prayer movements rising in various places. I am hearing story after story about churches that are recognizing the absence of the presence and power of God and have called their people to corporate prayer. Churches are returning to weekly prayer meetings and are devoting the entire gathering to calling on the name of the Lord. 

The outcome of these prayer meetings has been amazing! These churches are seeing the supernatural presence of the Holy Spirit being poured out among them in exponential and tangible ways. They are experiencing radical conversions, record baptisms, marriages restored, addictions broken, sin confessed, miraculous healings, church unity, and the sweetness of fellowship with Jesus. 

New Beginnings Baptist Church, where I serve, is one of those churches. We were a church that found ourselves headed into 2021 in a state of crisis. From the perspective of how many churches are measured, we looked healthy. We were growing numerically, we were financially stable, and our ministries were busy and thriving. We looked alive, but we were on the brink of death! We were missionally distracted, spiritually dry, and relationally divided. We had lost our passion, were not seeing spiritual fruit, and were going through the motions of church. Unfortunately, it was difficult for us to recognize. 

"I truly believe that if we devote our congregations to prayer, we will see a movement of God in our state and nation that we have never seen."

In this season of darkness, God brought us to a place of brokenness and called us to pray. Our church cleared our Wednesday night schedule and we began to meet weekly for corporate prayer. It is difficult to describe what God has done in our church over the past 18 months. We have seen an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that cannot be explained by preaching or plans. The only explanation is that we called on the Lord and He heard our cry and is answering. 

Our story is just one of dozens of stories of churches that have returned to prayer and are seeing God move in power among them. I believe that revival is coming! But it is coming for those who will return to the Lord in prayer. Throughout God’s Word and church history, we have seen that when prayer is prioritized among God’s people, it becomes a catalyst for God moving with power among His people. Every significant movement of God both biblically and historically is birthed through desperate prayer. 

My prayer is that the churches of our convention will prioritize corporate prayer as essential. Let us pray more in our Sunday gatherings. Let us set aside a corporate time of prayer weekly. Let us have special seasons of fasting and prayer built into our yearly rhythms. I truly believe that if we devote our congregations to prayer, we will see a movement of God in our state and nation that we have never seen. 

My heart’s desire is to see the greatest prayer movement in the history of our nation. I believe that it would lead to us witnessing the greatest revival we could ever imagine. Let us clear our schedules, gather our people, and cry out to the God who hears!

Lone Star Scoop • July 2022

Pastors Boswell, Lino join SBTC as consultants

GRAPEVINE Matt Boswell, pastor of The Trails Church in Celina, and Nathan Lino, pastor of First Baptist Church of Forney, have joined the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention as consultants.

Boswell will serve as a worship consultant in the Church Health & Leadership department. His duties will include establishing and developing a young worship pastor’s network where leaders will not only meet with one another on occasion, but be encouraged, resourced, and coached in their respective churches and ministries. He is the founding pastor of The Trails Church, has been involved in church planting and pastoral ministry since 1998, and is an author and hymnwriter.

Lino will serve as a ministry consultant in the Missional Ministries department. Among his duties, Lino will host periodical Zoom meetings to assist pastors in a variety of ministry areas; provide evangelism support and training for pastors; and help pastors learn how to lead corporate prayer meetings as requested. He will also stand ready to assist pastors and churches implement a global missions strategy. Lino, the founding pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church, recently answered a call to serve as senior pastor at FBC Forney.

Kaunitz offers update on Sexual Abuse Task Force

LONGVIEW—SBTC President Todd Kaunitz said its Sexual Abuse Task Force that has been asked to review the convention’s sexual abuse practices and policies has entered a season of evaluation as it moves closer to possibly bringing recommendations for changes to annual meeting messengers in November.

The update from Kaunitz, pastor of New Beginnings Baptist Church, was provided via a video released on SBTC social media accounts on June 8. In the video, he says the seven-member task force has completed the first phase of its work wherein it evaluated current SBTC sexual abuse policies and procedures and those of other, similar organizations. The second phase is an evaluation of those findings, and the final phase will include the drafting of possible changes to convention policies. Those proposed changes will then go to the SBTC Executive Board, and finally, church messengers, for consideration.

The 2022 SBTC annual meeting is scheduled for Nov. 14-15 in Corpus Christi. 

“I encourage you to continue to pray for us as we examine all of these areas,” Kaunitz says in the video. “It is so important that we as a state convention are doing everything we can to not only protect people from sexual abuse, but also have a proper response when those unfortunate cases occur. … We’re so excited to be a part of a convention that takes these things seriously.”

SBTC chaplains, ministers respond to Uvalde school shooting
UVALDE—Pastors, chaplains, and Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief volunteers were among those who responded to the May 24 shooting that claimed the lives of 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School.  Veteran Quick Response Unit (QRU) feeding volunteers set up a mobile food truck and served meals to first responders from federal, state, and local government agencies. SBTC DR chaplains made themselves available at the QRU site to talk and pray with visitors as needed. “This is where we need to be,” SBTC QRU volunteer Ronnie Roark said, noting that they had been feeding 85-100 at each meal. His wife, Connie, added, “A meal and a prayer. That’s what we bring.”
East Texas pastor honored for 7 decades of ministry
HUGHES SPRINGS—Charles Russell, pastor of Turkey Creek Baptist Church, was recently honored for 77 years of ministry during a meeting of the Enon Baptist Association, which covers deep Northeast Texas. Russell has pastored at Turkey Creek for 22 years. 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. He also has served as director of missions for three counties around Jacksonville.
Special Needs Sunday scheduled for July 10
Special Needs Sunday, which is observed by Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches the second Sunday of each July, will be July 10 this year.  This yearly event reminds followers of Jesus of their calling to make the gospel accessible to all people. It also provides an opportunity to celebrate those in the church who can often feel forgotten or neglected and educate church members about ways they can make accommodations for those who need them as an outreach to special needs families who are longing for a church home.  For more information, contact Sandra Peoples at

Texas Southern Baptists proclaim ‘major victory’ after Roe v. Wade overturned

GRAPEVINE—The first resolution passed by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention in 1998 decried the practice of abortion that was federally legalized in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court of the United States.

Now, almost 24 years later, the protestations and prayers of those early SBTC founders were answered in a Friday (June 24) decision by the Court to overturn Roe.

In a 5-4 opinion, the Court overruled the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that struck down all state abortion bans and legalized the procedure nationwide. The justices also invalidated the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey opinion that affirmed Roe.

The Court’s Friday opinion—in a Mississippi case regarding the prohibition of the abortion of preborn children whose gestational age is more than 15 weeks known legally as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization—opens the door for states to once again have the authority to decide the legality of abortion rather than the federal government.

By legalizing abortion for nearly any reason and at nearly every stage of development, as it has been interpreted in the courts since 1973, Roe has given federal support for the deaths of more than an estimated 60 million unborn children.

“The SBTC is unashamedly pro-life and we see this as a major victory in the fight for the unborn,” SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick said. “I implore you to join us in praying that we continue to see progress after this monumental decision!”

Writing the court’s opinion, Associate Justice Samuel Alito called Roe “egregiously wrong from the start.” He was joined in the five-justice majority that overturned Roe by justices Barrett, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Thomas.

Chief Justice John Roberts agreed with the majority in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, but not with the decision to overturn Roe. The majority decision will return abortion regulation to individual states. Texas is one of the leaders among pro-life states.

Texas passed House Bill 1280 in 2021, the “Human Life Protection Act,” which is a complete ban on abortion beginning at conception. Texas is one of 13 states that have a law which will ban most abortions. Abortionists who violate HB 1280 in Texas will face civil and criminal penalties. This ban takes effect in 30 days. Texas has also set aside $100 million to support pregnant women and mothers.

“We must continue to support women and families when they face unplanned pregnancies,” said Cindy Asmussen, who serves as advisor to the Texas Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee. “The church and our pregnancy resource centers will no doubt continue to be faithful to the mission of offering material, financial, emotional, and spiritual support.”

Retired pastor Steve Branson—who 25 years ago as pastor of Village Parkway Baptist Church in San Antonio helped found Life Choices, a pregnancy resource center—encouraged churches to continue their ministry to pregnant women.

“Life Choices is doing everything we’ve always done,” he said, “and I don’t see that changing at all. I think the ministry has even greater opportunity in the future. I think the church keeps doing what it’s been doing!”

Reflecting on the 20 resolutions passed by Southern Baptist Convention President Bart Barber, pastor or First Baptist Church of Farmersville, agreed with Branson. At the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Calif., Barber chaired a resolutions committee which anticipated the overturn of Roe.

“As we stated just days ago in a resolution at our 2022 Annual Meeting, in a post-Roe United States, ‘We commit to stand with and pray for abortion-vulnerable women, to eliminate any perceived need for the horror of abortion, and to oppose Planned Parenthood and other predatory organizations or institutions who exploit vulnerable women for profit.’

“State-by-state, mother-by-mother, heart-by-heart,” he added, “we will continue our sacred work toward this goal.”

Information from Baptist Press was used in this report.

High court: School-choice program violates religious free exercise

WASHINGTON (BP)—The U.S. Supreme Court solidified its view of religious freedom regarding public benefits by ruling Tuesday (June 21) a state violated the First Amendment by barring faith-based schools from participation in a tuition-assistance program.

In a 6-3 opinion, the high court decided Maine offended the First Amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion by refusing to include in the state’s education-choice program schools that teach their religious beliefs. For more than four decades, Maine has excluded faith-based schools from a state system that assists families in the many small towns in the state that do not operate secondary public schools and the smaller number that have no elementary schools.

“Maine’s ‘nonsectarian’ requirement for its otherwise generally available tuition assistance payments violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court in Carson v. Makin. “Regardless of how the benefit and restriction are described, the program operates to identify and exclude otherwise eligible schools on the basis of their religious exercise.”

The high court’s split was not an unexpected one. Joining Roberts in the majority were the associate justices generally considered conservative: Clarence Thomas; Samuel Alito; Neil Gorsuch; Brett Kavanaugh; and Amy Coney Barrett. Dissenting were Associate Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, who typically make up the court’s liberal wing.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) filed a friend-of-the-court brief in March 2021 that asked the Supreme Court to review a lower court’s decision in favor of the state. It submitted another brief in September of last year that urged the justices to support the parents challenging the religious rule in Maine’s program.

“Maine’s attempt to sidestep the Constitution was halted in its tracks today, and rightly so,” said Brent Leatherwood, the ERLC’s acting president, in a news release. “The justices’ decision here accurately comports with the fundamental nature of religious liberty in our nation.

“The Court rightly decided that parents who choose to participate in a program like the one in Maine cannot have their constitutional rights abridged merely because they choose to send their children to a religious school,” he said. “Similar attempts to curtail free expression have rightly been labeled ‘odious’ by the Court in previous decisions, and Maine’s program can now be added to that infamous list.”

In Maine’s system, districts without schools are required to pay tuition up to a legal limit at a public or private school elsewhere of the parents’ choosing. To qualify for the program, however, private schools must be “nonsectarian,” a category that disqualifies any religious school that promotes the faith with which it is identified.

Mike Nerney, associational mission strategist for the Maine Baptist Association, said the decision “represents a victory for Maine families.”

“As parents, over the years my wife and I have chosen numerous educational options (including one of the religious schools at the center of this case) for our children based on what we felt was best at any given time of our lives as well as for their individual personal development,” Nerney said in written comments. “In the case at hand, given that the State of Maine’s funds are being given directly to the families, and not to the educational institutions, the Court’s ruling merely serves to support a parent’s right to make educational decisions in the best interest of their own children.”

The Supreme Court has “repeatedly held that a State violates the Free Exercise Clause when it excludes religious observers from otherwise available public benefits,” Roberts wrote in the decision that reversed a lower court’s opinion.

“The State pays tuition for certain students at private schools – so long as the schools are not religious,” he wrote. “That is discrimination against religion.”

The court’s opinion relied heavily on two recent decisions, Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Mo., v. Comer in 2017 and Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue in 2019. In the cases, the justices invalidated state programs that excluded a church and certain schools because of their “religious character.”

“The ‘unremarkable’ principles applied in Trinity Lutheran and Espinoza suffice to resolve this case,” Roberts wrote. “While the wording of the Montana and Maine provisions is different, their effect is the same: to ‘disqualify some private schools’ from funding ‘solely because they are religious.’”

Maine’s exclusion of religious schools from its program “promotes stricter separation of church and state than the Federal Constitution requires,” he wrote. “As we held in Espinoza, a ‘State need not subsidize private education. But once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools simply because they are religious.’”

In his dissent, Breyer denied the Trinity Lutheran and Espinoza opinions resolve the Maine case.

Maine “excludes schools from its tuition program not because of the schools’ religious character but because the schools will use the funds to teach and promote religious ideals. … [U]nlike the circumstances present in Trinity Lutheran and Espinoza, it is religious activity, not religious labels, that lies at the heart of this case,” Breyer wrote.

Roberts responded to Breyer in the majority opinion by saying the justices held in the Trinity Lutheran and Espinoza rulings “that the Free Exercise Clause forbids discrimination on the basis of religious status. But those decisions never suggested that use-based discrimination is any less offensive to the Free Exercise Clause.”

He wrote, “Any attempt to give effect to such a distinction by scrutinizing whether and how a religious school pursues its educational mission would also raise serious concerns about state entanglement with religion and denominational favoritism. [T]he prohibition on status-based discrimination under the Free Exercise Clause is not a permission to engage in use-based discrimination.”

Southern Baptists Michael and Jonathan Whitehead, a father-son lawyer team who practice in the Kansas City, Mo., area, represented the Maine parents along with lawyers from the Institute for Justice and First Liberty Institute. They also helped represent Trinity Lutheran Church in its suit.

Jonathan Whitehead, who is an ERLC trustee, described the decision as “a breakthrough precedent for equal access for parental choice in education, and we hope it will benefit parents across the nation with other programs for school choice.”

“Today, the Supreme Court made clear that equal access means states can’t discriminate against religious status or use,” he said in a news release. “Free exercise means both religious beliefs and religious actions must be protected.”

Michael Whitehead said, “Justices Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor are willing to allow parents to choose nominally religious schools, but oppose the choice of robustly religious schools.”

In a written statement, Kelly Shackelford, president of First Liberty Institute, called it “a great day for religious liberty in America. We are thrilled that the Court affirmed once again that religious discrimination will not be tolerated in this country.”

Meanwhile, strict church-state separationist leader Rachel Laser charged the Supreme Court “is forcing taxpayers to fund religious education.” The president of Americans United for Separation of Church and State said in a news release, “Far from honoring religious freedom, this decision tramples the religious freedom of everyone.”

The First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston upheld the constitutionality of the Maine program’s exclusion of faith-based schools. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) joined the state in defending the program before the high court in oral arguments in December 2021. In doing so, the DOJ reversed the position held by the Trump administration, which supported the parents who brought a lawsuit.

Maine’s tuition-assistance program included faith-based schools until a 1980 interpretation by the state’s attorney general resulted in a change.

This article originally appeared in Baptist Press.

Longtime professor of adult education Lucien Coleman dies at 91

Lucien Edwin Coleman Jr., retired professor of adult education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1983-1993), died Saturday, June 11, in his home in Weatherford, Texas. He was 91.

“The influence of Lucien Coleman in the area of Christian adult education is still being felt today in the lives of the countless students he taught and in the lives of persons taught by those teachers,” said Adam W. Greenway, president of Southwestern Seminary and Texas Baptist College. “I’m grateful for Dr. Coleman’s years of investment in Southwestern Seminary. I urge all Southwesterners to join me in praying for the entire Coleman family during this time of loss.”

Jack D. Terry Jr., vice president emeritus for institutional advancement and senior professor of foundations of education, was instrumental in bringing Coleman to Southwestern Seminary when he served as dean of what was then known as the School of Religious Education.

“It was my happy privilege in 1982 to contact Dr. Coleman, who was teaching adult education at Southern Seminary,” Terry said. “At that time, Dr. Coleman was the premier seminary professor and writer in adult education in the Southern Baptist Convention. I was told by my colleague, Jim Williams, who was also a professor of adult education at that time, that to convince Lucien Coleman to leave Southern Seminary and come to Southwestern Seminary was a ‘religious education coup.’”

Terry added that Coleman “was a master at creating adult learning sequences that could be used in a class of any size from the smallest adult class in country churches in rural America, to the adult classes in the largest metropolitan mega churches in the convention.  His ability to instruct the least able adult teacher to the most educationally qualified adult teacher in Southern Baptist churches was his greatest and most enduring quality as a teacher of teachers.”

N. Chris Shirley, interim dean of the Jack D. Terry School of Educational Ministries, said Coleman was a forerunner and influencer in adult education for the Southern Baptist Convention. He also recalled that “He was a gentle man. He was a kind person who was very approachable and was very open. One thing I remember was he invited his classes over to his house for lunch and fellowship with him and his wife.”

Coleman was born March 2, 1931, and graduated from Ouachita Baptist College, where he met his wife, Bobbie, of 69 years. He was ordained for ministry in 1950 and served as pastor and minister of education to several congregations before and during his time as professor of religious education at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., where he served from 1966 to 1983 prior to coming to SWBTS.

While at Southern Seminary, he earned four degrees, including a Doctor of Education in religious education. He also earned a Master of Arts in communications from the University of Kentucky. From 1979-80, he was a visiting scholar at Regents Park College, Oxford University. During his tenure at Southwestern, he taught at Hong Kong Baptist Theological Seminary and Korea Baptist Theological Seminary as a mission volunteer in 1988-89.

He was the author of numerous books, notably How to Teach the Bible (1980), Understanding Today’s Adults (1983), and Why the Church Must Teach (1984). He was also the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, including the Distinguished Leader Award from the Baptist Association of Christian Educators (BACE) in 1995. Coleman taught in seminaries and conference centers on six continents. He was a frequent contributor to numerous Southern Baptist publications, including Sunday School material, Open Windows and the Lucien Coleman Teaching Ideas for Lifeway’s Bible study material. He and his wife wrote training materials from their home for 38 years, reaching at their peak more than 800 churches.

His roots to Southern Baptist work extend back to his father, Lucien Coleman Sr., who served as an Arkansas legislator and attorney for 21 years before being ordained and serving in churches as a minister, as well as in the Arkansas Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Brotherhood Commission.

Coleman is survived by his wife, Bobbie, and their three children: Vivian Conrad and her husband John; Lynette Johnson and her husband Garry; and Martin Coleman and his wife Shirley. They have 12 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.

Services were held Saturday, June 18, at Laurel Land Funeral Home in Fort Worth.

SBC 2022: Messengers adopt 9 resolutions on current issues

ANAHEIM, Calif.—Southern Baptist Convention messengers expressed their opinions on a variety of timely issues during their two-day meeting in Anaheim, Calif., June 14-15.

Nine resolutions dealing with topics ranging from rural church ministry to prayer for Ukrainian believers were approved after lengthy discussion during two sessions of the SBC meeting. Two of the high-profile resolutions dealt with the convention’s response to revelations from the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force.

Resolutions Committee chairman Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville, told messengers that the committee received in the weeks leading up to the convention 29 resolutions from members of churches qualified to send messengers.

Barber said that some resolutions were declined by the committee because of time constraints, an evaluation of timeliness, or the committee’s judgment that the message didn’t represent a likely consensus on the part of messengers. Others were used in some way to craft the resolutions recommended.

Resolution five states pastors should be held to standards of ethics at least as high as those applied to other professionals and encouraged state legislatures to pass laws addressing pastoral conduct relative to the safety of their parishioners. The resolution also asked lawmakers to pass “shield laws” to protect churches from civil liability when they share information about alleged abuse with other churches or institutions.

Resolution six, “On Lament and Repentance for Sexual Abuse,” emphasized grief for sexual abuse within our fellowship. During the committee’s press conference on Wednesday, June 15, Barber said this resolution was received from the Sexual Abuse Task Force and crafted by the Resolutions Committee before messengers received it. He said 1 Corinthians 5 (dealing with that church’s response to sexual immorality in their midst) was the scriptural basis for the resolution.

“I think the roadmap that’s given for us there is to shun arrogance, to mourn, and then to take action,” Barber said. “We believe that the resolution on lament played a critical part in obeying this biblical command to us as a church.”

The anticipated U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization led the messengers to celebrate the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade and to commit “to continue and increase their efforts to serve and support local pregnancy resource centers, pro-life organizations, churches, foster care, and adoptive families.”

Native American pastor Mike Keahbone, of First Baptist Church of Lawton, Okla., presented a resolution dealing with religious liberty and forced conversion among Native Americans. He said the resolution was personal and significant, during the press conference.

“It’s the first resolution among Southern Baptists that addresses the mistreatment and abuse of Native Americans,” he said. “We have long fought for racial reconciliation and stood on the side of those who weep and mourn and hurt, and Native Americans have often felt left out of that—even brothers and sisters in our own convention.”

The resolution affirming rural ministry noted the significance of ministries in the 75% of U.S. towns that are small and rural. The convention further encourages efforts to “establish, help and revitalize churches in rural communities.”

Other resolution topics included: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in which the resolution deplored the atrocities being experienced during “a war of aggression” against a sovereign nation; a resolution drawn from several submitted which highlighted gun violence, people with disabilities, and sexual immorality in our culture as those issues touch on the “dignity of every human being as created in the image of God;” denouncing the prosperity gospel as “false teaching;” and an expression of gratitude to the city of Anaheim and California Southern Baptists for hosting the convention.

Includes reporting from Erin Roach of Baptist Press

Wounded and wailing, for now

I’ve been a couple of times to the Western or “Wailing” wall along the former site of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. The wall is the closest a Jew can come to the temple destroyed in 72 A.D. and has become a place where many mourn the loss of the temple. The wall itself is not holy, but it is as near as they can come to what remains of their most holy place, now reduced to dust and rubble.

It’s like a burial site. The grass on top and the headstone are nothing sacred to us. In fact, our beloved is not what we remember either. That body is returning to the dust. But it is as close as we can come to that granddaughter we cherished. We know that she no longer lives in that flesh; she has gone where we cannot yet follow. But we remember, we tend the grass, we adorn the soil on top with flowers or keepsakes. That place becomes a connection to the person who no longer lives here.

Cemeteries are then melancholy places by design. We call them “memorial parks” or whatever, but they are lonely places, quiet and conducive for the most sober reflection. So much more is this true as you sit on the soil above someone you still grieve. The park-like setting becomes a place of lament, of wailing.

To carry through my metaphor, the exiled children of Israel wept for all they’d lost as they sat by the rivers of Babylon (Psalm 137). Grief is a past-present-future experience, but the future element is the imagining of what might have been compared with what we think will likely be. Such imaginings are notoriously unreliable, especially as they issue from distraught hearts. But the right-now experience of loss is deeply real, almost inexpressibly so. It is for a time deepened by what we remember of what we’ve lost—that touch, that relationship, those expectations that gave us joy.

Our Jewish friends also visit their wall in hope of the temple’s rebuilding. They remember, but they also hope to see the demolished holy place returned to its former glory. In that way, their mourning becomes “how long, O Lord?”, believing that He knows the date when His comfort will be made perfect.

And so do we mourn in hope. The flesh that failed our loved one will one day be revitalized beyond its former state. Our loss is real, and we are separated from our hope by some span of time, but it is not forever. That deep soil between us and our beloved one is, symbolically, an uncrossable gulf for us—one that will not be bridged from our side. When we walk the silent grounds of a cemetery, we are standing on our side of the gulf, dreaming of a bridge, believing for that day.

But in the case of the temple in Jerusalem, and the small temple formerly occupied by a warm-blooded person, it’s too little to long for what we’ve lost. Something even greater will accompany, even cause, the restoration of what was destroyed. No real temple will be rebuilt unless the Holy God makes it happen. It is the violence and devastation of sin that disturbs our joy in this life. Nothing dead will live until someone greater than that sin wills it. Nothing really significant will be restored to us without the presence of the Unchanging LORD. We long for Him if we understand these things at all. The offense of death is against Him first of all, and He will be its conqueror.

Of all people, I would not say it is unworthy for us to long for those we lose for a time. I am saying that this wounded love we can grasp is a small window into the love that will answer our prayer more deeply than we know to ask. Our reverence for the dust that was once lovely to us can be a forward-looking expression of hope, rather than nostalgic bitterness. The mourning of this life is a mere glimpse of the mourning the Lord promises in Matthew 5 to comfort. Grief teaches me to understand that mourning a little better than I did.

This is the lesson, I suppose. The transition of a lovely child leaves a mark on all she knew. For me, the loss is like a new scar on my hand—always with me, unable to feel former sensations—a memento of the strikes of a malicious world I’ll carry for all my years.

And then I will not, as she does not.

Pastors Boswell, Lino join SBTC staff as consultants

GRAPEVINE—Matt Boswell, pastor of The Trails Church in Celina, and Nathan Lino, pastor of First Baptist Church of Forney, have joined the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention as consultants.

Boswell will serve as a worship consultant in the Church Health & Leadership department. His duties will include establishing and developing a young worship pastor’s network where leaders will not only meet with one another on occasion, but be encouraged, resourced, and coached in their respective churches and ministries.

He is the founding pastor of The Trails Church, has been involved in church planting and pastoral ministry since 1998, and is an author and hymn writer.

“I am so encouraged by what the Lord is doing around the state of Texas within the SBTC,” Boswell said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to serve our churches as they pursue God-centered, disciple-making, mission-advancing corporate worship services.

Lino will serve as a ministry consultant in the Missional Ministries department. Among his duties, he will host periodical Zoom meetings to assist pastors in a variety of ministry areas; provide evangelism support and training for pastors; and help pastors learn how to lead corporate prayer meetings as requested. He will also stand ready to assist pastors and churches implement a global missions strategy. Lino, the founding pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church, recently answered a call to serve as senior pastor at FBC Forney.

“I’m excited to serve as a consultant to pastors with the SBTC. Coaching and mentoring pastors and their wives is a passion of both my wife, Nicole, and I,” Lino said. “We’ve been coaching pastor couples for the last few years as the Lord has opened doors for doing so. Now 20 years into pastoring, we want mentoring future generations of pastors and their wives to be a major priority during the rest of our ministry.”


Criswell’s Cooper remembered for scholarship, impact on Baptist institutions

DENTON—Dr. Lamar Eugene Cooper Sr., 80, of Denton was a noted Hebrew and Old Testament scholar who spent his career serving Southern Baptist institutions of higher learning. Cooper died peacefully at home on Saturday, June 18, 2022.

He was born in New Orleans on January 8, 1942. He answered the call of his Sunday school teacher at First Baptist Church of Jena, La., to trust Jesus Christ as his Savior. Following his surrender to the Lord’s call to ministry in 1956 at youth camp at Glorietta, N.M., Cooper preached his first sermon–on Psalm 27–at FBC Jena.

After graduating from Louisiana College in 1963 with a Bible major and psychology minor, Cooper earned Th.M. and Th.D. degrees from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.  He also completed summer studies in archaeology at Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University.

He pastored churches in Louisiana and Texas before joining the faculty of Criswell College in 1978 as a professor of Hebrew and Old Testament. During his 33 years at Criswell, he was instrumental in getting the college regionally accredited. He served as Criswell’s dean of graduate studies from 1980-1989 and was executive vice president and provost from 1977-2012. He was also interim president twice during key periods of the college’s history and was named graduate dean emeritus in 2011.

Criswell College released a statement via social media over the weekend, reading in part, “Dr. Cooper’s legacy at the college cannot be overstated. … The debt all of us owe Dr. Cooper is immense.”

Between stints at Criswell, Cooper served at the Christian Life Commission (now Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission) of the Southern Baptist Convention and at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary as vice president of academic affairs and dean of faculty. In 2012, he stepped away from administration and went back to the classroom full-time at Criswell until his retirement in 2019.

Cooper participated in his first archaeological excavation in Israel at Tel Be’er Sheva in 1969. He also worked at Yoqune’an, the Temple Mount Salvage Project, and Qumran.

His numerous published works include Ezekiel in the New American Commentary series. He was a contributing editor of The Believer’s Study Bible and Criswell Study Bible and provided commentary and notes for The Apologetics Study Bible and The Message.

Cooper loved God’s Word. He devoted his life to studying, memorizing, and teaching Scripture. He often challenged people to memorize Scripture by saying, “You can’t ‘REmember’ until you member.”

He was a longtime member of First Baptist Church of Dallas, where he served as class minister, theologian in residence, and teacher of the Criswell Bible Class, which was broadcast on radio station KCBI.

In 1963, Cooper married Barbara Ann Agent, who preceded him in death. In 2007, he married Diana Owen and they were blessed to enjoy his later years together. He greatly loved spending time with and cooking for his family and traveling.

Cooper was preceded in death by his parents, two brothers, and wife Barbara. He is survived by his wife Diana, four children, and six grandchildren.

A celebration of life service will be held Friday, June 24, at 10 a.m. in Ruth Chapel at Criswell College, 4010 Gaston Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75246, with interment to follow at Restland.

Concentric circles of cooperation in Southern Baptist life

For the first time in a very long time, the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Anaheim, Calif., in its 177th year, came very close to having a much-needed conversation on the nature of cooperation moving forward. For some, frustration abounded under the perception that the convention was having trouble determining “what a pastor is.” The presenting issue was over whether or not a Baptist church utilizing the title “Pastor” for a female staff member, other than the senior/lead pastor or an elder (ex: Children’s Pastor, Worship Pastor, etc.), could continue to be part of the Convention. While this is clearly a matter that needs to be agreed upon biblically, and quickly I submit, the larger issue, as some noted from the floor, is much deeper.

First, let’s understand the nature of our national convention of churches. The SBC is an annual convening of likeminded local baptistic churches in the United States, generally agreeing around certain fundamental doctrinal positions, for the purpose of Great Commission advance throughout their neighborhoods and the nations. It is the purpose of this annual convening and its ongoing supporting structure “to provide a general organization for Baptists in the United States and its territories for the promotion of Christian missions at home and abroad,” (SBC Constitution Article II).

Each church is autonomous and voluntarily chooses to affiliate and cooperate with the work of the convention. But independence does not require, nor does it suppose, isolation. Even today we confess, in our BFM2000 Article XIV, that “Christ’s people should, as occasion requires, organize such associations and conventions as may best secure cooperation for the great objects of the Kingdom of God.” Southern Baptists confess a New Testament doctrine of inter-congregational cooperation. Indeed, we are, as is commonly said, “better together.”

From 1845-1925, there was no commonly held confession of faith in the SBC. Most churches affirmed the 1833 New Hampshire Confession and/or the 1689 London Baptist Confession. Some also held to other confessions of faith and practice. In 1925, the SBC voted to affirm its own statement of faith, The Baptist Faith and Message, which intended to capture the voice of the churches on issues they commonly held to be primary for the nature of their missional convening and cooperation. The Preamble of each iteration (1925, 1963, 2000) has included the following qualifying list to facilitate proper understanding of the national convention’s purpose in commonly confessing these doctrines, and the limitations thereof:

  1. That they constitute a consensus of opinion of some Baptist body, large or small, for the general instruction and guidance of our own people and others concerning those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely conditions of salvation revealed in the New Testament, viz., repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.
  2. That we do not regard them as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility. As in the past so in the future Baptist should hold themselves free to revise their statements of faith as may seem to them wise and expedient at any time.
  3. That any group of Baptists, large or small, have the inherent right to draw up for themselves and publish to the world a confession of their faith whenever they may think it advisable to do so.
  4. That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience.
  5. That they are statements of religious convictions, drawn from the Scriptures, and are not to be used to hamper freedom of thought or investigation in other realms of life.

In its historical governance, the SBC’s Credentials Committee existed only to verify whether a church could seat messengers at the annual meeting. In 2019 SBC messengers voted to change the Constitution to allow for a standing Credentials Committee, with the broader scope of responsibility to determine throughout the year whether a church is in friendly cooperation with the convention based on the Constitution’s Article III which states, among a few other points of consideration, that the church must have “a faith and practice which closely identifies with the Convention’s adopted statement of faith.” (See Bylaw 8.C.3.a. and Constitution Article III.)

The SBC Credentials Committee, as it now stands, is to determine whether a church has “a faith and practice which closely identifies with” the BFM2000. The intention is to maintain general doctrinal consensus within the convention of churches, through the powers of our Constitution Article III, without overstepping the limitations of our Constitution Article IV (“While independent and sovereign in its own sphere, the Convention does not claim and will never attempt to exercise any authority over any other Baptist body”). Because no church is required by our governance to affirm the BFM2000 to become or remain affiliated, it is up to each Credentials Committee, rotating through the years, to determine the level of cooperation and confessional adherence that would constitute “a faith and practice which closely identifies with the Conventions’ adopted statement of faith.” This is why it may seem ridiculous to some in the convention hall that a Credentials Committee would not take action on a church that seems to be clearly in violation of one article, or one portion of one article, of the faith statement. To many messengers it will be a clear-cut issue, while for others it will feel more ambiguous. Where to draw the line is completely left to the discretion of the Credentials Committee, since their constitutional duty is not to determine whether a church has violated one article or another, but whether that church, in its deviation, still has a faith and practice that is close enough to the faith statement to be considered in general alignment with the Convention’s doctrine and work.

Like it or not, that’s where we are. By creating a standing Credentials Committee in 2019 through bylaw amendment, the messengers charged the Credentials Committee with the task of preserving doctrinal unity within the convention of churches. But they did not change the Constitution to give the Credentials Committee the teeth they need to do their work with objectivity.

The conversation we need to be having is on the nature of our missional cooperation moving forward. Should we become, in our national SBC, more like a confessional fellowship of churches requiring all member churches to affirm and operate within the parameters of the faith statement? Or should we continue our historic practice of convening churches with “like faith and practice,” using the faith statement as a general guideline?

I will not attempt to answer that question now. However, I would like to offer the following framework to help lay some explicative groundwork for this much-needed conversation. The first question we should ask, which I attempt to answer in this article as briefly as possible, is: What is the nature of Southern Baptist Cooperation?

To this end, here are what I am calling “Concentric Circles of Cooperation in Southern Baptist Life.”

Non-Confessional Amity

(EXAMPLE: Larger Evangelicalism)

We start here because Southern Baptists have historically been, and are currently, part of a much larger Evangelical stream of Great Commission work. We can, and often do, join forces with other evangelical denominations or independent movements to advance shared biblical causes, as long as doing so does not require compromise on our core doctrinal tenets. Perhaps the idea is captured best in the last sentence of the BFM2000 Article XIV: “Cooperation is desirable between the various Christian denominations, when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament.” Southern Baptists join forces with a variety of evangelical friends from time to time in an agreeable, amiable Christian spirit.

Confessional Connectionalism

(EXAMPLES: Southern Baptist Convention; Most State Southern Baptist Conventions and some Local Associations)

This is the first level, the most basic form, of a clear confessional inter-congregational missiology. Autonomous Southern Baptist churches choose to come together for Great Commission advance. The institutions and entities they create do not hold ecclesial authority over them. Rather, they exist to serve the Great Commission efforts of cooperating churches. In a way, the churches gather around the faith statement, but not necessarily through it. They hold a faith and practice which “closely identifies with” the Baptist Faith and Message. However, the resources they pool for their shared missional task can only be applied to individuals and entities which ascribe and adhere to (“sign off on,” as is commonly said) the Baptist Faith and Message. This affords SBC churches a functional confessional missiology without a strictly confessional identity. All of the churches do not necessarily hold to every word of the faith statement, but all of their cooperative work is guided and guarded by that faith statement. In this way, the SBC becomes merely a “voluntary and advisory” body, “designed to elicit, combine, and direct the energies of our people in the most effective manner” toward the advancement of the Great Commission (BFM2000 Article XIV).

Confessional Identity

(EXAMPLE: Southern Baptists of Texas Convention)

As the concentric circles of cooperation tighten, one finds more doctrinal alignment, and by extension, fewer member churches. Because Southern Baptist Churches are encouraged to organize “as occasion requires… such associations and conventions as may best secure cooperation for the great objects of the Kingdom of God,” (BFM Article XIV), they may do so even within the larger Southern Baptist mechanism. In fact, Baptist history would show that the purest forms of Baptist cooperation began locally, in associations, then grew into regional and state conventions, then eventually into a national confessional connectionalism. Associations and State Conventions have, for hundreds of years, defined their own parameters of cooperation. Many of them, such as today’s Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, have required churches to affirm a confession of faith in order to affiliate with and remain in good cooperation with the work of the association/convention (historic examples: 1655 Midland Baptist Confession of Particular Baptists; 1651 The Faith and Practice of Thirty Congregations Gathered According to the Primitive Pattern; 1656 The Sommerset Confession). The churches in these associations/conventions share more than a confessional connectionalism; they also share a confessional identity. The confessional statement is the door through which a church enters the network, and it continues to serve as their umbrella of cooperation. The Bible is still the ultimate rule of faith and practice for each church. The confession is not about defining orthodoxy. Rather, it is about defining parameters of cooperation. Each church agrees to be held accountable to the doctrines they commonly confess in the faith statement. By extension, each church agrees to show grace wherever biblical doctrines are not clearly defined in the faith statement. Again, it’s not about doctrinal regulation, but about parameters for cooperation through a shared “doctrinal accountability” (BFM2000 Preamble). Sharing confessional identity, the churches still choose to cooperate with the larger Southern Baptist Convention, in its confessional connectionalism, to accomplish their Great Commission goals. They also choose to work in good faith within larger evangelicalism, through non-confessional amity, when they deem such actions beneficial and appropriate.

Extra-Confessional Affinity

(EXAMPLES: Baptist 21 Network; Conservative Baptist Network; Pillar Network; Cowboy Church Network; Black Church Network; Korean Baptist Fellowship)

The tightest circles of Baptist cooperation are found in those pockets of affinity groups who not only confess the convention’s broader confession of faith, but also hold to a stricter set of doctrinal principles or identifying markers. These are sometimes called “tribes” in popular Southern Baptist language. I would submit that tribes, in themselves, are not a problem. Rather, it is tribalism that poses a concern for greater missional cooperation. It is good and healthy for churches who share affinity outside the parameters of the faith statement to gather for mutual encouragement and fellowship. They may even generate missional movement within their own affinity groups that further strengthens the core of the larger convention’s work. Like all other forms of associationalism, these are “voluntary and advisory bodies designed to elicit, combine, and direct the energies of our people in the most effective manner,” (BFM2000 Article XIV). Although more tightly aligned doctrinally and/or distinctively, they expand and enlarge their Great Commission impact when they work with the larger family of faith, through confessional identity, within confessional connectionalism, and outward into non-confessional amity.

Southern Baptist churches and organizations may fall anywhere on the spectrum of the concentric circles of cooperation. They may also cross between those circles either from time to time or as a matter of their consistent governance or practice. But the nature of cooperation in Southern Baptist life is, as of today, a multi-layered approach to good-faith cooperation for the fulfillment of the Great Commission in our neighborhoods and to the nations.

For the Southern Baptist Convention at large, the question moving forward is not necessarily the interpretation of one article of faith or another (although I do believe we need clarity on a couple of them, as was demonstrated this week from Article VI). Rather, it is whether we continue in the current pattern of confessional connectionalism or redefine the nature of our national cooperation toward confessional identity. I am confident that Southern Baptists can have this discussion with the mind of Christ, in good faith, and with sincere affection for one another. Hopefully, these Concentric Circles of Cooperation in Southern Baptist Life will provide a helpful framework for that discussion.