Month: June 2022

Leaders aim to set “F.I.R.E.” to next generation of church leaders through recent gathering

FORT WORTH—As part of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Forging Integrated Relationships in Evangelism (F.I.R.E.) Initiative, a group Hispanic pastors from various churches gathered at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to connect with Hispanic students and promote collaboration in the advancement of the gospel on May 12.

The F.I.R.E. Initiative was established to connect SWBTS, Criswell College, and Jacksonville College with SBTC churches to increase collaboration in missional ministries.

Pastors and wives, such as Humberto Corredera and his wife, Yaniuris, from Prestonwood en Español, and leaders such as Daniel Sánchez, emeritus professor at SWBTS, and Mark McClellan, director of the Hispanic program at SWBTS, invested their time to attend the dinner in order to pray, fellowship, and forge relationships with the Hispanic students, deepen their commitment to fulfilling the Great Commission, and focus on missions in the state of Texas and beyond.

McClellan took a few minutes to share the programs and degrees available in Spanish at SWBTS, ranging from certificates to a doctor of ministry degree. He expressed his love of equipping the saints for the work of the ministry and challenged the pastors in attendance to continue their theological education as well as to encourage others to do the same.

Jesse Contreras, SBTC En Español associate, gave a devotional encouraging students to stay on mission for the sake of the gospel “no matter what comes their way.” Contreras also told the students to “be faithful to the gospel and build partnerships with the pastors from these churches.”

SBTC sponsored the dinner and Bruno Molina, SBTC’s missional ministries associate who coordinates the F.I.R.E. Initiative, shared with students how the convention can partner with them to further kingdom expansion by providing resources, mentoring, and offering field experience in evangelism, missions, and church planting. He thanked the pastors who already give through the Cooperative Program and related how their support makes these ministries possible. He also encouraged the students to follow their example.

Michelle Carranza, the president of Koinonia, the SWBTS Hispanic Fellowship, helped organize and promote the event. Her collaboration and that of the other Koinonia students was integral to the success of the event.

Guidepost removes paragraph that included out-of-context Richards quote

GRAPEVINE—Guidepost Solutions recently removed a paragraph from its report on how the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee handled sexual abuse issues after repeated requests for clarification were made by Jim Richards, executive director emeritus of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

On page 105 of the original report, a Nov. 16, 2018, conversation between Richards and Phillip Bethancourt is referenced. Bethancourt, who pastors Central Bryan College Station, at the time served as executive vice president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. During that conversation, which focused on a conflict between the SBTC and ERLC’s scheduling of events, Richards is quoted as saying, “If you want a war, we’ll give you a war.”

In comments to the Texan on Tuesday, Richards admitted his remarks to Bethancourt were out of character for him, but said he had been frustrated that the ERLC had not been considerate of the state convention and scheduled an event at the same time of the SBTC’s Annual Meeting. However, when the remark was included in the Guidepost report, Richards felt that many construed it as being made in opposition to efforts within the SBC to create structures of accountability regarding sexual abuse practices and prevention—something he said is false.

“I would just like to get the truth out there that my name should have never been included in that report,” Richards told the Texan, “and that my conversation with Phillip had nothing to do with sexual abuse.”

Richards pointed out SBTC’s track record under his leadership in 2019 regarding sexual abuse issues, which included committing $250,000 in funding for MinistrySafe to assist affiliated churches with sexual abuse awareness, training, and prevention; providing $3,700 for church leaders to be trained at ERLC’s Caring Well Conference; and a decision by its Credentials Committee to adopt guidelines that would provide a process to disaffiliate any church that was considered being “indifferent to sexual abuse.”

Since his name was included in the 288-page report, which was released to the public on May 22, Richards said he has made multiple attempts to protest its inclusion and seek clarification so that his remark could be understood in its proper context. Part of that effort included contacting Bethancourt, who in turn communicated to Guidepost that Richards’ comment “was not related to sexual abuse at all” and that he was “grateful for the work that Jim and the SBTC did on matters related to sexual abuse.”

Richards also began reaching out to Guidepost, which he said never contacted him before publishing his name in the report. In response to Richards’ request, Guidepost completely removed the paragraph from the report. Even so, Richards still felt that a footnote should be added to page 105 of the report noting why the paragraph including the quote had been removed.

As of this publication, the paragraph remains omitted and no footnote has been added by Guidepost.

Americans open to most churches, regardless of denomination

NASHVILLE—Most Americans, including many people of non-Christian faiths or no faith at all, are open to a variety of denominations of Christian churches.

Americans have a wide range of opinions and impressions about Christian denominations, but most won’t rule out a church based on its denomination, according to a new study from Lifeway Research. From a list of nine denominational terms – Assemblies of God, Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Southern Baptist and non-denominational – more Americans rule out Pentecostal than any other denomination. Just over half of Americans (51 percent) say a church with Pentecostal in the name is not for them.

But for each of the other denominations in the study, most Americans say a specific religious label in the name of a church is not an automatic deterrent for them. Americans are most open to non-denominational and Baptist churches. One in 3 (33 percent) say a church described as non-denominational is not for them, while 43 percent say the same about a church with Baptist in the name. A 2014 phone survey from Lifeway Research also found Baptist and non-denominational churches among those Americans were most open to and Pentecostal the denominational group they were least open to.

“Church names vary greatly,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “Names including St. Peter, Trinity, Crossroads and Presbyterian reflect biblical people, theology, modern imagery or references to the branch of Christianity the church is tied to. Most people have preexisting impressions of denominational groups when they see them in a church name or description.”

Americans have more favorable than unfavorable impressions of most denominations, whether they would personally attend a church of that denomination or not. More Americans have favorable impressions of Baptist churches (61 percent) than any other Christian denomination. But Baptist churches are not alone in giving generally favorable impressions. Most Americans think favorably of every denomination in this study except for Pentecostal (47 percent) and Assemblies of God (43 percent) churches. Still, more people have favorable than unfavorable impressions of Pentecostal and Assemblies of God churches.

Understanding different denominations

For each denominational group studied, 11 percent to 32 percent of Americans say they are not familiar enough with that denomination to form an opinion. This response is often more common than unfavorable responses and may indicate many don’t understand denominational differences.

Fewer people have favorable impressions of Assemblies of God churches than any other denomination, but more Americans are unfamiliar with this denomination than any other. Whereas 1 in 10 (11 percent) Americans say they’re not familiar with Catholic churches, nearly 1 in 3 (32 percent) are not familiar with Assemblies of God churches, the smallest denomination directly asked about in the study.

“The reputation of denominational groups may be tied to what someone knows about that group’s doctrine, but it also can be the sum of people’s impressions of local churches in those groups,” McConnell said. “Personal experiences with local churches, word of mouth and whether they see them serving in their communities can lead people to have positive or negative impressions of those groups.”

Protestants tend toward Baptist, non-denominational churches

Most Protestants are open to attending a non-denominational church. Protestants are least likely to assume a church is not for them if the description non-denominational is used for the church (21 percent). And Protestants are most likely to have favorable impressions of Baptist (76 percent) and non-denominational (69 percent) churches.

Infrequent churchgoers are also generally open to non-denominational churches, as well as Presbyterian and Lutheran churches. Christians who attend a worship service less than once a month are least likely to say they assume a church is not for them when they see Presbyterian (36 percent), Lutheran (37 percent) or non-denominational (22 percent) in the name of a church.

Similarly, Christians who attend church infrequently are less familiar with the Protestant religious groups. Almost 4 in 10 Christians who attend less than once a month are not familiar with Assemblies of God (38 percent), more than a quarter are not sure about Lutheran and non-denominational churches (27 percent) and a quarter are unfamiliar with Pentecostal (25 percent), Presbyterian (25 percent) and Southern Baptist (25 percent). Christians who attend worship services less than once a month are least likely to say they have unfavorable impressions of Lutheran (15 percent) and non-denominational (10 percent) churches.

“Just because someone is a Christian doesn’t mean they’re familiar with the many types of Christian churches,” McConnell said. “If a person who identifies as a Christian is not interested enough to practice the faith by attending church, they likely aren’t interested enough to learn about historical or doctrinal differences between Christian groups.”

What’s in a name?

Denomination identifiers in the names of churches spark different responses among Americans. For non-Christians, three denomination names stand above the rest as deterrents for attending that church: Baptist, Lutheran and Southern Baptist. People of other religions are most likely to say they assume a church is not for them when the name Baptist (63 percent), Lutheran (65 percent) or Southern Baptist (66 percent) is in the name of a church.

The majority of Catholics indicate most of the Protestant groups are not for them. Only Baptist (49 percent) and non-denominational churches (44 percent) are ruled out by less than half of Catholics. Similarly, 58 percent of Protestants assume a Catholic church is not for them.

Those who are religiously unaffiliated are most likely to have unfavorable impressions of Catholic (47 percent), Pentecostal (41 percent) and Southern Baptist (40 percent) churches. Although the religiously unaffiliated think most favorably about Baptist (36 percent) and non-denominational (36 percent) churches, the majority don’t think favorably of any denomination.

“The one group of Americans that consistently has more people with unfavorable than favorable views of different religious groups are those who are religiously unaffiliated,” McConnell said. “More of them have negative impressions of every group except for non-denominational churches.”

But faith isn’t the only factor in people’s impressions of churches. In some cases, ethnic, educational and geographical factors play a role as well. People who live in the South are among those most open to Southern Baptist churches, as they are least likely to say they assume a church is not for them if the name Southern Baptist is in the name of the church (40 percent). Those in the South are also most likely to have favorable views of Baptist churches (70 percent).

Young people also often have strong impressions of denominations, most of them negative. Young people (age 18-34) are most likely to have unfavorable impressions of Catholic (39 percent), Methodist (33 percent), Presbyterian (33 percent) and Lutheran (35 percent) churches. They are also least likely to say they have favorable impressions of Southern Baptist churches (39 percent).

Hispanics are most likely to have unfavorable impressions of Methodist (38 percent), Southern Baptist (44 percent), Lutheran (37 percent) and Assemblies of God (35 percent) churches, while African Americans are most likely to have favorable views of Baptist churches (82 percent).

For more information, view the complete report and visit

“The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture,” authored by SWBTS staff, now available

FORT WORTH—Seminary Hill Press, the publishing arm of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, released today The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture, a collection of essays written by 15 Southwestern Seminary and Texas Baptist College faculty members applying a high view of the Bible to their respective academic disciplines.

“In keeping with the commitment to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible held by this institution from its founding in 1908 and throughout its storied history, our faculty demonstrates in this volume its ongoing confidence in Holy Scripture as the basis for its work on Seminary Hill,” said President Adam W. Greenway. “Our high view of Scripture is the first principle that grounds the entire mission of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary today. This Seminary Hill Press title is just the latest in a growing catalog of books released in the last three years underscoring this institution’s unwavering conviction about the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. It is my prayerful hope that this book will bless Southern Baptists and others who are committed to the Bible.”

Greenway co-edited the book with David S. Dockery, distinguished professor of theology and special consultant to the president at Southwestern Seminary.

“The nature, authority, and sufficiency of the Bible continue to be discussed and debated,” Dockery said. “Numerous pressing issues present in both church and society point to the ongoing crisis of biblical authority. Our view of Scripture, its truthfulness, dependability, inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency, will largely determine where we stand on these issues. It has been a genuine joy to join with capable Southwestern Seminary colleagues to put together this volume which seeks to affirm, expound, and apply these important convictional truths about God’s written Word for our ever changing 21stcentury context. We trust this new Seminary Hill Press publication will be beneficial for many Southern Baptists as well as for the larger evangelical community.”

In the preface, the editors explain the book’s contents represent “Southwestern Seminary faculty’s shared commitment to the Bible as the prophetic-apostolic word, which is God’s Word written. Without this writing, there would be no Scriptures and therefore no Word of God available to us. This understanding calls for a renewed commitment in every generation to the Bible’s full truthfulness, sole authority, and supreme sufficiency. To affirm these truths about Scripture means we believe it is trustworthy, reliable, infallible, and inerrant.”

In his endorsement of the book, Charles F. Stanley, founder of In Touch Ministries and pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church of Atlanta, Georgia, declared, “The writers brilliantly remind us of the importance of Scripture for everything the child of God could ever face or endeavor in His name. The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture is an excellent volume, and I am grateful for the faithful saints who have contributed to it. It is certainly needed in our churches, colleges, and seminaries and is an exceptional response to the questions of our times.”

Nathan A. Finn, provost and dean of the university faculty at North Greenville University, stated, “The faculty of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary have rendered a great service to the church with this helpful book. They write from their respective areas of expertise, each applying the authority and sufficiency of Scripture to a sphere of life, academic discipline, or aspect of ministry. The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture is a timely word about God’s Word. Highly recommended!”

O.S. Hawkins, president emeritus of GuideStone Financial Resources, also praised the new book.

“For over a century now Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has stood tall and firm upon the solid Biblical foundation laid by our founder, B.H. Carroll,” he said. “Throughout the decades of theological turmoil, Southwestern has been the single Southern Baptist seminary whose faculty has never wavered from its insistence upon the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. This volume written by our present faculty continues in this tradition as they prepare the next generations for Christian ministry. When you finish this book of essays you will join the Psalmist of Israel in affirming ‘Forever Oh Lord is Your Word settled in heaven.’”

Thirteen chapters by authors from all four graduate schools and the undergraduate college of Southwestern Seminary cover a wide array of disciplines to which the authority and sufficiency of Scripture are applied, including theology, biblical studies, pastoral ministry and preaching, history, worship, discipleship, biblical counseling, ministry with families, humanities, evangelism, and missions. Additionally, the book includes an index of all Bible verses cited and an index of important names cited.

Attendees of the June 15 Southwestern Seminary Alumni and Friends’ Luncheon during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Anaheim, California, will receive a free copy of the book at the gathering.

The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture is also available for purchase for $16.99 at Bulk discounts are available.

Below is the Table of Contents for The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture:

1. The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture: An Introduction

Malcolm B. Yarnell III and David S. Dockery

2. The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture for Biblical Studies

Eric A. Mitchell

3.   The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture in Historical Theology

W. Madison Grace II

4.   The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture in Systematic Theology

Micah D. Carter and Benjamin M. Skaug

5.   The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture in Baptist Life

Gregory A. Wills

6.   The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture for Pastoral Ministry and Preaching

Matthew McKellar and David S. Dockery

7.   The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture for Christian Worship

Joseph R. Crider

8.   The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture for Christian Discipleship

Coleman M. Ford

9.   The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture for Biblical Counseling

Lilly H. Park

10. The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture for Ministry with Families

Chris Shirley

11. The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture for the Humanities

M. Todd Bates

12. The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture for Proclamation Evangelism and Evangelistic Proclamation

Carl J. Bradford

13. The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture for Cross-Cultural Missions

Dean Sieberhagen

Use tragedy for God’s purpose, relatives of slain grandfather, grandsons tell SBTC church

HOUSTON—Three days after a grandfather and four of his grandsons were found murdered at the family ranch, family members stood before Houston Northwest Church and encouraged others not to lose hope or forget that God is gracious.

“I lost my best friend. He kept me sharp,” said Glen Collins of his brother, Mark.

Mark Collins, 66, was found dead at the property west of Centerville alongside his grandsons Waylon, 18, Carson, 16, Hudson, 11, and Bryson, 11. The group had gone there Thursday, June 2, to do some fishing at the conclusion of the school year. Investigators believe they were killed by a prison escapee who then stole their truck and was killed later that evening by police in a shootout.

Hundreds of mourners gathered the next day at a baseball field in Tomball, northwest of Houston, to commemorate the victims. Waylon Collins was a recent graduate of Tomball High School and an umpire for Little League baseball.

Speaking June 5 at Houston Northwest Church, Glen Collins urged attendees and viewers to find comfort in the Lord, as he has.

“My message is encouragement,” he said. “This is my home and you are my people, and this is where I find solace and comfort. God is still God, and we’re not.

“There was a purpose when His son suffered so much more than my family [has]. … That purpose is why I know I will see my loved ones again.”

Keith Mitcham, Mark Collins’ brother-in-law, also addressed the congregation.

“Evil did visit our doorsteps,” he said. In those times, he added, it is important to remember where to gather strength in tragic situations.

“Jesus said, ‘Abide in me.’ And by abiding in Him, we’re letting Christ abide in us. We’re connected to the vine. You realize that serving God is easier, then, because you’re no longer the one producing the fruit. You’re just connected to the vine.

“Yes, we live in an evil world, but God is sovereign. For Him to have allowed this to happen, there’s a greater good that He will accomplish through all of this.”

A cross, flowers and a box to hold letters of encouragement for the family sit at the start of the driveway to the property, Mitcham said. A sign will soon be added to the fence announcing Romans 5:20 – “But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”

Houston Northwest pastor Steve Bezner told Baptist Press that the comments mirrored the faithful disposition of the Collins family.

“They are just heartbroken,” he said. “But they are hopeful, because they believe in a God larger than any tragedy.”

Glen Collins’ words reflected that assessment.

“Let me tell you how we make it through this – because we have a hope grounded in the cross. That is our saving grace.

“… Let’s use this for God’s purpose, to bring others to His Son.”

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Lone Star Scoop • June 2022

Salado church pressing on after tornado destroys building

It wasn’t church as usual, but there was much to thank the Lord for when First Cedar Valley Baptist Church met for Sunday services on May 8.

Meeting in a temporary building with only studs holding up a partial roof, the church sang hymns such as “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” prayed, and pastor Donnie Jackson did what he does every Sunday—he preached the Word of God. A little less than a month before, on April 12, an EF-3 tornado tore through Salado and destroyed 76 buildings. First Cedar Valley was one of them.

“Lord, we’re facing some things ahead where we know we’re going to have to work together,” Jackson prayed as the service began, with a steady breeze blowing between the studs and crinkling Bible pages.

Despite the challenging circumstances, the ministry of the church carries on. At the service on May 8, Jackson reminded the congregation that they were continuing their campaign to donate funds to a local pregnancy center. Immediately following the tornado, the church met outside, then in a tent, and now is meeting in a temporary building.

“You’ve got to accept what is. Don’t look at what was. Look at what is to come,” Jackson told the Texan last month. “It’s been hard in the flesh, but I believe Romans 8:28. I don’t know what God’s purpose is, but we’ll be stronger. We’ll reach more people than we would have been able to reach.”

Svajda joins SBTC as pastoral ministries associate
Anthony Svajda has been named pastoral ministries associate in the Church Health & Leadership department of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. He was officially hired by the SBTC Executive Board in April and began work in May. Svajda has served as lead pastor at Harvey Baptist Church in Stephenville since 2015 and has also served as an associate pastor, collegiate pastor, and student pastor in locations including Jewett, Colleyville, Keller, and Watauga. He received his Ph.D. in evangelism and church vitalization from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2018 and his Master of Divinity in evangelism from SWBTS in 2013. Svajda and his wife, Kristen, have two children. In addition to his pastoral duties, he currently serves as a member of the SBTC Executive Board.

CP giving among SBTC churches in 2021 is highest ever
Cooperative Program giving in 2021 was the highest it has ever been in Southern Baptists of Texas Convention history, Executive Director Nathan Lorick said in April. Lorick attributed the record amount—$27,283,572.03—to two things: a belief in cooperative missions work that encourages faithful giving, and also the quality of missionaries, church planters, disaster relief workers, and all other efforts “that the Cooperative Program fuels and sends.” The record giving, he noted, happened in the midst of uncertain times that some felt might lead to a decrease in giving. “Let’s not miss that today,” Lorick added, “that in the midst of people saying the sky is falling, I think God’s just getting started.”
SWBTS board approves $37.3 million budget
heological Seminary board of trustees has approved the proposed fiscal year 2023 budget of $37.367 million, representing a 5.86% increase over the current year. The budget includes a 3% cost-of-living increase for faculty and full-time staff, a 3% increase in tuition and fees, as well as targeted investments in Hispanic programs, technology infrastructure, and other campus improvements. “It is my joy to report to the board of trustees that the state of Southwestern Seminary is strong, and it is growing stronger every day by God’s grace,” Adam W. Greenway, president of Southwestern Seminary and Texas Baptist College, said in his report to the board during the April 5 plenary session. Additionally, Danny Roberts—executive pastor of North Richland Hills Baptist Church—was re-elected to role as chairman of the board. Information from SWBTS was used in this report.
SBTC executive board takes action to support life initiatives
GEORGETOWN—The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention executive board unanimously approved two motions that will provide ministry for the most vulnerable at its April meeting. One of the motions approved a reserves funding grant to be given to the Psalm 139 Project, a pro-life ministry of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. The funds specifically will be used to purchase six ultrasound machines and training for pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) in Texas. Each of the six PRCs have made urgent requests for the machines, as there has been a drastic increase in the number of women being served since the passing of the Heartbeat Bill in Texas. One clinic in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex has reported a 48% increase in clients over the previous year. On the other end of the life spectrum, the board approved another reserves fund grant to Mission Dignity, a ministry of Guidestone Financial Resources which serves to honor retired Southern Baptist ministers, workers, and widows struggling to meet basic needs through advocacy and financial assistance. Mission Dignity funds 12 monthly gifts to approximately 263 individuals in Texas, of which 178 are widows or widowers. The reserves fund grant approved by the executive board will be used to provide a 13th check as a bonus/love gift over and above the normal 12 monthly gifts.

FBC Seagoville marks 150 years of ministry
SEAGOVILLE—First Baptist Church of Seagoville celebrated its 150th year of ministry with a ceremony held at the church on April 24. The church, pastored by Don Cole, was founded in 1872. “I was not the founding pastor,” Cole joked during the ceremony, which was attended by church members, former pastors and staff, and longtime friends, among others. Many of those in attendance testified to how God has used the church for the betterment of their faith, their lives, families, and the community. The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and Dallas Baptist Association were among those on hand to present plaques or proclamations to the church. “God has blessed,” Cole said. “He’s touched a lot of families through this church.”

Six last-minute tips for VBS

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vacation Bible School season is upon us. And with the clock steadily ticking, it’s likely that all that early excitement you felt as you began to plan for VBS has now devolved into a mild panic. Don’t worry … that’s normal! Take a deep breath and then map out a strategy to get you across the finish line. Here are six tips to turn the last-minute madness into mad fun!

Step 1: Ask God for Help 

Spend time in purposeful prayer for VBS. Ask God to reveal to you the things that still need to be done and to provide the people and resources needed to accomplish the work. Pray with paper and pencil in hand. As God brings tasks and people to mind, jot them down to follow up with later. 

Step 2: Evaluate & Delegate 

Step back and take note of everything your team has accomplished to this point. (You’re probably more prepared than you think!) Most churches are blessed with at least a handful of experienced VBS volunteers … now’s the time to use them! Make a list of everything that still needs to be done and delegate responsibility for as many tasks as possible to seasoned members of your team.

Step 3: Organize Next Steps

A long to-do list feels overwhelming when viewed as a whole, but instantly becomes manageable when turned into a series of action steps. Begin by compiling all of your to-do lists into one master list. Break down each item on the list into next steps—who needs to be involved; what supplies need to be purchased, collected, or made; completion dates, etc. Add the completion dates to your calendar (be sure to spread them out so not everything is due at once) and check things off the list once completed.

Step 4: Assess as a Team 

Pull your leadership team together for a brief check-up. Review the master list together and check in on delegated responsibilities. Some on your team may be in panic mode as well, so help them step back, evaluate, and organize their tasks.

Step 5: Simplify 

We all want our VBS to be the very best, but sometimes our plans exceed our available time and resources. For example, decorating every single room in the church may seem like tons of fun for the kids, but may result in too much stress for volunteers. Remember that what happens in the room is much more important than what happens tothe room.  Give yourself and your team permission to make Bible teaching the priority of VBS and simplify everything else.

Step 6: Do a Final Walk-Through 

Conduct a final walk-through with your leadership and facility teams before final VBS setup begins. Make sure everyone is on the same page about the rooms being used, furniture and equipment to be moved, and traffic flow as kids rotate through activities. Discuss which doors are to remain open and which will remain locked during VBS. Make sure the facilities team knows which rotations will generate the most trash and which rooms will need the most attention throughout the week. Take pictures of the rooms before beginning any setup so you’ll be able to return everything to its place after VBS.

Following these six steps will lessen the chaos leading up to VBS. But for perfect peace entering that final week, you’ll need to remember why you’re doing VBS in the first place. Keep your focus on creating a safe and welcoming environment for kids and take advantage of every opportunity the Holy Spirit affords to share the gospel with them. Then your VBS will truly be a success!

CP giving above budget by $11.2 million through May

NASHVILLE (BP)—Giving through the National Cooperative Program Allocation Budget was once again above budget in May bringing the fiscal year total to nearly $139 million – more than $11.2 million over year-to-date projected giving.

The budget surplus is important to note as the SBC Executive Committee approved a recommendation Thursday (June 2) calling for the first $5 million of the overage to fund recommendations brought forth earlier in the week by the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force. With just four months left in the budget year, the funding appears to be well in hand, but messengers must still approve the plans from the EC and the SATF at the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting later this month in Anaheim.

“The continued faithfulness of local churches giving through the Cooperative Program is a reminder that our God is faithful to provide,” SBC Executive Committee interim president Willie McLaurin said in a statement. “As a network of Great Commission churches, we have faced one of the most challenging years in the history of the SBC, yet, our giving remains strong. On behalf of all our national Southern Baptist entities, I say ‘thank you’ to every pastor and church for your generosity.”

The amount given through the Cooperative Program in May 2022 totaled $16,518,236.03, which was $462,862.15 (2.15 percent) less than the $16,981,098.18 received in May 2021 but $684,902.69 (4.33 percent) more than the monthly budgeted amount of $15,833,333.34.

As of May 31, gifts received by the EC for distribution through the CP Allocation Budget total $137,929,818.58. This is $9,059,336.70, or 7.03, percent more than last year’s budget contribution of $128,870,481.88. The amount given is ahead of the $126,666,666.72 year-to-date budgeted projection to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America by $11,263,151.86, or 8.89 percent.

Designated gifts received in May amounted to $16,767,406.99. This total was $5,224,989.82, or 23.76 percent, less than gifts of $21,992,396.81 received last May. This year’s designated gifts through the first eight months of the fiscal year amount to $157,443,290.90, which is $7,797,291.08, or 5.21 percent, more than the $149,646,019.82 given through same period in the previous fiscal year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Iowa church holds prayer meeting, seeks to recover after shooting

AMES, Iowa (BP)—Members and friends of Cornerstone Baptist Church are recovering after a shooting in its parking lot June 2 left three dead, including the shooter by his own hand.

“… We are more than saddened by the events that transpired,” said a statement on the church’s website. “Our hearts break for all involved, and we are praying for everyone affected, especially the [families] of the victims.”

The first summer gathering of the church’s collegiate ministry, The Salt Company, was about to begin when local authorities received 911 calls at 6:51 p.m. Ames is home to Iowa State University.

“I was horrified and concerned for those involved when I heard the news,” said Tim Lubinus, executive director for the Baptist Convention of Iowa. “I’m praying for the leadership at Cornerstone and all those families affected.”

Lubinus spoke with Baptist Press from Istanbul, Turkey, where he is visiting friends. Word of the shooting reached him this morning when he woke up to a series of texts and voice messages from friends including SBC President Ed Litton. Lubinus served as missions director at Cornerstone for eight years before serving in his current position.

Cornerstone held a prayer service earlier today (June 3). The church’s lead pastor, Mark Vance, referred to the passage shared in the church’s statement, Psalm 34:18, and how the Lord draws near to the brokenhearted.

“Together, we’re here to grieve and to cry and to pray [and] to do that in a way that brings some form of help and comfort,” he said. “We’re asking God to comfort and help us.”

Troy Nesbitt, founding pastor and Salt Network director, and Sol Rexius, Salt Company director, also spoke between times of worship and prayer.

Jerry Montag, father of one of the victims, 22-year-old Eden Montag, addressed the crowd.

“She walked the walk. She died for her faith. I’m proud to have been her father,” he said. “She’s with the Lord. She did her best to walk the walk.”

Officials said today that Vivian Flores, 21, also died at the scene. Both were students at Iowa State and part of the collegiate ministry at Cornerstone. A third female who was with them escaped unharmed.

The day before the shooting at Cornerstone, a gunman killed four people in a Tulsa, Okla., hospital before taking his own life.

In this morning’s press conference, officials stated that the gunman had been charged May 31 with harassment third degree and impersonating a public official in connection with Montag. He posted bond and was scheduled for his first court appearance on June 10. A restraining order had also been issued against him.

A search of the shooter’s residence produced an AR-15 rifle. A 9mm handgun was used in the crime, with ammunition found in the gunman’s truck purchased an hour prior.

Cornerstone was planted in 1994 out of The Salt Company, which had become the name for the ISU Baptist Student Union in 1987. Grand Avenue Baptist Church in Ames, home of an active collegiate ministry, was Cornerstone’s sending church.

“It has a huge impact among college students,” said Lubinus, who was part of ISU’s BSU in the early 1980s and a member at Grand Avenue. “They’ve created a network of churches that also plant churches on college campuses throughout the Midwest and beyond. Around 20 churches have been started through The Salt Network.”

Known for its church-based collegiate ministry and emphasis on developing leaders, Thursday nights are the central gathering point for Salt. Officials stated today that more than 80 students were in the worship center during the shooting.

The North American Mission Board has held a long-standing partnership with Cornerstone to plant churches on college campuses throughout North America. Through its collegiate ministry, the church has sent thousands of students toward national and international mission service, said a statement from NAMB.

“My heart aches for our friends at Cornerstone today,” said NAMB President Kevin Ezell. “They are an incredible church and I’m praying for Mark Vance and Troy Nesbitt and everyone there. I know they are already ministering to the hurting in their community and will walk closely alongside those who have been impacted by this tragedy.”

The shooting was the latest in a series that has rocked the country. On May 14 10 people died in a racially motivated attack at a predominately Black market in Buffalo, N.Y. Twenty-one died May 24 in Uvalde, Texas, when a shooter entered Robb Elementary School and barricaded himself in a classroom. The husband of one of the victims died days later from a heart attack.

This article originally appeared in Baptist Press.

Are you ready to reach the nations across the street?

I recently met a family of five who were on one of the last flights out of Kabul after the U.S. military’s 20-year presence there ended in August 2021. This couple and their three children, the youngest of whom is only five months old, had just arrived in Fort Worth after clearing security at an East Coast military facility. 

It may surprise some, but the place where I met this family was at Southcliff Baptist Church in Fort Worth, where I serve as the share strategy pastor. In one month, this Muslim family went from sheltering outside of the Kabul airport to sitting in an English as a Second Language (ESL) class at a Baptist church in Texas.

Over 20 years ago, Southcliff volunteers began teaching ESL classes with only four students. Today, thousands of newcomers to America have been taught English at Southcliff. We host a variety of ministries targeted to newcomers to America, including Bible studies in Spanish, Burmese, Swahili, and Mandarin. In addition, we give seminary interns experience in cross-cultural ministry by housing them in apartments where refugees live.

A 2016 survey of pastors by Lifeway Research revealed that 86% of them felt that Christians have a responsibility to care for refugees and foreigners. However, 44% of these pastors revealed that there was a sense of fear in their congregations about refugees coming to the U.S. That may help explain why only 8% of these pastors had effectively led their churches to develop ministries to these families.

So how do church leaders bridge the gap between the belief that refugee ministry is important and the reality that so few churches have thriving newcomer ministries?

Set a personal example
Leaders must set the pace by personally engaging in ministry themselves. For example, when a pastor becomes a “family friend” to a Sudanese family through World Relief, people in the church notice. Likewise, when a church leader is seen giving driving lessons to a new Muslim friend, people ask questions.

Set a scriptural standard
Leaders rise above prejudices and politics and teach church members about God’s heart for all peoples. Being a Great Commission church means that Scripture guides our opinions of the lost, not social media or cable news.

Say yes to relational opportunities
Church leaders see opportunities that God puts before them and say yes. When a Burmese congregation asks to meet in your building on Sunday afternoons, try to make it happen. When a refugee from Congo, who speaks broken English, applies for a custodial position at your church, look for a way to hire him. When the children’s minister asks to hold the annual Vacation Bible School at an elementary school in an immigrant neighborhood instead of the church building, say yes.

Make it a budgetary priority
Finally, churches that want to develop effective ministries to newcomers will hire staff and budget for these ministries. Do you want to know if a church values teenagers? Check out their youth ministry budget and staffing. The hard reality is that creating new programs, recruiting team members, and training people in cross-cultural evangelism takes a lot of time and attention. Churches that see missions as something that is both around the world and across the street often make this commitment a reality in their church budget and staffing.

If you would like to know more about practical ways to reach out to newcomers to America, my book, “Reaching the World Across the Street,” will be available in 2022. Feel free to email me at